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The controversial arrest of Jelil Akitu

When Jelili Atiku was arrested recently following a performance in Ejigbo, the local and international art community felt the artist’s freedom of expression was under threat. What many didn’t know, however, is that there has been a battle for years between Atiku and the traditional ruler, who is also his uncle and that it only escalated this year. Udemma Chukwuma, who recently got to the root of the matter, reports
If you have been following the news lately, the story of Jelili Akitu, a performance artist and sculptor, who got arrested recently, would not be new to you. It all started when the artist announced on hisFacebook wall on Sunday, the 17th of this month that he had been arrested. Because the artiste didn’t provide much information, apart from the lone sentence, “I have been arrested by the police,” speculations emerged and few knew which version to believe.
That post also led to series of protests. Among the protesters were members of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), who gathered at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. On their banner was written: “Nigerian Artists say yes to Freedom of Expression, Nigerian artists condemn the incarceration of Jelili Atiku.”
Comments followed comments on Atiku’s Facebook wall, and more comments even when he announced that he had been released. “I was arrested around 10:45 pm,” Atiku recalled, “I just returned home from my nephew’s place downtown, when nine policemen stormed my family house in Ejigbo with guns.
“They knocked at my door and I opened it, and they entered with big guns. When I asked what they were looking for, they said the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) wanted to see me.  When I tried to probe further, one of them shouted at me and said ‘you criminal, go and dress up’ because I was half naked.” Atiku, who said he was frightened “because they were with guns,” obeyed the command and followed them to Ejigbo Divisional Headquarters, not far from his house. 

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