Linus Oota, Lafia
It was a tragedy she did not see coming, nor imagined would ever befall her in her fruitless search for a baby she would call her own. A double tragedy that re-echoed with grim and gruesome spectre the famous timeless quote of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of United States: “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost, for the want of a shoe the horse was lost, for the want of a horse the rider was lost, for the want of a rider the battle was lost, for the want of a battle the kingdom was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
In Mrs. Mary Kulele’s case, the 41-year-old woman from Akwanga Local Government Area in Nasarawa State, it was for the want of a baby that would console her in her old age, after she was sent away from her matrimonial home on account of infertility, after 10 years of fruitless and frustrating marriage, that she lost her life.
Beaten to death and burnt to ashes after she was caught stealing a new-born baby from a hospital, the question that her tragic death raises is: which would have been better for her: that she endured and died childless, no matter the shame, pain and agony she would go through in life or that she died such agonizing death in the hands of less sympathetic mortals, neither actualizing her dream of nursing a baby, anyhow, nor keeping her seemingly wretched life in one piece? In the desperate situation that the woman found herself, feelings and emotion were bound to override reason!
Trajectory of a sorrowful life
Her life before she succumbed to such painful death was a mixed grill of sadness and joy. Joy, yes, when she eventually got married to her heartthrob, Amos Agu. She was full of hope of cementing the love relationship with children, as many as her husband would want. She didn’t come into the union to give him headache or any trouble. She wanted to make him happy in whatever way she could. She wanted to have and keep a happy home like other women are doing. She wanted to be carried on the wings of dreams and hope with the crackling laughter of children, as much as her husband wanted too. But alas, for 10 years, that was not to be.
Tired, after years of waiting to have a child through her, her husband, obviously egged on by self-induced pressures and pressures from relatives and friends, woke up, one day, and sent her packing simply because she could not conceive.
That was the agonising part of her life story that those who beat her to death and burnt her body did not know, or knew, but cared less, all the same. No one could imagine that before she went through the hell of bonfire, she had gone through the hell of raised and dashed hopes and the hell of worry, anxiety, scorn, and hatred, all because of infertility.
Marriage made in hell
But before she died, Mary told her killers a bit of her life story. She told them how her marriage that used to be envy of other couples living around them, at the beginning of the union, suddenly turned sour and began to be largely characterized by frustration and abuse, such that friends and her mother became peacemakers before her husband eventually sent her away. In a tearful voice, she recalled that from assault, name-calling, insults, constant abuse to starvation, the past 10 years had been the worst of her life, simply because she had no child.
“It got to a point that I asked myself if I was still living with the same man I married,” she said. “He suddenly became a beast, calling me barren, harlot and useless, just because I couldn’t conceive.” At this juncture, she wiped her tears with her wrapper before continuing with her tale of woes. “My husband was my best friend before we got married. We were ready to have children as quickly as possible so we could move on. But one year after, there was nothing. Second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth year passed, I didn’t conceive, then I became apprehensive. We tried several tests, but doctors told us to be patient that we were okay medically, but nothing changed. He assured me of his love and I tried to be calm. But knowing the kind of father-in-law I had, coupled with the fact that he is the only son, I was getting worried, because the man was already becoming hostile to me and suddenly my husband joined and eventually, they threw me out in December 2018.
“Before then, I visited places that my faith would ordinarily not permit, because all I wanted was a child, but nothing came out of it. That was how I started living alone after I was chased out of his house. I cried for months but that didn’t bring me any succour.”
How she met and married her husband
According to her, she was in College of Education, Akwanga, when she met the man who eventually became her husband. “I had married him out of love and had fought the world to be with him. He was my best friend, my first and only love, and the man I wanted to grow old with.
“Very soon my parents realized that there was someone in my life and they asked me about it. I told them about Amos, a Magili man from Obi Local Government Area of the state. They wanted to know what the relationship meant and if we were serious. I wanted to speak to Amos before I made a commitment on his behalf. So I asked him what he thought our relationship would be in future, his answer made me cry.
“Instead of taking a moment to think about it, he said that the only reason he was with me all the time was because he saw in me all his future days, that all he wanted was for us to be together. I think it was the best day of my life till then. And, I remember that as I started crying, he hugged me and slowly kissed me. I can still feel that embrace and I wish things were the same even today.
“I am the only daughter of my parents. My only elder brother had died in motor accident at 18 years. The trauma of his death affected my father psychologically and he equally died two years later. We completed our education in the college in 2008, got our first part-time teaching jobs in Lafia and it was time to settle down. That was when we discussed marriage, my mother who was a petty trader had always known everything about my relationship, and she had met Amos many times and told me that she liked him.
“Unfortunately, Amos too happens to be the only child of his parents and had lost his mother 15 years ago and his father who is a retired railway worker refused to take another wife and was looking up to him to raise a family. We got married in late 2008, precisely in December.”
Looking into the eyes of young men and wild women who were baying for her blood, she told them, pointedly, while pleading for their understanding with her puffy eyes: “It was this excruciating experience that forced me into stealing a baby. I felt I had no choice but to steal and raise a baby of my own to console me and prove a point to my husband that, after all, I was able to get a child, it was desperation that pushed me into this act.” But despite her desperate plea for mercy, the maddening crowd descended on her and, clubbed her to death.
How Mary was caught
Sources said Mary was caught at the hospital in Akwanga where she quietly went into the hospital pretending to be a nice woman by rendering selfless services to pregnant women. She confessed to taking the baby from the hospital ward when the mother took her clothes to somewhere in the hospital compound to wash. She was caught after a nurse raised an alarm over her suspicious presence in the hospital. Although the baby was recovered in good condition, the angry youths in the area took laws into their hands and lynched her.
Despite her lengthy narration of her sympathetic life and marital experience, her plea for mercy and forgiveness fell on deaf ears as the youths smoked life out of her. She wailed and pleaded that her life be spared. She promised never to do it again but nobody came to her aid. As you left the horrible and sordid scene, filled with sorrow and sympathy, her voice kept coming to you over and over again. It was so haunting.
Her husband reacts
You later traced her husband, Amos, to somewhere in Lafia. But when you met him, he regretted that his ex-wife had to go that far in her effort to get a child at all costs. “I don’t want to say anything about it since she is no more. It is painful but may her soul find peace. My story with her is a long one, there is no need going back to the story again. What she told you is not far from the truth,” he said.