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Suddenly, I felt empty without my mobile phone by Ehi Braimah

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Family, friends and associates gathered last Thursday at Hillcrest Event Centre in Okota, Lagos, for the service of songs in honour of Dr. Emmanuel Sunny Ojeagbase — popularly known as SO to his media colleagues — who passed away in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States on February 26.

Before the service began, I met top sports journalists, Larry Izamoje and Isaac Ibhafidon. There were other former colleagues who bantered with each other and we used the opportunity to play catch up. I was a former employee of Complete Communications Limited, courtesy of SO’s large heart and kindness before I moved on to other responsibilities.

The service of songs was right on schedule at 4.00pm. Later, my wife joined me from her cousin’s event which was held at Ire-Akari Estate – a shouting distance away. By the time the service ended two hours later, it was time to share more banters with familiar faces that included Segun Odegbami, Mike Awoyinfa, Dada Ajai-Ikhile, Franklin Ilaboya, and members of the Ojeagbase family.

I took one of my phones containing my MTN and 9mobile numbers with me into the hall but the last thing on my mind was that the phone would be stolen by a pickpocket. Taking the phone with me turned out to be a costly mistake. I’m usually never in the habit of taking my phones with me to such places – not even when I attend church services; I keep the phone far away from me. My attitude is that all calls and messages can wait — for a few hours. After all, we survived when we didn’t have mobile phones.

Personally, I do not believe it is a good idea to take the mobile phone or tablet into the church, a place of worship where we should reverence God in all his holiness. But again, you cannot really fault those who do so because we are in the tech age where the digital version of the bible – one of the apps downloaded from Google Play or the app store – is stored on those devices.

I have never lost a phone since 2001 when the mobile telecommunications revolution began. You can lose a phone or it can be stolen – they don’t mean the same thing. Once I have used a phone for about three to four years, I get another one and pass on the old handset to the next lucky beneficiary.

But this time, I lost my Samsung mobile phone to a thief immediately after the service of songs ended. These thieves are at every event – birthdays, weddings, services of songs, worship centres, and so on. Most of the time, they appear like “important” guests, uninvited but well dressed for the occasion; they are criminals going after the personal effects of invited guests.

Unfortunately, CCTV cameras are not installed in most of these venues by the owners. Masters of ceremony at such functions and social events should constantly remind their audiences to secure their mobile phones and other personal effects from the prying eyes of misbegotten gatecrashers and thieves at these parties.

Why did I take my mobile phone with me into the hall? Well, let us just say that I broke one of my “fundamental rules” and paid dearly for it. But you cannot blame me because I was expecting my wife to call me as soon as she arrived at the venue from her cousin’s place. And she did and joined me after I told her where I was sitting in the hall. It was the last call I received before the phone was stolen.

I was careless to have left the phone inside the left pocket of my Ankara attire, the one Yorubas call Buba and Sokoto. It was inside the left pocket of my Buba. Throughout the service, I knew the phone was with me. But when the service ended, I only took a few steps to exchange pleasantries when, instinctively, I reached out for my phone but it was gone and switched off by the thief.

“Is my phone with you,” I asked my wife, half-heartedly, to be sure even when I could recollect I never gave her the phone. At this time, Tajudeen, our driver, had the takeaway hospitality packs with him. “Please check the packs,” my wife, who was still in shock, instructed Tajudeen just to erase every doubt.

The phone was nowhere to be found. I was confused. Before we left the venue, I told Mumini Alao, Julius Ojeagbase and Thomas Ayodele, my former colleagues at Complete Communications, that my phone had been stolen. The mood changed and feelings of sympathy were expressed. Mumini, Thomas, and I still relate very well as brothers and we stay in touch regularly.

I was initially angry with myself for my carelessness and I became distraught because I knew the inconveniences that would follow retrieving the lines. Although she was feeling bad, my wife pleaded that I should not be too hard on myself. “Don’t worry, you will get another phone tomorrow,” she assured me, trying to calm my nerves. It turned out that the thieves also stole mobile phones belonging to other guests; I was not the only victim.

