He was on his way to Lokoja to minister at the 30th anniversary of a church that fateful Saturday June 25, 2022. But Prof Duro Adegboye, former Dean of Faculty of Science, Ahmadu Bello University never got to his destination.
Shortly after driving past a police checkpoint on the way to Lokoja from his Offa, Kwara base; about seven men mainly Boko Haram and Fulani redirected his vehicle to a bush path and asked him to come down.
They put a chain round his legs and marched him down a dingy pathway into the forest where he spent six days with them under despicable conditions.
He was their only victim as at that time. “The pastor who used to drive me could not come with me on that journey because he had to go to Church the following Sunday.
“So, I had to drive myself. I can imagine if we were more, the kidnappers would have asked for more money as ransom and more people would be put through a harrowing experience. That to me is a point of thanksgiving,” Adegboye recounted while sharing his story with Church Times recently.
The former university don turned missionary will be 80 this year. He said he had cause to thank God for the mental, physical and spiritual strength the Lord gave him while in the den of the kidnappers.
Unlike many who have swear words for their assailants, Prof did not betray any emotion while chatting with Church Times.
Rather, he said, he had to love his captors despite what he suffered in their hands.
That night as he was being led into the thick bush, he hit his feet against a rock and the bone of the top toe broke and shifted. So he could not walk. He had to sit. Two of his captors had to carry him on their shoulders still moving into the forest.
As he was being taken to the bush, he asked God if that was the end of his journey on earth. But the Lord assured him it was not the end yet. That he would survive the experience.
That assurance gave him the confidence to remain calm and see how the drama unfolds. He prayed for grace to love his captors. And God did it. He also prayed for strength.
“I asked God, I said, Lord, you were in the wilderness for 40 days, you were strengthened. You were able to survive. I then asked him to give me physical strength and good health.
“So, he gave me physical strength. And he did not allow me to fall sick while in the bush. The danger is that if you fall sick in their den, they won’t carry you to the clinic, they would end your sorrow by shooting you. That was it.”
To compound the situation, Adegboye who runs Gospel Unlimited Ministry said he could not eat the food they cook in the bush.
“I did not eat for those six days because they were cooking beans and rice. And they go after wild animals for their meat. One time they went to a nearby village to get a goat. But I refused to eat their food.” Adegboye said.
He could not take their drink either. They were taking energy drinks that had 30 percent alcohol. So he asked for water. The water they gave had different colours depending on where they took it from. But he advised them against taking water from a stagnant pool or the edge of the river to avoid bacteria.
Why I loved my captors
Explaining how he came about loving his captors, he said, “In our relationship with human beings there is faith, love, and hope. The greatest is love. But that is to human beings. With God, what you need is hope. Once you have hope, you will have faith. It is faith that now leads to love
“It was the assurance that God gave me that I was not going to die in the bush that gave me hope. I then asked for physical strength to make up for my refusal to eat. I also asked for mental strength because I needed to discuss with my captors. I reminded the Lord that he discussed intellectually with Satan when he was in the wilderness.”
One of his assailants confessed he was a thief before he joined the group, some of them were Boko Haram adherents while the others were herdsmen
“From my reading of them, they don’t look like people who were doing well. But they had Ak47 which cost about N2 million. There was no way they could have been able to afford the ammunition if they had no sponsor.” Adegboye said.
The first night he had to endure the horror of the smoke emitting from the tobacco his captors were smoking. “They smoked all through the night. I was sandwiched between them. Two of them smoked ‘weed’/hemp on my left and right side from 9pm till 8am. I became a passive smoker because of the smoke entering my system. When I was released I had to take ten tablets morning and night in the hospital to clear the residue of the smoke in my system.”
Day after his abduction
It was the day after his abduction that his captors knew he was an old man. “In the morning of the following day, they saw me clearly and discovered I was an old man. I told them to remove the chain around my legs. I told them many of my mates were dead, and that I was not afraid of dying.
“But I assured them that I won’t die in their custody. I told them to think about their future, that when they grow as old as I am, they won’t be in the bush like this. I advised them after collecting the ransom they were asking for, they should do something meaningful with their lives.”
Anguish among friends and relatives
While all that was going on in the bush, the family, and friends of Professor Adegboye were in despair. The pastor who had invited him to the church event was disturbed. He had called shortly before he began his journey to Lokoja and had prayed for journey mercy expecting to see him in a matter of hours.
But he had to wait endlessly while also calling; only for prof’s phone to ring out each time he called. By the time it was 12pm that Saturday he gave up calling. He sensed something untoward must have happened.
