By Sola Ebiseni
I HAD looked forward to dedicating this column today to the celebration of an icon, a living legend, Pa Reuben Famuyide Fasoranti. The Leader of the Afenifere, apex Yoruba socio-political organisation who turned 96 on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 and many of us, his followers, family members and several political actors were gathered at his residence in Akure to celebrate one of the few remaining fathers of the Nigerian nation.
With several personalities, including Chief Olu Falae, former Secretary to the Federal Government and presidential candidate; Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Governor of old Kwara State Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, immediate past and my predecessor as Secretary General of the Afenifere, Chief Korede Duyile, Agbaakin Demola Folarin, Dele Momodu who was also visiting on consultations for his presidential aspirations, it was an event which turned Pa Fasoranti’s residence into Mecca for political actors.
With speeches upon speechs, we prayed for our Leader that he would yet witness the goodness of the Nigeria he had so laboured for in the land of the living. I had promised to dedicate this column this week to the icon.
Alas, less than 48 hours, the nation’s psyche was bruised by the horrendous murder and savage burning of Deborah Samuel, a 200- level student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto. What struck me about the tragic incident was the message Deborah passed to Nigerians in her final seconds.
As reported: “One of the students of the college, who witnessed how Deborah was flogged, killed, and burnt described the scene as the most horrible she has ever witnessed. The student who identified herself simply as Rakia, gave an account of how the voice note of the 25-year-old student degenerated into an uncontrollable situation.”
Speaking from her parents’ home in Gidan Kaya area of Sokoto State, the visibly shaken student said: “Deborah was my course mate. I just stepped into the class when the uproar on her voice note started. It was her course mates that started it. One of them said Deborah dared them by refusing to apologise when she was asked to.
“It all started with a debate on the upcoming examination on a general WhatsApp platform created for our course mates. One of the students asked her how she passed the last semester’s examination and in response, she said it was ‘Jesus o’.
“Immediately, about three other chats came in from two Muslims and one Christian, telling her to retract the statement. Two students from other departments who overheard some Muslim boys discussing the matter told Deborah’s close friends to prevail on her to retract the statement.
But she replied via a voice note on the platform: ‘Holy Ghost fire. Nothing will happen to me. Is it by force that you guys will always be sending… religious stuff in this group? The group wasn’t created for that but rather as a notice on test, assignment, exam, etc, …’
“I was in class when some of our course mates rushed in, saying ‘there is fire on the mountain o’. The Muslim students led the strangers to the class to look for her. In fear, those in the class tried to help her escape and took her to the security post from where they hoped to create a way for her to run outside.
Already, a cab was waiting outside to drive her straight to the police station. Unfortunately, the mob overpowered everyone who tried to save her. They even threatened to kill anyone who attempted to stand in their way.
“She was dragged out, flogged and stoned. The last word in her mouth was ‘what do you hope to achieve with this?’ By then some of our course mates were making calls to some of our lecturers to save the situation. It was when I got home that I heard she was set ablaze. Since the incident, I have been having a flash of her pleading expression.
What a cruel way to die,” she said. In law, those last words of Rebecca were not just a statement: “It is a declaration of someone at the point of death, whose hope of life is gone when the motive for falsehood is no longer there and the mind is compelled by the most powerful consideration of the impending unknown to speak the truth”.
“What do you hope to achieve with this”? The dying declaration of Deborah was not a question to his murderous colleagues who have obviously lost their minds and incapable of internalising the message.
It is one by a saint who no longer harboured any thought of living, yet so innocent as not to wish any evil for those, in the fullness of time and almost immediately, are convicted by their minds notwithstanding the braggadocio of fighting the cause of the omnipotent God.
It not your fault or burden, Deby; not any longer. It is the fault of a state which has no philosophy about the co-existence of its citizens. It is not your fault but that of a state which refused to bring to book those who killed Akaluka and hanged his fresh head on a long pole celebrating their bestiality on the streets of Kano.
Deborah, you were not killed by the almajirai on the streets but your course mates who shared study rooms and hostels with you. Your death reminds me of the murder of those 13 youth corps members in Bauchi just because they supervised an election which the hero of the perpetrators lost.
Let your soul, even in a dream, console your mother and appeal to her not to stop your younger siblings from going to school any longer as she vowed in her hours of grief. Like you told your assailants and the Nigerian nation, even your beloved mother would achieve nothing from such decision. Nigeria, we hail thee.
Ebiseni is Secretary General, Afenifere.