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‘How prank call led to BBC report which accused me of divorcing my wife’

A recent report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service that one Abdullahi Yadau in Kanam local government area of Plateau State had divorced…

A recent report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service that one Abdullahi Yadau in Kanam local government area of Plateau State had divorced his wife for insisting on voting for President Muhammadu Buhari in the upcoming presidential election raised dust across the country. Daily Trust Saturday took a trip to the remote hamlet of Anguwan Gero, where the couple dwell, to get their own side of the story.

Shock and confusion had hit the small hamlet of Anguwan Gero last week when a BBC interview featured a voice alleged to be that of one Abdullahi Yadau, explaining how he pronounced divorce on his wife for insisting she would vote for the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari.

The voice had narrated how Abdullahi’s support for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, had led to a domestic squabble in which he assaulted his wife to the point of knocking out her teeth, and later divorced her in the presence of her parents.

His account to the BBC was not faulted by a man alleged to be his wife’s brother who gave his name as Ibrahim Suleiman. Ibrahim had gone ahead to tell the BBC that they had wanted to ‘deal’ with Abdullahi but were held back by their father but vowed that their sister would not return to her husband.

For most residents of Anguwan Gero in Munbutbo ward, Garga district of Plateau’s Kanam local government area, the thought that Abdullahi whom many perceived as responsible and hardworking could do such, was shocking. The story had gripped the nation with several politicians from the two divides either applauding or castigating the couple, depending on the political side.

Abdullahi himself had been confused and even afraid for his life after the interview aired. The 32-year-old whom many teased as being one of President Buhari’s strong supporters had on two occasions fled his home. But there was more to the report, as Daily Trust Saturday travelled to the remote village of Anguwan Gero and discovered. It soon became clear that Abdullahi’s family and the BBC had both been victims of what appeared to be a prank call by two men resident in the hamlet.

The mastermind of the prank, known as Khamisu Maidankali, who is now on the run, was an ardent BBC listener who often contributes reports to the radio station, Abdullahi and some elders of the community alleged. “Maidankali is used to calling BBC, there was a time when windstorm destroyed part of the village and he alerted the BBC and they used the report,” said Abdullahi Ahmad, a village elder.

Ahmad, however, explained that Maidankali was mentally unstable, linking his condition to an incident 13 years ago, when he and his father had been ambushed by a gang of motorcycle-riding robbers. The young Maidankali, it was said, had watched as the robbers slaughtered his father.

Ahmad’s account was corroborated by another elder in the village, Muhammadu Sani, who said “even though the incident happened years ago, it had affected Maidankali because one minute he may appear normal, then the next he does something abnormal.”

“Sometimes when you are having a discussion with him, he would either exaggerate issues or he could go off-tangent. But the BBC is not aware of this problem because they have in the past featured him in reports,” he claimed.

Getting to Anguwan Gero was an uphill task. A three-hour journey from Jos to Dengi, the headquarters of Kanam local government areas was only half of the journey. Passing through forest areas, several rural communities and manoeuvring gently around sandy trails on a motorcycle had taken two hours to finally arrive at Anguwan Gero; a hamlet locals say is a 10-minute walk to Gajinduguri in Alkaleri local government area of Bauchi State.

Madaki Rabiu Muhammad, an advisory member of the village head’s palace said with a population of about 4,500 people, Anguwan Gero is approximately 600 years old.

It was here that Daily Trust Saturday’s correspondents found both Abdullahi and his wife at home. Fatima, who was at the time bathing one of the couple’s three kids to get him ready for afternoon classes, immediately set the record straight, telling our correspondent that her name was not Hafsat, as stated in the BBC report.

Fatima Abdullahi, who is in her 20s, wasted no time in expressing her displeasure at the fact that a negative, untrue report about her marriage had travelled far and wide. With a faulty radio set at home, Fatima said both she and her husband did not listen to the BBC report but were only besieged by a flood of sympathizers and angry acquaintances.

“We have been married for seven years, I felt the report was an attempt to disgrace my marriage,” she said, adding that, “my husband and I live peacefully and happily, we have never invited a third party into our affairs and he has never raised a finger to my head not to mention beating me up to the point of knocking out my teeth.”

The mother of three, who sells locally-packaged condiments at home, said she had been baffled when friends and relatives began trooping into her home last Thursday to sympathise and enquire about her marital status. “They claimed my husband had pronounced the divorce on me twice and assaulted me because he had asked me to vote for Atiku, and I insisted on Buhari. That was a lie, it never happened, both my husband and I are supporters of Baba Buhari,” she said.

Though Fatima has an older brother called Ibrahim, she however said he was in Lafia and therefore could not have spoken to the radio station. “We know those responsible for the interview, they are members of this community, and I still don’t know why they would do this to us,” she said.

At the time of the visit, Abdullahi Yadau, Fatima’s husband told Daily Trust Saturday that it’s been three days since he had a bath because of the emotional and mental stress he had endured in the last few days. He was confident that Khamisu Maidankali, a local source of the BBC, had masterminded the whole issue, and used one Hamisu in the village to achieve his aim. “Hamisu impersonated me while Khamisu Maidankali disguised his voice to act as my wife’s brother. We know this because we live in the same community with them so we were later able to identify their voices,” he said.

