Book Abstract:- Jailed for Life – A Reporter’s Prison Notes.
Author:- Kunle Ajibade
Publisher:- Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria) Plc.
This is a personal account of a victim of Nigerian military rule and a new dimension to narration of survival. We introduced guerilla tactics into the practice of journalism in Nigeria. The book is a tribute to those that involved, suffered and incarcerated for defending sanctity of democracy and press freedom in Nigeria during Abacha regime. Military dictators in an attempt to silence the media frequently seized copies of our magazines, harazzed the journalists and some were even convicted in some instances on thump-up charges and frame-ups. The usual dictatorial tendencies of the military regime of President Ibrahim Babangida made the practice of journalism to become very difficult. Magazine publication under his military regime requires extra cost and efforts and the operations of the intelligent agency and the state security service is another major constraint that affect journalism practice. The aftermath effects of the crises precipitated by the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election in Nigeria which was reported to have been won by late MKO Abiola has significant correlation to the direction of the news reporting and analysis during that period and this informed the decision of the government to climb down some of the Nigerian press organisations. My arrest, torture, interrogation and detention expose the wickedness of the Nigerian military rule. I was subjected to psychological and emotional trauma in detention before I was even interrogated. After obtaining statement from me in a solitary confinement, I was forced to appear before a military tribunal to defend myself on some military charges.
The condition of the Nigerian prison is harsh and could subject one to health risks. The letters I received from Comrades and sympathisers keep my spirit alive while in detention. The warders were magnanimous to allow me to smuggle-in books of interest which I read with joy and passion. I tried to maintain a good relationship with the other inmates in the prison. After some interrogation and trial, the military tribunal sentenced me into life imprisonment for accessory after the fact of a coup de tat. The then, Head of State General Sanni Abacha received the report of the Tribunal and the world appealed to him for clemency and this he granted reluctantly. I found myself in Makurdi prison where I was to serve ten years jail term for editing The News Magazine. It was like a hell. I struggled to survive amidst tribulations. All of us that were jailed got sense of relief in July 20, 1998 when our freedom was proclaimed by Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalam, the new Head of State. I was given an opportunity to spend ten months of a very rewarding intellectual engagement in Log Angeles where I shared my prison experience with people after my release from prison. Jailed for life therefore is a product of a reporter’s prison notes.