I received a phone call on the same Sunday, the 21st October at night from Gloria Essien telling me of Temi’s attack. I promised to check on her the following day which I did and the rest of the testimony is as told by Temitope Mustapha on her Facebook account.” That was Asma’u Halilu, Kaduna State correspondent of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), giving accounts of the role she played in saving the life of Temitope Mustapha, a journalist with VON, who was savagely attacked in the recent mayhem in Kaduna, Kaduna State.
“Sincerely, you will never know the pains of such inhumane act until and unless it happens to a family or a friend of yours. The situation was very horrific and terrible. Alhamdulillah Temi is alive to tell the story,” she said.
Asma’u posted on her Facebook wall that just as she “wept uncontrollably while nursing Temi in my home, so did I yesterday, as people I don’t even know from Adam or have lost touch with sent me messages and called to pray for me simply for being kind to Temi in her time of trial.
“Sincerely, I appreciate you Temi, especially your mum who has not stopped calling to pray for me and my family. For all those uncountable people ranging from family members, colleagues, friends, school mates from primary to tertiary Institution, neighbours, well wishers and even complete strangers who called to celebrate, appreciate and pray for me, my family and my generation yet unborn, I say a big ameen and thank you, too.”
Savagely pelted with stones and beaten with all manner of objects, her assailants impervious to her pleas for mercy, she gradually drifted into unconsciousness… and was left for dead.
She did die but somehow, through providence, ‘resurrected’ to tell the story of her brush with death on one of the days of rage and madness that gripped Kaduna State.
Temitope Mustapha, a mother of two and journalist with the Voice of Nigeria (VON), is one out of many innocent people that got caught up in the orgy of teeth-clenching rage that swept through Kaduna for many weeks, despite state curfew.
She was one of the few lucky ones that stared death in the face and lived.
By her own account on her Facebook page, that fateful day, Sunday October 21, 2018, she was passing through Kaduna State en route to Kano State for a two-day “Media Dialogue on Equity for the Girl Child Education.”
In the vehicle conveying them, she fought to stay awake as she had had a number of sleepless nights doing stories.
“About 4.35 p.m., this gentleman who was in the same car with me woke me up and said ‘Madam, stay awake.’ I replied him, ‘I had written stories previous nights before I embarked on this journey’. Again this man woke me up and said, ‘Madam, please stay awake’.
“Then I opened my sleepy eyes very wide and saw military officers seated in their vehicles,” she recalled.
There was a curfew in place all over the state; security officers, including police and soldiers, were on patrol…or so it seemed.
But still, the rampaging youths baying for blood still managed to ply their trade undisturbed.
At this point, it must have dawned on her and other occupants of the vehicle that the road they took was not as safe as they thought after all.
Their vehicle was not passing through what was considered the heart of the violence, but the rage had spread and taken over even the by-pass they took.
They ran into the rampaging youths on the Kabala-Kawo Road with fire in their eyes.
“At Kaduna Bypass, I saw a trailer blocking the road and traffic was building up. The driver of the car I boarded beckoned on one of the youths holding a (rod) of iron.
He responded in Hausa language, and another passenger translated this to me that he wanted to find another route out of the bypass.
“Suddenly, a number of the young men sighted me in the car and my driver started pleading with them, telling them ‘Da Allah ki ya kuri’.
“I was the only female in the car,” Temitope recalled.
Like a pack of ravening wolves, the miscreants, numbering more than 15, swooped on the vehicle. The other passengers jumped out and bolted.
“I summoned courage and opened the right side door which was already besieged by men holding all manner of iron (rods) and stones.
“My turban (head-tie) fell off, and I started running towards an uncompleted building. (Then) I realised I could be finished in the building. With heavy stones landing on my back and long metallic objects hitting my body from people running after me, I turned and thought of crossing the gutter on the Kaduna bypass,” she said.
She fell under the hail of stones and other objects raining down on her, while others bludgeoned her with rods and sticks.
