A word about Chief Emeka Anyaoku is not unlike attempting to capture the entire globe on a piece of canvas, complete with all of its kaleidoscope of colours and inclusive of those of its flora and fauna. For, how does one begin to attempt, in one fell swoop, the total picture of a man, the entirety of whose life’s experiences straddles a great variety of peoples, places and cultures? An Anyaoku portrait, by the way, is also the story of a personality, whose sensitivities and sensibilities have equally determined, as it were, that the trumpet of an elephant is as important as the squeak of a mouse.
Chief Anyaoku is as distinguished, as he is level-headed; as astute, as he is caring; and as diplomatic, as he is bold, courageous and outspoken. Indeed, no one else knows this unusual combination of qualities of the chief better than his wife of 50 years, who summed up the core of the Igbo man, who “promised my people that he would take care of me” at a time when inter-tribal marriages were not fashionable in Nigeria, thus: “He is a man of very high standards, a very hard worker and a man of great courage. He is very, very, courageous.”
Despite his suave manner, the Adazie is also not a man to shy away from speaking his mind, any time. And he did as much during the years when, as Commonwealth Secretary-General, he spearheaded the negotiations to end Apartheid in South Africa. Those were also the years of the Abacha dictatorship and he often bared his mind to the government of the day, even at great personal risk.
Here’s a man who, after meritoriously serving the Commonwealth for several decades, with all the attendant perks and opportunities that lay ahead of him, on retirement, rather chose to return to Obosi, to assume the title of Ichie Adazie, in order to give back service to the people of the land of his birth and to his country, Nigeria, in general.
A former president of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and a patron of the British Museum, Chief Anyaoku, who turns 80, next Friday, spoke in an exclusive interview, in the serenity of his heavily-wooded home, in his hometown of Obosi, as he went down memory lane, to recall some of the highlights of his memorable years as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Ichie Adazie, when a man is 80 and is as distinguished as you are, society must benefit from his reflection. Could you briefly look back at your 80 years to distil its essence, for the advantage of humanity?
I think God has been very kind to me because, I would, with deference to modesty, say that I have led, so far, a fulfilled life. God enabled me to reach the pinnacle of my chosen career — international diplomacy — and God also enabled me to make my modest contribution to my own country, Nigeria and also to my people, here, in Obosi, in Igboland. So, for all that, I am grateful to God.
You are Adazie Obosi; what does this title mean to you?
It means a great deal to me because Adazie is a title of an nd’Ichie in Obosi. Obosi has a very old monarchical system. When the British first came here, in the early 1880s, the treaty ceding Obosi to British protection was signed by the then Igwe (king) of Obosi — Igwe Anene — and nine nd’Ichie. Nd’Ichie represent the headship of the villages of Obosi and they, together with the monarch, the Igwe of Obosi, constitute the Eze na nd’Ichie — the King in Council.
To be the Adazie of Obosi is a position that I relish, particularly now that I am in retirement. So, whenever I come to Obosi, I have the opportunity of contributing to discussions about how to govern and move the community forward.
Now, Your Excellency; let us take one giant leap in time, from the ancient, to the modern; from the Ichie Adazie Obosi, to the office of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. You are the first and only African to occupy that exalted office and you got to such similar office even before Africans like Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan got theirs at the United Nations. How were you able to make it?
I would say a combination of a number of factors. First, a good fortune of having been in the Commonwealth service since 1966 when the Nigerian government seconded me to the Commonwealth Secretariat; and also, having had the good fortune of being in all the diplomatic posts and levels in the Secretariat.
When I competed for the post with Malcolm Frazer, the former Australian Prime Minister, I was likely to be the winner, in the competition. So, I would say, a combination of hard work and the good record that spoke for itself, hence, commanded the support of the Commonwealth Heads of Government.
There must be some secret somewhere that we are not all privy to because you’re not the only one that got lucky. What is this piece of insight that you may want to imbue our future generations of diplomats with?
Perhaps, I can fall back on a statement, which the first Commonwealth Secretary-General made when he came to see our then Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa.
The Commonwealth Secretariat was established in 1965 and in November of that year, Arnold Smith, the Canadian, who was the first Commonwealth Secretary-General, came to see our prime minister. He told Prime Minister Balewa that he was keen to build up, in London, a team of diplomats, who would help him (and here, I would like to quote his own words) “make nonsense of the myth of racial superiority.”
