The lawyer and human right activist narrated his sad tale to his friends, fans, relatives, men, women and children who came to jubilate with him and his family at his Lagos residence.
How It All Happened
Wonder how his ordeal started? “Now our ordeal began on Friday August 23, 2013. I was not travelling in the night. I want Nigerians to know the danger that we are into. I was not travelling in the wee hours of the morning. I left Benin some minutes after 2pm in the afternoon, under a scotching sun. I was on my way to my town, Ujugwe in Edo State to see some friends. I was still on the phone when I ran into the kidnappers. I had wanted to leave there and attend a friend’s chieftaincy title in Delta State, after which I was to proceed to Calabar for the Nigeria Bar Association annual meeting.
“I had already paid the registration fee and in fact, my hotel had already been booked but all these were not to come to pass. Because of the callous security situation of Nigeria that has made Nigeria very unfit for the citizens and investors. We ran into a vehicle which already had been used to block the road and my driver said…that reminds me, God bless my driver.I didn’t mention his name, Chinedu; he went through the entire ordeal with me. Young man, I adopt you as my son. God bless you; he is in Benin now. My driver said to me “Oga ebi like say na armed robbers ooo.” Then I said turn the car. As he put it on reverse, a gun was on my head. Automatic weapon, and they said to me, don’t move, if you move an inch, we blast you. I told Chinedu, ‘don’t move.’ They dragged me out of the car, dragged Chinedu out of the car, shot the trye of the vehicle, put Chinedu in the booth of the car and put me inside the car.
Then they met another driver inside; they said that if we dare look up, they would kill us. We closed our eyes and we were pressed down inside the car. As we were pressed down, I heard them say ‘police, police, police.’ Then one of them said ‘no retreat, no surrender, let’s meet them.’ Because I couldn’t look up, apparently they moved out of the car and I could hear guns booming. It was a staccato of bullets raining. Here comes Armageddon. It was a war situation. And as they were firing the car was moving. They were telling them to advance a little bit. Then I heard them shout again, another vehicle, ‘shoot!’
“Then they started another round of shooting. And then I heard them say, ‘oh, we killed some of them, then tomorrow now they will come out and lie that some of us were killed or injured even though none of us was injured.’ I heard them say that.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the good news is that we were delivered safe and unhurt and unharmed. But the bad news is that I was not profiled, we were never profiled or targeted. Meaning that they merely operated randomly.
“It is bad news because it could have been any other person. Bad news because it was when we were in the car with eyes closed that they started asking preliminary question. ‘What is your name?’ I said Chief Mike Ozekhome, they checked my pocket, picked my complimentary card and other possessions and I heard him ask, ‘what is your full name?’ I said my full name is Chief Mike Ozekhome, constitutional lawyer, human rights activist. They said ‘yes, you are a man of truth. That is what is written on your card.’
“I did not even know they were holding my card. They said ‘so you are a lawyer? I said ‘yes sir.’ ‘How long have you served?’ I said ‘32 years.’ They said ‘well, even if you tell us lies, by tomorrow, we would know who you are. Do you know what? We always know who you are through the press, when we kidnap people. So, even if you lie, we are going to know who you are tomorrow. That was how we were driven for about four and half hours. Through rough roads, through highways. You could feel it on the body that you are on the highway. You could feel it on the body that you are on the rocky part; you could feel on the body that you are in the swamp. You could feel it in the body that you are inside the forest, that you are in the foot path that is not tarred for about four and half hours.
“At last they dumped us in a small uncompleted building, far away from civilization and it was 24 hours security guard. Fellow Nigerians, we are not talking about toy-carrying kidnappers. They told me that they had four units across Nigeria. They reminded me: didn’t you see a footballer’s father who was captured in Jos and taken to Kano? Did you hear about five men who were killed in Birnin Kebbi, Bauchi and Kano? Did you not hear of the deputy governor from Anambra State that was executed? That they are everywhere. “So, I asked them, ‘; how did you know me then? Why did you come for me? They said ‘we didn’t; we just operated and you happened to run into us. And that when they started reading of me, they said we believed that God allowed us to catch you for a purpose, to draw attention to the world. To draw national and international attention to this issue of kidnapping. They were even advising me that I should not blame God, that I should glorify God. That the things they have been reading of me, about me, showed that attention was being drawn to this issue of kidnapping.
