By Lawrence Enyoghasu
Dr Ada Agbasimalo is distraught and inconsolable. It is understandable. Her son, Obiora Agbasimalo has remained unseen and unheard of eight months after he was kidnapped in Anambra State. The retired international civil servant sat on her chair in her house in Lagos with the picture of her kidnapped son, Obiora, in her hands.
On this day, his mother, Mrs Agbasimalo sat with some of her grandchildren who innocently kept running around the area, oblivious of the riot and the gloom in their grandmother’s mind. They obviously did not know that the old woman was literally passing through hell. Her face was a perfect picture of unadulterated agony.
Obiora Agbasimalo was the gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party in the last Anambra State election. He was kidnapped by some gunmen on Saturday, September 18 2021 after leaving a campaign event at Ezinifitte, Nnewi South Local Government Area of the state. He was on his way to Azia in Ihiala Local Government Area at the time. Since then, nothing has been heard of him.
The situation is obviously very painful for Mrs Ada Agbasimalo, who is also a celebrated writer. She could only imagine that what she narrated as her suffering in her book, ‘The Forest Dames,’ could be what her son is currently going through.
Mrs. Agbasimalo was a teenage girl during the Nigeria-Biafra war and was made to live in the forest for several months. How could her son now suffer the same tragic fate? More tears dropped from her eyes at this point. She said her son was suffering for daring to dream of a greater Anambra State, for wanting to make Anambra a better state.
Narrating how Obiora joined politics and how he was kidnapped, Dr. Agbasimalo said her son was invited to join the Anambra State gubernatorial race by his cousin who she described as a philanthropist. Obiora had the backing of the extended family and community members, she said.
They were happy that one of theirs is educated enough and dared to vie for the highest position in the state, the post of a governor. Unfortunately, she said, little did they know that there was a mole in the group.
Obiora had worked with Zenith Bank for 15years before his philanthropist kinsman and cousin deemed it fit and felt proud to get his well-educated younger cousin into the race. Obiora is a chartered accountant who is loved by his people. His older cousin who saw Obiora’s potential decided to sponsor him for the race. This sponsor is Chief Godwin Chieloka Agbasimalo alias Oga-Ndi-Oga, who controls a huge foundation, movement, and solidarity group with many followers and teeming youth trooping out to support Obiora.
Obiora, recalled Mrs Agbasimalo, went through the party’s primary and became the Labour Party candidate. His campaign and rally grounds were always jam-packed with Obiora’s fellow youth who wanted a change, a better state. They were chanting Obiora and Ogandioga’s names. (Obiora ka anyi ga-eso). The crowd Obiora was pulling was so frightening that it might have made some groups uncomfortable. Besides, not everybody likes the name Ogandioga which means boss of the bosses, she noted.
Obiora, his mother said, was quite promising and gave his supporters high hopes but in a twinkle of an eye, Obiora was kidnapped.
So how did the incident happen? She explained: “A fellow house member, an inner caucus member, a fellow party member, and a fellow clansman and kinsman, otherwise known as a brother in local parlance, drove Obiora to the kidnapper’s den. The talk in the community (not by me) is that this man (name withheld by Saturday Sun) probably thinks he deserved the position more than Obiora, so he was pushed or he pushed himself into spoiling the whole show and teaching Ogandioga (his benefactor) a lesson for getting a banker from Lagos to come and be above him as governorship candidate. The community members claim there are other accomplices and they should name them. On the day Obiora was kidnapped, this same man, who was one of Obiora’s political advisers, opted to do the work of a driver. The convoy got set to move and this particular man began to dilly dally and waste time. It became a wonder how he missed the route passed by the convoy and went elsewhere. And this man, who I learnt grew up in the community, now said he missed his way. The community members, the party members, and the members of the solidarity foundation said he veered off the normal road and kept firing the vehicle on an untarred bushy road even when one or two people around there were shouting at him, asking him not to take that way. Having missed his way and lost track of the convoy as he claims, would the best way to ply be a grass path with no tyre marks? Couldn’t he have reversed, made a U-turn, and headed back to the main tarred road? When these occurrences are pieced together, it is hard not to believe that he has a hand in my son’s disappearance. He must indeed have a lot to tell us about where he took Obiora to and where Obiora is right now. He cannot say he does not know.
My son had called to say they were on their way to Azia and were passing through Umudiala. I sought to find out at what point they were and he said they were at Lilu. I prayed to God to be with them and wished all in the vehicle a safe trip. It was later in the night that I heard that my son was kidnapped at that same Lilu. My son is quite cerebral and must have had a premonition that made him call me just on the spot. Their foundation members told me that it was this same man that drove my son to the camp of the boys. I fainted when I heard it.”
She said the man financing his son’s political aspiration, Ogandioga, had assured her that her son would return.
“He told me the boys said he should not worry that Obiora would be released. He also told me that he had sent them money for fuel, food, and drinks at their request. I have refused to be violent or fight with the party members. As a result, many people have tagged me as weak. They expected me to have gone to fight with some people. But when I ask them if fighting would ensure the immediate release of my son, they keep quiet then I would say to them, ‘Listen as soon as you assure me that if I walk naked on the street right now, my son will be released, I’ll jump up and gladly do it. All for my dear son.” I am a well-educated woman who does not believe in violence. So I had been loyal to the party’s and foundation”s plans all along. For instance, since they felt that it looked like an in-house crime, they were not going to tackle it with force. They were going to use the negotiation and in fact ‘begging’ style. And besides, no one knows how dangerous and deadly these people are. No one knew how combat-ready or bloodthirsty the boys were. The sponsor and his group decided to go it easy. I am not their party member. I am not their Foundation member. I am just the candidate’s mother and his children’s grandmother. I was always prying and seeking information. I was always on the phone calling everyone that can be called. They even saw me as troublesome but I just had to ask about my son.
She accused the Labour Party of not showing up for her son. Her words: “Oh yes! The Labour party did not do visibly well. I won’t make excuses for them but more was expected from them. They were just interested in organising rallies and events. Then after the kidnap, they told me there were some people who they claimed were asking them to go to some different locations to pick Obiora but that the people never showed up. They said when they tried to call the people back, they would not pick up the call. Then they would call again and give another venue. And that way, our hopes kept going up and down. There was another person who claimed he had links to people who knew where Obi was kept. He was collecting money and materials to send to the camp through a proxy. But it later turned out that he was rather exploiting the situation and extorting money from the sponsor.
“I sincerely think the man that drove him there should be re-arrested. He must have a bag of information on Obiora’s disappearance, which he is hiding from the police.”
She said her husband and herself had been hit badly by the current situation of things, which have left couple sick.
“My husband has been suffering from a kidney problem and we spent so much money on dialysis while I have developed cardiac issues from excessive hypertension. These diseases are cost-intensive. This does not even bother us. What is killing us softly is the non release of our son. Please help us!”