By: Luka Binniyat
(NOTE: This very significantly different from the manuscript I am working on)
Yesterday morning in Zamandabo village, Zangon Kataf LGA, of Kaduna state, my auntie, Auwa, who’s age I cannot ascertain, squinted her eyes to affirmed that it was truly I she was seeing as I walked into home. She screamed in joy and wobbled her arthritis hurting feet speedily towards me gave a me suffocating hug. Amids sobs of joy and laughter she sang and danced round the red clay build compound causing quiet a scene which caused relations in the compound to rushed out of their rooms. In no time, a scene had been created. Passersby also joined. Women were screaming ululations, and making a fuss about my sudden emergence from jail to village.
“Luka, is back, praise be to God, the son of Mama Angule has returned” they chanted, raising more dust in the harmatan.
“It is true! It is True! Our God is real. Our boy is back,” they sang with joy.
“Our son, is back. God has answered our prayer, our son is back!,” the song went on.
Young men also came grinning from ear-to-ear shaking my hands and hugging me, each trying snatch my attention explaining why he could not be among those that came to court sessions or visited me in prison.
The elderly men drawn to the commotion, stood with dignified presence watching the scene in amusement.
I made my way to them and went on my kneel to greet and thank them for the concern and goodwill.
“In situations like this,” one of them, an old retired school Headmaster said to me: “ when wrestling with evil, our children will always return home. Welcome back boy, and God will always protect you because you have been doing a good job on our behalf .” Though his words were nice and kind, I could not help feeling some tinge of embarrassment since my 32 year old nephew who was part of my entourage, knew that I had crossed the golden age by two last Sunday.
While I was hovering from compound to compound, folks were also streaming to my fathers compound expecting to find me and welcome me. My 94 old dad, who still walks ramrod straight and is in sound mind and health had a hectic day I app receiving visitors with my most loving step-mother.
Everywhere I went in the village, I was greeted with astonishing excitement.
Both, ECWA, Catholics and Anglicans were united in joy over my return from 93 days incarceration in Kaduna prison.
My St. Thomas Parish priest, Rev. Father Anthony Bala, had travelled out.
When we arrived the Catchiest house, we were told that he had just left to go see me at home. He couldn’t even wait for me.
But, I should have prepared for this, because I had been given a hint the previous day.
On Wednesday, we had gone to Madakiya, near Kafanchan to thank His Lordship, Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese, who had shown deep concern over my plight and had not only mobilised for mass prayers for me, also assisted my family when I was locked up. The Bishop, who is famous for intellect and for speaking truth to power, was happy to see us.
He regretted what happened to me and prayed earnestly for us, our state and our country. We later had group photographs.
As soon as my name was mentioned, priests and diocesan workers greeted and congratulated me, as if the case had been concluded in court.
Dr. John Danfulani, known for his acrylinds-barred writing had agreed to accompany me to see the Bishop. He also came with Bomba Dauda, who bombs his ‘enemies’ with carefully chosen worded shrapnels, being a professional worker of words. My kid brother, Banister Thomas who is also one my lawyer was there. My nephew, Yashim; my wife and little baby, boy – Steve-Bityong formed the rest of the entourage.
Unknown to us, a feat had been organised for us by a group of friends, among them four Catholic priests, whose names I shall not mention. We sat at the Fantswan resort, in Kafanchan from where you could see the majestic Matsirga falls display its splendid beauty a few metres away. Amidst banters and wisecracks, I got to know much more of the public outrage my issue had stirred.
I was pampered with good food and drinks. It was like I had won a kind of coveted laurel.
At a point during the celebration, I could not help but wonder over the unpredictable fate of man.
A few month back, I was standing in a crammed prison cell the size of classroom where 97 inmates had been forced into. There was just enough space to either stand, or sit, but no more; or so I thought.
It was around 6pm and it was my first night in any kind of government detention. I found myself in prison for the first time after I was charged to a magistrate court over allegation of publishing and circulating what Kaduna State government a false inciting story in Vanguard newspaper, an allegation I pleaded not guilty to. Unable to meet the bail condition set for me, I was remanded in prison custody.
