Rich. N. Ekegbo
(www.igboniile.org ; fada.rich@gmail.com)

My friend C.H.S purgeon once said that ,”the loss of gold is something, the loss of life is everything, but the loss of Christ is such a loss that no man can restore”. With this, I mean to say that our young friends, the kidnappers, still have some sense of Christ. This is because especially the second in command, came to us and we discussed issues about life and about God. And often too, he was very furious about one of us, Mr. Augustine Eze, on the grounds that he is too deep into charms and medicines (babalawo), which was testified by countless marks on his body. At least I was able to count fourteen marks on his back, about nine on his chest, about twelve below his stomach and three or two others in other parts of his body. The particular kidnapper who often advised him that he himself knows that he is a thief and nothing more, told him that it is better for him to leave charms and juju and face Christ, since this is no more a generation of depending on charms and juju. He reported to us (the captive priests) as a testimony, that the man has some charms hung on the roof of his vehicle (which they used for the operation), one under the steering and another beside the door. It does appear that he enjoyed discussing with us. And I was able to reason out that there is something that drives every person towards manifesting the good is in him.

The first night we stayed in the bush was the occasion when all were said to be present, which included the gang leader (who disappeared around 2 a. m.), the members of the gang and we the three captives. What sent us the signal of release that night, what could also be taken as the motives behind their gangsterism and what the second in command reiterated, and latest all the members of the gang spoke about, hinged on politics and the condition of the society, especially Anambra State.

The first information we got from the gang leader was that he was made to know that we are priests. He added that it was unfortunate that we priests were the victims of circumstance that evening. He told us that they are not interested in priests; that they are only after the politicians of our day who corrupt the society. He informed us that we will eventually be released. He added that whenever they have started operation they must have to finish it and so that is why they had to take us with them. At about the hour of 2: 00 a.m., he departed after a gun shot into the thin air, and advised others to be vigilant instead of sleeping and snoring like pigs.
Well, from the second night, the second in command often came to us (about ten feet away from where they stationed). He did this sometimes in the afternoon and sometimes at midnight. He told us that God made two of us to be caught for a purpose. He said that without being caught that way and come inside that place with them, we may not be able to understand the society better.

His meetings was more of appeal to us to call somebody who will bring out money for them. Sometimes he told us the reason for coming to us, but on rare cases his visit was that of threat. But whichever method he used, it was always about politics, how bad the society is, or about the doctrines and it was only DAY IV, Friday, when we were being shifted to where we finally settled and were awaiting our eventual release, that some of them bared their minds to some extent about their lives and about the condition of the society.

On several occasion, the second in command explained to us (the priests), that the Catholic Priests are among the people who are sponsoring bad leadership. He was neck deep into telling us that we support the present administration too much. According to him, the priests liaise with the government even when the government makes some bad policies. He mentioned that the priests condone or even support the bad policies of the present administration because they benefit from the government.

He mentioned that there are a handful of individuals who received largesse from the hand of the present governor. He told us that it is painful that the governor will have the got to dash out money and vehicles to individuals, while there are countless number of youth roaming about in the labour market, even after schooling. He also claimed that there are few privileged individuals who will still be favoured thus by the present government. He made us believe that he very much knows about the goings on in the seat of governance in Anambra State.

But while he tried to bare his mind on the excesses of the government, we tried also to tell him how much the government has benefited the commoners. He said that the priests do not condemn the governor for benefiting some people, and that as an OND level student, he knows how difficult he finds it being in the school. He mentioned that two of us may claim that we pray for a better society, and criticize even in writing, the ills of the society, but that our best is not yet good enough, that priests should do more, and that the church leaders and the community leaders are given money anyhow while the citizens continue to suffer, having no money, no work and that even those who work are poorly paid.

However he confessed that the governor has done a lot. He said that no one has the right to dispute that the governor has done much more than every other governor before him, but that failing to conduct the local government election was very bad of him. He mentioned that the most biter aspect of his leadership is that he is promoting godfatherism which he claims he is fighting. He said that things will get awry in the state if eventually Willy Obiano becomes the next governor of the State. He said that the governor is paddling the state as if it is his birth right. And he added few other things that the governor should know, which I think should be the right of the governor to hear alone himself if he wishes. According to our gang friend, the Governor should have left Mr. Obiano to do his campaign himself so that there should be a level playing ground for everyone in the race. And this is where his view tallies with the views of many other people. I do not think the governor would have any logic against this, for there would have been other alternative ways of killing the rat.

It is note worthy that his emphasis is more on the state and not on the nation at large. For him again, the politicians are the money bags of the state, and they move about as if they are owners of the state. While all of them are making every effort to become the governor of the state, none of them is planning how to reduce the suffering that the people of the state are undergoing. He said that all of those politicians are selfish, thieves and money bags, and that it is only Ifeanyi Uba who can make some efforts to better the lots of the poor masses from the little he is known about.