Throughout the journey from Okota to Ikeja, I was unhappy for being a victim. It could have been avoided. In my reckoning, the effort was like a stroll in the park for the pickpocket. My second mobile phone – containing Glo and Airtel lines – was in the car. But my MTN line that is as old as the network is my mobile office; if you get my drift. All the relevant apps are stored on the phone.

When MTN marked its 10th anniversary, I was honoured as a valued customer with gifts and a carefully worded “Thank You” letter, an exercise that I ranked as excellent public relations. MTN has continued on that path to this day.

My first mobile phone handset ever was the famous and sturdy Nokia 3310. Do you still remember the popular and iconic ring tone booming from the handset each time it rang? It was a phrase from ‘Grand Vals’ (12 – 14 secs), a Spanish classical song composed by guitarist and musician Francisco Tarrega. Well, that was back in the day –- 21 years ago.

Suddenly, I did not have access to WhatsApp which meant that I could not chat, send or receive messages. WhatsApp, as we all know, is a versatile and robust medium of communication for everyone, no matter the person’s status. WhatsApp is a fast, sure and real-time platform for engagement and conversations by individuals and groups — as long as they have access to the internet.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, now Meta. Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of the company in his expansionist drive, acquired WhatsApp. Computer engineers Brian Acton and Jan Koum were young college students in their 30s but cofounded messaging application, WhatsApp, in 2009. They met previously at Ernst & Young, and much later at Yahoo! where they worked together. Acton and Koum launched the app five years after Zuckerberg created Facebook on February 4, 2004.

Then on February 19, 2014, Facebook announced it was acquiring WhatsApp when it was five years old for US$22 billion in cash and stock – its largest purchase to date. Facebook is also the owner of Instagram which the company bought for US$1 billion 18 months after IG was launched.

It is not always a good experience when mobile phones are stolen because of our emotional attachment to the phones. For several reasons, your mobile phone is your companion and personal assistant because the phone is always with you wherever you go. When it is stolen or whether you declare it missing, you instantly feel that a part of you is missing – that sense of loss surrounds you and literally eats you up as if oxygen is draining out of your body.

The phone can be a major source of distraction but can we do without it? According to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), there are over 198 million mobile (GSM) active lines in Nigeria which translate into a huge pot of gold for the telecoms operators. Internet penetration is understandably massive in Nigeria and the numbers keep growing each year. MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9mobiles are the main players in the sector and I’m a customer of the four networks.

Semiu Okanlawon, a journalist and media consultant, said we have a “spiritual connection” to our mobile phones. “It is like owning a dog which is showered with a lot of affection as if it were a human being,” Semiu told me the day after my phone was stolen.

He had a similar experience in Iwo, Osun state, at the wedding reception of his niece but the story of Michael Effiong James, editor of Ovation International magazine, was different. “Instinctively, I felt emptiness around me,” Semiu remembered after a pickpocket stole his phone. He had also placed the phone inside the left pocket of his Buba but he was lucky to have apprehended the thief who was given the beating of his life by angry bystanders.

Michael was unlucky in his encounter with men of the underworld but he is lucky to be alive. After taking him around Lagos for more than four hours in the dead of the night as if it was a James Bond movie, the Ovation editor lost his car, cash, laptop and mobile phone to the armed robbers.

The interesting thing was that he found his phone when the police stepped into the matter. His car was also recovered. Mike told me he was mightily impressed with the police for their professional and thorough investigation. With the help of technology, most of our teething problems can be solved. Mike’s phone was tracked by the police using the IMEI code and the thief or receiver of the phone was caught. It will work for you if you are able to store the code in a safe place. In my case, I did not but it is a useful lesson.

In truth, it is difficult to shake off the mobile phone and pretend as if it is not important. When you are without your mobile phone or if the battery is flat because you are unable to charge it, you actually feel like a fish out of water.

In my own case, I’m completely cut off from the rest of the world but I have had to fall back on my Glo and Airtel lines since last Thursday. When I visited the Friendship and Customer Care Centres of MTN and 9mobile the next day and Saturday, I could not retrieve my lines because the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) portal was down.

If it is a new sim card, registration can be done offline but you would have to wait for at least 72 hours for the line to be fully activated through the NIMC portal. However, if it is an old sim card like mine, the number must be re-validated on the NIMC portal before a sim swap can be enabled.

