Andy Bature, a musician and Senior Special Assistant on Drugs to a former Governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, has narrated his ordeal at the hand of kidnappers who he described as “typical Fulani men”.
While going to Jos, Plateau State from a seminar in Kaduna State on a Thursday evening in late May 2019, Bature and three friends he was with, were kidnapped by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Till now, Bature has found it difficult to believe that he only spent three days in the kidnappers’ den.
According to him, three days could seem like three years when living conditions are hellish and the other is never to ignore his gut feeling.
Describing the kidnappers, the former SSA said “they are typical Fulani men”.
“They were on drugs. They are herdsmen, they told us themselves. One of them said he had never entered a car before, he said he could trek from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt with bare feet. They spoke among themselves in Fulfulde but if they wanted to talk to us, they did that in Hausa. They never prayed, even once; there was nothing Muslim about them,” Bature added.
Narrating his experience at the hands of the kidnappers, he said:
“I didn’t want to travel for the seminar; my instincts told me not to travel and also because my wife baked a birthday cake for me. On that fateful evening, when we reached Saminaka, the others decided to break their fast there; I was the only Christian among them.
“After breaking their fast, we took off at about 8pm and passed a checkpoint at a place called Jingre. It wasn’t up to 10km from there, we got to another checkpoint and one of those manning it wore a mobile police uniform and was with AK-47. They flashed their torch lights at us, to tell us to stop and we started contemplating whether to stop or not. Immediately, they started shooting in the air.
“When they got to us, they asked us to lie down on the ground and started hitting us with their sticks. One of us, Sani Muazu, is hypertensive and diabetic, so we started pleading with them to release him. Thank God, they released him and sent him away, with the promise that he would bail us out,” he said.
Bature felt like the whole world had come crashing down on him. Following their abduction and Muazu’s release, the rest of them were each assigned to a member of the kidnapping gang.
According to him, it was like the way the police would assign a suspect to an “IPO” (investigating police officer). But luckily for Bature, the man he was assigned to was “friendly and merciful”.
“He spoke to me in Hausa because they were typical Fulani men. He told me to calm down, saying: ‘Calm down, you people should thank God that you are not Christians, we would have killed all of you.’ I took the hint and tried to remember all I knew about Islam because it was a very challenging moment; I wasn’t sure if I had the strength and courage of Leah Sharibu.
“They asked me how one does ablution when there is no water and I told them that there’s what is called ‘Taimama’, which is done when there is no water. It never got to a point where they asked me whether I was a Christian or not; they assumed I was a Muslim and it stood like that. They asked that question because they said we would trek for nearly 70km in the bush and that there was no water there. They didn’t fast and they didn’t pray,” he said.
After trekking for six hours, during which they crossed three rivers, according to Bature, they settled at a place where they met the cell leader of the gang, who delivered a welcome speech to them. It was learnt that they kidnappers also had an overall leader called grandmaster, who oversaw the activities of various cells. In the three days that was spent in the kidnappers’ den, despite the arduous trek in the bush, Bature said all that each of them had were mangoes and a bottle of Coke.
Recalling the welcome speech delivered to them by the cell leader, Bature noted that though it was brief, it had a chilling clarity. It was clear to them that if they didn’t do as he commanded, they would be killed.
“He told us he knew he was not going to go to Paradise and that he was not interested in going to heaven, so for him to take a life meant nothing to him. He warned us to be very straightforward and truthful. He said they didn’t kidnap us for just a token; they kidnapped us so that they could make money. He said each of us would pay N10m as ransom and we started weeping.
“We pleaded with him, so he asked us how much we wanted to pay. Salisu Muazu then said we could pay N1m each and that provoked them. They beat us mercilessly but for me. The person I was assigned to, who was like my IPO, stood up and lied to them that I had told him I was an orphan, and that as he is also an orphan, he would not allow them to harm an orphan. I wasn’t beaten but the other two were beaten mercilessly,” he said, shaking his head in frustration.
Eventually, they started calling their family members and negotiations started. However, in the process, Bature and others were afraid that they could be killed because for every unpalatable thing spoken to the kidnappers by relations or friends, which provoked them, they took it out on their captives. He said:
“Three times, we could have been killed. Danlami used to anchor a radio programme and he was using his personal phone number for that. So a fan heard about what happened and called his number. When he called, he said he wanted to speak with Danlami ‘Yanke Yanke’ and they spoke in Hausa. Their leader said, ‘It’s not Danlami, it’s your mother.’ Then, the fan got angry and said, ‘So, you are those kidnappers? We are ready for you, we are coming to that forest, we are coming to kill you.’ He was using abusive words while talking to them, cursing their fathers, saying it would never be well with them and all that. After that, they came back to us and wanted to kill us.