On one or two occasions he asked us to tell him why Catholics said that there is a big sin and small sin (that is mortal sin and venial sin). We then gave him the example that even from common sense consideration, a thief who steals a poor man’s #1,000 and the one who steals the same poor man’s #5 are all thieves but that the one that stole #1,000 does more injury to the poor man that the one that stole his #5. Yet, the two are thieves. He said he may be forced to accept that but that again the Catholics said that somebody should go to a priest so as to have his sins forgiven, but he believes, and his own doctrine, (that is the doctrine of his denomination, Sabbatarians), believe that somebody should go and ask for forgiveness of the person whom he or she has offended. And that if that person forgives him or her, he or she is then forgiven. But I told him that he should not be too worried with the doctrines that does not disturb his own faith, that since there is freedom of religion, everyone is bound by his own doctrine and his own faith provided he respects those of others.

He vehemently advised Mr. Augustine Eze that he should always remember a king in the Bible (meaning Nebuchadnezzar), who took God for granted, and so was one time made to leap like animal and ate herbs like an animal

When it was around 6:00 p.m., Friday, they removed the cuffs in our legs, and put it on our hands. But the one in Mr. Augustine Eze’s legs could not be unlocked. So they resorted to cutting it with the saw. After some moments of effort, they succeeded in cutting the key. And we all waited for about ten minutes again before we were led out of that place that was becoming familiar with us. We went out of the bush through another route different from the one through which we went in. About seven minutes saw us near the main road and we were made to stop and all lay down, talking only in whispers. The second in command announced that security is very tight along the way, and that our departure will be by 4:00 a.m. the next day (that will be All souls Day). And some of them asked us to have mercy for them and pray for them since it wasn’t their intention to catch priests. Some of them were such free in interacting with us that any passerby could not even suspect any differences between us.

About half a pole to the tarred road, we all retreated and remained calm and steady, especially if there came a passing vehicle and whenever voices were heard. After about five minutes, we all sat down, five kidnappers and three kidnapped. After the announcement that we could no longer go that night for security reasons, everyone sat on the grass as Jesus’ disciples were made to do when they were waiting to be fed by Jesus in the desert.

One of them, (the one who over three hundred times, spoke about shooting us because we could not give them anything, and who often groaned that they laboured in vain), asked us to continue to pray for them that what is being done is not easy. Again that what made people like him embark on that type of nasty venture is because people are wicked. He said that it is not only that people will not help others, but that “some will even take whatever that belong to you because you are less privileged.” He said that we the priests should be preaching against such ills in the society. We told him that such are some of the main ills of the society we condemn whenever we are preaching. One of them addede that the priests are preaching against such ills but people are not hearing. He continued by saying that he was a tanker driver before, until problems began to rain on him like rain drops. He also recounted that people are bad and that two people whom he served did not settle him for no good reasons. He reminded us priests that we knew they did not get anything from us, but what we have to do is to be praying for them, that what they are doing is very wrong and too risky. As he said this, he ignited a stick of either ciger or igbo, which made one of them to say, “look at thief who is asking to be prayed for, smoking even when he is asking for God’s mercy”. But he retorted that he always tells him that he has many confusing spirits in him, that make him not to like to hear any person speak about God. I advised him that Kidnapping and stealing is no something to lean on and that risks apart, if somebody could not lay a good foundation early enough in life that time will come when he may not be able to make headway in life again even with kidnapping and robbery. He said yes that his prayer is that God helps him to get at least a bus so that he takes up in life from there. I said to him that his request is a simple and humble one. And I and Fr. Obidiegwu said to him that God will hear his prayer.

Though two others did not speak about their life as such, I know that even if they did, their story will not be too different from the one we heard. All is just regrettable about our society.

The society is divided into the rich and the poor and the gap is too much, and it continues to widen by the day.

The kidnappers fail to understand that two wrongs cannot make a right; and that two blacks cannot make a white even in a blind man’s world. If they will correct the ills of the society, it is better they organize and go directly to those who corrupt the society instead of kidnapping or molesting those who are feeling it with themselves.

In the world of a machie uwa jooji, people who reason well will know that all that glitters is not gold. Jeep is said to be the problem, but jeep says more that that the owner is a rich man. Jeep can suggest that the roads are not wonderful. It can suggest that regular visit to the mechanic is not the best. It can also suggest that some jeep owners are less wealthy since some cars are even costlier than jeeps.

For other things that happened and some peoples’ views about this kidnapping, Igbo race, Igbo people and culture and public and personal announcements and adverts, visit www.igboniile.org

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