56-year-old Iliya Matti lost four of his children in an explosion on a farm at Yam mama, Malumfashi Local Government Area of Katsina State, on 18 July, 2020. Iliya, whose fifth child is in hospital, shares his grief with OLAIDE OYELUDE
Where were you when the incident occurred?
I was at my place of work at Malumfashi on that day. I am an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers and I normally leave home in the morning for work after settling my responsibilities to my family.
How did you know about the incident?
On that very day, just a few hours after I left home, one of my children called me and told me that there was a bomb explosion on a farm and that his siblings died in the explosion. My first reactions were that of shock and disbelief. In the first instance, I left all my family members including the children and their mothers at home, though I recollect some of them were telling me that they would go and get grass for our animals.
So, my colleagues at work, who were following my conversation on the phone, rallied round to help me. Together, we went to the scene of the incident to verify whether it was true or not. But before we got there, the police were there and it was the Area Commander who prevailed on me not to move closer to the scene because there could still be some other dangerous devices that caused the explosion on the ground.
How many children were there?
Eleven children were actually at the scene of the explosion. Five died on the spot. Two, who were in critical conditions, were being rushed to Zaria when they died midway to hospital. The remaining four were taken to the General Hospital, Malumfashi, for treatment.
How many of your children were involved in the incident?
Five of my children were involved. Four died on the spot while one survived and is currently on admission at the General Hospital, Malumfashi.
It was speculated that the children were fiddling with a grenade when it exploded. How would you react to this?
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The children went to the farm to get grass for our animals. And you know since they are on holiday, children always move together in groups with their friends. That was exactly what happened. They went to the farm along with their friends. But you know what has been destined to happen, will happen. It is better one does not question the decision of God. That is how my family and I take the incident.’
How many wives do you have?
Are the five affected children from the different mothers?
No. They are from the same mother.
How did their mother react to the incident?
I told you the whole family has accepted Allah’s decision. Naturally, as a human being, the shock of the incident initially overwhelmed her. She has been able to accept Allah’s wish.
What are the ages of the children and what were their positions in the family?
All the children were boys. The eldest of them was my third born and attended Gora Community Secondary School. The remaining three and the one on admission at the hospital are the younger ones.
How many children do you have?
Please, pardon me, all I can say is that I have other children apart from those who just died.
How would you describe your deceased children?
Human beings are not the same. But all I can say is that all my children, including the older ones among them, are caring and supportive of the family and they love one another, though not from the same mother.
What is the condition of the one on admission in the hospital?
Alhamdulillah. He is responding to treatment and I thank my family, my colleagues, my friends and people in our community. They have been supportive and assisting us especially with prayers. They have been coming since the incident happened and when they come, they offer prayers for us and stay with us to comfort us.
What about council officials and the state government?
We have a culture of rallying round one another here, be it joyful occasions, like weddings, or periods of sadness as it has happened now. Our governor ( Aminu Masari) also came along with Akimi (District head) to condole and sympathise with us.
Here, we believe that whatever happens to one of us happens to all of us. What has been destined to happen will happen. We have accepted our fate. We have a strong belief in Allah that he gives and takes and that every living soul will go at the appointed time, no matter your age, your achievements and your popularity. Everybody has got his own time to live in this world. Well, my advice is that parents should endeavour to monitor the movements of their children, especially when they are on holiday. Parents should engage them positively and support them with prayers.
Source: OLAIDE OYELUDE: The PunchNg