Linus Oota, Lafia
These days, 64-year-old Peter Atin, sits gloomily at the entrance of his house in Mom village, Nasarawa State when our correspondent visited him.
Although accidents on the Nasarawa Eggon/Akwanga highway were not new to the people plying the road, but this particular one that cut short the life of his 17-year-old only adopted son, Godwin, after losing his only biological son, James, in another auto crash on the same road too much to bear.
Just before his untimely death, the adorable teenager completed his secondary school education in flying colours and passes his Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Examination, is one of the many dumped babies with their parents identities unraveled till date.
It all happened like a scene from a horror movie. Godwin had left the village enroute to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Kaduna State, to check on the status of his application for admission. His desire was to return the next day, but he never got back to the village.
From Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, Godwin and two of his friends boarded a commuter vehicle but the vehicle was involved in a head-on collision with an articulated truck (commonly referred to as trailer) along the Nasarawa Eggon road. While two of his friends died on the spot, Godwin was seriously injured and evacuated from the wreckage of the bus to the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, in a critical condition, where he finally died at the hospital.
Dumped in drainage, rescued by trailer diver
Born in 1998, Godwin was just one week old when his biological mother dumped him in drainage channel close to the old trailer park, Makurdi road, through which floodwater flows into a river.
Her intention was that the newborn baby would be washed into the river, to die.
However, providence intervened when the driver of one of the trailers went to the edge of the drainage to defecate and suddenly heard the cry of a baby. He screamed in shock and before long, the news of the abandoned baby spread in the park and its environs.
Emotions ran wild when the driver narrated how he saw the baby in the drainage. For passersby and the petty traders at the park, the questions were many: “What kind of wickedness is this? What sin did this baby commit to warrant this treatment? What could have pushed this little baby’s mother to do this?” After the lucky rescue from the claws of death, fate smiled on the baby as he taken to an orphanage in Lafia, where he got succour of parenting, and was also given the name Godwin.
When he was a year and six months old, Mr Peter Atin and his wife, Mama Tabita, adopted him. After being married for 30 years, the couple lost their only biological son, James, in a motor accident while schooling at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was 19 years old. The sudden, horrific death of James made them childless, at a time the couple clearly could not conceive again and have another child, as a result of advanced age. They decided to adopt a male child to replace their late son and restore their joy. In 2000, the couple completed the process and adopted Godwin.
Despite their poor financial status as peasant farmers, they were committed in their quest to give him a good upbringing and the same quality education that James received while alive.
Agony of a bereaved father
Atin is one person who is well acquainted with sorrow and grief. Five months ago, Atin returned to his his village after herdsmen sacked him from his village and burnt it down. He had returned to rebuild his house and participate in the ongoing farming season. Very fond of Godwin, he spoke glowingly about the time they shared together. Gazing at his local resting hut in his village, before he could say a word, tears flowed from his eyes uncontrollably. Then he mumbled: “God has inflicted a permanent wound in my entire life, there is absolutely no point keeping me alive, I think I should commit suicide and die too. God is not fair to me and I don’t know my offence to him. My only biological son died in road accident while pursuing a university degree in ABU. It was a difficult time for me to manage because I put in all my resources from the farm to make sure he got the best. Then I lost him. Few years after his burial, I adopted a child, because it was not possible for my wife and I to give birth again, and after 17 years of suffering to raise him up, God took him away again. I was already building hope on him and what he would become in future. He was very hardworking and obedient; he was an errand runner; he helped me a lot in farming; he was very cool-headed, quiet and did not cause trouble. He did his secondary school in Lafia and during the herdsmen and farmers crisis, I stopped him from coming to the village. It is unfortunate that I lost him. I had already source for money from a local bank for his education at ABU to be paid later when I harvest crops by year ending. My joy has been stolen; I am only managing.
“He was a very brilliant child, he sat for SSCE and JAMB and passed all. I was a victim of road accident many years ago when my biological son died and I had no inkling that such would happen to me again, I am badly touched about it, Godwin’s untimely death has left me distraught.”
Continuing his lamentation, Atin said: “I have buried Godwin just in front of my round house because he was in his prime and keeping him long would make me commit suicide; his death was sudden, so I had to bury him to have rest of mind. While he was growing up, many people in the village used to tell him that I am not his biological father; he kept disturbing me about it but I told him not to mind what people said, that they were jealous of him.
“I kept the secret away from him until the day he finished secondary school. Then I sat him down in the village while celebrating his success in education and told him the story of his life. I told him how a trailer driver saved his life in a gutter in 1998 and what led to my adopting him as my child as well as my determination to give him the best in life. I insisted that he must be a lawyer and he indeed applied to study Law in ABU.
“His first emotion when I told him was of shock, then he appreciated God first and thanked me. He wondered why his biological parents dumped him and wished him death. He asked rhetorical questions about what went wrong, he was grateful to God for bringing him this far. He said that he wonder if he would have gotten the same love and care he got from me, from his biological parents. He vowed not to look for them for whatever reason because God had given him amazing parents who were doing more than what they would have done. He looked forward to his future dreams.
“Godwin was determined to achieve his dreams of becoming a lawyer and he looked forward on it. He promised to make us proud and wipe away our tears, he promised to make us not to remember late James, our biological son again, he promised to uplift our standard of living after graduating from the university and start working, but God denied him and me of that opportunity, God is wicked.”
Then he burst into tears, visibly quaking with indescribable inward pain.