MY 18 HOURS ENCOUNTER WITH FULANI KIDNAPPERS On MY WAY TO WARRI Friday 19th February. It was just a very normal early morning, but with a little bit of excitement in the air. I and my family just moved in to our new apartment after making all necessary financial and legal agreements, clean ups and unpacking.As a matter of fact, Thursday night was the first night we slept together in the new apartment. So I was supposed to stay much much longer in bed so as to catch up with my strength. But I had to make this one necessary trip to Warri.A lot of people who know me didn't know I have relocated to lagos. Having secured a new apartment, I needed to go back to Warri to pick up some of my household stuff, return, settle and get back to work. THE JOURNEY In Nigeria, When you are about to hit the highway on a trip,especially with your own car, alone, you want to first settle in your subconscious that you will be meeting over 20 police, FRSC, Army and Customs check points. So your particulars must be in tact, or else... As early as 5:30am I was already on lekki Epe express way. The moment I made it passed Ijebu Ode, like role calls, I had already gone passed 3 check points, and faced with the ones ahead. As I made it through the last one, where I was delayed for over 20 minutes, I just called my wife and informed her that I'm entering the Benin Bypass.FULANI KIDNAPPERS About 1:15pm. For those who know the Benin bypass area well, I have barely made the round turn coming from Benin Ore express way to settle on my speed ahead, when I heard what seemed like a car tyre burst. It sounded quiet but repeatedly so I looked at my rearmirror and in front to be sure. I also observed the other cars in front of me hitting the breaks in very swift succession. So I knew we all heard the sound. I had to also apply my break thinking something is happening up ahead. But no, it's already happening in my very before.As I looked to my left I just saw 4 gunmen coming out of the bushes, heavily armed with sharp machetes and AK47s. Several rounds where shot in the air. There were two of them already in our front and back with 4 cars: mine, a Mercedes in my front and two trucks, trapped in the middle. As the gunmen came close, the Mercedes car just picked up acceleration and made a swerve into the Bush on the right. Immediately I heard a voice that ordered one to follow the car, as if they knew he had no where to run to. As one of them was coming close to meI could see the one that seemed to be the leader speaking with the drivers of the two trucks in Hausa language. He then told his men to let them go. By now I was out of my car with both my hands raised up and one entered into my car and was just searching everywhere.OK, everything was just happening very fast that I wasn't able to first comprehend the entire situation. I just knew at that moment that I was out of my car, lying face down on the road with a machine gun pointed at me, and someone else is in my car searching it. In my mind I just assumed that these guys will just search my car, maybe take whatever they want and let me go. What was I thinking? What can I even think at that moment. As my mind was going through this confusion, I just heard the leader say..."take this one inside, he has family; they'll pay for him". What?! Did I just hear "take him inside...., pay for him"? Immediately I heard the tall one close to me saying I should get up or he'll shoot me. So quickly replied in Hausa language that he shouldn't shoot me that I'llcooperate. He then asked me to put my hands slowly inside my pocket and empty it. As I was about to do that, he warned me that if I make a foul move, "one bullet to your head". He took the money with me and threw away my wallet without considering anything else inside.He then faced the gun at me and in a very malicious tone, said: "oya, dey go inside now or I fire you!" Turning towards the forest where he directed me to enter, I just said to myself, "that's Fulani accent". It was at this point it became dawn on me that I have been Kidnapped. INTO THE FOREST WITH FULANI KIDNAPPERS For us here in the southern part of Nigeria it's almost impossible to tell the difference between a Fulani and a Hausa person. But having done my NYSC, stayed and worked in kano and Jigawa state, I could tell the difference in their staturespeech and mannerisms. The Fulanis have been known to appear naturally hostile to their neighbours. And here I am, in between two of them leading me through the thick forest in barefoot (I can't really remember how I became barefooted sef).That was how we were just going inside inside the forest. As we're going I could still here faint sporadic gunshots as the others were still operating. For over 30 minutes we've been walking in through the forest, stopping in between for them to either carry out their bags whichthey kept in well secured holes along the path, or argue about the right way to go - I was just using my little knowledge in Hausa to know their