One year after the mysterious disappearance of popular social media critic, Abubakar Idris, his wife, Khadija Ahmed Lame still dials his number daily in anticipation that she would hear his voice at the end of the line.
Sometimes, she would type and send a text message to his number, but always, her husband’s number never connects and her text messages would always return unsent.
“I send the text message hopping his phone will come on and he may see it,” she said in a hushed tone and teary- eyed.
“I write in my text messages that we are here; we are with him and haven’t given up hope.
“Even if he wouldn’t see it, I text so that whoever has his phone might see it, but the text never goes, it always bounces back,” she said.
In the early hours of August 2, 2019, Abubakar Idris who is popularly known by his pet name Dadiyata was bundled into his BMW vehicle by yet-to-be identified men shortly after he arrived home in Barnawa neighbourhood of Kaduna.
Dadiyata had arrived home around 1am and was said to be on the phone within his compound when assailants breached his home security, forced him into his vehicle, locked back his gate and sped off.
Since then, the whereabouts of the 34-year-old lecturer in the department of English and Linguistics, Federal University Dutsinma,Katsina State, has remained a mystery.
Initially, friends and family members had accused security agents, especially the State Security Service (SSS) for his abduction, and Khadija – his wife, had sued the SSS, the Nigeria Police and the Kaduna state government for the unlawful arrest and detention of her husband, seeking damages to the tune of N50 million.
However, both the SSS and the Nigeria police have denied having Dadiyata in their custody with security sources later insinuating that the English lecturer may have been a victim of kidnapping.
But his family is not convinced by that line of argument as Abubakar’s 65-year-old mother Fatima said: “We all know how kidnappers operate and it’s not like this. They wouldn’t have taken his car. They would have contacted us for om immediately, so this is not the conventional kidnapping.”
Even as the mystery surrounding Abubakar’s disappearance began to take months, Khadija said she had never imagined her husband’s whereabouts would remain unknown one year later.
“At first, I was hoping by the end of the week he will return home or those who abducted him will make contact with us to give conditions for his release. But today it’s a year and we don’t know where he is, this is unbelievable,” she said.
Apart from his friends and families, social media influencers have continued to demand action on the disappearance of Dadiyata with many criticizing the silent treatment coming from the Nigerian government and security agents.
Khadija says she is not convinced security agents are doing enough to provide answers on the disappearance of her husband and Dadiyata’s younger brother, Aminu Idris, is utterly disappointed that those whom Dadiyata risked his life to defend have remained silent in the cause of his disappearance.
“Those campaigning for his release were social media influencers, many of whom my brother never met physically. They remember him and have continued to demand for his release and we appreciate their efforts,” he said.
“Many influential government officials we spoke to at first showed concern and promised to help investigate his whereabouts but in the long run, they reneged and stopped answering our calls. That has been our predicament,” he said.
For Dadiyata’s family, the fear of the unknown has become a constant torment.
“Not knowing his whereabouts and in what condition he is in is unbearable,” said his mother.
Khadija on the other hand worries that she may not live to see her husband return.
“I worry a lot about the conditions he may be in and if at all when he comes back, he will find me alive. I do not know why I harbour such thoughts but that is what comes to my mind when I think of him,” she said.
Remembering the good days, Fatima with a smile said Dadiyata, the fifth among six children was too generous and gave out financial assistance even at his expense.
“He is just too generous and I used to tell his wife to request money from him as soon as she knows he has it because he will give it out without thinking twice. He used to tell me that he always prays to Allah not to give him wealth that he cannot share with others.”
Though Fatima says she remains hopeful that someday she would be reunited with her son, lately she thinks about him with a lot of sadness.
“As a Muslim, when you find yourself in a situation beyond your control, you are to say, Innalilahi wa Inna illahirajiun (From Allah we come and to Him we shall return). I know that this is a test from Allah and it is what Allah has destined that will prevail.
“I have resigned my faith to Allah and with all the prayers from well-wishers, I know he will be released when Allah says it is time. But my prayer is to live to see that day,” she said.
A day before his abduction, Dadiyata had visited his younger brother’s home in Katsina and informed him of his impending trip to Kaduna.
Because Aminu is the last of Fatima’s children and trailed behind Dadiyata, the two share a special bond and both work in the same institution in Katsina.
Aminu described Dadiyata as one who motivates those around him and is very generous with his finances.
Like Khadija, Aminu often times tries to put a call across his brother’s phone, but he said it never connects.
“His phone is a Samsung and most times I attempt to call it just to see if it will ring or if someone will answer but it never goes through.
“We tried urging the police to track his phone but all they gave were assurances. We were informed that his car can be tracked also but the information to do so is in his car,” he said.
Aminu said he is more worried about his brother’s psychological state of mind.
He said for one who easily worries about trifle things, he fears that his brother may have been subjected to torture or may have been kept in isolation for too long.
“In his case, he easily worries about little things. Having a mild cold gets him worried. For a person with such behaviour, keeping him incommunicado without care is devastating.”
Even as the police say Dadiyata’s disappearance is being investigated, attempts to get the status of the case proved abortive as Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige, promised to brief this reporter on the case but days later did not answer several calls put across to his phone.
However, a glimmer of hope surfaced about five months ago when the Police invited Khadija to the state headquarters.
Days before then, Aminu said a social media post indicating that Dadiyata had been transferred to Police custody had circulated and so the family became expectant when the Police called to invite Khadija to the station.
Khadija had called Aminu to accompany her and both held onto hope that they were likely going to reunite with Dadiyata.
“Our hopes were however dashed when the police told us that they had not found him and that the case had only then been transferred after six months from the Barnawa police division to the headquarters, because they had no breakthrough,” said Aminu.
“Those at the headquarters explained that it is routine to inform the families when a case is being transferred.
“They also asked if we had any information that could help their investigations. Since then, there hasn’t been any contact or information from the police,” he further stated.
One year after, there is still no trace of Dadiyata and Khadija says life has been difficult for her and their two kids.
She now depends on the financial and moral support of her parents and Dadiyata’s parents and siblings.
“Some of his friends also help us with whatever they can. I have gained admission into the university but it is painful that he is not here to rejoice with me and offer counsel.
“I remember how he insisted I go back to school and now that I have started, he is not here to support, guide and encourage me,” she said.
His daughters, six-year-old Hanifa and two-year-old Fatima have begun to poke holes in their mother’s narrative that their father had travelled and would return soon.
“The oldest used to believe that her father whom she calls Abbah had travelled and will be back soon but now she no longer believes that narrative and I often hear her pray to Allah expose those who took away her Abbah.”
As uncertainties continue to trail Dadiyata’s abduction, his family is convinced he was abducted to silence his criticism of government.
Aminu insist his brother’s advocacy shouldn’t be the basis for his disappearance as those he offended should have prosecuted him instead.
“His children, wife and parents shouldn’t have to suffer like this even if he erred in some way.
“But what puzzles me is that someone coulddisappear the way he did and life will go on as if it never happened,” he said.