A woman caused a stir penultimate week when she suddenly resurfaced, 20 years after ‘disappearing’ from her husband’s house, leaving her then two-year-old daughter behind. Fatima Abashiya, now 40, narrates her intriguing story to Weekly Trust.
Fatima Abashiya stepped out of her matrimonial home in Minna, Niger State, one Saturday ostensibly to fetch water for her morning bath. She left her two-year old daughter Ramatu sleeping inside the room.
Along the way, however, she changed her mind and decided to dash to a traditional healer where she was receiving medication for a chest-related ailment.
Days passed, she did not return; then weeks, months and years. Her parents launched a search for her, went to Niger State radio with announcement seeking to know her whereabouts, all to no avail.
Her husband Ahmadu NEPA, her parents, daughter and other family members resigned to fate, even as they continued to pray for her to be found hale and hearty.
Twenty years after her disappearance, their prayers were answered. Fatima, now 40, resurfaced at her family house fortnight ago, exactly two decades after she was declared missing.
She narrated her story to Weekly Trust, detailing how she eloped with the traditional healer, married him even when she was never divorced from her first husband, among others.
“The process that led to my disappearance began when I informed one of my aunts about a chest problem I was suffering from, which was causing me to shed tears. The aunt referred me to one Malam Ahmadu, a traditional healer, whom she said can cure my ailment.
“When I contacted Malam Ahmadu, he promised to help me in curing the ailment. I started visiting him to collect medicine for my treatment. He told me that he was in love with me, and that I should terminate my marriage. But I told him that was not possible,” Fatima said.
Determined to be cured of her ailment, Fatima continued going to Malam Ahmadu, in spite of his love advances towards her. That, according to her, provided him with the opportunity to hypnotize her into eloping with him.
“On the day we eloped, I had no intention of visiting him. I had left my two-year-old daughter inside the room to fetch water from the neighborhood for my morning bath. However, along the way, I changed my mind and decided to visit Malam Ahmadu.
“When I got to his place, he did not repeat his call for me to terminate my marriage. He only commanded me to follow him. Somehow, I did not even make any attempt to ask him why he wanted me to follow him. I did as he commanded me without any resistance,” she continued.
That same day, she said, they took a cab to the motor park in Minna en route their next destination. “I cannot remember the name of the place now, but while together, we lived in 14 different villages until we finally settled in Sabon Birni Daji, somewhere in Kaduna State.
“For more than half the time we were together, we were moving from one village to another, just like nomads. On the average we stayed a minimum of three months or a maximum of two years everywhere we went.
“Along the line, I conceived for him and at the time I was about to give birth, he took me to his hometown, Ingawa in Katsina State. Our union was formalized on the same day the naming ceremony of our daughter Safura held,” she added.
Asked whether she ever requested to visit her people in Minna during the years, Fatima said she did on three occasions, but Malam Ahmadu refused, though the second wife he took in was being allowed to go to her parents.
“When it became apparent to me that I will never be permitted to visit my people, I resigned to fate and never requested for such again. She said the situation remained the same in their Sabon Birnin Daji residence until when he took ill from which he never recovered.
“After he passed away, the idea of re-uniting with my people, especially my original husband and daughter, never crossed my mind. Instead I made up my mind to remain in Sabon Birnin Daji forever,” she said.
Her decision not to go back to Niger State also came with its own trouble, as the younger brother of her late husband sought for her hand in marriage, which she resisted. But her late husband’s relations insisted that she must remarry since, according to them, she was still marriageable.
Fatima succumbed to the pressure and agreed to remarry, but not to the younger brother of her late husband. She said she married another person known as Haruna Mairuwa from Sheme village, also in Katsina State.
Their daughter, Safura, whom she had with the late husband, is at present an expectant mother. She married her cousin brother with whom they already have two kids.
On how she is going to reconcile her two marriages since her first husband is not only alive, but had even organized a ceremony to give her a befitting welcome back home, she said the problem has since been resolved by the Emir of Minna.
She said they (herself and her original husband) were invited alongside her parents to the palace of Emir of Minna, where it was ruled that she must go back to her original husband who is also willing to take her back. She said the agreement was reached devoid of any difficulty as both of them consented to the arrangement of the re-union.
She further explained that the emir has also instructed that after one month, she will go to Sheme in company of her elder brother and some officials from the palace with a view to invite her former husband to the emir’s palace for formal resolution of their marriage contract.
Meanwhile, Fatima’s daughter, Ramatu who was only two years old when her mother disappeared, is now 22 and married. She told Weekly Trust that prior to the resurfacing of her mother she had been living a traumatic life full of stigmatization as she is always referred to by her peers as an abandoned child who was picked from the gutter.
Ramatu said that made her to resolve to embark on a mission to find her mother, but that she had no clue as to where she was.
“So I resorted to prayers, sweeping of mosques, giving of alms to the needy and a host of other righteous acts all on my mother’s behalf, though I had no idea whether she was dead or alive. Today, the Almighty Allah, in His wisdom has answered my prayers by bringing my mother back home,” she said.
Father of Fatima Abashiya, Malam Shehu Usman Ndako, told Weekly Trust how the news of his daughter’s return was broken to him.
“Some children met me in the mosque telling me that Fatima is back at home. I could not believe them, because I doubted if they knew her, because she left home when some of them were not even born,” he said.
Ndako said when his daughter went missing, he searched every nook and cranny and was even at Niger State radio to place announcement, but all in vain.
He said all the marabouts he visited over the matter in the past kept telling him that she is still alive, but could not ascertain her location.
“When she told us all what she went through while away, we asked her to come back home and reunite with her original family, but she insisted on going back to her husband in Sheme, saying that she only came to visit us so that we will know she is alive.”
“As a result of her insistence on returning to her husband, I reported the matter to our District Head for possible intervention into the matter. The District Head who saw the enormity of the case did not hasitate in taking the matter before the Emir of Minna, Alhaji Faruk Bahago, who waded in and ruled against her decision.
Her first and original husband, Ahmadu NEPA, told Weekly Trust that they were indeed at the emir’s palace, adding that he has agreed to take his wife back.
“For now, however, she will remain with her parents so that she can be observed since nobody knows what she went through in the last 20 years.”