Reminiscences: My Journey to Kirikiri Prisons

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

Welcome to the new year (2024) – with fervent hope that it will turn out to be more prosperous and less tumultuous than 2023. In furtherance of our current mood for reminiscences, we present copious excerpts from my 2021 memoirs, titled “It’s A Dog’s Life: A Kirikiri Prison Diary”. Grim as it is, there are interesting bits about it. Enjoy…:

  “My trouble started in a rather funny but painful scenario. On Thursday, September 9, 1999 (9-9-99) as I alighted from the car, I heard the whining of my three-year-old German Shepherd (she’s called Kizzie). I decided to give her some attention since the ardour of preparations for the REEL (movie award) video formal launching had eaten up most of my free time.

Few minutes to midnight, I went to Kizzie’s pen, unlocked the cage so she could roam the compound, her kingdom. Then I noticed her “food plate” was missing. Still holding her collar-leash, I bent deep, straining to look under the big iron ‘cage’ and WHACK!!! Her very thick long tail wagged my left socket (my big eyeball). I almost fainted with pain.

  In case you are wondering what’s the big deal about a wag in the face; Kizzie is about two feet tall, on all paws; and over five feet tall when she stretches up to peck my chin (from snout to hind legs). When she’s excited, she wags her tail remorselessly, hitting the two-inch rods inside her den, with fierce regularity.  I’ve always marveled at her strength and apparent lack of pain when she hit those rods consistently, and quite hard too.

That night my eyeball felt like it had been rammed deep inside my head. Scared, I grabbed my face and screamed. Involuntarily, I gave Kizzie a very wicked karate kick as soon as I could open the second eye, and confirmed that none of my eyeballs had fallen out. She was actually still wagging my legs and prancing around me, giddily unaware of the damage she had caused. Of course, the kick sent her running away from me, barking and whining, perhaps abusing me for being a spoilsport.

That pain persisted until Tuesday, September 14, when the police detectives came. But there was a respite. Perhaps because of the preoccupation of organising and coordinating activities of the REEL video launch, I didn’t quite notice the very painful pangs of my “black eye” during the September 12 event. It was so successful that I cannot but thank God Almighty again; and all our special guests who came, who sent representatives, who gave us plenty in those harsh times, who pledged even more … and all our guests, friends, colleagues, associates and well-wishers. Please, don’t mind the spoilsports, they didn’t even allow me to prepare a proper thank-you letter and visits. Let me use this occasion for damage control… God’s will in your lives will be met and accomplished, in spite of whatever circumstances or shortcomings, in Jesus name. Amen.

Really, I didn’t feel the pain throughout that Sunday – a little miracle. Then Monday, the pain returned. I could not wear my new recommended glasses (and I’d been looking for an opportunity not to wear it, anyway). I had to get very dark ‘spectacles’, and stay indoors with the blinds shielding sun rays. I couldn’t walk out during the day, and had to shield my eyes in the night because of electric light… oh, what a pain.


So, it was in such painful incapacity I found myself on that Tuesday morning, keeping company with two handkerchiefs, “iced blocks” pressed on the troubled area – that was the insistent recommendation of my in-house doctor (my wife, of course).  She badgered me to go and see the doctor (of Fanimed Hospital, almost opposite the office) or see my optometrist, Mrs. Susu Enang (six houses away). I don’t like doctors (not personally, I mean the process and activity of getting medical succour from a very busy man with hundreds of other people’s aches on his head). Yet, I have many doctor friends. 

In any case, there I was (on that Tuesday) lying on the sofa in my office, surrounded by my three children and my caring and worrying wife, when a note came in that a certain friend, Chukwuma (or some nondescript name from an indistinct Victoria Island address, had an urgent and personal message to give me). I instructed that the fellow should see my PA, or the most senior editorial staff around. But the fellow sent the note back that he had to see me.

 Incidentally, the Deputy Editor, Michael Effiong, breezed in, and I dumped the assignment on his head. Bubbly as ever, Olorogun (as we call Mike – now, longtime editor of Ovation International) took up the note and went downstairs. He also came back and said the gentlemen (two) would prefer to speak to me, and would not want to go and come back another day. I asked Mike for their description and demeanour. What he told me indicated that these chaps were not from any good friend, but from my “other friends” and would want to “invite me for a chat” – their polite way of precipitating one’s arrest and detention.

You see, after over six ‘invitations’, one has become adept at deciphering the subterfuge and gobbledygook of police arrest and detention. But I was determined not to accept this ‘invitation’, this time for very good reasons. One, my eye could become a major crisis inside detention, which is not yet the best hygienic environment in Nigeria.  Two, from further enquiries, we found out they were from Milverton Road, Ikoyi (therefore, it’s a throwback to our over two-year old board of directors’ fiasco with the FAME people).

(To Continue)

NEW YEAR NOTE: Find a space in your daily devotion, to say a prayer or two for the great helper(s) in your life or circumstance. It is an extremely difficult time to be charitable. Let us find a good spot in our thoughts and utterances to show quality gratitude to those who impact our lives meaningfully; but are too far away – by physical distance or emotional chasm. May the Almighty bless and prolong the life of our self-driven benefactor(s). Amen. 

Have a glorious and prosperous new year. 

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