Member representing Efon Constituency in Ekiti State House of Assembly, Afolabi Akanni, who was arrested on March 4, 2016 by men of the Department of State Services and detained for 18 days before he was released Tuesday tells ENIOLA AKINKUOTU about his ordeal in detention
It was alleged you were bundled from Ekiti to Abuja by the Department of State Service in commando style. Can you describe how you were arrested?
On Friday March 4, 2015, I was in my office when DSS officials came and took me to their office in Ado Ekiti. I pleaded with them to allow me talk to some members of my family or associates but they refused. They did not allow me to speak with anybody. I then told them to allow me to call the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly but as I was about to use my phone to call him, they immediately seized my two phones. When I saw how they were behaving towards me, I asked them if I killed anyone or engaged in armed robbery but they said they just wanted to see me at their Abuja office. On reaching the first floor at their office in Ado Ekiti, I met the Chairman of the State Internal Revenue Board, Honourable Ropo. He had also been arrested. So, we were taken to their Abuja office and we arrived there around 8.30pm. From 9am till the time I arrived in Abuja, they did not give me food all through.
So what happened next?
They kept us in a room and the next day, which was a Saturday, they started to interrogate us. We were about five that were interrogated and they started asking me all sorts of questions. They were asking about things that I didn’t know.
What questions were they asking you exactly?
They asked me how many legislators were in the Assembly and I told them we were 26 in number. They asked me why I preferred Governor Fayose to Kayode Fayemi. I told them that I had known Fayose for long; we belong to the same political party and he is my mentor. I contested in 2006 but my ticket was seized because of him. This time round, I won and the ticket was given back to me. So, why wouldn’t I support him? They then said Fayose is in the PDP and he keeps abusing the President and that Fayose deserves to be removed from office. But this is not how it should be in a democracy. This is a democracy.
How were you treated in DSS custody?
The first three days were very bad. They just locked me up in one small room.
Were they feeding you?
It is not in my habit to eat in unfamiliar places. I was only drinking water and eating apples throughout the four weeks that I was there. They offered me food but I rejected it. Everyone, including my mum, knows that I don’t eat outside. My late wife and my two children know that I don’t eat outside. The only things that I can eat outside are things like meat pie or Scotch egg.
So, were you able to contact anyone during your four weeks in custody?
They didn’t allow me to contact anyone. I even begged them to allow me call either my son or my daughter but they refused. I have a son who is a civil engineer. I asked them to let me call him but they refused. I told them that I had a daughter at the University of Ibadan, they should let me even call her and let them know how I was but they refused. I had no access to a lawyer all through. They didn’t even allow me to talk to my aged mother who is in her 80s.
Do you feel your rights have been abused?
Yes, of course. But you know the kind of government we have today; you cannot talk. This government is a military government, not a democracy. This is not a real democracy.
Are you saying it was wrong of them to arrest you and you did not do anything wrong at all?
If I did something wrong, why didn’t they tell me what I did? I am a law abiding citizen. Everyone knows me in my constituency. People love me. I contested twice and won. This is the first time in my life that I would be detained. I even told the DSS to go to any police station in Nigeria and find out if I have ever been arrested in my life before. I have no criminal record. I have never been investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission or any security agency. I don’t fight with anyone. I don’t quarrel with anyone.
But is it not true that you arranged the blockade of a road to prevent the APC lawmakers from gaining entrance into Ekiti State, which allegedly led to the death of a citizen last year?
I was surprised when I heard that I blocked the road at Ita Ore and prevented APC people from entering Ado Ekiti to impeach the governor. How can one person block an entire road?
But you could have organised people to do the job for you?
Is it possible for one man to organise people to block the road? There are law enforcement agencies in Ekiti. You have the police, DSS, NSCDC and the army. There is even an army unit at Ita Ore. So, how could I have blocked a federal road? Am I the President or Chief of Defence Staff? Is it not only the President that can cordon off a highway?
But out of 26 lawmakers in the Ekiti Assembly who are all PDP members, why were you singled out for arrest?
I am not the only one involved. I am sure that the DSS is searching for others. I was just unlucky. Some of them have already run away but I refused to run away because I don’t have any skeleton in my closet.
Are you saying there are plans by the DSS to still arrest some of them?
Yes. If I wanted to run, I could have run but I chose not to.
Is it true that the Ekiti State government fabricated news of your purported death in order to get you paraded and evoke public sympathy?
I collapsed twice while in custody.
But if you had no contact with anyone as you claimed, how did they know you collapsed and how did the rumour of your purported death spread?
Sincerely, I don’t know. But my people knew that I would not survive without food and I don’t eat outside. They probably thought I had died of hunger. When somebody is in detention for over 18 days without eating, you know what can happen. So, they probably thought I was dead and no one could confirm I was alive since they had denied me of speaking with members of my family and my lawyer.
So, what exactly is the nature of your sickness?
In fact, I don’t have a history of any illness. This is because I don’t give myself stress. I don’t fall ill and I don’t take drugs. I am satisfied with life. I have two children.
Why did you collapse in detention?
I collapsed because I was exposed to something I had never experienced before. Firstly, I was not eating and then I was denied access to my mother, my children and my siblings. And I started feeling dizzy. When I collapsed, they took me to their sick bay and gave me drugs. They even gave me the drugs a day after I collapsed. I took the drugs for three days.
Is it true that it was when you were paraded before journalists that you pretended to be sick?
Try and get a picture of me before I was taken into custody and compare it with a picture taken after my release and you will see the difference. And you will see if I look the same.
Who were the others arrested with you on that day?
The commissioner for finance was also arrested but I learnt he had been released. Ropo, the Chairman of the revenue board, was also arrested. Ropo is a physically challenged man. He walks with crotches. Imagine! A physically challenged man has been in custody for over four weeks and denied contact with his family for doing nothing. It is unfortunate.
So, how come you were released while he has remained in custody?
I was released on health grounds. They had been studying my condition. The other guy had been eating and taking drugs. He has high blood pressure but they bought drugs for him but I refused to eat and they were scared that I might die in custody so they released me. Immediately they released me, I was taken to a hospital in Abuja. I don’t even know how journalists located me at the hospital and took my picture. The doctor just issued a report on my health and you can see it.
How do you feel now?
I am still not alright. You can see my eyes. If you compare my picture before I was arrested and now, you will see the difference.
Were you granted bail free of charge?
I was granted bail free of charge and my passport was not seized. I was released because they thought I would die in custody. I lost a lot of weight and didn’t eat for 18 days.
Are you going to take legal action against the DSS?
I want to have peace. You cannot sue this government and win. This is a government that disobeys court orders. If you sue them, you will not get a favourable result. I leave my case for God to judge because I don’t know when it became a crime to be loyal to your governor. I don’t know if it is a crime to remain loyal to the person who is a mentor to you. I am loyal to the governor. I believe in loyalty.
How do you see the DSS in this current administration?
Ha! I don’t know how to describe them. They dump people in detention for weeks or months without a lawyer and deny them access to their families. We are in a military rule. This is not a democracy.
Can you describe the cell where you were kept?
It was a small room. When we first got there, they put me and Ropo in a small room but after three days, they transferred us to another place which had about three rooms and a parlour which has a television. But mosquitoes tormented me all through.
Do you think it was the President that ordered your arrest?
I don’t know. These people are after the governor. Their aim is to impeach him. They want him removed by all means because they are still hunting for my colleagues.