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I was almost killed under military rule — Activist

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A Nigerian based in the United States, Yomi Faparusi, has narrated how he was almost abducted and killed during the dark days of military rule in Nigeria by agents of the State Security Service (SSS), now known as the Department of State Service.

He also enjoined young Nigerians to take their voting rights seriously, adding, “Many died for the right so they should please make sure they vote in every election.”

Faparusi, who spoke to reporters in a virtual press conference on Tuesday, said he was targeted for elimination because he was one of the student union leaders mobilising students to demonstrate over the detention of the presumed winner of the 12 June 1993, presidential election, late MKO Abiola.

The Nigerian American, who is running for a seat in Congress in November’s general election to represent one of the districts in the state of Tennessee, said he escaped from Nigeria in 1997 to seek political asylum in the United States when he realised that he would be detained by the Abacha regime and killed.

He said at the time, the late General Sani Abacha, who usurped power after the June 12 election annulment, had become increasingly “oppressive and was sending assassins to kill many pro-democracy activists”.

Narrating how he almost lost his life, he said he was at the Aleshinloye market in Ibadan when he noticed that three men dressed like SSS agents were following him.

His said: “In one of those expeditions, Abacha sent his killers to Ibadan in Oyo State to get me and other student union leaders abducted. We were preparing for a nationwide strike and demonstration then; I mean the various groups involved, including students, market women and labour unions.

“But, the plan leaked and the Abacha junta started picking up people. Without cell phones back then I could not get wind of my impending arrest by security agents. At the Aleshinloye market in Ibadan, I saw three men dressed like SSS agents following me. I moved fast and hid in a shop and when I was trying to leave, I saw these men waiting for me.

“Fortunately, one of the store owners allowed me to stay in his shop. He left me at his store after the market closed. After I escaped from the market, I stayed underground. But when I heard that some of my comrades had started disappearing, I decided to flee Nigeria”.

Despite being a medical student at the University of Ibadan, Faparusi further explained how he became an activist,.

He said: “I was active in the students’ union and several demonstrations. Off-campus, I worked with chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in strategy. Back then, the NLC would have a nationwide strike which was not sustainable for a long time.

“I was one of the proponents of scattered and sequential strikes — different chapters strike at different times so the strikes could be continuous like a relay race. When I got to the US, I attended events organised by NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) chieftains, including President Bola Tinubu who was a key figure in the struggle for restoration of democracy then”.

Faparusi hailed Nigerians for their resilience, saying many of them rose against the illegitimate military junta led by General Sani Abacha.

He said the sacrifice made by those who fought against the annulment of the 12 June election was what gave rise to the current civilian rule in Nigeria.

He noted that he got involved in the 12 June struggle because of his disdain for military regimes.

He said: “My formative years were under military rule and I believe that the men in uniform ruined the life of a lot of people in my age group. Abacha was a tyrant on a different level. I was determined to end his government”.

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