Reflecting On 25 Years Of Freedom From Abacha’s Death Sentence: A Journey Of Resilience And Gratitude

By Bello Fadile

As I sit down to pen these words, my mind drifts back to a momentous day etched in the annals of my personal history – March 4, 1999. It was on this day, 25 years ago, that I emerged from the shadows of incarceration into the warm embrace of freedom.

The memory of that day remains vivid in my mind, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unwavering power of faith.In a recent conversation with journalists, I had the opportunity to recount the events surrounding my unexpected liberation from the confines of Argungu Prison, a facility now known as a Correctional Facility, in Kebbi State.

Sentenced to what seemed like a lifetime behind bars for advocating a non-violent transition to democracy, I found myself grappling with the harsh realities of life under the regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha–my then friend and boss.

The following excerpt is testimony of my release from a “life sentence”, as extracted from the upcoming book, “Nine Lives: The Bello Fadile Memoirs”:“

..25 years ago, in the wee hours of March 4 1999, I had tap, tap, tap, on my cell window and Colonel! Colonel!! wake up. I got up and went closer. Then I saw the warder on duty, a retired Warrant officer of the Nigerian Army now working for the Nigeria Prison Services.

He said, “Oga you don free, congratulations sir, start packing your things, you are going home.”I asked him, what did you just say? ”

He said, “Yes sir you are  to be released today, sir.” I did not say anything. I just believed him and rushed to the general open cell opposite my cell to tell the two other inmates who were on a three-day dry fasting with me, seeking the face of God in my situation. It was the beginning of the third day.

I told them the good news and they shouted, “Hallelujah!” and we stood up and joined hands to sing out sing-song chorus; God is able, abundantly able, to deliver and to save; The Lord is able, abundantly able, to deliver those who trust in him. Hallelujah!”

As can be seen from the excerpts, it was as the early hours of March 4th dawned that a gentle tap on my cell window shattered the silence of the night, heralding the arrival of long-awaited news.

A retired Warrant Officer turned prison warder stood before me, bearing tidings of liberation. With a heart overflowing with gratitude, I shared the news with my fellow inmates, their voices rising in a chorus of praise and thanksgiving.

In those fleeting moments, as I prepared to leave my confinement behind, I was overcome with a profound sense of gratitude towards those who had supported me during my darkest hours. It was with a newfound appreciation for the precious gift of freedom that I stepped out of the prison gates, my spirit unshackled from the chains of oppression.

As I reflect on the significance of this momentous occasion, I am reminded of the countless individuals who fought tirelessly for the cause of democracy in Nigeria. I extend my deepest gratitude to Gen. Abdusalami Alhaji Abubakar, whose act of clemency paved the way for my release, and to all those who contributed to the establishment of a true democratic government in our beloved nation.

As March 4th, 2024, marks the 25th anniversary of my freedom, I am filled with a sense of humility and reverence. My journey from incarceration to liberation serves as a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the triumph of justice over adversity.

I am eternally grateful for the unwavering support of my fellow countrymen and women, and I remain committed to upholding the values of democracy and freedom for generations to come.To God be the honor and glory, and may His blessings continue to shine upon the Federal Republic of Nigeria._

Col. Bello Fadile (Ph.D Law) is human rights lawyer and retired Nigerian Army officer_

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