The story has been told of a heavily pregnant woman who was r*ped, strangled and then shot by herdsmen in Plateau state.
It was a painful death that neither the man nor his young wife saw coming. But when it was all over it left a big yawning hole of sorrow and emptiness. Five days after the evil deed was done, its ripple is still causing excruciating pain, not only for the 32-year-old Ayuba Wakili, husband of the murdered woman but also for the entire Ancha community of Maingo District of Bassa Local Government Area in Plateau State.
The story of how Margaret, Wakili’s 27-year-old, six-months-old wife was raped, strangled and killed, on the farm, by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the early hours of Monday, 15 July, 2019 is one that is sure to be told over and over again, for a long time to come, wherever two or three are gathered to share sad stories of the herdsmen rampage.
Now, in the light of the threat by the herdsmen to launch further attacks of such nature on the largely agrarian community, they have vowed not to go back to farm until the issue of security of their lives is sorted out by government. This is as Wakili, the man at the centre of the tragic drama, is calling for justice to be done by getting the evil perpetrators of the dastard act promptly arrested and be made to face the wrath of the law.
Traumatic account of the tragic incident
When Wakili woke up very early on that fateful day to go to his farm, he didn’t have any premonition that he was going to lose his wife in such a cruel manner. He had reportedly instructed her to cook and come with the food to meet him on their farm said to be far from their residence. The wife with whom he tied the nuptial knots in December 2018 and said to be six months pregnant, kept to his instruction, as usual.
She dutifully cooked the food and took it to the farm without any inkling of calamity that would later consume her and her unborn baby. According to her husband, they were working on their maize farm and cracking jokes and laughing with each other when the woman suddenly raised her head and saw seven heavily armed Fulani herdsmen advancing towards them. She drew her husband’s attention to the looming danger.
On sighting menacing approach, he quickly grabbed his wife’s arms and, together, they started running for safety, as fast as their legs could carry them under the circumstance. But the killer herdsmen reportedly ran after them and started shooting. But luckily, the bullets didn’t hit them. But as they ran so also did the herdsmen pursued them. But midway through the race for safety, the woman, given her state, stopped to catch some breath.
At that instant, her husband, concerned that that could give their pursuers the chance they were looking for, stooped down and allowed her to climb onto his back, and together they continued to run, with the herdsmen still in hot pursuit. But mid-way through their escape bid the thoroughly frightened woman who was also not feeling comfortable with the impact of the running on her body slipped from her husband’s back and came down hard on the ground. But as the herdsmen closed in, she got up immediately and headed to a different direction while his undecided and confused husband ran towards another direction.
It was within that few moments of separation that death on the wings of man’s inhumanity to a fellow man struck and snatched Margaret away from Wakili and turning a momentary separation into a permanent one. According to details provided by her husband, as their pursuers got nearer, the woman fell on her back and lay there panting and shouting for help. And, that was how the herdsmen said to be five in number eventually caught up with her, and without showing any pity to her, took turns in raping her while her husband cried and shouted himself hoarse while calling for help. But, as it were, none came. They later strangled her and put a bullet into her body through her rib cage to finish up the horrifying deed.
Reliving a horrific incident
It was a horrified and traumatized Wakili who wailed all the way home to call his relations and friends to the scene of the incident. Margaret’s body was later recovered and buried according to Irigwe traditional rites. Without a companion with whom he can share time and crack jokes together, today, Wakili is left with nothing but anguish, sorrow and tears. “I am speechless, hopeless and helpless at the moment,” he told Saturday Sun. “I am now left in the farm without my wife and my unborn baby without knowing where to start.”
Reliving the painful memory of that day, he said: “As usual, I go to the farm very early and my wife will later bring food for me.. It was the same thing that played out that fateful day. I left home very early to go and to do some work so that when she comes with food, I would eat and work a little and then we wewould return home together.
“She arrived the farm without any problem on the way. I had eaten and we were cracking jokes and laughing together while we worked on the farm. But after sometime, my wife stood up and sighted some people advancing towards us. She drew my attention and when I saw them, I noticed that they were Fulani herdsmen armed with weapons. I told her to leave what she was doing so that we can go. We left immediately but they started running after us.
“I held her hand and we started running even as they advanced towards us. At a point, my wife started getting tired because of her state. I stooped and carried her on my back and continued to run. But I noticed that as the killer herdsmen were getting closer and closer, she became frightened and slipped away from my back and fell down. And, while I was wondering what next to do, she got up almost immediately and headed to a different direction.
“Five of the men ran after her while the remaining two came after me with AK-47. Midway she fell on the ground while I continued running until I escaped from the pursuing men. I got to a safe place and started shouting and crying for help but there was nobody living close to the farm. From where I stood, I could hear my wife crying, groaning and pleading for mercy as the Fulani herdsmen took turns in raping her. They later strangled and shot her dead by her ribs. After executing the wicked act, I could hear them chanting victory songs and threatening to come back for others. They said they would continue to kill people in the farm like that. Then they left towards Kabonaba along Rukuba settlement.”
Cry for justice and help
Asked what he wants, he said: “I want the security men to fish out those behind the killing of my wife. I won’t forgive them for what they did. They must pay for their evil and wicked action.”
Wakili who said he would live the rest of his life in painful memory of that black Monday, called on government and international community to urgently intervene else many people will lose their lives during the farming season. He said the incident has created fear in people and added that most people will not want to go back to their farms for fear of being killed. “I narrowly escaped death and you are expecting me to go back to the farm without security?” he queried.
Publicity Secretary of Miango Youth Development Association, Zongo Lawrence who share in his sorrow, decried the cruel killing.
“It is sad that Margaret Wakili was killed in her farm by Fulani militias,” he said. “In the last two years, 22 people had been killed in the same village. We want the state and federal government to assist us. Many farmers might not go to farm because of this kind of incident. A lot have happened in this manner and we cannot allow this to continue.”
He adds that: “There is need for government to beef up security in the rural villages for farmers to go to farm in groups. If not, the state will experience famine this year. We have so many people that have been displaced and government has forgotten about them. Those people need to be visited.”
For now, the community which is mourning the death of Margaret has resolved not to go to farm until their security is guaranteed.