On why the duo would pick on him for such a costly joke, Abdullahi said: “We have a place where young men assemble to discuss issues. So on that fateful Wednesday around 1:30pm they were discussing the presidential election and I suggested that it would be good for someone to put up the discussions on the internet. Khamisu Maidankali quickly said using radio would be better and he suggested the BBC. Shortly before I left the assembly, Khamisu Maidankali approached me and requested that we phone in the BBC together but I told him I was only joking and had nothing to say, he later approached me again and I declined, I picked my motorcycle and left for Gajinduguri village.”

But that evening, Abdullahi said unknown to him, Khamisu Maidankali had found an accomplice and made his way to the foot of the baobab tree up on a hill where the villagers usually find cellular signal and communicate. His accomplice Hamisu was said to have impersonated Abdullahi while Maidankali had disguised his voice to pose as Ibrahim Suleiman.

While the programme was being aired, Abdullahi had returned home from Gajinduguri and since his radio set was faulty, he had gone straight to bed without tuning in. The next morning, he was however accosted by the worried face of his younger brother who visited to enquire why he would take such a drastic action on his wife. But Abdullahi narrated how he held his brother’s hand and guided him into the house where Fatima was.

“Before we knew it, many people were flocking to my house to ask why I assaulted my wife. I tried to tell them that it was not true but you can only convince some. My mother in-law also rushed to our home to demand what was going on,” he said.

But those who castigated Abdullahi were the least of his problems. As news of the story spread, the police also came for him, but the fear that he could be harmed forced Abdullahi to flee his home.

“The police came to our village twice; the first call was around 1pm on Thursday afternoon then they returned around 2am. Before then, there were rumours that the governor had directed that I should be arrested for assaulting my wife. The first time I heard their siren, I was scared and confused so I ran away but they only visited the village head and when he narrated what had happened they insisted on seeing my wife and they took pictures of her.”

He said, “you cannot blame me for running away, I was scared, besides, I have never been taken before even the village head for anything, and here I was being hunted by security agents, so I was scared.”

Later on that same day, while he stood by the baobab tree up the hill, Abdullahi said he received a call from an unknown number, which warned him that the police were coming for him and his entire household at 2am. “Again I was scared and wondered why security agents would come for me at that time. So I took my children to a relative’s house, leaving my wife at home because I knew they would not hurt her because she was perceived as the victim. I then crossed over to Gajinduguri.”

Alone in the dark, Fatima said she waited patiently for the police to come and indeed they arrived a few minutes after 2am. “They asked for my husband but I told them he was not home so they asked me to go with them and I entered their vehicle with four other policemen, and we left for Dengi around 3am.”

On learning that his wife was at the police station the following morning, Abdullahi said he was left with no choice but to go after her and so he arrived Dengi on a Friday afternoon and reunited with his wife. “The police only asked me some questions and I told them the truth. They were particular about the fact that I assaulted her, and I told them to check her mouth. They actually just wanted to verify from both of us and told me that if I had come sooner, they would have asked us to leave earlier than expected. But while at the police station we were able to speak with the Plateau State Commissioner of Information and the Commissioner of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, who is from our district on phone and we clarified the whole issue,” he said.

Three days after the controversial interview hit the airwaves, Abdullahi told our correspondent that the fact that his side of the story would be reported by Daily Trust Saturday gives him some relief. He however said his reputation had been bruised. “Before this period, I had a lot of integrity but some people now think I am not a responsible man even though the truth is gradually coming out,” he said.

Abdullahi, who sells animals for a living, however advised media organisation to verify their reports and also ascertain the mental capacity of their sources. “If you call yourself a journalist, then I think you should ensure your sources are credible, you should also ascertain their mentally stability or else you will end up spreading lies,” he stated.

Though the dust is gradually settling, the father of three says he was not ready to let go. “Based on my religion, you don’t joke with issues of divorce. There may still be people that have the impression that I have divorced my wife, so I want justice. The first day I learnt of the interview, I had wanted to report the matter to the police in Dengi but our traditional leaders advised that we settle the matter at the village level. So when Khamisu Maidankali returns I will take him before our village head and I believe justice will be done.”

Abdulahi’s intent to seek justice was re-echoed by the member representing Kantana constituency where Anguwan Gero falls under, Yusuf Gagdi who stressed that the BBC report had tarnished the image of his constituency and would therefore seek legal redress.

Right now, Abdullahi says he was not minding all those who rejoiced at his perceived violence against his wife and even offered him new wives. “Some people from Duguri, the village of the former senator and present PDP governorship candidate, Bala Mohammed, is close to our village and since the story got out, there have been reports that some people were impressed by my actions and were willing to offer me wives,” he said. But he says he loves his wife, and Fatima explained that the rumour that Abdullahi had been forced upon her for marriage was a lie. She added that they had gone through the traditional courtship and she had married her husband because she loved and respected him.

As an animal merchant, Abdullahi’s profit margin has dwindled in the past three years. “In the past, I made profit at the expense of peace and comfort, now I have peace and comfort and it is all that matters. The day I was digging the well in my house, people of Gajinduguri came running because they were fleeing from Boko Haram. We also left everything to escape. But things are different now, and it is all thanks to Baba Buhari.”

 

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