The inside story of my kidnap— Clark’s son Ebikeme

Ebikeme

 

Recently, Chief Ebikeme Clark, the second son of Ijaw statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, was a victim of a kidnap saga that nearly tore the peaceful fabric of Delta State apart. It turned out to be one kidnap episode that laid bare the tragedy of kidnapping and the notorious organised network of commerce that it had turned into, in the oil rich creeks of Delta State. Faced with an adamant father who insisted he would not pay any ransom to those who held his son hostage in the depth of the creek, Chief Ebikeme Clark could only hope for the miraculous, as his life was threatened by gun-totting goons in the swampy creek. By a stroke of God’s mercy, he survived the deadly nights in the kidnappers’ custody to tell the story. But no doubt, Ebikeme agrees that his rescue deserves thanksgiving to the Creator. Here is his riveting narration of the ordeal he went through. He spoke to PAUL UKPABIO:

ON that faithful day of April 22, 2014, I went to our village where my father is building a university. I normally go there to supervise work and make sure that everybody is paid. I got there about 11am. I stayed there till around 4:30pm to 5pm. It started raining then. I was about leaving when all of a sudden, I saw a group of men with guns running towards the bus. I thought they were armed robbers. I gave them the bag of money which they collected. One of them forced me back into the vehicle. He used the gun he was carrying to hit my head. So I said: “Ah, what is happening?” And I was trying to force myself out of the bus, but they pushed me in. One took the steering and said they should drive me away. It started raining heavily. As we passed the bridge, my village people tried to rescue me. But how do they fight people with guns? They drove me into the bottom part of the bridge. There two people were waiting inside a boat. I was transferred there, as they left the place, they started singing Ijaw songs. Blood flowed from my face, but I kept calm. Then one of them asked me: “Are you Ebikeme Clark?’’ I said “Yes”. “You are going to contest for Chairman”?, he asked. I said “Yes”. He asked again, bewildered: “The son of Chief Edwin Clark?’’ I said “Yes”. One of them started laughing. Somebody called one of them, apparently from the village saying that they did not see the bag of money in the vehicle, but they could not turn back. Meanwhile, I had about N400,000 in the bag they took. I tried to identify the terrain. I noticed they were going towards a military post. So they hid their guns. They had two big guns; they kept them by the side so that the soldiers would not see them. And because of the heavy rainfall, the soldiers didn’t come out from where they were and they were saying: “We are loyal ooo! We are loyal ooo!” As they passed the post, they started singing Ijaw songs again, happy that they had passed that place. It was dark when I opened my eyes again. I saw they were passing the Bomadi Bridge, I knew we were leaving Delta State. They told me to relax. We got to a spot. They pushed me out of the boat. To my surprise, the place was organised. I saw pots and pans, mattresses, mosquito nets, they did the light. I was cold and shivering. They put fuel on my wound, it was very pepperish. I shouted and one of them said: “This will stop the blood, don’t worry.” Later, they brought hot water to attend to my wound. Later in the night, they brought mattresses and spread them down. They were six of them including me seven. We all slept. I was in their middle and we all slept together. I could not sleep because they were snoring. In the morning, I assessed the environment. It was a place someone could stay. They gave me a name ‘Handicap.’ At noon, they asked if I wanted to eat. I said: “No, I was not hungry.’’ They told me to eat, that if I didn’t eat, I would be on my own. I was given Tapioca and pepper soup. I ate. They were waiting for evening. At about 6pm, they came to where I was. They told me they wanted to go and call my father, that I should go with them. That if I didn’t behave well, I would stay longer. But if I behaved well, I would leave there earlier. So I said okay that I would try. So they took me in the boat and we went further into the river and got to a corner. I remembered my three phones when I saw them bringing them. One had my Sim card, one had my battery and another phone. They started checking my contacts. One of them ask me: “Did you store your father’s number?’’ I said I stored it as ‘dad’ and my wife’s number, I stored as ‘wife’. They asked whether they should call my wife first or my father? I told them to call my father first. They called my father and said they wanted him to pay N50 million. They put it on speaker so that I would hear what they were saying. I told them that my father cannot pay that huge amount since he is not working; that he could offer N5 million. They asked me whether that would be for fuel. After speaking with my father, they said they would call my wife, that my father had his own money that I had my own money. One of them said that someone had already paid for my head and if I want to be free, my wife and I must pay for my own head. I told them to call my wife. They called my wife and she asked them if I was around and they said yes. They allowed her to speak to me. When she heard my voice, she said: “Ah, my love, love of my life.” Immediately they turned off the phone and started laughing. They said: “Your wife loves you; she is calling you the love of her life.” They