Eucharia Agbasimalo, wife of the Labour Party governorship candidate in the 2021 Anambra State governorship election, Obiora Agbasimalo, who went missing since September 2021, tells IKENNA OBIANERI about the family’s ordeals over her husband’s whereabouts
It’s been close to two years that your husband went missing, how have you been coping?
It has affected us in ways that words are not enough to express; we are beyond traumatised. I mean myself, our children, his family members and even his friends. For almost two years, my husband’s whereabouts has remained unknown and nobody is talking to us. There has been absolute silence. I cannot even express the trauma we have gone through as a family. But my hope is in God.
What happened on the day he went missing?
It was during the Labour Party campaign rally in the build-up to the governorship election in Anambra State in September 2021. It was around Azia in Ihiala LGA that he was reportedly kidnapped.
Have there been updates on the matter?
I have been making efforts. For instance, I have met with the truth and justice commission set up by the Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo. The commission invited my family and we all went and gave an account of what happened. They assured us they would take the matter up and get to the root of the matter. I have met with the governor and he told me he was in constant communication with the Department of State Services and the police over the matter. He also expressed a high level of support for the security agents to do all they could to unravel the mystery.
Are you aware of any arrest?
Two suspects are currently in custody and we are in court. The third suspect is still at large. No cogent reason has been given as to why my husband has not been found and it appears both his party, the Labour Party, and everybody have moved on, leaving us to our fate.
Who are the two people arrested?
One of them was the driver who drove my husband and I have a strong reason to believe that he knows what happened to my husband, but he claimed not to know anything. There are accounts of people who told him not to ply the road he took because the road was not in a good condition, but he insisted on taking the route, saying that it was a shorter route to avoid traffic. The other suspect is the one who claims to know the kidnappers and the camp they were holding my husband hostage and was deceiving my family by extorting money from us.
Is your husband the only one missing?
One of the security men with my husband is also missing till now. Another security officer who managed to escape told us how the driver was on endless phone calls with some people, but that because he was speaking Igbo, he did not understand what he was telling the people he was speaking to. The security man said he managed to escape. I believe the driver knows about the kidnapping of my husband.
What is the status of the court case?
It has been heard once. It will come up again sometime next month.
Did the abductors ever contact the family?
We have never had any conversation with them till date.
What role has his party, the Labour Party, played so far?
Before now, I made efforts to reach the Labour Party National Chairman, Julius Abure, to also lend his support, but for some unknown reasons, he did not take my calls and did not respond to my messages. So, as it were, it seems the Labour Party has withdrawn and they have moved on as if nothing has happened. It is just me and my mother-in-law who have been driven from pillar to post. Nobody has been able to give an account of his whereabouts. They have abandoned me to look for my husband alone, while they went on campaigning like they didn’t care. I thought the party was different, more compassionate and would fight for the common man, but one of their own, their governorship candidate, is missing close to two years and none of them cares. They have forgotten Obiora. They told me they didn’t have money but that if I wanted them to hold press conferences and speak to the media they would do it but that they didn’t have money. Till date, the chairman has only spoken to me once, the organising secretary, who was always going about with my husband, has moved on. He did not call and he never reached out to us till today. They would tell me the Inspector-General of Police was aware, the DSS was aware, not knowing they were not doing anything.
What of the vehicle your husband drove in before he was kidnapped; was it recovered?
We did not recover the vehicle and to the best of my knowledge, the vehicle has not been found till date. That was my anger with LP’s Organising Secretary, Clement Ojukwu. He refused to submit the vehicle papers to the security agencies for them to track it, and I don’t know his reason for doing so. The vehicle didn’t have a number plate, so I wouldn’t know if it was registered. I don’t have access to the papers, but the party officials have access to it. I only have the chassis number and I have gone to the Federal Road Safety Corps to help me check the status of the vehicle to see if it is being used by anybody, but they could not find anything.
At what point did your husband tell you he was joining politics and what was your reaction?
I was taken aback because it was never part of our discussion. We never contemplated it. I don’t know where the idea came from. I was not in support of it, not because politics in itself is not a good thing, but because my husband is a decent person and we know how politics is played in this part of the world. I was wondering how he was going to delve into the murky waters of politics. He was a prudent banker and doing well in his career. I wasn’t sure if he was ready for all those drama that comes with politics, so, I was worried for his safety. I wanted his safety and I was vocal about it, but he assured me that all was well and that it was not a do-or-die affair. He said the worst that could happen was if he didn’t win and that it wouldn’t be a problem. So, I kept praying for his safety, believing God that he would come back to me alive and well. I never imagined that I would be in this situation where I am today; looking for him.
Did you go with him for any of his campaign rallies?
