Tuesday, June 18, 2019 3:52 pm
During the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, Colonel Lawan Gwadabe was Military Administrator of Niger State in Nigeria from December 1987 to January 1992. He was accused of planning a coup against General Sani Abacha in 1995, for which he was jailed, tortured and convicted of treason.
Now that Nigeria has, in the past one week, been celebrating democracy and remincing on the locust years of the military, here is one of the chapters of that dark era. The trial and torture of Gwadabe:
“At a stage, Lt-Col Santuraki passed a note to Commander Appollo from Maj -Gen Mujakperuo for his permission for me to be taken for torture, because I was not cooperating.
I was then taken to the torture chamber by a team led by ACP Hassan Zakari Biu.Others were S/Sgt Saleh Birma, CPL Dominic Ayu, L/CPL Awo, and two other sergeants. Their instruction was to tighten the handcuffs on my left hand and block the blood vessel from supplying. By the time we arrived at the torture chamber, after almost an hour’s drive, my left hand had become useless.
When we alighted from the vehicle, the officer talked to me that ‘You will either die with honour or tell the truth’. With my already dead hands, the cuffs were removed from the front and my hand cuffed from the back. My legs were tied together like a cow ready for slaughter, then the ropes on my legs were drawn up suspending me on my head, but without touching the ground . A few minutes later, the ropes were further drawn up this time, levelling me up. Then the soldiers spread me on a rack even while my legs were tied and my hand cuffed to the back. A long pole was then inserted between my arms from the shoulders, thereby suspending me like an eagle.
Annoyingly, ACP Zakari Biu came to my side, asking whether I was ready to talk about the coup plot. I then told Zakari Biu, ‘I have told you all that you needed to know in the Team A. You were there and that is the truth. I know nothing about a plot nor who’s up to anything’. Thereafter, he started the typical interrogation nonsense, went over the same story, mentioning Gen. Kazir as my friend. All kinds of senseless questions. When I got tired, I kept quiet.
We kept going over the same questions and we did not make any progress Then Biu said if I agreed to write how to overthrow the government, they would bring me down. That I should accept I knew something about the alleged coup so as to prevent further suffering. This I refused.
Meanwhile, my hands were dead, my legs had no feelings. Matter of fact, what I could remember functioning in my body was only my brain. I kept quiet. Normally, the torture chamber regulation was for only 45 minutes, but ACP Zakari Biu said since l was not cooperating with them, they would make me to suffer the more .Truly, they left me there- spread like a helpless eagle for two hours and 45 minutes. Nobody ever survived such long period. At a stage, they removed the pole across my shoulders and loosened the rope. I was then flapped with my head down. I heared Hassan Zakari Biu said that since I was annoyed, it was better they let me die.
After two hours, the soldiers started quarrelling among themselves that the torture was too much for me and that I should be brought down. Tempers were high.I was listening to them. Reluctantly, Hassan Zakari Biu handled the ropes and the soldiers took me for dead, because in actual fact, everywhere in my body had collapsed. I was then dumped on the floor of the vehicle. My hands were swollen and the cuffs had gone deep into my flesh as if to cut through. The whole situation had gone beyond pains. I closed my eyes and listened to the unfolding drama. The soldiers were very angry at Zakari Hassan Biu and his people. When the vehicle moved, the soldiers, with the exception of the wicked Staff Sergeant Birma, decided to put all their feet under me for comfort. Two of them actually cried.
By the time we got back to the SIP, I was almost completely paralysed.
The following day, I could not move any limb. I had to be carried to the toilet, my body was really paralysed this time. One of the soldiers or officers in the SIP leaked the information to the BBC the following day. Abuja panicked when they heard I was paralysed. Conscience was beginning to worry some people because they knew I did not commit any offence. An order later came from Abuja to order a stoppage to the torture. Thereafter, L.t.-Col Moghhe, a physiotherapist, was assigned to work on me. I was too determined not to be paralysed.
After 54 days of therapy, I started recovering the use of my right side. Then later the left side. I had to learn how to write all over again, learnt how to walk with the help of crutches and endless exercises. In fact, God wrought His magic on me. Even Lt -Col. Moghbe was amazed at my recovery. I told him that was simply the triumph of the will. It was a harrowing experience, though. All the effort to break my spirit failed because even the perpetrators knew full well that it was all a farce, a monumental charade.
When they couldn’t break my spirit and seeing that I was gradually recovering, the same team A now barged into my room. They said I had not said anything and had not cooperated. They then brought one military doctor who injected me on my right hand. I went wild and fainted. But within minutes, I recovered, laid still to catch what was going on. The doctor was crying, shouting ‘Jesus. Jesus.’ The doctor thought I had died. Then Lt-Col. Santuraki tried to exhibit bravado. In calming the doctor, he asked him not to worry and that even if I died, Maj. Gen. Mujakperuo, Chairman had sanctioned it. The doctor was not convinced yet but they were all scared. It was after this day that the SIP devised the means of getting Col. Fadile to frame me, because up till then, there was nothing on me and according to them it was embarrassing.”
Credit: Fellow contrymen…by Richard Akinnola