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Stigma: Girl, 15, goes in search of missing father

15-year-old Halima Mohammed in the ancient town of Zungeru, Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State, has set out in search of her missing father,…

15-year-old Halima Mohammed in the ancient town of Zungeru, Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State, has set out in search of her missing father, Mallam Samaila Dan-Fulani or his relatives.

After secondary school, her biggest dream at the moment is not to further her education but to find her father, who reportedly abandoned her mother while she was three years old.  Halima wants to see her father before she gets married.

The picture Halima’s mother shared with Daily Trust on Sunay captures the last moments they shared with the father when she was two years old. Halima said she wanted to find any of her father’s relative so that she would unite with her family and prove to the world that she is not an illegitimate child.

She said one of her friends once stigmatised her, saying she did not have anyone she could call her relative from her father’s side, and because of that, she should not talk when people who had relatives were talking.

“I have grown up without knowing my father. If I were told that he had died, that’s understandable, but the only thing my mother told me about him was that he left home while I was two years old. I have only seen him on photo. I have asked my mother about his relatives but she told me that she never knew or met any member of his family. I want to at least know his relatives so that from time to time I will visit them, even if my father is not found. My mother told me that he is a Fulani man from Bauchi State,” she said.

She said her education responsibility had been shouldered by her brother, who her mother got from her late husband before she got married to her father.

Mallam Samaila, a cleric and spiritual healer, was said to have told his wife, Mallama Azumi Mohammed sometime in 2007 that he was travelling to Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State but he is yet to return, 15 years after.

While Halima’s mother, Mallama Azumi, said she had persevered in prayers, hoping that her husband would return, her only daughter cannot bear the burden of stigma from the society.

“Mallam told me that he was going to Birnin Gwari, with a promise to return four days after, but 15 years have gone and I have not seen him. I have resigned to fate. I remember he left Zungeru on a Saturday and told me he would be back on Tuesday.

“We have tried to locate him but we could not. When he left here, he didn’t have any phone for communication. But while he was leaving, he told me that he was going to hand over one cow we had to his friend, Haruna, a Fulani herder, to take charge of.

“Two days after he left, Haruna came to tell me that Mallam would not come back. I asked why and he said I should just accept it as fate.

“My concern now is Ummi (Halima) who is insisting on knowing at least her father’s relatives. But he didn’t let me know any of his relatives for the eight years we stayed together before he abandoned me,” she narrated.

Mallam Samaila, who seemed to have deceived his wife, reportedly told her that he was from a village in Bauchi State but did not tell her exactly the way to the place. He also told his wife that he came from a traditional ruling house in his village, saying his elder brother was a district head.

He also told her that members of his family were coming to visit them and take his daughter, Halima to Bauchi.

Mallama Azumi further said that initially, she rejected his proposal to marry her on the basis that he was a stranger and no one could tell where he came from, but her parents overruled her decision and insisted that she would marry him because they didn’t want her to stay without a husband.

She said her children from her first husband had been taking care of her but she is worried about her daughter.

Also, according to Azumi, Haruna, the Fulani herder who took charge of their cow later relocated to Gwada in Shiroro Local Government Area. She, however, added that he left Gwada and has not been traced.

One of Samaila’s close friends while he was in Zungeru, Mallam Bala Ibrahim, said he was ready to stand as father for Halima whenever she finds a suitor.

“Honestly speaking, I don’t know anything about his whereabouts. He didn’t tell me where he was going, but I remember that during our discussions, he told me that he came from a village in Taraba or Bauchi. But I cannot say where exactly he came from,” Ibrahim said.

He said that Samaila Fulani, as he was fondly called, did not show signs of deceit throughout his stay in Zungeru, and expressed surprise that he abandoned his wife and daughter without any trace.

When contacted, the president, Zungeru Youth Development Association, Idris Abubakar, said the matter had been brought to their attention, with a request to help locate Samaila.

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