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My Life Lessons From 27 Years Of Wrongful Imprisonment – Clinton Kanu

Clinton Kanu, who was discharged and acquitted by the Supreme Court after spending 27 years for crimes he didn’t commit, says no real reformation goes on in Nigerian prisons.

Mr. Clinton Kanu was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years before he won his appeal at the Supreme Court last month / Photo credit: Facebook
Mr. Clinton Kanu was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years before he won his appeal at the Supreme Court last month / Photo credit: Facebook

Clinton Kanu, the man who was discharged and acquitted by the Supreme Court after spending 27 years behind bars, narrates his story:

In press interviews, you said somebody was killed in the compound where your married sister lives. Who was the person and what did it have to do with you?

I don’t know the man that was killed in the fight so much. But he is supposed to be one of our in-laws. They were just in-laws quarrelling over land.

I came in as somebody who was living in Anambra. I was not resident in Imo State. At a certain point, my mother called me and said my people need to understand my political inclinations, in case I wanted to go into politics.

So, because of that I started to make peace because they were my in-laws. Na’im I take gather problem o! This 27 years…It never concerned me in anyway.

But the thing was that they were having quarrel on an issue of land. And somehow, they were accused of removing fluorescent tube and a plant.

When they brought the complaint to me I said I was going to investigate the issue and I found out that the plant that they were accused of stealing was in the direct possession of those who accused them.

It was just that involvement and I said the truth has be told. I wrote a petition to the Area Commander to settle the issue that the plant in issue is in the possession of the man accusing people of stealing the plant.

That’s all. That was the offence I committed.

You also said you were arrested because those behind your ordeal thought you were trying to resolve a land dispute in favour of one party. What exactly do you mean?

No. They thought I was siding the other party over the land issue which I don’t know how it started. I was not resident at home.

We didn’t grow at home. I just came in to make peace among my in-laws. Nobody arrested me. I went to the police station myself.

The charge was that we robbed prophet Olemeforo of N5,000. He is also an in-law. He runs a local church in the village here. That is it. No another one

Where is your sister now – the one in whose compound somebody was alleged to have been killed and for which reason you were arrested?

My sister is still married in the compound. She is living at Enugu. Her husband is an engineer. They are living together.

What did your family do after your arrest?

They tried all they could. But they were contending with a superior power, a woman who said she was chief superintendent of police, she was well connected and had everything.

It was just like it was nothing that will be taking so serious. Before we knew it, they have coupled their charges against me and taken it far.

You said one of your lawyers messed up your case. How do you mean? Did you get another lawyer?

Yes, I got another lawyer, Barr. Emmanuel Onumajuru. You see, my case was substituted four times.

The first complainant who was said to be a prophet, Olemeforo, his case was struck out on grounds of innocence by Justice Njemanze at the High Court in Owerri.

Then my lawyer, I don’t know how he managed to take the case to High Court 9. When I told him this was not the case for which we were presented with procedure and proof of evidence, he said, abeg him wan take am shine.

I say for what? Now when they brought it to the High Court, the case was substituted with the name of somebody who was supposed to be a witness in the first charge. Somebody said he is a witness to the complainant.

Now the case of the complainant was struck out. When they brought to another judges table and they brought this charge and the witness became complainant.

I called my lawyer, where are the proceedings over this mater, what is the procedure, where is the proof of evidence? He said I should relax.

Relax for what? Please tell the man to strike out this case and let me get out here. Instead of saying, ‘you robbed so and so person’, they now changed it from one thing to another.

They now started calling back the man whose case was first struck out. It was substituted again, no proof of evidence, no procedure.

The substitution continued like that. I told the lawyer this one is becoming too much. The lawyer applied to recall the witnesses.

There was no witness to be recalled because the witness was now the complainant. The whole thing was just a mess.

Twenty-seven years in the life of a man…I am broken and messed up. I don’t know how confused I am. All these are medicine after death. The damage has been done. It is irreparable. Only God can help me

What were the charges against you?

The charge was that we robbed prophet Olemeforo of N5,000. He is also an in-law. He runs a local church in the village here. That is it. No another one.

Which lawyers defended you at the Supreme Court?

Barrister Emmanuel Onumajuru and God. Lies have short legs they don’t go too far. The truth will always come out.
You said you were sentenced to death and put on death row. What is the name of the judge who sentenced you to death?
Justice P.I Ohakwe.

Over charges of theft of N5000?

Yes, he said we robbed a man of N5000. Later on, the man’s case was just thrown away on the ground of innocence. They now brought somebody who said he stayed with them and made him a complainant.

The whole thing is rubbish. Wicked! Twenty-seven years in the life of a man…I am broken and messed up. I don’t know how confused I am.

All these are medicine after death. The damage has been done. It is irreparable. Only God can help me.

Can you remember the ruling of the judge who sentenced you to death?