The police on the other hand had stumbled on his vehicle by the roadside on the Lokoja road. They searched and found a church bulletin and a Bible on the dashboard of the car. They then called the phone number on the bulletin to inform the church that the owner of the vehicle must have been kidnapped.
Friend with his captors
Back in the bush, Adegboye said he got friendly with his captors. The Anglican Bishop of Offa Diocese, The Rt. Rev Olusola Akanbi and Ven Tayo Faremi were able to speak with his assailants on phone. They subsequently helped in the negotiation and his eventual release
“At a point, they asked the Bishop to tell me to be their baba in the bush,” Adegboye recalled. But that could not have been granted.
Adegboye said he was made to trek for one hour in the thick forest every day for those six days he was there. They were moving from one mountain to another to avoid being tracked by police. They also used the opportunity of the mountain to make calls because that was the only place they could get network.
On whether he took his bath, brush his teeth in the bush? Prof countered, “Bath? That is a luxury. I was sleeping on the rock. They removed my cloth. It was only the top and the boxer that I had on me. I was in the cold. No shoes. But God was faithful. He gave me mental and physical strength. I was not distressed. I was not stressed. I was not strained.”
He said further that he had a divine comfort that made his captors think he was enjoying staying with them in the bush. “I said to them when I was a young boy I belonged to the boy scout, we used to go to the bush and cut trees to make tent. It was just that the circumstances that they took me was different. So, I was not depressed. I was not sorrowful.”
Adegboye said he did not also have low esteem of himself. “They kept saying I was a big man. And I would reply them that I am very very big by Nigerian standard. And that God had helped me to minister in all the states in the country. I asked for their states and town and I told them I have been there. While in the bush they were receiving calls on my phone from Europe, America Asia from some of my friends and concerned people.”
The emotional strength for Prof Adegboye was invaluable. Satan had taunted him. “He said, you that have hundreds of beds for people who come for retreat at the Gospel City is now sleeping on rocks. I said to him, I am used to all conditions.” The anguish notwithstanding, he did not feel any hatred for his captors.
Govt can stop kidnapping
He noted however that kidnapping business could easily be nipped if government deploys technology effectively.
“The thing is that our leaders are not doing what they should do. The National Identification Number is supposed to be used to trace people. But they will say they don’t have network. Yet, billions of naira have been invested into this scheme. If people know that they could be traced they will not be involved in all these crime.”
While with his captors he tried to point them to the life of Christ. Adegboye said, “What I am teaching people who may fall victim of kidnappers is that don’t tell your captors to just get born again. If they get born again, they will go to heaven. But then, they need a personal relationship with Christ. That is what they will survive on while here on earth.”
On his daily routine, he said, “I was not doing devotion the normal way. I was not brushing my teeth. I was not taking my bath. I was not reading. I was just on the rock. I see the sun rise and set. That was the routine everyday.”
The kidnappers had all they needed to be effective. They had a mobile solar panel. Their light was bright at night. They could also charge the phone of their victims with the solar panel to maintain steady communication with people outside.
Adegboye said what he enjoyed most while with his captors was the spiritual strength the Lord gave him. “I took control of the environment. No wild animal came our way. No snake. No scorpion.
One day it threatened to rain. They brought tarpaulin to cover us. I had to pray that the Lord would avert the rain. God did. Rain was falling in Okene which was not far from where we were. But it did not get near us. I enjoyed a personal relationship with Christ and also had physical strength despite the deprivation.”
Read also: 79-year old Prof Duro Adegboye still being held by kidnappers three days after abductionhttps://churchtimesnigeria.net/duro-adegboye-kidnappers/
Taking ransom to the bush was another drama. The Bishop who was to bring it, could not come with his vehicle into the bush because the road was bad. One of Prof’s mission partner who used to speak Hausa to the captors on phone was however on hand to help.
They hired a motor bike to take them to the bush where he was held. The bike man did not know they had N15 million cash in the sack they were carrying. It was at the point of delivering the money that he knew. The captors still had to count the money to be sure it was complete. As soon as they confirmed the money, they shot into the air to avert possible arrest.
But then, at that time, Adegboye had become so weak that he had to be assisted out of the place by the men who brought the ransom. And then, he was taken straight to the hospital where he was given comprehensive medical treatment.
Today, he is back on his feet doing what he knows best, training missionaries and raising disciples. Just in March, he hosted the Festival of Talents at the Gospel City Offa, Kwara State.
By the time he clocks 80 later in the year by which time he would also be celebrating 60 years in ministry, there will be no doubt more reasons to praise God.
He told Church Times, “During my travail,I felt loved by people. A lot of people showed concern and contributed to pay the ransom. I was particularly thrilled by the love people showed me. I remain eternally grateful for this.”