*I’ve never been married *Shares prison experience *Says Fred Amata is my heartthrob As she relived memories of her sad past, tears rolled down her cheeks. Intermittently, she would pulse, gaze into the space and then continue. Right inside her room at the Le-Meridian Hotel, Port-Harcourt, Ibinabo Fiberesima for the first time since her release from prison last year went down the memory lane, explaining the circumstances that led to her Kirikiri journey; the pain, the anguish and the trauma that she went through. Ibinabo’s prison note… After your horrible prison experience, how is life treating you? Life has been nice to me. I’m a more relaxed person now than before and I’m at peace with myself and you can notice it. What would you say is the lesson that your recent experience taught you? Life has taught me to be more careful; to look before I leap. In the past, I used to take a lot of things for granted, but now, I’m calmer. I also pray a lot these days. Do you see yourself as a testimony of God’s mercy? Yes, I’m a defined testimony of God’s mercy. The accident, the trial and the trauma I had to pass through, and finally my release from prison is worthy of a testimony. I actually don’t remember the accident anymore and it’s amazing. I never believed I could get over the trauma. While it lasted, I locked myself up in the darkness of my little world for several days without food. It was close to hell. But I must tell you; the depression, the trauma and the pain were unbearable. I came out of Kirikiri prison, feeling dejected, and abandoned. People no longer wanted me around them any more . But like I said earlier, it’s a different world today. In prison, the inmates showed me a lot of love, care and sympathy. They also gave me hope and the confidence to live. I was also treated as family in that peaceful environment Surprisingly and in spite of my incarceration, I’m still celebrated and recognised as a celebrity in the country. What went through your mind the moment you were ushered into the prison? First, when I was ushered into the Black Maria, after the court verdict, I went into a shock. I cried out for help, but nobody heard my cry . And when the Black Maria moved from the court to pick other inmates in other courts, it dawn on me that the game was up. When we got to a particular court, I refused to climb down from the Black Maria. There, a woman joined me with a child. I was dumfounded. As I summoned up courage to ask what she was doing with a child in a Black Maria, she said to me; “I don’t have anywhere to keep her, hence I’m going to prison with her.” I felt bad. Eventually, that same baby was soon to become everybody’s baby in prison . More drama was soon to unfold as the Black Maria approached the prison gate. I passed out. I couldn’t believe it. That I, Ibinabo was going to make the prison my new home. For three days, I was in a shock. And when I recovered, I started receiving inmates who called to sympathise with me. Soon, life returned to normal and my interaction with other inmates became cordial. Life in the prison could be compared to life in a female hostel in high school. And since I was a boarder in high school, I was quick to adjusted to the environment. But what hurts most was knowing that some inmates had spent between five and seven years on awaiting trial. All of these will be contained in my prison notes which will be published soon. How did I meet Christ, you may want to ask me? In prison, there was a particular pastor that got me to reflect on what brought me to Kirikiri. I thought of so many things including how I begged the family of the man I knocked down. I also thought of my relationship with God and wondered if l was on a good stand with Him. I wondered if that may have been responsible for my woes. As I pondered over these things, I got connected to my creator. At that moment, he told me “this is the path you are going to follow from today if you must find peace in life”. While the trial lasted, you were always covering your face. Was it done as a result of shame? Yes. It wasn’t a picture I would want to see when I’m out of the prison. If I had allowed my frustration to be captured through the lens of the press guys, it would remain in my memory forever. How did the warders treat you? The warders were nice to me. I was amazed at the way the warders treated me . Is it true you were drunk when the accident happened? I was not drunk. I was going to pick up a friend’s daughter at school on Victoria Island. She’d gone to the saloon to make her hair. I was on my way home when she pleaded with me to stop over and pick up her daughter and another lady. As the lady was not properly dressed, I was counseling her when a group of four guys in a red-car, smoking at random, for no reason trailed and tried to overtake our vehicle. Sensing danger, I increased my speed, but the guys double theirs. While trying to avoid hitting their car, I swerved to the other lane and unfortunately collided with two cars on motion. That’s exactly what happened. When the accident happened, I passed out. And when I woke up, I found myself in the hospital. As I speak with you, I am yet to set my eyes on that car. I don’t know where they kept the car. And each time I read stories concerning the accident I always feel very bad. During the trial, did you at any point feel abandoned by relations and close friends? Abandoned by my friends yes, but by family members, no. They stood by me, while the trial lasted. A year before the accident in 2005, I had relocated to Port Harcourt. I was in Lagos for a meeting with management of the African Independent Televison (AIT) regarding my annual Miss Earth beauty pageant. They were to partner with my organisation for that year’s edition. Since the incident happened, I have learnt how not to trust anybody anymore. I put my trust now in the Lord. And this is better explained in the new song I recorded. The music captures my story. Emotionally, I have been drained and to some extent humiliated, even in public. I recall a particular situation, where I was called a murderer