… where sa-tyres never go flat

Lamentations of an Egbere

From pit to palace: The rise and rise of Nigerian prisons

From pit to palace: The rise and rise of Nigerian prisons

“Wetin dey for name sef? E no matter de name you call mess, im go still smell pass shit” – William “Ibu” Shakespeare (1999), “An Excellent Conceited Tragedie of Ali and Simbi”.

The above sentiment is Shakespearean, Elizabethan, English and archaic; therefore it holds no ground here in Nigeria, especially in our 5G era.

In Nigeria, an upgrade, no matter how insignificant it appears, calls for a rechristening. When you roam about Facebook, for instance, you may come across a Kande Kurushepe going by the new name of Yummy-Kandy Krueger-Sheks. Why? She has now acquired a cheap made-in-China Brontel Android phone and has caught up with the teeming webizens of the 21st century on the World Wide Web.

Kande Kurushepe, sorry, Yummy-Kandy Krueger-Sheks, is a microcosm of Nigerians and their leaders. It is in this light, buoyed by its victory at the incredibly credible polls that ensured the incumbent soldiered on for a second-term as the chauffeur-in-chief of the change conveyance, that the administration transformed the Nigerian Prison Services (Prisons) to the Nigerian Correctional Services (correctional or custodial centres). What a change! And a long awaited one at that. To Nigerians, a new name works like magic. It does not just protect one from evil but can transform a rotten institution overnight. 

The Prophet and his Prophecy:

There was a prophet whose prophecies spoke of events to occur in the near and distant future. This was a long time ago. Long long before electricity found its way to homes, long before metallic contraptions started competing with eagles and hawks for the global airspace. It was a time when the earth was the centre of the universe and the earth was still flat. It was the epoch of the holy prophets and not the Bet9ja ambassadors who only thrive in predicting football games and wrestlemaniac preachers of war carved from the hustle and bustle of Onitsha.

That prophet of old saw a time when prisoners shall be elevated from pit to palace like it happened to Joseph the dreamer. Listen to him:  

“Arise and shine for the goodness of the president rises upon you.

Those who endure the hell of Kirikiri have since seen enjoyment.

Arab princes and children of the affluent shall envy thee.

See them coming to you, coming to eat from thy crumbs

And clothe themselves in your most tattered rags.

The finest shall always nurse thee to health and longevity.

India awaits thy health if it fails to respond to our doctors

The devil shall regret charting your path to the centre

Such is thy reward for electing a competent man as president.

When your days are over you shall cry and beg for some extra time

But you shall be made to see a Nigeria better than you left.

And you shall be fully integrated back to the society.

Your rehabilitation is such that you can be the next Sanjo

O Prisoner burst forth rejoicing, your redemption has come.”

Having treasured the above prophetic utterance all my life, I was not surprised by the recent renaming and attempt at reforming the prisons. Who, in his right senses, will not rename an institution after having it graced by some famous names?

How it came to be:

It came about that Nigerians got tired of its politicians and leaders engaging in corrupt practices without covering their asses properly. This ineptitude of those who should uphold the honour and glory of the country in the Criminal League of Nations forced well-meaning Nigerians to act fast in order to salvage the country from being relegated to the lower rungs of the ladder. The London palaver of Prince James of Deltland is quite instructive and readily comes to mind.

First in recent history to embark on a sabbatical to our prisons was the Incorruptible DSP himself. A man who pleaded guilty only due to his age and only to save the country the money allocated to prosecuting him — a case they cannot successfully prove in the court. He also wanted to save the government from a public backlash for persecuting a man for acting in a manner expected of a true Nigerian politician. Although he only spent hours there, the hours were long enough for him to find out that our prisons were not as bad as the media is portraying them to be. It was then he realised why Obasanjo was able to emerge a powerful presido after years in incarceration.

But before Oga DSP, it would have been Lucky Dion of Edo. Knowing the abundant goodies that awaited him in prison, he respected his old-age and accepted a plea bargain that saved him from a spell behind bars. That’s what you get when your name is Lucky – lots of luck.

Nigerians voted another set of (holy-holy but the same old) corrupt politicians, washed clean by their redeeming act of defection to the ruling party. A prudent move, I’d say. Acting like a monkey to catch a monkey. It wasn’t long that they set out on a hunt for their games. They went for those who are not for them.

James Bala Ngilari went on an excursion there for some days before a superior court redeemed him from the malevolent machinations of his village people who were envious of a chicken change that he merely relocated to his pocket.

This regime of anti-graft campaigners is no respecter of titles. They picked up the jolly good Reverend Jolly Niamey A man that added so much gloss on the face of Taraba State. I hear he has ten more years behind bars. Josh C. Diarrhea of the great Plateau is now recounting his good deeds while relishing the comfort of his new habitat. A certain governor who thought he could rob God’s Own State and go free has tasted the flavours of prison, came out, and as God liveth he may return.

It is this prison coming and going (like Abiku?), that has prompted the government to expedite action in making our prisons a fantastic world to live in. Besides, there is the x-factor of the opposition taking over power in the next election, wanting to expose the outgoing regime, and repaying them coin by coin.

Final Admonition:

With COVID-19, we realised that the abandoned health sector could be our saving grace. It won’t be long again before we realise that our neglected prisons are what many big names will rely look up to survive and come out sane, if it is possible. With the love we bear for our politicians, we hope that the neglect of this miniscule detail won’t make our politicians meet their Waterloo there. Learn they must from the story of Maurice Ibekwe.

The rise and rise of our prison by number of inmates has come to stay. The rise and rise of high profile inmates has also come to stay. All the while as the rise and rise of our prison-life is only in names. Naija, I dey hail ooo!

I assure Nigerians that at the rate at which our leaders are going to prison and with the constant change of the men at the helm of affairs, the change will not just be in name alone but in infrastructures, structures and treatment of prisoners. Don’t be surprised that sooner rather than later, our prisons shall be transformed into edifices like the one Escobar had built specially for himself.

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is a Jalingo-based rookie lawyer. His preoccupation is meeting the needs of his clients. When that gets boring, he unwinds by writing. He is not a writer but on the few occasions that he is, he attempts giving sinews to the bones of his thoughts.

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