Pastor Moses Oyeleke of the Living Faith Church was abducted alongside Abraham Amuta (a NYSC member) on their way to provide humanitarian assistance to Chibok residents. Oyeleke, who spent seven months in captivity, shares his story with Daily Trust Saturday.
Daily Trust: Could you recall how you were abducted?
Pastor Moses Oyeleke: We were on our way to Chibok town, and had passed Konduga. After the gate of Yali, they had sighted us from the top of a tree as we approached, and then came down and stopped us.
We were four in number, and trekked barefooted for more than 3 hours before we joined other abductees. My first night with them was so peaceful. With the little interaction I had with them, they assured me that they were not going to harm me.
DT: How were you able to cope with them?
Oyeleke: I understand Hausa and speak Kanuri language which is the official language there. So, I usually applied wisdom in responding to their questions or request, and always answered them in a polite manner.
DT: How would you describe where you were kept?
Oyeleke: Our camp is next to where the main man (Abubakar Shekau) lives inside Sambisa forest. There was a day I told the boys how their late founder, Mohammed Yusuf, began his preaching in Maiduguri, because most of the small boys don’t even know him, or heard about him. The only person they hear about is Baba Shekau, who they don’t also know or have seen. He only sends for whoever he wanted to see and most times it’s the Amir. So, telling them a story about late Mohammed Yusuf was one of the things God used to favour me before them. Interestingly, they usually wanted to listen to the story of Mohammed Yusuf, and felt excited about it.
The small soldiers are hostile but the commanders are very mature and they know the religion very well, so if there is something I wanted to do, I deal with the commander who instructs the soldiers not to harass us. For instance, I asked the commander for permission to walk around and exercise and he granted it and told his boys to allow me.
DT: How was the seven months without your family like?
Oyeleke: It was very difficult but I had faith and full assurance that my brethren in the church would not abandon them, especially my pastor Victor Samalia who kept encouraging and supporting them. Although I was going through some distress, I strongly believed my brethren would never let my family down.
DT: It’s rumoured that Abubakar Shekau is dead
Oyeleke: Cut in…. I didn’t see Shekau but from the activities there and how that place looked, I can say that Abubakar Shekau is 100 per cent alive. The warning audio message was played in their mosque with public address system so the entire village could hear. It was a teaching and warning to the Borno State governor.
DT: What was your reaction when you saw your wife and children?
Oyeleke: We both wept but as a man, I controlled my emotions. I felt complete joy, but my daughter ran away from me. My wife kept telling her ‘see your daddy, he is back’ but she withdrew because I guess I did not look like her father. She probably had never seen me so unkempt. After I cleaned up, she ran towards me and we embraced.
I also experienced the love of my Muslim neighbours. They were very happy and one could see the joy they expressed over my release. In fact, one of my neighbours who is a Muslim was the one entertaining well wishers. I am overwhelmed with the kind of love shown to my family.
DT: How did Abraham Amuta react when you were leaving?
Oyeleke: We embraced each other and I told him that the God who rescued me will save him. He was cool and calm.
DT: Did your release seem like a dream?
Oyeleke: Of course, it was a like dream to me, I knew God will release us but I never knew how it would come.
DT: What is your message to the government and NGOs towards the release of Abraham Amuta and other abductees?
Oyeleke: Let’s begin by appreciating the Borno State governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, security operatives and the NGOs that facilitated our release. We still want to appeal to the government to please see to the release of Abraham Amuta who came to Maiduguri as a youth corps member to serve, out of compassion for what was happening in Chibok. He volunteered to be part of the team which the church needed to send relief materials to Chibok but unfortunately fell into the hands of Boko Haram.
Now that I am out, it may be difficult for Abraham to face the challenges that he will be confronted with. His family has been traumatized and his friends have been calling since I was released, creating tension and fear that he may have been eliminated. His family, the church and NYSC are appealing to the government to facilitate his release and that of others soonest.