A member of staff of the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State and indigene of Damaturu, Muazu Bawa, who was abducted by members of the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), finally regained freedom and reunited with his family members last Monday.
He was abducted alongside other travellers on the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway six months ago, precisely on Saturday January 2, this year. In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust Saturday at his Pompomari residence in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, Bawa narrated how he earlier gave up on life when he was whisked into the bush by the terrorists.
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He said, “I left Damaturu for Maiduguri around 7am on that fateful day to attend the wedding of two close friends.”
“As I was driving fast to catch up, the J5 in my front started moving haphazardly; that was when I realised that something was wrong. Because I was moving on high speed, I couldn’t control the car, so I skidded off the road and rammed into a solid object. The car bounced up and down, to the extent that the airbag blew up and blocked my view.
“I was unconscious for a while, and all of a sudden, I saw heavily armed young people asking me to come out from the car. I tried, but later realised that I sustained back injuries, so they assisted me to alight from the car. From there, they picked me up to their hideout.
“They interrogated me and took my farmers’ association identity card. One of them searched my phone. From there, they took me to an unknown location and informed me that they would take me to their leader (amir) for an interview. They said if I were lucky not to be among the people they were targeting, they would set me free, and urged me to exercise patience in all the processes.
“They took me and other abductees to him at a place not very far from where I was picked. After he interviewed me, he told us to proceed to another location, a journey that lasted for over eight hours in the bush before we got to a cell where they locked us.
“We were locked in that cell for three days before they took us out for another one day journey to the place where we stayed all that long.”
Asked how he fared in captivity, Bawa revealed that there was a total disconnect with anything life. “We were neither here nor hereafter.
“We managed to live with two square meals in a day. Although we were not tortured, the dream of every prisoner is to see himself free. During fasting periods, the Muslim faithful among us would reserve our launch for Iftar; and they supplied us drugs when we fell sick.
“That place is another empire on its own. They allowed us to observe the five daily prayers. When the cell became too congested, they asked few us to start sleeping outside.
“They once directed us to appear in a video and plead with the government to rescue us, saying we would be released if we were lucky,” he said.
Asked if he knew how their release was negotiated, Bawa said he had no idea. “They just asked us to prepare ourselves on that day and took 10 of us to the roadside and handed us over to a woman,” he added.
On how he felt when he united with his family members, he said, “When I began to see some of my family members, it seemed I was daydreaming. I never thought I would see them on this earth again; but all thanks to the Almighty Allah who made it possible.
“It is just a matter of destiny because for a long time before the incident I had suspended travelling to Maiduguri due to the situation on the road. But on that fateful day, I felt I should not ignore the wedding of two of my close friends and business,” he further said.
His family and friends were so elated that they organised thanksgiving prayers to welcome him.
His aged father, Bawa Lawan, described him as the breadwinner of the family.
“I shed tears when the news of his abduction reached me. I sold all my belongings, including the foodstuff I reserved, to settle those praying for his release. In fact, I was madly looking for options that I patronised Islamic scholars, pastors and even soothsayers.
“May Allah forgive me if I was wrong, but I welcomed anyone who asked to pray for his return. If I knew the place he was kept, my feeling at that time was to meet his captors anywhere and die together with my son.
“I appreciate the concern all over the country, and I am happy today to see my golden son again,” he said.
His wife, Bintu Bawa, said she had a strong faith that her husband would one day come back home.
“It was hell living without him. He left me with a one-year-old child and his aged parents. I am highly excited today because Allah has answered our prayers,” she said.
Bawa was released alongside 9 other abductees, including some United Nations (UN) workers.