For security measures, please ensure that your mobile phone is passworded with a mix of numbers and alphabets, finger print or facial recognition. You should also password your WhatsApp and bank apps where it is applicable. Once your phone is stolen, the first thing to do is block the numbers and go through the process of restoring them, but pray that the NIMC portal does not slow you down.

Even when you lose your phone, the good thing is that you can retrieve all your data and information if you stored them digitally in the cloud. Google, for example, provides secure and durable storage for free – but only up to a threshold after which you are required to pay for the service.

I must confess that the customer relations executives were very helpful. Rosemary, Tolu and Michael at MTN and the duo of Stanley and Adebola at 9mobile displayed excellent work attitude when I visited their Friendship Centres. I salute their cooperation, commitment and sense of industry.

My two lines should have been fully restored the next day – under “normal circumstances”. That was my expectation, but I was only able to activate the lines 72 hours after my phone was stolen. Until you are able to scale the NIMC portal hurdle for revalidation of your information, telecoms operators cannot proceed to the next stage in order to retrieve your telephone numbers.

Thankfully, the NIMC portal, with its “bi-polar behaviour” like the British weather, allowed for my sim swap and successful registration after several attempts by the dutiful MTN staff on Sunday.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)

Strictly Personal

TID Samia does not proclaim her tigritude but she pounces, By Jenerali Ulimwengu

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Here goes another nostalgic musing of days gone by, when intense intellectual exchanges would take place long-distance across the African continent without losing their immediacy and urgency.

At times these were traded in soft and gentle blows like rose petals lovingly blown this and that way, mostly in good part.

Once, for instance, Wole Soyinka declared that “a tiger does not proclaim his tigritude; he pounces (on his prey)”. Wole was then referring to the philosophy of Negritude, which had come into vogue through contributions by such luminaries as Leopold Sedar Senghor, Aime Cesare, and Okot p’ Bitek.

The implied criticism was of people proclaiming themselves as heirs to a certain consciousness of being Negroes, or more politely, African, instead of just going about doing their thing that would set them apart and distinguish them as heirs of “Africanity” with those vaunted qualities of empathy, hospitality and humaneness.

Pouncing big time.

It is about Wole that I am moved this week in this space. Also, it is about a local tiger — rather a tigress — that is not too eager to proclaim her tigritude, but is doing the pouncing big time.

In Tanzania, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been doing a demolition job on Magufuli’s legacy without proclaiming that she is doing anything other than trying to run the country the way civilised countries are run. And she is winning plaudits for her efforts as more and more people are increasingly exposed to the evils of the Magufuli years.

Most dramatically, recently she opened up spaces for political parties to carry out their political activities openly, something that Magufuli had ostensibly banned without any legal basis.

Ganning political activities

I say, ostensibly because legally no one can ban political activities in this country whose constitution — obsolete as it is in other aspects — allows so categorically.

But that has been our plight — that despite the constitutional and legal provisions in place, a maverick politician managed to rule over this country much as a military dictator does, like, say, what Iddi Amin Dada did in Uganda in the 1970s.

The ban on political activity has been lifted by Samia and, in this sense, there is a return to normalcy. Even the police are apparently learning something new: That there can be opposition rallies without teargas!

 And now the bombshell. Recently, Samia shared with us another insight into the nefarious activities of the Magufuli years. The departed president had mobilised a whole battery of unscrupulous lawyers and police officers to impose an extortionary regime on judicial proceedings, in clear violation of what they were taught in police college or law school.

Spurious charges

Between these branches of “law enforcement,” innocent people would be arrested on spurious charges — a darling was “money laundering” — which were deliberately made “un-bailable” just to make sure once one was arrested one had no way of avoiding incarceration.

From there, Magufuli’s legal goons devised something they called — rather disingenuously — plea bargaining, which was really a shakedown programme to extort money from people who were forced to buy their freedom, much like the mafia bosses force the families of their victims to save their loved ones’ lives by coughing up the dough.

People paid, sometimes by selling family silver, just to be free, and maybe find a way of starting life over again.