His ruling? He said therefore (there is wounding), I sentence you… In fact, the whole thing is so annoying that I don’t want to go back to read it. The whole thing was just cooked up like that.

What was your response after the ruling was delivered?

When the proceeding was going on I told my mother. I said this judge doesn’t like me. You know I like to look smart.

I said, ‘Mummy the way this judge is looking at me, he does not like me’. My Mum said no, it is one of the things at the end… there are certain things I won’t want to say. The man has done his own.

My mum said no, it is one of those things. My mother is dead now. She died while I was in prison. How can this be? I come from a good family.

I am finely and beautifully bred to face the realities of life with ease. I am an academic guru. He threw me into the prison and there I got my PhD.

There I knew God and understood God. I broke records in the prison. That man wanted me dead, but God resurrected me through the Supreme Court. I just leave everything to God.

There is no real reformation going on there. The prison officers are not well paid. They are angry people coming from their houses. There are no facilities for them to do their job

You were first sentenced at the age of 29 and now you’re 56. Do you think you can reclaim the lost years?

How can you reclaim it, my man? Where? In fact, I am confused. Twenty-seven years? I am confused. But God will gather me together.

If I were to say, I would say we should go back to the era when our fore fathers will sit down under mangoes trees and adjudicate cases.

If you go to the prison majority of people on death row are innocent people. The prison is flooded with innocent, poor people who cannot speak because there is a gang up from the pit of hell. It is height of wickedness and treachery.

Will your experience in the prison make you an advocate for those with similar cases now that you are free?

Boy, di thing wey I don see! Prison itself is not reforming people. There is no real reformation going on there. The prison officers are not well paid.

They are angry people coming from their houses. There are no facilities for them to do their job. A prison that is supposed to house 800 inmates is housing 4000 inmates.

What do you want the DCP to do? What do you want the warders to do? Look, two hardened criminals can influence a lot of young people because they don’t have were to go to.

Of course, that was what led me to bring the seminary into the prison. These children want to read but they don’t have the facilities.

A prison that is supposed to house 800 inmates is housing 4000 inmates. What do you want the DCP to do? What do you want the warders to do?

Can you recall any atrocity committed against inmates while you were in the prison?

You see, as far as the prison staffs are concern everyone is a criminal. The court has expressed the opinion that is what they believe.

The warders discipline you when they want to, they can be a disaster when they want, and they can be kind when they want to be. That’s just it.

Have you seen the people who framed you since you were released?

I am not interested in seeing anybody. I am just looking to my God. I haven’t even seen my lawyer who defended me. I am just going my way jeje.

I am just articulating myself to know what to do. Whatever I am going to say must be the truth of what I saw and heard. Go to Port Harcourt prison they will tell you I am a model prisoner, both for the inmates and staff.

I influenced the lives of inmates for good. We brought in peaceful character solution, we brought in a lot of peace movement to make sure that when they go out… but the place is flooded. Wetin we go do? We can only do our best.

Where did you obtain your degree as a criminologist?

Western Pacific University, Los Angeles.

You earned a masters and PhD behind bars, in what feld and from which institution?

I have a Masters’ in Theology and ministry. My major was in the Ministry, Guidance and Counseling, Missions and Ministry.

African College of Christian Education and Seminary which is a non-denominational seminary. It is sponsored by Oral Roberts University.

The seminary has a lot to offer. So, I wrote to the seminary senate and told them why we will need the school in the prison. They brought the seminary.

That was how we started, everybody, both the staff and inmates. That was how I got my Dilopma, BA, Masters’ and PhD.

What do you plan to do next?

I am properly in the ministry. I believe in teaching people the word of God. It is peaceful and has to do with the peace movement.

I have this political ambition behind me. I believe all these that happened to me has political undertone. That’s what I believe.

If I get a good NGO, we can now start to do something constructive on the realties behind the bars.

I am the first son of the family of eight. My younger brother also died from the struggles. My family had problems, my siblings nearly ran down financially. It was hell. Now I have no one single property

How did you feel when you were discharged and acquitted by the Supreme Court?

I looked up God in heaven and asked God to bless all the judges in Supreme Court. They were understanding. You see God comes down and delivers his own.

I am the first son of the family of eight. My younger brother also died from the struggles. My family had problems, my siblings nearly ran down financially.

It was hell. Now I have no one single property. I don’t even have a nice shoe not to talk of a car. I don’t have anything.

I just believe in articulating myself together and thinking positive. I am focusing on God now. I am not married, I don’t have a child, can you imagine that?

You talk about the Almighty always, did you at any point doubt Him while you were behind bars?

Yes, the first time I came into prison, I wondered where God was. I cried. My case was an open case. Everybody was saying it is political, it is political.

I had political ambition. I weep in the day and night, asking why I must be behind the bars. Where is God? I questioned God all the time.

In fact, I pleaded to be tried by witchcraft. In fact, it is high time we bring all these things so that those who are not guilty will go and swear and go away.

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