“The second time, it was the wife of ‘Yanke Yanke’ who called and told them to fear God and release her husband; that provoked them to the point that they wanted to kill us. Thirdly, it was because of Sani Muazu, they said he was speaking to them arrogantly and not minding his language. We don’t pray for anybody to fall into the hands of kidnappers, but the issue is that, if it happens, people should take them seriously. People don’t take them seriously not knowing what they are capable of doing; these people are a syndicate, they are well organised, they have intelligence. Even when it went on air in Jos that we had been kidnapped, someone called them from the town, telling them that it was on air. They came back to us to say that our people had gone to the media but we told them they were looking for support and that saved us.”
The musician also gave a chilling account of how the kidnappers’ cell leader would give a ‘death speech’ before taking someone’s life. The leader even had code words that served as directives to his subordinates to kill whoever he wanted eliminated.
“Remember I said they assumed I was a Muslim. At every point, they kept on repeating that had it been we were Christians, they would have collected ransom and killed us. Even after they collected the ransom, they still said that would have been the time for them to kill us if we were Christians.
“I don’t really know but their leader would normally make a speech; it was called ‘the death speech’. They would tell you that ‘we don’t want to kill you, all we needed was money but we want you to die knowing that your family members and your people hate you and don’t want you’. Then the boss there would give the order. Once he said ‘kill him’, you were gone because they’d gun you down. It would depend on how he wanted you dead. If he said ‘give him tea’, it meant they’d cut you into pieces.
“Once he called ‘Sergeant’, then know that you were in trouble because he (sergeant) was in charge of execution and torture. It was really traumatic; rain would fall on you, you’d get dry and another rain would fall on you,” he said.
Every day, during the period, Bature and his friends woke up, thinking this could be the day they would die, however, the musician would never forget the moment he felt the time had finally come, and that fate dealt him a pathetic blow.
“There was a time they gave our people two hours to raise the N10m ransom for each of us. After the two hours elapsed, they came and started giving the death speech. I was shaking; I thought the time had come. Then, ‘Yanke Yanke’ asked for permission to say something, and they allowed him. God just gave him inspiration and he started cracking jokes (because he is a comedian).
“When he cracked the jokes, their ‘oga’ (boss) started laughing. He laughed and laughed, they kept on laughing. One of them even fell to the ground and when he got up, the boss said: ‘Do you know the last time I laughed? Because you made me laugh, I’m going to be merciful to you people. I’d reduce the ransom to N10m for the three of you and increase the duration,’” he recalled with a note of gratitude to God for sparing his life and those of his friends.
Although, Bature did not disclose how much was paid as ransom to secure their release, as he didn’t want it to go public with the information, he noted that the kidnappers wanted Sani Muazu to bring the ransom so that they would use the opportunity to kill him. He said:
“They wanted Sani Muazu to bring the ransom, so that they would take it and kill him; they told us that. But as God would have it, our negotiator said he was very obedient to them and played the card very well. In fact, they praised him when he brought the ransom; they told him he was a good man and that it was because of him that we were still alive. They said that if not for the way he handled the issue, they would have killed us. They went to like 40km away from where we were to collect the ransom, they went there and left two people with us; the two of them were armed with rifles.
“They said once they got a signal from them – a phone call – they should gun us down but if there was no call, they should wait until they returned. They went and collected the ransom from him. After they came back with it, they counted the ransom and it was incomplete. They said our ransom was incomplete, but that they would let us go. Then they said, this would have been the right time for us to kill you if you were Christians, but you are lucky, we will let you go.
“We were about to leave when their boss said: ‘Yanke Yanke, you made me laugh, if you’ll wait for us to kidnap another set of people, I will give you N1m from the ransom they will pay because you made me laugh.’ We all said no and laughed over it. Then we thanked them. They told the man that was sympathetic towards me to show us the way out, and while we were going, he was really remorseful. He asked me to forgive him, and said he had never been as sympathetic towards any man since he started like the way he was towards me.
“He said they took everything he owned from him. He said he was a normal Fulani man with just a stick to rear his cattle but that most of his cattle were rustled while some of them were killed. He said in return, they gave him a gun so that he would do this business and then share the profit. That particular guy was very remorseful because he asked me to be praying for him. He told me that after our kidnap incident, he would stop kidnapping people.”