My Ordeal in the Struggle Against Islamization in Nigeria
by Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe, Ph.D.
(Dr. Nwaezeigwe is Senior Research Fellow/Lecturer, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria (UNN); & Coordinating Director of Research, Nigerian Civil and Genocide Research Network.)
In 2016, when it became obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari was pushing Nigeria to the brink of official Islamization through his policies, and when it also appeared that the Nigerian Christendom had been cowered into submission, I resolved, bearing in mind that every action for change or confrontation with an undesired situation must be conceived first by one under the auspices of the Nigerian Civil War and Genocide Research Network, to challenge the policy in a court of law, which is in line with our policy of nonviolence and civilized approach to issues under contestation.
The case was filed at the Federal High Court, Asaba under the following title:
Suit No: FHC/ASB/CS/2016¬¬: Between Dr. Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe for himself and on behalf of members of Nigerian Civil War and Genocide Research Network
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the National Assembly, the Senate President, the Speaker, Federal House of Representatives, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
The original counsel to the case was Kelechi Nnadi Esq. Solomon Asemota, SAN later took over, with Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN coming in later as the lead counsel.
As soon as the case was filed in court and all the defendants duly served the court processes, the officials of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) came after me. Unable to physically arrest me in court at Asaba due to the presence my supporters, they decided to stop my salary right from Abuja without recourse to due process as required by the laws and regulations guiding the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A high-powered delegation of Igbo leaders represented by the former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife (Okwadike Igboukwu) & a two-time Minister of Education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof I. C. Mabubuike of Isu-Ochi, Abia State intervened with my Vice-Chancellor, Prof Benjamin Ozumba, to reinstate my salary, but from the heartbeat the Vice-Chancellor, it emerged that he was not the author of the order. Further attempts were made to get me arrested in my office at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, but it was not possible.
On October 19, 2016, the case was transferred to Abuja by the presiding judge ostensibly on the orders of the Federal Government. This was followed by the listing of my name on the no-fly list thereby shutting off the possibility of my proceeding for Sabbatical leave at Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia in the same year. I was further declared wanted by the DSS and a price tag of the sum of five million naira was placed on my head. By December 2017, the DSS had begun a massive hunt for me.
Consequently, I had to shift from my hiding place at Asaba, Delta State to Benin City, where my counsel, Solomon Asemota, SAN gave me the sum of ten thousand naira to facilitate my escape to Lagos, with the possibility of moving over to Ghana. At Lagos, I ran to a prominent pro-democracy activist and former military governor of Lagos State, who is currently the Chairman of NADECO, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), for refuge. After a fruitless effort to mobilize both Igbo and pro-democracy leaders in Lagos to come to my aid, he gave me the sum of fifty thousand naira to find my way to Ghana.
I was not able to make it to Ghana from Lagos because of the tight security erected against me. I tried Ibadan – taking Saki, but it was a disaster. I then attempted to seek refuge with Pastor Enoch Adeboye at the Redeemers Camp along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. There, after narrating the reason for my seeking to meet Pastor Adeboye, I hoped that I was speaking to dedicated Christians as one would expect from Muslims attending to a distressed member running from Christian persecution. Instead, the DSS was invited to pick me up right there at the Redeemers Camp. I was, however, forewarned by a benevolent Christian woman who advised me to leave immediately. I eventually left without my laptop containing my most vital research data including two completed book manuscripts, which were later carted away by the DSS.
I then fled to the home of one of my aunties, Madam Moji Ikolodo, but for security reasons, departed almost immediately. She was later arrested by security operates for harboring me and later released after paying herself through with an undisclosed amount. From there, I fled to the Vanguard Newspapers office where the Editor, Eze Anaba, organized an interview on my ordeal for me. After the interview, due to excessive fatigue, having been sleepless for over one week, I fell asleep there, only to be booted out as a common criminal from the compound. The irony of my experience in the Vanguard premises is that here is a news media where I had contributed over twenty unsolicited published feature articles under the name: Dr. N. Tony Nwaezeigwe, some of which are still stored under Google search engine; and over thirty paid advertorial feature articles amounting to millions of naira. Yet, the General Manager of Vanguard Newspapers refused to listen to my story and instead described me as a lunatic, ordering his security men to boot me out of the compound at about 10 pm, with no place to go.
