I fled Nigeria in June 2019 over threats of arrest for treason and incitement. My real offence was presenting Kakaaki Social on AIT, a programme that amplified the voices of Nigerians on social media.
The Nigerian Government, its officials, members of the ruling All Progressives Congress and supporters of the President had a problem with me the presenter and the programme itself. They said I was using the platform to slander President Buhari and attack his government.
On a number of occasions, I was trailed on the streets of Abuja by unidentified men. At such times, my wife and I did not sleep at home. Several incidents occurred, some of which I reported to the management of AIT. This got to a point where the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission wrote a letter accusing the programme of treason and incitement.
Before then, I had received a letter warning me for laughing over a funny tweet about President Buhari. Within 48 hours after AIT was shut down, I received intel that I would be arrested by the DSS and framed up for treason and incitement. On June 11, 2019, I fled the country. But things only got worse in Nigeria with the disappearance of Dadiyata, the arrest of Omoyele Sowore and Agba Jalingo.
The news that I fled Nigeria after receiving intel had also become public. Fearing the worst, if I dared to return to Nigeria under the circumstances, I had to file for asylum. I thank God and I am grateful to the United States Government that my application for asylum was not just approved, but also in record time.
Are there rules that you must abide by in order to maintain this visa status?
Of course. But more significantly, I would not be able to travel to Nigeria for a long time.
How come you felt a need to flee the country when you had never been arrested before?
I saw what happened to Jones Abiri and more recently, Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times, who was arrested and detained for refusing to reveal his source of information for a report. I saw how Deji Adeyanju was arrested before the 2019 Presidential election and detained for over 70 days. I saw how Austin Okai was arrested by the DSS and kept in their custody for 21 days. These are people I know personally. They were lucky to get out as early as they did.
I saw clearly that Nigeria had become a country where anyone could get arrested or disappear for as long as the government wanted. I was a moving target and anything could have happened to me if I had taken the risk to sit back, despite the threats, warnings and intel that I received.
There is a lot I that cannot talk about because of the sensitive nature of the information I have at my disposal. I wouldn’t want to put the lives of innocent people at risk.
Treason is not a joke. It is an offence that carries the death sentence or capital punishment. A government that is persecuting you for the work you are doing as a journalist or activist can use this bogus charge of treason to mess you up for the rest of your life, even when they know they have no evidence to substantiate their claims in a court of law.
Buhari’s supporters are saying that no one was after you, but you were just desperate to travel to the US. Is it true?
No one was after me, yet the Nigerian Government sent a letter to AIT accusing my programme of treason and incitement, then followed it up by shutting down AIT on June 6, 2019. You see, Buhari’s supporters have registered themselves in our nation’s history as enablers of tyranny.
“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official,
If I am criticising Buhari, see it as evidence of my love and concern for the country he has misgoverned so much that Nigeria is now sharply divided along religious lines.
How would you rate the human rights record of the Buhari regime?
The human rights records of the Buhari government are abysmal. One finds it difficult to differentiate between this government and a military dictatorship. As Dr Kolawole Olaniyan, legal adviser to Amnesty International, recently put it, Buhari has violated 40 court rulings since he came into office in 2015, not to mention the escalating clampdown on freedom of expression, the persecution of Christian and Muslim minorities, among others.
Do you feel the NBC censorship of broadcasting in Nigeria is dictatorial?
Of course, it is dictatorial. The day I received a warning letter from them for laughing over a funny tweet about the President, I knew there was trouble Their current disposition to broadcasting in Nigeria is in line with the body language of the Buhari regime. And they are headed by a DG who is a card-carrying member of the ruling APC with an ongoing corruption case with the Federal Government.