Lining their pockets

Some of us suspected these crooked individuals engaged in these arrangements were lining their pockets, because we did not see any public good they aimed to advance. Now we know we were right, it was all a scam, if Samia is to be believed, and I see no reason not to believe her.

Simply, the money, and this was in billions upon billions of shillings, cannot be traced in any state coffers where such payments, if legit, should have been deposited. It was spirited away into bank accounts, we are now told by the president, in China!

Now the president has set up a commission to look into this great scam of the Magufuli years and to identify the culprits and set the records straight, with a view, I hope, to punish those involved and make whole those robbed of their money through the spurious “plea bargaining” thievery.

The man put in charge of this enquiry is a respected former Chief Justice and experienced investigator of murky affairs internationally. It is my hope and belief that he will shed as much light as possible on this, but already from where I sit, it has a horrible stink.

Pouncing

The tigress in Dodoma has not been proclaiming her tigritude, but she has surely been pouncing. Some of us would probably have climbed to the rooftops to proclaim, declaim and pontificate. But now we are called upon to encourage her to pounce some more and expose the rot at the core, and continue the demagufulification of Tanzania.

I hate praising politicians, for you never know what they do next but for now at least, going back to Wole, I declare Samia TID — Tigress in Dodoma.

Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: jenerali@gmail.com

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Strictly Personal

The poetics of Bola Tinubu’s palm kernel, By Lasisi Olagunju

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Listen to Senator Bola Tinubu Wednesday last week in Abeokuta: “If you want to eat palm kernel, put a stone on the ground; put a palm nut on it, take another stone and smash it on the palm nut. The nut will be cracked and the kernel will come out.

You can see that it is not easy to get palm kernel to eat.” The Yoruba who watched how he strung his words together and the histrionics while saying what I translated above would say I have not done enough justice to how he said it. They should just forgive me.

Tinubu, super-rich city boy, must one day tell us who taught him how to crack nuts and eat palm kernels. It is intriguing that that was the imagery he used in describing his aspiration to be president of Nigeria. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the poetics, the rhetoric and the metaphysics of that Abeokuta outing.

Our fathers have several other ways of saying what Tinubu said with that imagery of force and devotion. They say also that a palm seed that would become palm oil must have a taste of fire. They foreclose shortcuts for the axe to the honeycomb.

Every axe that must have a taste of honey must lose more than a tooth. Tinubu remembered to add that too on Wednesday. He was a delight to watch.

At the very beginning of time, someone had a dream that he was cracking a heap of palm nuts. Where every dream is a warning, every question seen at night must be answered in the morning. The dreamer went to an elder for insights into what he saw.

He was reminded of the strength of his character but was told that he talked too much and needed to bridle his mouth. He was told that he was in a tough situation that needed tact and strategy garnished with loads of patience and composure.

He was told that he might be pursuing a goal that might not be entirely profitable – like picking and cracking nuts with diseased seeds. Senator Bola Tinubu’s latest Abeokuta declaration interests me. He was loquacious but I don’t think he was tactless. He believes he is working hard at getting the presidency of Nigeria because it is his turn.

But, he thinks his friends in his party’s government are sabotaging his efforts with the power he gave them. The man I watched in Abeokuta looked increasingly frustrated but defiant. He employed the imagery of palm nuts and two stones to describe his engagement with next month’s election. Elections are truly a palm nut-cracking process.

Cracking palm nuts is a very deep Yoruba way of coding wars and snatching victory from the jaws of hard labour. Ojú bòrò kó ni a fi ngba omo l’ówó èkùró (You don’t snatch the seed from a palm nut by being gentlemanly).

That was Tinubu’s description of the “superior revolution” he said he is staging with his candidature in the February 25 election. Tinubu understands perfectly what he is into. I am not sure his supporters do.

Still on the rhetoric and the poetics of Tinubu’s politics. His words impale; his dance steps taunt the enemy. Whenever Senator Tinubu speaks in his distinctive Oyo-Yoruba, I hear poetry in his (in)eloquence; I see verses in his allusions even as he drags his words.

He is always at his best speaking in the language of his fathers. He may be awful in singing, but he is a devastating user and connoisseur of Yoruba war lines. Where he is from, every General has a drummer, singer and chanter of words of adulation and provocation.

