By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
IT was palpable when this reporter sighted Corporal Hope Adalike, last Sunday, February 20, at his rented apartment in Effurun, near Warri, Delta State that something ominous must have happened to him. He sat crestfallen on a bench, as if the whole world had collapsed on his head, just as a couple, who were observably on a visit, consoled him. He shook his legs now and then and looked towards the sky like someone waiting for apocalypse.
His name is Hope but Adalike was hopeless that Sunday evening. He has every reason to be downcast for in a space of two weeks or thereabout, he lost his wife and six children in an isolated kerosene explosion that occured, January 24, at Oghara, Delta State. It was four of his children on the first day. Then, he watched hopelessly, as his wife and two others, gave up the ghost at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Benin City, Edo State. It was an unbearable experience, he said, as he unbuttoned his anguish in this tear-jerking encounter with Sunday Vanguard.
What is your name?
My name is Hope Adalike
Where you work?
I work with the Nigeria Police Force, NPF
What’s your rank?
I am a Corporal
Serving at where?
Ovwian-Aladja Police Division in Delta State
You are an indigene of which state?
I am from Rivers State
You lost your wife and six children in a recent adulterated kerosene incident, how did it happen?
Actually, I was not there when it happened, I was here in Warri when I was called on January 24. It was around midnight that there was an electricity blackout from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN. My children had already slept and my wife used a four-liter gallon to turn kerosene into a lantern and it exploded, scorched her and burnt my four children to death instantly. My wife and two of the remaining kids were rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Benin City, Edo state instantly.
Where did your wife buy the kerosene from?
She had a store where she was selling things and there is a woman that used to supply her kerosene; anything she wanted. She sold kerosene too.
Was she the only one that bought this kerosene because we did not hear of any other family that the kerosene affected other than your household?
No, I don’t think she is the only one
Why was it only the one that she bought that exploded in the entire Oghara?
It was only my family that it affected, others that bought kerosene from my wife, I did not hear of any explosion.
Are you saying that others that bought kerosene from her were not affected, but, she that they bought from and her children were the ones affected?
Where did you say you were again when you received the story?
I was in Warri when I was called on the night of the incident.
What was your feeling when you heard that four of your children were already dead when you were first called?
I felt that I should exchange myself for them because I don’t see any reason why I should keep on living.
Did you rush to Oghara the same night you were called and told of the deaths?
When I heard the news that midnight, there was no means of me getting to Oghara. It was early in the morning, the next day, Tuesday, January 25 that I got to Oghara
What did you see when you got to Oghara?
When I got there, it was as if somebody was monitoring my movement. Immediately I came down at Oghara Motor Park, the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Oghara just called me, saying, “Hope, where are you?” I replied that I was at Oghara Motor Park. He said I should take Okada (motor-cycle); and come straight to his office. So didn’t know that they were just using the trick to make me not get to my house to see what happened.
So, I went to the Oghara Division, it was there that I told them that before you people called to this place, I believe that there is something wrong. They said no. And I said “where is my wife? They said she was in the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. What of the children? They said they were well were well in the house. So let us go to UBTH so that you will see your wife and be sure. Then, we went to UBTH and I saw two of my children and my wife, believing that the other four were not affected, not knowing that already the four were dead.
What are the names of the first four children that died?
One of them is Elijah, he was in primary three, while Precious and Belief were in Kindergarten Two, then Pleasant was 11 months old. These were the four that died instantly.
How did your wife and the other two children you met in UBTH die?
My first son stayed up to one week in UBTH before he gave up. He was in primary six, his name is Stephen.
Why did he give up, was it that the burnt was awfully severe or proper attention was not given?
The doctors were taking good care of him; I was told the burn was about 65 per cent. He had already started talking but later he started crying my chest my chest”. then, I then went to call one of the doctors, he came, examined him. I didn’t know that he knew that my son would not make it and that when he was crying my chest, my chest, he was about to die. But he told me not to worry, that nothing would happen, but I told him no, that my child was crying.
He said I should not worry but when I left and came back again, I did not see him and I asked them where my son was. They said they took him to the Intensive Care Unit. I went there and asked the doctors there, they said they did not bring anybody there. I went back and told them I had gone to the ICU, that he was not there. They said I should come around 6.00 pm and that by that time, they would have brought him back from where they carried him to. I left and returned around 6.00 pm to ask of him. They told me to go and ask my younger brother; I met him an
d told him that they said I should come and ask him about my son, Stephen. It was then I got to know that he died the moment I left in the morning.
