Billy Graham Abel, Yola
The recent gruesome murder of Rev. Lawan Andimi has left members of his Michika community and the headquarters of the church in Yola in shock, bewildered as they continue to condemn the attack on Christian leaders in the state.
Sunday Sun in a chat with three members of his family on their memories of departed Andimi, the void his death has caused and what kind of man he was before his death were revealing.
Speaking to Mary Andimi, wife of the slain Andimi Lawan, who lived with him in a 34-year-old marriage, on account of events leading to her husband’s abduction and subsequent death she said: “My husband has been having this dream where he saw stack of wheat and inquired to know whether all is well and my reply was always the same, I always tell him I know nothing about such a dream.
“So, we decided to pray and commit everything to God. This was four days before Boko Haram invaded Michika. My husband was a true man of God. He was also a very generous man. Although he wasn’t born into Christianity, he only got converted at the age of 12.
“This Christmas he gave out three bags of maize to Fulani men in the neighbourhood and another bag to some members of the church to share. If he has N1,000 on him and finds another person in need, he wouldn’t hesitate giving that person all the money. If there’s a need in church he tries to meet it with his salary. At times he will buy wrappers and give to the less privileged and widows. That was the kind of person he was; a very generous and humble man. “He was the only one in his family who made the decision to follow Christ, which he did at a very tender age. He was led to Christ by one Reverend Dauda Yaga, a missionary serving in Balala who met him as a little shepherd boy. However, he later went to Bible school after he heard the call of God. Dauda was instrumental to his conversion to the
Christian faith, this happened after Reverend Dauda met his family and pleaded with them to allow him have western education.
“I remember him telling me the pastor had told his parents some missionaries in Damboa at the time wanted the young lad to go to school. He also persuaded him to let him gain western education that was how he obtained Grade II teachers certificate and taught for nine years. We got married while he was still teaching, after he answered the call of God he proceeded to the Bible School in 1989.
“In 1993 he began serving as a priest in Hildi. He was later ordained a pastor in 1996. His work as priest took him to Gombi, Michika, Abuja and Maiduguri. He served as secretary District Church Council in Abuja. Although he had served in Michika, he never protested this last posting to Michika where he had previously served. He took it as the will of God. And it was here the devil carried out this act.”
On the situation leading to his kidnap she said: “I was here at home when he had just returned from a church engagement in a nearby village, from where he also proceeded to a send-forth not far away from here. He returned home late in the afternoon and I served him his meal after he had taken a hot bath. He was in such high spirit, he played and joked with me. Not long one of our sons and the son of the pastor in charge of the local church here entered.
“They told us they have been asked to return home by soldiers who dispersed them from the football field and told them the town is unsafe because of a Boko Haram offensive. My husband then met the pastor in charge of the local church and informed him of the development. They both agreed to move their families away, but at that time the insurgents had already arrived the front entrance of the house, which made it impossible for him to drive out with his car. At that time we were already out and awaiting him to come. At that point we heard gunfire and I called out to our gateman to tell him to come with the car.
“I made the call from a safe distance. But I was able to see the gateman and my husband running, but before then a van escorted by two bikes was already closing in on them. The gateman jumped over the fence and fled, but at this point it was impossible for him to have escaped being captured by the insurgents, I later reasoned when we could not find him.
“Later I got a call from a strange number and the voice on the line which was stern told me they were calling us from Sambisa and said my husband is with them there. The call came nine days afterwards. Because he went missing on the night of 2nd January, but the call came on January 11. When they gave him the phone for me to speak with him, he told me if we are able to meet the demands being made by the group he will return and re-unite with us. But if for whatever reasons their demands cannot be met, then it means his time here on earth is over and we would meet over there. He, however, told me to care and look after his children.
“I was really scared, I was with some visitors, the tone of the caller was really scary, I thought at first that it was one of those calls from regular anonymous sympathizer, I wanted to rebuke the person for being so stern. But I was restrained when the shrill male voice said we are the ones who caught your husband. We want you to go and meet the church leadership and tell them to come make a ransom payment to secure his release.
“I thanked them profusely for sparing his life and informed them I was at home and will do exactly as they have instructed. I told them I will go to any extent to raise the money needed to secure his release, even if it meant I will have to go with a bowl in my hands begging because I wanted to see him free and return back home to his children since I have no one to fend for them. I asked them how much they wanted. They rebuked me for asking that question.
