Saturday, October 17, 2015 10:22 pm
Until June this year, Dr George Davidson was one of thousands of medical doctors anonymously mending bodies and administering medicines to help keep humanity going across the Nigeria. But he was rudely thrust into limelight when it was discovered that his friend, Martins Ugwu Okpe, has assumed his identity and has been working with the certificate stolen from him as a medical doctor with Federal Ministry of Health for nine years in Abuja. Okpe, who was bold enough to contest for and emerge the Chairman of Federal Ministry of Health chapter of Nigeria Medical Association, has been arraigned in court by the police over his fraudulent dealings. Dr. Davidson spoke about his relationship with the fake doctor and the circumstances that led to theft of his certificates in this interview with Oluokun Ayorinde of TheNEWS magazine.
Q: Where have you worked before now?
A: I graduated 2002, after my housemanship, I was exempted from the NYSC based on age, and after that I continued working with the Plateau State Government in 2004. I worked in three General Hospitals within that period – that is from 2004 to 2012 and that is when I resigned to go for my residency programme. I have been on the residency programme from 2013 till date.
Q: What is your relationship with Mr. Martins Ugwu Okpe?
A: I think I need to set the record straight on that. They have been writing that he is my boyhood friend. You see, when you say boyhood friend, it gives a deeper meaning that just saying somebody is your friend. When you say somebody is your boyhood friend it means you grew up with that person together. To me, I feel that is an unfair statement, that was what I have been reading in the newspapers and I took exception to that. Martins was my friend, I wouldn’t deny that, but he is not my boyhood friend. I have known him right from when I was in medical school, fate just brought us together and I discovered that he is from my village. We are somehow distant relations and this I got to know during this scandal from one of my cousins. I think from what they told me, his paternal grandmother is related to my paternal grandfather. I don’t know how to put it, but his paternal grand relations and my own are related. So, we are distant relations and this I just got to know. We get to know that we are from the same village in the University as I told you and our family house is not too far from each other, so we kept moving together in school. He will visit me in school; I will visit him in Jaji.
Q: Was he in Jaji then, what was he doing there?
A: I know he works in the printing department, in Jaji Military Cantonment, that was where I have always known him to work until when subsequently he told me he has moved on and he is now working the Ministry of Defence. So, I just looked at it that Jaji also is under Ministry of Defence.
Q: Was he married then?
A: I got married before Martins. Martins got married two years after my own wedding.
Q:When did you get married?
A: I got married March 11, 2006 and I think Martins got married in 2008 or 2009.
Q: At what age were you when you get to know him because you are saying he is not your boyhood friend?
A: Around 28.
Q: But we learnt from the same village, though distant family relationship, have you travelled together home with him before?
A: I have not traveled together with him, but we always met in the village. I told you we are from the same village and our family houses are not too far from each other.
Q: Do you know his parents too?
A: Of course, I know his relations. It is not as if we don’t know ourselves. He knows my family members also.
Q: With the little time you have spent with him, is there anything that showed you that he has this kind of tendency?
A: To be fair to him, if not for this incident, if you tell me Martins is a bad boy, I will deny you because of the relationship we’ve had right from when I was in medical school. He may have this rugged face, but I will tell you Martins is not a bad guy before this incident and that was why I was traumatized when I got to know that this is what really happens. We’ve been meeting since 2006. I expected better things from him.
A: But have you met him since he started working in the Federal Ministry of Health?
A: I didn’t even know he was working in the Ministry of Health. All this while, I have always assumed Martins works in the Ministry of Defence, even, when I come to Abuja. Like I told you, Jaji is under the Ministry of Defence, so I have always believed that he worked in the Ministry of Defence, even when he told me he has been transferred to Abuja.
Q: Have you ever visited him in his office?
A: Where do I have that time?
Q: What about at home?
A:That is at where he rented his house in those days. But since he built his house, I have not known the house. The Police asked me that question and I told them he has not given me that opportunity to know his house even when I tried to.
Q: Have you’ve tried to know his house in Abuja?
A: Yes, but he has not given me that opportunity and I said, well I don’t need to push further, he has his reasons.
Q: How do you feel about what Martins has done to you?
A:I felt betrayed, that is the summary of the whole thing because this is somebody that even my family members who are in Abuja will complain that there is something about him that they don’t like and I will still go out of my way to defend him, even in front of my family members.
Q: What are their complaints about him?
A: They say there is something about him that they don’t like; that is what they said. That there is something like, one; they are not too sure where he works. But I will say no, this guy works in Defence, what is the big deal? But they will tell me that they are not comfortable, that there is something that they still don’t know about him. But you know I don’t stay in Abuja, so they see him more than me. But once in a while, they tell me this especially when they see us together.
Q: So, you still see him when you come to Abuja?
A: I told you that we were friends.
Q: How do you feel when you hear them calling him Dr. George?
A: In fact, I was dazed when the Dental and Medical Council told me on the phone that this is the name Martins is bearing and when they showed me the photocopies of my certificate.
