◗How he served as inmate with Bode George, Mustapha, Ade Bendel, before being set free by Tinubu and Fashola
He turned 70 recently. He is supposed to be a grandfather but there was no wife, no children, let alone grandchildren, to celebrate the milestone occasion with him. So? As you see him, he is a broken man. For that, he is asking the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to get him a wife as fast as possible. He would highly appreciate the gesture. He needs a companion. He needs fellowship. And, he needs children he could call his own.
Actually, before now, he used to have a wife called Mulikat who gave birth to two kids for him. But as things stand today, he does not know where they are. He cannot say anything about their whereabouts. He has searched the length and breadth of this country but he cannot find them. He has lost contact with them after being imprisoned at Kirikiri Maximum Prison. The woman just woke up one day, packed the little belongings she has, took her children and disappeared, without trace, into the wilderness called Nigeria.
Initially, Pa Sunday Oladapo was sentenced to death before Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, then the governor of Lagos State, commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. But he turned out to be two times lucky when Babatunde Raji Fashola came and, under the prerogative of mercy act, changed the life imprisonment to total freedom. In prison, he served terms with Bode George, Major Mustapha and Ade Bendel who he confessed were all magnanimous to him, at one time or the other. Now, he would want Ambode’s successor, Sanwo-Olu to continue with the same spirit of magnanimity by getting a wife for him.
How he ended up in prison
As the church service progressed that Sunday afternoon the old man sat quietly on his seat. Even when others were clapping and singing during the praise and worship session, he sat glued to his seat, seemingly immersed in his own thoughts, and totally unmoved by the goings-on around him. However, the situation changed when the officiating minister announced to the congregation that the old man has a special thanksgiving to make as he clocked 70 years on earth.
It was then that all eyes became focused on him. His story is indeed, an interesting but very pathetic one. In fact, it is a tragic one that has left him in a perpetual state of sorrow and anguish. As an ex-convict, he spent 25 years at Kirikiri Maximum Prison before he was granted amnesty in 2009 by Governor Fashola. Since then life has not been easy for him as he has been living from hand to mouth. Not only that, since his return from the prison, he has been looking for his wife and two kids whom he left behind before his incarceration.
Narrating the genesis of his ordeal to Saturday Sun, the old man said with a lachrymal voice: “Life has been extremely cruel to me. Today is supposed to be my happiest day on earth. Turning 70 is a landmark. But what do I have to show for it? Nothing! I spent 25 years on death row, and since I came back from the prison in 2009 I have been looking for my wife, Mulikat and my two kids. I have been struggling to survive. To eat, I have to go and carry blocks at construction sites as a casual worker.”
Pa Oladapo revealed that at the beginning, life was rosy for him as a young man. Being a carpenter he was getting good jobs from clients. He claimed to be an all-rounder as he was good at making furniture. He was also good at working at construction sites, especially as it relates to roofing jobs.
“I was making some good money, and my dream was to become a landlord before turning 40. But, sadly, today the story of my life is exactly the opposite of what I dreamt and hoped for as a young man. My dream was that at 70 that I would be surrounded by my children and grandchildren in my own house while I celebrate my turning a septuagenarian. Today, all my hopes and dreams have vanished like vapour. Rather than being a landlord at 70, I’m a squatter. Since 2009 I have been a squatter inside this church in Ikorodu. Not only that, today I’m all alone. No wife. No kids talk less of having grandchildren. This is why I said that life has been extremely cruel to me,” he remarked.
In the course of the conversation, he recalled and recounted the incident which led to his downward journey on the path of life. According to him, sometime in February, 1982, some landlords in the area where he had his carpentry workshop in Amukoko, Lagos, had come to warn him to beware of some young men who used to visit workshop because they are suspicious characters. They asked him to stop them from coming to his place. Their offence, according to the landlords, was that they used to smoke Indian hemp around his workshop.
“Rather than heed their advice, I became rude to them,” Pa Oladapo recalled. “I threatened to walk them out of my workshop. By then some people in the neighbourhood had gathered around us. I was shouting on top of my voice that they had no right to embarrass my friends. Although I did not smoke the hemp nor dealt in other drugs with them, my mistake was that I refused to heed the warning of these elders and I paid dearly for it. While walking them out of my workshop, I shouted and jeered at them. But I remember clearly one of them telling me that I should watch out for who will laugh last.
“Three days after, armed robbers came to the neighbourhood to operate, and some residents were dispossessed of their valuables. That was how I was at my workshop working in the afternoon that same day and some of the landlords walked in, accompanied by some policemen. One of them quickly pointed at me that I was a prime suspect. Without waiting for me to make explanation, the policemen put handcuffs on my hands and took me away. But the most painful thing about it is that while I was being taken away, the landlord that told me earlier that I should watch out for who will laugh last, mocked me, and asked me whether I remember what he said the other time that I should watch out for who will laugh last. I started weeping but it was already too late as I was taken to Iponri Police Station in Lagos.”
His life in prison
From the station, Pa Oladapo said he was taken to court where he was charged with armed robbery and later sentenced to death by execution in the course of court proceedings. “It was as if I was watching a movie. Everything was like a drama. Even the landlords that were responsible for my arrest and frame-up later confessed to the police that I wasn’t a bad young man but that I was only paying the price for my disobedience and stubbornness, but by then the deed had been done. My father and other family members fought tooth and nail to bail me out of my predicament but their efforts didn’t yield any positive result as I was eventually convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to death by firing squad. Thus marked the beginning of my sojourn in Kirikiri Maximum Prison where I spent 25 years before reprieve finally came my way through the amnesty granted me by former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola.