So, Arnold Smith set about wanting to build a team of individual diplomats from across the Commonwealth, who would, in his own words, help him “make nonsense of the myth of racial superiority.” And for me, it was the most flattering basis for my selection for secondment to the Commonwealth Secretariat. So, I would say that I suppose my background before that had helped me.
What was this background, sir?
Well, I was with CDC, representing Commonwealth Development Corporation. In my last year at the University College, Ibadan, the then Regional Controller for the Commonwealth Development Corporation came around, wanting to recruit a Nigerian; in fact, wanting to recruit a West African graduate into the organisation.
They interviewed a number of people in Sierra Leone, in Ghana and then, in Nigeria and I was lucky to be the one selected. So, I worked with the CDC and CDC sent me on training courses in the UK and helped with its office in London before I came back. In March of 1962, the CDC chairman at the time, Lord Howick, was visiting Nigeria and along with him and the Regional Controller for CDC, the late Sir Peter Mein Zagen, we went to see the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa.
At the meeting with the prime minister, because I had responsibility for CDC-supported projects in West Africa, the chairman, Lord Howick, asked me to answer a number of the questions put by the prime minister, Balewa and I did.
At the end of the meeting, as we left, the prime minister called me back and said to me, “young man, the British have a lot of expertise and experts; we’re calling some of them to come and help us; and someone like you should be working for your Nigerian government.”
To cut a long story short, that was how I was recruited into the Nigerian diplomatic service. With that sort of background, it was easier for me to work in the Nigerian Foreign Service and lucky to be selected by the prime minister for secondment to the newly established Commonwealth Secretariat.
You must have encountered quite a bit of racism on your way up the ladder of office at the Commonwealth Secretariat and even after, as Secretary-General; how did you deal with the stigma? There was, in fact, a particular case vividly captured in your biography, ‘Eye of Fire’…
I was then Assistant Secretary-General; and it was me, as Assistant Secretary-General, that he actually wanted to see and my secretary ushered him into my room after I had seen him — I was just coming in from lunch.
My appointment with him was 3 O’clock and I came into the lobby of Marlborough House and saw this gentleman that didn’t know me and I didn’t know him. And before he talked to the receptionist, I said to him, ‘Oh, can I help you?’ He dismissed me rather lightly and said, ‘no-no, I’m here to see Assistant Secretary-General. So, I left him and went back to my office.
Then, I asked my secretary to go and escort my visitor. My secretary went down and brought him into my room and when he opened the door, he saw me! He sweated a little bit. (General laughter)
That was quite diplomatic, wasn’t it? How did you deal with racism, generally, all along?
Yes. I suppose I would say that the most challenging occasion I had was actually when I became Secretary-General and I discovered, after the first six to nine months, that after my public speeches, particularly in Australia and New Zealand and some parts of Canada, the impression I had was that there were a number of people in the audience whose reaction was that I was just reading a script written for me by my white staff.
So, I deliberately changed. I began to give my speeches from notes and also to insist on a question-and-answer session after my speeches. And, believe it or not, this made a tremendous difference, which I noticed.
I would say, on the whole, that racism thrives on stereotyping of people. I have said on some occasions, that racism is the most abiding legacy of the slave trade because the victims of slave trade were black Africans. The slave-trading nations, in order to sustain the practice, encouraged their populations to believe that the victims were subhuman. They were not like them; otherwise, they would have had greater difficulty in explaining the slave trade.
Thus, this myth, that Africans were not the same human beings as Europeans, survived and it rests on stereotyping and ignorance. And I can say that when Africans work with them (Europeans) and work well with them, a good many of them accept and change.
Now, from the global stigma, let us look at the stigma here, at home, such as tribalism and other bigotries. In this regard, let us particularly look at the paradoxes of the period, 1968/69, during the Gowon era and later, the Buhari government, as concerned your career. In the former case, the Gowon government described you as not being a suitable Nigerian candidate for the post you were aspiring to and even tried to block you, but for the principled stand taken by Arnold Smith. Later, in 1983, after the coup that toppled President Shagari, it was even the Buhari government that seconded you to your new position, after becoming foreign minister under Shagari. Do you think there was any form of discrimination against you, in the former instance, because of where you came from?