“That call was preceded by several other phone conversations. Every time, they call, I am always left in shock. But the last conversation happened the week before he was killed. They had threatened to behead him either Friday or Saturday, if the ransom placed on him is not paid. The agony and torture of the calls were weighing heavily on my health, and the last I understood from the conversations is that they promised not to take his life.
“At this point the church had concluded every arrangement to make a ransom payment of N50 million. On Monday, I undertook to visit the church leadership at the EYN headquarters to thank them for their effort and the ongoing negotiations. I returned that Monday with the news from my visit to my children that very soon they shall see their father.
“Everyone was very happy with the news that evening. Unknown to us it was the day he was to be executed. I was so devastated by his murder that I was advised by the CAN Chairman, Most Reverend Stephen Mamza, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yola, who witnessed my anguish, to change my SIM card so that the insurgents do not continue to call me and subject me to unexplainable trauma.
“But I couldn’t effect the SIM change because I was already burdened to go have a new SIM registered which required my physical presence so I had to forgo this. What I did was to switch off my phone towards evening and turn it on in back in the mornings. Because I usually get a call from them at exactly 7:00p.m.”
“My husband was born as Lawan Andimi. The name Lawan was given to him after the name of one village head. He was christened Simon, but a few years ago in Hildi, he opted to be called Lawan Andimi.
“Our faith is now ever stronger than at anytime. We are not surprised because from the video released by Boko Haram it was obvious my husband was ready to go and be with the Lord. He knew where he was going and he was prepared and we are encouraged by his example. I know my husband to be a great man of faith, I was sure following that video that even if he dies in the hands of his captors, it is no loss because he knew where he’s going.
“All believers should draw closer to God. These are perilous times, we all need to stand firm in the faith. Even if you are going to be killed for your faith, under the crushing blows of persecution to forsake your faith one should never give in nor let go one’s faith more so when one has a strong conviction of being with the Lord. I’m grateful to God we have nine children.”
Abigail Daniel, a 29-year-old daughter of the murdered Andimi told Sunday Sun that, “I am the third born in the family of the late Lawan Andimi. We intended to leave on the 2nd of January, but my dad suggested we leave for Yola on the 1st January, 2020, so that we can spend the night in Yola before we proceed.
“But I and my husband wanted to stick to our plans of leaving on the 2nd January, but my dad insisted. My dad was so nice to us he packed a lot of our things for us so we got everything ready to leave after the service on the 1st.
“On that same day during the devotion, daddy prayed for those under captivity and those who were abducted and also the woman who was slaughtered along Maiduguri road. During the service, daddy was asked to take the intersession prayers, he still made mention of those who have been abducted and kidnapped.
“After the service, we didn’t even have time to eat, we packaged all of the food and left so we don’t run late. We left Michika at about 12:00p.m and we stopped at Gombi, because he wanted to show my husband our new house in Gombi. Since it was husband’s first visit, he showed us round the house.
“On our way to Gombi inside the car, I started a conversation with my dad, I don’t know what is pushing me to ask him questions. I told him I went to Balala, I saw the old house that you once built in Balala (Balala is a village under Chibok local Government, before you get to Chibok you will pass Balala).
“My dad was an indigene of Chibok. On our way to Michika I asked him of his age, I was like dad we don’t know your age cause I even told my husband that I don’t know my daddy’s age. Nowadays, children observe their parents birthday, I use to see my friends post that of their parents birthdays. That was when I found out that he has been using 4th of April, 1962.
“When the news of his abduction reached me in Abuja I couldn’t eat anything. I was just shedding tears, the next day they now declared him missing, I immediately started feeling maybe he has been shot dead in the bush, the only thing that came to my mind was death.
“We started praying together with my husband immediately I heard this news. We then began to hear that some people saw him in a strange place, but it was all rumours from the media which I didn’t take serious, until on Sunday my husband told me that he feels something has happened to my dad.
“On that same Sunday a video was release saying my dad has been captured by the Boko Haram, I didn’t have the courage to watch the video, my husband was the one that watched it and he told me that my dad is alive.”
