His titles are out of this world. He introduced himself as the only big man that drinks pap with his manhood, the only chief that if you cut a woman into two halves, the lower region is his portion.
That is John Ikechukwu Okafor, popularly known as Mr. Ibu for you. For ten agonizing days, he endured the anguish of the kidnap of his wife and one year-old son. Initially, it was his entire family that was kidnapped, but after a hot chase by the police, the kidnappers abandoned his wife's car and some other members of his family in the booth of the car booth but held onto his wife and son.
He lost network, according to him, when a neighbour and friend broke the sad news to him.
In this exclusive interview with STAN OKEKE , Mr. Ibu narrates his ordeal and that of his wife, how at a point, the kidnappers threatened to shoot his one year-old son if he failed to pay the ransom and other chilly details of the kidnap saga.
To him, the whole episode was a horror movie.
Recently, your wife and one year-old son were kidnapped. Although they have been released, how did you receive that bad news?
My brother, as a human being who never anticipated this kind of thing to happen again in my life, having encountered them before, I never, ever expected that anybody could sit down to plan anything against me and my family. Nevertheless, it happened.
When I received the news, it was like a bomb in my brain. I was having drinks with my friends, some of our national team players from Germany and Denmark. Then my phone rang and I saw a neighbour's number and I picked the call and started hailing him the way we normally do. But he sounded serious, saying that something serious has just happened. I asked him jovially what it was.
He said gunmen came to my house and picked up everybody in my wife's car. That moment, I lost all the networks in my system. I was running from pillar to post, asking everybody where my car was even when it was parked in a very conspicuous place. It was confusion all the way. I was advised to call the Commissioner of Police and the man asked me to run down to my jurisdiction and report so that his men could take up the matter.
I ran to Awkunanaw Police Station and the policemen I met there were wonderful. The acting Divisional Police Officer dropped everything he was doing and followed me in my car, after he had alerted all the police posts and check points in the state. As we were driving, he received information on his walkie talkie that my wife's car had been recovered, with some of the captives in the boot of the car. But my wife and one year-old son were still missing.
When the kidnappers called me, they demanded N50 million ransom. I told them that if I had N50 million, I would have been governor somewhere, even if it was in prison. They laughed and after about four days, they came down to N6 million. I still told them I did not have it, it was a very big argument until the seventh day when I started making contacts. I met some officials of Enugu State Government and they advised me that I should not look forward to receiving any assistance. They explained that if the kidnappers discovered that government was coming in, they would stick to a particular sum of money. That is why government does not get involved in any kidnap matter.
When they called me again, I told them that I could not raise such money. They later called me and came down to N4 million. They advised me to sell my car, my wife's car or deposit my car with the bank to raise money. This was happening after Christmas, so nobody was up to date. I later sold one of my landed properties, I didn't have a choice.
So you eventually paid the N4 million ransom?
I don't want to answer the question like that. The issue is that my family is back.
When they were with you wife and son, did they allow you talk to them?
Often! She was giving me update but we were very diplomatic in our discussions. They later discovered that I was friendly and ready to co-operate with them, so in most occasions, we cracked jokes and they laughed very loudly. One of them asked me about my first wife. My first wife? How manage? He said what did I think was responsible for what was happening to me.
I asked, is it my first wife? He said no, that didn't I know that anything could happen to anybody at anytime. He then asked me to tell them what kind of movie they were acting. I said this is horror film. They laughed. They asked me whether I dey feel am. I replied, saying I dey feel am bad. At a point, they were no longer hostile to me, they became friendly.
One funny aspect is that my wife told me that they will call their families, asking them to go to church.
Did you at anytime get emotional?
My wife cried every minute. In between discussions, I shed tears too. They were not actually telling her anything other than intimidating her, telling her that if I didn't pay they would kill my son. They tried to feed them. For the child, they bought Golden Morn or cornflakes. One night, they took my son and said they were going to shoot him. The boy stood where they asked him to stand and was laughing.
So, how were they eventually released?
Well, I paid the ransom. I dropped the money where they asked me to drop it. I did and they asked me to go and I left. It was 12 hours after that my wife and son came home.
How did you feel when you were re-united?
It was like a miracle to me. I was holding her firmly in a very warm embrace, as if we hadn't seen before. It was like the very first day I married her.
And on sighting you, what was her first utterance?
She was shouting, ‘My husband, my husband.’ My son was dumb-founded, he was cold. After about 20 minutes, the boy cried till the next morning because of cold. It was the following day that we went to hospital because they came home around 11.00pm in the night.
We are happy for you John....
My brother, I went though hell. I have never sat down to plan evil against anybody and I will never do it. Vengeance belongs to God and I'm waiting for the result. I have never cried to God and two things failed to happen. Those who did this to me must come out publicly in the church or town union to confess and apologize or they will run mad. You will see the result, you must in this era.
The person they mentioned is from the same place with me, from the questions they were asking me. It was spiritual. The one that asked that question never knew such a question came out from his mouth. He tried to block it but I don hear am now. How about your first wife? It is funny.
Maybe he (kidnapper) read it in the newspapers that you were previously married?
I have never said anything about the separation between me and my first wife. It has never been written. I never talked to anybody, anywhere about my first wife. People begged me not to talk about it because it was a tragedy on its own which I kept to myself because it makes me angry each time I remember such things, what I passed through (voice rising) simply because I respected the wish of my people, my mother and brothers and sisters to marry at home.
Now they have seen what happened because I told them earlier my choice of woman.
The man we see in the movies seemed an illiterate to us, but here you are, speaking impeccable English. Who is John Okafor?
Most of the times, I'm surprised about my person because when we were growing up, my father told me that he doesn't have money, that I should utilize the opportunity of the little money he was investing in my life in school. I was lazy then, not that I failed my exams but lazy to go to school because of the distance from my house to the school. But I managed to finish my elementary school education in 1974.
It was out of my struggles that I went to secondary school because I lost my father in 1975. So, I started doing some odd jobs, I was a stylist (hair dresser), a butcher, a photographer, parading from one school to the other with my Polaroid camera. It continued like that until I joined a wooden crate industry. It was tough for me having lost my father. I also ran into somebody who had been a boxer for years. I challenged him to a boxing match believing I could get a draw and earn some money.
I was virtually begging the guy to succumb so that I could defeat him and collect the money. The idiot refused. Instead, he gave me the beating of my life.
There was a home video you acted as a boxer. Was it inspired by this story?
That is it! That guy dealt with me. He was beating me like wood. I was practically begging him in the ring, ‘Bros, abeg, abeg’ but he was busy pounding me like fufu. I ran away. I dropped out of the ring for my dear life. That was the end of the fight. That movie na true life story o.
Did acting come naturally to you?
There were so many things my grandfather did, he was a better comedian. He used to host elders without drinks. They were just satisfied listening to him and laughing their hearts out. I decided to go into one or two things he was doing then. I fast-forwarded them to today’s comedy. When people say I'm a natural, I don't know, but whenever I want to interpret a character, I put in everything.
If you were not an actor, what would you have been?
Hai! Oga why you dey ask this kin question? Wetin I go talk now? I don try boxing, e no go now, I no go fit run, I no go fit play football. Militancy na attempted suicide. I dey suspect say I for dey village dey drag land. God knows very well that I would have been something else.
Has any of your children taken to you?
I know very well that about two of them are very stupid, naturally. They inherited stupidity and senselessness. We don’t even need sense.
Click the link below to go to ...The kidnappers want 6m, all the money I have is 200, 000 John OkaforKidnappers free Mr. Ibu’s wife, child