Below is the prison account of the recently released former aviation Minister, Femi Fan-Kayode
- HEAD BLOODIED BUT NOT BOWED (PART 1)
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 21st, 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 6 months ago (from 9th of May till July 15th), 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 whilst I attempted to perfect my court bail.
After perfecting bail, on 21st October 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 10th, I was brought before the Federal High Court in Abuja and arraigned on yet another set of spurrious, 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 26 million naira cash from the former National Security Advisor, Colonel 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 4 days whilst 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 into 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 a Nnamdi Azikiwe all rolled into one. He is destined for greatness.
My Boko Haram friends accompanied me to that meeting, drew a ten 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 punishments the 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 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).
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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