Gombe State Commissioner for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Aishatu Maigari, tells CHIMA AZUBUIKE how her family has been coping with the death of three of their loved ones who died in an auto crash on October 31, 2020
This period must be really difficult for you. How are you coping?
Alhamdulillah. I’m trying my best and with God on my side, I know I can overcome it.
How did you hear about the death of your three relations?
We tried reaching them on the phone but to no avail until we were able to connect with one of their phones and we were told that they had an accident. My dad called me to inform me that we lost them all.
How did it happen?
Nobody told us because none of them survived. And by time we got to the scene, no one was there to tell the story.
What was your first reaction and where were you?
The reaction was to leave everything in the hands of Allah. I just said Innalilahi wa inna illaihir rajiuuun (to Allah, we come from and to him we would return), and that is what any good Muslim is supposed to do in times of calamity. So, we leave everything in the hands of the Almighty. He is the one that blessed us with these boys and he is the one that has taken them at the time he felt it was the right time for them to go.
As a serving commissioner, how have you managed to stay focused?
When you leave everything in the hands of the Almighty, he finds a way for you beyond your own strength. People have been very supportive to our immediate family, everybody you can think of, all over the country and in Gombe State. The people, the government and everybody that heard about that incident were really sympathetic. Even people that never knew us have been very sympathetic and then a lot of testimonies coming from their friends and from neighbours show that they (deceased brothers) have lived a very good life, especially in these hard times when youths are draining and are not finding jobs. But these guys had good jobs and the one that was unemployed was on his own and he was making it. So, a lot of people prayed with us, stood with us and gave us the strength to carry on.
When was the last time you saw them alive?
It was a day before they had the accident.
Can you remember the last conversations you had with them?
We had a very good conversation on that Friday (October 30, 2020) after the Jumaat prayer. we discussed a lot of things but there was no sign that that was supposed to be our last conversation. But, as usual, they were very good and very obedient. They came to bid me farewell as their eldest sister in Gombe and they asked me whether I had any message for them to take home. I said I had nothing but I just prayed for them to have a good and safe transit back home. I prayed essentially for their safety back home. My brother and cousin were working in Kano while the other one was going on holiday. So, it was a usual goodbye and safe journey and prayers for them.
They were said to be master’s degree holders. Can you talk about that?
They all had their master’s degrees in different fields. Usman was a chemist. We had thought of a fellowship of the Chemical Society of Nigeria; we had talked about him joining the society and the Institute of Chartered Chemists. We had talked about going for my fellowship later in the month to Abuja. He promised he was going to be there by God’s grace. And then for Abdulkadir, he was going home on holiday so I told him I had some messages that he was going to come back with them for me when his holidays were over in two weeks or three weeks time. So, you see, it was a bright future ahead of all of them. Usman was 30 and Abdulkadiri was 28.
What part of Nigeria were they going to?
They were going to Kano.
What kind of persons were they individually?
They were very good individuals. As a journalist, I’m sure you must have heard testimonies about these young boys. They were very obedient brothers, very hard working, very resourceful, very insightful and very good. I don’t even know how to express it now but they were good boys. And at this time and age when young men are going astray, these boys were really on course. Nobody can say that they had ever fought with either of them or quarrelled or that they disobeyed them or that they were asked to do a favour for them and they declined and they told you that they (deceased) won’t do it. They were the best anybody could ask for as brothers or kids or sons or anything.
Yes I had a lot of commitments lined up for that week (when the accident occured). Like I said, when you depend on Allah, Allah paves the way for you, finds a way to make you strong and he did that by blessing us with a lot of people who have stood by us. You can see the state governor, the deputy governor, the Speaker and members of the House of Assembly, the commissioners, everybody standing by us. So, people stood by us and gave us the strength to carry on. So, we depended on Allah and Allah gave us people to stand by us.
What memories of them come to your mind anytime you remember them?
Each of them smiled and bade me farewell, that they were going home the following day, enthusiastically looking forward to seeing their parents.
Were they married?
No. My two brothers were not married but my cousin was married with a two-month-old baby. But I didn’t see him for like two weeks now. His wife is a young girl, I think just a second year student. So, you see that coping will be very difficult and the marriage was just 10 months old. You can imagine the kind of devastation the girl would be going through but she has been very strong. Her in-laws have been very strong and supportive; a lot of people have been supporting us.
Would you describe the tragedy as the worst experience for you?
For now, this is the worst experience, sincerely. Because this is the first time I am losing my brothers. This is the first time I am losing adult brothers, so to say. They were very close and I was looking forward to them getting married, starting up their families and succeeding in life.
Can you remember any experience or fond memories of them when you were all younger?
We called Usman ‘Usee the chemist, and then for Abdulkadir, he was an agricultural engineer. We used to call him ‘Engineer PP’ or food engineer, since he was an agric engineer. There are so many memories that they have left behind. I would like to thank everybody. I would like to thank Allah for blessing us with those boys and letting us see their lives from the beginning to an end, even though it was a tragic end. But it was a testimony of how good my parents had brought them up. And how it is that in this life, we don’t know anything as human beings, we are just nothing. We have to depend on Allah for everything. I would also like to appreciate the people and government of Gombe State and all our friends and family who have stood by us in this trying moment.
What would you tell anyone passing through a similar challenge?
The first thing is that they should depend on their lord, either Muslims or Christians. Depending on your lord makes things a lot easier, then you should make a network of friends. Whenever we are passing through life, we should endeavour to make an impact positively so that when we leave this world, we’ll leave only good memories and not bad memories. So, we should, at least, leave good legacies at each and every moment in our lives because this incident has shown us that, you can just die at any moment, whether you are sick or not, whether you are young or old, whether you have achieved or you have not achieved.