Ukashatu was six years old when he was taken away by a strange woman. Found after eight years, he can now only communicate in Igbo language and pidgin. But how did this all happen?
The Friday of a fortnight ago was the day 50-year-old Malama Daharatu, a beggar in Lagos, had earnestly prayed and waited for. It was the day she was reunited with her son Ukashatu, whom she lost about eight years ago.
In a chat with Daily Trust Saturday, Malama Daharatu of Rogogo area in Baure Local Government Area of Katsina State narrated how she lost Ukashatu. “It was one faithful Thursday night in an area called Bakin Masallaci in Orile, Lagos State. I sent him to dump refuse and since then I never saw him again until two weeks ago.
Daharatu, who is blind, said she went to Lagos pregnant with Ukashatu and started begging because of her condition. When she lost him, she, in the company of some friends, searched for him in hospitals and went to the police station all in vain.
On how she was able to get him back, Daharatu said, “I was at Maryland Mosque on that day. After the congregational prayer, we started begging and my phone rang. I was asked to come to the house we were staying in because some people brought Ukashatu. When I got there, I did not meet him because he had been taken to the police station. So, we went there with one Tasiu. To be sure he was my son, the police tested him. They told me to stand at a distance but he came directly to me and hugged me. We both started crying.
Malama Daharatu added that the police told her how they traced and got back her son through a Yoruba girl living in the same house with Ukashatu. The girl had complained to the police that the people she had been staying with for five years were maltreating her. When the police arrested Christiana (the mother of the house) and the house boys, they interrogated Ukashatu, who told them about himself. Luckily, he was able to answer their questions properly though he was six years old when he was abducted.
However, Malama Daharatu said after she was reconciled with her son, she did not bother to follow up on the case or ask what happened to Christiana.
Asked if she will stop begging in Lagos, she said she can’t because begging in Lagos is lucrative. But to be on the safe side, she had decided not to take her children with her again.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that Malama Daharatu has been begging in Lagos for over 20 years, and only returns to Katsina for a week or some days before going back. On one of her journeys to Lagos, she had an accident and lost a leg.
After he was abducted, Ukashatu’s name was changed to Michael. When Daily Trust Saturday spoke to him, he said he can no longer speak Hausa and only communicates in Pidgin English and Igbo.
Ukashatu said: “On the day I went to dump refuse, a woman asked me to come and collect bread. She then said I should follow her to collect some rice also and so I did. From one house, we entered another and afterwards I could not tell what happened.
“Her name is Christiana Onuchukwu and her husband is Mathew. I met two other children in the house – Emmanuel and Ifeanyi. They brought a Yoruba girl later on.”
The couple told him that he is Igbo and that they were his parents. “They enrolled me in Goody Primary School where I am presently in JSS 2. They really took good care of me.” From then onwards, Ukashatu started going to church with them.
On how he was found, Ukashatu said, “the Yoruba girl told me that she wanted to run away because they were maltreating her and that I should keep quiet. So, she ran away and reported to the police. I just saw my mother when they brought me to the station and I can’t remember how I was able to recognize her. When the police asked me about my background, I told them that my mother is a beggar and she is blind.”
But what would Ukashatu integrate with his people now that he is unable to communicate in Hausa? “I am just happy that I am back to my people.”
Malam Kasimu Abdu, one of Ukashatu’s brothers, said since Ukashatu’s disappearance, they have been praying for him and never ceased until he was found. Unfortunately, Daily Trust Saturday was unable to speak to Ukashatu’s father.