HOW I SAVED IBINABO FIBERISIMA’S LIFE ON THE NIGHT OF THE ACCIDENT’ EYE WITNESS SPEAKS TO CHARLES NOVIA.
Nollywood has been in a state of understandable inertia since the news came out of the blues that Ibinabo Fiberesima lost her case at the Appeal Court in Lagos and was sent straight to Prison on Friday the 11th of March 2016.
A lot of people thought that the case was done with long ago and we were surprised that it had cropped up again with the implications of a five year jail term for Ibinabo.
And the reactions thus far have not been in anyway hostile to the Court’s judgement. Not at all. The industry is enlightened enough to bow to the ruling of the law and respect it as it behoves on everyone. The collective shock expressed is because Ibinabo is a beautiful soul. She’s one of us. And one for all and all for one.
With opinions divided in the public sphere over the judgement, it has been saddening to read uninformed comments by lots of people about the case and some vitriol on the person of Ibinabo by many who don’t even know her. Of course, everyone would have an opinion and that cannot be taken from anyone. But such terms which ring of untruths that ‘she was drunk that night and coming from a night club’ or ‘she killed someone’ are absolutely untrue. It’s quite sad that we have no investigative journalists anymore or that truth these days battle with coloured lies and no one does anything about it.
In the past few days, Nollywood and Entertainment chat groups on whatsapp ( and there are many but credible ones I belong to) have been brainstorming on what next to do in this case. The law is the law and of course it is a possibility that Ibinabo would be behind bars for some time while everyone make efforts to take the next legal options to help her. But the entertainment industry has never been this united in showing sympathy and solidarity for one of us.unprecedented. And so with chat groups proferring ideas on what to do next ( with high profile celebrity visits already carried out to Kirikiri to reassure Ibinabo by over fifty celebrities on Sunday the 13th of March) someone sent a munched shot of the instagram page of the daughter of the late Doctor Giwa who was reacting to Ibinabo’s son’s public plea for prayers for his mother. The munched shot showed that the daughter was understandably bitter and pained by her father’s death but to many who read it in the chat group, it betrayed a lack of the real facts and had a one – sided narrative which accused Ibinabo of ‘being drunk from a night club outing’ and ‘running away from the scene of the accident’ after it happened. I also read the open letter of the sister of late Doctor who understandably gave an emotionally – charged one-sided narrative of what she believes happened and ended her letter by applauding the Justice system for vindicating her understandable anger towards Ibinabo for the past eleven years.
There’s a saying in Pidgin English which says ‘na talk dey bring talk’ and what happened thereafter this week is the stuff movies are made of. No pun intended. It was totally unexpected.
One of the most important personalities in Nollywood in the chat group, obviously distressed at the wrong notion about Ibinabo by the deceased daughter blurted out that ‘you know, Guys? There are facts of the case which I know and which haven’t come to light all these years. My brother was an eye witness and saw all what happened that night’
The reaction was one of stunned questions. And immediately, I made the decision to interview the eye witness to find out what he really saw and what it was that happened which the public may not have heard these years. I decided to do this as a public service responsibility first and also to put whatever the new facts are in the public domain for posterity to prove or dispel. And if these new revelations would help heal wounds and bring about a new dawn of forgiveness and understanding, then so be it.
I got the number of the eye witness from his sister in the chat room and called him. Now, let me state here that this is no fiction. This fellow is real and is willing to expose himself to the public anytime to state what he saw. I have decided not to put his surname out ( even though he says he doesn’t mind) at this point in time but that doesn’t detract from the real facts of this story.
‘Good afternoon, Mr De Gaulle. Your sister gave me your number to call you to find out what happened that night. My name is Charles Novia’ I said, when he answered, my pen and recorder ready.
‘Oh ok. Yes, she told me you would call. My name is De Gaulle ( surname protected by me) You see, I’m ready to come out to testify or say whatever happened that night of the accident because it happened in my presence. I witnessed it and saw everything. We were many who saw what happened that evening and I assumed that others might have told the world what really went down but I’m surprised to read so many untrue things about what happened at the scene of the accident that evening’ He said.
‘Please go ahead, Sir. I’m taking notes and recording’ I said
‘ Ok. I saw Ibinabo a few years ago ( about six years ago) in Port Harcourt at a restaurant called Gessy ( or Jessy?). She was with some of your colleagues and my sister was there too. I told my sister that ‘Hey! That’s that girl whom I helped at the scene of the accident years ago’. My sister was surprised and called Ibinabo to meet me. And when I told her what I’m about to tell you, she was surprised and quiet for a long time.
That evening, what happened was that the Doctor’s car was coming from the Victoria Island axis of the first Lekki Roundabout which leads into the Lekki Phase One Estate, while another SUV which was being driven by Ibinabo was coming out from the estate, if I remember correctly. I cannot tell who was speeding or what but we heard a loud crash and then I think the doctors car somersaulted while the other car driven by Ibinabo was flung a few metres to the other side.
‘Was it midnight or late at night?’ I asked
‘No!’ Mr De Gaulle replied with much emphasis. ‘ It was early evening. There was still the last trace of evening light. It might have been just before seven o’clock or after seven. But it wasn’t late
So what happened was that the Doctor’s car was upside down and somehow his hand was crushed and he was trapped in the car. Immediately a few Area Boys and bystanders rushed to him to try and help him out of the crushed car. I quickly parked my car and came out to help as I rushed to the doctors car. A few other cars stopped as well.
