Hajia Fatima Usman was a very hardworking housewife, mother and career woman. She had a wholehearted support from her husband, Architect Usman Abdullah who, considering the conservative over-protective nature of Northern-men over their women where some confine their wives into purdah, he graciously endorsed her career in the public service. She rose to the position of Zonal Coordinator North-East region of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) supervising Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States . Her dynamic leadership and proactive approaches on disaster management were attributed to reduction of human-induced disasters in the zone through her regular advocacy programmes and visitations in sensitizing the public on precautionary measure against road accident, fire, bush-burning, floods and communal crises. Her major stakeholders, the target of her campaigns were mostly community leaders, traders, youths, journalists, response agencies amongst others. She had also led teams of NEMA to distribute relief materials to disaster victims. But on Sunday April26, 2009 something very tragic happened…
Her first daughter, Ummi (Halima) who just graduated from the University of Maiduguri had several things in mind, most especially to be a successful woman like her mother: a fulfilled job, a faithful husband and wonderful children. Though the job and children could not be predicted, there was an indication she had a plan for bliss matrimony after her service with an educated person.
Hajia Fatima’s last child, Khalifa, a boy of about 5 year was very innocent and jovial fellow that every parent would be proud to have because of his exciting playfulness typical of kids of his age. He was a child that needed all pampering and he got it from the parent who saw in him a great leader of tomorrow. Between him and the senior sister, Ummi are other children of Hajia Fatima. But on that April 26, 2009 one single incident happened that would forever remains unforgettable in the minds of the family, friends and staff of NEMA.
Surprisingly on that day I was in the office with a bachelor friend, who is well-educated and a management staff in an agency also responsible for disaster management when a call was made that an accident had occurred along Bauchi-Maiduguri road involving Hajia Usman. The officer said it couldn’t be possible because he had spoken to her daughter some hours ago and even displayed to me one of her last text messages that Ummi had sent to him that read “We are about to leave Bauchi now.”
He quickly rushed to call Ummi gsm number to confirm if truly her mother was involved in an accident. Her phone rang but was not picked… rang… rang… and rang it seemed nobody wanted to answer. Our friend was closed to the daughter as he continued to call the number before it was switched off.
Later he got across to someone close to the family who narrated everything that had ensued.
I looked into our friend’s face, the fears were written all over him: the trembling lips, the twisted nerve around the neck, the speechless mouth, though agape and reddened eyes were confirmation that something awful had happened.
That day the journey from Bauchi to Maiduguri began when Hajia Usman decided to drive the car with two of her children mentioned above and three other passengers. She didn’t normally drive for such a long distance. The journey was smooth… very smooth because the car was in good condition and on normal speed… but for a careless commercial driver who overtook other vehicles recklessly from the other direction… the inevitable just happened.
“Oh… God… Allah…Allah…!” Hajia Fatima, her daughter and passengers in her car proclaimed in submission to the will of God as vehicles too close to call crashed. The eyes closed, breath stopped… vein went off, bodies remained motionless and after the clicking of the vehicle, the car’s engine also dead. Without any courtesy of announcing its arrival the fatal accident through the misdeed of the reckless driver, the death picked its new victims abruptly. Hajia Fatima, her first daughter Ummi, her last child Khalifa and others become stories in past tense.
While the Director General of NEMA, AVM Mohammed Audu-Bida (rtd)had described Hajia as a very hardworking, committed and sincere civil servant whose contribution in disaster management were felt, her husband, Arc. Usman Abdullah said he couldn’t not query God as he believes in His will and power over every soul. He thanked God for giving him Hajia Fatima for making positive impacts in his family. He also declared that her other children are well and would imbibe the spirit of their mother who led an exemplary life.
Hajia Usman and two children have gone forever physically… Their deeds and attributes while alive will remain indelible in our minds as the only consolation to their memory. I am very proud of the life she lived as she was humble, religious and very kind to others. She didn’t begrudge others as she mind her business doing it with all honesty and sincerity. That was why tears rolls from some those who know her.
While we plan ahead and struggle for survival in this competitive and confusing world, we should be aware that every grave we passby contains a person that once lived like us. Which means sooner or later we will join them whether we like it or not. We should use today by planting good as if there won’t be tomorrow.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Economic Confidential May, The Guardian May 2, Sunday Trust May 2, Nigerian Tribune May 2, Leadership May 2, New Nigerian May 6, 2009