“Then of course all of them were always being hooded, so that you cannot know or recognise anybody. Because even though they were hooded and masked, when they were talking to you, whether in the afternoon or night, you would still close your eyes. If you didn’t close your eyes, you would be in trouble. The death sentence was always hanging on us 24 hours a day. The experience was one of horrendous tragedy. It was horrific, to put it mildly. We were psychologically tortured. We were mentally, excruciatingly tortured. It was the nearest thing to death on earth. Fellow countrymen, if hell is worse than that, let us all pray that we would never go to hell.”
‘’The bad news is that in Nigeria, in any place, from any way whether highway, footpath, you could be a victim. In my unit where we were captured and detained, there were others.
“There was a woman with her two small sons, her little daughter and a driver. There were also two other women and their driver. We were 13 in all. So it showed that when they strike, they do not really care who you are. But the important thing is that they have struck and they know you must have people out there that they can deal with. That is the danger. That is why I’m going to make some suggestions here to the Federal of Government of Nigeria that we have in our hands a national calamity. We have in our hands a clear and national danger.
“We have in our hands a situation that calls for urgent national brain-thinking. A situation that calls for presidential intervention. Not today and not tomorrow, not next week, as soon as yesterday, as urgent as yesterday. Let no one deceive himself that we are dealing with a little phenomenon, let no one fool himself that we are dealing with toy gun carrying kidnappers. They told us that they can’t be caught by any security outfit because their phones cannot be tracked.
“We asked them ‘why can’t your phones be tracked?’ They said, because can you see that we don’t allow you to talk every day? They said ‘can you see, we allow you to talk once in three days? I said ‘yes sir.’
‘’Ladies and gentlemen we are dealing with well read people, graduates that speak impeccable English, that talk philosophy, that when they are hooded, they discuss national issues with you, discuss problems of the country.
“They complained that the entire wealth of the nation had been cornered by less than one per cent of Nigeria’s one hundred and seventy million people. And that the vast majority of Nigeria is suffering, eating from dustbins in abject penury. One of them said he has been a graduate for six years without a job. That if he had a job of even N50, 000 naira in a month, why will he carry gun to a highway. They tried to justify what they do so as to have some clean conscience. One of them said he has a brother who graduated 16 years ago and he has no job. That they had to fend for them. That when they make money, they are also like Robbin Hood, they spread the money to help other people. “And I told them, ‘But I’m also one of the maginalised from what you said you are reading in the paper. I don’t have money. I have fought for the masses of this country all my life. I have never done any other thing. They said ‘well, we have captured you. The sad thing is that you are in our net. Unfortunately, we didn’t know your name before now.
They also said they were ready for the politicians this time. As a matter of extreme urgency, I want the Federal Government to immediately grant amnesty to all kidnappers and institute an amnesty programme for them to come out of the jungle, remove their hoods and masks, deliver up their guns to the government and come to a roundtable conference, a roundtable meeting.
“One one of them analysed a situation and I was shocked at his analytical prowess. He must be either a graduate of Philosophy or political Science or History.”
See what he said about his wife and the 4 police officers that were killed below:
“Today is an occasion of sadness and joy for me. Sadness that when we came out today, I was just briefed that four gallant police officers who were coming for us on a rescue mission were wasted and that they lost their precious lives.
These are police officers that have wives, children, families. May their great souls rest in perfect peace.” Having thanked everyone who showed love and regards to him and his family during his three weeks of abduction, he didn’t forget to thank his family members, especially his wife. “You know, charity begins at home. He who has not been fallen at home cannot be fallen outside. Because of that, I want to thank the Ozekhome family.
“Let me thank this great matriarch of Mike Ozekhome’s family. She is my jewel of in-explainable value, my girlfriend, my lover, my soul-mate, my wife, my confidant, but more importantly she is my mother. Baby I want to thank you. If I were to die and there is something called reincarnation, I will marry you again and again. And if I were to die and another man touches you, I will rise from the grave,” he said, as he hugged his wife who was standing beside him and gave her a long, passionate kiss.
When he disentangled himself from his better half, he looked up. “But I still say the greatest thanks and glory go to almighty God, the creator of the whole universe, the creator of heaven and earth who brought me out of the Gulag,” he said, amidst tears as he stretched self out on the bare floor.
‘’I promised my God that I would not weep for the devil, that the only first tear I would shed is tears of joy and that is what I’m shedding. I shame the devil. Up, up Jesus; down, down Satan,” he sang, as the rest joined in the song.