◗ I watched my brother-in-law slaughter my husband in the presence of our children, tragic recall by widow of slain soldier
Molly Kilete, Abuja
At 36, Aishatu Usman has seen hell. Widowed. Poor. Traumatised. She was once a woman who had everything. But seven years ago, she went through a most harrowing experience. She watched her husband died, a violent death. The horror was worsened by the circumstance of her husband’s death. Stabbed and slaughtered, he bled to death, watched by his wife and children.
“If someone wakes me up from a dream and tells me who his killer was and that he belonged to the Boko Haram sect, I’d not believe it,” says Aishatu Usman.
Her husband was killed by his blood brother. She is yet to recover from the trauma.
Her story is one of the horrors of the Boko Haram holocaust. It is an open aperture on the extent to which the insurgency has eaten into the fabric of the society and the virulent hate driving the insurgents.
The sad incident happened in Biu, Borno State when Sergeant Musa Usman of the Nigerian Army, took his family home at a time the Boko Haram insurgents had a grip on Maiduguri. Unknown to Musa, he had embarked on a journey to hisdeath.
Today, the wife he left behind is struggling to cater for their three children with her meagre earnings as a cleaner at the Army Headquarters in Abuja. Her monthly wage was barely enough to put food on the table for the children.
A painful recall
In an exclusive interview, Aishatu Usman narrated a poignant story to Saturday Sun. The widow, still very much terrified by the tragic incident, claimed she has learnt never to trust any human being except God.
Here is her recollection.
“My name is Aishatu Usman. I am from Borno State. I am 36 years old. The story of my widowhood began when my soldier husband, Sergeant Musa Usman took us to the village in 2011. At the time, he was on a course in Makurdi but had a brief break. The children, too, were on holiday. He thought it would be a good idea to visit our kin in the village at Biu, Borno State.
The calamity happened after one week of our arrival in the village. It happened right inside our own house. We never expected it.
On that fateful day, my husband’s brother had visited us. He was not around when we arrived days before. So he came around. My husband was out of the house but soon returned. I prepared some food for them. While they were eating, my husband asked his brother about his journey. “Fine, everything went fine,” he said.
Suddenly, he added: “It’s just that what the soldiers are doing to the Boko Haram group is not right.”
The statement shocked my husband. He knew his brother was referring to him. “What do you mean?”
His brother responded thus: Left to him, all the soldiers in Nigeria should be killed for their atrocities on the roads in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
My husband left his food unfinished. He was shaken because his brother was obviously referring to him.
Inside the room where I was, I heard every word of their conversation. So did my mother-in-law too who was also in her own room.
My husband called his mother: “Mama, come and hear what your son is saying.”
Their mother came out and asked, “Shuaibu, are you among them?”
The question made him angrier. He turned his fury on everybody. Then, my husband said,
“You will not leave this place. I am going to call the soldiers to come and pick you here.”
They started shouting at each other, and the commotion attracted neighbours, who came in and begged my husband to leave him alone.
Shuaibu uttered all sorts of profanities. I will burn down the house! I will burn your car!––all manner of things. I became very afraid. I went to the sitting room and pleaded with my husband to let him be. Since I married my husband, I had never seen him so angry. At that point, another of their brother opened the gate and allowed Shuaibu to leave.
After his departure, I admonished my husband that he didn’t have to exchange words with his younger brother. He soon calmed down, laughed and entered the mosque to pray.
I went back into the room to pack the dirty clothes I wanted to wash. I was outside, about to begin washing when a motorcyclist drove at high speed and parked outside our gate. I looked up in time to see my husband’s brother jumped from the motorcycle holding something in his hand. I was apprehensive. He was in a dangerous mood. I started shouting, calling their mother to come out.
My husband who was in the mosque came out and wanted to close the gate to bar him from entering the compound. Their mother too came out immediately. I ran inside and strapped my youngest child on my back, the other two clung tightly to me. I remember telling my husband: “I will run out with my children.”
He turned and looked at me. The last thing he said to me was, “Go inside, nothing will happen to you and your children.”
The moment he was talking to me was when his brother struck. He stabbed him in the neck. When he removed the knife, blood gushed out in fountains of bright red. I heard my husband saying, “He cut me, he cut me.”
