A 29-year-old woman, Mrs. Nkem Orji has called on the authorities of the Nigerian Army to produce her soldier husband who has been missing for over three years, or, produce his corpse if he is dead.
The grieving mother of two also sent a passionate appeal to the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians to help her in putting a closure to her pains, believing that if her husband is dead, the family should be informed so that they will stop having false hopes.
Nkem’s ordeal began when her husband, Private Gideon Orji, was transferred to Borno State in 2016 as part of a group of specialized combat team to help in the fight against the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.
According to her, her husband was in constant touch with her and their children at the initial stage and had promised to come home to celebrate the Christmas of that year with his family, a promise that never materialized and he has not been seen nor heard from till date.
“I want to beg the Nigerian Army to either produce my husband or show me his corpse or where he was buried if he is dead,” Mrs. Nkem began in a teary voice.
“Gideon was everything to me and his children and whenever the children ask me about the whereabouts of their father, I can only cry because I do not have answers for them
Gideon was a soldier and was not afraid of death. He loved Nigeria so much and when he was posted to Borno State, he did not hesitate to go there because he saw the fight against Boko Haram as a must to keep Nigeria together.
When I expressed fears, he assured me that he would be okay but that if he died in the battle, it was a price he had to pay for his country.
When he first went to Maiduguri, he called me every day to ask about how we were doing. He sent us photographs of himself and his colleagues and kept assuring me that the Nigerian Army was in control of the situation and that in no time, the insurgents would be defeated.
In October of 2016, my husband called to inform me that his unit had been transferred to Bama where the insurgents were in control and that their mandate was to reclaim the town.
He also told me that he was hopeful of getting a pass for the Christmas and that he would come home to celebrate the Yuletide with us.
Gideon was so cheerful and confident that the military would chase the terrorists out of the town in no time and he would be home for the Christmas.
But sadly, the call was the last time I heard of my husband till date. When he did not call for a week, I naturally felt they were still at the battle front and that was why he could not call.
But after two weeks, I tried his number but his line was switched off. I was not really worried as I kept trying the number.
I became apprehensive after three weeks and there was no call from my husband and that was when I knew something was wrong.
I called his close friend who was also in his unit but the man told me he had not seen Gideon for a while but that he would make inquiries and get back to me.
Three days later, the friend called me and said I should speak with an officer in the unit. The officer, a Captain, I think, assured me that my husband was okay but was in the thick of action and would call me soon.
That call gave me some semblance of hope that all was well and I resorted to prayers, asking God to keep my husband safe.
I kept hoping he would call but that call did not come. Two weeks to Christmas, some members of Gideon’s unit came to Lagos for the celebration and when I asked them about my husband, many of them could not give me any straightforward answer.
Some said he was fine but that he could not get a pass while others told me he must have been injured and was in a hospital.
I became frantic and made calls to his relatives and they also tried to reach out to some top military officers but every one of them had different stories to tell.
The family wrote different petitions and sent to the Army authorities but all our efforts have been in vain, though they kept assuring us that Gideon was okay and would soon join us.
But three years have passed and still, there is no closure and no Gideon. His young children have been traumatized, especially when they see their mates being dropped off in their school by their fathers.
There was a time I went to their unit commander’s office to make some inquiries but the man sent his orderlies to throw me out of his office, saying I had no right to ask of my husband who was a soldier.
I was humiliated by that incidence and it sent me a message that there was something the Army was hiding from me.
I am devastated because I do not know what has become of my husband and have been living in the dark for three years now.
Gideon often told me that as a soldier’s wife, I should be prepared for any eventuality and I have been living by that but what I actually want is for the military to come out clean and tell me what has become of my husband.
If he alive, as they claim, they should produce him and if he is dead, they should show me his corpse or the grave he was buried. That will go a long way to helping me accept the situation instead of this vacuum I currently live in.