“Our Fulani captors told us they own Nigeria”, Man narrates…
The persistent spate of insecurity in Nigeria has no doubt, reached an alarming level just as it has become obvious that the country’s security infrastructure is incapable of clipping the wings of rampaging terrorists.
From gory tales of massacre of innocent villagers, destruction of people’s houses and sacking communities as well as mass kidnap of villagers and travellers, the story is the same all over Nigeria. The increasing intensity of the nefarious activities of unscrupulous elements terrorising the country, has created palpable fear in the masses such that nobody knows when or where next the dare devils will strike.
Kidnapped and released three days later, Gospel artiste, Sir Oluwatosin Alao found his voice after two years, to relive his experience in the kidnappers den. Fact is, Tosin as fondly called, and his band that survived the ordeal, are just few out of the thousands of kidnap victims in the country; many of whom are still missing while others have become mere memory.
Tosin who was on The Amina Atahiru Show, narrated how his traumatic trip to the kidnappers’ hole began. “I was billed as a recording artiste, for a show being hosted by one of my friends who is like a brother, in Kabba, Kogi State. We took a mini bus, about nine of us. About 20 minutes to the town of Kabba, we saw a military check point and we thought oh, the road though a bit bumpy, should be safe. Just about 4 minutes, I noticed a Fulani man in front, by the road side. I was a bit uncomfortable but when we were almost close to the man, I stopped and the man double crossed the road with an AK-47. So, I looked at my rear mirror and as I was trying to reverse, three other people came from the back.
We were in Kabba already. We couldn’t move anymore because they were armed with AK-47 and other weapons. You know I was the one driving. So they smashed my screen and, we surrendered when they cocked their guns. So, they marched nine of us into the bush. Later, they let five go and took me and three others into the bush. The four of them had their faces painted. One of my guys went back to the military check point we saw earlier, seeking help but couldn’t get any”.
The artiste further narrated how confusion took over the music industry upon his abduction. “The gospel industry was thrown into pandemonium. The people that were hosting the event were also in confusion. I spent three days in the forest, I thought we were already dead, they tied us like animals in the forest around Kabba, Kogi State. It was the most devastating experience for me. The bandits are not scarred; they said they own the land”.
It wasn’t difficult identifying the kidnappers as Fulani according to Tosin, having lived most of his life in the north. So, captured, he started begging their captors for freedom but, severe torture was all they got. “We started trekking. Our first trekking experience began from that junction of Kabba and we began like around past 4pm and trekked till about 1am nonstop. One of my backups, who’s a bit on the big side, was losing breath.
He told me he wanted to end it there because he was exhausted. They warned that they would just kill him because he was delaying their journey. They said they would sell his body parts. And that in my presence, the people that will buy his body parts would come, so, they don’t have anything to lose. They smacked me on the head with the gun each time I begged them on the guy’s behalf. We just hung on faith and thought that was the end”.
Tosin resisted the temptation to attack their captors and escape as suggested by his drummer, as he reasoned that they could easily be caught or killed while on the run because the bandits knew the bush, besides, “we didn’t even know where we were”.
Surprisingly, they were at Ondo bank. “It was in the morning that we realised that we had trekked from Kabba back to Ondo. They were the ones that told us that we were in Ondo”. These guys to Tosin’s shock, were interacting; and were aged 24, 26, 28 and 29. Four of them, he disclosed, did not live in the same state; they were staying in Ekiti, Kaduna, Kogi and Ondo states.
“So they tied the four of us together and one was stationed in front of us with AK-47, one was behind us, one was in the bush, the other was cooking some drugs,” he continued. “They were high on drugs and were speaking their Niger language. We interacted in Hausa though they were not fluent in the language. So, my drummer was telling me bros, ‘let’s run’, but I said no lets be calm that what if we run and we couldn’t make it. Thank God we didn’t because we discovered that it was real AK-47 with several cartridges the type that one can release like 10 bullets. So as they were beating us, they went through our phones and asked us to call our contacts for ransom”.
Tosin releases the bombshell that confirms everyone’s fears on why insurgency in the country may have endured for close to a decade. “One of the things I must say here and honestly, I’m not afraid to say it is, each time somebody called our lines, the kidnappers would take the number, dial some network to know who the person was. So, that tells us that they are not actually doing this on their own. They are not educated but they know and understand what they are doing and this is a cartel; a networking thing.
They speak to the people in communication world- in the network. “They were telling me that all this money they were asking- they started from 40 million until they got to 5 million on the third day, they are not the only ones that are going to share the money- the military, police, communication people. Each time somebody called me, they collected the number and spoke to somebody in the network, to know who the person is. In fact, when they collected the 5 million cash which was brought to them, they told me that they would know if there was a tracker, tracking the money. It’s a serious thing. That’s why when I heard about the Kaduna attack, my spirit went back to what I went through because I know what the people are going through. It’s hell!”
