In 1970, soon after the Nigerian-Biafra civil war, General Yakubu Gowon, then head of state, promulgated a decree that authorised the execution of armed robbers by firing squad. Michael Amamieye, bishop of Michael Amamieye Evangelistic Association a.k.a Aggressive Faith Ministries, with headquarters in Port Harcourt was just a child when his father was executed by firing squad on September 8, 1971. His father, Joel Amamieye, a Germany-trained management expert, who worked as personnel manager of WAHUM, a factory in Ikeja, Lagos, was among the second set of Nigerians to be executed after the promulgation of the military law. He was accused of masterminding a robbery at WAHUM of the sum of $28,000, on March 27, 1971. The robbery was led by a notorious robber, “Dr.” Ishola Oyenusi. The group of eight including Oyenusi was executed at the Bar Beach, Lagos, on September 8, and was watched by over 30, 000 Nigerians.
The execution cast a dark shadow on Michael and forced him to quit the city of Lagos to settle in Warri, in present day Delta State. “When as a child, you see your father being killed by firing squad, you will never be the same again”, he told this writer. “The execution of my father destroyed me inside and made me decide on a mission to avenge the society and this country 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”, Amamieye said. After the new birth experience, Amamieye continued enjoying his Christian life and later answered the call into ministry as an evangelist. He founded Michael Amamieye Evangelistic Association a.k.a Aggressive Faith Ministries, patterning the work after the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, United States, which he claims has so much affected his life and ministry.
Today, some 28 years after founding the evangelical outreach with headquarters in Port Harcourt, Amamieye has conducted crusades, preached and taught the Word of God to people of all races in 64 countries of the world and in all five continents. Aside the emotional bite of the ugly incident, there were questions like who would train and bring up Michael and his siblings. His father, who was educated in Germany also, had some children from his German wife. Michael said the father was planning to visit them in Germany when the unfortunate incident occurred. The execution also had deep implications for relations.
“After the execution, all of my father’s people changed their names from Amamieye to Taware. 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”, he said. He began his quest for the truth about the father’s involvement in the robbery by visiting WAHUM, where people who knew about the incident sympathised with him and told him to allow God be the judge on the matter. He was told that his father was framed. He also heard from elderly relations. “I have heard one of my uncles, the late Rev. Edio Kolla, who was an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), then talk about it. He was knowledgeable of what happened. Kolla died only two years ago. I ordained him into ministry and was at his funeral”, said Amamieye. The bishop said one of his cousins, the late Chief Bernard Agai, who was known as the political oracle of Bayelsa State, also had good knowledge of what happened. Agai too died last year.
“Both of them gave me their own sides of the story, especially Agai. Many people thought that Agai was my father’s son because he lived with my father. He knew the story, the entire story. It is unfortunate that while we were talking about getting this whole story out, I was told that he died. “Besides, there are places I have been to and when I mentioned 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.” Bishop Amamieye also said only recently, a Gambian professor he met outside the country told him how the WAHUM personnel manager Amamieye was framed and was killed by the government. When asked why all the people that knew about the framing did not speak out, he said it was fear and the shame in the air.
Bishop Amamieye is urging federal government to revisit the execution, noting that even “Dr.” Oyenusi had told the anti-robbery tribunal trying him and his gang members that he did not know Joel Amamieye. He is also asking the federal government to apologise to his family for killing an innocent man and to compensate the family for killing its bread winner.
●Akpaekong is a pastor and journalist.
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