The Oasis Reporters
May 21, 2018
By Muta (not real name but true life story) – Part 2
The forces of nature had conspired against me. I still wasn’t wearing my shirt and it had become cold through the night. I woke up shivering, my teeth were chattering. I did the only thing I knew would help. Put on my shirt to stay warm.
It was about 5.00 am. I looked around, a few of our assailants were up and talking among themselves.
Pastor Ajayi, the interpreter was also up and praying though still lying down. The girls and Deborah were asleep. Baba Deborah and Shola however were sound asleep. You could tell from their loud snores.
I tried to pray but nothing came to my mind. I couldn’t even bring myself to say a word of prayer, I was that crestfallen. I closed my eye and tried to work out how the day would go, but nothing registered in my mind. Once again I focused on my loved ones.
Do they know I have been kidnapped, what about my car? Is it still there by the ditch it fell into?
My mind was running riot. There was so much uncertainty surrounding our situation, you can’t tell what will happen next.
Gradually everyone woke up to the stark reality that our troubles would unravel before us that day. I quickly noticed a new entrant into the camp. Dogo I call him, he was aggressive and loud unlike the others. He actually came in company of an older man.
They quickly registered their presence by flogging Shola. What was his offence? Dogo said Shola had the effrontery to look at them. Because of the noisy and violent entrant of the duo into the camp that morning, it was difficult to do your normal morning stretches when you wake up. One cannot tell what will spook them.
My bladder was almost bursting but out of fear, I kept quiet and carried on as if all was well. Things remained like this until about 8am or thereabout when the second in command appeared in camp.
Shouts of assalam alaikum (peace be on to you) rented the air as he walked into camp. It became our way of knowing someone new had joined us since we couldn’t raise our heads up to see our surroundings.
He came in wielding his toy (AK 47), a bag and a hand full of phones (stolen ones obviously). Through the interpreter he beckoned on us to sit up but not to look at them. Boss has placed a ransom of five million naira on each of us, he announced.
Where on earth am I going to get five million naira from?
For us this is business and for you it is like trading, he continued. You know your financial strength so it is ok if you bargain. I heaved a sigh of relief. With that he pointed at me and asked, how much do you think your people can put together for you this moment.
It was like sitting in front of the CEO of a major multinational asking you how much you want to be paid by them. You would of course want to take advantage of that question to favor yourself.
I did a mental calculation and felt I should start my negotiations from the lowest amount so we can work it up to something I know my family can afford. Confident that this one is kind hearted because he said we can bargain, I told Pastor AJayi to tell him three hundred thousand naira.
It was as if I pressed a panic button. Pastor didn’t finish mentioning three hundred thousand in hausa before they descended on me. A sharp pain registered in my brain instantly. It took me a while to actually know where the actual location of the sharp pain was domiciled, because there were other smaller piecing pains trying to contend with the larger pain. Confusion, fear and aching pains took over my being. Dogo the tyrant led the assault, he was seething with rage as he whipped and kicked me.
I knew there and then the only thing to do is to beg and tell them something they wanted to hear. I faced Pastor Ajayi and beckoned on him to help me beg them. “Ka yi hakuri, Yi hakuri, yi hakuri, danallah”, we begged. Once I knew he was begging on my behalf, with my palms clenched together and on my knees I chorused with him, “maigida yakuri”, repeatedly until they stopped.
That beating formatted my entire system and I momentarily forgot the word three hundred thousand naira. I knew I had to be wiser and court their favour if I must survive this ordeal. I begged Pastor Ajayi to tell them I will talk my people to look for money.
With that I was handed the phone to make a call. My hands were shaking and with my whole body shivering from the beating I just received I placed a call to my wife. Once I heard her voice I was overtaken with emotions and started crying. I believe they see crying as a form of weakness so it would naturally anger them.
Dogo was pissed that I had the effrontery to cry. He stepped close to me and nudged me with one of his torture instruments, a stick, like the ones the herdsmen carry around.
I composed myself and told me wife i had been kidnapped and a ransom of five million has been placed on me. I asked her to inform my family and friends and begged her to please liaise with them to raise something with which I can bargain with.
This routine of beating was repeated for every one of us, except Deborah and the girls. It actually told us the mindset of our assailants. They are vicious and calm at the same time, quick to anger and enjoy the torture sessions.
This became our normal routine. It was done in the morning, afternoon and at night before we sleep. This is the reason they blocked the road to get their hostages. They have become masters in the art and like the second in command told us, it’s a business to them.
You don’t joke with your business you have invested so much in. So it is with these ones. You can tell they were not smiling when it comes to getting money from you. This is the foundation of all their hustle so they must manage it well to maximize the benefits.
As the sun rose, we were moved to an area where it was shady and cool. Intermittently they would bring their bacteria infested water, and we would all gladly drink.
Some time at noon they brought a pot of cooked rice into the camp. One of them grabbed a stick from the floor and used it as a spoon. Here cutleries are luxuries. He used the stick as a makeshift spoon to stir the rice in the pot to properly mix the content. I could tell this was just rice and oil. I saw a bit of onion in it too.
Another one brought a bagco sack that had been torn open, spread it on the ground. That was our plate. They emptied part of the content of the pot on the sack. For spoons, they had cut PET bottles at an angle into a scoop so one can use as spoon. Food was ready. They warned us to eat as not eating will earn us a beating.
How can one bring himself to eat under that kind of condition? How can you even eat when you don’t know if you will leave there alive? Where would you even muster the appetite to swallow what’s before you when you are not sure if that was you last meal?
For the girls though, they served them in a plastic bowl and asked Deborah to join the girls. Everyone said they were not hungry. But Pastor who overheard them talking, begged us to eat so that we don’t incur their wrath.
We had to force ourselves to eat. My body was still sore from the last beating session. It would be foolhardy to allow them do same to you again when u can avoid it. I took a few scoops to satisfy their curiosity.
After our meal, it was time to check the figures. They needed to know how much our people had gathered. This time I stayed back and allowed others make their calls first. Now the advantage of this was that once I knew how much the individual families of the others have been able to gather for them, I can on the strength of that raise my figure a little above theirs to give me some leverage.
By that afternoon, the highest any of the other families of my fellow kidnapees had been able to put together was two hundred thousand naira. It was a good sign, because it was less than the three hundred thousand naira I mentioned which angered them earlier. When I called my wife and she told me with the help of my extended family they had been able to get five hundred and fifty thousand naira, I smiled for the first time.
This was what reduced the beating on my part and took some attention off me for a while….