On November 6, 2018, we broke the story of a woman whose son is among Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death by hanging by military tribunal in 2014. She was on the verge of death begging to see her son before she joins her ancestors. But luckily she survived the illness. But last month, Neighbours informed THE WHISTLER that the woman’s condition had deteriorated again and the only child who could help her is blind. Her son Clement Stephen is still in the KiriKiri maximum prison.
Some of our readers have asked for her contacts. She needs your help now.
Jigwada village, Keffi, Nasarawa state.
Guaranty Trust Bank, Account No. 0137646150.
WE SERVE YOU HER STORY AGAIN
Everyone in the community seems aware of their plight. It was easy to locate their dingy residence located inside the bush at Jigbada village on the outskirt of Keffi, Nasarawa State. This is where the family of Clement Stephen, one of the 54 Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death by firing squad by a military court martial in 2014, resides.
Since the day he was sentenced, the gloom that descended on his family is gradually turning into doom. His father died of hypertension two months later while his elder sister, Janet had completely lost her sight.
Clement’s ageing mother has been sick with grief and neighbours fear for her life. At 65, she looked like an octogenarian waiting wearied by the turbulence of life and only waiting to “exit this wicked world,” as a neighbour put it.
She lives in a dingy three- room house built by her husband after he retired from the Nigerian Army as a corporal 10 years ago. From a distance it looked like a deserted building until the visitor approached.
The roof of the house is rusted zinc held from being blown away by heavy logs of wood resting on each edge of the roof. A tiny footpath that leads to the isolated house may serve as an indication to a stranger that people still live there.
THE WHISTLER met Mrs Stephen who was still recovering from an illness lying down on an old two-seater couch. She lighted up slightly at the sight of the reporter and asked: “Did you see my son? Please tell him to come and see me before I die,” she said covering her face with her hands in renewed grief.
Her son, Cpl. Stephen Clement, alongside other soldiers, had been sentenced to death by a military court martial headed by Brigadier-General, C.C. Okonkwo, over his involvement in a violent protest against Major General Ahmed Mohammed, who was the GOC, 7 Division, Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri. Clement together with the other soldiers were convicted for mutiny after they were allegedly found guilty of shooting at a vehicle conveying Major General Mohammed in May 2014, whom they allegedly accused of causing the deaths of their colleagues at the battlefront with Boko Haram terrorists in that year.
The soldier’s sentence was said to have caused his father’s hypertension which eventually led to his death months after his son was convicted. Mr Stephen died as a retired corporal in the military. He had resettled his family to Jigbada after building the small house in the settlement. The late soldier’s wife and children had been living there since his retirement.
Speaking in an interview with THE WHISTLER, Mrs Stephen, who granted our correspondent audience in pidgin English, wished she could set her eyes on son again. “make I take eye see am,” the low-spirited soldier’s mother said.
Asked how she and her children had been coping since Clement’s incarceration in 2014, the condemned soldier’s mother said, “No be small thing o. You no see my house? Even the other room don fall, nobody to help. We no get light, we no dey see food eat. Hospital sef no money to go, na house I dey dey suffer with nobody to help me.”
Mrs Stephen said her and her children’s condition couldn’t have been so pathetic if her son had not been convicted. “If to say him dey, as him father no dey again, na him go dey help me. Na this one [Janet] senior am but she no dey see again and she no fit do anything even me no get power again.”
The soldier’s elder sister was said to have totally lost her sight after she could not continue with the eye treatment she had been undergoing when her brother was still available to take care of her.
A despairing Mrs Stepehen continued, “As all these things come happen like this e no good. My pikin no go see him father again. E no go see him mama and sisters again. That one good?
“This one [Janet] no dey see before she go say she wan go find work do. The other one [Clement] e no dey and this last one [Paulina] you fit see say she no get leg to waka if not na she for come direct una when una find us come, but she no get leg.”
Asked what major challenges the family had been going through since Clement’s ordeal, the blind sister responded, “Our challenges na him be financial help, especially as you see me wey I dey blind now…if to say my brother dey around, na him for help us since our father is no longer alive again.
“And look at our last born now, she’s physically challenged with her leg and she learn computer. The worst thing now be say if she go look for work where she go fit manage even if na N5, 000 them go pay her, them go tell her say she no fit do am. After her secondary school, no money to further her education.
“To eat ma na problem for us here, so na some people at times dey help us with small something. At times if the hunger too much na brother Suleiman( a family friend) we dey send text message to help us. So na the challenge wey we dey face now be this o.
“sometimes my mama go fall down sick, yet from morning to night nothing go dey to give her. Na so day and night we go dey cry.”
Speaking further on the challenges facing the family, blind Janet said, “Our house if rain dey fall, some parts dey leak. We no dey fit sleep if rain dey fall because if breeze blow na so our zinc go dey open, so we no go fit sleep. So, all these challenges are what we are just passing through.”
Asked if they haven’t been receiving help from anyone else, they gave a chorus response. “Nobody, whether friends or relations. Even my late oga na only two them been remain. After my oga die e come remain him sister and she sef don old for village. The sufferness too much… e too much for me”
Asked how she would describe Clement to a stranger, the old woman said, “Hmmm…we done live for Ojo cantonment, we don live for Lokoja and all the people know Clement. Clement no be person wey dey find trouble. My children no dey find trouble because even their father no dey talk. My pikin na gentle person and e dey joke with people.
“Even when I leave them for Lagos go Ibadan when them post us come Ibadan, any time when I go visit them, people they tell me say my children na good children, say them no get any problem. Clement no get problem with anybody.
On how she felt the first time she heard about her son’s ordeal, she said: “I feel bad, because I no say my pikin no dey insult elders since wen I born am. I don’t know how this thing come be happen like this. Them say my pikin dey inside I don’t know how.”
Responding on if she has spoken to her son since he was taken in, she said: “The last time wey I hear from am na the time when dem dey Abuja wey we go there…before dem carry am go.”
On if she could still do any business to fend for the family, the old woman said, “Before when I get my power na Garri business I dey do, but since wey this thing happen wey my oga come sick I never do anything. And my pikin matter come make everything worse and even sef no money wey I go take dey manage do small small something. Now I no get power to do the Garri work again that is why everything come be like this.”
Asked how they could be assisted to meet their daily needs, blind Janet responded, “Wetin we fit manage na to dey sell something like food stuff or provision for inside kiosk in front of our house where this my sister [Paulina] go dey stay for there. As somethings [crop harvests] dey come out now, I for dey buy in bags to store and sell.”
The mother added, “And my house wey dey leak too. We need help.”
On how she managed to receive treatment during her last sickness, Mrs Stephen said, “I no get money to go hospital. Na small small native medicine I take together with prayer. Nothing I get, even to check my body to know wetin dey wrong with me I no get money.”
Asked if they’ve made efforts toward securing Clement’s release, she said: “Na prayer. That is why we send una this message. I dey beg almighty to make government do something [breaks down in tears]. Anyhow e be abeg make dem release them. I beg President Buhari make e release them. Buhari self na father, make he show them fatherly love and pardon them. I want to see my son again before I die”