Eucharia Agbasimalo is the wife of Obiora Agbasimalo, the missing governorship candidate of the Labour Party for the last governorship election in Anambra State. She speaks to IKENNA OBIANERI about the kidnap of the young politician since September, 2021
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Eucharia Agbasimalo. I am an accountant working with a multilevel marketing company. I am married to Obiora Agbasimalo, a chartered accountant, who worked in the banking sector and later left to join politics. He was picked as the candidate of the Labour Party for the Anambra State governorship elections in 2021.
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I turned 36 on January 1. We got married in 2016.
Where are you from?
I am from Anaele in Enugu State and married to my husband who is from Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Where did you meet your husband?
We met at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State during our master’s degree programnes in 2014 and we got married on January 16, 2016.
Your husband has been missing since he went for a political rally on September 18, 2021; can you recall what really happened on that day?
On September 18, 2021, I got a call from my brother-in-law, who is based in Lagos, asking me if I was aware that my husband was attacked during a campaign rally and I said no, I was not aware. I told him I had been trying to reach my husband, but I had not been able to, which was not normal. The brother then told me that he learnt that the car that my husband was riding in during the campaign trip was attacked and he hadn’t been seen.
What did you do when he told you that?
I got the call around 9pm, so, I reached out to my mother-in-law to ask if she was aware that my husband was attacked and hadn’t been seen, she said she wasn’t aware. But I urged her to make some calls to confirm the actual situation of things. Eventually, she called me back around midnight and confirmed that it was true. She said my husband’s cousin, who was sponsoring his campaign, confirmed that my husband had been kidnapped. He said the abductors had got in touch with him and that some money had been sent to them. He said my husband was going to be released on Monday – the kidnapping happened on a Saturday.
What happened the following Monday?
Monday came and nothing happened. We waited throughout the week, nothing happened and then weeks turned to months, yet I haven’t seen my husband.
What efforts have been made by the party and the security agencies to search for him?
Well, I don’t know the efforts the party has made and I am very disappointed. In fact, words fail me to express how disappointed I am at the way they have handled this matter. I felt they should have done a lot more. I always felt that for a governorship candidate to be missing and the party could still go ahead campaigning, carrying on activities as though nothing happened, I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know why. They went ahead with their campaign rallies; meanwhile, they told us not go to the police or inform the press about the case. They said the kidnappers had threatened that if we reported the matter in any way, they would kill my husband, and none of us wanted that, so we were just paralysed and at their mercy.
We actually felt the situation was under control and that the party was working on it. After about a week, they came back with the story that we should not panic, that the kidnap was political and that my husband was going to be released after the election. So, you can just imagine how we lived in fear waiting for the election to be over.
What happened after the election?
In fact, I was surprised that INEC would go ahead with that election because I don’t know how a candidate would be missing and nobody talks about it. It wasn’t even in major news in Anambra State, so much so that the commissioner of Police in Anambra State said the police were not aware of the kidnap. So, I don’t know what Labour Party did, I don’t know if they reported it because they always claimed that they reported. Whenever I reached out to them, they would say the Inspector-General of Police was aware, the DSS was aware and that they had reported to all the relevant agencies in the country, but in reality, nothing was being done. Instead, there was a voice note from the party debunking the news that my husband was missing; I wonder why they had to do that? They trivialised my husband’s kidnap because of their political activities and I did not know what they intended to achieve by that. So, I don’t know what effort LP made towards this rather than what they have said. I did not see any action to match what they said that they have done. I know that they will say they held a protest rally, but this was 83 days after the kidnap. This is not a local issue, if they are making effort, everybody should be aware.
How has life been for you and your children?
Of course, life has been very difficult; I am going through untold hardship and agony. I don’t know how to start explaining the trauma; I have suffered a series of depression episodes. I die everyday not knowing what will come next. I don’t even feel safe; my children and I are just on our own’; there’s no support from anybody towards searching for my husband.
When was the last time the party reached out to you?
The party did not reach out to us. If anything, I have been the one making effort to reach out to the Labour Party Chairman; he has never called me. I don’t know the other party’s executives; they’ve never called me. They’d rather reach out to my mother-in-law. Maybe they feel that I am not important, that is why they are behaving as if I don’t deserve to get any updates.
Do you know what they always tell your mother-in-law?
They have been feeding her with all sorts of information and the woman is daily living in fear. The woman is living in fear and she buys whatever lies they bring and in the face of obvious reality, she will just hold onto whatever they tell her.
Can you recall the last moments with your husband on that fateful day of the incident?
We had our normal conversation in the morning like we used to do. We shared a chat and a newspaper interview he granted and how he said if he won the governorship election, he would be the new face of Anambra, but he did not mention to me that he was going for any political function; it was later that day that he called and said they were going for a political function at a place called Azia in Ihiala for the New Yam Festival and from there they would be going for a political rally. So, there was no sign that he was going to be kidnapped or be away for this long. It was just our regular normal conversation that we had.
What did he share with you about his governorship ambition?
He was just optimistic and his older cousin, who was sponsoring his campaigns, made him believe so and gave him strong assurance and belief that he was going to win that election, so, he was very optimistic and looked forward to it.
How many children do you have?
