By Babafemi Ojudu
Today is the anniversary of the coup that brought General Sani Abacha to power. For those who may not know who he was, Abacha was Nigeria’s maximum ruler who killed many and detained several.
I am not celebrating him . Rather today also marked the anniversary of my arrest and detention for eight months 25 years ago by this brutal military ruler. I will not regain my freedom until he died under mysterious circumstances in the government house in Abuja.
My journey to jail began when I was invited by The Freedom Forum , an American NGO, to address a gathering of journalists from across the world in Nairobi, Kenya.
I left ,not through the airport , but through a bush path, for Cotonou in Benin Republic from where I traveled by road to Accra , Ghana and thereafter flew to Nairobi. It was a time when critical journalists, opposition politicians and campaigners for democratic rights could not travel through the airports.
In my own case I had been declared wanted and my publishing house sealed up before making this trip over a story on corruption and looting of national resources I authored against the dictator.
After delivering a scathing speech against the junta in Kenya I was arrested while attempting to sneak back into the country. It was in the night . An attempt to kill me that night was staved off when I told Abacha goons that my trip and arrest would by then have been known to the world as I didn’t travel alone but in company of a colleague who escaped their dragnet.
I was kicked, slapped and beaten black and blue in an isolated facility in Badagry before I was taken to Lagos where I was detained for eight months sleeping on the bare floor and in one single attire. It will be the 15th arrests I suffered in the hands of military rulers in Nigeria from 1993 when I and my colleagues birthed our news magazines The News and Tempo.
The dress I wore that night of my arrest has since been on display in The Newseum at the epicenter of Washington DC.
I am just about completing a manuscript of my experiences in jail houses across Lagos during that period and the very many near escapes. I am already looking for reputable publishers to take on this project.
Two weeks ago I signed a contract with a local film producer to turn the experience into a movie.