My 2015 Person Of The Year
A little over a year ago, I met a man.
I didn’t meet him on a highway in Abuja, where his car was flipping multiple times, with his wife and two daughters in the car with him. I didn’t meet him after they were rushed to the hospital, wife and kids unscathed, husband left paralysed from a damaged spine.
I met him on his sick bed a few weeks later, in a sorry state, at the mercy of his caretakers and the goodwill of people to pay his medical bills.
His name was Abdullahi Okirigi.
Against all odds, over the next few months, he fought to stay alive, even with the bedsores that were then eating his flesh away.
Fast forward to a few months ago. His biggest problem wasn’t himself, it was his extended family who wanted to make sure their traditions stayed alive;
They needed him to begin to make arrangements, ‘just in case’. Arrangements like property they wanted to inherit, most especially, his wife, who was to be inherited by his younger brother.
The demands, to them was valid, because after all his mother was inherited by his father’s younger brother.
And so they sent him to fight a battle he didn’t win. The kind that drives one to complete silence, where the mouth becomes numb to food. Depression.
His only happiness was his wife, Hauwa.
When the accident happened, she was the ‘witch’ who caused it, with her foreign tribe. When he died, ‘she succeeded’. That’s what his family said.
They hated her. They hated everything she stood for. They wanted her out of his life.
When I met her, I saw a woman who had a choice between staying and leaving. She was young, ambitious, strong. She chose to stay.
If I needed some moments to describe his last year alive, it’ll be one time while he lay in the hospital:
She tries to feed him some food, but he turns his mouth away, clearly sad. She smiles like a woman with a plan. She produces a shaving stick and some water, quickly gives him a neat shave, and shows him a mirror. He smiles like it’s first love.
The ones who not only stay when everything falls apart, but try to make everything better, are the ones we should keep the closest.
There was another moment:
Her husband’s family wants to take him away, and she tries to fight them off. He starts to cry and says to her, “if I die in your hands, they’ll make your life miserable”. And in hesitation, she let him go with them to their home in the South.
Hauwa spoke to him everyday, until one day he stopped speaking, and his caretaker nurse told her about the inheritance drama.
Then to the last day she spoke to him, she says to him:
“No matter what, my heart will always be for you. No one can it away from you.”
“He just sighed as if relieved,” the nurse said over the phone, “and he’s smiling very well.”
He passed away that night as the world ushered in September.