The chief conspirator against me was God.
When I was a Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, I was once served a query accusing me of “gross incompetence.” Without waiting for my response, I was also informed the Appointments and Promotions Committee (A&P) would be convened specifically to look into my case.
I thought the whole thing was some kind of a joke until two of my colleagues warned me the decision had already been taken to terminate my appointment because I was considered a threat to the Director-General; George Obiozor. The plot was just to go through the motions. Once the A&P met, I would be sacked.
So I asked them for advice. They told me there was nothing I could do; but they promised to pray for me. I told them to go ahead and pray. As for me, I would seek legal protection.
Saving my life
I consulted a high-powered lawyer, asking for an injunction against the scheduled A&P meeting. The lawyer told me I could not prevent them from meeting. “Every step they are taking is legal and procedural,” he said. “But I have inside information they have already decided to get me fired,” I replied. The lawyer said to me: “Dr. Aribisala, if they fire you, then we will take them to court.”
I concluded then that the legal system could not help me. So I decided to contact the Foreign-Minister. When I phoned him, he pretended and said I got a wrong number. When I re-dialled, somebody else answered and said he was not in. Everywhere I turned to for help; I met a brick wall.
Jesus is the Saviour
Then one day, Mrs. Yetunde Ogunseye came to see me. She said: “The Lord says he understands you don’t pray. But he says I should tell you to pray on this occasion and see what happens.” I asked her if that was all, and she said yes. I said: “No problem, I will pray.” So I did.
A few days later another friend, Michel Vogt, said the Lord told him to tell me that when I go before the A&P, I should say a short prayer before entering the room and then leave the rest to him. Again, I had no problem with that straightforward requirement. I told him: “If that is what it takes, I will do so.”
But I refused to rely exclusively on God. I prepared a huge dossier for each member of the seven-man A&P. I spent a fortune photocopying articles, chapters of books etc. When the day of my inquisition arrived, I went to the meeting armed with a suitcase full of documents. But before entering the room, I did remember to say a short prayer.
Seeing my suitcase, someone asked me jokingly if I was travelling. I was not in the mood for jokes; I went there to fight. I gave each person my carefully-prepared dossier of supporting documents and then waited like a cat to launch a counter-attack against my enemies.
The Chairman calmly introduced the members of the A&P to me one-by-one. Then he said: “Dr. Aribisala; you have no case to answer before this Committee. Is there anything you would like to tell us?”
I could not believe my ears. George Obiozor, my main adversary, quickly sent me a note scribbled on a torn sheet of paper. It said: “Femi, you don’t have to say anything. Everything is all right.” He was now afraid of what I would say.
I was not really bothered with him. My mind was elsewhere. I said nothing and was excused to leave. When I got back to my office, I sat down and burst into tears. My friends were convinced I had been sacked. But I wept for a different reason. I wept because I got neither self-satisfaction nor personal glory from the case. I wept because I was irrelevant to my victory. I wept because I was denied the opportunity to defend myself.
The entire incident was indeed a big conspiracy; but the chief conspirator was God, and not the Director-General. The Lord was determined to show me that only he could be my Saviour.
He made sure all avenues of self-defence were shut against me. None of the Committee members even bothered to look at my carefully-arranged dossier. Since the case against me was summarily dismissed, it was pointless for me to proceed nevertheless with my prepared defence. Otherwise, I would have convinced myself my acquittal was a testament to the brilliance of my presentation. As it was, I could only attribute my victory to two fervent heartfelt prayers asking God for help.
Exactly two weeks after this incident; on 26 December, 1993, God took my life.