It was indeed an emotional moment as the abducted Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, LCDA, of Lagos, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, who was set free by his abductors late Saturday night, after six days in captivity, could not hold back tears while narrating his ordeal to Vanguard. He spoke in the presence of a large crowd that thronged his residence to rejoice with him and his family on his safe arrival.
The council chairman, who was abducted by three gunmen at his Ona Iwa Mimo street residence, in Ejigbo, on Monday, April 15, 2013, at about 11.00p.m, returned to his house at about 10.45p.m, some hours after he was released by his abductors. His return ended six days of anxiety and apprehension over his safety by family members and political associates who were prompted to run from pillar to post in a bid to secure his release. His captors had earlier promised to let him go on Friday before he was later released late Saturday evening.
Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, Chairman, Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, LCDA, Lagos State. Photo: Kehinde Gbadamosi.
The news of his return ignited spontaneous wild jubilation among family members, neighbours, friends, well-wishers and associates who ignored the late hour to welcome him back. He was received by his wife, Fatimah, family members, political associates, friends and well wishers, who all started singing praises to God on sighting Bamigbetan, who looked hale and hearty and unruffled.
When Vanguard visited the residence at 21 Ona Iwa Mimo Street, early yesterday, it showed that Bamigbetan, who was clad in white native dress and surrounded by well-wishers, must have passed through a terrifying experience in the hands of his abductors. His blood-shot eyes clearly indicated that he had little or no sleep during his captivity, while a dark scar on both wrists was evidence of some form of torture.
Bamigbetan narrates ordeal
“My driver and I were coming from an event after the close of work. That was around 11p.m and we had entered my street when a saloon car overtook and blocked us.
“We tried to reverse but three men with rifles came out of the vehicle asking us to stop. As we were reversing, they fired at the vehicle.
“The driver reversed, hit a pole and we were stuck. So, I stepped out. I was trying to see if it was somebody I could recognise.
“They asked why we were running, I said maybe the driver was afraid. They said he shouldn’t have run. They spoke clean, Queen’s English.
“They said I should enter the vehicle, so I entered and they moved into the main road. They faced Isolo side and from that point they pushed my head down. For the next four hours or so, we were on the road and I didn’t know where we were going.
“When we arrived at a place, I was blindfolded and moved inside a pitch dark room with only a carpet.
I was asked to lie face down and from there, I lost track of time.
“They started agitating, claiming that they were graduates, they didn’t like what they were doing but there are no jobs.
“One claimed to be an engineering graduate, another claimed to be a Human Resources Management graduate, while another said he was already in final year in an American university when his father’s shopping complex was demolished and he had to be recalled home.
“One of them also said he was a commercial motorcyclist but his source of income had been outlawed by the state government.
“They were generally bitter about youth unemployment and I had to engage them on my various activities as a crusader for youth employment.
“They asked who I was, I said I work with Fashola and that I am a journalist. I didn’t know they took my bag containing my laptop along. They asked for my password, opened the laptop and started checking my details.
“They said: ‘You are a local government chairman, you are the one stealing money.’ I told them I didn’t steal any money and continued elucidating on my programmes— free meal and uniforms for children in schools, free drugs for everybody in our Public Health Centre and several skills acquisition programmes.
“They then said: ‘Are you saying that in your second term you don’t have money? We have to take part of that money now, call your wife to go and bring the money.’
“I told them that I have less than N800,000 in all my accounts. They said: ‘So you don’t have up to $1million?’ I said I don’t have that kind of money.
“When they saw I was not cooperating, they became angry and brutalised me. They tied me to a chair and gave me serious beating, with blood flowing from my nostrils. I now discovered that the idea of ‘we don’t have money’ would not work here, I needed to engage them. I told them I had friends who could assist and I should be allowed to contact them.
Effect of media reports
“We were on that when media reports started rolling in. They even showed me a newspaper report that said all the local government chairmen had contributed money to pay the ransom. I said it was not true.
“Later, they said someone who wanted my position had paid N35 million. I laughed. They asked why I laughed, I told them I was not saying they were lying but that N35 million was too much to pay on my head.
“We came to an understanding and they came back later to say they were not satisfied with the negotiated sum and they needed more.
“At that point, I started praying because it was from there I remembered the strong premonition I had the morning I was captured.
“I was not sure where the trouble would come froms, but I knew I was in danger. I just started praying for mercy and divine intervention while reciting my favourite Psalm 121.
“Suddenly, at some point, they started treating me nicely, asking what I wanted to eat. They washed my clothes, prepared food and fruits for me. Took me from the carpet to a room with mattress and switched on the AC and encouraged me to sleep.