From that point, I searched and found a church conducting an all-night service at Ayilara Street, Surulere, Ojuelegba, joined them and the following morning at about 4:20 am, left them to trek to Century Hotel through Idi Araba, Sadiku-Ilasa and then Isolo. At Century Hotel where I waited patiently for the leader and President of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Omo Oodua Dr. Frederick Faseun, to come, information had got to the DSS that I was there. Not long after my arrival members of DSS began to arrive at the Hotel under the cover of customers. However, they could not arrest me at that moment because of the presence of the members of OPC. When, however, Dr. Faseun arrived at the Hotel, he was surprised to see me in a tattered appearance. Taking me aside, I narrated my ordeal and we were in the process of determining how best to make my escape to Benin Republic first when information reached him that the DSS were mobilizing to invade his hotel to pick me up. He then ordered that I should be taken to his office, from where I was smuggled out into the street again. With my knowledge of Lagos, I found myself again at Admiral Kanu’s office using Mile 2, Apapa, to CMS Bus-Stop, from where I entered Victoria Island.
Again, Admiral Kanu on seeing me was highly disappointed but, nevertheless, in line with his benevolent policy, tried once again to mobilize Igbo leaders in Lagos State, including my kinsman, Prof. Pat Utomi, but to no avail. Each man gave one excuse or the other. He accommodated me in his residence for the night hoping to find a solution to my predicament the following day. The following day, he invited the civil rights activist, Dr. Fred Agbeyegbe and the Administrative Secretary of Ndiigbo Lagos, Kalu Onuma both of whom were his tenants within the same office complex, but they failed to see him throughout the whole day. At around 10 pm, with no defined solution to my predicament, the Rear Admiral transferred me to Dr. Agbeyegbe who incidentally, although of Itsekiri-speaking stock, hails from the same Delta with me, handing me the sum of five thousand naira, leaving both of us in Agbeyegbe’s office. My attempt to further plead with him to soften his stance was received with military sternness.
For Dr. Agbeyegbe, instead of delving on my predicament, he went ahead to narrate how he was instrumental to the creation of Delta State, yet when the Hall of Honor for those who made the creation of the State possible was created, his name was not mentioned. He went further to express his misgivings over the siting of the Delta State Capital at the Igbo-speaking town of Asaba. At the end of the day, at around 11 pm, he locked his office and pleaded with the security man outside to allow me to sleep with him till the following morning. The security man knew that I did not sleep the whole night standing. He sought for the reason, but it was impossible to tell him because he would not understand.
The following morning at around 4 am, I left him trekking along the well-lighted but lonely Kofo Abayomi Street towards the 81 Division Army Headquarters, praying that no security team is confronted. Just before the gate of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), a young Hausa tricycle-rider arrived, picked me up to Obalenden Bus Stop, from where I picked another bus to Ketu, then to Mile 12, from where I connected Shagamu, all to avoid the prying eyes of the DSS. It was obvious that by the time I got to Shagamu, the Lagos-Benin route has been infested by the operatives of DSS searching for me. I had to disembark from the first Onitsha bus I embarked because of the presence of a DSS official who was already communicating a stand-by Police team in front. God later gave me an Enugu-bound vehicle that did not stop at Ore, even though with another operative, who this time appeared benevolent and Christian in outlook. He disembarked at the Asaba junction to my home-town Ibusa.
On getting back to Anambra State, I anchored at the house of a supposedly trusted friend, Ichie Uchenna Nweke (a. k. a. Beke or Ozowalu). It was while in his house that the DSS came at about 2 am to abduct me. It was in the process of my escape that I fell into a ditch and consequently had my left leg invalidated with ankle, knee and thigh bones broken. I was immediately taken to Prof I. T. K. Ogbukagu’s house at Adazi Nnukwu, from where I was again taken to a traditional healer Nze Obalande Anakwe at Igbakwu where I stayed for seven days. When the news of my presence at Igbakwu got to the DSS through Igbo locals who were eager to sacrifice me for five million naira, I was taken to Chief Fidelis Nwanze’s house, the Akwue of Oko Anala in Delta State, who took me to a traditional bone healer at Oko Ogbele where I stayed for another seven days. On the knowledge of a further attempt to abduct me there through the help of the locals on the knowledge of the salivating reward of five million naira, I was taken finally to my hometown Ibusa, at the home of the traditional head of my community and former Odogwu of Ibusa, Sir Fidelis Nwanze. There, I stayed for the next five months incognito under the care of a traditional bone therapist. It was during this period that my people sent a delegation to Okwadike Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a political godfather and former Governor of Anambra State, on the way forward. They were surprised that Dr. Ezeife never believed I was under pursuit by the DSS.