The only door and eight windows had only thick Iron bars to prevent escape, no shutters. There was no ceiling, only rusted zinc roof covered the top. The floor was clammy and smelly.
There were two double deck beds at the far ends of the corner. Rancid urine smell and putrefying human faeces conspired with choking fumed of marijuana and cigarette to welcome me into the dungeon of harden, heartless criminals. I stood there in awe as I arrive the much spoken about prison cell. A bare-chested, dark smallish lad, who had a booming voice that did not match his petite size, kept forcing his way up and down the congested cell, barking out orders and smoking weed.
Even in the shabby, dinghy room of criminal and suspects, there seemed to be some discipline. Only a few talked freely and even fewer were boisterous even when the cell was made up of mostly energetic men under thirty.
As I was wondering if I was going to spend the entire night standing or sitting, there was clanking of locks on the heavy metal rods that formed the door. Someone emerged at the door carrying a plastic bucket that contained something that looked like soup. It was the dirtiest plastic bucket I must have seen used even to feed animals. Tough it had been white when new, dirt and a scores of patches had changed it to colour to what can not be described. The bucked was taken from the dirty looking boy, who was came bare foot. The content was transferred into another bucket of equal grime and the boy, who was the ‘service’ of the cell went back.
“Aha, food has arrived!”, a fellow sitting besides where I was standing said and tickled my left foot teasingly.
I turned and shot ‘a don’t-mess-around-with- me’ look at him, and he laughed.
“Baba”, he said, “don’t even think about this dinner. You are not captured in this ration,” he said. “Tomorrow, we will include your name so you can enjoy breakfast with us,” he said in Hausa.
“I hope you will be nice enough to do that for me tomorrow.” I said, wondering if I could ever be able to survive a meal served that way.
As if reading my mind, he blabbed on, “It is tasteless and you wont like it for the first time. But after a few trails and you treated the dysentery that will come with it, you will get to like the food,” he lectured.
“Baba, when we see old thieves like you coming here, we are not happy. Because Mama will be too lonely. Cant you find something to do at your age?”, he said, looking up at me. I advised myself to show restrain since I was not in my turf. This is not newsroom, I warned myself.
“That’s a good advice. I will think of it seriously, next time” I said.
Soon, the ‘service’ returned with the grimy bucket and substance and it was again poured in the same kind of bucket.
“Old man, move aside, I want light a cigarette before I eat”, I voice behind me commanded.
I turned and saw a very cute looking man of probably 20. Well built with a round ,almost girlish face, he smiled at me, and said, “Baba, forgive me. Don’t spank me please. I am just a naughty naughty child who happened to kill only three policemen when they rounded us up. That’s how Allah will’s it,” said producing a lighter from his pocket lighting his cigarette.
I said nothing. Was this a cell of robbers only or what? Must everyone here be a theif?
“Baba, for Allah’s sake, if people like you should still be robbing or pick-pocketing or breaking-and-entering and . . . “
“Stop that!” I protested , without knowing when I lost control, “I am not crook. I am a Journalist!” I said.
This information seemed to hit those who heard it with disbelieve.
There was a chorus of “Sir, are you a Journalist?”
“Hehhhhhhhhh! Listen!” the tiny lad with voice of a megaphone shouted out.
“We have today in this serious cell, a Journalist.”
There was murmuring and side talks upon this revelation.
“We are going to find out what brought a Journalist to this great cell during the introduction period later this night”, he decreed.
“Uncle,” he beckoned on me, before then, could you please move out to this position,” he said bowing with a mocking respect.
when you find yourself in a condition like tis with no warden, no one to help you, the most intelligent think to do was to respect yourself and obey. As I made my way to the front position chosen for me, at tha point, I did not know whether my mouth had talked me into trouble, or into some relieve. But I braved up to stand whatever would befall me in my first night in jail, as an Awaiting Trail inmate.
. . . . . . . . . . . to be continued.