I think that the two different attitudes of the military regimes, at the time, were reflections of the circumstances of the time. In 1968 — this was in the middle of the Civil War — I had been seconded as a Nigerian diplomatic officer to the Commonwealth Secretariat.
But during the Civil War, after the reports I was getting from my family and friends in the East, in Igboland, I felt obliged, when the Nigerian government at the time required all Nigerian Foreign Service officers to swear oath of allegiance to the Nigerian Federal Government. I said in good conscience, I could not swear the oath of allegiance to a government that allowed the pogrom against my people.
So, I refused and resigned from the Nigerian Foreign Service. It was following my resignation that the regime of General Gowon made a representation to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, that I no longer commanded their loyalty and so, Arnold Smith should dispense with my services.
But Arnold Smith took a principled position. He said that all the staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat were collective servants of the international organisation that the Commonwealth was. We were not required to owe allegiance to each and individual government, but to owe allegiance collectively to the Commonwealth. And he had no reason to doubt my allegiance to the Commonwealth, as a collective.
And he cited and fell back on the example of what happened in the United Nations, in 1948, following the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, when the new administration in that country wanted a Czechoslovakian staff removed by the UN Secretary-General and resisted.
In 1984, after the Buhari coup, the rationale for the coup was that Shagari’s administration was corrupt, but they were good enough to recognise that I had nothing to do with corruption. So, they said: ‘Chief Emeka Anyaoku, we know he is not a corrupt person’ and they were willing to sponsor me back, as I said to them that — having recognised that I had nothing to do with corruption, the formal procedure for going back to the post that I had left, as Deputy Secretary-General, to come and become Foreign Minister here, — my national government had to nominate me for election back to the post.
The Buhari government was good enough to nominate me — actually sent the Secretary to the Government with the letter, to London, to deliver it to the then Secretary-General, Sonny Ramphal.
By this time, three other Commonwealth governments had nominated candidates for the post that I had left. But when the Secretary-General circulated my name, the three governments withdrew and I was unanimously elected to the post.
Some cynics choose to illustrate the Commonwealth in the following derogatory manner: Common, for the underdeveloped nations of the organisation and Wealth, to qualify the developed nations of the same organisation, as if an epithet, Commonwealth, describes some vassals of the rich nations of the Commonwealth of Nations. Some even choose to look farther afield to see the organisation as a mere paper tiger. What is responsible for this level of cynicism?
I think it is inadequate information on what the Commonwealth is and what the Commonwealth actually does. A proper perception of the Commonwealth — what it is — and a proper understanding of its activities would disabuse the mind of anybody who entertains such cynical views of the Commonwealth because the Commonwealth is, indeed, a microcosm of the global community.
The world community contains the richest countries and the largest countries, in terms of population and size — like China and India, the smallest countries, and the poorest countries. And the Commonwealth, as I said, is a microcosm of this global community.
You have a country as large as India, with over one billion population; you have the smallest Commonwealth member-country, the Republic of Nauru, with about 10,000 people. You have countries as rich as UK, Canada, Australia, in the Commonwealth; you have countries as poor as The Gambia, Bangladesh, Malawi.
The Commonwealth, being a microcosm of the world, is a pacesetter on how the global community can pursue goals of cooperation and understanding and having to live together, deal with conflicts and deal with the differences in culture, in race and religion and size of economies. So the Commonwealth is a pacesetter in demonstrating how countries, as different as members of the Commonwealth, can cooperate and work together.
This same sort of cynicism, as it were, has equally dogged the United Nations; how similar are the circumstances of both organisations?
They are slightly different but on the whole, the United Nations has done good job and is doing good job. I mean, in the area of ending colonialism, for instance, the UN, by its Resolution 1514, of 14 December 1960, adopted a Resolution that put the United Nations firmly against continued colonialism; put the United Nations firmly against the subjugation of peoples, to other peoples.
And then, the UN has done remarkably well in peace-building and peacekeeping, all around the world. The United Nations is also doing quite something, encouraging economic cooperation within the global community and laying down standards of behaviour for international cooperation.
