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Obasanjo’s prison experiences hit the stage in Lagos

By Omiko Awa
17 September 2017   |   4:24 am
Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has condemned the state of prisons, stressing that their deplorable condition makes any inmate who...

Executive Producer, Gula, Mr. Tunde Oduwole (left); wife of former President, Mrs. Bola Obasanjo; Obasanjo; and actor, Mr. Tunji Sotimirin, at a press conference to announce Gula!… in Lagos

Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has condemned the state of prisons, stressing that their deplorable condition makes any inmate who comes out of it to be hardened instead of being remorseful and repentant of his crime. The former president stated this last week in Lagos at a briefing to announce the staging of a play Gula! that chronicles his experiences in prison during Gen. Sani Abacha’s reign of terror.

According to him, the prisons are yet to play their major roles of punishing, correcting, reforming and rehabilitating inmates to the society. He noted that prisons across the country are populated more by youths in their 20s and 30s, and called on families and concerned bodies, including religious organisations, to pay more attention to the youths, as they are the pillars of society.

Based on a book, The Story of Baba Ali, that unveils some of the prison experiences of the former president, the stage performance starts from Saturday, September 30 to October 8, at Terra Kulture Theatre Arena, Lagos. Jointly produced by Ashvault Ltd and Declassical Arts and Entertainment, the play would be directed by Mr. Kenneth Uphopho.

While speaking at the event, the Executive Producer, Tunde Oduwole, noted that the play brings to the public some of the activities Obasanjo engaged in while in prison, adding that one of the persons he met, though then a hardened criminal, has today turned a new leaf to become a cleric.

He noted that the play tells the story of how the former president, while in Yola prison, met and interacted with Baba Ali, the head of a ruthless criminal gang in Northern Nigeria and parts of Cameroun.

Oduwole said: “While Chief Obasanjo’s life was hanging in the balance, between life and death, rather than allow fear, depression, self-pity or loneliness to engulf him, he took a personal responsibility to understand why the prison was full of young people.”

According to him, in finding answers to this question, Obasanjo interviewed a few inmates and, in so doing, met Baba Ali, whose interview was most engaging and intriguing. Ali, the son of a Christian missionary, had answers to the many questions of, ‘who is to blame for juvenile delinquency and criminality.’ The play tells the story of how Baba Ali, who should be a worthy example to emulate, turned out to be a ruthless armed robber and an assassin.

While using drama, dance and music, Oduwole noted that Gula! hopes to speak to the state of Nigerian prisons, the need to make them reform homes for juveniles, rehabilitation and re-integration plans for ex-convicts, apart from also highlighting the issue of family planning among the less privileged.