Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Nasarawa State, who recently regained his freedom days after he was kidnapped by gunmen in his home, Bishop Joseph Masin, 78, shares his experience with UMAR MUHAMMED
When armed men came to your house around 12 midnight to kidnap you, what came to your mind when you saw them?
When I saw them, what came to my mind was that they should not touch my family since it was me they came for. I spent two days with my kidnappers – that is, Thursday and Friday. I was released on Saturday.
How scared were you for your life and the lives of your family?
The truth is that I wasn’t scared for my life because nothing happens without God’s permission. God was the one who permitted them to come to my house and it was also God that allowed them to take me. If God had not allowed it, they wouldn’t have come to my house.
Where were you taken to?
I was taken to one mountain that I didn’t know. I had never seen such a mountain before in my life. It was a very thick forest and everywhere was dark.
How many were your assailants?
More than 10 men came to my house in Bukan-sidi here in Lafia, but there were only three persons in the forest with me where they took me and all of them were Fulani, but not Nigerian Fulani. They looked like normal human beings and they were young.
How were you treated during your time in the forest?
I was confident. In fact, they told me that if they didn’t get what they needed, they would kill me. Right from here, they said I should give them whatever I had and I told them I didn’t have money. So when they communicated with my son, they told him that if they didn’t get the ransom, they would kill me. But I told them I was not afraid of death.
What did they give you to eat?
They gave me nothing but when I saw them taking garri and they asked me to take garri with them, I refused. One of them brought mangoes and I ate the mangoes.
Were you allowed to read the Bible and pray?
I didn’t go there with a Bible; they kidnapped me while it was raining heavily. If I had taken a Bible along, it would have been destroyed. I was only meditating on the words of God because the Bible was already in my heart. I meditated and didn’t pray aloud or shout. One of them asked if I was praying and I said yes. I told them that they said they were Muslims and for the two days we had been together, I didn’t see any of them praying like Muslims. They said they knew what they were doing was bad.
Did they have discussions with you?
What they said was that if I didn’t provide the money, they would kill me.
Were there other victims with you?
No, where I was taken, I was the only person there, aside from the three Fulani guys with me. They were young guys and had AK47 rifles and machetes with them.
What did they say was their reason for kidnapping you?
They said some people sent them to kidnap and kill me. I asked them if they knew the reason why I was not afraid of death. They said no, so I told them it was because I didn’t offend them or the person that sent them to my house. And that if they killed me, I would go straight to God. Then I asked where they would go if they died. They said truly what they were doing was wrong and that they would not see God but go to hell fire if they died. So I told them to repent because it would be better for them than to do evil.
How old are you now?
I am 78 years old.
Did they threaten to kill you?
No, they did not assault or insult me. What they only did was to demand money from me. They only insisted that they would kill me but they didn’t threaten me.
Why were you released?
Well, I don’t know why they released me but one of them said, ‘Baba, we see that your blood is too strong and that if we kill you, all of us will die so we will not kill you, we will allow you to go.’ I don’t know why they said that.
Did they allow you to talk to your family while with them?
Yes, they allowed me to talk with my family while I was there so that they would be encouraged to look for the ransom. Initially, they asked for N50m and I told them I didn’t have the money. Then they reduced it to N15m and later to N10m. When I asked them why they took me there, they said someone asked them to kill me, but they did not mention the name of the person. They said the person was a Christian like me and even till now, I do not suspect anybody around me.
At what point did you know you would be released?
Well, God spoke to me; he said, ‘My son, I am going to release you.’ I heard the voice in my heart and even rebuked my heart and said, ‘My heart, I am now at the point of death; why are you telling me that I would be released?’ But God told me that He created me and that He would release me.
How did you feel when you were released?
I felt joy in my heart knowing I would be reunited with my family. So I thank God for touching their hearts and ensuring that I was released and reunited with my family.
How long did the journey to the kidnappers’ den take you from your house?
We left here (my house) around 1am and we arrived there around 5am or 6am. I didn’t know the time but I remember we arrived there at almost daybreak.
How did you get home from there?
They took me to a place at Mada station and asked me to wait there for them. I lay down there and waited for them but didn’t see them again. So I began to find my way out of there; I followed the directions where sounds came from and got to a village called Ngoshi.
How did you feel when you saw your family?
I felt joy; especially I had left my family and had no hope of coming back. I felt very happy to return home and see my family again. I also prayed that God should touch the hearts and lives of such people (kidnappers) while talking to them in the bush so that they would stop their acts of wickedness and repent. I don’t wish them death; I wish they would live to repent of their sins and meet the Creator and live.
Are you scared that it might happen again or to someone you know?
Well, I can’t have such an imagination in my spirit and the reason is that when you think too much, it gives you high blood pressure. So, one thing I do is to pray that God should not allow this kind of thing to happen to me again or to any of the persons I love. It is dangerous. If it were someone God did not stay with to strengthen them, that person would die. It was strange how at 78, God gave me the strength to climb that big mountain and allowed me to be alive today. I’m joyful.
What were the contributions of the Christian community and the police in securing your freedom?
I wouldn’t know; my son is in a better position to explain that. What I know is that people prayed for me, including Muslims. Even after I was released, many Muslims still came and prayed for me.
What else did you notice about the kidnappers?
I noticed they wanted to be rich. They wanted to have money and spend as they liked. In the bush, I heard them speaking with women and telling them how they planned to enjoy with them. I have asked God to forgive them because they are young – between 18 and 20 years old. So, they don’t really know about life. It is a pity that such young men, who are supposed to engage in positive things that will help them and their future, are doing evil. I’m not talking about the guys who kidnapped me alone but all the kidnappers in this country. God should change their hearts and make them leave their evil ways and do His will.
What advice do you have for the state government on how they can ensure security of lives and property?
I want them to put in more effort and be proactive so that such things will not be happening in the state. I’m happy the news went far and wide and was announced everywhere but that is not enough. I want them to get the necessary equipment that will help them fight such criminal activities.