By OLUWATOYIN MALIK
Yetunde (surname withheld) is a youth Corps member serving in a secondary school in Ejigbo, Osun State, but has her family in Lagos State, so it was not out of place to desire to visit home for one thing or the other from time to time.
So she did on Friday, January 7, when she left Ejigbo to visit her parents. The first phase of the journey ended in Ibadan, and she boarded an ash-colour Toyota Sienna vehicle with registration number MUS 493 HH from Iwo Road, Ibadan to Lagos.
However, the journey which started smoothly was stalled abruptly by a gang of Fulani kidnappers which jumped on the road at Onigaari axis along Lagos-Ibadan expressway and started shooting.
After killing the driver, Oluwatosin Aruwajoye, the kidnappers shot one of the passengers, Ibrahim Tiamiyu, in the thigh and took captive of five others, including the shot man’s wife, Sekinat.
But interesting and amazing is the story of one of the captives, the 26-year-old corps member, who, after walking in the forest for several hours with the armed men, providentially escaped early the following morning while the captors were sleeping!
Saturday Tribune had an interaction with her and her story from the moment of kidnap went thus:
“When we were taken from the car, the kidnappers directed us into the bush. After walking a distance, they asked us to sit for hours because the gang leader had not come then. They were initially four with us, but became five when their leader joined us. They had three guns.
They were Fulanis speaking in their language to themselves but in heavily accented Yoruba to us. Four of them used nose masks, only the leader did not use, so we couldn’t see their faces and we even dared not look at them.
“When he came to where we were, we were on the move again. It was in the evening. We got to some places and rested. The food one of us had in our bag was eaten by the kidnappers but they gave us water from the bag when we asked for it. We would sleep a little bit; after a short period of time, they would wake us up and we would be on the move again.
“It was like they have places they usually sleep on dry leaves. It seems they made it that way so that if any captive tries to leave, they would wake up from the sound of the dry leaves.
“We walked throughout the night. They kept threatening us that they would kill us. After we all slept again, including the kidnappers, a call to Muslim prayers woke me up. I know the Northerners getting up to pray so I thought they would get up. They had tied our hands tightly before then. Even till now, my nerves are yet to be active. I don’t feel with my fingers and can’t hold things. My second finger is so stiff that I can’t use it for anything. They are heavy.
“The lady whose husband was shot was one of the captives. She was beside me. She was very weak and I felt her pains. One of us who was going to Redemption Camp before the kidnap was also very weak. They almost broke her hand. It got to a point she was so frustrated that she asked them to kill her. They didn’t, instead, they used the boots they were wearing to injure her on the hands they tied. It seemed the hands were dislocated. Throughout the night, she used her scarf to cover her hands because the cold got so much into them and it was like they were dead. There was also an elderly man who was fat.
“I woke the camp lady and the one whose husband was shot but they were not strong enough to get up. They couldn’t feel their hands anymore because blood could not circulate. They were tightened so hard. Even when I wanted to urinate, it was the Fulanis who helped me to pull down my trousers as I couldn’t use my hands.
“The lady and I were whispering when I woke her up. They had already untied our hands but I believe they knew what they were doing. They tied them for about an hour and poured water on them to render them dead. Blood was no longer flowing in them and we couldn’t feel with them. Even we couldn’t feel ourselves as we touched each other. The nerve cells were dead already.
“I told her to try and hold a palm tree in front of her but she couldn’t feel with her hands so she couldn’t grasp the tree. She fell down and I couldn’t wait for her anymore. If I tried to pull her, the Fulanis might wake up. That was how I started my journey.
“I had noticed that when they were taking us through the forest, they were moving to the right side, so I was making my own moves towards the left side for about an hour. Fortunately, I got to a place with tree stumps shaded with leaves. I slept there for about an hour to regain some strength.
“By the time I woke up, it was bright morning. I started walking. I was pricked by thorns on my bare feet and hands but I was not feeling them because my limbs were dead. I was using my head to create space to move. I didn’t care for the pains because I needed to survive. I walked for about five hours because it was almost 12 noon, as I learnt later, that I got to a point I could see sun shining. That made me to believe that I was getting near where I would see people.
“By the time I walked for another one hour again, I heard a machine being used to cut trees. I walked towards the sound, with the belief that people were doing it. By the time I got close to them, the machine had been stopped and they were about going when I shouted. They were saying: “who is there? Are you not an evil spirit in the forest?” I told them I wasn’t and explained my predicament to them.
“One of them made moves to assist me by cutting the trees and grasses in front of him till he got to where I was. That was when he knew I was a living being. He was like ‘lady, you really tried if you could make it out of this forest alive.’