Shuaibu finished the job by slitting his brother’s throat.
In the process, the charms he tied around his waist and hands fell to the ground and he started running. People started shouting, Thief! Thief! Thief! Nobody could get close to him because of the knife he was holding.
I fainted straight away. When revived, I ran to my husband where he was lying supine in a pool of his blood. He was trying to speak but he could not get the words out. They carried him to the hospital. He died on the way.
The villagers pursued Shuaibu and were able to catch him with the aid of a Fulani man. He was overpowered and taken to the army barrack. Days later, soldiers handed him over to the police in Maiduguri. Since the day of the incident, I have not set my eyes on him. I don’t even want to hear anything about him.
Three days after the incident, my father-in-law felt it was dangerous to leave me in the three-bedroom flat built by my husband in the village. One of the rooms was occupied by my mother-in-law and another by his younger brother. At the time, Boko Haram was seriously operating in the area. My father-in-law was afraid for my life and that of his grandchildren, so we went to live in his own house.
After 40 days, we started receiving calls from Abuja. The children had to go back to school. I wanted to return to Abuja, but my in-laws didn’t want to release me, not until one of my uncles, also a soldier, called and told them they have to release me, that I do not have to remain in the village.
Life as a widow
After I returned to Abuja, life has not been easy. God has been wonderful. The army too is trying––without their help, I wouldn’t have been where I am today, especially with regard to the children’s school fees.
Two of the children were already attending NAOWA schools before the tragedy. The last child, who was one year old when their father was killed, also joined them.
After my husband’s death, I stayed in the barrack for sometime before moving to Mararaba, where I have been living for three years now.
The army paid me his gratuity and after the payment, I decided to build a house on the land my husband bought in Mararaba. It is not a fantastic building. It is still uncompleted, but we have a roof over our head. It is better than being homeless. It saved us from the hardship of paying rent.
A big challenge
Up till today, I am having a challenge with my husband’s insurance. Payments are being made to relatives of deceased soldiers of 2013, 2014, and even 2015, but nothing is forthcoming about 2011. I cannot say what the problem really is. Each time, I went there, the response I got was, “We are working on it.”
Life has not been easy as a widow. But the government is trying. They are paying the children’s school fees. That is our only saving grace; otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened to us by now. I cannot sit down and watch my children not going to school.
A word on behalf of soldiers and their widows
Often I hear people say, soldiers are not serious about fighting the Boko Haram terrorists. Such talks are demoralizing, not only to the soldiers but also to those of us married to them. Soldiers are human beings. Some of the soldiers, if they had their way, would not want to leave their families and go on a duty to fight terrorists.
When they are leaving us to embark on such deadly missions, we are not happy. But, what can we do? Nothing. We have no choice other than to pray for them. I want to tell everybody out there that soldiers are trying, and their widows––I mean those that their husbands died, whether in operations or by natural death––are going through serious stress.
I work at Army Headquarters as a cleaner. It is the salary I am paid that I use in taking care of my children. There are a lot of other widows out there who don’t have anything doing. I know a lot of them. Each time I think about their situation, I imagine what would have become of me if I were not doing anything. How would I have managed to feed my three children at this very difficult time?
People who complain that soldiers are not fighting the Boko Haram war would change their opinion if they find out the number of widows in the military barracks since this Boko Haram thing started.
Now we have Armed Forces Widows Association where we come together to encourage ourselves. We have a president. Whenever we have a problem, we inform her and she goes out to solicit help for us. The widows really need help. Some of them cannot send their children to school. Their children are at home. Children who have completed their education are idle at home due to lack of jobs.
Many children of deceased soldiers are still willing to join the army, despite what happened to their fathers. If it were a profession they are ashamed of, they would not have wished to become soldiers when they grow up.
Missing her husband
My husband had been nice to me during his lifetime. He never allowed me to work; he wanted me to devote all my time to raising our kids. He provided all that we needed. He bought everything we needed at home. I was satisfied. Today, I have to go out and struggle.
I have to work so that my children will not remain at home. It has not been easy if you understand what I am talking about.