By Job Osazuwa
Mrs. Grace Halilu is not a happy woman. And her sad state might linger for long if things remain the same.
The poor woman is demoralised and confused because her son, Aliyu Halilu has been missing since 2001.
The ugly development is causing her an unbearable headache. The only cure she needs, according to her, is for her to know exactly what happened to her son.
The young man, the woman told the reporter, had a great future as a staff of the then vibrant Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). Soon after securing the job, he was sent for training in Kano State on Territorial Security, Intelligence and Investigations.
Aliyu, according to his distressed mother, suddenly went missing. Since then, nothing has been heard about him. The sobbing mother said she became more disturbed with the fact that her son who could ordinarily not endure few days without sending letters or putting a telephone call to her and his siblings suddenly appeared to have turned his back on them. Days turned into weeks and it snowballed into years, and the anxious mother’s cloudy world continues to be compounded with different contradictory news of his son.
The agonised woman has been living, praying and hoping that her son would return someday and very soon, but her expectation and patience had been stretched beyond the limit. If only tears could bring her son back, her teardrops would have performed the magic. The whereabouts of this her first son seems a mystery to her, especially with the untoward happenings that have surrounded Aliyu’s disappearance.
He attended the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, where he read Sociology and Anthropology and came out in flying colours in 1999. He was born in Lagos on April 8, 1974 and attended primary and secondary schools in Lagos.
Mrs. Halilu , who hails from Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, is scared that the worst might have happened, and that Aliyu, who would have been 42 years by now, might be dead.
“He might have been killed by bad people or forced to join a bad gang. Maybe Boko Haram insurgents forced him to become their member. Initially I thought he was kidnapped but they couldn’t have held him for all these years,” she said.
Mrs. Halilu told the reporter that her joy was full when she got married to her dream husband, Mr. Nuhu Halilu in Enugu about 44 years ago. The now retired soldier, a Fulani man, hails from Kwali/Pai area, near Suleja in Abuja. And they later lived peacefully and gave birth to five children in Lagos until the man was transferred to Kaduna.
Recalling how her trouble started, she said her husband returned from work one day in 1994 and began to complain that she had done something terrible that had landed the family in trouble. When asked what her offence was, she narrated that there was a communal clash where they lived in Kaduna, and that his wife had allowed some strangers fleeing from the theatre of war to run into the house.
Hear her: “He told me that I opened our doors for his enemies to come in. I asked him who and what he meant by enemies. It was then he told me that he had been initiated into a secret cult and that his members were going to kill me for my action. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. He explained further that this group was all over the world and that they would soon be ruling the world. He asked me to pack my loads and leave his house, that all our lives were not safe while still living together.
“He relocated us to Lagos and we were abandoned there at Ijegun. Not too long, he was retired from the Army and he relocated to where we didn’t know. When my first son got an admission to the university, we were looking for him and we later traced him to Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. He told my son there to go to school and take care of himself. We struggled to pay his fees through the university.
“When he graduated, one of his father’s relatives told him to follow him to their hometown and they later took him to Maiduguri. He began to associate with people of questionable character there.
“He later called me to inform me that he had gotten a job with NITEL and l was very happy. For sometime, l didn’t hear from him again and l was worried.
“In 2002, someone that looked like my son came to my house in Lagos and claimed to be my Aliyu. I suspected one of Aliyu’s friends that had visited the house with my son gave him the address and described me to this stranger claiming to be Aliyu. “Meanwhile, the stranger looked like a member of his father’s family. He couldn’t go to the room where my real son kept his clothes. He was hiding his face from me now and then.
“Then, this new Aliyu also told me that he got a job at NITEL and he had just been transferred to Lagos, Ikoyi office. It was then that I suspected they might have harmed my son and used someone else to replace him. At other time, l thought maybe they had used some charm on him because he was not talking straight. I confronted him that he was not my son, but he said he was. It was already night and l was somehow confused. I wanted to play along with him so that I could get more information from him, but he was smart. He told me he was going to the hotel where he lodged, and l didn’t see him again in four months.
“I later traced him to the NITEL Ikoyi office and l saw a young man different from the one that came to my house. He also looked like my one of my husband’s family members. I started crying and I heard him to produce my son. This one also claimed that he was Aliyu but some people in his office told me that he confided in them that he had never been to Lagos until he got the job.”
She said she was advised to report the matter to the police. And with the help of some human rights groups, Aliyu’s mother attempted to arrest the man parading himself as her son, but the new Aliyu told them that the matter was a family issue and that he was matured enough to handle it.
“He said even if he decided to abandon his mother, that he was an adult and nobody could question his decision. All this while, when the battle was on, we didn’t know where my husband was living.
“Even with what l am saying now, l am afraid that they might kill me. But I am not afraid to die, so long as the world hears my story.
“In 2004, my last son, Hauwa and I went to a police station in Ikoyi to report the matter of impersonation to the authorities. When Hauwa saw him, he screamed and said that was not his brother – because they grew up together. The fake Aliyu ran away and abandoned his belongings in the guesthouse where we traced him. When NITEL was no longer functioning, we could not find him any longer.”
She said her second son, Sidi, also died mysteriously in February 2015 at Ilasamaja in Lagos. “ Until his death, he was a staff of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). He was transferred to Lagos and passed on two weeks after he packed into his new apartment,” she said.
She said her other children are wary of dabbling into the issue, saying they didn’t want to die young. According to her, the children had even told her to let the sleeping dogs lie. She said when she finally located her estranged husband some two years ago and confronted him, the man had kept quiet over the issue.
However, Mrs. Halilu is calling on all the security agencies, governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to come to her aid and help her find her real son and bring those behind her years of trauma to book.
“If they had killed my son, let them tell me and I will cry and mourn him once and for all. For another person to be parading himself as my Aliyu is totally unacceptable to me,” Mrs Halilu said.