From the Desk of the Director
Dearly beloved brethren,
Thank you all for standing with us, despite the hardship in the country. You are encouraging us to build not just a home for the children, but also a future for the community. Every month from now, we will be presenting to you a member of our family of Martyrs, our children who can share their stories with your family. Thank you for your donation and constantly standing helping the children at the Stephen Centre. May the Lord our God continue to bless your family.
Killed in Mission
Samaila Bala recalls life at Gani Mission, an attack on his village and his renewed hopes for the future
As if the sun was worn out from its hovering in the sky and facing threat from an imminent rainfall evidenced by a thick dark cloud, the brilliance of the sun suddenly gave way to what looks like the dusk; three hours to the expected time. The aluminium windows were shut against the elements of water and wind as we settled for a slightly lit area for my tete-a-tete with Samaila Bala Sani, 17.
We started on a lighter note but when we switched gear to take up some weighty matters regarding his life, like the sun gave way to the darkness that now pervades our world, his bright smiles were shut, gloom subdued his radiant black face. He has never been comfortable talking up the issue but on this occasion the boy manned up and started this part of our discussion by recalling the state of life he was born into in the North-Western state of Kano.
“I was born in Gani Missions of Sumaila Local Government Area of Kano state. I grew up knowing that Muslims live separately from Christians.” To him that was the practise all over. He only knew better when he left his proverbial cave of Gani missions for education in the far South-Western state of Ogun, Abeokuta precisely, after losing his father in the aftermath of an attack on his rural community by their Muslim neighbours.
He continues, “They call us all kind of bad names like bare (settlers; as opposed to aborigines) arna (infidels) and maguzawa (pagans). My people are hated by our Hausa Muslim brothers and not looked at by the government of the state. The neighbouring Muslim community has solar street lights, pipe-borne water, schools and clinics; but nothing in my village. The only schools and clinics we have in our place are those provided by missionaries.”
The animosity between the neighbouring communities came to a head when one Mallam Dan. (a friend to Samaila’s father), a Christian, was appointed the Headmaster of the public day primary school serving the two communities but situated in the Muslim side of the divide and a riot that engulfed Kano metropolis and its environs in 2007. From our discussion, it was clear that the Muslims were displeased by the appointment and angry by the killing of Muslims in Kano, even though both sides sustained massive casualties in the violence of that day.
On the day of the attack on his community, he recalled how the Christian school head was waylaid and gruesomely killed. “Mallam Dan. was riding home on his bike when people of the Muslim village stopped him and beat him very well. They poured the fuel of his motorcycle on his body after butchering him into three parts and burnt him. They called his wife and told her that they have killed her husband and that she should come to a place and take his body.”
Before the attack on his village in the evening of the day that Dan. was killed, they learnt of a planned attack on their community and took to the hills and bush for safety that night. Many were bitten by snakes, attacked by bees and bruised by the rough edges of the rocks. Sammy, as he is fondly called, had his leg scarred by the wound he sustained that day. It was this exodus to the bush that saved them that day. “When they came, they found that we have left. They went back. They only saw a man that they killed him and burnt a house close to the Muslim area.”
On his father’s sad event, on September 19 2007, two days after the attack on their community, his father being the local pastor of the ECWA parish there, decided to leave his safety and check on his members and carry out funeral rites on the deceased. Sammy says ‘he left us to check on his members and officiate at the burial of those killed. It was in that process that he was identified by them, they beat him with sticks, macheted him, removed most of his teeth and left him to die a slow painful death. He struggled to live and was taken by some Christians who saw him dying to the hospital in Kano city. He was there for some hours before he died from the fatal injuries.
In September 2013, he came to the Stephens Children Home Abeokuta, where he has been enjoying qualitative education, feeding and shelter at no cost. Now in his fifth grade in secondary school, he looks to the future renewed hope. “I am doing very well in Abeokuta. I enjoy my schooling and God is helping me to do well. I spent my time studying with no worry and my free time writing poetry or reading novels and poems.
The rain has stopped after hours of torrential downpour but the darkness that overawed the sun refused to go but smiles are back to Sammy’s face once again as he took me into His hopes for the future. “I would like to be a lawyer”, he said, “so as to fight corruption in Kano state, fight injustice, discrimination and protect people’s rights to worship.”
Samaila Bala Sani is from Kano state. He is one of the family of martyrs (FOM) being trained at the Stephens Children Home Abeokuta. Kindly keep praying for Samaila and his family and all the children at the home.