Tinubu, in Abeokuta, ordered his war bard, Wasiu Ayinde, to sing against his enemies: “K1, bèrè ìlù; ìlù òtè (start to beat drums, drums of war/intrigue/rebellion); pèlú àyájó nlá; àyájó nlá ni kóo gbé lé won l’órí (Seal it with a big, strong spell, place it on their heads).” My people say song goes before a war; sometimes it incites the enemy to rash defeat.

What Tinubu asked of his bard is invocatory; he asked for an invocation, a summoning of the elemental principalities to come and fight his foes. It is getting clearer that what we are watching (or about to watch) is not a ‘small thing.’

But who were/are the ‘them’ so deserving of the spell and imprecations of the warlord? And why ‘Ayajo’? Why not ‘iwure’ (blessing) for the sea of bald heads at that rally? Why imprecations and not prayers for his enemies to have a change of heart?

Tinubu’s imagery of one stone down, one stone up and a stubborn palm nut between them reminds me of a ‘war’ over rocks between two towns in present Osun State. In cracking hard nuts, stones are for man as rocks are for the gods.

When a rock is stacked on another rock, my dictionary says I should call it a cairn. But a cairn is man-made; this one in contention was made before man was made. Here, the people had two huge rocks, one on top of the other, standing on top of a hill.

Like the current north-south fight over the presidency of Nigeria, these two coterminous communities fought over the ownership of that hill and a war was imminent. Some elders, with sense, thought there was a more sensible place to resolve disputes other than at the war front. The feuding peoples should meet at the foot of the hill, the place of friction, and do it as their fathers did.

Every appointed day must arrive and so was it with that day. The day broke, with plenty of orin òtè and ìlù òtè, the feuding feet met at the base of their object of discord. The kind of spell Tinubu asked Wasiu Ayinde to hurl at his enemies last week in Abeokuta emitted from the mouth of one of the sides. “May the top rock ‘ré lu’lè’ (fall down) within seven days if this land belongs to me,” the king of one of the feuding towns invoked those words.

The other side nodded and the warring parties went home. At the dawn of the seventh day, the top rock was down the hill. The spell-casting town is Iragbiji, a community ten-minute drive from my own in Osun State.

The fall of that rock was the end of the ownership dispute but the victorious town, from that day, added a valiant cognomen to its name: “Iragbiji Olókè méjì,/t’ako t’abo l’órí aagba/Òkan yí lu’lè ó kù’kan (Iragbiji, owner of two hilly rocks,/ Male and female, one on top of the other/ One rolled down, leaving the other).” Read that ‘oríkì’ again. A rock must fall for a side to win.

The first time Tinubu climbed Abeokuta’s Olumo Rock and sensationally reminded us of how someone from the north lu’lè one, two, three times like a mágùn victim, my mind went straight to that cognomen and the “ó lu’lè” refrain in it.

When Tinubu, last week, called for àyájó (spell) on his enemies, I remembered it was one ‘ayajo’ that felled a hill in that part of Yorubaland.

Tinubu was angry in Abeokuta because of petrol and the naira. We are angry too because of those two items but the reasons for our anger are not the same as the politician’s. Tinubu says fuel and money have become as rare as masquerade’s excreta because of him.

He thinks his creations in government are setting him up for a crushing defeat in the February election. But he is one of the stones cracking our palm nut. Whether he is the up stone or the down stone, he is no friend of the people’s palm nut.

He cannot be allowed to extricate himself from the consequences of the government he foisted on Nigerians. Because of politics, the earth is scorched and they say we must endure the pains of their vain feud. As I write this, the streets are in hunger and existential angst.

There is no money, there is no fuel, there is no electricity, no water. Yet we must live through these times because an election must be won and lost next month.

“In Osogbo, husband went out to queue for fuel; wife went out to queue at the ATM. Both returned in the evening. No money, no fuel.” I saw this post at the weekend on the Facebook wall of a former commissioner.

The lot of the couple in that post has been the lot of millions across the country in the last one week. There has been power failure for several hours; you need fuel for your generator; petrol stations won’t take old notes; their POS terminals aren’t working; you can’t get new notes at the ATM; you go inside the banking hall and get paid with old notes which get rejected in the market.

