SENTENCED
TO DEATH; AN INNOCENT MAN STEPS OUT AFTER 24 YEARS IN PRISON; OLAIDE OLATUNJI
SHARES HIS STORY OF SURVIVAL, FREEDOM AND HOPES.
This is a story of
a failed judicial system par say of a man named Tunji, who shared his painful
ordeals from helping his father to becoming an accused 24yrs old inmate.
HOW IT STARTED.
“I trained as
a photographer but back in the 80s I didn’t have enough photography work to
sustain me so I worked with my father who traded in cattle. My father was an
old man so I joined him and I used to go to the bush to buy the animals. I was
married with two sons.
That year, as the
time for   the Ileya Festival drew closer,
we were going to supply some companies with cattle so I had to go and buy them
from Niger state. He listed all the things that I was going to buy – cows, rams
and goats. I left Lagos on the 30th of May, 1988 to Gwari in Niger state. I had
to go inside the bush to select the animals I wanted so that I would get a
trailer to convey them to Lagos”
THE ARREST.
“Because of
the language barrier, I needed an interpreter for the negotiations. We were in
the bush when some policemen came and asked me if I was a visitor. I said yes,
I was a visitor that I had been coming to the village for many years. The man
said they were looking for people who ran into the bush.
I said I didn’t
know anything about it that I was selecting rams there. Then they arrested me and
took me to the police station even though the interpreter told them I had been
coming to the village for some time.
The next day, the
1st of June, they said the case could not be handled at that station and it was
transferred to the State CID at Niger. From there they transferred me to Ilorin
in Kwara state. All the while, I never knew what they were accusing me of.
After a week, some policemen came from Lagos, they said they were from the
Anti-Terrorsist squad and they conveyed me and some people that were arrested
with me to Lagos.
I was with N325,000
cash which I wanted to use to buy cows at Niger. The money followed me up to
Ilorin but when we got to Lagos, I didn’t hear anything about the money again.
The Police men did not give me or my family members”
PAIN , TORTURE AND
TRIAL
“They took me
to Adeniji Adele Police Station, Lagos. That was when they started giving me
hell. They hung me,  beat and  tortured me. That was the day I knew they
were accusing me of murder. They said somebody was killed in Lagos and his car
was snatched and they later found the car around the village where I was in
Gwari.
The policemen said
the people fled into the bush that was why they were looking for visitors
around that area. All the while I had no idea why I had been arrested. The
confessional statement in my case file, they wrote it themselves and forced me
to sign. After that they transferred me to Ikoyi Prison and that was where they
resumed another round of torture.
I spent almost 9
months there before they took me to court with four other men. I didn’t even
know those men. They charged us all for conspiracy to murder. My lawyer told me
to plead ‘Not Guilty’ so I did and from there they took me to Kirikiri Medium
Security Prison”
SENTENCED TO DEATH
“Four months
later, they said we had a case to answer at Apapa Court. Osibodu Jaydis
Babajide after reading the charges, they took us back to Ikoyi Prisons.The
trial started in 1989 and it ran on for 6 years.
On February 15,
1995, Justice Da Silva sentenced me to death. I told the judge that day, “You
have condemned me, but God did not condemn me.” My Mum, my Dad, my children and
family members were in the court that day. I was transferred to the Kirikiri
Maximum Security Prison”
LIFE AS A MAN
SENTENCED TO DEATH.
“They put me
in a condemned cell. It was hell on earth. They kept 9 of us in a very small
room. That was where we took our bath, ate, slept, defecated and eased
ourselves. There were no beds. Who would give us beds? By law, they don’t let
any condemned man come out. But sometimes, they let us out for about one hour
in a day. Life in the prison was very rough. There, I hardly slept. The prison
authorities gave us food but not good food.
In the condemned
prisoners cell, you wouldn’t know which day they will call you and just execute
you. In 1996, I can’t remember the date, we were 9 in the cell. They took 8 of
them out, they never brought them back. When they call your name like that, you
know what will happen. They executed all of them.
Then, when we want
to communicate with our family or our lawyers, we go to the welfare unit and
write a letter. We must wear our blue uniform and they’ll put handcuffs and
chains on our legs. Any time we wanted to come out to welfare, or clinic or for
visitation, they’ll put the handcuffs on us. That was until 2002 when we
protested and they stopped it.
I have been hearing
of what has been happening in Nigeria. I have been hearing of Boko Haram, of
Obasanjo, of Goodluck Jonathan. All the information we have there is carried
over information, you can’t get the exact information. It is what they say to
us that we will believe.
My brothers used to
visit me. My parents died when I was in prison and they told me. I felt bad but
I could not do anything. I just prayed to God not to let me die in prison.
Around the
millennium time, my family members brought a phone to me at the prison but it
was not approved. I had to sneak it in and we hide to use it. If the prison
wardens catch anyone with a phone, they will send the person to prison inside
prison. Real torture”
BAD EYE
“One day,
something flew into my eye, maybe an insect or something. At the prison, there
was no good treatment, no specialist there to treat us. My family members
couldn’t do more than buy me drugs but I did not see any doctor for my eye. It