conversation. After much walking, we finally stopped at a small opening. This should be about an hour now. I was asked to squat withmy head to the ground. One of them was holding my phone and asked for the password which I gave him without hesitation. The other came close to me and asked me if I knew who were, I said no. He then asked if I've heard of Kidnappers I said yes. So he said I've been KidnappedAnd only money can get me out, and if no money, "one bullet to your head, animal go chop you here nobody go see you" He then asked me if I have money, I said yes. He asked how much, I said he will see it in my account balance in my phone. He said he's not interested in my accountBalance but what I have to say. So he asked again how much do I have. I said #70, 000. He came close to me and the next thing I heard was a heavy punch on my face. Really whether it was a punch, or a slap I couldn't tell because the impact was like dry hard wood on my face.He started shouting at me. "Do you think we're ordinary Kidnappers? " "Fifty million naira, ten kobo no comot, or else, one bullet to your head". He then asked me again, how much do I have. I didn't know what to say at this point, #70, 000 will attract another heavy punch on myface, keeping quiet will anger him. So I told him I really don't want to offend him by saying what he doesn't want to hear, and I also don't want to lie. So the guy going through my phone started asking me about certain pictures in the phone. He showed me the pictures I snappedby a big car and said I own the car. Another one I was standing by a building and he also said I own the building and I'm lying not to have money. He just said OK let's wait for the leader to come. THE NEGOTIATION I laid down in that position for another hour or more.Both of them were taking turns in going and coming. I couldnt see much because my head was down. But I was making a lot of meanings with the sound around. I could tell their position and distance, I knew one probably was pointing a gun at me, I could tell when they switched turnsetc. Later I began to hear more footsteps, coming closer and closer. About 3 of them stepped on me as they walked past, another just hit my face, shouting at me to keep my head down. From the voices they were seven guys, just wearing simple clothes and very hard boots.All on face caps and covid 19 face mask. From their accent, 5 were Fulanis, 1, being the leader is Hausa, and 1 to my greatest unbelief is Urhobo.After a little chit chat amongst themselves about the day's going, the leader sat close to me and asked me my name, my job, and howmuch I bought my car. As I was responding I deliberately replied in Hausa. So he asked if I'm Hausa, I said I only learned a few while serving. He quickly returned to the subject on how I could raise 50 million naira for my release. He then instructed the Urhobo guy to comeand negotiate with me. The guy came close and really talked calmly. He first told me that those guys in the Mercedes car that tried to escape, have been killed, and if I don't meet their demands, I'll be next. So calmly he said he can help me negotiate for 30 instead of the50 million they asked for. Is there someone I can call, he asked and said I can call my wife. So they gave me my phone to call my wife, but there was no network. I tried it a few more times at their command but still nothing. The leader then instructed 3 guy to take me to wherenetwork could be found. We got to 3 different locations in the thick forest but still no network. So we got back and told the leader. He just said "hmm this one, we will just kill him." and relaxed himself to rest. I heard 2 guys lighting cigarettes and walking away. The leader dialed a number on his phone and started talking to the lady at the other end of the phone. He called her my baby in Hausa, spoke really innocently and said many loving words to her, apologized that he could not come to see her the day before, because he didn't closeearly from work and then promised another date. Later there was calm. I heard snoring from at least two guys. 2 others were whispering. Right there a lot was running through my mind. Is it the end for me? I've heard a lot about those who couldn't meet up with their demands andHow they ended up. Some people even met their demands and still were killed. Will I get out alive, how will this be, what will my wife be thinking now, she knows I should have arrived by now. At a point I asked why I took the bypass. I remembered my Google map showed only 12 minsdelay if I avoid the bypass. So because I wanted to avoid a delay I will now pay with my life. My heart was beating faster than normal. I was really afraid, not knowing what would happen to me next. Lying down there still, I remembered a Facebook video of Archbishop BensonIdahosa, when he said all through his years in ministry, he's never seen God denied help from those who said "God help me!" Then quietly I just said "God help me!" I said it a few times and stopped.