A Nigerian man identified as Sunday Okebata, who lost his wife to the reprisal by soldiers on Izombe community of the Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, has spoken.
He shares his grief in this interview with CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Sunday Okebata. I am from Izombe in the Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State. My house was one of the houses burnt by the military on October 8 after soliders clashed with youths in our community. Unfortunately, my wife, Mrs Faith Okebata, was burnt and see died five days after.
What really transpired?
I was away at work when my beloved wife called me and told me that she had been burnt by soliders. She told me that soliders who were on a reprisal in our community came to our house and told her that one of the youths they were looking for ran into our house. She said that one of the soliders pointed a gun at her, asking her to provide the suspect or he would shoot her. This was happening in the presence of our two children and my mother, Mrs Catherine Okebata, who had had a stroke since 2014. My wife knelt down, begging the solider not to shoot her, my mother and my children. She explained to them that nobody ran into our house. My sick mother also begged the solider not to kill them as there was no youth who ran into our house. My mother also told the angry officer that none of her two sons had any criminal record, begging him to spare their lives.
How did your wife get burnt?
The solider walked out the room where he met my mother, wife and children and went outside. He then set the house on fire and left. My wife tried to rescue my children and mother who could not walk without an aid. My wife succeeded in rescuing my mother but was unfortunate as her clothes got caught in the fire and burnt her terribly. Her face, body, chest, back and everywhere was burnt.
Was she taken to hospital immediately?
Initially, I didn’t know it was an emergency situation until I received a call from somebody who asked if I was Faith’s husband. When I replied in the affirmative, he asked me to rush to a nearby hospital in my village where my was wife had been rushed to. I immediately called one of the senior army officers at 34 Artillery Brigade Command, Obinze and reported that soliders had destroyed my house and burnt my wife but the army officer quickly rebuffed my claim and told me that the soliders were not after women and children. He told me that my people had killed some of his colleagues and seized military riffles. I quickly rushed to the village and on reaching the hospital, I met my beloved wife in a terrible condition. Fire had burnt her body. I immediately evacuated her to the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri for proper medical attention.
What happened at the FMC?
At the hospital, it was discovered that the burn injuries affected her badly, down to her liver. The doctor told me that though all hope should not be lost but my wife’s condition was terrible. The doctor said that only little percentage of patients who had similar case as my wife survived it. We kept hope alive but unfortunately, she died five days later, leaving for me, four children, including our last born, who is just two years old.
How did her death strike you?
It is painful because my wife died on my laps. She died a painful death. It was very horrible. My mother can identify this heartless solider if she sees him. He never had mercy on my sick and old mother and my children who knew nothing about the incident. Just imagine the psychological trauma these children will go through. Imagine the setback. It is a big blow for a young man like me to lose my wife at this age and stage of my life.
What do you want now?
I want justice. My wife didn’t deserve to die now and in such circumstances. It was indeed a painful and heartbreaking death. I want justice. She died on my laps. She told me some things before she breathed her last. I want justice. I want the court to carefully look into this incident and dispense justice. My heart bleeds that this calamity befell me. I want justice.
Has the military reached out to you?
Not at all. Apart from the conversation I had with the senior military officer at 34 Artillery Brigade Command, Obinze, wherein he said that the rampaging soliders were not after women and children, the military has not reached out to me.
What kind of a woman was your wife?
My wife was a kind woman. You can see she got caught up in the fire while trying to rescue my sick mother and our children. She was filled with humanity. We met while on National Youth Service Corps scheme. I got attracted to her because of her humanity and decided to get married to her. We got married in 2011. She was from Cross Rivers State. She died untimely at 36, leaving for me our four children.
How are the children taking the death of their mother?
A few days ago, I called them and told them that their mother had died. I told them the circumstances of her death and the meaning of death. I told them that the implication was that they would never see her again. It was really an emotional moment for me. They cried but I consoled them. My heart is very heavy and I pray God save us from this trauma. Please, I insist that I want justice. My wife shouldn’t die in vain.
Source: The PUNCH