There is also this perception in some quarters that the UN itself has been a lawbreaker, in some instances. In this regard, it is seen as an organisation that maintains double standards. A case in question was American incursion in Iraq, during Gulf War I, when the United States, more or less, stampeded the UN into endorsing illegality. Don’t you think such behaviour could easily have reinforced the cynicism that had always been there?
Well, I would admit that there are occasions when the behaviour of the United Nations seemed to have justifiably encouraged some cynicism, but that’s often a reflection of the power play at the organisation, where countries with the greatest power and influence tend to have their way.
But it does not negate the fact that, collectively, the United Nations stands for acceptable standards and acceptable ideas. I don’t think the occasional behaviour, influenced by the powerful elements within the United Nations, can justify a wholesale condemnation of the organisation. Certainly, the world needs the United Nations and that organisation, in many respects, justifies the expectations of the global community.
Back to the Commonwealth, once again and talking about conflict resolution, the Commonwealth, particularly under you, as an individual, must take a lot of credit for the negotiations that led to the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Can you tell the world a little bit about the intricacies that went into play in bringing to the roundtable, such a hitherto very intransigent enclave?
It wasn’t easy and all this happened during my term of office as Secretary-General. I can recall that November 1, 1991, was my first official visit to South Africa as Commonwealth Secretary-General and I was at a meeting with then State President, F.W De Klerk. And I told him that I had come to see in what ways the Commonwealth could help him pursue the realisation of his aspiration for radical change in South Africa.
His first reaction to me was: Oh, the Commonwealth has been very hostile to my country, South Africa; the Commonwealth has been leading the campaign for sanctions against South Africa; how can I expect help from the Commonwealth? South Africa has friends in Europe, South Africa has friends even in Africa — he was then referring to countries like Malawi and Ivory Coast; so, what can the Commonwealth do for us?
But I said to him, ‘Well, Mr. State President, your biggest challenge in effecting a change in South Africa is to reconcile the interests of your different nation-groups — your European South Africans, your Asian South Africans and your African South Africans. Look at my delegation here; my number two man is an Indian; my number three man is an Australian; my number four man is a Brit and the number five man is a Ghanaian.’
I said, ‘We can relate to all the major racial groups in South Africa, in helping to build confidence in dialogue and this is what I would want you to do…’
So, this was the magic formula?
That was the formula and F.W De Klerk took the point — to his credit — he took the point immediately and asked, after our discussions, if I could join him, for the two of us to meet the world press? We did; both of us met the world press.
That was a nifty piece of diplomatic footwork, wasn’t it?
Well, it was, it was… but it was the reality. And, of course, when the negotiations began in South Africa, at Kempton Park, during the period of November 1991 and November 1993 — actually, the agreement was reached at Kempton Park on 17 November 1993 — I, as Commonwealth Secretary-General, visited South Africa 11 times and I sent teams to help South Africa in the process.
So, the Commonwealth played quite a seminal role in helping the process of negotiations in South Africa. When, that evening — actually, I should say early morning, because the agreement was reached at half past three in the morning.
And if I may digress a little bit, at about quarter to midnight, before the agreement was reached, my Nigerian Special Assistant brought to me a tape, from Reuters, that there had been a coup in Nigeria. That was the night that Abacha took over government — 17 November 1993. Of course, the next morning, after the agreement had been reached, the State President, F.W De Klerk and I had a joint press conference.
And I would never forget that one white South African journalist, after F. W De Klerk had paid very kind compliments to me and my role in helping South Africa get through the negotiations, said to me, ‘Excellency, our State President has spoken so well about your role in South Africa; we heard last night that there was a coup in your country, what are you going to do about that?’(Chuckling)…
I looked the journalist straight in the face and I said, ‘But you know, it’s human nature and human law, to deal with one problem at a time…’ Then, F. W De Klerk bowed and whispered to me and said: ‘You’re a very seasoned diplomat.’ (General laughter)
Could we backtrack to the very beginning, to discuss, in more detail, some of the things that happened before the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa?
My role in the negotiations to end apartheid began even before I became Commonwealth Secretary-General. In 1986, the Commonwealth Heads of Government decided that a group of Commonwealth Eminent Persons should go to South Africa and see if there was any possibility of brokering negotiations between the then apartheid regime, headed by Pieter Botha and the African National Congress (ANC), headed by Nelson Mandela. (F.W De Klerk was then Minister for Education and I was the Deputy Commonwealth Secretary-General, and leader of the Secretariat team that went with the group of Eminent Persons).