However, not long after I began to walk with a pair of clutches, news go to the DSS that I could now walk, plans were on the way to come for my arrest, this time by some members of my community who thought initially that I was dead and thus went about declaring their interests on my traditional title of Odogwu Ibusa; hence the decision to escape to Cameroon.
I was aided in crossing to Cameroon by Very Rev. Fr. Charles Eking of Roman Catholic Church Oron, who housed me for a night before departure and Brother Minatus Aghas, a local sea transport agent and a local chief, who used his private beach as my take-off point. Traveling on an outboard engine fiber boat loaded with nine and a half drums of diesel, I landed at an obscure port at Limbe after more than five hours’ journey. From Limbe, I was taken to the nearby town of Batoke where Pastor Dickson Hoe housed me for the night. The following day being Sunday, June 3, 2018, I was taken to the home of Chief Anthony from Afikpo, who immediately took me to the President of the Nigerian Association at Limbe. There it was resolved that I should proceed immediately to Yaounde to report at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for registration. They, in addition, facilitated my travel to Yaounde with the sum of ten thousand francs where I eventually secured a temporary identification letter as a refugee, with the following numbers: Case/HoH ID: 417-18C00698 and Numero d’enregistrement: NIG/0001/18.
On arriving Yaounde, I received initial support from Christ Roi Du Tsinga Caritas Association who paid for my two-day hotel accommodation, gave me clothes, and money prior to my registration with the UNHCR; Mr. Ogbonna from Nsukka supported me with the sum of five thousand francs; Rev. Father John of St. Toby St. Olinga Catholic Church, Mbankolo, Yaounde who, although unable to help me in considerable detail, directed me to Christ Roi Du Tsinga. The Nigerian community Duala and my friend Prof. Canute Ngwa formerly of the Department of History and International Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, but now, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Bamenda, were both fantastic. The Duala Igbo community raised the sum of 83 thousand francs for me and Prof. Ngwa gave me the sum of 85 thousand francs. These, however, did not stop my being hunted down for secret execution from Yaounde to Duala, then to Bafussan, Bankin, Tibati, Ngaoundere, and then to Batouri.
At Batouri, I was chased three times for attempted lynching by an irate Muslim mob, who were informed by my assailants that I was an enemy of Islam. On the first occasion, I slept in an open local toilet before being handed over to the local Roman Catholic Church by a local benevolent Muslim man. The Roman Catholic Church failed to protect me, including the local Protestant Church, both of which refused to accommodate me, leading to the second chase that took place after a local commercial motorbike rider invited by the Protestant Priest to sneak me out the town for safety dumped me in a local village in the night and invited my assailants. I slept in the bush this time, reported to a local Catholic Church in the village where the Rev. Father instead invited the Gendarmes who arrested me and put me in a cell for 9 days at Batouri.
At the cell, I was condemned to death under the insurgency agreement of Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Paul Biya of Cameroon that required that opposition members in one country that cross over to the other should be executed. I was, however, saved from the execution by the benevolent Christian Commandant who drove the executioners away from his station when they came to carry me for execution. Thereafter, while in the cell, several attempts were made to murder me by importing Muslim youth into the cell with knives. All nights, I never stopped shouting disclosing my identity possibly to the embarrassment of those who attempted to criminalize me. On 24th June 2018, I was unilaterally released by the English-speaking orderly of the Commandant on the orders of his boss at the chagrin of the local Muslim guards posted to forestall my release, vowing to shoot me if I did not leave the compound and shooting anyone who dared challenge him.