at a friend’s wedding by a certain lady. I had stopped to greet a friend when she asked my friend “is that not the murderer”. I was furious as I confronted her, demanding that she differentiate between manslaughter by accident and murder. But she later apologised to me, blaming her action on what she read in the national dailies about the accident. I wasn’t happy that I was involved in that accident and I have said it over and over again that I’m deeply sorry that it ever happened. I don’t know how else to atone for the accident. (The tears started rolling down her cheeks). I started begging my victim’s family from the very day, the accident happened. My family attended the funeral rites, service of songs and I even attended the 40 days prayer when I was strong enough to move about. I met with the mother and the wife of the deceased. There’s virtually nothing I didn’t do to plead with the deceased’s family to let me off the hook. I’m still pleading with them as I speak with you right now. Were you expecting the court verdict on the day it came? I wasn’t. The moment they pronounced the verdict “guilty” I passed out. I didn’t need to hear the rest. I was finished because I had only N5000 in my bag. While I was trying to mobilise my family members to see how they would raise the N100,000,00 option to jail, a woman I had never met in my life walked up to me to say she’d paid the money on my behalf and handed me the receipt. She urged me to go home and take care of myself. Unknown to Nigerians, I was pregnant when the verdict was reached. A week after I was released on bail, I traveled abroad to have my baby. I had complication during delivery and since I was alone over there , I returned home so that my mum could assist me in taking care of the new born baby. It was indeed when I returned to the country that I started hearing stories that I ran away. It was also during the period that my lawyer called to tell me that the Lagos State Government had appealed against the N100,000,00 option of fine. Confused, I went back to beg the family again to let me be. But they told me they had no hand in the appeal. That was how I entered for the second trial. You have not been acting for some years now? No. I stopped acting because I didn’t know what was right or wrong anymore. Feeling that the family lost a loved one, I figured that if they kept seeing me on screen, it could raise emotions. So I said let me stay off the screen, for a while for my peace of mind. The media didn’t help matters too as they kept writing false stories about me. I withdrew from public and social functions. They kept the attack, reporting stories that I was throwing parties here and there. In fact, most of those reports helped to complicate my situation. People started seeing me as a bitch who did not show an iota of remorse for what happened. My medical doctor father with whom I lived with, was in pain because of a late colleague, his daughter was on trial. During the period I lost interest in my businesses. I contracted another company to run my business interests. Nevertheless, I am back into acting and as we speak, I’m on many set. Before the accident happened, people saw you as reckless? I’m not reckless at all. I’m a proper lady. I can act to be that person you see on screen, but I’ m not that person in real life. Yes, I wouldn’t say I was wild, rather I was a carefree person. And before now, a lot of things did not matter to me. But today, I have given birth to children so I need to be a role model. It hurts me when people write careless things about me in the press. My children read too. Have you ever been married? No, I have not been married. My first son’s father died. We lost him and my second child’s father could not stay with me. Something happened along the line and we couldn’t be together. When the media came after me, my guy thought I was the one giving out our personal information to them. I tried to explain things but he wouldn’t listen. So we went our separate ways. Thereafter, I met my heartthrob, Fred Amata and again the press got involved. Fred was my friend first of all, before he became the father of my baby. The press started writing that the mother never liked me, even as I speak with you, Fred’s mother and I are the best of friends. I talk with her almost every day. I was accused of breaking Fred’s marriage. I met Fred, four years after he was separated from his wife. So how could I have caused his marriage to crash. If Fred decides to make peace with his wife, I wish them well. I have a relationship with Fred, he’s my baby’s father. I respect and love him. That does not take away the fact that I’m still single and searching. I want to marry and have a complete family. I know God will grant me my heart’s desire because I live a Christ- like life now. That’s all that is missing me, I want to be addressed as Mrs Ibinabo, I really want to settle down. While your ordeal lasted, what was the reaction of your parents? You know because of me, my parents stopped reading Nigerian newspapers. My Dad particularly would prefer to listen to the news on television and radio, because of the negative stories they carry about me. What project are you working on at the moment? After I prison, I decided to extend help to the less privileged. I ‘m trying to register my Ibinabo Foundation. But before this time, I have been working with a group of lawyers, who are assisting me to help some inmates regain their freedom especially those who are on waiting trial. At the moment, we have freed two inmates. Of the two, one spent eight years in prison while on awaiting trail. She was 17 years when she was incarcerated. Right now, we are trying to see how we can rehabilitate her so could move on with her life. The second person, spent four years on awaiting trial. She has been discharged. There are other inmates we are trying to see how they can regain their freedom again. We visited the prison in Port Harcourt, to share my story with the inmates and also to tell them to hold on to the Lord.
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