I have two children. My first child is five years old while the second one is three years old.
What are the challenges now, having to be with the kids alone without their father?
It has been tumultuous; the kids ask me about their father every now and then and I keep lying to them. As regards the financial obligations, thank God I have a job. Then I have been getting support from my friends, relatives and husband’s friends, family members, colleagues and my husband’s cousin who was sponsoring his campaign.
How do you feel that no one is remembering your husband, more so as there is a new administration in the state now?
I feel so neglected; it just looks as if my husband’s life does not matter to anybody. I mean, even if he was not a politician, he is a human being and his going missing all this while should be of concern to everybody. I made several efforts to reach out to the former governor, I reached out to his SSG because during the initial period the incident took place, they met him and he said he was going to reach out to the family and liaise with them, but that never happened. I sent a message to him detailing all that happened and asked that he get across to the former governor, to see how they could use their good offices to help my family locate my husband, at least for them to even acknowledge that a governorship candidate in the state is missing and how the authorities can intervene in the rescue operation, but rather, the state security agencies were saying that they were not aware that my husband was kidnapped. Fine, let me agree that they were not aware, but what have they done since we brought the case to their notice? Nothing.
In all my efforts at reaching out to the government people, the SSG told me he was going to get back to me, but he never did. Even two days ago after I saw that the former SSG was also included in the new panel on peace and security that the governor inaugurated, I sent him a message to also include my husband’s case as part of their activities, but he did not reply.
Have you made effort to bring the case to the attention of the new governor?
The current governor, I have made several efforts to reach him through all his social media handles because I follow him on Instagram; I am one of his fans and each time he posts something on insecurity, I comment by reminding him of my husband’s case and for him to use his good offices to see what can be done, since that is the only avenue I can make my voice heard.
So, what has been the result of these efforts?
Nobody has acknowledged anything, not even a response. I always leave my phone number after every message for a feedback, but as I speak now, I have not, for once, received any response. Even other candidates from other parties, we have reached out to them concerning this matter, the only person who even showed concern was the PDP candidate. I am just looking for help; I am begging everybody, whoever can help me to locate my husband, let them help. At least, let them recognise that this happened. I can’t do this on my own; I am dying from inside; my children keep asking me, ‘where is our father?’ and I keep repeating myself. We have two children, our marriage turned six years in January and my husband was not here (for the anniversary). My husband turned 40 in October, he was in captivity.
Are you optimistic that he is still alive?
I am holding onto faith that he is alive, I believe in God that he is alive. I don’t have any feeling that he is dead; I am so sure that he can be found and brought back alive. I am just calling on the relevant authorities to help, leave politics aside, for once; they should acknowledge that this incident took place and find a solution.
This is an innocent Nigerian who just came out to run for office of the governor; he hasn’t done anything wrong, he wasn’t even threatening anybody. My husband is a good man, he was comfortable, working in the banking sector and he had his career going for him, until the opportunity to contest for the governorship position came his way and he came out to try and like a joke, he has been missing for over six months and no one is giving any tangible reason. You can imagine what I have passed through; I’ve had a miscarriage over this issue. I have gone through so much pain and I don’t know what to say and how to begin explaining all I am dealing with right now.
Did you really have a miscarriage?
Yes, I was few months pregnant when the incident happened and the shock, the trauma led to it. What is more painful is the way everybody is silent as if his life does not matter. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence, why? Did he offend anybody? Even if he did, I am begging on his behalf. The man is a good man; he had been in the banking sector for over 15 years, he has no bad record, they can go and verify.
What do you think could have motivated his abduction?
I never saw this coming. I did not think the Labour Party was a threat to anybody. Honestly, why he was kidnapped is still a puzzle to me. Everybody was campaigning and doing their things to get sell themselves to the electorate and my husband did not make enemies; he was a jolly good fellow and people can testify to that. He is an alumnus of the Obafemi Awolowo University and a thoroughbred professional, who had his career going for him. He has no known issue with anybody, so, I don’t know where this kidnap came from, whether it is political or has another motive; I can’t really tell the actual reason. But whatever the reason, I am just begging that they should just let my husband go; it’s been over six months that he has been in captivity.
Were you in support of his political ambition when he told you about it?
I never supported it and now all the fears I expressed have come crashing down on me. When he told me, I asked him if it was a joke. He was a greenhorn; he had no prior experience in politics. He is a gentleman, he is not built for the rough political terrain and I was taken aback when he told me he had an ambition because I have seen how politics goes here in our country, I was afraid; I was thoroughly afraid and I told him. But he saw reasons with his sponsor and all the people who came here to convince him and give him reasons why he should resign his job and join politics. So, when I saw that I couldn’t pull him out of his conviction to join politics, I resorted to prayers; I gathered my friends and we were all just lifting him up in prayers and calling on God to be his shield and protection.
Have the abductors ever reached out to the family?
No. All the people that called us, they turned out to be fraudsters who saw an opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it. The abductors have never reached out to any member of the family and that is fearful, nobody has asked for anything, we don’t know what’s happening. It is only the LP, in their press release, that said they are speaking with the abductors to ensure that their candidate was alright; I don’t know what that means because we as the family, no abductor has reached out to us to ask us for any ransom.