Mr. Gopep recounts his ordeal since his daughter’s abduction in this interview with newsmen.
How many children do you have?
I have nine children. Blessing is the last child from my first wife, who has four children.
What is your occupation?
I am a farmer.
When was the last time you spoke with Blessing?
It was in September 2015. That was after she was kidnapped. On the phone, I kept asking her why those boys took her away. We didn’t talk for long though. The men must have taken the phone I bought for her and given her another one.
What did her abductors tell you?
They said she was now a Muslim and that they were going to change her name to Mariam. They said she has been taken to the Shari’ah Commission in Bauchi State.
What exactly happened on the day she was abducted?
Blessing and her friend, Mary wanted to come back to Jos and went to the Alkaleri motor park. They sat together in a bus and before the bus could be filled with passengers, two men, identified as Iliya and Umaru, came on an Okada (motorcycle) and took her away. When we went to meet the two men, they said that we could not take her back home. Even when we went with policemen to arrest them, the men still insisted that we could not take her back home.
The day you met with Blessing and her abductors, how was she dressed?
She was dressed in a hijab. The men alleged that she had always wanted to be a Muslim. It was so hard seeing my daughter but not being able to hold her in my arms. That day must have been the worst day of my life. I cried in silence, I kept asking myself, ‘why Blessing?’ The men told me to forget about my daughter. How can a father forget about his daughter? The Commissioner of Police, Bauchi State asked them to return her back to us, but they didn’t. The commissioner also questioned their claim of Blessing wanting to change her religion. They said Blessing was 17 and was old enough to make decisions on her own. But I objected saying she was just 12 and half years (she was not yet 13 years by the time, which was September 2015. She was 13 in November 2015). Several times, we visited the Bauchi State police headquarters but it was to no avail. Those boys want to kill me; they have taken a part of me. I won’t rest until I have my daughter back home.
How was her facial expression that day?
She was not looking happy.
Had she ever expressed a desire to change her religion?
She has never wanted such. She is a good girl, very fervent in church activities. She loved to take part in Girls’ Brigade and other church activities.
How is the family coping without her?
I am heartbroken. I can’t eat or sleep well. I have been in a state of trauma since her disappearance. I have nothing left other than hope. I know one day, she will come back home.
What type of friends did she keep before her abduction?
She had Christian friends and they were all of the same age group.
As at the time of her abduction, why wasn’t she in school?
They were on a long vacation and her mother said she wanted her (Blessing) to go to Alkaleri to stay with an uncle. She spent two months there. Blessing doesn’t live with me — I have been separated from her mother. Blessing has been living with her aunt (her mother’s sister).
What information do you have about her whereabouts?
Based on what Iliya and Umaru told us, she is with the Shari’ah Commission. When we asked if someone has married her, they said no. But we know it isn’t true. We also heard that the Shari’ah Commission handed her over to one mallam. I have tried to call her phone so many times, but it has been switched off. I suspect they took away her phone.
What other efforts have you made to ensure Blessing is released?
I tried getting a lawyer but I don’t have much money; I’m just a farmer.
Do you still have dreams about her future, as a father?
Yes I’ve always wanted her to be doctor. I pray it comes to past.
Do you want Nigerians to fight for your daughter’s release?
Yes, I would love that very much. Just like they did for Ese.
I want Blessing back — Sister
Ms. Gopep is Blessing’s elder sister. She talks about the abduction
How has your family been coping with Blessing’s abduction?
Words can’t explain it. Since her disappearance, I’ve not been myself. I love her so much. Every day, I imagine what she could be doing or where she is.
How close were you to her?
We were very close, I call her my baby. She is too young to be living on her own. I’m begging for her release please.
What efforts have you been making to ensure Blessing returns home?
Anywhere I have the opportunity to talk about her, I do. I also pray for her every day. There is little I can do. I’m currently in Abuja working as a house help. I don’t make so much money, but this doesn’t mean I didn’t have plans for her as a big sister.
What plans did you have for her?
I wanted her to complete her education. She was just in J.S.S.2 at Government Secondary School, Yalang, Plateau State, when she was abducted. I was going to send money to her for her school fees. I’m ready to work in two places for her to complete her education. Her absence has destabilised everyone in our family. I would sacrifice anything to have her back.
Culled from PUNCH Newspaper
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