Lagos — After spending 21 days in kidnappers' den, human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, yesterday, wept like a baby as he arrived his Lagos residence upon his release at 1am by his abductors.

News of his release was also greeted with wild jubilation in his Iviukwe community in Agenebode, Estako East Local Government Area of Edo State as members of the community started dancing and singing.

Back in his Lagos residence, the atmosphere was that of celebration as cows and goats were slaughtered to welcome him back home.

Ozekhome who alighted from a black Ford Escalade ran into the arms of his wife, grabbed her and gave her a long kiss after which he started shouting thank you Jesus repeatedly.

My experience

Recounting his ordeals in the hands of his abductors, Chief Ozekhome said the kidnappers asked them to lie down inside the car as policemen were passing and there was an exchange of gun fire before his abductors took them away.

He said that when the kidnappers requested for communication with members of his family over the ransom, two of his children who came to negotiate the ransom were also abducted in the process.

They were all released together early yesterday morning. He noted that the kidnappers operate randomly and have cell units across Nigeria

His words: "They asked me who I was, and I replied saying that I am a lawyer. They asked me again for how long I have been practicing, I told them 32 years. The experience was horrific because we were psychologically tortured. It was the nearest thing to death on earth. We were about thirteen in all that were kidnapped. There was even a woman with two of her sons and a daughter as well as her driver. The danger knows no status, religion, occupation etc. The Federal Government should do certain things as a matter of urgency.

"The kidnappers vowed to make the country ungovernable in 2015 because they said they will show their true colours and that they are ready for the politicians. They told me that because of what they read about me, I should go and not stop in the fight for the masses. On two occasions I took ill while in captivity and on those occasions doctors who wore hoods were brought in to treat me and I was given injections at some point"

He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to grant amnesty to all kidnappers in the country, saying that "they (kidnappers ) said if they are assured of their freedom they will drop their guns."

Chief Ozekhome also called on the government to immediately declare a state of emergency on youth unemployment, insecurity and amend the constitution to accommodate state policing in the country

He said: "We must begin to have a police system like we have in the United States. Sections 214 and 215 of the nation's constitution are now moribund and antagonistic. We need each state to control its police force. The Federal Government should call for a national conference for Nigerians to sit down on a round table and engineer a new constitution. Nigeria is not united. Nobody says I am a Nigerian but I am Edo, Yoruba or Ibo person because Nigeria is not a unified country."

Stressing the need for the definition of the name Nigeria, he said, "Our name was not given by our selves, the lady that formed the name in 1948, got married to a non-Nigerian.

"What describes Nigeria is a geographical expression, we never agreed to come together as one country. There is a devolution of power in a true Federalism, but in Nigeria power flows from the top to below. How many times have we seen President Obama inviting the governors of the states to a meeting. We must tame corruption before it kills us as a people. Corruption is the richest state in Nigeria. We must confront it frontally".

He also urged the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Police to institute a foundation that will cater for the education of the children of the policemen who lost their lives in an effort to rescue him and his driver.

Lauds Jonathan, others

He further commended President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President Dr. David Mark and the entire legislature, the government and people of Edo State, President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and the Oba of Benin for their concern.

Meanwhile, Chief Ozekhome's wife, Mrs. Josephine Ozekhome expressed joy at the safe return of her husband saying that sleep and peace eluded the entire family in the last three weeks.

She explained that for two days, she was numb because she did not know what to think considering that four policemen were killed in an effort to rescue her husband.

"Seeing him alive, well and very strong, I give God all the glory and I am filled with joy", she added.

Family members of the human rights lawyer described the release as one that cannot be expressed in words as they put a white chalk on his head as a mark of gratitude to God for his safe return.

Explaining what the release means to the family, elder brother to the human rights lawyer, Dr. Francis Ozekhome, said: "Since the kidnap, I have not been myself. I went through hell during that time. I left my house in Ijeshatedo to stay with the wife and children. We received no communication from the kidnappers. I do not know if money was paid for his release because no money passed through me. Mike is a man of the people. We can see that there is no security in the country. So I appeal to the Federal Government that this is the time for them to do something about the nation's security."

Another elder brother to the senior advocate, Mr. Okpome Ozekhome, pointed out that words were inadequate to express his gratitude.

His words: "I cannot categorically say anything because the kidnappers were not communicating to me. For his release today, we thank those who played one role or the other to ensure his release. We felt very bad for the kidnap because Mike was a human rights activist. He was detained sixteen times by the Abacha regime when he was fighting for the subsidy issue. Mike fought for the ordinary man on the street. The government is trying, but we urge them to increase the security system in Nigeria. For the kidnappers, I pray that they should have God in their heart."

