The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi (Telu I) recently visited the Ilesa Prison where he identified with the inmates and gave them hope of a new life after incarceration. TUNDE BUSARI reports the monarch’s outing.
The usually quiet ambiance of the Nigerian Prisons Service, Ilesa, was suspended on Thursday September 22, 2016 when the gate of the facility was opened to the Oluwo of Iwo land, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi and his delegation.
The atmosphere was electrified when the monarch alighted from his black Mercedez Benz into the waiting procession of a team of senior officers of the service led by the Deputy Comptroller of Prison, Ope Fatinikun.
It was indeed a wonderful day in the history of the prison located at Ayeso axis of Ilesa on Ile-Ife road. What made the day significant, according to Fatinikun, was that it was the first day such a first class traditional ruler would visit the yard since it was built in 1900, clearly fourteen years before Nigeria was born.
It was built by the British imperial power when it was ruling the northern and southern protectorates with a view to maintaining its law and order and also suppressing pockets of resistance to its rule.
The prison officials did not waste time as they ushered the Oluwo into the office of the deputy comptroller where he signed the visitors’ logbook and held a brief interaction on his mission with the officers.
“I decided to come here not as any form of show-off of wealth or to gain cheap publicity but to fulfill my vision of making impact in the life of the downtrodden and hopeless class in the society. I am who I am today not by my power or wealth or connection but the special grace of God.
“So, identifying with inmates here today is my way of appreciating God and showing the inmates that regardless of the condition they are in today, all hope is not lost. I want to also appreciate Nigerian Prison Service for the neatness of this environment. My coming is an eye-opener of sort to evaluate the condition of Ilesa Prison yard,” he stated.
Through with the formalisation process, the deputy comptroller then led the traditional ruler to the chapel which was built and donated to the prison by the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christ Church of God (RCGG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye in 2005. The 100-seat capacity chapel has since served the Christian inmates.
Oba Akanbi was welcomed into the chapel by inmates many of whom he shook hands with.
Oba Akanbi expressed his conviction that some of the inmates were not only redeemable could live better lives after serving their respective terms.
For the sake of clarity, the Oluwo went down memory lane and came up with relevant examples of prominent figures that also passed through the prison yard in their lifetime but came out and became greater personalities.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he recalled, was in prison for about three years, yet he came out and became the president of Nigeria.
Chief MKO Abiola, the royal father also recalled, was in incarceration. Although Abiola died before his envisaged release, he transformed into the symbol of Nigeria’s democracy.
“In South Africa, former President Nelson Mandela was also in prison for about 30 years, yet he came out and ruled South Africa for four years. I am citing the above examples to show you that God is always there to do what looks impossible to us. Prophet Yusuf who is referred to in the Bible as Joseph also had a taste of your experience. What happened to him in the end? When there is life, there is hope. I want you to remain strong and reflect on those things that brought you here and resolve from today not to go back to them. Our God is a listening God. He is also a forgiving God. He will forgive you and make you better but only if you are also ready to turn to a new leaf,” he said.
There was a silence that pervaded the hall as Oba Akanbi spoke from his heart.
The prison officials appreciated the traditional ruler for being ready to improve the lives of people beyond his domain.
“I am surprised the way Kabiyesi was articulating his points. This shows his level of exposure and determination to positively affect other people. Nigeria Prisons Service really appreciates his visit because of its uniqueness.
“Coming not just to talk, but to donate some items at a place far from his town, is still a surprise to me. I am using this opportunity of Kabiyesi’s visit to urge other well-to-do citizens to also visit prisons and make their own contribution,” the deputy comptroller appealed.
Oba Akanbi was accompanied to the prison by the Onto of Iwo, Chief Fatai Alani, Barrister Taofeek Tewogbade, Honourable Adekunle Gbadebo, Aare Olayemi Olaleye, Mutalib Olagold and others. Representatives of the Federation of Iwo Students Union (FISU) at Osun State College of Education, Ilesa, were also present and welcomed the Oluwo to Ilesa with placards.
Gbadebo described the visit as unprecedented in the history of any traditional ruler from Iwo and gave kudos to what he called the unusual discretion of the Oba Akanbi.
He said he would not forget the Ilesa prison experience in haste for offering him an opportunity to see life inside the prison. However, he called on government to give more attention to the condition of prisons.
Gbadebo said prison was supposed to rehabilitate the inmates rather than worsen their condition.
Barrister Tewogbade also expressed similar view on the need to improve the condition of Nigerian prisons as a wise investment for a better future of the inmates.
“Our Kabiyesi has once again shown that he is a true leader who has human feelings. I was close to shedding tears while watching him speak with the inmates. He gave them hope and assurances that they still have another life to live after leaving the prison. As a lawyer this is what this society needs to check crime rate,” he noted.
The Oluwo, aside from donating some items including a cow, also affected the release of five inmates who were behind the bar over their inability to pay their respective fines. That gesture further raised inmates’ hope and also boosted their morale as they left the hall in high spirit. Corruption in the society, the monarch argued, encourages criminal activities among the youths, and he urged leaders to always lead with fear of God to make crime unattractive.
“This is what I am working on in my town and I am very happy with the new Divisional Police Officer of Iwo Division, Chief Superintendent of Police Abiola Haruna who keys with my vision of reducing crime in my town,” he disclosed.