The Oasis Reporters
May 21, 2018
By Muta (not real name but a true life story) – part 3
Allowing us to talk to our loved ones to source for ransom for our release is like putting our fate in our own very hands. It was our second day there and the weekend was fast approaching. Common sense should tell anyone that once it was weekend, the amount of cash that can be moved around would be very limited. What this meant was that, if our families were not able to put the determined amount together by the next day which was Friday, one was bound to spend the entire weekend with the kidnappers in the jungle.
The only challenge I had with spending the weekend there was my health. There were mosquitoes. Aggressive marauding blood thirsty ones. But the mosquitoes were the least of my problem. Back home it had become a source of worry for me as I battle treating typhoid. This is even after all the care I had taken to make sure my family and I take clean, uncontaminated water.
With the quality of water at our disposal in that humid jungle, i knew I was in imminent danger of falling ill with typhoid if I spend the weekend there. I also knew if peradventure I or any of my fellow kidnapees came down with typhoid or any other ailment, we won’t get any form of medical attention. In fact we would become clogs in their operations and going by what we knew already, a weak link for them should be done away with. Such a fellow may just face the stark reality that he or she would either be left to die or they would end that fellow’s misery quicker than the ailment by shooting the person.
This reality made me shudder and I started praying for a breakthrough. I found strength and boldness and started speaking positive words of prayers. If there was anytime I needed the intervention of the big man above, this was the time.
I closed my eyes and kept thanking God, for the bible says in every situation give thanks to him. That was what I did for the better part of my prayers.
At every point in time there were at least 7 of them armed with AK 47 rifles guarding us. They placed themselves in strategic positions around us. The arrangement is regimental in a way. These ones reported to others who form the guards in an outer perimeter a bit further away from the camp. I will narrate how I knew about the outer perimeter in the course of the story.
The ones directly guarding us are a bit friendly when their superiors are not around. They sometimes try to strike a conversation, but in all these you can still tell they won’t hesitate to do their masters bidding so we were careful in our conversations with them.
Movement for Baba Deborah had become almost impossible because of the sprained ankle. He tried to show strength but you can tell the man of God was in grave pains. I offered to massage the already swollen ankle for him, but that was not without the permission of our assailants.
I used water as a lubricant and massaged it severally. He thanked me profusely and mentioned that it brought some relief to him.
Shola spent the better part of his day sleeping. Once they were not addressing us it was difficult to see him awake.
The girls were huddled up together on their sack. They looked forlorn and like the rest of us, we were all looking dirty and dejected. Delight and Chika had cuts all over their body, and the nature of their skin did not help matters.
The happenings of the second day gave me some form of assurances because they were concentrating more on my fellow victims whose loved ones efforts in raising a ransom for them were not bringing smiles to their faces.
We did not see the boss that day again. His second in command was the go between. By nightfall he told us boss has graciously reduced the ransom to three million. At least we were getting somewhere I reasoned. He however said the next day they were going to be harder on us to reach their targets. We went through another phone-in session so we can tell our loved ones back home to increase their efforts of raising ransom. There was actually no beating this night, but they always do something to let you know it may not always remain like this. It was a huge relief for all of us.
They had not laid a finger on any of the girls. The second in command however told them that if by the next day they don’t come up with cheering news from the home front about their ransoms, they will not be spared.
By nightfall we were again moved from the shaded area to the same open area we slept the previous night. Unlike the previous night where I was totally fagged out and slept like a log of wood, I was fresher and more responsive. The floor was hard and painful to lie on. I barely slept that night.
We woke up to madam Delight’s complaints of headache and nausea. She put up a five star performance. I am sure at some point our assailant even felt pity for her. When she won’t stop crying, they ordered pastor Ajayi to pray for her.
Pastor quickly took charge and opened the floodgates of prayers. He prayed and prayed. He spoke in tongues and used the opportunity to commit everyone there into God’s protective care. At some point they got annoyed that the prayers were getting too long and ordered him to stop.
When the second in command appeared that morning, he brought bread, coke and sprite for the girls. We were given the left-over of the previous day’s rice, which we gladly munched. He announced once again that boss had further brought down the ransom on us all to one million five hundred naira per person.
In order to avoid torture, Delight told them she had some money in her account. Though her loved ones back home had raised some money also, she was desperate to avoid the beating session. They had her android phone, so it was agreed the money be transferred to her brother back home who would then look for a way to deliver the money to them.
The network in the camp was poor and to use the internet one had to move around to search for network. I was picked for this task, because Delight had become too weak even to stay upright while calling. I and the second in command moved around quite a bit searching for network. It was during this elusive search for network that I realized it would have been unwise for anyone to attempt an escape.
These guys are organised. There were pockets of them spread around the entire area, almost like forming another perimeter of guards around the camp. Eventually I was able to transfer the money to Delights brother and we returned to camp.
By this time my wife through the tremendous assistance from family, friends and colleagues had made up my ransom. So when we were allowed to call, I simply told them. I became a point of focus then. They knew I live in Kaduna so they wanted to know how the money would get to them. Through phone calls I was made to understand my elder brother who resides in Abuja had been picked to deliver the ransom to them.
I told them this. And they requested him to come with an interpreter. Chika on the other hand also had good news too. She told them her people are sure of raising the ransom, but they said by 12 noon everything would be ready.
I called my elder brother who assured me he had an interpreter already and they were on their way to Abaji. They warned me to tell my brother not to cause any trouble for them and me. According to them, they don’t want any security operatives near the drop off point.
Eventually Chika’s ransom was ready and they insisted my brother must wait for Chika’s people so the two ransoms can be delivered together. Sometime around 1pm boss, his second in command and a hand full of them left camp, obviously to pick up the ransom.
I knew a lot of things could go wrong from there. There have been cases of them even kidnapping the person who came to drop off the ransom. In some other cases they collected ransom and did not release the victim. With these guys anything and everything is entirely possible, so I had to take it to God in prayers. I embarked on a marathon prayer session. I kept asking God to see me through the ordeal.
It was a long wait to know if the drop off went without any hitch. You cannot start asking them this because you don’t want to incur their wrath. The level of uncertainty was high. Chika and I had formed a pair by now and we started discussing in hush tones our worries and fears.
These guys are vicious but are also disciplined. Two events led me to believe this.
The first one was with Chika. From time to time we see a new face in camp (I say a new face because even though they asked us not to look at them we still steal glances when they are not looking). On the second day a new guy and his AK47 appeared in camp.
He speaks a few words of English. Immediately he finished niceties of greetings with his pals he focused on Chika. ‘Baby how market”, he retorted with a mischievous smirk on his face. As he talked he bent down towards her and immediately started fondling her. Chika hit his hands but his response got the camp quiet. He slapped her so hard, her head jerked backwards. He stood up in annoyance and walked away.
He was seriously reprimanded and made to apologise to Chika. I couldn’t believe it when I heard him tell her, “sorry baby”.
The other incident was with me. Remember I had a timeline for most of the events, that was because I had my wristwatch with me all through. But the second day one of them asked me to give my wristwatch to him which I did.
The next time the second in command came to camp he noticed I wasn’t wearing my wristwatch and asked through the interpreter what happened. I told him one of them took it from me. Even though I knew the culprit I told him I didn’t. He was pissed, he spoke in the local Fulani dialect because when I asked Pastor later what he was saying, Pastor didn’t understand. You could tell he was not happy with whoever took the wristwatch. However by the next day he walked into camp and handed my wristwatch to me pronto.
Back to our long wait to know our fate. It was becoming worrisome for Chika and I when we had not gotten any news about the drop off.