Having been away from home for quite some time, the news that the line has held pressure was a source of joy as I have so much longed to go back home to once again meet my nascent family.
On Wednesday 20th of February, we waited patiently for the Self Loader Truck to conclude loading our work equipments at Oguta Flow Station so everyone could go on our usual convoy back home. Peter and Ifeanyi arrived the site in a Toyota saloon car, these are welders who worked on the line but have been demobilized some weeks ago since their task has been completed. On the contrary I was told by the site Engineer (name withheld) to join Peter and Ifeanyi for reason unknown. He assured me they would help convey me back to Port-Harcourt. Without mincing words with my site Engineer, I joined them.
Soon after we left Oguta, I got a call from my wife who enquired to know if I was still going to come back home same day as I had earlier informed her, and I assured her I was already on my way. Excitedly, she asked “What should I prepare for you?" 'Vegetable soup of course' I replied. I was sure she started preparing that delicious soup that I never came back home to enjoy.
The wrong decision made by the driver was taking Omok Elele road which appeared shorter but seemingly lonely. After about 5killometers into this route, a group of masked armed bandits numbering up to 20 or above with various categories of riffle appeared from the bush, took over the entire road with logs of wood barricading the road should our driver decides to bluntly makes his way. However the shooting was so terrifying that no right thinking person would dare to proceed. He made an instantaneous application of an automatic break and quickly engaged the reverse gear. I couldn't wait any longer as my emergency hormone became hyper-active. Without a second thought I pulled the door handle, jumped out and tried to escape through the back. That was a wrong move as suddenly another group equaling the previous group came out from the opposite direction I made to take and started shooting sporadically towards me. I had no option than to jump back into the car to take cover. I have never witnessed such manner of shooting in my entire life except the ones I have seen on movies.
Something was striking this time; just after about three seconds I jumped in, there was bullet rain on the very door I just passed through, one of them must have targeted me but mercy said no! I was just few seconds faster than the bullets. At this time we realized we were in for something terrible, something deep. I gave it all up to God as I cuddled myself on the floor of the car and waited for the end or beginning of the end.
We were apprehended, forced to run in the bush with our belongings to an unknown destination. We were beaten, kicked and threatened as we kept running. Several times I fell on my face, but like Jesus, I summoned courage, garnered strength, stood and kept running. God gave us a kind of strength that our captors even got exhausted before us and as such demanded we should sit down for a while. By this time darkness has covered the earth and we can only hear the cries of some wild animals and crickets. For me it seemed like a journey of no return but then, God did not promise me a turbulence free journey, but He assure me that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with me His rod and staff will bring me comfort. No matter how dark the night becomes, I know His love will certainly find me.
At this point, our personal belongings were all taken away; our debit cards and secret pins, our shirts and shoes, watches and rings, and the smallest thing you can think of. At that spot, we were blindfolded and taken away. Presumably around 9.00pm we arrived at their dungeon, assumedly at the thickest part of the forest.
Here, our blindfolds were removed, and we were presented with a human skull, we saw and felt it one after the other. They gave us a stern warning that our skull will be used to present to our successors if we attempt to escape. With their phones in a loud speaker they called a purported Alhaji who they claimed buys humans and human parts from them. To my own hearing the Alhaji priced us 3million naira each. They insisted they will sell us at the last price of 5million naira each since it was election eve and human parts were on the high demand by politicians.
I had just listened to a recent song by Bro Cornelius Benjamin few days ago, where he sang "My life is not for sale neither for sacrifice, whoever touches me touches the apple of God's eyes; Jesus the lion of Judea, I belong to you, the lion is not for sacrifice, I belong to you" I made that particular verse my constant premeditative song believing in God's miraculous power.
That night we were blindfolded again, hands and feet tied and was dumped at the corner of their camp. It was jubilation for them all through the night, they drank, smoked Indian hemps and blew the smokes repeatedly on our faces and this continued all nights.
It was already evening of day 2, yet they have not talked about any ransom. In me, it was an indication they might not have kidnapped us for money. My God! I was dying already; my imagination started taking a wild turn and my heart melting. What could be going on at home? My family came to mind. My dear wife, we are just a year and six months old in marriage. My son; he is just six months old. What will they do? I imagined the dilemma my wife will be plunged into if I never returned. What kind of tragedy will it be for my little son to grow up to hear about his father’s journey of no return? He will only live with the story of how his father was kidnapped and killed while he was six months old? Oh God! This is unfair. I for once regretted ever getting married at the first place. I had never wished to leave the burden of a family for anybody. I enjoy carrying my cross and responsibilities. Again the thoughts of my mother popped up, I sincerely wished no one tells my mother at home, so that if grace abounds for me, I won’t come back motherless. My father, my brother, my sisters and in-laws, who knows what they are passing through now and if I don’t return would their hearts contain the sorrow and agony? They will never see me again and I will never see them again? God why me!
In a little while, the top ranking ones arrived, letting us know they have contacted our family members; " we don speak with una people, I no know de nonsense wen dem dey talk, if they want una home alive, make them pay, if una know anybody wee fit help una, make una tell us the phone number"
The amount they mentioned threw me off balance. “I have not made that kind of money in my life yet and I am sure no one in my family can produce such” I told them. That statement means a challenge to their authority, I was slapped, kicked and beaten mercilessly, their gun was cocked to my hearing and my heart was almost jumping out of my mouth. The worst of it all being that you cannot see what is going on.