Reminiscing on his experience there, he said: “Prison is another world on its own. Life is very harsh. This is why most people that are jailed either die inside the prison or suffer one deformity or the other before coming out. Some often contact contagious diseases like tuberculosis, while others become blind or partially blind. There are some inmates that when they are freed, when they come out of the prison, they are like skeletons. Prison is not a place where you should wish your worst enemy to be.
“We were kept in solitary confinement. Twenty-four hours of the day we were kept in darkness. The only time we get visitors or when our cells are opened is when hangmen or soldiers come to take inmates that are to be executed, or when my ailing inmate is to be given medical treatment. And when you are there on death row, you also die in bits because you never know when it is going to be your turn to be hanged or executed. The executioners will just come and pick some inmates, and lock up the cells again. You never know when your turn will come; we were kept in suspense. It was not a funny experience at all.”
But temporary relief came his way when Tinubu commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. Before then he had spent 15 years. He was to spend another 10 in his new position as a prisoner. It was also during this time that he came in contact with eminent Nigerians like Chief Bode George, Al-Mustapha, and Ade Bendel who were also in prison.
His encounter with Bode George
“These three men met me in prison but because of their status, they were not lumped together with me in common cell. Bode George, for instance, was living in a place very befitting going by prison standards. About three or four inmates were detailed to be attending to his needs.
I directed and supervised those inmates. But my major job was to take food brought for him to his cell. He wasn’t being detained in a cell, but in a bungalow which looked like a former office. The food can be a cooked one or raw food items brought to be cooked for him. I usually collect these items from the Prison Controller’s office, and take it to Baba as we usually call him.
“Each time I showed up in his cell either to deliver his food or to shine his shoes or sandals, Baba would joke with me. He was also generous, on several occasions, he ordered his wife to prepare meals for prison inmates. In prison, he became a prayer warrior. He didn’t joke with prayers. At time when I take food or any item to him and I met him praying, he would signal to me that I should wait and not disturb him until he finish his spiritual exercise. Baba doesn’t joke with prayers at all. On several occasions, he prayed for me that I would not die in detention. He also prayed for other inmates. At a point, some of us started calling him Baba Prayer Warrior.”
Pa Oladapo revealed that on the day he was leaving the prison, Bode George, after praying for him, gave him 100 dollars as a parting gift. “He shed tears of joy for me,” he recalled. “He was happy when he heard about my release. After praying for me, he brought out 100 dollar note and gave it to me. Baba was such a nice fellow.”
Ade Bendel’s acts of benevolence
So was Ade Bendel, the popular socialite, he said. “When Ade came to the prison, he became a changed man, sober and deeply religious, and I remember that during one of our prison fellowship prayer meetings, he told us that he had a dream that God told him that he should build a place of worship inside the prison. To the surprise of all of us, Ade within 21 days after he left the prison built a chapel inside Kirikiri Maximum Prison.”
On a personal note, Oladapo said he can never forget Ade for offsetting the medical bill he incurred during an eye operation. “The operation cost N75, 000 but Ade paid the money. Not only that, he also procured medicated eye glasses for me.”
Relationship with Mustapha
On his relationship with Al-Mustapha, Pa Oladapo said that although he was not close to the former Chief Security Officer like he was to Bode George and Ade Bendel he was nevertheless a winsome character. “He was involved in a lot of sporting activities,” he said. “He was organising football competitions for inmates. He always showered encomiums on me whenever I polished his sandals or shoes. He usually told me that the way I shine his sandals always remind him of his life as a military officer.”
His appeal for help from Sanwo-Olu
As you got ready to wound up the interview session, the septuagenarian appealed to Sanwo-Olu and other public-spirited Nigerians for help. Asked what kind of help he needs from them, he said: “I want Ambode, Sanwo-Olu or any other person who can help to marry for me. God used Tinubu and Fashola to secure my release from prison, but I still believe that the same God can use Ambode, Sanwo-Olu or any other public-spirited individual to assist me. I want to raise my own family, with wife and children. But now, I’m a squatter. I’m not a lazy man, I’m ready to work, I just need some form of assistance to start a new life.
“If I have decent accommodation and money to purchase tools for my carpentry work and also a workshop, I believe ladies will start coming and even when I call them they will listen to me. Can you see any woman that is ready to listen to a poor man or somebody that is jobless?”
Sounding optimistic, Pa Oladapo said that he will survive the rough weather he is passing through. “It will not continue like this forever,” he assured. “I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom I truly serve and worship will not abandon me. My plea is for well-to-do Nigerians to come to my aid. I don’t want to die in this state. I believe that I’m destined to make it in life, but I need helpers to help me fulfill my destiny.”
Asked whether he has given up hope on finding his missing wife and two kids, he said: “No, I have not given up hope. How can I? They are my flesh and blood. But for over 12 years, I have been searching in vain for them. I even travelled to Kwara State when some people said they sighted Mulikat, my wife there but I didn’t see her. I was also in Osun State. But I have not given up hope. But the reason I want the governors or other public-spirited Nigerians to marry a wife for me is, I want to carry my own baby in my old age, and I also need a companion. That’s why I want to marry a new wife.”
Expressing his deep gratitude to the Director-General, Prison Rehabilitation Mission International, PREMI, Bishop Kayode Williams, also an ex-convict but now an ordained cleric, who he said has been accommodating him all this while, he said: “Without this man of God perhaps, I would have died. He has been accommodating me for over 12 years now, free of charge. He also gives me money for feeding, but I have to do menial work at construction sites to survive. I urge eminent Nigerians to come to my aid. They should emulate Bishop Williams. Although I’m 70, I’m agile and can make good furniture. I will be happy if Sanwo-Olu employs me as a contract staff at Alausa. I don’t want to spend my remaining days in sorrow and I don’t want to die of hunger.”