Okwudili Ayotanze is a charismatic gospel singer who has released albums with titles such as Never be afraid.
He is also on death row with Bali nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
The 40-year-old Nigerian’s studio is the supermax Pasir Putih prison on the notorious Nusakambangan island, known as Indonesia’s Alcatraz.
And his band mates are fellow inmates on guitars and a prison guard on the keyboard, who rocks songs such as God Bless Indonesia in full uniformed regalia.
Ayotanze is a product of the same Indonesian prison system that has reformed Chan and Sukumaran and with whom he will be killed.
At the release of his 2008 CD God You Know (All My Ways) (Death Penalty), Dili, as he is known, had been seven years behind bars calling the Lord in repentance with over 70 written songs, according to the World Ministry blog.
“Dili uses his musical talent to composed and written (sic) songs to call upon God and to give warning to others, giving an example of his life that they should be strong, of good courage and be aware of the devil’s traps,”
Ayotanze and fellow Nigerian Silvester Obikwe have recently been named among the eight drug felons who will be executed simultaneously with Chan and Sukumaran.
The date of the executions is not yet known although paramilitary officers on Friday conducted a terrifying re-enactment of the highly militarised transfer of Chan and Sukumaran from Bali’s Kerobokan prison to Nusakambangan.
Ayotanze was arrested in 2001 trying to smuggle 1.15 kilograms of heroin from Pakistan into Soekarno-Hatta international airport in Jakarta.
Cilacap priest Father Charles Burrows, who has previously been asked to attend the executions of Catholic prisoners on Nusakambangan, says Dili’s reformation is similar to that undergone by Chan and Sukumaran.
He said Dili had produced albums of spiritual songs from the prison and performed whenever there were visitors to Pasir Putih.
“He was elected by his friends as head of the Christians at Pasir Putih prison and it is him who always prepares the altar, calls up the Christian friends and organises the music and readings so the service can go well,” Father Burrows said.
Ayotanze said the song “God Bless Indonesia” came to him while praying at 3am. “I had head a voice urging: ‘Write a song for Indonesia’,” he wrote on the cover notes of the album. “I thought to myself: ‘What kind of song is that? What is its title?’ The voice said: ‘Just name it: God bless Indonesia’. I was sure it was his voice so I started to write it down.”
In a testimony, Father Burrows begged for mercy for Dili.
He wrote that Ayotanze had very good relationship with prison guards and inmates and was regarded as a co-operative prisoner who “always avoids negative things”.
In a refrain of the arguments used by supporters of Chan and Sukumaran, Father Burrows said the Indonesian prison system had succeeded in reforming Dili in accordance with the principle that prisons should be places of rehabilitation.
“The guards don’t agree with the death penalty,” Father Burrows, who is known as Romo Carolus in Indonesia, told Fairfax Media.
Father Burrows is also seeking a second medical assessment for another of the Catholic drug felons on death row, Brazilian man Rodrigo Gularte, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Gularte’s lawyer is hopeful he will get a reprieve because he is mentally ill.
However the Attorney-General, H.M. Prasetyo said there is no regulation preventing the execution of a mentally ill person. “There is only a regulation forbidding the execution of pregnant women and children under 18 years,” he said.
Father Burrows disputed this. “The Constitutional Court said in 2007 or 2008 that a mentally ill person should be hospitalised, cured and then shot. That’s the highest court in the land so it should have some standing.”
Mr Prasetyo has resolved to proceed with the executions even though a number of condemned prisoners have legal proceedings underway.
Chan and Sukumaran are appealing against a decision by the Administrative Court that it did not have the power to rule on whether Indonesian president Joko Widodo should have assessed their clemency pleas on a case-by-case basis.
Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami, who was caught smuggling 5.3 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia in 1998, is also trying to get Mr Joko’s rejection of his clemency plea nullified on the grounds it was not rejected within the time limit.
And lawyers for Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, who was arrested at at ecstasy laboratory near Jakarta in 2005, have filed a request for a judicial review into his case.