Nigeria: Nigerian Bloggers and Tweeps #SavedOke

Ighiwoto Okeghene John is a young Nigerian who nearly lost not only his feet but his life to diabetes. Better put, #Oke almost “embraced” his ancestors because his financial state prevented him from getting basic medical attention.

The #SaveOke campaign was ignited by some Nigerian bloggers and tweeps – spearheaded by Linda Ikeji to save Oke’s life. #SavedOke cyber-advocacy is one more proof of the rising power of social media in Africa’s most populous country.

Who is #Oke?

The protagonist of this story in his own words:

Ighiwoto Okeoghene John (Oke). Photo courtsey:

Ighiwoto Okeoghene John (Oke). Photo courtsey:

My name is Ighiwoto Okeoghene John. I attended Federal Government College, Warri. Gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University. Like many young people but unlike most, I could not finish. I was diagnosed with Diabetes 1 and 2. My health started failing. My legs failed me. I had this wound that ate my toes that refused to heal.

Just like many of you, in January 2012, I was angry with the country that didn’t have the best health care services, a country where I had to pay so much for my injections of insulin which I took daily. I was angry I could hardly keep to the diet my doctor gave me because it was expensive. I was angry yet I could not go out to march. I could not even walk. For six years now, my legs have failed me, they cannot move me; I cannot move them. My health is failing me but I keep up all hope that I will be fine.

There are some things you do not choose in life; the family you are born into; the country you are born into; your genes; the sicknesses passed through those genes. I cannot change these. You cannot change this but, there is something you can change. Something you can save; my legs; my life.

I need 5million naira for an operation in India. I need you to get me out of this couch. Truth is the couch is getting tired of me too. The wood from the edge that I use as pillow now pains me in the head, from wear and tear. Truth is my body is getting tired, getting weak. I need to get my life back. I need your help.

The Focus of #SaveOke campaign

Omojowa summarises:

Oke has been diagnosed with Diabetes type 1 and 2. The wound on his toe has taken his feet. It threatens to take his life. Oke needs your help. Oke needs 5 million naira for an operation in India. Oke needs this money fast.

There are two things that you can do to save Oke: Donate: You can donate any amount to save Oke’s life. 5 million naira is a long way. It would be great if one person gives that. But 5m is just 5,000 people giving N1,000 each. Please try to give a minimum of a N1,000. More is better.

How the campaign went viral

The strategies as best expounded by Fairy GodSisters Blog:


I looked at the amount he needed for surgery, 5 million naira only. Pere! Immediately I thought of the probe going on at the National Assembly, the almighty N850, 000 meal, and I knew that either one person wrote it off with a cheque or all of us would gather our pennies together. Either way, 5million naira was doable.

I went on Twitter, and with a ‘warning because of the gory photos’, started asking people to first publicise, and then donate. This is where my first set of thank you’s start. To @KathleenNdongmo, @4eyedmonk, @omojuwa,@MrBankole, @ykprojects
who not only ran with the story but helped out in their own way, may all the help you will ever seek never be more than a message from you!

@KathleenNdongmo (as if on cue) DM’ed me to get in touch with the CCHub guys. I hadn’t heard of them before that night but apparently they’d successfully spearheaded a campaign to fix the blown off roofs of the Yaba Barracks using a webpage. Sounded great, and is the second rung up the appreciation ladder. I rang Tubosun, one of the founders of CCHub past midnight (Nigerian time), and not only was he pleasant, he agreed to help! This was despite the fact that his company was in the middle of a pretty hectic event. A big thank you also goes to Stanley, a developer with the company who was detailed to our cause and was very patient with Oke and I in all the emails we had to exchange.

Blog Post:

On Sunday morning I did a blog post on his story, and on Monday a more descriptive one. By this time people in the diaspora were all over us, asking how they could pitch in. God bless you guys!

 You Tube Documentary

 That same night I thought about making a video to connect us with Oke; not one of the silly ‘£/$3 a day will save 1 million children in Africa’ kind of videos, I just wanted him to tell his story. I got in touch with Onye Ubanatu (because only the best would do), and again, it was closer than further to midnight. After I pitched it to him, he agreed! He was billed to be out of Lagos the entire week but promised to get on it the day after he got back which in my opinion was good because it would provide new momentum for the campaign that week. Thank you Onye! Mwah!

Getting Government Involved (Mobile Telephony):

I got a call yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. Ejiro Gegere (God bless you richly for your tenacity) called to say theDelta State Government got in touch and would cater to Oke. At the time she rang, they’d already gotten him admitted in a hospital on the Island for tests, and as you’re reading this he’s been to Immigration and is back with his passport! They have said they’ll cater to everything, and they’re well on their way to that.

#Oke has since been flown to India where he is currently receiving treatment. @KathleenNdongmo confirms:

@KathleenNdongmo: YAY! So glad to see Oke's getting the treatment he needs RT @seunfakze: another picture from #Oke from india #SaveOke

The moral of the #SaveOke story

Emmanuel Udumah in Virility is a Cause propounds three lessons thus:

Oke in an Indian hospital (Image by @seunfakze, April 11, 2012)

Oke in an Indian hospital (Image by @seunfakze, April 11, 2012)

And it is therefore clear, that seeking to #SaveOke, we are accepting the ease of categorization. Understanding that it is either he’s on his feet again, or not. Grey is not our colour of choice.Recall that Russell and his cohorts became famous by advocating a cause. #SaveOke, too, is a cause. A cause with endearing practicality, and tangible consequences. In this case, we do not have to grope for ethical implications or stumble in the cocoon of debates.

If we retain these questions in our head, and take no action, we lose the opportunity to enjoy the bliss of spontaneity. One of the tools being employed in this cause is social media, which suffices, as KONY 2012 did, for the republic of the webosphere. If this republic can cast aside all doubts, which legitimately exist, and act without thinking, I think we would have saved not just Oke, but ourselves.

In Lessons from the #SaveOke Campaign Fairy GodSister’s gave four categorisations:

Social Media is Powerful 

I’ve never doubted the power of social media (wouldn’t have studied it if I did) but if I did, this campaign would have forever put paid to those doubts. The speed with which the blog posts spread and the amazing functionality called the ‘retweet’.

Nigeria is in Trouble

Oke’s story was just another instance pointing to a problem we (Nigeria) haven’t gotten past. Unfortunately, even in 2012 we are still in the ‘reaction’ rather than ‘proactive’ mode. No one thinks to plan for the future, hell we’re barely getting through today!

Who Sings for the Unsung?

How many people die every day because they have no access to qualitative healthcare? How many ‘trivial’ cases transform into life threatening because they were not nipped in the bud with adequate treatment? Who sings for the unsung?

We are still the World 

Social media has always and will always revolve around people. Social media without human involvement can be compared to a beautiful car without a driver: it is nothing without our input. It is one thing to sit in the comfort of your home and moan every day about everything going wrong with the country, how the government doesn’t care, how we need a ‘paradigm shift (lol), etc. It is a totally different (and more profitable) thing however to do your civic duties, know your leaders (local and national), and then hold them accountable by getting informed, asking them questions, you know the drill.


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