I noticed that the other car was motionless and no one really was paying much attention to that car. What got my attention was the special number plates on the car which read ‘ DANIEL WILSON’ a popular musician in the nineties in Nigeria.
When I got to the doctor’s car, the area boys and bystanders were gathered round the car and were trying to help the man out of the car in the upturned vehicle. At that point, the man was very much alive. I swear he was alive and groaning but he was alive. His arm was crushed or underpinned by the impact of the car and I still think that it was the inexperience of the area boys and bystanders in trying to pull the man out of the car, which killed him faster.
I am sorry to say that but that is my belief because of what I saw. The people who gathered round that car may have meant well but they were also callous in responding to the emergency and were dragging at the man, trying to pull him from the crushed car.
The doctor kept crying out ( and I heard everything clearly because I saw it and was even telling the crowd to be gentle) and was shouting ‘ No! Take it easy! I’m a doctor. Don’t pull me like that. Easy!’. I heard everything.
At this time, all attention was on the doctor. And I heard someone in the crowd say that if anything happened to the man, they would make sure the occupant in the other car suffers.
Immediately I heard that, I went to the other car because I thought it was Daniel Wilson involved from the number plates. I was surprised to see a fair-skinned lady behind the wheel, unconscious and still. There was another lady in the car with her in the front seat. I think it was a young lady of about sixteen years or a teenager. That young lady was weeping and shaking.
After hearing what the guys at the other side had said about the occupant of the car, my first instinct was to get them to safety or to the hospital. I asked the young lady ‘ is there anyone you can call to take you people to the hospital? You and this woman have to leave this place now and get to a hospital’
I helped stop a taxi and helped carry the unconscious Ibinabo to the car and the taxi took them away.
Then I now returned to the other car of the late Doctor. When I got there, another set of cars full of some doctors had arrived the scene. The doctors said they were coming from some kind of meeting or event near the beach or somewhere near if I remember and that the bleeding occupant of the car was their colleague whom they had seen earlier.
By the time I got back, the car had been turned to a standing position but I believe it was too late for the injured person in that car at that point.’
‘ So you say the doctor in the car was alive when the accident happened?’ I asked.
‘ He was. There was no immediate emergency care to help him from competent medical personnel as what would obtain today and the crowd tried to help him out and he was calling out in pain. It was sad and painful. So when I saw Ibinabo a couple of years later in Port-Harcourt and told her that I was the person who removed her from the car and put her in a taxi, she was speechless and quaky. She too could have died that evening. She didn’t run away from the scene of the accident at all. I was the person who put her in a taxi to a hospital ‘
‘Why did it take you such a long time to come out to tell this story?’ I asked
‘ I have been in and out of Nigeria these past ten years. And I actually thought too that the case was done with all this while. I was surprised to hear that she was just sent to jail. Look, it was an unfortunate thing which happened. And I am ready at anytime, ANYTIME if I am called upon to testify on what I saw. It happened before my eyes. If my testimony would help put facts straight, I am ready’
I got in touch with Daniel Wison who corroborated that Ibinabo drove his SUV that night in question. ‘She’s my sister. We are from the same state and local government. It was the week of my mother’s burial and Ibinabo had come from Port-Harcourt to help me with the burial. She was wonderful and really supportive. That day, she needed the car to get to somewhere on the island and I asked her to pick any from the pool of cars in my compound. I was surprised when I got a call a couple of hours later that there was an accident. I rushed to the hospital, St Nicholas, and she was unconscious. But when she came out of it, she was delirious and traumatised. She was shaky. Look Charles, Ibinabo is a gentle soul. It was unfortunate that the accident happen but it was not intentional in anyway. And we have been begging the family of the late doctor. Who said we haven’t begged? I personally, made numerous visits to the house to see the widow and elders of the family. We attended the burial of the doctor. I was there. We begged and begged. Not because we think begging could bring the man back but just because it’s human nature to forgive. So, it’s not true that we remained aloof’ Daniel concluded.
It’s been much of a nagging battle for me to decide if I should put out this story or not. The initial hesitation was borne out of the fact that many people would misconstrue the new testimony as somewhat of a convenient revelation just to help a colleague, seeing that we are in the same industry.
But at the end of my internal consideration, a part of me decided to put it out anyway. First, to record a new chronicle of the whole sad accident which millions, including me, never knew happened. It’s better to be on the side of history which stands for true reportage of events in this case. And since Mr De Gaulle is very willing to give his account to any reporter or law enforcement agent for some measure of revision, I am prepared too to give out his number to members of the fourth estate of the realm and even the late doctor’s family to find out more from the fellow himself.
Finally, I have always maintained that we all are bound by the laws of our society. Ibinabo is serving a sentence passed by a law court and we respect that. We sympathise with her and as an industry would share the comfort between her and the family of the late Doctor.
But the final closure of this matter, beyond the law and prison sentence she would serve, rests on the family of the late Dr Giwa really. Now that there is a final vindication, as gleamed from the letter by the late doctor’s sister, what happens after Ibinabo serves her sentence? Would the family carry the hurt till the end of time?
A platform for reconciliation and forgiveness has to be set in motion. This is not just about the law now but about healing. Healing. Healing for all parties.