We had the privilege of seeing Nelson Mandela in prison — he had then been transferred to Polsmoor Prison, from Robben Island. We (the Eminent Persons) had a meeting with him, but we did not succeed in brokering peace negotiations.
The reason was simply that Botha, the then president of the Apartheid regime, was not prepared. He had not become convinced that Apartheid would not win the day. So, his colleagues, particularly the then Minister for Defence, Magnus Malan, scuppered the negotiations efforts we were making by attacking, whilst we were in South Africa, the capitals of Botswana and Zimbabwe.
We, therefore, left. This was in 1986. But by February 1990, about five months before I assumed office as Secretary-General on July 1, 1990, Nelson Mandela had been released from prison by the then State President, F.W De Klerk.
Did you also have a role in that?
No, no, I did not. F.W De Klerk, of his own volition (actualised the release of Mandela from prison). I believe that De Klerk would go down in history as one of the most visionary leaders South Africa had because I think he realised, by 1990, that Apartheid could not survive; that the weight of international opinion against Apartheid was such that the regime could not survive.
There was also the pressure from the liberation fighters, particularly the fighters of the military wing of the ANC — Umkontho we Sizwe — who were equally making some progress. F.W De Klerk, as Minister of Education in 1986, when the Eminent Persons group visited South Africa, was one of the most diehard (members of the apartheid government) but he realised that apartheid could not survive; so, he released Nelson Mandela from Prison in February 1990.
While I was here in Obosi, preparing myself for assuming office in July, I went up to Abuja. First, I went to Lusaka, Zambia, when Mandela was released from prison in February 1990 and met with him — he came to Lusaka almost straight from his release from prison — and I told him that I would be going to England again to see him, because he went to England.
My predecessor in office, Sir Sonny Ramphal, invited him to London and he went to Wembley (Stadium). He had a grand reception and I was there and that was when I invited him to London. I told him I would be assuming office in July and would like to see him.
Again in May of that same year, he visited Abuja and I was in Abuja to see him and agreed with him. He said he would visit me during my first week in office. I invited him and he, indeed, came to London in my very first week in office. In fact, after my first four days in office, my first official dinner was in honour of Nelson Mandela. Nelson and Winnie Mandela were my special guests.
What was the purpose for this dinner; was it just a social event, or had it other business undertones?
I invited him (Mandela) and the special purpose was to accept my invitation to a dinner that I was going to host. But I asked him whom he was going to like as guests and he said he was sure that I would normally invite representatives of government, but he would like representatives of the corporate bodies that were doing business in South Africa. In other words, he would want the bulk of my guests to be business people. This was quite unusual. But I did honour his wish because, of the 50 guests that my wife and I had at the dinner, only eight were representatives of governments.
I still remember that I invited two British Cabinet ministers and six high commissioners of key Commonwealth countries. The rest — the 42 — were representatives of the biggest business groups that were doing business in South Africa. It was quite a remarkable dinner because there were roundtables and every one of them wanted to talk to Mandela. And I agreed with Nelson and I said, ‘Well, Nelson, it would be a three-course dinner. And may I suggest that after every course, you move from one table to another,’ which he did.
Indeed, as many people as wanted to talk to him, did talk to him. So, it was a dinner with the purpose of establishing contact between Nelson Mandela and representatives of the business group in South Africa.
How did this dinner help South African business, especially after years of ostracism of that country?
It was a very key icebreaker because the business group had, by and large, continued to do business with the apartheid regime and they were very nervous when Nelson Mandela came out and the ANC was going to be in the driving seat. They weren’t quite sure how to relate to the ANC and the ANC, itself, wasn’t quite sure how to relate to these business companies that had been partners in their suppression. That was their view.
And so, this dinner was an icebreaker because it gave Nelson Mandela a chance to reassure these business people that in the evolving situation in South Africa, they would have nothing to worry about as long as, of course, they appreciated the wind of change in South Africa.
