Three days after kidnappers seized his son, elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, yesterday, made a passionate plea for his release.
Clark, however, said he was not angry about the kidnapping because it is part of the things people ought to live with.
The son, Ebikeme, was abducted by some gunmen while inspecting the site of his fatherâ€™s proposed University of Technology in Kiagbodo, Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State on Wednesday.
Reports said the kidnappers were demanding N50 million ransom.
â€œI am not surprised that the kidnapping took place because when your children start to steal and they are out of tune, out of direction and nobody controls them, the next thing is that they will go and steal from their father or their uncle and so on,â€ the elder statesman, currently a delegate at the National Conference holding in Abuja, said.
He explained that the kidnappers should see him as their father and release his son.
Clark was worried about the plight of his daughter in law and grandchildren amid the kidnapping of Ebikeme.
The Ijaw leader spoke to Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, at his Asokoro, Abuja residence.
According to him, the kidnapping had been reported to the police and the Department of State Security (DSS) even as some suspects had been arrested in connection with the incident.
â€œKidnapping is not new to me, but I didnâ€™t know it was going to affect me personally. I have been involved in rescuing people who had been kidnapped since 2003 as a result of the freedom fighters agitation to draw the attention of the world and Nigerians (to the problems in Niger Delta). They have been involved in the kidnapping of expatriates working for oil companies and, in many of these cases, we intervened; we spoke to our boys and they respected us and most of these expatriates were freed,â€ Clark said.
He went on: â€œI remember a particular case when some Indians and Americans were kidnapped. Most of the victims were working for Wilbros, one of the oil servicing companies based in Port Harcourt. I remember the freedom fighters around Escravos spoke about how their villages were bombed from the air, attacked from the seas and they said they kidnapped some of the expatriates in order to provide them cover and that actually stopped the bombing of the area.
And I remember most of the expatriates were released to us, some, to me, in my house and so kidnapping of expatriates is not new to me.
â€œBut after some time, kidnapping became a commercial venture whereby these boys, few of them, looking for money, decided to engage in kidnapping of human beings for monetary reasons. This also occurred in neighboring states like Abia, Imo and Anambra. They have this kidnapping in Rivers, Beyelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom and sometimes in Edo and it was all for money.
â€œThey were selfish young men, jobless young men who had nothing to do and they decided to kidnap human beings in order to make money.
â€œSo I was not, therefore, surprised when some of these states like Edo and Bayelsa began to enact laws that made it a capital offence; I was not thinking that these boys, who know me as their father, will one day come to me. But I am not also surprised because when your children start to steal and they are out of tune, out of direction and nobody controls them, the next thing is that they will go and steal from their father or their uncle and so on.
â€œNowadays, you will find that school children arrange for their fathers to be kidnapped, wives arrange for their husbands to be kidnapped mainly to make money.
â€œSo this thing has become rampant and I am surprised that they came after my son. He is a chief in our community and a responsible man, a politician, a PDP man. He contested those days under the DPP, but has since come back to the PDP; he is the managing director of the family company. He is 44years old and a graduate of the University of Benin. He is married with four children.
â€œMy only worry is that the children and the young wife are anxious to see their father.
â€œThis is a criminal offence and I donâ€™t have to keep it to myself. I reported (the matter) to law enforcement agents: the director general of the SSS and the commissioner of police in my state, and the governor who has been helpful. The waterways agency has also been told about it. Tompolo also got his gadgets and he is out combing everywhere.
â€œThat very day, it was raining, that is why it was conducive for them to come with a small bus and my son was already in his car to drive back to Warri when they came in, they stopped him, dragged him down, knocked him on the head with the butt of the gun and took him away in his car.
â€œBut on getting to the next village, my motherâ€™s place, their car fell into a ditch by the bridge. So they jumped from the car into the boat leaving the car behind. But the car has been recovered by the police and the young man who was driving the car arrested by the policeâ€.
The elder statesman said there was a man who claimed to be part of the conspiracy to kidnap his son, but changed his mind. â€œSo he came to Kiagbodo to inform my son to run away or get himself adequate security, but by the time he came to the village, he had been kidnapped,â€ Clark disclosed.
â€œSo he too has been arrested by the police to help them in their investigation. The people who kidnapped Ebikeme are already known, but where they are and where they have taken him to, we donâ€™t know; that is the position and we pray that he would be freed,â€ he stated.
â€œThey are demanding for money. My appeal to them is that they should release him. We all cannot get jobs at the same time. Every effort is being made that everyone gets job and most of them are employed in the area in the jobs we are doing at home. The issue is that we havenâ€™t got enough jobs to do. But some of them have become chronic kidnappers. There is nothing that could stop them. Armed robbery no longer pays as kidnapping because they get good money fr
om kidnapping human beings.â€
IYC warns kidnappers
Meanwhile, Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, has condemned Ebikemeâ€™s kidnapping.
Spokesman for the body, Dr. Agagha Clarkson, in a statement in Warri, said, â€œWe call on the perpetrators of this dastardly act to release their victim unconditionally.
â€œIYC will work in synergy with the relevant agencies to ensure immediate release of Papaâ€™s son. We warn all youths involved in kidnapping and other nefarious activities to desist and engage in profitable ventures that will better their lives knowing that such activities could cut short their livesâ€ .
Let Ebikeme go â€“ UYC, VC
PRESIDENT of the Urhobo Youth Council, UYC, Mr Henry Baro, also condemned the kidnapping.
Baro appealed to the kidnappers to release Ebikeme unhurt, adding that kidnapping and other forms of criminality were not good for the image of Delta State.
Saying that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan should be encouraged in his effort to make Delta a business haven for investors, he said, â€œNo investor will come to Delta if our youths donâ€™t stop kidnapping.â€
Also, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academy), Delta State University, Abraka, Prof Victor Peretomode, said: â€œI appeal to the kidnappers to release Chief Ebikeme Clarkâ€, describing him â€œas a hardworking boy.â€
Tompolo sends emissaries to kidnappers
In another development, ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, yesterday, sent emissaries to Ebikemeâ€™s kidnappers after he allegedly identified the kidnapping syndicate and itâ€™s hideout in the creeks.
A source told Sunday Vanguard, â€œIt is true that Tompolo has made contact with the kidnappers, he spoke to them on phone and has sent emissaries to their kidnappers to release the hostage they are holding.â€
The source, who spoke to our reporter at about 2.00 pm, yesterday, said, â€œAs I speak to you, the Tompolo rescue team is on its way to the den of the boys that abducted Ebi.â€
At 4.20 pm when Sunday Vanguard contacted him for further development, he asserted, â€œThere is no news yet. I will reach you when I get information, but we now know where they are hiding and nobody is going to pay ransom.â€