Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan
By Gboyega Akinsanmi and Chiemelie Ezeobi
Four days after he was abducted by four gunmen, Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, on Saturday night returned unhurt to the arms of his wife, family and well wishers.
The victim, who was kidnapped on Tuesday night a few metres from his residence in Ejigbo, finally regained his freedom at 11.45pm on Saturday.
Although the victim's family allegedly paid N15 million for his release, it was gathered that an agreement as regards the ransom was reached on Friday, with the kidnappers agreeing to release the victim once the payment was made.
Like the phoenix which rises from the ashes, the victim returned alone unexpectedly when hopes were still strong for others, especially his wife, who said she did not stop believing in his safe return. Her optimism paid off. But a few others also had fading hopes.
The victim was given a car by the kidnappers and he was said to have driven it to the designated spot as directed, parked it and then walked all the way home singing like a man who had looked death in the face and survived.
When THISDAY paid a visit to the victim's house yesterday, he was surprisingly holding court with friends and well-wishers who had come in droves to rejoice with him.
For one who spent four grueling days in the kidnappers' den, blindfolded and harassed, Bamigbetan looked the picture of health except for the already healing bruises on his face especially on his nose.
While regaling THISDAY with his ordeal in the kidnappers' hideout, Bamigbetan said his return was miraculous because God had made the captors change their mind despite the fact that they initially planned to kill him.
He said although he had a strong premonition the morning of the incident, he couldn't pin-point the type of trial that would come his way.
He said: "I had a very strong premonition when I woke up that morning but I didn't know what the day held. I didn't call for security backup because I never anticipated being kidnapped but even if I had security detail, what would they have done against four men armed with AK47 guns?”
Contrary to earlier reports, however, it was gathered that the victim drove himself and not his driver as claimed. According to him, he had got to his street already when the suspects intercepted his car and he put the car in reverse in an attempt to flee. He said he might have successfully fled save for the fact that his car ran into a pole, thereby hindering his escape.
He said: "I was on my way home and I had gotten to my street already when they overtook my car. I decided to reverse and they came out and asked me to stop but I didn't and they shot at the vehicle.
"I reversed until I hit a pole and I was stuck there. I came out and they asked why I was running and I said I was afraid. They asked me to go to their vehicle and they drove for four hours and we got to a place and they blindfolded me.
"They took me in and asked me to lie on the floor and then they started going through my records because I had my bag with documents with me and they discovered that I was the chairman of a local government and it was at that point that they started agitating."
His disclosure therefore puts to rest claims that his abduction might have been politically masterminded owing to his stance on political issues especially against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government at the federal level.
"They said they were graduates and this country has not provided jobs for them and the same country that has rendered them unemployable spend billions of naira everyday on wasteful projects. They graduated about six years ago with no employment and they have to do this, take the risk. They have to take part of the national cake.
"They gave examples of the N4 billion and N2 billion budgeted to build the first ladies office and Abuja gates respectively.
"Generally, their agitations were social criticisms. According to them, their conditions made them decide to fend for themselves," he added.
On whether he was assaulted, Bamigbetan said there was an altercation when he tried to explain to them that not all politicians are bad. "Of course, there was confrontation as I tried to tell them that I wasn't that kind of person and I didn't live that kind of life.
"I tried as much as possible to show them that I did massive social constructive programmes for my constituency; free meals for children, progressive academic pursuits and development programmes in general but they did not believe me," he said.
On the ransom, he said he was astounded when they made the initial demand for $1 million.
He said: "I told them I didn't have that kind of money on me and that we were just an LCDA dependent on funds from the Oshodi/Isolo Local Government Area.
"They later reduced the amount to N50 million but I still insisted that I didn't have that kind of money. It was then they claimed that someone had paid N35 million on my head but I told them that I was not contesting for any election and so didn't see why someone would want me dead.
"When the ransom was reduced to N15 million, I told them that I had a friend that might be able to raise that for me. I gave them the friend's number and when the amount was agreed, they went on to demand for an additional N10 million."
He continued: "I insisted that my friend cannot afford it as I was sure he must have obtained an overdraft to get the first N15 million. It was then they cut me off and started dealing directly with my friend but I don't think they got the extra money.
"Later, to confirm my antecedents, they sent some of their members to my LCDA to liaise with my workers to see if I was telling the truth about my character. They got there and met my workers praying for my safe return."
Unknown to the workers, the suspects mingled with them and conducted their own investigations. They asked the unsuspecting workers questions about the victim and they all unanimously maintained that he was a good man.
Bamigbetan said the testimony of his staff probably saved his life as the suspects immediately upgraded his living conditions. He said: "From that day of their investigation, the treatment changed. They tried to make me comfortable. It was then they said they would not kill me because I was a good man.
“At the beginning of my stay with the kidnappers, it was very tough. After I was tortured, they resumed discussions with me. They said they wanted $1 million and I told them that there was no way I was going to get that. I told them I do not have more than N800,000 in my account. They took my laptop and checked through my account and they found out that my salary is actually N187, 000.
“They insisted and asked me what I could offer and I told them we will discuss it later as I don’t have money with me personally and that I can link them up with my friends who would help them.
He explained that when he first got to the kidnappers’ hideout, he was only given water and coke in 24-hour intervals, but later they took his clothes and washed them for him.
Bamigbetan said he met other people in the kidnappers’ den but that he could not interact with them because they were all blind-folded.
According to him, towards the end of his stay, his abductors became very friendly and he was dropped on the bridge close to his house as they sped off, adding that he was taken to around Badagry area by his captors.
"They gave me food. Upgraded me from the carpet where I was bound to a bed and they ran me a bath as well as allowed me take care of my dental hygiene," he revealed.
Bamigbetan thanked the media and all those who prayed for his safe return, stating, "Their constant attestation that I am a good man was the clincher."