Salisu Mu’azu Jos is a Kannywood director, actor and producer, as well as the National Vice Chairman, Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN). Recently, he was kidnapped, alongside two others, near Jingir village of Bassa LGA, Plateau State, while on the way back to Jos from Kaduna. In an interview with Daily Trust Saturday, he shared his experience. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: Can you recall the events of the day you were kidnapped?
Salisu Mu’azu: I and my elder brother, Sani Mu’azu Jos, and two others – Danlami Yanke-Yanke and Andy Bature, attended a conference organized by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Small and Medium Enterprise in Kaduna. After the conference, we left Kaduna to Jos at 4:00pm. We stopped at Saminaka and broke our fast, then continued with our journey until we reached a forest near Jingir village. Suddenly, we heard gunshots, and some people with flashlights asked us to stop. We stopped, and they dragged us out and started to hit us. My brother, [actor/director] Sani [Mu’azu] fell down. I told them he was sick, and that we were even coming back from hospital, so they stopped beating him. They took him back to where we parked our car, and gave him his phone back. They asked him if he could drive, and he said yes, so they let him go.
Interestingly, later on, one of the kidnappers told me that they we were only their targets, and their informants were trailing us from Saminaka.
DT: How many kidnappers were there?
Mu’azu: It was unclear initially, but later when everything was calm, I later counted them to be eight, all roughly aged 20 or less, and all definitely of Fulani extraction.
DT: Back to the incident. What happened next?
Mu’azu: After they let my brother go, they dragged us into the pitch-black forest. They took us at about 8pm, and we trekked in darkness for almost six hours before they allowed us to take a little rest. A little later, they asked me who they should contact to demand for ransom. They also asked how much I could afford to pay, and I told them N1million, and they immediately began to hit me. That’s when it dawned on me how deep a mess I was in. After the beating stopped, they asked us to continue trekking. We soon got to a hill, climbed it, and got down. We got to the foot of another hill, which had a cave where they obviously use as their base of operations. They didn’t take us inside the cave, though. They tied us outside for the whole three days; rain fell on us, the sun shined on us, and not even once did any of them ask about our well-being. There was nothing like food. If they noticed we were exhausted, they would pluck mangoes for us. They gave us rain water to drink. Ironically, they would force us to thank them for the fruits and water, and also pray for them. But on their part, they ate good food. They had food flasks, and they send one of them to buy food.
DT: Did you see any other of their victims at their camp?
Mu’azu: We only saw one other person, tied up. They later shot him dead, after they asked him three times how much he could pay as ransom and he just kept mute. One of the kidnappers just shot him. Initially, I was very afraid of them, because they threatened to kill us, and they weren’t friendly by any stretch of the imagination. They didn’t engage us in any conversation, either, apart from how ransom can be paid. But later, when we were making progress on the payment, they even became courteous, and engaged us in small talk. They always called Yanke-Yanke, who is a comedian, to talk with them. He would make them laugh, and they soon became friendly. I, on the other hand, am like an introvert; I started talking to them after we agreed on a ransom. One of them told me to pray for them to stop kidnapping, not to meet their waterloo, just for them to quit. Another one of them told me he would stop kidnapping if he gets N100 million, or if he succeeds in kidnapping President Muhammadu Buhari, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Of course I laughed, and asked him if he’s sure he wants to ever stop. He laughed, too, and said yes, but after he achieves his target. Thinking back, many things crossed my mind: I kept thinking that I could die any minute, and I remembered pleasant moments, as well as difficult ones shared with my family. Then later I started looking at the scenario like a movie, and even told myself I have gotten a script to make a film out of. DT: There are conflicting stories about the amount paid before your release: One stated that you paid N10 million, and another said N3.5 million. Could you please clear the air on that? Mu’azu: At the beginning, they demanded for N10 million. But after they understood we don’t have that kind of money, we started negotiating. Finally, they agreed to collect the sum of N3.5 million. DT: How did you find your way to Jos after the ransom was paid? Mu’azu: After they shared the ransom, they showed us a bush path and told us it would take us to a village, from where we could hop on an Okada to take us to the main road. We got lost, but soon came upon some people loading firewood onto a truck. We explained our situation, and they offered us a ride, to a village called Mariri, in Lere LGA of Kaduna state. Later, we found our way to Jos. Our reunion with our families was a tearful one indeed.
DT: As a survivor, what is your call to government and security agencies on kidnapping?
Mu’azu: What I understand is we need to swing into action in order to tackle the menace. The government and security agencies must work harder to curtail it. I mean, the criminals are all roughly 20-years-old, or even younger, and they had shiny new AK-47s. Where did they get the guns from? It is necessary for government to end kidnapping. They are youths, getting millions of naira criminally. That kind of thing can and will spread, especially to millions of jobless youths if they realize that they can get big money. Government should also do more in the area of job-creation, education, and all those important factors of development