What of the other child?
He was a;ove fpr 10 days because he had been on oxygen in the ICU. When I went there to ask of him after about 10 days because as I told you, he had been on oxygen, his name is Isaac. He was in primary four and they told me that he had also died.
How about your wife, what happened?
In the case of my wife, when I went there penultimate Monday, she called me and said, “Daddy, what of Isaac and Stephen?” I said they were well; there was no problem. She said I should go and bring wheelchair for her so that both of us could go and see them. I said, how can you go about on a with your burns. She said no, she would manage to go and see them. I said no. She said “Daddy, from the beginning, I trusted you, but today I know you have been telling me lies”.
I said, how, what made you say this? She said some people came to her ward, they thought she was sleeping, and said this is the woman that lost her six children and she is the only one remaining now. She said she thought that I was telling her the truth all this while that the children were there, not knowing that all the six children were dead. I went out and by the time I returned, my wife could not speak again. I called her, “Mama Stephen, what is the problem? “She managed to say “nothing, nothing”. Before I knew it, she had given up.
I learnt that you fainted thereafter?
No, it is not a true story. I did not faint. When I was told that my wife was dead, tears had dried up from my eyes and there was nothing I could do.
How do you feel today about the death of your seven members of your family?
Since the death of my wife and six children, I must tell you, up till this time that you are speaking to me, I don’t know how to start life again. I don’t know how to question God. I believe the question will be very very bitter and it will not help my matter. So, I am keeping silent.
When you eventually got your residence in Oghara where the incident took place, what was the state of the apartment when you got there?
Only God can say how the fire consumed my wife and my children because where the five of the children slept on the floor, even the clothes on which they slept did not burn, but the children were burnt. The room itself did not burn and only the television and electronics that had problem were affected. It was the three_seater chair that my first son laid on that got burnt but no other thing in that house got burnt apart from the children and my wife.
Have you been having strange dreams before and after the incident?
There was a time I dreamt about small, small snakes coming to fight me. Then, when those snakes came… that was my first dream, which made me to know that there was problem somewhere. This was some weeks before they died. Aapart from that dream… some three days after I came back from work, a mad man just met me and said, “na my money I come collect”. I said, “na your money”, I put my hand in my pocket and gave him money. Then, two days before the incident, that mad man came again to ask me for money, but I did not give him. And the next day, the incident happened.
Has your pastor told you the divine connection to what happened to you and how have you taken to his word?
He said I should take heart, that there is nothing that happens without the consent of God. Before anything happens, God knows because the Bible said who is that that will decree a thing when I , the Lord of Hosts never endorsed it. So, the pastor and others that came to meet me said I should learn from job
Have you found time to read the book of Job since then and what have you learnt?
I have read it but there is a difference between the case of Job and mine because in the case of Job, his wife was spared but in my own case, my wife died.
You think God should have spared your wife if the objective was for you to learn from what Job passed through?
It is God that knows best. I cannot speak for him.
You said you would not want to question God over the death of seven members of your household because it will be a bitter question. But supposed God, save you the imprimatur to ask Him questions now, what would you ask Him?
If God gave me such an opportunity, then I would know the type of questions I will ask Him
What has been from the response from your employer, Nigeria Police Force, NPF, and the public at large since incident?
My DPO, Superintendent Charles Nwabuoku, from the first day, he has been assisting me on his own. There is also support from the men serving in that division, some friends also have been helping me but the NPF, up till today, I have not heard from them.
Have you formally notified the authorities?
Yes, I have formally written through my DPO to the Commissioner of Police.
What of the remains of your wife and children and what are are the plans for their burial?
Already, the four that died first, we have buried them in Sapele. Then, my wife and two other, their corpses are at the UBTH because the money they said I should pay, over N300, 000, I have not got it up till today. That is the problem.
The hospital is supposed to waive the bill on compassionate ground. Did you not inform the hospital management of your plight or you did and they insisted that the money should be paid?
The medical welfare there is trying to tell them to waive the money so that I will not pay more than that amount but up till today, there is nothing yet, that is why on February 21, I will be going to Benin City.
You want to bury them in Rivers state?
Yes, I want to take the corpses home on Friday, February 25(yesterday).
What is your heartfelt appeal to the government, NPF and kind-hearted Nigerians?
At this stage, I know that there is nothing the public will assist me with that will compensate with what I have lost. So, I plead with corporate bodies and the general public to assist me to settle the expenses I have made.