Kassim Afegbua, a spokesperson for a former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, has chronicled his experience over the last one week.
Mr. Afegbua’s ordeal started last Sunday when he released a statement on behalf of Mr. Babangida about the state of the nation. In the statement, Mr. Babangida expressed his misgivings about President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership and proposed a power shift to younger generations beginning with the 2019 elections.
Hours after the statement was released, a counter-statement emerged. The second statement contradicted the first statement in some aspects and scaled down concerns about Mr. Buhari’s government in others.
The confusion then drew the attention of federal authorities, with the police being the first to go after Mr. Afegbua by declaring him wanted.
When he turned himself in at the Force Headquarters on February 7, he was questioned for 25 minutes and subsequently released without charges.
By that evening, he received an invitation from the State Security Service to show up for further questioning at its headquarters in Abuja.
Mr. Afegbua honoured the invitation on January 8, but no one attended to him because Lawal Daura, the head of the SSS, was not around. He was asked to return on the next day which he did on Friday.
His arrest has been condemned by civil society groups, especially since Mr. Babangida himself had confirmed that he was the one who authorised Mr. Afegbua to release the statement.
The first report that Mr. Afegbua would be arrested by the police first came from a source in the presidency, Daily Independent reported on Sunday night, a day before Mr. Afegbua was ultimately declared wanted by the police.
The Buhari administration did not react to the controversy around Mr. Babangida’s letter, which came two weeks after former President Olusegun Obasanjo issued a statement calling on Mr. Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
Below is the statement Mr. Afegbua released after his appearance at the SSS today.
ONE STATEMENT, MANY ORDEALS — KASSIM AFEGBUA
In the last six days, I have gone through traumatic experience when I was declared wanted by the Nigeria Police. By the strength of that unprofessional declaration,
I was treated like a common criminal and fugitive until I showed up at the Police Headquarters Abuja to physically present myself.
After what the Police termed a no case issue, they were apologetic and I took my leave. In the evening of that day, Wednesday 7th February 2018 I got a phone call inviting me to the headquarters of the Directorate of State Security (DSS).
I honoured the invitation on Thursday and spent seven hours waiting for attention. I left the office at 6.50 p.m. when it became clear nobody was ready to tell me what the invitation was meant for.
I was informed to report back on Friday 9th February, 2018 at 11 a.m.
On arrival on Friday, having spent 2 hours, I was attended to by the Director of Operations and two others who interrogated me on the said statement I issued.
My interrogation was recorded electronically and I was made to write a statement affirming the issued statement, having collected all my personal details; house address, account number, international passport number and other information.
I find this whole episode quite nauseating and utterly condemnable. I cannot rationalise why just a statement would amount to subjecting me to rigorous interrogation especially when there was no complainant.
The action of the Nigeria Police coupled with that of the State Security Service is at best that of a meddlesome interloper and sheer bullying, leaving serious developmental issues to chasing shadows with a view to intimidate, harass and embarrass me.
Let me state at this point that my life is in danger as we speak. I have been receiving series of unknown phone calls from people threatening me and my family.
But I am resolute in the true spirit of a free-born, that threats, intimidation, harassment and psychological torturing has never and will not stop me from exercising my right of free speech as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; as well as carrying out my professional responsibility.
I will not submit to intimidation, harassment and threats. Certainly not. I have just a life to live and no one under God will live forever.
Let me use this opportunity to thank my principal, General Ibrahim Babangida, and members of his family who were constantly in touch with me to share in my tribulations.
Mr. Babangida’s words of encouragement and assurances further bolstered my resolve to soldier on.
I am eternally grateful to Nigerians especially the media for their solidarity, support and esprit de corps. Words are not enough to convey my deep and profound gratitude.
My thanks also go to my very adorable and supportive wife who stood by me throughout the whole process without betraying any sentiments. And to members of my larger Afegbua family, my reliable friends, associates and compatriots,
I record my thanks and appreciation in million ways. And to my very dependable and reliable lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, and other lawyers who offered their voices to prosecute this case, I am eternally grateful.
To take a Kayode Ajulo out on a stressful five days legal engagement without collecting a dime, is to me, the height of humanity.
I am not only touched but humbled by this show of support and uncommon generosity. And my good friend, Emmanuel Ajibulu, such an efficient, and proactive media networker, I cannot thank you enough.
This experience to me is an eye-opener in so many ways.
I feel a sense of personal gratitude to several of Nigeria’s foremost legal luminaries who maintained a constant touch and gave useful legal advice throughout the period of this travails. I am most humbled.
And the Almighty Allah will meet all of you in your hour of need.
On a lighter note, the support, accolades and motivation I received during this period have given me added confidence to seek elective public office in no distant future.
PRINCE KASSIM AFEGBUA.