You sat at the very pinnacle of the Commonwealth Secretariat and, naturally, many would want to know if and how Nigeria, your country, benefitted from your privileged office. What benefit did Nigeria derive from your days as Commonwealth Secretary-General and even to date?
I think that Nigeria benefitted from my position as Commonwealth Secretary-General. I was in regular touch and the fact was that Abacha, in the beginning, started out well. Abacha was at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the President of South Africa in April 1994. I had telephoned him and told him that, as Nigeria’s head of state, he needed to be there. He said he would and he came. He was there.
Relations between Nigeria and South Africa started off quite well and I was keen that relations between the two countries should continue (given the role that Nigeria had played in the anti-apartheid struggle) and that Nigeria should continue to benefit from that relations with South Africa and it did.
Unfortunately, in 1995, there was a real rupture in the relations between Nigeria and South Africa. On the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, when information reached me that Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues had been sentenced to death, I telephoned Abacha myself, to plead with him not to do anything.
I got Nelson Mandela to also telephone Abacha and plead with him not to do anything. But, unfortunately, Abacha proceeded to execute Saro-Wiwa and co and that precipitated a rupture of relations between Nigeria and the Commonwealth and most of the Commonwealth leaders.
Let us look at the immediate post-Abacha period. Chief Moshood Abiola had been in detention and after Abacha died, it seemed like Abiola would soon be released and his mandate returned to him but suddenly, he too, died under questionable circumstances. You and Admiral Akhigbe, the then number two-man to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, were the last two people publicly seen with Abiola before his tragic death, as recorded by news media photographers. What could have happened to Chief Abiola, so suddenly?
Following Abacha’s death, I was very keen that General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who became head of the Nigerian government, should release Abiola; and so, I came to see General Abubakar, to talk to him. I remember that I also came with Kofi Annan.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar, within two days of taking over, when he spoke with me on telephone, asked if I would come and I said, yes, I would come and that I would also persuade my colleague at the UN, Kofi Annan, to come with me. And then, Abdulsalami Abubakar said he would be pleased to have Kofi Annan. So, I called Kofi and we both spoke.
I arrived in Abuja three hours before Kofi Annan did — Abdulsalami Abubakar having sent a plane to Switzerland, to pick him — and we had very good conversations with General Abdulsalami Abubakar who, himself, was also keen on releasing Abiola.
And, I must make this very clear: he did not need any persuasion because he himself had reached the decision that Abiola should be released. We talked with him at dinner and agreed with him that the following day, Kofi and I would have separate meetings with Abiola, preparatory to his release.
Then, Kofi met with him (Abiola) and I met with him, after. And the photograph you referred to was actually the last photograph Abiola took, alive. He took it with I and Akhigbe and I. After that, I returned to London, having agreed to the release, with Abdulsalami Abubakar.
After my return to London, General Abdulsalami Abubakar called me to say: look what happened (Abiola had died). I must say that I immediately talked with him, making the point that international pathologists should handle the post-mortem for Abiola because no Nigerian pathologist would be believed. General Abdulsalami Abubakar took the point and he invited a Canadian — a well-known pathologist — and a British, also a well-known pathologist and they came and conducted the autopsy and certified that Abiola had died of some heart condition.
Do you think that there was some manipulation because we know from Chemistry that heart attacks could be induced?
Well, I really wouldn’t know but I must say that I was very surprised.
Did Abiola look unhealthy when you saw him?
No, no, no. But, I mean, heart attack could come to the most healthy-looking individual at any time. But I’m not a doctor but I had believed that it was a natural heart seizure. But when this chap, who had been tried (Hamza al-Mustapha, Abacha’s chief security officer), said what he said, he cast doubts…
But from his privileged position, he should know a few things…
Well, that was what he said and I am not in a position to argue about that, but I believed it at the time that the international pathologists had found that it was a heart attack. But I need say, also, that I was very concerned about Abiola, when I saw him. He looked very healthy, very excited.
And when I thought back about somebody like Terry Waite. Terry Waite was the envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon — he had gone to make peace, but was kidnapped and detained for over four years.
When he was released, doctors attended to him for over a period of a couple of days, before he was exposed to the public. And I believe that the reason they did that was to slowly condition his system, including his heart, to the new circumstances. But Abiola had been told that he would be released and he was very excited.
Culled from The Guardian.