Widows made by herdsmen
Joseph Wantu (Makurdi) captures the mood of the widows of the men killed recently in Agatu village.
The recent visit of Fulani Herdsmen was like a nightmare, particularly to the women of Agatu Local Government Area and other crisis-ridden communities in Benue State. Many of them woke up to confront an ugly reality that their husbands would wake up no more.
They are the survivors of attack carried out by herdsmen who invaded and destroyed not just farms and houses, but many lives in the rural community.
It is more devastating that the widows could not immediately recover the remains of their husbands for proper burial as the Fulani who dislodged them from their ancestral homes continue to occupy the communities with their cattle while the decomposing corpses litter everywhere in the devastated communities.
Some of these women who are now taking refuge at the Agatu IDP Makurdi Camp located at the NOGOA Secondary School, Wadata recount their ordeals to The Guardian.
Weeping profusely, Mrs. Elamiyi Okelemu, a mother of four who said she has been married to her husband for over 20 years ago before her his death in the hands of herdsmen; live in Okokolo, Agatu local government area where they both farmed.
On the fateful day,, she was preparing the evening meal when suddenly, the sound of sporadic gunshots rented the air around the village and everybody scampered out for safety.
“We ran under the cover of the night for hours before we got to Odugbeho. We were lucky to have escaped unhurt because so many others of our villagers couldn’t make it to safety as they were killed either by the bullets or machetes of the invading Fulani herders.”
However, few days later, when it was becoming difficult for them to feed in their new abode, Elamiyi’s husband decided to brave it all and went back to his farm to get some food items for the family. That decision ended up being his greatest mistake as the Fulani herders, on sighting him and other villagers who had gone to their farms opened fire on them and killed many while only a handful managed to escape back to Odugbeho to break the sad news.
Elamiyi wondered how she will go back to stay in the same village without her husband.
“We were always together at the farm and at home. I don’t think I can cope without him. My head has been cut off. I don’t know where I can start from. To worsen the situation for me, I don’t have any picture to keep as a memory of him because I hear that the Fulanis burnt our house and destroyed everything we had.”
Her worry is made bigger because she now has to cater for four children who are still in school without the support of her husband.
Another AGATU widow and an indigene of Aila Village in Agatu local Government area, Mrs. Dorcas Onoche, said she got married to her husband, Patrick Ochoche more than 30 years ago.
“We were living together and doing very well as civil servants in Kaduna when suddenly he became mentally ill and had to be moved home some years back. Ever since then, we had been managing him at home until the recent invasion of Agatu by the Fulani herders,” she said.
Continuing, she said, “We actually escaped from our village when the Fulani herdsmen invaded our villages but because of my husband’s mental illness, we did not know when he ran back to our village. We later found his dead body, killed by the Fulani herdsmen.”
The stories of Mrs. Dorcas Godwin, Sophia Dole, Dorcas Oluma and Veronica Benjamin are not less heartbreaking.
Narrating her story, Mrs. Godwin said “My husband, Godwin Thomas, a fish farmer and I were in the village when suddenly we heard gunshots all around us. He quickly instructed me to carry our two children and run through one route while he followed another route because we did not actually know where the invaders were coming through.
While I was able to escape through the path I took, my husband was not as lucky as he ran into the invaders and was killed. Sadly, we have not seen his corpse until today.”
That is how a marriage of seven years was brought to an end by the Fulani herdsmen.
The widow of Dole Benjamin, Mrs. Sophia Dole, said they were running away from the Fulanis, but her husband ran into them and was killed immediately.
“I ran several kilometres with our eight months old baby from Abugbe to Odugbeho. Fulani burnt our drug store. After I escaped to Odugbeho, someone helped to pay my fare to Makurdi.”
She described her husband as a quiet person. “He never laid his hands on me for one day. He was killed three weeks ago but up till now, we have not been able to recover his corpse for burial. I don’t have anywhere to go if this camp is closed today.”
Mrs. Dorcas Oluma was married to her husband, Eheda, a commercial motorcycle rider in 2006 and their marriage is blessed with three children with age ranging between 4 and one.
“We ran from Abugbe to Odugbeho but he had to go and pick something with his okada in our village. He was on his way back to Odugbeho when he was killed. His corpse was recovered three weeks later. Every day of my life, I think about my husband because he was everything to me. I am a trader and don’t know how I would be able to train our children because my husband provided everything. That is why I am calling on well-meaning Nigerians to come to my aid.”
Among the survivors who spoke with The Guardian, perhaps the case of Mrs. Veronica Danjuma is the most pathetic.
“ I lost my husband, my 21-year-old son and my sister in the hands of the Fulani herdsmen who invaded our Okokolo village recently. We were running away when the Fulanis kept shooting sporadically and in the process, killed my husband, my son and my sister. I narrowly escaped being killed too.
“My husband’s corpse was discovered a day after, my sister’s four days later while my son’s corpse is yet to be found. I trekked for hours from Okokolo to Ugbokpo in Apa before finding my way down to Makurdi. I had six children but one killed by Fulani.”
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