For over three weeks, it has been a gloomy mood at Unguwar Bolawa, Potiskum, some 104 kilometres from Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, where family members, friends and neighbours are yet to come to terms with the sudden disappearance of Major-General Mohammadu Alkali (retd). Residents of the area, which is in the heart of the ancient city, were sitting in groups, discussing the mystery surrounding the unfortunate incident. In the famous Alkali House, DAILY TRUST
met the 93-year-old Hajiya Halima Alkali Umaru, mother of the general, the immediate past Chief of Administration of the Nigerian Army, who is her 8th child. She spoke about the disappearance of her son and appealed to the government to find him by every means possible.
The Nigerian Army said they were doing their best to find your missing son. Are you satisfied with the operation?
My son is a government ‘property.’ So, it will be rude for anyone to tell government what to do. Whatever they are doing to get him back is appreciated. What I want is to know his whereabouts. Was he kidnapped for ransom or what? My appeal is for the military to intensify the search. I just want to hear his voice.
Has anybody told or contacted you since he got missing?
At times my mind tells me that he is not in the hands of kidnappers because since he got missing, silence followed and no ransom was demanded for his release. Let me tell you one thing, ever since I was born, I have never found myself in a difficult situation like this. I’m 93 years old, now approaching, 94 but this is the most irritating moment of my life.
My son has rendered 35 years of selfless service to the nation. It’s inhuman for anyone to perpetrate such an evil act on my son. I need government assistance to recover my missing son immediately so that I will finally get peace of mind. I know God will intervene in revealing where he is. I have surrendered everything to the Almighty Allah.
Those behind this inhuman act may not have done it to my son if they knew my age and my current condition. They should sympathise with me. I beg of them to release my son. I am too old to bear a heavy burden like this.
How did you receive the news of your son’s disappearance?
It is with great shock. Ever since I received the news I barely eat. My legs became too weak to walk. I lost two of my children, but not in such manner. I saw their corpses before we buried them. Alkali’s own is more painful because I still don’t know what happened to him.
When last did you speak with him?
The last time I tried to speak with him was the day he got missing. I called his phone to hear his voice but it couldn’t get through. I called his wife to connect me with him, but she said he must be driving to Bauchi. She promised to call him when he arrived.
Did you have something to tell him when you called on that day?
I called him because I heard the news about the attacks in Borno and I wanted to sympathise with him and scold him as usual on why they were posting new recruits to Maiduguri. I did not know that he had met with trouble too.
We have surrendered everything to the Almighty Allah and we know he will answer our prayers.
Prayer is the symbol of Alkali’s family. We don’t cry over death or any calamity that befalls us. I have taken everything in good faith because we believe in God whenever something bad happens to us.
When last did he visit you?
The last time he visited me was when the Army commissioned a water project in Fika town.He went back to Abuja after the event and returned days later for his friend’s daughter’s wedding. The wedding took place here in Potiskum. He sat beside me on the mat. I was telling him that some people needed his assistance after applying for recruitment into the Nigerian Army.
What fond memory of him do you have to share?
He’s very patient and obedient to me.
Can you tell us about his childhood days?
My son was born talented, simple, kind, obedient, respectful and honest. He hated corruption, right from childhood. As a toddler, he was very healthy and physically fit for all the assignments you gave him. He didn’t fight, and when he went to play with his friends, sometimes they beat him, but he still joined them to play the next day. No one ever reported him to me for doing wrong. He didn’t cry, even when he was sick. I thank God for my children. They respect me and do what I always want them to do.
How did he treat you as mother?
I don’t know how to express how he cared about me. He would always ask what I wanted. He insisted that he would furnish my bedroom. I resisted because I was born into an Islamic scholar’s family that doesn’t believe in materialism. My father was a judge and cleric. Because of his simplicity, he would not sit on the chair nor sleep on the mattress. He administered judgement sitting on the mat. I cannot change my lifestyle. I’m only interested in entering paradise where it is eternal. Life in this world is temporary. I don’t need here but paradise. I don’t have any furniture in my bedroom because I don’t want it.
What type of advice did you give him?
I keep advising them to be patient with everything in this world. I thank God that my children are not interested in worldly things, they don’t engage in corruption, they don’t temper with government money and are not fetish. Whatever happens to them, they always resort to God. I am appealing to the government not to relent in its efforts to rescue my son.