A former education minister, Senator Iyabo Anisulowo, was abducted by gunmen as she was leaving her farm in Ilaro in her home state of Ogun last week. The 65-year-old politician spent seven days in the kidnapper’s den before being rescued by the police.
Anisulowo recounts her ordeal in the hands of her assailants and reveals that there was an order for her to be killed because she couldn’t pay a N100 million ransom, but her kidnappers disobeyed it.
Here are some highlights of her interview aired on Channels TV.
What was the experience like, being in captivity for seven days?
It was a wonderful experience. It tells the story of the face of God on anyone’s life, including myself. It’s an excruciating and unexpected pain that I went through in the hands of my captors.
Since your release some 24 hours ago, how has the feeling been?
The last 24hours since my release, I’m really happy.
Your driver said some people crossed your path suddenly; narrate what actually happened on that fateful day?
My driver and the occupants of the vehicle with me – a civil defence young man who was my orderly – were accosted and thrown out of the vehicle; I was prevented from running out; and their own team entered my car and drove off. They drove towards Imashayi. I was coming from my farm. They drove straight towards the forest and after we turned at Aiyetoro, they parked inside the bush. They organised an Okada rider – it looked as if the Okada rider had been used for this type of operation before. One of the men was armed. We mounted the bike and rode into the Aiyetoro woodland.
How did your captors treat you while with them?
It was very tough, very very tough. It was tough initially. In the first forest where I was taken, I was moved to another place where they would not be found. Then their leader, who drove my car, came to join us later. He told me what he needed from me, N100 million
Did they torture you and did you sustain injuries of any sort?
They did not torture me but the instrument of moving from one point to another was very stressful and painful We fell down several times on the bike in the forest and the exhaust pipe, the silencer of the bike burnt my leg. They didn’t allow me to cry; each time that happened, they would say I should shut up because they did not want people to suspect.
While in captivity, what was going through your mind?
In the beginning, I was confused because I never thought such could happen in our area. But what was going on in my mind, especially after we moved to the second bush, the gang leader said if I loved myself, I should make contact quickly for the payment of the N100 million ransom so that I could leave their camp. After the first negotiation, he disappeared.
How did you make contact? Did they do it for you or you were allowed to make the contact?
They seized my phones and the kingpin had everything. When he came again, it was at the third camp. According to what they were discussing, I think they got a wrong information. They were looking for money and they said they won’t release me unless they got money. All the contacts on my phone, the kingpin had access to them and then he would ask me who to call. He would make the call and make it conference call so I couldn’t say much because he would hear whatever I said. I think by the second day, I had a slight idea of where we were because there were some churches in the distance doing night vigil and they were talking about the area while praying, Obada, but I couldn’t disclose where I was. They started calling people that I had been captured by kidnappers and that they should bring N100 million. People were saying they would negotiate and people were begging them that they should reduce the ransom. The kingpin said even if I didn’t have money, I had influence and I should be able to raise the money thorough people who would love me not to die.
While there, who were you thinking of?
I was thinking about the rocks of God.
As in among family members or friends, who were the people you were thinking of?
I was thinking of everyone that I had had contact with, that I love, especially the people around me here in Ilaro.
What about the rescue?
I didn’t eat. I was fasting. I told them I needed water, two bottles of water. I was taking that every day, But at some point, even the people knew the game was up. It was the armed guard among them who lamented that ‘madam, your people are not cooperating and we have been told to kill you’. But he said he didn’t have the mind to kill me. He then told me that, some times, even after people had paid ransom, they still killed their victims. But I said ‘God will not allow you to kill me’.
I also told them that I had offered them what I could offer which they rejected and that if I had N100 million, I would not be farming and even if I would be farming I would be a distant farmer. It was just the favour of God that I got, that made me survive the ordeal. It was just God.
We were in the same forest for those days and we were moving from one place to the other – in the same forest. Even some Fulani herdsmen were moving about in the forest but they didn’t want people to know something like abduction or kidnap had happened. So each time the herdsmen were around, they would quickly move to another location.
On the day I was released, I discovered that things were not getting any easier for them, so one of them came to me and said ‘madam, you are going home today’. I thought I would be left alone to move out in the bush but they said no, that they were calling the same okada man to come and pick us at a particular time. I didn’t believe it would happen but at about 4pm, the man surfaced with food in a polythene bag and said I should eat but I refused and said no, that if I would eat, I would do that when I get home. Then suddenly, the rain started again. Even the day I was captured, there was a downpour.
Would you forgive them?
I have forgiven them, not my captors but the boys that were with me in the bush there. One of them said they had been told to kill me but that they could not. One even said they were not making any money from the deal. I said I knew, although I wasn’t too sure. Because what I had offered them would have at least helped them to clean up. I have forgiven those four boys and if I have an opportunity of a reform, I would do it for them.