The funniest thing is that we were walking around, trekked for almost about 50 hours. Each time we spent up to about 10 hours in a place, they would move us to another location. They have people talking to them and monitoring their location. My five band boys that were left, went to report to the military checkpoint. My elder brother is a king, so he too was already connecting people. Honestly, I’m sorry to say this, I have no other country but if you are kidnapped you are on your own. It takes God for you to come back. Let me tell you another thing that happened; it’s online. After I was released (our release was purely a miracle), the Oba, one of the Obas in Ondo, three days after my release, was killed. That’s the Oba of Ifon. He went for a meeting and on his way back, they shot him dead.
“So my friends, colleagues in the industry, family, my pastor, so many people, raised the ransom and transferred it to somebody in Kogi state. To my surprise, they said we had to rent somebody that would carry the money because majority of people who carry the money do not come back alive; the kidnappers might kill them. They requested for only the number of the person.
So, they can’t kidnap you without the help of military, communication. When they took the money, they flipped it in my presence, to know whether it was being tracked. They even gave me five thousand naira and told me how to get out of the place. I asked how they’ll know whether the money or the person conveying it is tracked, they said I should keep quiet that their intelligence is higher than that of those of us that went to the university. They collected and confirmed the money and apologised to me that it wasn’t people like me they wanted on that particular day; I was just their food for that day. So, they gave us money and explained how we could get out of the place”.
Tosin wondered how the bandits knew the road map of the bush, and when he enquired, they told him that they can trek to anywhere in Nigeria without getting to the express. It’s not certain for how long these guys have infiltrated the country with the help of insiders, but the gospel artiste believes they were telling the truth. “Yes because I experienced it for three days; they picked us from Kabba, took us to Ondo, we got to Auchi bank, brought us to Kogi bank back; trekking. Each time there was negotiation, they talked to their people telling them the nature of the negotiation. So, it’s not ordinary! It is sad that the country that I belong to, serving and playing music for over three and half decades; I’ve had opportunity to stay abroad with a green card, but I can’t, this is where I belong. I feel green being a Nigerian but guess what?, all my friends abroad are saying boss, ‘you want to kill yourself in that country’”.
Continuing with his sad tale of horror and hunger, Tosin said, “When we were in the Bank of Ekiti, they asked if we were hungry because for about 28 hours, we didn’t have anything to eat. We were so thirsty that we had to drink water meant for their cows. We didn’t have choice. Because they are on drugs and are fettish- there’s a jazz they use of which with it you can trek from here to Ibadan and the road will look shortened, so, they were not tired”.
“In fact, we said our last prayer more than 30 times.
The experience is not what you wish for an enemy. One of them went to the market for over 5 hours because of the distance he trekked. He came back with garri and palm oil, mixed it and said we should eat. We rushed the garri”, the artiste recalls more harrowing moments with the dare-devils who he revealed, live like normal humans among us. Here are more startling revelations. “They were not fluent in Hausa language but I was able to communicate with them”, Tosin said, adding, “They told me that their fathers own the land (Nigeria) and since they were not getting what belonged to them, they resorted to what they were doing (kidnapping). That’s deep!
They said Fulani owns Nigeria, whether true or false, I was just listening. They said this place belongs to them since the 16th or 18th Century and all of a sudden, they’re not getting what belongs to them. They revealed that they only do three jobs; kidnapping, joining Boko Haram, and rituals. They said they do rituals when they kidnap people and they can’t get ransom or, somehow it results to death. When that happens, they cut the body parts of their victims and sell them. This was why they threatened to kill my band member and sell his body parts as I narrated earlier”.
Tosin who had a daughter three months before the ugly incident is still haunted by the traumatic experience two years after. The spike in the rate of terror attacks brings back sad memories of his ordeal in the hands of the bandits and this makes him to believe that the government has failed in terms of securing the country. “This thing is on the increase. Government can do more.
When they hold conventions nothing happens there. Yet they kidnap people for days, weeks; remember the Chibok Girls…nowhere is safe anymore. “They cannot operate smoothly without the connection of an insider in the government or anywhere. We should not sugar-coat these things. How can they get to the train, hold everybody hostage? It’s due to lapses in terms of security; there are cartels in our security system running this thing because AK-47, gun is not licensed in Nigeria.
The 24 year-old kidnapper among them told me he stays in Ado Ekiti and he said he’s been learning how to shoot since the age of 12. He said they’ve been taking them outside Nigeria to teach them how to shoot”.
For Tosin and his men, as they were released, another set of kidnappers came after them. “When we got to the express, we were trying to look for a taxi, so we saw another band of kidnappers. They are everywhere.
They have network everywhere, these people I can categorically say, are working not by themselves but with the people giving them guns; with security agents, networks. So, while my people were trying to get me, the kidnappers were also getting information from their helpers. That’s why we changed location for over 6 times in three days. If you are kidnapped and released, it is not the money or your smartness because those people are mean. They have two things at the back of their mind- either to get the money or they kill you. They are also ready to lose their lives”.