Run for your life!

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How do you fight for your life when abducted by a killer squad who grab you to kill you for blood money? In Nigeria, they are known as ‘ritual killers.’ They prowl the highways of cities and settlements of rural communities, in search of victims to kidnap and take to their dens to slaughter and use their blood to make rituals for big money and power.
 
They are agents of men and women of power and influence, gangsters, drug pushers, politicians, dubious businessmen, and those who want to ‘get rich quick’ They work for the ‘high and mighty’ in the society who use the blood of citizens and supernatural means to power their business and quest for positions in high places. Such victims are declared missing and are never seen again by their relatives and loved ones. My teenage son was a victim some months ago. They made him unconscious, took him to their hideout, but miraculously the boy escaped. Take the story.
 
Chika staggered into our living room that fateful Monday morning, collapsed on the couch and passed out. He had left home two hours earlier at 7 am, to attend tutorials in a school preparing him for the forthcoming university entrance examination.
 
As he sank into the chair, I and his eldest brother who was home at the time, rushed to find out what was amiss. Chika…Chika… we called, no response. His eyes rolled as he passed out. My wife rushed to the scene as he heard our frantic calls. His brother tapped his cheek several times, shook his head, but the boy was unconscious.
 
We were alarmed. What could be wrong? I called for water which we splashed on his head and face as we battled frantically to revive him.
 
Five minutes later, he opened his eyes momentarily and muttered, “Daddy, ritual killers.” We had heard so many horror stories of these evil men and their deadly works and those lucky to escape are traumatized and may even need psychological therapy or deliverance prayers to get their lives back.
 
“What happened,” we asked him, tensed up, when he was fully awake.
 
This is his story.
 
I left home, got to Cele bus stop on the expressway and boarded a bus going my way. I sat on the front seat with another passenger beside the driver. As the journey progressed, the bus conductor collected his fare from passengers as usual. When we got to a part of the highway with bad patches and pot holes, traffic had built up. We were forced to stop waiting for the traffic to move.
 
Our driver complained loudly about the traffic jam and said he would make a detour by the right to beat the jam. Then I started feeling dizzy. The man sitting beside me asked me if I was feeling any thing, I answered…yes. I looked back and saw that other passengers on the back seats of the bus had fallen asleep. That was the last thing I remembered before I passed out.
 
When I woke up, I found myself and other passengers of the bus sitting on grass in a bush. In front of us was an uncompleted building…no other person, house or traffic in sight. A number of men stood by watching over us. Still dizzy and regaining consciousness, I saw two men emerge from the uncompleted building and grab two female passengers who screamed wildly as they were dragged to the building.
 
Some minutes later, the men emerged with blood-stained hands. That was when I knew we were captives of ritual killers. I started praying softly…Jesus help me…Jesus help me. The coming out and dragging of people into the building continued. The ‘hit man’ will come out of the building, look wildly right and left, grab any person at random, and drag the person in.
 
“Why didn’t you beat it and run away,” I asked him.’
 
“Dad, I was still dizzy trying to regain consciousness. And some of their men were standing by.”
 
The ‘hit man’ came out again, stood before me and looked at me intently for some seconds as I kept muttering my prayers. He seemed to change his mind and went for the man sitting near me on the grass.
 
That was the man that sat beside me in front of the bus.
 
As he reached out to grab this man, the young man sprang up and stabbed the arm of the ‘hit man’ with a ball-point pen. As the ritualist yelled in pain, the young man hit him with a big blow on his cheek and yelled to the rest of us.
 
“Run…run… for your lives…follow me… I know the way.”
 
There was a mild stampede as many of us sprang to our feet and ran.
 
One of the ritualists blocked my way, I dodged. Another hit my leg with a stick, I fell. As he reached out to grab me, I scooped sand from the ground and sprayed it into his eyes. He screamed.
 
The young man who yelled…run…follow me… saw I had fallen, stopped and came back for me. He dragged me up, charged me saying…young boy… be strong…run for your life. With severe pains on my legs, I took off after him with other captives dashing to escape.
 
This young man led the race and kept urging us…don’t stop…follow me!
 
We did and followed his twists and turns as we galloped and jumped over obstacles and thickets of bush and rubbish for dear life. This man seemed to know the terrain well. We ran after him in blind faith to save our lives with the ritualists in hot pursuit. We continued to run towards the expressway. When our pursuers heard the noise of traffic, they stopped the chase and retreated.
 
We hit the highway panting, gasping for breath. Seven of us escaped, including two women. We don’t know what happened to the other passengers as we thanked God and the man who led our escape. He simply responded it was God’s grace that gave him courage to strike the ‘hit man’ and lead the race for life. As a show of gratitude, one of us brought out his Samsung mobile phone, removed his SIM card and gave the brave man. Another escapee asked to him to follow him to the bank to give him some money.
 
After thanking him again, I simply walked to the other side of the highway and begged a commercial motorbike rider to take me to Cele bus after narrating my ordeal. The man asked me to board saying he would not collect any fare from me. He confirmed that ritual killers have been operating unhindered in that neighbourhood and nothing had been done to track and arrest them. And they operate mostly in commercial buses.
 
I stopped at Cele and boarded a bus that brought me home.
 
“Can you locate their hideout? Let’s go and report to the police,” I asked Chika .
 
“No Dad. I can’t locate the place. I passed out when they took us there. All I know is that our bus got stuck at the traffic jam near Ilasa bus stop.”
 
My son’s escape resulted from a combination of courage, help, determination, perseverance, quick response to action, and God’s mercy.
 
My family held thanksgiving prayers for the boy’s escape and we prayed fervently for God to bless that young man who engineered their escape.
 
We stopped the boy from going to that tutorial school and registered him in another one near our home in Lagos.
 
(13 July 2016)


Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.

Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at, ericokeke@gmail.com, ericosamba@yahoo.com Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.

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