“They told me they were at the council secretariat the second day and listened to what people were saying and they found out that everybody said I was good. They said they would ensure they didn’t kill me.
“They added that the younger people around the council and my home were very nice to me; they believed I could be of help to them in the future. When they saw the newspaper reports too, it changed their perception. They were tracking all the information. When I was to be released, they asked if I could drive, I said yes, they said because everybody is looking for them, I have to drive myself home. They took me to a point where I could drive myself home.
“They told me where to drop the vehicle when I got home, that they will pick it later. It took us another four hours to get here. I came in through Badagry; they dropped me close to Checkpoint at Badagry. Up till that point, I was not aware of my environment because I was blindfolded.
My premonition of the kidnap
“That morning, I had a strong premonition that something unusual was going to happen. I didn’t leave home until 2 p.m that day, and I left home only because we had two events, a Community Development Association, CDA, tour and we were meeting with CDAs on flooding.
“My instinct was not to leave home but I ignored it though I woke up with a great sense of fear.
“I raised prayer sessions but nobody could decode what it was going to be like. When I finished that meeting, I had two assignments that would take me to the Island so I decided to go and sleep over on the Island.
“Unfortunately, I finished both assignments early because my mentor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was on his way out of town. Usually, I wait hours to have an audience with him but because he was travelling, we had to meet briefly.
“Since I was through with what I came for on the Island earlier than I thought, I told the driver to change the route on our way home.
“We came in through Ikotun and the gunmen came in through Isolo. As soon as they saw a Sport Utility Vehicle enter, they picked on it. They weren’t lurking around for me. I was just unlucky on the day. It’s just spiritual.
“I normally do have premonition when things are going to happen to me. About four days before then, I felt something unusual would happen.
“So when they caught up with us, the picture just fell in place. I knew people would be praying for me and that was the hope I held on to.
“My release was delayed because there were two levels of operatives, the older ones who abducted me and the younger ones who took over and were negotiating with the family.
“Those ones were receiving instructions from the older ones. At the end of the day, they just changed their minds that even without the money they would release me.
“I’m not too sure our security operatives can manage their level of sophistication. Imagine them sending people to the council to find out things for themselves; that shows you that they knew what they were doing.
“We don’t have the capacity because ordinarily, when they were making the calls, the nearest cell sites should have detected our location.
“We were in a place for five days and nobody had an inkling of where we were but I know that it was God’s intervention that made it possible that is why I thank everybody who has offered prayers for us.
The detention camp
There were other people where I was kept. Our eyes were blindfolded, we were not supposed to talk or engage in conversation with them. We were told not to open our eyes. Once you attempt to see them, they would fire because we were strictly warned that they didn’t want to be identified. The blindfold was so tight that you couldn’t even open your eyes.
No police escort
I have never believed in police escort. It is a test of your faith with people. If you truly want to serve people and you are doing it from your heart, you don’t need police protection. Even the police are seeking God’s protection. So why don’t we all go straight and look towards the same God for protection? I pray and I try to do good deeds daily because those good deeds would pray for me and be my cover whenever I run into problems. That has been my philosophy.
“If the police had been there what would have happened? Three AK 47 rifles to one policeman, would he have waited? When you know that you are on your own, you are forced to work for the people genuinely. I have never taken a police orderly to anywhere because I believe in the God and people I serve.”
“I thank everybody, people really prayed for us. I thank God he is back. I believe in the powers of prayers; there was no better option to prayers, because I didn’t know where my husband was. It was a rude shock, I didn’t expect that to ever happen to any body in Lagos. So when it happened, we couldn’t do any other thing than to resort to prayers.
“I thank the family members because they really stood by me and my family; they all came around and started praying everyday— friends, political associates, neighbours and well wishers came and offered prayers and fasting, holding vigil every day.
“I thank God that he answered our prayers, he was released at the end of the day. Though we were praying, we didn’t know it was going to happen that day. We never expected him back, when he came back, my husband just appeared miraculously.
“The kidnappers were still calling us that ‘my enemy’ will become a widow soonest, that I will soon carry my husband’s corpse. I was just crying, begging them on the phone not to make me a widow, that at least they have mothers, sisters, if at all they were not married.
“I was just pleading with them. It came to the extent that the Christian community, Muslim community, all came to our house and started praying. At this point, I knew God will intervene. So when he walked in later in the night, we were not expecting him; we were just shocked, and I’m so happy that he came back unhurt.
“They communicated with me about twice throughout the ordeal. The first one was when he was kidnapped; they called me around 2 am or thereabout. They said madam, we have your husband, his life has been paid for but if you can bail him they would consider him.”