A night of double tragedy

My maternal grandfather, popularly called Sarkin Bariki, passed away on Monday July 16, 2018 at a little past 9pm, after a life of over a century. About the same time, my nephew, Abubakar Muazu, a 39-year-old police officer, was gunned down by men suspected to be armed robbers in faraway Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State.


It was a night of double tragedy for us.

Everything was pretty smooth throughout the day.  My mother called me at 8:39pm just to find out how I and my family were doing. “We are all fine mama” I told her. After all the greetings, I passed the phone to my daughters who took turns to say hello to their grandmother. One after the other, they greeted her and she asked how they were all doing in school. 


When the kids were done, I took the phone and asked how she and everyone in the village were doing. “Everyone is fine, alhamdullilah”, she said. At the end, I bade her goodnight and we ended the call. Everything and everyone was fine over there, or so I thought. Right?


Precisely 57 minutes later, my mother called again and this time she was not as calm as she was earlier.

 “Anas”, she called out to me.

“Na’am”, I responded in Hausa.

Then she went on: “I told you earlier that everyone was fine, right?” 

“Yes,” I said in anxiety.

“Well, not anymore. I have just received a call that my father has passed on,” she said.

“Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un” I uttered immediately. “Was he ill?” I asked her.

“Yes, he has been ill for a while now.”

“Allah ya jikanshi, yayi masa rahma, ya sa yahuta. Ameen” I prayed for my grandfather.

“Ameen,” she also responded. “I’m heading to my ancestral home now. Call your siblings and pass the news to them,” she instructed and ended the call. I informed my siblings as instructed.

The next morning, I called her to find out how she was doing. She immediately tried to discourage me from travelling home: “Are you planning to come home?” she asked.

“Yes”, I responded. “I will go to the office early to tidy up, after which I will be on my way In shaa Allah,” I added.

“I think you shouldn’t bother to come home,” she replied. “Just focus on your job. You know it’s not easy to get a job these days,” she added.

“Okay Hajiya,” I responded, knowing fully well that I intended not to follow her advice. She has just lost her father and she is in a state of mourning. If my mother mourns, I mourn. This one is certain.

Just how old was Sarkin Bariki at the time of his death? Well, there are many “versions” of his age. This is simply because of inadequate record keeping at the time of his birth. Some say he was over 130 years old. Others say he was 120 years plus. One of my uncles even estimated that he was close to 150 years.

The one thing I know about his age is that he was well over 100 years old. How much above 100 was he? Only Allah knows, but I know for certain that he was above a hundred years. How did I know that?

Eight years ago (2010), an Emir died at the age of 88. When the news reached Sarkin Bariki, he exclaimed “Inna lillahi wa inna ilahi rajiun, young people are just dying these days. I remember when the Emir’s mother was born.”

If Sarkin Bariki was around when the Emir’s mother was born, let’s do the maths: 88 years + 10 years (i.e 2010 to 2018) that means that if the emir was still alive he would be 96 years old in 2018. To be conservative, let us assume that his mother was born 16 years before him. 96 +16 = 112.

If the late Emir’s mother was born 112 years ago, how old must have Sarkin Bariki been at that time for him to remember the birth? He must have been well over 10 years old at least. That should make him over 122 years old at the time of his death. Anyway, to cut a long story short, let us stick to the fact that he was over 100 years old.

Just as I was leaving Abuja on Tuesday morning, my cousin Aisha Jummai Alhassan (not the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs), called me to pass a message to me. Somehow I couldn’t hear her clearly so I told her that I would call back later. I found out later that she was trying to pass a message to me that her oldest son, Abubakar Muazu, a police officer, was shot and killed in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State the previous night. He was shot less than an hour to the death of our grandfather.

I arrived my mother’s ancestral home to meet a full house of mourners. While not many people cried due to the death of the old man, a lot of tears flowed due to the loss of Abubakar. He was a young police man serving in Enugu State. He and some colleagues were recently sent on special operations to Birnin Gwari to curb the incessant activities of armed bandits in the deadly bushes around that area. He was killed during a gun battle between the police and some armed bandits.

I made my way within the family compound and traced my mother and her only sister Aunty Hadiza. They were seated alongside some elderly women in our late grandfather’s room, receiving condolences from family and friends.

Among the mourners that day were grand uncles, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, neighbours, distant relatives, friends and many more. While everyone was saddened by the losses, three people, in my estimation, have felt the loss of Abubakar the most. The first one is his wife who has lost her husband and is now left with very little children. I didn’t meet her during my visit because she was not in town but she certainly is one of those most deeply affected by Abubakar’s death. 

The second one is Abubakar’s mother, my cousin Aisha Jummai Alhassan. No mother would wish to be around to mourn the death of a child.  Jummai is really heartbroken and she still hasn’t stopped crying every now and then. In one of the moments that I was at her house to condole with her, some women came in to also sympathize with their friend. As they entered the house and saw her, they broke down in tears. Once again, Jummai’s eyes became covered in a glassy layer of tears. As the tears fill her eye lids, they slid down her cheeks. She quickly covered her face in an attempt to hide the tears. I bowed my face down as my heart beat faster. She tried to speak but kept on choking. It was yet another sad reminder of the pain she was going through. 

The third person most affected by Abubakar’s demise is his grandmother, my mother’s sister Hadiza. How do I describe the sadness I saw on her face when I met her on that Tuesday? How do I start to explain what she has been going through and how her pain has complicated my own sorrow? Where do I start from?  That she lost her father and oldest grandson on the same day? That she is my mother’s only biological sister? That she and my mother have been so close that they have never had a quarrel not even during their childhood? 

The events of Monday July 16, 2018 truly caused me and my folks significant pain and sorrow. The only consolation here is that as Muslims, we believe not only that every soul shall have a taste of death but that when it’s time, nothing can extend the life of any person. The only thing we can do now is to pray for the departed. May Allah forgive their shortcomings and grant them Jannatul Firdaus. Ameen.

Galadima wrote in from Abuja.


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