I was born in Ibadan the capital of Oyo State, Nigeria. As an adult I was engaged with politics and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. I held a number of political offices and was a youth leader. Following this I was nominated to be the chairman of the Ibadan South East local government. Certain factions in my own party and from other political groups rejected my nomination. At that time corruption, bribery and nepotism were rife in local politics and these groups knew that I stood against these practices. They started putting pressure on me not to stand. They posted threatening leaflets and came regularly to my home. I refused to stand down. I had been fairly nominated and wanted to stand and represent my constituency.
The intimidation escalated. I was regularly assaulted in the street. Then one day when I was away at a political rally they came to my home and attacked my father. He was badly wounded on the head, a wound which led to his death in hospital. This is when I knew that the situation was getting seriously out of hand. I left my home and went into hiding. But still they found me. One night when I was driving home, a group surrounded my car threatening me. They were dressed in paramilitary gear and some of them were carrying guns. This time I was able to get away, but I knew I had to leave Nigeria.
Luckily I already had a visa to visit the UK, so I decided to use that and disappear for a while to let things cool down before I returned to politics in Nigeria. In the UK I stayed up to date with Nigerian local news and I read of the murderers of several of my political allies in Ibadan. I realised I could not go home. Meanwhile, my wife was also facing persecution in Nigeria, as they couldn’t find me, the thugs were coming after her. I feared for her life but was able to arrange a visa for her to come and stay with me in the UK.
Time passed and our visas were due to expire. I still intended to return to Nigeria soon, so I took my passport to a solicitor to get a visa extension. This solicitor in Camberwell Green – took £2000, my passport and then disappeared. I have never been able to track him down. Now I had no passport and could not prove my identity.
One day I was approached by the Home Office who said that they could not prove my identity and so detained me in an immigration detention centre with the threat of deportation back to Nigeria. I tried to explain my situation but they were not interested in listening. Eventually they managed to prove my identity from my finger prints and find a copy of my passport. But they would not accept that I could not go back to Nigeria. They said that if I was really scared and wanted asylum I would have applied for it straight away. I tried to put in an asylum application but was rejected again and again.
Meanwhile I was moved around detention centres. Every day they would tell me they would be sending me back imminently. The fear of returning home and having no control over what was happening hung over me. Worried for my wife, I told her to stay away. I applied for bail but was told I was a ‘risk to the public’. I couldn’t believe it. Every application I made was rejected and I was stuck in limbo. While in detention the pressure grew and grew and my health started to deteriorate. The doctors in the detention centre gave me pills, first one, then as things only got worse, two, four, six, eight. Finally, thanks to a charity Medical Justice, I was diagnosed with uncontrollable high blood pressure. The doctor said that all the medications I was given were also seriously damaging my health. I couldn’t sleep and was in constant pain. I hate to remember this time, as I was so sick and repeatedly misled and abused. Once I even found an injunction by the High Court on my behalf thrown in the bin while staff pretended that they knew nothing about it. In hospital I was chained to a bed like a criminal while people pointed and whispered about me. In detention I collapsed and was very near death but death did not visit me.
It was during this time that Dover Detainee Visitors Group (now Samphire) and London Detainee Support Group (now Detention Action) became involved in my case. One day with no warning and no explanation I was released. The officers told me to pack my things and leave. After ten months in detention I was able to go to my brother’s house but I was still in limbo with no legal right to stay in the UK. My health was also destroyed. Plus just at this time my wife, with whom I was finally reunited, fell pregnant! My new lawyers said that I should get compensation from the government for what happened to me in detention. The government didn’t want my case to go to court so gave me an out of court settlement. They knew that I was right.
Finally in 2014 my asylum application was granted. The judge at my hearing said that the Home Office had failed to look into my case properly and hadn’t even considered some of the evidence I submitted. This is how I became a refugee.
Now my life has started again. Since getting refugee status I have been studying nursing at college and I have a place to start university in September to study to be a qualified mental health nurse. I work part-time in the NHS as a clinical health care assistant which is great experience for the future. My wife is also studying and will soon have her level–three child care qualification. Our daughter who was conceived in that terrible time when I was just released from detention will be starting school in September. Finally we have a good plan for the future.
This is my story, or at least parts of it. They have stopped me serving politically but we will still do something to help vulnerable people, maybe something even better than governance.