Timothy Andimi speaking on his late father said: “My father is a man of God. He was a unique man. He taught us to pray, trust and obey God’s commandment and live a good life. He led a good life and it is evident for all to see. We have proof that he’s gone to be in the bosom of the Lord.
“My father is actually my role model. I respect him so much. My regret now is that I have not started repaying him for all his love, it is sad that I will not be able to do for him all the things, I planned to do for him.
“I just got married two years ago and I am the only graduate in the family and I am serving in the FCTA, Abuja.”
Josephine Julius, a resident of Michika, who spoke with Sunday Sun said: “I know him personally and members of his family, it is a sad news to all of us.
“We thought they will agree to negotiations and release him, but it is a shame that this is what this country has become, no one is safe. Just recently, we had to run and leave our homes when Boko Haram members descended on our community, the young, the old, everybody, had to run.
“As I’m talking to you right now, people who have the means are leaving Michika, every body is afraid for his life. I don’t know whether you know, the man used to be a Muslim before he converted to Christianity, I think those are the things that made the Boko Haram members insisted on killing him.”
Another resident of Mubi and member of the EYN church, Mishal Bello told Sunday Sun: “My father is a member and Reverend of the EYN church, and a colleague of Reverend Lawan Andimi.
“It was just a sad day in our church when they announced the death of Reverend Andimi officially during the church service. It used to be in past that pastors’ homes are the safe haven when disaster broke out or when there is an attack in a community, but now, they are the endangered species, they are being kidnapped and killed at will by gunmen.
“Almost the same time, another pastor was kidnapped and murdered. There is no security in this country anymore. Here in Mubi and almost most of the seven local governments that were occupied by Boko Haram insurgents in 2014, are still experiencing a rise is Boko Haram attacks.
“What many Nigerians don’t know is that, most of our communities since 2014, have been cut off from electricity since 2014 till date. The three bridges linking Michika, Madagali, from Maiduguri into Adamawa that were blown off by Boko Haram, are still lying in a state of disrepair, so nothing is working. Schools destroyed by the insurgents, most of them are still dilapidated, as far as I’m concerned, we are still under siege.
“Earlier on Thursday, the Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Unaru Fintiri, had personally visited the family members in Michika and was received at Kwarhi by President, Church of the Brethren of Nigeria (EYN) at its headquarters in Kwarhi, Hong LGA of Adamawa State. The governor while condoling the members of the family, pledges a full education scholarship for the children of the murdered clergy, Andimi.”
Fintiri pledged to sponsor the education of the clergy’s children and to provide other necessary support for them.
The governor condemned the gruesome murder of the clergyman, describing him as committed cleric while reiterating the commitment of his administration in securing lives and property in the state.
President of the church, Rev Joel Billi, while receiving the governor, commended his efforts in identifying with the church members, during their moment of grief and prayed to God to reward him.
Billi commended the humility of the governor whom he said has been having sleepless night, since the abduction of the clergyman by Boko Haram insurgents.
The Federal Government also in penultimate Friday had sent a high powered delegation to Adamawa State led by the SGF, Boss Mustapha, to condole with the Christian community in the state over the killing of two clergy men.
The Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria expressed President Muhammadu Buhari’s sadness over the dastardly act, saying that the Federal Government was working hard to restore sanity in the land.
He called on the Christian community in Adamawa not to regard the killings of the two clergymen as threat against Christianity and not to despair.
The SGF appealed for calm and understanding, urging Nigerians not to bring issues that would add more grief to the affected communities.
He prayed God to grant the murdered clergymen eternal rest and the Christian community the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Responding, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Adamawa State chapter, Stephen Dami Mamza, said that President Muhammadu Buhari, “has soften our hearts with the high powered delegation to commiserate with the Christian community in the state. This visit has given Christians assurances of hope and a sense of belonging.”
Mamza assured that, “the Christian community will team up with the Muslim community to flush out undesirable elements that are causing bad blood between the two major faiths. It would be recalled that Boko Haram insurgents had in early January abducted the CAN chairman of Michika Local Government, Rev Lawal Andimi and executed him in penultimate Monday despite efforts to secure his freedom, a development that caused uproar in Adamawa State and the country at large.
Also on the same day, unknown gunmen killed another clergyman, Dennis Bagauri at his residence in Nassarawo Binyeri, Mayo Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa State.