Things are bad and are likely to get worse even with the two-week extension of the deadline for old naira notes to die. But why would our husbands insist that after February 17, 2023, old naira notes outside the bank vaults remain unredeemable forever?

The law says the CBN can “issue, reissue and exchange currency notes from time to time” – that is what Section 18(b) of the CBN Act says. It also says the CBN can, at any time, “call in any of its notes or coins on payment of the face value thereof” – after giving reasonable notice.

But the same law (Section 20(3)), says that even on the “expiration of the notice”, and after it has ceased to be a legal tender, an old note or coin “shall be redeemed by the bank (CBN) upon demand” – except it is “mutilated or imperfect” (Section 22).

The law sets no time-limit for the redemption. But our CBN yesterday set February 17 as the limit to satisfy the demands of this provision. I think the February 17 limit is unlawful. You can also read the CBN Act; it is available online. The makers of that law are not stupid. They followed what the civilised world does when in similar situations.

In England, the £20 and £50 paper notes ceased to be legal tender on September 30, 2022 but the system continues to allow those still in their possession to exchange them for the new polymer notes. Check the Bank of England’s website, it is there: “30 September 2022 was the last day to use our paper £20 and £50 notes for retail purposes.

However, there is no need to worry as withdrawn notes can always be exchanged at the Bank of England for new notes at any time after this date.”

Whatever elite mischief the government wants to cure with the naira redesign should not be to the sorrow of the ordinary Nigerian. Tinubu alleged in Abeokuta on Wednesday that the currency redesign was an act of sabotage against his aspiration.

He spoke with so much courage and, watching him, I was so pleased that someone from my place was staking his all for what he wanted. But, the fuel-and-naira speech was all about him; he had no word for the stranded and the grounded; the high and dry and the down and out. And, like Julius Caesar, he is more than one person; he is not an ‘I’ but a ‘we’ with an intelligence superior to his enemies’. Listen to him: “We are too smart.

We are brilliant. We are courageous. We are sharp….This is a superior revolution and when I tell you, you know what I mean. You know me. We are going there to win.” And he wrapped up everything with the defiant refrain: “A maa d’ìbò, a maa wo’lé (we will vote, we will win).”

If a proverb sounds like it is meant for you and you keep quiet, it means you are afraid of a fight. President Buhari countered the narrative at the weekend that he would not leave “the poorest of the society” to their own fate as they suffered the pangs of a measure which he said in November last year was designed to stop politicians from mobilizing “resources and thugs to intimidate people in any constituency” in this year’s elections.

And, on Sunday, he hosted the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, in Daura and made adjustments that extended the life of the old naira notes by 10 more days. Will Tinubu thank Buhari for this gesture? The presidential election is February 25; the naira note deadline is February 10. Tinubu and Buhari are warriors in the mould of Shaka, the Zulu – they do not take prisoners. But the people are groaning and dying.

Shakespeare in King Lear describes those who suffer the violence we suffer from our husbands as flies in the hands of “wanton boys.” Elechi Amadi in his The Concubine says we are grasshoppers in the hands of these same “wanton boys” who “kill us for their sport.”

The warring APC elephants are no different from Shakespeare’s and Amadi’s ‘wanton boys’; they crush us just for their politics. But, can I ask Tinubu and Buhari to read the epic of Mazisi Kunene’s Emperor Shaka the Great? Shaka was the young prince for whom “the shadows of the past dissolved in the new sun” and he “grew proud and generous and full of confidence” and became king.

He was the king who believed that in every war “victory must be final” and the “enemy must be chased and trapped in his own home” and destroyed; it is only then “he shall not raise his head again.”

Shaka was powerful and popular; then he overdid things and lost the ground that gave him strength. Because the Zulu king lost his mother, life and living were decreed halted with a screech. “There shall be no ploughing and no reaping,/ No cows shall be milked throughout the land;/ No man shall sleep with his wife in the year of mourning;/ No woman shall be pregnant in the year of mourning.” That decree took Shaka’s plane into a turbulence he never quite recovered from.

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