, 09 November, 2019 / 3:25 AM
Fr. Arinze Madu, the Nigerian Catholic Priest who had been abducted at the gate of Queen of Apostles Spiritual Year Seminary in Nigeria’s Enugu diocese and later released unharmed has recounted his two-day ordeal in the hands of his abductors and told ACI Africa that his safe release was God’s doing and that he had started preparing himself for eternal life.
“I believe that God saved me from the hands of those criminals for a purpose, I never knew I will make it back alive,” Fr. Madu told ACI Africa in a telephone interview Friday, November 8.
“We just came back from Ugwu Di Nso Retreat Center where we ended our retreat, coming back I packed my bags, laptop, sick-call bag and so on for another program in Enugu,” Fr. Madu narrated, recalling the events that preceded his abduction on October 28.
He recounted his experience outside the gate of Queen of Apostles Spiritual Year Seminary where he serves as Vice-Rector saying, “Getting closer to the school gate, I heard sounds; it was confusing, I couldn't immediately wrap my head around where the sound was coming from.”
“They (abductors) were already stationed at the gate of the school,” Fr. Madu recalled and added in reference to the armed abductors, “I also think they were targeting someone who would come out from the school. I say this because while I was still asking the security man about the sound I heard, a red “Sienna” bus passed. So, if they weren't targeting someone from the school, they would have stopped that sienna (bus).”
The Nigerian-born clergy recalls the tense and scary situation outside the seminary gate characterized by gunshots directed at his car shortly before his abduction.
“The sound kept getting tense, at that moment I saw a boy coming in front of me shooting directly at me (and) at my left were two other boys shooting continuously as well,” Fr. Madu recalled and continued, “In a split of a second, my right glass was down, my windscreen (and) bonnet were all shattered with bullets.”
Recalling the moment of abduction and referencing the group of abductors, Fr. Madu says, “They asked me to get down from the car, I did; out with them they began shooting again, neither at me nor the car but at the security post. They entered my car and collected everything I had (that is) my laptop, box, sick call bag and the stole I placed on my dashboard and so on.”
He continued sharing his ordeal and the hand of God in his being alive when he had to be saved from drowning by his abductors as they waded through a river southeast of Nigeria’s Enugu State.
“They told me to keep going and never utter a sound. We crossed the road and moved to Ajali River, it was miracle number two, the first being the gun not getting at me,” Fr. Madu narrated.
“The first person crossed the river and asked me to cross. I didn’t know how to swim, getting into the river, I started sinking, I saw myself drowning,” Fr. Madu recalled and continued, “one of them actually came to my rescue, held me by the hand and that was how I came out.”
When they got on the other side of the river, Fr. Madu has recalled and recounted to ACI Africa, he remembers with amazement the “compassion” of his abductors.
He said referring the five men who had kidnapped him, “Seeing how dirty the soutane I was putting on was, they gave me clothes from my box to change.”
“The journey began, we trekked from bush to bush, from one place to the other (and) I didn't know the part of Enugu we were until the day I was released,” Fr. Madu narrated.
He added in recollection, “They kept threatening to kill me, they always woke me up with cane, we slept in the bush under the rain and they gave me Indomie noodles on Tuesday (October 29). But you can imagine I didn't have an appetite for that and I really don't like eating Indomie.”
Regarding the abductors’ networks, Fr. Madu said, “No other person was there with us except the five of them, unless there was someone else operating from somewhere.”
He remarked, “These people know our forests and bushes more than us the owners of the land, they know everything about our backyards more than we do.”
“They always gave me my phone to make calls to people whom I want to speak with,” the Nigerian priest said but recalled the limited freedom saying about his abductors, “They will always tell me what to say and warned me never to talk to them in Igbo Language or they will waste my life.”
He added, “Once I finish talking, I would hand the phone back to them. I was threatened every minute, they told me they would kill me and dump my corpse where nobody will find it.”
“I had made up my mind that it was the end for me; I celebrated Masses in my heart severally without host and wine,” Fr. Madu told ACI Africa.
He continued, “God gave me the grace to remember the words of consecration. I offered the mass for the atonement of my sins and consolation of my friends and family, it was a Mass I said many times without number. I started preparing myself towards eternity, saying my rosary and invoking my Guardian Angel and devoting everything towards eternity.”
“I was finally released on Wednesday (October 30). It was an ordeal I don't wish even an enemy if I had one. I bless God for saving me and giving me another chance,” Fr. Madu said and concluded, “I thank people who prayed for me and say to God be all glory.”
Based on the language and accent of his abductors, Fr. Madu said, he is convinced that those who kidnapped him belong to the Fulani ethnic group.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa