Saturday, 16 February 2019

Pain, Sorrow As People Who Lost Their Loved Ones To Political Violence Tell Their Heartbreaking Stories

Elections are here again, and like it has been since 2013 when he lost his mother, it is also a period when a dark memory from his past keeps flooding back. Over the years, Olusegun Adewumi, a serving lawmaker and former Deputy Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, has hoped that time will help to reduce the feelings of loss and regret he has, but he has come to realise that time cannot heal all things after all.
Today, Adewumi will be performing his civic duty by casting his votes in the presidential and National Assembly elections but even as he does that, he is sure that the pain of losing his mother prematurely will once again settle upon him, as it has done several times before. Like a tape, he has replayed the events of March 30, 2013 in his head many times, wishing he could turn back the hands of time to change a few things, but each time, he has failed.
Now he knows that like time, wishes can also be useless.
On that fateful day, Adewumi had a close shave when political thugs launched an attack on him at their family house at Erijinyan Ekiti, but his mother, Chief Julianah Adewumi, 76, was not so lucky.
She did not survive the rain of bullets that fell on her. His family friend, Ayo Jeje, died instantly from gunshot injuries he sustained during the attack.
His father, Gabriel Ojo Adewumi, 82, survived the attack but did not survive the heartbreak. He died about two months later, which family members blamed on the shock he had following the death of his dear wife.
The lawmaker, who said his family had not recovered from the traumatising experience, recalled the events that led to the attack, which he described as the height of intolerance.
According to him, the unfortunate incident happened on the eve of his planned defection from one party to another.
“The defection was scheduled for March 30, which was a day before we were to celebrate Easter that year. But at about 12 midnight, my family house at Erijinyan Ekiti was attacked by some political thugs from the community.

“The attack was like visitation of hell. I escaped the attack and came within a whisker of being killed. The attack claimed the life of my mother. At Federal Medical Centre (now Federal Teaching Hospital), Ido Ekiti, where my mum was rushed to, 35 shotgun pellets were removed from her body.
“One pellet was removed from her breast, while three were removed from her spinal cord. By the time they removed all the pellets, it was apparent she would be permanently deformed. She was 76 years old at that time, and unfortunately we lost her.

“It was a harrowing experience. My mother was in the hospital’s intensive care unit for three months, and nobody could tell what would happen to her in another 10 minutes. To stay with her, we had to do shifts. My brother would be there in the morning and I would take over from him in the afternoon; that was what we did all through. My elder sister was forced to relocate from the United States of America to Ekiti State. But we lost her despite all our efforts to keep her alive.
Few months after the death of my mother, my father died from the heartbreak and the shock he experienced during the attack. They had been married for over 50 years so we could understand that my father was seriously heartbroken. They had their first child in 1960, so you should know the kind of relationship they had enjoyed during their life.

“People from far and near visited the scene. It was like a war zone; only that it did not occur to them to set the whole building on fire. The house is still there till today with bullet holes in the walls. We deliberately left it that way and only replaced the windows that were shattered,” he said.
According to him, Jeje, his friend, who was about 43 years old, was also killed during the attack.
Adewumi described Jeje as a graduate, who had, in his quest for further studies, just secured admission to study law.
“Ayo Jeje was killed simply because he knew everybody that participated in the attack. They killed him to cover their tracks. In the course of conducting postmortem on the late Jeje, about 25 pellets were removed from his body.

“I was subjected to all manners of agonising experience which I don’t pray for anybody to go through because of political aspiration. Political offices are not permanent. Change is the only permanent thing in life. The 2014 governorship election, which was the reason for the attack was won by someone and the winner has even left the office. No position is worth anyone’s blood. The immediate former President Goodluck Jonathan once said his aspiration was not worth the blood of the masses.

“The matter was reported to the police, who conducted their investigation. The matter was eventually taken to court and some of the culprits ran away, while some were arrested. They were tried for two years or thereabouts,” he said.
Similarly, Dr Sobomabo Dokubo, a media and human resource consultant, from Abonnema, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, relives recent election periods with all the accompanying trauma of the loss of his son, Iminabo, 30, during the 2015 general elections.
In an encounter with Saturday PUNCH, Dokubo looked up, then down, and up again, before his face finally settled on one of our correspondents’ face, in a manner suggesting that he was hoping that some divine power would bring his lost child back to him.
But after some moments, he sighed as if to say he had once again grudgingly resigned his fate to a superior power.
“I lost my first son in the last general elections; Iminabo Dokubo had three lovely children before he was killed. He was just about 30. He had a Higher National Diploma in computer engineering,” he said. 
He continued, “It is so painful to lose a child to such a horrible circumstance, and it is also annoying. Prior to the elections of 2015, I was not in the country, but on the eve of the elections, I returned to Nigeria and went straight to Buguma in Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, where I met my uncles and brothers before some persons came shouting that Iminabo had been shot dead.

“I went to the scene of the incident, recovered my son’s corpse and deposited it at the mortuary. It was a very painful experience. My late son had earlier come to meet me. He greeted me and his uncles and told us that he was going to his grandmother’s house to eat; that was the last discussion I had with him. He left with his friend, only for information to come to us about 30 minutes later that my son and his friend had been shot dead.