Q: Having the same serial number, everything?
A: Photocopies of my documents; everything.
Q: What about your NYSC discharge certificate?
A: He didn’t forget it. It was the photocopy of my NYSC discharge certificate. It was part of my documents that I took to Abuja with him.
Q: So, it is the authentic ones that he was using?
A: Yes, but thank God that they have returned it, I want to say thank God for that because I have all my credentials intact.
Q: Has any member of your family or his family gotten in touch with you in the course of these controversies?
A: Of course, my family has been concerned; even I consulted with members of my family before I went for the press conference. And they gave me their full blessings. Their concern is that you are not to be seen bringing your fellow village man down, it is a taboo in our area. That’s was why when they spoke to me, I said I need to talk with members of my family and they gave me the go ahead and that was why I was a bit comfortable and given the fact that I was a bit on the reserve side, I didn’t really wanted to face the press. But none of his relations has spoken with me, even though I believe I deserve some apologies from them. We know ourselves. None of them has called me.
Q: Do you think they don’t know about what has happened?
A: I said they are aware. The last time, I told the Police when they met me in Jos that if there is one thing I want out of this whole case, it is for me to get an apology either from Martins or from his family members.
Q: So, if you get that, you will overlook everything?
A: I think I will have that peace that I really want.
Q: So, now, you’ve not got that peace yet?
A: Yes. I got a little peace when I saw him on the network news because I am getting some justice. Since this thing happened, nobody has called me and I thought with the normal Nigerian way of doing things, the issue will be swept under the carpet. So, I said let me move on. But when I saw it, (Okpe on television) I got some peace, even with my wife; we got some level of joy. But the truth is that that peace will be complete if somebody calls me- either Martins or one of his family members to tell me sorry.
Q: What about his parents?
A: His mother is alive.
Q: What about his father?
Q: So, the Mum has not even come forward to see you?
A: I wouldn’t blame the Mum, she is in the village. But at least, he has relations in town and I expect one of them to be bold enough to at least give me a call and say, please, we are sorry for what our brother did to you.
Q: Did you at any point in time even applied for a job at the Federal Ministry of Health?
A: Yes, that period I graduated. I think they advertised or people were applying. That was in 2006 or something like that. But I know I applied, sent my credentials and that was even one of the basis I brought my credentials initially to Abuja.
Q: Were you living together with Martins then?
A: No, he stayed in Jaji, I stayed in Shendam, but we converged in Abuja for my wedding.
Q: Okay, so that could be the period he stole your certificate?
A: Yes, of course, I have the photocopies at home. So, it is when I went back that my friend called me that, haa, they’ve not seen my credentials, I didn’t come to apply for the job and that was when I knew that something was missing from my credentials. And not only that, I discussed with Martins- this is what I want to do. This is what I came to Abuja to do- to submit a photocopy of my credentials at the Civil Service Commission. But I got carried away with the wedding; I went back, until when my friend called me. Of course, I didn’t send my documents, but I send the photocopies which I have at home to him and he submitted. But I didn’t follow it up because I was busy in Shendam and that was how I forgot about it. Nobody called me for interview and I just believe that it was because I was not lucky about the job. People have heard my story, friends have called me. People that know me right from childhood have called me. I have received a lot of calls. People are learning from my case, it was an experience.
Q: Which month were you born?
A: June 1971, I am 44 years now.
Q: If you are to rewrite these whole events, which areas would you want to change now?
A: I would have loved our friendship to continue because I cherish that friendship from the bottom of my heart.
A: When I was in the Medical School, we spent 10 years; he (Okpe) knows that. People gave up on us, but Martins kept on encouraging me. He was one of the few people from my place that really encouraged me to continue and not give up. Even during my graduation, he was one the very few people from my family that really attended my graduation (crying)
Q: Don’t cry now. He must have been very good to you. Don’t you this guy could have poisoned you?
A: He couldn’t.
Q: Why do you think so?
A: He is an Owukpa man that is the name of my village. He can’t kill me.
Q: Why is that?
A: An Owukpa man does not kill an Owukpa man. He will not survive it.
Q: Okay, but why were you saying you are not secure the other time?
A: You know people are working with him. But Martins will not kill me. I am confident of that. He is an Owukpa man. He will not.
Q: So, up till now, you don’t think he can do you any harm?
A: He may do something like he has done now, which is okay.
Q: But what do you think was his educational qualification all along?
A:It has never crossed my mind to think about it. He is intelligent. I think he may have something higher than secondary school certificate. But I know he didn’t go to the university. You can discuss anything with Martins, he is good.
Q: Even when it concerns your profession?
A: He is not a doctor, so I don’t see why I should discuss medicine with him. But we discuss politics especially and events in our community. But for medicine, he is not a doctor. So, I didn’t see any basis to go into that kind of discussion with him. But we discussed politics, world events and we flow well in our discussions.