“I actually saw one of them videoing what they were doing to me. I suddenly didn’t feel the hitting of the irons on my body again and the stones were no longer making sounds to me.
“I was hearing ‘Jesus is Lord’ inside my head as clearly as if with a mega phone. I was seeing my mother’s, my son’s and my daughter’s faces all at the same time and somehow I kept hearing in my head that all they were doing was not up to labour pains.”
She recalled crawling inside the gutter by the bypass and seeing in a blur a crowd of men watching her.
She recalled seeing one of the young men standing over her carrying a big stone with his two hands (to smash it down on her), and how she feebly raised one hand to beg for mercy…
And the lights went out.
She woke up at the Amrullah Hospital (also along Kaduna bypass) on a stretcher.
“I attempted standing from the stretcher but my body didn’t respond.
“I was asked for phone numbers. Heaven helped me to remember my younger sister’s number and my husband’s.”
Six drips were administered on her with antibiotics, and the head suturing done.
According to her, the young Muslim doctor, one Dr Awwal Ibrahim Abukur, was crying while suturing her head, while hospital attendants were cleaning the blood-stained stretcher.
But the evil was far from over. Her assailants somehow managed to hear that she was still alive and would have none of that.
They made a beeline for the hospital, and demanded that she be released to them so they could finish the unfinished business. But this Muslim hospital put everyone on guard and saved her.
“I was kept in a ward locked up with a nurse who was given instructions not to open the ward to anyone whose voice she didn’t know.”
Only the hospital manager, the doctor on duty and two nurses were given access to where she was kept.
On the second day, she inquired from the first face she saw when she woke up from the “deep sleep” (the hospital manager) how she got to the hospital.
Temitope recalled: “I said, ‘please, who brought me here?’ He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘A JTF member brought you, lifeless. We rejected you because you were not breathing, and demanded he should not drop your body with us.
“’When we refused to take you, the JTF man dropped you on our stretcher and said you could come back; that we should try.’”
She did come back.
Naturally, the calls came flooding in – family members, colleagues and friends – through the hospital manager’s phone.
Mrs Mustapha is full of praises for the angels God used to restore her to life and fitness.
“My bosses didn’t sleep or take a nap over my situation in Kaduna. The third day of the incident, my bosses contacted Gen. [Tukur] Burutai’s men to save the situation as there was still curfew and I almost couldn’t walk.
“A very calm army boss reported at Hajia Asmau’s residence with his men the third day and carried me to the 44 Military Hospital to attend to my dangling, fractured and dislocated hand.
“The army medical doctors insisted on thorough x-ray, including that of my head,” she recounted.
She acknowledged her professional colleagues and bosses, too.
“Mr Ahaziah Suleiman, my Executive Director, News; Mr Ben Shemang; Hajia Sani; Hajia Hauwa and even the director-general I heard all set contacts in motion for my proper care.”
She particularly acknowledged the Kaduna State correspondent of VON, Hajia Asmau Halilu, who, according to her, “risked her life to identify with me in the hospital and practically carried a wheelchair-bound colleague to her house to ensure my safety.
“Baba we all call him, Hajia Asmau’s husband, was there to carry me from the vehicle to hospital stretcher. He was there all through right beside his wife fixing my neck most times carrying me on wheelchair.
“Hajia Asmau’s children all cried uncontrollably and kept asking their mother, ‘Mummy, what did she do to them?’”
She also lauded the UNICEF team and the Kaduna State government, particularly the UNICEF Communication Officer, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, and the Commissioner for Health, Kaduna State, for caring.
But most importantly, she expressed her gratitude to the unknown “possibly Muslim JTF member” who carried her from the gutter to the Amrullah Hospital (a completely Muslim hospital) that God used to revive and stabilise her – and which refused to deliver her “into the hands of the hot-headed miscreants.”
Temitope Mustapha’s ordeal raises some questions about Nigeria’s nationhood as well as safety of travellers, especially across the North.
Like one Glory Uzoamaka wondered on her Facebook page, does the Nigerian government really care about the people? What makes some people think they have the right to butcher others?