“The news devastated me. I lost my first seed in his prime. The situation has demoralised me up till date; it has also affected my family very much.

“In the past three years, I have attended about six seminars, where I have urged politicians and youths to shun violence.

“Even before my son’s death, I had been participating in politics, but always hated violence. I believe in politics of ideology, for politicians to tell people what they have for them because life is not all about one’s pocket but what you are able to give back to the society.

“Politicians have to be contributors to the betterment of the society and not only know about self aggrandisement and pocket politics. So I continue to beg our youths to stay away from violence.

“I have been a coordinator, even at the governorship level and I have been preaching against violence, but despite my efforts, I have not clearly seen improvements in the system; that’s why I will continue to talk and preach against electoral violence.”
Dokubo also recalled an incident that happened in the state about 12 years ago where some people were killed over chieftaincy issues.

“The issue happened about 12 years ago and over 30 youths were gruesomely killed over squabbles that had to do with chieftaincy matters; some of the youths were disemboweled and thrown into the creeks.

“I took it upon myself to exhume some of the bodies that were buried in the sand and reported the matter to the police because I frown on such things.

“I am pleading with our elders and politicians not to cut short our tomorrow by misguiding our youths because if they live only for today, then our future is doomed. I urge our youths to disassociate themselves from gruesome and horrible politics and engage themselves in beneficial ventures and resist evil,” he said.
Damilola Ogunpate, an IT consultant, lost his father on August 18, 1983, during the crisis that followed the country’s entry into the Second Republic. The National Party of Nigeria’s Shehu Shagari had been declared as the winner of the controversial presidential election at the time, leading to fights between some supporters of the NPN and those of the rival Unity Party of Nigeria.
Ogunpate’s father was an agric extension worker in the old Oyo State and was returning home from work in Ife one day when some suspected political thugs shot him dead, along with some others.
“I was in primary 6 going to Form 1 at the time; I was just 11 years old. My father was not a politician but there was a political crisis at the time involving supporters of NPN and UPN. On his home from work that day, there was pandemonium as they heard that some political thugs were attacking people in the area.

“We heard that he also ran for safety, along with many others. Some of them, including my father, hid in a house. But unfortunately for them, it was a time when political thugs used to burn the houses of political rivals in that region of the country. Maybe the assailants thought that the house belonged to a rival party member; so they burnt the house and those who tried to escape from the fire were shot dead. My father was one of them. People believed the killers were supporters of either the NPN or the UPN. My mother never recovered from the loss of her husband.

“Incidentally, we (children) were living in Ibadan and had planned to use our holiday to see our father. So my sister and I left Ibadan two days after our father was killed, not knowing that he was dead. And in those days, there were no mobile phones. The area was still hot when we got there.

 “On getting there, we realised that everywhere had been burnt and unknown to us, some thugs were still around. Immediately they saw us, they began to shout so we ran away. As we were running away, we could see the bodies of dead people. We ran for our lives as those people ran after us. Then eventually, we ran into a bush and were able to escape from them. We were in the bush for about three hours until we saw some people who later rescued us.

“So we went to my father’s friend, but apparently, he didn’t even know that the incident had affected my father. We slept in his house till the next day. Then later, through people in the community, we were able to know that our father was dead. They had even taken his body to our hometown but we didn’t know.

“My mother could have a heart attack if I tell her that I want to join politics. She has told all her children not to join politics. I can never forget that experience, especially during election periods like this.

“I have four siblings and losing our father at such young age affected all of us. Growing up was very tough and everyone had to struggle for themselves. The last child of my parents was only eight months old at the time and didn’t know anything; it was our mother who struggled hard to provide for the family. My mother used to sell pap and I used to hawk food till I was in Form 3. I used to assist my mother.

“My elder sisters began to work after their school and when one of them got married; she took in the last child to take care of him. That reduced the financial burden on my mother. Eventually my mother moved to one of my father’s farms to continue farming; this was where she raised money to train us.

“It was really sad and it affected me a lot. After the experience, coupled with the dead bodies I saw, as I had never seen anything like that before, I was ill for three weeks. It was really traumatic for me. We were in the bush for three hours without seeing a single soul,” he said.
For Kehinde Ojewale, the sad incidents of 2007 general elections are burnt indelibly in her memories as her husband, Tunde, was killed over matters relating to the polls.
Tunde, an indigene of Oba, a town in Olorunda Local Government Area of Osun State, died eight days after Kehinde was delivered of their second child.
According to Kehinde, Tunde became a marked man following the roles he played during the state governorship election held on April 14, 2007. Tunde was killed few weeks after the poll.
On the day he was killed, Kehinde said Tunde was lured out of church and killed with a sword in a secluded place along Osogbo Road.
“Election season always brings back memories of my husband’s death. Since his death, life has not been the same. The baby I had for him eight days before his death died exactly one year after my husband’s death,” Kehinde said tearfully, adding that she could not continue with the interview.

Source: Punch Metro 

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