-‘I fainted three times when I heard the news’ – ZAINAB, ABUBAKAR’s wife
-‘I MISS MY HUSBAND EVERY DAY – Umma, Umar’s wife
-‘We can’t cater for over 15 children alone, we need help – USMAN SULEIMAN, one of the victims’ younger brother
When a fully-loaded 40ft container fell off the Ojuelegba bridge and landed on a black Toyota Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) (on Wednesday, September 2, 2015), it took with it not just the lives of the occupants of the vehicle, but also the joy and happiness that once was in their homes.
Abubakar Suleiman (48), Umaru Suleiman (45) and Kamilu Umaru (38) – all relatives – were the breadwinners of their families; on them the hopes and dreams of both their immediate and extended families rested, until they were crushed to death due to no fault of theirs in the worst of manners.
Their wives are now left with the unenviable task of catering for themselves and for more than 15 young children – a big task.
Sober doesn’t do justice to their demeanour. Pain doesn’t really describe what they feel. Sad doesn’t paint a complete picture of their state. Zainab and Umma (the wives of Abubakar and Kamilu respectively) are in disbelief yet to fully come to terms with the reality that their loving husbands will not come home again.
Zainab, recounting the events of that fateful day to our correspondent who visited their home in Moricas, Agege noted that it started like any other day. As is customary with professing Muslims, the family said their morning prayers before he headed for his bureau de change business at Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja.
The incident has left her to cater for her five children – Suleiman (15), Idris (14), Abdulrahman (10), Aisha (7) and Hauwau (2, born on their wedding anniversary) – alone, a task she admitted she has no idea how to go about.
How have you been coping since your husband passed on?
It’s not been easy, but with the family around me, I feel much better. They console me, but it’s not easy. I don’t know how I can get the thought out of my mind.
What are you going to do now?
The next thing now is to see how the children can go back to school and for me to get something doing to cater for them. You know they resumed on Monday (September 14). It’s not easy taking care of five children with a husband, not to talk of without a husband now.
How helpful has the family been?
They’ve been there for us. For now, I think it may seem as if it is going to be easy for them but I don’t think it will after some time. But God helping.
What do you miss most about your husband?
I will miss everything about him.
What happened that morning before he left for work?
Normally, we had our morning prayers, he played with the kids, we were all happy and said bye to him. The morning went like every other one.
Have your kids been asking about their dad?
Yes, they have, especially the younger ones. Just yesterday, the youngest (Hauwau, who is our anniversary baby), was crying and asking me ‘where’s daddy?’ I told her not to worry that daddy is coming. That’s what I’ve been telling them, but they’ve kept asking. I believe with time, they’ll get over it.
How would you describe your husband?
He was a very strong and hardworking man, he was very committed to me and our children.
What’s the one memory of him you’d always remember?
As a couple, we have many of things to remember. They are uncountable.
Has the government reached out to you since the accident?
I have not heard anything. I am still feeling like it is a dream, I still don’t feel all this is real up till now. But I remember I saw his corpse and he has been buried. He was buried the day after (Thursday, September 3).
Even the police?
No, nothing. I have not seen or heard from any of them.
Your wedding anniversary is next month?
Yes, on 24, it will be our 16th year together. He jokingly mentioned it that morning while he was playing with the children that we’d celebrate it. We never had any cause to quarrel, he was always very playful and he was hardly ever angry. He was a very loving and caring husband, I will always miss him.
What was your reaction when the news was broken to you?
I fainted, three times. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was hoping and praying that maybe he was still alive and he’d come back home. But when I saw his corpse and he was buried, I just handed everything over to God.
‘The burden is too much’ – USMAN
We also had a brief chat with Abubakar’s immediate younger brother, Usman who called out to the public to come to their aid and support in any way they could.
At this point, what would you want the government to do for you?
We want the government to come to our aid, it is not easy for us to bear all these on our own. We are grieving the loss of our brothers who are breadwinners not just to their immediate families, but also to their extended families. It is a huge loss. They have wives who are now helpless, they are housewives, they don’t work. They were the ones taking care of the whole family.
Now, we don’t even know who to cry to, we don’t know who to hold responsible. We don’t know what to do. The government has not come to our aid, nobody has said anything to us. We are just stranded at this point. The kids cannot remain at home, they have to go back to school.
They have a home and they’ll need to pay rent and continue living. The burden is too much, we can’t handle it alone. We need the public and the government to assist us. This is a huge blow on all of us.
Has anyone or group come forward to assist you?
There’s an agency, the Public Advisory Centre in Ikeja, they called and asked us to write a formal letter concerning it, so they can take up the matter, which we have. But we have not heard any response from them after that. We don’t know if anything will come out of it. We have done what they asked us to do, we met with them and gave them the letter as they requested.
When was this?
That was last week (the week of the incident), but we don’t know what will come out of it.
‘I have nine children, I don’t know what to do’ – UMMA
It was more of the same for Umma who could not stop tears from constantly rolling down her cheeks despite her efforts. She could only mutter a few words as she wondered how she would take care of her nine children all by herself in this interview with our correspondent at their residence also in Moricas, Agege.
What has life been like without your husband?
I can’t say anything but thank God. I have nine children, I don’t know what to do.
What happened that morning before he left for work?
I was not in town when he left for work that morning because I travelled to Cotonou very early that morning. He called me around three in the afternoon to know if I was back, and I told him I was at Badagry then. So, when I got home, I called to let him know I was home, but he didn’t answer. I called repeatedly, same thing.
How have you been taking care of the children since?
That’s why we are calling on the government to help us, I can’t cater for nine children alone.
Have your children been asking about their daddy?
They have been asking, everyday. Just this morning, my last born was crying and asking me where’s daddy, that he wanted to see daddy.
What have you been telling them?
I have been telling the last born who is about four that he’s in the hospital, but the older ones know.
Has he been buried?
Yes, he was buried the following day (Thursday, September 3).
How have the family been supporting?
Yes, they have been supporting me with prayers and all.
What do you miss about your husband?
Everything. I miss everything about him. I miss him every day.
What kind of a man was he?
He was a very nice man, he helped people. So many people are crying over his death because he was always helping them.
What would you like the government to do for you?
To help me with the children, their school and welfare. I don’t know how to look after them. School resumed on Monday (September 14).