He ordered me to move to the Protestant Pastor who, when I got to his house, was afraid to accommodate me. He instead opted to put me in what I describe as a suicidal hotel since the hotel had no fence and no night staff except a Muslim security man. In the night, this security man attempted to lock me from the outside and my timely intervention saved me from instant lynching.
That was when I decided to flee – and the third pursuit, which lasted all through the night, began. I eventually slept in the bush and the following morning saw my being taken to the UNHCR office in Batouri, who eventually took me to the Batouri District Hospital, where I stayed for the next 31 days (25th June to 25th July), facing constant threats of lynching right in the hospital. I was later taken to the Bertoua Regional Hospital for my broken bone. There, I was thrown out of the hospital after two days for no reason other than being an enemy of Islam. I was later taken to Bertoua Refugee Camp, where I stayed for three days before the decision to return me to Yaounde was taken. I had since resolved to come to Ghana, by every possible means, where I can enjoy the free air.
With the belief that I was proceeding to Yaounde, the officials of the Bertoua UNHCR bade me farewell. A few minutes later, I found myself turning northwards. The same day I found myself in the Central African Republic hoping to raise money from the Igbo in Bangui for a flight to Accra. But I was driven back after boarding a bus to Bangui for the reason that the country was not ready to admit any refugee from Cameroon. I then decided to risk a northern passage through Nigeria, which definitely worked out under the miraculous act of God. Passing Garoua to the far-North city of Maroua and passing through the Boko Haram-infested area of the Republic of Cameroon, I entered Nigeria through Gamboru, a town shared by the two countries. After two days of waiting for clearance for a Boko Haram-free trip to Maiduguri, I landed in Maiduguri, slept in a refugee camp there, entered the Keystone Bank to collect some money from my account and discovered there was an order to get me arrested whenever I came for my money. I was earlier informed of the situation and that day in Maiduguri being a Friday, I patiently waited for the time of Jumat when all the notable Muslims might be in the Mosque praying. I had no other option than to risk it all because it was difficult getting anybody help me financially in Maiduguri.
When I entered the Bank, it was not to withdraw money but to change my alert telephone number. After filling the form and on opening my account, the lady banker found the order she immediately informed me that it was only the headquarters that can effect change. She then asked if I would undertake any other services like withdrawing money and I answered in the affirmative. She then brought me a withdrawal sheet which I filled and proceeded to withdraw some money. I made sure not to withdraw up to 100 thousand naira which will require endorsement from the Accountant or Manager. So, I filled the sum of 95 thousand naira. As soon as I proceeded to withdraw my money she moved over to the manager to inform him of my presence who immediately phoned the DSS officials. I was later informed by the lady to come over to her table to complete the processes of changing my account telephone number.
I fully understood the boobytrap, so I watched as she was attending to a customer, moved fast to the exit door and pressed the exit button which answered me with precision. I then zoomed out of the bank, only to be informed by those outside that I was wanted in the bank. I instantly replied that I was coming, pointing to my stomach to indicate hunger, they immediately chorused “He is Coming”. I immediately boarded the next tricycle; waited until it discharged all the other passengers and took him on charter to the outskirts of Maiduguri where I took a Kano-bound bus. This was indeed not a matter of my acumen but one of the many stages of divine intervention in my predicament which space would not allow me to reveal in full in the present report.
At Kano, I chartered another tricycle to Sokoto Park where Providence kept the last seat for me. Arriving Sokoto the following morning, I moved to Ile Ila border town with Niger Republic, boarded a motorbike to the next town in Niger called Birnin N’Koni, from where I moved to Niamey. From Niamey, I moved into Burkina Faso, from where I entered Ghana through Bitou and Bawku. In Ghana, I met the same assailants trailing me, this time blackmailing me among the Igbo leaders in Ghana not to help me since I am a wanted person in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari. But the big question is, wanted for what offense? Am I wanted for a criminal offense? Is it not for defending the Christian and Igbo causes that I am passing through all these trials and risks?
Today in Ghana, I am facing the same risk over attempts on my life by the same people by attempting kidnapping and calculated mob attack. But great thanks to the Almighty God who resolved, in all circumstances, that I will live to give this testimony which nobody can give better than me.
Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe,
Tel: 233 279395253
22nd August 2018