How we escaped attack by armed herdsmen on Ife-Ilesa-Akure road, CAC Agbala Itura choir master recounts ordeal

He had earlier entertained guests at a funeral ceremony that day, singing about eternity. He, however, did not know that ahead of him would be an experience that almost slated his own death for same day.

Mr Kehinde Oyebanjo, a member of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) Agbala Itura, Ile-Epo, Oke-Odo, Lagos, and choir master of the parish, was in a public bus with 14 others, including the driver, travelling from Ile-Ife to Ikeji-Arakeji, both in Osun State, when their vehicle ran into an armed gang of kidnappers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.

The bandits, said to be dressed in army camouflage and had their faces painted in black, according to Oyebanjo, suddenly surfaced at the main road, Ilesa-Akure axis, from the bush as they were approaching Iwaraja, a town in Oriade Local Government area of the state.

That was on Saturday, May 25, 2019, around 6: 00pm. And the incident was barely a month after an orthopaedic surgery lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Olayinka Adegbehingbe, was abducted also by suspected armed herdsmem around Ikoyi town along Ibadan-Ile Ife expressway, and had to pay N5.045m ranson to regain his freedom.

Sadly, that stretch of the road from Ibadan (Oyo State) to Ile-Ife and Ilesa(both Osun State) and down to Akure(Ondo State), which is full of heavy pot holes, has become notorious lately for activities of bandits who kidnap people for ranson and kill those who fail to meet their terms leaving the users of the road in fear.

However, for Oyebanjo and other co-passengers and their driver, fate smiled on them. How?

The gospel artiste had earlier on that day entertained guests at a funeral ceremony in Ile-Ife. He was only returning to Ikeji-Arakeji, where he is on pastoral training course at CAC Seminary School within Joseph Ayo Babalola University, JABU.

“You know, it was Akure- bound bus that I boarded and to stop along the road since there was no direct vehicle to Ikeji Arakeji and we left Ile-Ife around 5:00pm,” he told Saturday Tribune, in an exclusive conversation, in Lagos.

“So,  it was around 6:00pm and about 10 minutes’ drive to my destination when the bandits tried to attack us,” he added.

He said he was one of the two persons in the front seat with the driver and that he already mistook the bandits for army personnel.

“But thank God that the driver was familiar with the terrain. He said they were not soliders. He asked if I didn’t see their faces painted in black. He said that soldiers would not do that.  And again, there was no road block mounted as their practice. He said we should bow down our heads and pray unto God to take control.

“At that point, it was like seeing death face-to- face. But our driver took bold courage. He pretended initially as if he wanted to stop the vehicle but on getting to them, he swerved to their direction and drove zigsag as if he wanted to run over them and that was how we escaped,” Oyebanjo, explained.

“Though, they opened fire on us,  God failed them. And we didn’t stop until we got to JABU gate, my destination. But we were surprised that there was no bullet hole on our bus, let alone hit any of us. We were all full of praises unto God for He really proved His supremacy in the situation. And because of the miraculous escape, the driver said we should not bother to pay him transport fare again,” he said.

Oyebanjo, who also shared this experience openly as a testimony with church members in Lagos, where his family is  based, on Sunday June 2nd, said it took him about two hours to fully regain himself.

He however, wondered why many herdsmen even prefered to graze their cows along the stretch of the expressway and not in the inner bush. “There must be something henious for it,” he reasoned.

Expressing appreciation unto God, Oyebanjo’s pastor, who is in-charge of Ile Epo, Oke-Odo Assembly of the church in Lagos, Pastor Emmanuel Oluwadare, said he received the news with shock.

He, however, urged the government at both federal and state levels, as well as security agents not to take the escalating of activities of armed Fulani herders and other criminal elements into the south-west and other parts of the country, lightly.

“It is a serious issue that requires concrete and urgents actions. The criminal elements need to be flushed out now, especially in Osun and Ondo States axis where they have penetrated already before they overrun the entire country.

“Yoruba leaders should not also fold their hands. They should to find workable and lasting solution to the evil activities of Fulani herdsmen in the South-West,” the cleric advised.