The death threat, beatings, machet flogging, soldier ant and insect stings continued till the following day (Friday). The following Saturday was the presidential election, the day they said we might not see if we were not redeemed. I was engulfed with fear of uncertainties, little did I know that my ever loving family has swept out all the kobo in the house, went borrowing, cried their eyes out begging those agents of darkness to collect the much they could afford. They agreed to take the money, my family came, stood face to face with death, dropped the money for them, they picked the money, collected their phones at the spot and still refused my freedom. Late at night that Friday, they whisked us out of our bush home to where we did not know. May be the Alhaji has finally arrived. It could be the last walk and breath. I was taking as much air as possible should it turn out to be the last. We were taken to a hut yet in the bush and mounted in front of the hut was a big cross. This might be a native doctor's shrine or a Cherubim Church; This I thought as my heart rate was nearing 200b/min. Inside this hut we were lined, lying one after the other with me situated at the middle. I was spiritually alert but physically helpless; I could only hear the snoring of my fellow captives. I cried bitterly for morning to come but instead the night was unusually extended to 48hrs.
The next morning the threat and torment were intensified. We were beaten, called names, insulted. Any body movement implied you want to escape, any attempt you made to create a free airway means you want to remove the blind-fold so you could see their faces, all these were exchanged with beatings and kicking. My bowel stood still for these six days; I could perceive my own stench.
Thank God for my family and host of other relatives; my wife, parents, brother and sisters and wonderful in-laws who fought tirelessly, sleeplessly and fearlessly to ensure my release even when the very company and team leader I went to site with all deserted me and lied they never knew my way about. This company people in what looked like a conspiracy, also concealed all information that could lead to my rescue just to make sure they were not involved. I am not much concerned about their callousness when I was already freed, I was not pained so much in the way they claimed they were not responsible for my kidnapping and calamities, and as such cannot show any form of sympathy talk more of giving any form of consolation or compensation package; but their wickedness not to have made any attempt to save my life while still in danger. I leave all that to their conscience. God will certainly pay them back in due time. God gave me the best of all---my life, my wife and kid, lovely family and in-laws; I have them back, those are something more than gold. Do not despise your relatives no matter how offensive you think they are. Relatives are the ones that carry the corpse when it has started decaying (Onye nwe mmadu na eji apa mgbe ahu ozu siwere isi)
if the dead could be given a last opportunity to come back to consciousness at the very point of their burial, to open their eyes for few minutes and see the level of pain their death has brought to their families, relatives and some good friends, how grieved they are and how much they wished the dead one was still alive; they would regret greatly how badly and unfair they must have treated them and the inadequate love they had shown them while alive. However, the dead will also marvel at the realization that most people whom they thought would be there through thick and thin and to the end of it all will not even be at the graveside to bid farewell or sympathize with the bereaved family. But in all, my heart is lifted in gratitude because I saw it all, I experienced it all, I felt it all and I heard it all.
The worst of it all was the false news that I was shot at the leg which my captors sent to my people after they had already dropped a ransom. They did this in a bid to collect a second ransom. Under duress, I confirmed it to them on the phone that I was really shot. I could imagine the pain and agony my people went through, I wept uncontrollably because feeding my family with such information against my free will was more than shooting me at the leg, it was a shot in my brain. However, setting their eyes on me neither limping nor on walking aid took their joy to the apex.
Sunday evening came, there was a kind of confusion in their midst. They suddenly realized they have not been taking their baths just like us, they came to know that they have been neglected by their 'Oga' who assigned them to watch over us. This prompted some of them to leave the camp in anger. Some suggested they should tie us to the tree and seek refreshment at their joint; others opposed the suggestion, insisting we are humans and not animals. I am sure by then there was already a strong and wide prayer network around Churches and Ministries. Thanks to Rising Light Worship Assembly Elelenwo Port Harcourt, Pool of Bethsaida Ministry Okigwe, Nazareth Anglican Church Ohohia, My wife, Parish Priest, many Prayer groups, concerned friends and Individuals who prayed devotedly to ensure my freedom.
Around a time I assumed could be 12: am the next day they took Peter and I on a motorcycle, leaving Ifeanyi behind and meandered through unidentifiable bush roads to a place they dropped us and warned us to go to the right direction lest we will be recaptured. I was half naked as they dumped us without a pin. We walked and ran for like 4km but the road seemed endless. We never got any help from motorist passing at that wee hour of the day as suspiciousness was always raised each time we were sighted at such a lonely road. At a time, we started hearing gunshots ahead of us with fear we jumped inside the bush to secure our just birthed lives. We remained there until we can see some signs that morning is fast approaching. We came out and luckily we saw a hunter who told us exactly our location and gave us further direction on how to find our way home. Finally we saw ourselves at Elele Round-About Rivers State. Thanks to that taxi man that gave me a shirt to wear home and offered me his phone to contact my family. We acknowledge the Nigerian Police Elele police station Rivers State for giving us a thousand one hundred to transport ourselves back to Port Harcourt.
Waited at the junction to my street were all my family members, words alone could not explain the resounding joy that accompanied my arrival and reception. I saw love and I felt it like never before. Tears of joy rolled down their eyes as I hugged them one after the other, glad to see them once again and this time it was from the depth of my heart. All thanks to God that I could tell my story myself. I am fine, strong and healthy, no bullet wounds and I have been joyfully reunited to my family. I could feel the joy in little Jesse's heart as he gave out a thankful laugh once I lifted him, I knew he felt something different that moment. You can join me in thanking God; my narration is not to attract sympathy. I do not like pity party, this is a testimony and the story of a thousand and one Nigerians who have fallen victims to these hoodlums, some survived and others couldn’t even after being robbed of their hard earned money. Ifeanyi was released two days later. I am greatly indebted to my God.
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