“The first thing I requested for was a pair of slippers because my legs were aching and the thorns were pricking me on my hands, legs, back. We walked for about an hour before we got to their village in Ogunmakin.
“I had requested for water because I was so thirsty and dehydrated but they said they couldn’t give me because it was dangerous to do so for someone with my experience. They said it could lead to death.
“I saw a river and wanted to fall in and drink water but they prevented me.
“When we got there, they started removing the thorns with blade. That was when I started feeling pains. Even till now, my hands are still not functioning well. They boiled water for me and a lady bathed me because I couldn’t do it myself. I couldn’t feel any touch. The tree cutter also gave me his shirt and trousers to change from my torn clothes. His trousers were bigger for me but I didn’t have a choice.
“They also fed me with cocoyam and red oil, which they said was traditionally therapeutic and would bring me relief, but I couldn’t eat. I was just drinking water. They really took care of me.
“I told them that I needed to contact my parents. The Fulanis had called them the previous night and requested for N30 million. They used the phone of the woman going to Redemption Camp. She was able to pick her bag when we were kidnapped but couldn’t carry it anymore at a point as we were walking, so they used her phone and the other lady’s SIM card, I guess. When my parents were calling back, there was no network in the forest anymore.
“That was why I pleaded with them at Ogunmakin to allow me call my parents and I called my father. My father sent some money and I was able to leave Ogunmakin for Lagos myself. My father didn’t want to come and pick me so as not to raise my grandmother’s suspicion. I was afraid while going back but I needed to be courageous. When I got home, I went to the clinic and was treated.”
Her story is heart-breaking
Though she has returned to her place of primary assignment in a secondary school in Ejigbo, she said that her hands had not been working perfectly and the reflexes were dead. “I can’t write, I can’t hold anything,” she stated. Yetunde added she had gone to see a physiotherapist to restore her hands to their usefulness.
So happy with her narrow escape, the youth corps member told Saturday Tribune: “I’m a Muslim but I went to church with my friend and offered thanks to God for sparing my life and making a way of escape from captors for me.”
Narrating how the kidnappers struck, the lady said:
“I was in the vehicle, asking the man who was later shot, to lend me his charger because my phone battery was dead. He, his wife and I were coming from Ejigbo in Osun State together. He told me he also needed to charge, so I kept silent. Along the line, he and his wife were discussing. They liked my company and we were gisting.
“When we got to a point, we saw some men jumping on the road with one of them in Army camouflage polo shirt over which he wore a jacket. We first thought he was a policeman in a team who just wanted to check the vehicle. We should have noticed but we were engrossed in our talks.
“The one on the road released a gunshot and the driver was confused. He wanted to make a u-turn but immediately he maneuvered the vehicle to do so, the man shot him in the head. He died immediately, hitting the road median.
“They told us to come down. That was when everybody knew it was not a joke.
“While we were coming down, the man by the door, whose wife sat beside me, was shot in the thigh. There was also boy, about seven years old, with his father in the vehicle. The father’s younger brother was sitting at the front, and they looked alike.
“When we were being taken into the bush, they held the younger brother of the other man sitting close to me by his trousers and inflicted him with machete cuts. Though I learnt that the young boy’s father was also killed while lying in a ditch, but I saw the young boy running and looking back, crying. He was looking at me as he was running. They went after him but I don’t know what happened to him because three of the kidnappers shepherded five of us into the bush immediately, while the remaining two continued with the operation.
“One of us, a man, was walking behind me with our captors leading us. We had not walked far when the man noticed another bushy route and ran to it, not looking back.
Even when police came, blowing their siren, all of us captors heard but couldn’t make any sound to tell them where we were.
“When their leader came to join us, at a point, I was looking back because I was very scared. In my head, I was thinking of an escape route.
“But anytime I did, the leader would bark at me in pidgin English: ‘if you look back, I go shoot you!’
“In the night, when we got to the back of where I later learnt was also Ogunmakin axis, we needed to cross the expressway to the other side. My plan was that if I could see any truck entering, I would run, but it was as if the leader was reading my mind. We were both facing each other and he could read my expression. He had said: “if you think say you go run, I go shoot you for road, you go die.” I looked at him and cautioned myself so that I would not be killed. They also spoke in Yoruba. When were in the forest, they told us: ‘se ki npa, abi wa sanwo?’ (We will you pay or I kill you?).
“I later got to know that my bag and phone had been recovered from the vehicle by the police and I went to collect them.” (Saturday Tribune)
Lagos-Ibadan Expressway abduction: Fulani herdsmen shot driver in the head, I escaped while they slept — NYSC member
By OLUWATOYIN MALIK