Bishop Michael Amamieye is the son of Joel Amamieye, the personnel manager of Wahum, a company in Ikeja, Lagos, who was executed alongside eight members of the “Dr.” Ishola Oyenusi gang after it robbed Wahum of $28, 000 in 1971. Bishop Amamieye, who argues that his father did not know anything about the robbery, wants the federal government to apologise for killing an innocent man and compensate the family for the loss of its bread winner.
What are your memories of your late father?
It is unfortunate that I don’t have any records of my father. I don’t even have his photographs. My father was among the first Nigerians to be executed by firing squad in this country – soon after the civil war. When as a child you see your father being killed by firing squad, you will never be the same again. The execution of my father destroyed me inside and made me decide on a mission to avenge the society and this country for killing my father because he was innocent of the crime. But the night before I was to be initiated into a cult group that would have empowered me to disappear after a robbery or some killing, Jesus appeared to me and totally transformed my life.
Jesus appeared to you?
Jesus appeared to me and transformed my life. If you ask me questions about the reality of Christ, I can tell you it is so real to me that nothing, no doctrine, no human opinion or any other thing can beat this out of me. Heaven or hell may be an opinion for people. But Jesus is real. So ask me questions about Jesus, I will answer you right away. But ask me about heaven or hell, and I will tell you from the Bible. I have not been there before. I have not been to heaven but I have been with Jesus.
I sympathize with you on the killing. You must have been very young then. After you had grown older, what did you really find out about the execution?
But I have overcome it now. In fact, I do not have anything against the government and those who killed my father. I don’t even use to talk about him because when you talk about it, people will ask you questions and that will take you back to the terrible memory. I have friends that have known me for over 40 years now, who have never asked me the story. In fact, one of my friends told me last year that it was the first time that he saw me mention my father in any of my writings. That was because initially, I used to be ashamed of the fact of his death.
Do your siblings and your father’s relations have the same feelings?
Their feelings were worse. In fact, after his execution, all of my father’s people changed their names from Amamieye to Sawari. I am the only person probably that did not change the name and I did that for a reason. I knew that I was going to rewrite the story.
How did you eventually overcome the shame of the execution and start talking about your father?
It was not until a few weeks ago while I was speaking to a joint Campus Fellowship at the University of Port Harcourt that I mentioned the execution of my father and you could almost hear a pin drop. For a few seconds or minutes, I scanned the minds of those young people to see if they would look at me as the son of a criminal. The peace and freedom that I felt was like “Wow, this is liberating!” For the first time, I felt that liberation. It was like a weight was carried off me. Later on, when I was a guest on Radio Rivers, I said it over the radio. And I was like saying “Oh, this is nice. I like this”. Since then, I can talk about it without any sense of shame. I mean that I am very free from the shame now.
You have not only overcome those things that made you not to talk about it, you now like to talk about it. What do you want to achieve?
I want the Nigerian government to know that my own father, Joel Prepore Amamieye, former Personnel Manager of Wahum, Ikeja, Lagos, was not the mastermind of the robbery operation led by Oyenusi that robbed Wahum of $28,000. He was not part of the robbery and had no idea of it. He was framed. Unfortunately, his own people did not fight for him. And as intelligent as my father was, I don’t know what happened that he didn’t fight for himself. He was innocent.
How did you arrive at the fact of his innocence?
I have been to Wahum once just to find out. And I have heard one of my uncles, the late Rev. Eddy Ogola who was an assistant superintendent of Police, ASP, then talk about it. Ogolla died only two years ago. I ordained him into ministry. I was in his funeral. He was knowledgeable of what happened then. And my cousin, the late Chief Bernard Agai, who was known as the political oracle of Bayelsa State also had good knowledge of what happened. He too died last year. Both of them gave me their own sides of the story, especially Chief Agai. Many people thought that Chief Agai was my father’s son because he lived with my father. He knew the whole story. It is unfortunate that while we were talking about getting this whole story out, I was told that he died.
Why did they not speak out during all these years?
First of all, there was this shame hanging in the air. But as I said, it is unfortunate that we were talking about getting this story out when I was told that Agai died. I was out of the country then. It was very painful for me.
Where else did you get any information on this supposed execution of the innocent?
I knew from all the reports that my father was innocent and besides, there are places I have been to and when I mention my name – Amamieye – you will hear somebody say, “Ah, I used to know one Amamieye who was killed by the government”. I remember once I was going through Ilela border in Sokoto on my way to Zinde in Niger Republic. It happened that when the health officer there saw my name, he said that he used to know one Amamieye who was killed by the government. He added “But he was framed up.” When I told him that was my father, he just fell back. Moments later, he lifted his head and said “I’m sorry, the man was framed.” So I have met people like that who had been very knowledgeable of what happened.
What do you think stopped them from speaking out in his defence?
I believe it is because nobody had confronted the issue. Yes, nobody presented the matter again. But I believe that one day, the federal government of Nigeria should apologize to me for the way and manner that it killed my father. General Yakubu Gowon promulgated that decree of death by firing squad. A kangaroo court sat over the case. It did not give my father fair hearing. It just lumped him along with Oyenusi and his gang. And from what I was told, even Oyenusi told the court that he did not know my father. But they believed that my father masterminded the robbery and brought Oyenusi and his gang. In fact, in some recent reports that I have seen, they made it look like my father brought Oyenusi and his gang to carry out the robbery. It is very wicked. Anybody who tells such stories is just being devilish. One day, the federal government of Nigeria will have to compensate me for that action. And that time is now. This is because the damage that they did was great and if not for Christ, I would have paid the nation back a thousand times more.
What about your siblings aside those that changed their names?
My father had 10 children before he was killed. Some of them are dead but some are still alive. The women are all married. For now in Nigeria, I am the only Amamieye. My father had four children from a German woman because he was educated in Germany. He was planning to visit them before that incident happened. I do not know them myself but have seen their photographs – back in those days when they were small. I am praying that somehow, God will bring us together so that we will immortalise our father.
You were child number what?
My mother had four of us. I was child number three. My two elder brothers died. I have a younger sister. My father also had two other daughters, one is in Germany and the other one is in Lagos. For now, those of us of Nigerian mothers, I am the only man. The others are women.
I am really sorry for going into this sad episode.
Well it is no more sad. It is now history. If this is how God would make it that this story be re-written, it will be glorious. Let the world know that Joel Amamieye was not a criminal. And he was my father.
When was the execution?
The execution was about June 1971. It was published on the front page of Daily Times. I used to have a copy of the Daily Times edition which carried it. But I do not know where I can find it anymore.
Source: Vigilant Newspaper