APRIL 1972: It was during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s military wartime leader and the law in place for convicted armed robbers was nothing but death by the firing squad.
“Gowon will never rest in peace”
Thus it happened in April 1972 that a young man named Stanley Enekwe was convicted of armed robbery and he was to be shot to death. The place was Ajalli, near Awka in the then East-Central State (that part is now Anambra State). Enekwe’s public execution was scheduled but something really spectacular happened.
In those days, families and relatives usually avoided the scene of public execution because they believed that the accused had brought overwhelming shame to their name and disgrace upon the entire family. However, that was not the case with Stanley Enekwe’s father.
He was not only at the execution ground but he was there with his son to the very last. In the picture, he is seen mopping off the sweat on his son’s face and giving him words of encouragement. The agony of a father and the demonstration of unconditional love. Enekwe’s father then told his son these words, murmuring to him:
‘Fear not, the Lord is waiting to receive you.’
On the day of his execution, many of his villagers trooped out and proclaimed his innocence. Enekwe was said to have been an ex-soldier of the Biafran Army and came back to Ajalli after the Nigerian Civil War with one of the official vehicles which he was accused of stealing. To quote Uzoamaka Udokwu Nwankwo, a member of the Nigerian Nostalgia Project (NNP), she said concerning this issue:
I finally spoke to an eye witness. Stanley was an officer in the biafran army and after the war, he came back to Ajalli with one of the official vehicles and was accused of stealing it. The Nigerian army was very wicked to the men who fought them and seized every opportunity that they could get to victimize them. The case against him started immediately after the war and dragged on to the day that he was killed. Most people avoided him as they were also afraid of being victimized so his dad stood by him and boldly came to the execution to show him that he believed in him and also hoping for a miracle. I am not from Ajalli but I know that family very well although I didn’t meet them until the 1980s. They are many things but they are not armed robbers.