Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC Nigeria and other debtor countries have been warned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of risk associated with debt repayment following growing global debt levels. This is even as the IMF has warned that voters’ disillusionment raises the threat of political developments that could destabilize a range of economic policies in…
Permit me to begin this contribution with an apology for my disappearance from the literary and political scene for the last one month but this was due to circumstances beyond my control.
On October 21, 2016, five days after my 56th birthday, I was arrested by the EFCC, without an arrest warrant, at the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos, where I had been earlier granted bail. Thereafter, I was illegally detained by them without any detention order for 21 days.
Kindly note that this was after I had been detained by them for a gruelling 67 days, six months ago (from May 9 till July 15), brought before the Federal High Court in Lagos, arraigned on spurios and politically-motivated charges and locked up in Ikoyi Prison for a number of days while I attempted to perfect my court bail.
After perfecting bail, on October 21, I was re-arrested and the whole nightmare began again, only this time it was far more insidious and worse.
Throughout the time of the second detention, I was kept in a dingy underground cell at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja, where I met a number of other high-profile opposition figures like Senator Bala Mohammed, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the former Minister of State for Defence, and Mr. Reuben Abati, the former spokesman to President Goodluck Jonathan.
During the course of my 21-day incarceration, my abductors did not ask me any questions or say one word to me other than to formally serve me with a new set of fresh criminal charges the morning after I got there, which I simply signed for.
After that, I heard nothing from them and I was told nothing though I had daily visits to the medical clinic at the EFCC due to my deteriorating health.
Three weeks later, on November 10, 2016, I was brought before the Federal High Court in Abuja and arraigned on yet another set of spurious, baseless and politically-motivated charges.
These ones were even more ridiculous and far-fetched than the first set in Lagos. I was falsely accused of receiving N26 million cash from the former National Security Advisor, Col. Sambo Dasuki, for media work for the Jonathan administration in 2014.
Thankfully, I was granted bail by the court and I was detained at Kuje Prison for a further four days while I attempted to perfect my bail.
At Kuje, I was kept in the terrorist wing of the prison, which was built by the British government specifically for Boko Haram convicts and suspects.
There were 47 of them in the facility and I was with them throughout. These were tough, disciplined, hardened, surprisingly well-educated and intimidating men.
The single cells and the entire terrorist section of the prison was pervaded by an eerie silence throughout the night and low tone whispers throughout the day. The only thing that broke the monotony of silence was the regular and constant call to Muslim prayers and the loud and regular cries of “Allahu Akbar.”
This was a frightful place and those that were locked up there were very dangerous and frightful people yet, thankfully, the Lord went ahead of me.
The single cells, though small, were clean, self-contained, well-ventilated, dry and very neat. The inmates were surprisingly very kind and friendly towards me and turned out to be my best friends and bodyguards whenever I toured th other parts of the prison.
I was very impressed with them and when I heard their stories and what some of them had been subjected to by the security forces and the state tears came to my eyes.
Most of those men were not Boko Haram killers but had been falsely accused, tortured and just dumped in prison and I felt nothing but pain and sorrow when I heard their stories.
When I went to visit the great and brilliant freedom fighter, Nnamdi Kanu, who is the leader of IPOB and easily the most courageous, powerful and credible Igbo leader in Nigeria today, in his cell we had a very instructive and long discussion.
I had never met Nnamdi before and I was amazed at his depth of knowledge, his immense courage and his deep convictions.
There is no doubt in my mind that that man is going places and in him the Igbo have an Ojukwu and Nnamdi Azikiwe all rolled into one. He is destined for greatness.
My Boko Haram friends accompanied me to that meeting, drew a 10-man security cordon around me when we entered the general population of the prison and waited outside as Nnamdi and I spoke for almost three hours.
They even accompanied me to church on sunday and waited outside until we finished.
Given what I have written about Boko Haram in the past and given my total aversion to any form of violence, terrorism and radical Islam, this was a classic case of God granting me favour before my enemies.
Everyone dreaded them in that prison but I am proud to say that they were my friends and I will never forget their courage, kindness and fellowship for the rest of my life. The enemy had placed me in the lions’ den but the lions and their prey became the best of friends.
Not only were my Boko Haram section mates very good to me but so were the other inmates in the general prison population. Not only that, the head of the prison, DCP Akilu Abdullah, his chief warden and his entire staff and team of prison wardens were firm, courteous and professional not just to me but to all the other inmates.
This was the doing of the Lord and it was marvellous in my sight. Throughout my travails, I have never questioned God and I have been inspired and comforted by His word, which says that in all things we must give thanks to Him.
I am innocent of all the charges and allegations and, as I have said elsewhere, the whole thing is an attempt by the Federal Government and an increasingly desperate EFCC that is obsessed with my name and putting me away to discredit, break and silence me.
Yet in all this I am not moved and neither can I ever be broken or silenced because, like the biblical Job, “I know that my Redeemer liveth”.
Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “my head is bloodied but not bowed” and “I shall fight until the flesh is hacked from my bones.”
And as that fight and struggle unfolds and unwinds, I take solace in the powerful and beautiful words of the Victorian poet, William Ernest Henley, in my favourite poem titled ‘Invictus,’ which was written in 1875. He wrote,
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishmentsthe scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
Like Nelson Mandela did at Robben Island prison every day for 26 years, I recited that poem three times a day on each and every day of my total of 90 days detention this year. And if I am arrested and detained again by the EFCC or any of President Buhari’s other numerous security or intelligence agencies, I will continue to recite it. I have no fear of what men or satan can do to me and I trust and have faith in the God that I serve.
Having explained my absence for the last few weeks with this appetiser, permit me get to the meat of it and now serve the main dish of this contribution.
(To be continued next week).