Veteran Nollywood actress, Taiwo Akinwande, who is better known as Yetunde Wunmi was arrested by officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at the Muritala International Airport, Lagos.
Wunmi was about to board the Virgin Atlantic Airplane going to London on Saturday 23 September 2006 when the when NDLEA officials’ electronic scanner caught her trafficking substance suspected to be drugs.
She was induced to excrete 1.2 kilogrammes ( 92 wraps of cocaine) at the NDLEA cell where she was detained.
She was later arraigned at a Federal High Court in Lagos in November on charges of trafficking in an illegal drug where she pleaded guilty.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Lagos sentenced the Yoruba movie actress, to three years imprisonment or pay one million naira fine.
Benson Ndakara, her lawyer pleaded to the court to temper justice with mercy, adding that Wunmi’s relatives had abandoned the actress and that the court should be lenient.
The judge, however, said that the actress ought to be a role model in the society but failed to live up to expectation. So the actress would live in shame for the rest of her life as an ex-convict.
In an interview with The Entertainer, the actress spoke in length why she went into drug trafficking and how that one scandal affected her career.
“It was on September 19, 2006. I was billed to travel to the United Kingdom. So I got to the airport early enough to catch my plane. But then, I was arrested by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency at the Murtala International Airport in Lagos.
I was arrested on drug-related offences. Initially, I thought I was in a dream, but it later turned out to be a reality. It was a sad experience for me to remember because that event almost cost me my life. I ended up serving a two-year-jail term. Really, I lost so many things to that incident.
And it did a lot of damage to my image as an actress and even among my colleagues in the industry. It’s my only regret in life that I had to get involved in drugs. But I thank God that I came out of the mess after serving a two-year jail term. I also thank God that though the situation I found myself was that bad, the news of my drug offense wasn’t that of my obituary. Truly, I have learnt my lessons the hard way”.
The actress said she learnt a lot of lessons during her travails, and that she is grateful she is alive to tell the story.
“I have said it earlier that I have learnt my lessons the hard way. I learnt that nothing in life is permanent, that there are no permanent friends and enemies. During my travails, I learnt lessons about the ups and downs of life. For instance, a rich man today can become poor tomorrow, and a poor man today can become rich tomorrow.
Even, I learnt my lessons about death. That, though life is good and worthy to live, death remains the end of all souls. It’s the end, no matter who you are. It was really, a sad story to tell, but I thank God I am still alive to tell the story”.
Counting her losses, she said she lost the most private thing which was her privacy. Everyone knew what had happened and they were following the case back to back.
She also lost her popularity which she worked hard for decades and her relationship with people became really hard as they didn’t want to relate with an ex-convict.
The actress said she was able to get back on her feet with the help of her family, some of her friends who didn’t lose hope in her, and colleagues who brought her back into the acting scene to start all over again.
“I lost almost everything. For instance, I lost my privacy. I lost my popularity that I have worked hard for, for about three decades. I lost some of my close friends and my relationship with many people broke-up as a result of the sad incident. Nobody would like to relate with an ex-convict.
But, honestly, some of them showed great concern and understanding. They saw my problem as a phase in the course of my career and life as well. They really gave me hope that time heals all wounds and that eventually came to pass”.
“I wouldn’t want to mention names, but there were some of my colleagues that despised me while so many others showed great understanding. They showed me love and concern. It was God that really intervened and strengthened me after I served my two-year jail term. So many people treated my case as that of the prodigal son.
The Association of Nigeria Theatre Practitioners (ANTP) actually brought me back to life.
They rekindled my hope and my career was put back on track. I was able to overcome the sad experience through the unflinching support of everybody that stood by me during the trying period. It was terrible indeed. But today, the rest is history”.
Talking about how she got back to her feet, she said she embraced help from people and she didn’t dwell in the past or allowing what happened to weigh her down. Although it was difficult from the start her humility pushed her through.
“It was the grace of God. Even at a particular point in time, I became confused. I didn’t know where to start from, but God really used some people in the entertainment industry to put my career back on track. Since then, I have been enjoying a breakthrough and I’m now back on my feet.”
“The truth is that I didn’t allow my past experience to weigh me down. I didn’t allow it to disturb my future. But I was able to cope during that period through the grace of God. My humility also played a very important role in getting me back on track”.
“It was difficult for me to cope, initially, but one virtue God gave me is humility. And that helped me a lot. Even before the sad incident, I was a very humble person. For me, popularity didn’t get to my head. I don’t brag about anything, but I know quite well that my humility actually helped me a lot during the trying period. I was humble after my humiliating experience, and I felt really great remorse for what actually happened to me. I regretted, and still regret it. In the end, I saw it as my destiny and the sad experience actually humbled me in life”.
On how she is moving on with life, the actress said she has repented from all her wrongdoings, she even went to hajj to confess her sins and seek for forgiveness with a promise not to return to the old way.
With God, everything is possible. Since the sad incident, I have started my life anew. I have repented from all my wrongdoings. I even went to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to perform the Hajj and that afforded me the opportunity of telling Almighty Allah all of my earlier trespasses. I confessed my sins in His presence and I promised never to return to such sins.
Today, all that is now in the past. Today, everything is new in my life, and I’m always grateful to Almighty Allah who preserved my life during that trying period.
Now, I’m hopeful that God has answered my prayer because since the time I came back from Saudi Arabia, everything, I mean my whole life, has become new and I’m back on my feet with renewed hope and vigour.