told my wife that if she loved me, she should make sure that she got that money to save my life. After that conversation, they went to the water side to buy more things. They wanted to buy recharge cards and everything they needed. They believed my father’s line was bugged. They said that my father was trying to track them, that if my father didn’t stop, they would kill me. I replied that I didn’t believe my father would track us. We went back. The next morning was Friday; nobody came to me, they were just discussing, while I kept praying. One of them later came to me and said: “Handicap, we are going to kill you this night. Your father is still stubborn. I begged them not to kill me because, I have young children and some of them don’t even know my face yet. I asked them to call my father again. They said no they will not speak to my father again. At night, they came, they said they wanted to go and kill me so they can go and kidnap another person that would give them money. I was worried. They took me into the boat and we drove out again. They took me to the corner of the river, tied my hands and my legs. They told me to say my last prayer. They said they would not shoot because it would attract people who might trace them. They called my wife and she spoke that she would try to get N4.5 million. They said they would collect it because of my wife. They gave me one more day of grace. They moved me to another location, using a canoe; they put mattresses on top of me and paddled away. When they got to a place where the water was rising, they used their hands to push the boat. It was around 4 a.m. The thing was very rough. They stopped and there was a thatch house there. They removed all the things they carried. They said: “Nobody will see you here, not even your father. If they come here, we will all die. I didn’t sleep, they slept easily. The next morning, they saw two locals coming, they thought they were farmers. The people passed us. They panicked and decided to move. They started packing their things but the canoe had gone. So we used our feet, moving deeper into the creek. We were in the swamp. We saw a snake. They said: “Don’t shout; don’t be afraid, the snake will pass.” The snake passed us, they did not want to shoot nor make any noise. We were there till Saturday morning. They told me they would get a speed boat and take me to Cameroun, that my father was stubborn and they did not think my wife can get money. So by 7pm, they saw the snake coming back again. They climbed a tree to make a call to make sure they got network to ensure the boat came. We entered the boat. As we were going they heard sounds but it was now dark. They saw people coming but before then, they had told me that other kidnappers could come and snatch me away from them. That I should be ready in case they come, that if I can survive the bombardment or if I couldn’t, that would be my luck. Another speed boat came, but it was their people. They transferred me from the canoe to another speed boat, collected more cans of fuel, which meant we were going far. I was very angry. We started moving towards a bigger river and they started singing again. As we moved further, the network became better, the phone started ringing. Later, they slowed down and moved to the corner of the river and the leader, the action guy, that was always speaking to my father, was saying ‘Sir’ to somebody. He called the other boys to order and said: “Sir, I will give the phone to him.” There were two graduates among them, and he said I should tell the person on the other end of the phone, that they did not beat me; that they did not touch me. So I spoke. The man was saying sorry to me; he asked if I was ok. I replied yes. Did they beat you? I said no sir, I am alright. He said do you know who is speaking? I said no, he laughed. It was the Deputy Chairman of the security of water ways that was speaking to me. I had been to his office in Warri. He told me the boys were crazy; that I would leave their place: that I should not worry. He asked me to give the phone back to them. One of them said: “After this ordeal, we want to release this man without money? After hoping I will be buying a car this week?” The leader told him there was nothing they can do. “We have to release this guy, but if you are not in support, take him and leave my boat.” The man said no o, that he was is just complaining after all this work. They call it work. Initially, they told me that no work, nothing, that the government is always talking about billions of naira, that they don’t see the billions around. That they believe that anything, they want, they will take by force, that this time around they will be after politicians, that they will take money from them and still kill them.” The next problem was how and where to release me. One said they should take me to Warri. Another cautioned him: “Do you love this man’s life more than your own life? If you go to Warri with him, you will not come back alive. Let’s leave him around here and go.” The leader then replied him: “If you leave him around here and he is re-kidnapped, we will be in trouble.” We moved on and saw a jetty. The man in it offered to take me but I had no money. They gave me money and returned my phones from their different pockets. They told me: “Don’t tell them that we injured you o; say you fell in the water. I said: “Ok, no problem.” They also told me that I should not tell anybody that I am Chief Clark’s son. That was the beginning of my return home.

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