No, I never campaigned or followed him to any of the campaign rallies. Like I said, I wasn’t convinced; rather, I was worried. Each time I saw him on the television, there was this fear that gripped me. I have young kids and both of us could not leave the kids to go out there campaigning. So, I was worried for him and was looking after the kids. My concern was his safety, because as the election drew nearer, Anambra was looking like a war zone. Surprisingly, out of the 17 persons that contested, it was only my husband who got kidnapped? He didn’t threaten anybody, and even at that time, the Labour Party was not as popular as it is right now.
Are you optimistic that your husband is still alive and that you will still find him?
I am still optimistic that my husband is still alive and I have faith. I am holding on to God that by His grace and miracle because He is God and what He cannot do does not exist. I know He means well for me. He cannot give me a good husband and take him away from me five years after. I am very optimistic and looking forward to the day Obiora will come back home alive because he has life ahead of him. His children are looking for him, they keep asking me the day their father will come back home.
When was the last time the party spoke to you or any member of the family on the issue?
That was November, 2021. That was the only time the party chairman spoke to us. The story they told us was that the kidnappers said after the governorship election in 2021, they would release my husband and that we should not go to the police or the media. They said if we do, that would be the end. My mother-in-law was afraid and warned us not to talk about the matter anywhere, including social media. That was why as hard as it was, I was going in and out of hospital, having heartache and very confused, not knowing anything for sure. They even told us that we should not take phone calls. They just paralysed all of us with fear. I am wondering, is it only their presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, who has compassion? I have also made efforts to reach Peter Obi personally. I got a number that was supposed to be his, I sent messages to the line, but no response. I made efforts to call, but no one responded. I believe if I can reach Peter Obi, he will probably help me because he is a good man. I have seen how he has helped people whose cases are not as bad as mine, and my husband is his kinsman. I believe he must have heard the story somehow, but unfortunately, I have not been able to get in touch with him personally. All the other party members have shown clearly that they don’t care because they were there when my husband got kidnapped.
Do you still call your husband’s mobile line?
I have not given up calling his line. Even before you came for this interview, I still called his line. Even though it is switched off, I still send messages to the line, but they didn’t deliver. The number stopped connecting three months after his kidnapping. Before it stopped connecting, somebody took the calls on three occasions and spoke to me. It was a male voice, and I kept begging that he should allow me speak to the owner of the phone but he would simply drop the call. Till now, the number is no longer reachable.
Who introduced your husband to politics?
He was called into politics by one of his cousins; one of the suspects in police custody brought the idea of politics to the cousin. That was why I was afraid from the beginning because both my husband and his sponsor are not politicians. The person who brought the idea of politics to him, apparently thought he would be the one to be sponsored but for some reasons, the sponsor chose my husband and that was how he got into this.
What are your expectations from the security agencies?
I am calling on the authorities to intensify effort and show concern in this matter. We are talking about a human being here. He cannot be missing for close to two years and everyone is quiet. I am begging President Muhammadu Buhari, the Inspector General of Police, the DSS and the Anambra State governor. I am also calling on Peter Obi, who is the face of the Labour Party today, to intervene. I want to have an audience with him. I know he was not a member of the party at the time my husband was kidnapped. I am not blaming him, but I am letting him know that this is what has happened to me and I am crying out to him to see how he can use his good offices to reach out to other members of his party and see how they can solve this problem for me. Let them at least lend a voice. I don’t know if he is still alive or not, and nobody has said anything tangible. I am only holding on to faith that he is still alive. I need their help and intervention in every way they can.
What are your expectations from the court case?
I always live in fear knowing full well that my husband has been missing for close to two years without any tangible effort from those who should help. Even the suspects that are in custody, people are frustrating my efforts, trying every means to see that they are released. Some people whose interests I don’t know are also trying every means to shut me up and looking for every means to stand against justice. In fact, the last time we were in court, the suspects boasted before my lawyer that I would see that they would walk away freely. If you see them, they don’t even look like people remanded in custody; they were living large and even answering nicknames. However, I am holding on to faith that God will help me. I am also afraid, I don’t know who I am up against. I don’t know what to do. I have made efforts to see the governor, and he has expressed his sympathy and support. I also made efforts to see the senator representing my husband’s district, and he took me to see the commissioner of police. They promised to do their bits, but as of today, I have not seen any tangible answer. I cannot even begin to express the trouble, trauma and agony we have gone through as a family.
What was the last conversation you had with your husband before the incident and who broke the news to you?
I remembered very clearly that on September 18, 2021, he showed me a certain newspaper publication where he was on the cover after one of their functions. My husband tells me everything, but surprisingly, he did not tell me whether he was going to a campaign rally or a political function that day. We chatted in the morning and he prayed for the children. I was going to work that Saturday. I left and the next time I was calling his number around 4pm, he wasn’t taking the call. I felt he was busy and would return my call later, but he didn’t call back. I kept calling but he wasn’t answering. I was in the kitchen cooking before I got a call from his younger brother who broke the news of his abduction to me around midnight. I want my husband back.