got badly infected and that’s how it got to its current state”
WIFE AND CHILDREN
“As a young
woman, if my wife was my sister, I would have even advised her to marry someone
else because no one knew when I was going to come out. I won’t advice my sister
to wait for a man who doesn’t have hope of coming out. She has married again
and I don’t feel bad about it. My children used to come once in a while but
they don’t really know me. Now that I am out, they will know me better”
WHAT KEEP ME GOING.
“My biggest
encouragement there were the Christian brothers. They were very good to me.
They took care of us, especially the catholics. They didn’t want to know
whether you are an idol worshipper or whatever, they will just embrace you. I’m
very close to the church now. When God does something for you, you just have to
give thanks to God.
I thank God for
Pastor Ariyo Popoola. He had been coming to prison for a very long time. He
used to come and talk to us, preach to us, tell us that this is not the end of
life and that we could become something in future. At that time, so many
lawyers had duped my family, collected money and just dropped my case.
One day in 2005, he
came to me and said he wanted to take up my case. Then, they used to call me
Mr. No Hope. I didn’t believe him, I said he should go. He came back again
after some months and said he wants to take my case. I said “is it by force, I
won’t give my case to you”. But somebody encouraged me telling me that
afterall, he was not asking me for money or anything like that. He introduced
me to Chino Obiagwu, the Executive Director of LEDAP and Kingsley Ughe,the
Chief Lawyer of JLAA.
When I met them,
the first thing they said to me was “My friend, we am taking up your case and
we are going to win that case. Are you ready to sign for us?” I said I will not
sign with biro, I will use thumbprint. Then they said “I will give you a
warning. Don’t call us, don’t send anybody to us. Are you going to have
patience?” I said, “Is it me that you are talking to about patience?”
THE FINAL APPEAL
“I didn’t even
have faith at all. Sometimes, when Pastor Popoola came to prison, I would hide
from him. The prisoners don’t go to the Court of Appeal, it is only the lawyers
that were representing us. He didn’t even tell me anything and I didn’t bother
to ask. Sometimes they were communicating with my family but I didn’t believe
anything will happen”
THE CALL TO CHANGE
AND GO HOME.
On the 5th of June
2012, they called me to come to the Welfare Unit to get the progress of my
case. I said I wasn’t  not going there.
Some people that were sitting with me said I should go but I said I wasn’t
going, that they will just be lying to me. Later I called Pastor Popoola. He
said “Egbon” (Big brother), I said “wetin be dat” (what is it?). He said “o ti
sele o” (It has happened). He said the court of Appeal has let me go. I just
started shouting, I didn’t know what to do, how to thank him. I was very
happy”
MY VIEWS ABOUT
POLICE AND THE NIGERIAN JUSTICE SYSTEM.
“The police
are bad, they are not doing a good job. They are killing innocent people.
Lawyers will collect your money, they will not do any job. If a person has
spent 6 years on trial and is sentenced to 15 years, they will not count the
years spent on trial, they will just start counting the 15 years from the
judgment day.
Justice was not
done in my case. Justice is for only people that are rich and it is not
supposed to be so. Justice is supposed to be for all Nigerians. The man who
calls himself a judge will see the truth and will not even listen. My judge was
biased towards me and I don’t know why.
We still have
people languishing in that prison. People that have spent 28, 30, 33 years. The
government is not doing well. How long will somebody be in prison? Which time
will he spend the rest of his life? Let the justice prevail.
People are changing
there. A lot of people are becoming born again. Imagine, somebody who did not
go to school for his whole life will attend primary school, secondary school
and go to Open University there. Let the government come to the aid of these
poor men. A 14 year-old boy is in prison there charged for robbery case”
WHAT FREEDOM MEANS
TO ME.
“Freedom is
good. The freedom to be able to walk about, to do the things I want to do by
myself. I’m not even used to it yet but it’s very good. I’m breathing different
air, eating different food. Just these few days, my system has already changed.
I thank God for
Pastor Popoola.God will be with him. I thank God for Chino Obiagwu, JLAA and
LEDAP. Thank God for Pastor Barrister Opeyemi Baderu and Barrister Kingsley
Ughe. They didn’t collect one naira from me, up till today.
The only advice I
would give is hold on to God. Be patient and have faith. Let that person be
saying to himself, “God if I’m a sinner, forgive me and set me free. Let the
people of the world see your glory in me”. It takes a lot of pain, it’s not an
easy task for somebody to be in prison”
LOOKING AHEAD.
“I will still
go back to my job. If the Government wants to help me, fine but I believe my
family and my children will take me up. I’m very hopeful. The rest of my life
is going to be a very good life because I am going to take everything so easy.
If it comes, I give thanks to God, if it doesn’t come, I give thanks to God
Almighty”

Source: Mccollybright.blogspot.com.ng

About The Author: Adeshile Adekolajo

Adeshile
Adekolajo is a graduate from the University of Abuja, He works for Ntel
Nigeria and we owns – Mccollybright.blogspot.com

He
is a writer, blogger and poet, to read more of his interesting and
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Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.