The Onigando of Igando, Oba Gbadebo Gbadamosi, who paid a visit to Ozekhome told newsmen that he has been praying for the safe return of Mike.

The monarch said: "I visited the wife and asked her certain questions. Based on the answers given to me by Mike's wife, I went back to my shrine for consultation. I became appeased with myself that Mike will return safely after going to my shrine."

Jubilation galore

It was dancing, jubilation and backslapping at Iviukwe community in Agenebode, Estako East local government of Edo State as members of the community rejoiced over the release of their illustrious son, Chief Mike Ozekhome

Indigenes of the community especially the women and children rubbed on their faces white chalk (Orue) which symbolizes purity and happiness and marched through the streets of Iviukwe to the Ozekhome family House, praying the Almighty God to touch the hearts of the abductors.

At the family house, elders of the community, youths and the women joined his elder brother, Chief Pius Ozekhome to praise God just as Disc Jockey (DJ) rendered Estako music to the admiration of the crowd.

Speaking with Vanguard on his impression about the release of his younger brother, Chief Ozekhome said: "It is happiness and jubilation in this community when the news of Chief Mike Ozekhome was broken to them."

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Replies to This Discussion

Barrister Mike Ozekhome rightly stated in recanting his ordeal on tv that Edo State is not safe. Yes! Edo State is not safe. While Barrister Ozekhome and his family bask in the euphoria of joy, there are families that reel in pain for the loss of lives of the policemen that tried to prevent the act of kidnapping from taking place. Based on the loss of lives, is there any reason for joy?
 
My people, we have religious leaders, social organization leaders, traditional leaders, and political leaders, what are our leaders doing in addressing these nefarious activities and social malaise? Our leaders are mute on the ravages of occultism, mute on issues of human trafficking and prostitution, mute on reckless maladministration and reckless treasury looting and embezzlement, mute on armed robbery and kidnapping. What our leaders have succeeded in doing is passing the blames and shifting responsibilities. Edo State is now in a state of anarchy and no one is immune from the claws of these hoodlums.
 
In 2002, I made the argument that, the inactions of Lucky Igbinedion will result in crime production and his wall of prison around his castle at Etete would not follow his family members around to protect them. The do nothing attitude of our leaders would only exacerbate crime and crime production and criminal behavior has now become a major source of economic sustenance and upward social mobility. This was further re-echoed by Barrister Ozekhome when he advocated by calling on Federal government to grant amnesty to kidnappers. As a constitutional lawyer, amnesty on the basis of what? What cause are these kidnappers fighting for? What is the name of the organization they represent and kidnapping innocent people for a ransom now a legitimate means of advocacy? Remember, there are many policemen that are dead and they have families grieving their loss too.
 
The governor says policing is a federal responsibility and yet, Edo State have 3 federal senators and quite a number of federal national house of Assembly members. What is their role and functions in all of these supposedly elected representatives? My people, it is time to remove the veil and stop seeing these political representatives as glorified senior civil servants but elected political officials that were picked through the electoral process to do a job. If they cannot perform, let it be known, they are underserving of the salaries they collect. Who will hire a non performing manager and continue to pay them salaries for underperforming? Just imagine even on the sexual harassment and financial impropriety by quite a number of lecturers from Uniben, none spoke on the issue or directed any of their aide to put out a press statement. They dance around and kiss the ass of Oshiomhole like the governor is the only one elected to provide governance.
 
One thing that have repeatedly be echo is unemployment. Mike Ozekhome also echoed this sound bite as the reason the kidnappers gave for going  into the business of crime. While the governor gave all and sundry prado suvs and cash to win re-election and them turn around and slap already depress poor Edo citizens with taxes, keep in mind, graduates are coming out of colleges and high schools every year and no jobs. Keep in mind, the fruits processing factories and other factories overgrown with weed without completion and all countless trips abroad have not attracted one multi national corporation to Edo State. A promise of 10,000 job in the first term and another promise or 110,000 in the 2nd term by Oshiomhole a hoax in a dream.
 
My people, let our leaders and the blind followers know maladministration, criminal treasury robbery and clan political distribution of looted resources is serious bad politics, bad leadership, retrogressive and dangerous and it create crime and unsafe environment.
 
Sincerely,
Omo.

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