My last encounter with my husband – Rev Andimi’s widow
On Monday, January 20, 2020, Boko Haram terrorists executed the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi. The cleric was abducted on January 2 and a video later emerged online confirming he was in Boko Haram custody. Information revealed that he was killed for refusing to convert to Islam after his ransom was increased by the terrorists from N50m to €2m (about N800m). His wife, Mary; daughter, Abigail Daniel; and son, Timothy, tell HINDI LIVINUS about the trauma Andimi’s abduction and killing put the family through
Did your late husband have a premonition of danger or death before he was abducted by Boko Haram and eventually killed?
Yes, he had a dream about seeing stacks of wheat and tried to find out if all was well. I told him I had no clue about the meaning of such a dream. So we decided to pray and commit everything to God. That was four days before Boko Haram invaded Michika.
What kind of man was your husband?
My husband was a true man of God. He was also a very generous man. Although he wasn’t born into Christianity as he got converted at the age of 12, he was a committed Christian. Last Christmas, he gave out three bags of maize to the Fulani men in the neighbourhood and another bag to some members of the church to share.
If he had N1,000 and saw someone in need, he wouldn’t hesitate to give that person all the money. If there was a need in church, he tried to meet it with his salary. At times, he bought cloths for underprivileged persons and widows. That was the kind of person he was; he was a very generous and humble man.
Do you know how he got converted to Christianity?
He was the only one in his family who made the decision to follow Christ, which he did at a very young age. He was led to Christ by Reverend Dauda Yaga, a missionary serving in Balala, who met him as a little shepherd boy. He later went to a Bible school after he heard the call of God. Dauda was instrumental to his conversion to the Christian faith. This happened after Reverend Dauda met his family and pleaded with them to allow him have western education. I remember him telling me the pastor had told his parents some missionaries in Damboa at the time wanted the young lad to go to school. He (my husband) had also persuaded him to let him gain western education.
After his early education, he earned Grade II Teachers’ Certificate and taught for nine years. We got married while he was still a teacher.
After he answered the call of God, he proceeded to a Bible School in 1989. And in 1993, he began to serve as a priest in Hildi. He was later ordained as a pastor in 1996. His work as priest took him to Gombi, Michika, Abuja and Maiduguri. He served as Secretary, District Church Council in Abuja. Although he had served in Michika, he never protested his last posting to Michika. He had previously served in Michika. He took it as the will of God. And it was here the devil carried out the act.
On the day Boko Haram struck, were you with him?
I was here in the house. He had just returned from a church engagement in a nearby village, from where he also proceeded for a send-off not far from here. He returned home late in the afternoon and I served him his meal after he had taken a hot bath. He was in high spirits; he played and joked with me. Not long after, one of our sons and the son of the pastor in charge of the local church here came in. They told us they had been asked to return home by soldiers, who dispersed them from a football field and told them the town was unsafe because of a Boko Haram offensive.
My husband then met with the pastor in charge of the local church and informed him of the development. They both agreed to move their families away, but at that time, the insurgents had already got to the front entrance of the house and this made it impossible for him to drive out with his car. At that time, we were already out and waiting for him to come. At that point, we heard gunshots and I called out to our gatekeeper to tell him to come with the car. I made the call from a safe distance. And I was able to see the gatekeeper and my husband running but a van escorted by two motorcycles was already closing in on them.
The gatekeeper jumped over the fence and fled but at that point, it was impossible for my husband to escape being captured by the insurgents. I later thought of that when we could not find him. Later, I got a call from a strange number and the voice on the line, which was stern, said he was calling from Sambisa (Forest) and that my husband was with them.
How soon did the insurgents contact the family?
I got the call nine days after the incident. He went missing on the night of January 2, 2020 and the call came on January 11. When they gave him the phone for me to speak to him, he told me if we were able to meet the demands made by the group, he would return and reunite with us. And that if for whatever reasons their demands could not be met, then it would mean his time on earth was over and we would meet over there (in heaven). He however told me to look after our children.
Were you agitated when you learnt the caller on the other end was calling you from Sambisa Forest?
I was really frightened; I was with some visitors at the time. The caller’s tone of voice was really stern. Initially, I thought it was a regular call from an anonymous sympathiser and wanted to rebuke the person for being so stern. But I was restrained when the hoarse male voice said, “We are the ones who caught your husband. We want you to go and meet the church leadership and tell them to pay ransom to secure his release.”
I thanked them profusely for sparing his life and informed them I was at home and would do exactly as they had instructed. I told them I would go to any extent to raise the money needed to secure his release, even if it meant going cap in my hand or begging for money. And because I wanted to see him freed and returned home to his children since there would be no one to fend for them, I asked them how much they wanted. They rebuked me for asking that question.
At what point did they threaten to behead him?
There were several phone conversations. Every time they called, I was always in shock. But the last conversation happened the week before he was killed. They had threatened to behead him one Friday or Saturday if the ransom was not paid. The agony and torture brought by the calls weighed heavily on my health, and based on our last conversations, they promised not to take his life.
At that point, the church had concluded arrangements to pay N50m as ransom. On Monday, I visited the church leadership at the EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) headquarters to thank them for their efforts and the ongoing negotiations.
I returned home that Monday, taking news to my children that very soon, they would see their father. Everyone was very happy to hear the news that evening. Unknown to us, it was the day he was to be executed.
Did you have a premonition of his death?
I didn’t have any inkling that he would die. I had a dream on a Saturday in which I awoke to see my husband being brought on his sickbed. They told me he would need a doctor to care for him. I tried to call the police to get the man who brought my husband to the house in that condition arrested, but realised I couldn’t find their number. I was sobbing in the dream because I couldn’t get the police.
How were you able to cope with the trauma that the negotiation exerted on you emotionally?
I was advised by the state CAN Chairman, Most Reverend Stephen Mamza, who is also the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yola, to change my SIM card so that the insurgents would not continue to call me and subject me to unexplainable trauma. He knew what I was going through. I couldn’t change my number because it required me to go to the (telecoms) office and I was already heavily burdened by the situation, so I had to forgo this. What I did was to switch off my phone towards evenings and put it on in the mornings as I usually got calls from them at exactly 7pm.
Did your husband take a Christian name following his conversion?
Yes, he was born Lawan Andimi. He was named after a village head; that was how he got Lawan. He was christened Simon, but a few years ago in Hildi, he opted to be called Lawan Andimi.
How does it make you feel knowing he chose Christ even in the face of death?
Our faith is now ever stronger than at any other time. We were not surprised because from the video released by Boko Haram, it was obvious my husband was ready to go and be with the Lord. He knew where he was going and he was prepared for it. We are encouraged by the example showed. I know my husband to be a great man of faith; I was sure after seeing the video that even if he died in the hands of his captors, it would not be a loss because he knew where he was going.
What was your reaction to the video released by Boko Haram?
I was strengthened by my husband’s message in the video; he spoke like a man of faith, a man who was already prepared to meet with the Lord. I thought to myself that if God allowed him to be set free, we would glorify His name and if for whatever reasons, he was unable to get out, we would lose nothing because we knew his faith.
He made it clear that if the Lord still wanted him to serve Him, he would make a way for him to be released, but if that was not the will of God, so be it.
What is your message to the body of Christ in these perilous times?
All believers should draw closer to God. These are perilous times, we all need to stand firm in the faith. Even if you are going to be killed for your faith or under the crushing blows of persecution to forsake your faith, we should never give in or let go of our faith more so when we have a strong conviction of being with the Lord.
How many children did he leave behind?
We have nine children; four girls and five boys. Two of them have graduated while others are still in school.
Culled from The Punch.