Reminiscences: My Journey to Kirikiri Prisons – 2

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

As I was ‘saying’…

“My position was straightforward: since we were on police bail from the same Milverton, and had visited their offices many times after the bail without problems, they knew our office, houses, telephone numbers and even pager numbers (this was years before GSM); there was no need for another invitation. They could just call or page (remember the pager of the mid 90s?), and we’d be there, if there was no mischief in the bakery. Thirdly, and more importantly, after concluding their investigations, the police had arraigned us before the Chief Magistrate at Igbosere (Lagos Island) on a five-count charge, and we have been granted bail by Chief Magistrate Kotun (Court 1).

Moreover, we had been attending proceedings at all times, until the complainant (FAME) wrote to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) asking that the matter be moved to a higher court, and the proceedings were suspended until the DPP’s further advice. Even then, the case had always been mentioned, and we (my former partner and I) were always attending. In fact, the next adjourned date [was] later that month, (and by the Special Grace of God, we would be there).

These reasons provoked me to be on the side of anxiety for my safety. And of course, my entire family was around to witness the naked show of power. And mischief.  Well, I refused to see them, and they refused to go without seeing me. ‘Which kind friend be this?’ – you would say. Anyway, they soon announced their true identity and mission. I then moved to my partner’s office (we were linked by the loo and a corridor) along with my “bucket” of “iced blocks” and ‘kerchiefs, and called for them to come up.

  In fairness to the officers, they were gentle, polite and firm. They told me the need to come with them “and sort out this problem once and for all”. And equally gentle, polite and firm, I told them the genesis of the case (their faces were new to me), my physical disability, my long-standing relationship with the Nigerian security forces, and the need to allow me see my doctor and lawyer, before we leave. They agreed – though one of them suggested frankly, that the Police Hospital was adequate to take care of my health, and since the pain was in the eyes, and not my legs, he saw no reason why I should not accompany them immediately.


  After over two hours of waiting for my lawyer (Mike had already gone to make the telephone call down the road; incidentally, our line chose that day to pack up), and arguing to and fro, the dark Hausa-looking man who obviously was the leader (he told me he is called Dutse) brokered a truce: asked me to sign an undertaking that I would be at their office the following day. I happily agreed, and wrote the undertaking, praying in my heart that God would make it possible for me to fulfill my promise, and go to their office, irrespective of what would happen to me.  I really intended to avoid betraying the trust of Dutse in agreeing to let me stay free for another 24 hours. Very ironic, isn’t it? But really, I wanted to disgrace his stern-faced Igbo colleague who (I was told) warned Dutse downstairs that I did not look like someone who would respect an undertaking!

However, I gave a proviso: since I was told to also undertake to bring along my partner (who is quite stubborn about his own ideas concerning such issues) and our GM (a man of God who wouldn’t be difficult to convince), I also insisted that the fourth person (to be ‘donated’ by FAME, must also be around. Feebly, as it might seem, I wanted to put a weight of guilt on Dutse; because from experience, we might end up the only detainees.

  Well, to cut the long story short, my partner and others returned, long after the detectives had gone, and told me their game plan – as concocted by our lawyers in the Gani Fawehinmi’s Chambers. Basically, we should meet in the court of law; that was the meat of their plan.  In fact, a letter had been drafted for the attention of the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner in charge of Milverton Road unit, stating our position, (as stated earlier in ‘Strange Friends’) why we could not honour the invitation.

 I was uncomfortable, trying to convince my partner) that all would be well. Even if we were detained, patapata (worst case scenario) in another three or four days, we would be out and would continue the struggle. He brushed my arguments aside, as I feared he would, and kept faith with the lawyers’ decision. No acceptance of invitation; no walking like a stupid lamb into detention for him.


  I was distraught, worrying more especially that I could put Dutse in trouble, and that his junior colleague would be gloating: ‘Oga, I no tell you’.  Interestingly, my wife who would usually fret, understandably, during my several detentions, had come around to accept my position. To keep the gentleman’s agreement would not be a bad thing, even if it would be painful. My partner could not be bothered. Our GM (Harrison) was in turmoil; he did not know what to say.

 And as a clincher, my partner frankly suggested that since the motive was to shut ‘National Encomium’ (NE) down – based on the premise that if all of us were successfully detained, the magazine might suffer; more so, we also had REEL STARS [our new showbiz magazine] which production was already on the burner… and more importantly, it was the week we were to put finishing touches to our plan to inject “full-process colour pages” into NE, and increase the cover price to ₦70, due to rising costs of production; he analysed that it would be suicidal to fall into the trap being masterminded by “our friends” on the other side.  He carelessly volunteered that if it would reduce my “high-blood pressure”, he would go alone and be detained (since, in any case, his wife was not around, and mine was beside me); that he was the natural choice to go.

I simply ignored him (I can’t stand someone carrying my cross for me when my arms are not amputated – not even my best friend). Since Chief Gani Fawehinmi himself was not at the lawyers’ meeting, and banking on Chief’s incredible dependence on the rule of law, due process and integrity, I chose to seek his personal advice in the matter. I decided I would dress for detention the following day. And ‘branch’ at Chief’s home to get his go-ahead. So, I would not be at the scheduled meeting in the Law Chambers at 11 am.

 With that settled in my heart, I slept soundly. So, I missed the late-night call of my Pastor (Tunde Bakare) when he called to enquire about the correct situation. Gist had gone around town that I’d been arrested again! Fortunately, he spoke to my wife, who really needed the chosen word, from a sent man.”

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