‘President Jonathan, Please Help Me – Hajiya Jummai
... Hajiya Jummai Asma'u, popularly known as Jummai Cecilia is the mother of the Kannywood actress, Rabi Isma'il whose case was finally ruled by Nigeria's apex court to be hanged for killing her boy friend, Auwalu Ibrahim in 2002 and the Supreme Court upheld rulings by two lower courts. In this interview with AL-AMIN CIROMA the 78 year-old lamented her sorrows on the death sentence on her daughter. Excerpts:
Can you briefly tell us about your daughter, Rabi?
She completed her primary education and only dropped out of school to get married shortly before she could complete her secondary education. The marriage was blessed with three boys; Sadik, 21, Zaid, 20 and Abdul 19 years old respectively. She eventually went into the movie industry after her marriage ended.
She was not very popular. Then, the entertainment business was strange, people kept coming to me complaining and enquiring why we allowed her venture into movie business. Accusations and counter accusations made me to ash her to quit Hausa movie industry and after that, Rabi, who was busy trying to see how she could raise her children, again ventured into some petty business. She started buying and selling ladies wears and cosmetics. It was in this cause, we received this unfortunate news that she was arrested and accused of killing somebody in 2002.
When the news came to me, I quickly rushed to the police station where she was first detained and met her in a comma. She had been beaten and tortured beyond recognition so much that the police chief at the station had to rush her to the hospital.
Were you told by the police the incident that led to her arrest?
Yes, I was told she murdered one Auwal Ibrahim who was her friend. I was dumfounded because I was treating my legs, I am always indoors and so am sure what was going on between the two of them before the incident. But it was alleged that Rabi threw him into the dam when they were supposed to be swimming.
What was the extent of their relationship before the episode?
I can't say because I have never seen the victim Auwal in my life. You know our children these days; you hardly can trail their affairs. But I can say, they were not so intimate because I would have known him.
Where was she incarcerated at that time?
She was first detained in Kano,and later, she was moved to Hadejia prison. I asked the prison staff why they took her to Hadejia and they told me they moved her because many people were visiting her.
Can you tell us about Rabi's childhood and some of her behaviour?
Out of my six children, Rabi is different though she takes good care of me more than all of them. However, when she is capricious, the moment you talk to her, she will succumb and calm down. She is the type that does not tolerate rubbish. Whatever she does, Rabi has never spent a night outside, she would come back home. This is her room (points to the direction). No matter what, she would come home to sleep, except if she went to attend events.
Honestly, I am still surprised at the allegation that Rabi killed someone. It is unbelievable; she has never hurt even a fly as far as I know. But she was detained for nine years and went through series of torture by the police. Honestly she was abused of her rights.
Where is her ex husband?
He is dead!
He died in a motor accident.
Was he a driver?
Lala-lala! No, he was a policeman. He met his fate while on duty. As a highway patrol officer, he was performing his duties, when a driver lost control and ran him over. He died instantly.
What year was that?
I can't recall.
What about her father, I mean your husband?
Her father, Ismaila Mohammed is in Jalingo. He is an indigene of Taraba State.
Is he alive?
I don't know, we parted since I was nursing my last born Sule who is an adult now. This is his wife (points to lady beside her).
When this incident happened, did you inform him?
We tried to reach him but all efforts proved unsuccessful.
But you said he is in Jalingo. Don't you know his parents, relations or…?
(Cuts in) He is from Buram royal family but we could not reach him.
How did you meet your husband, Ismail?>
We met far back in my days when I was working in the Airways. I was a receptionist then and he worked in the passport office.
Where are you from ?
I am an indigene of Katsina State.
Which part of Katsina?
Tell us about your family background?
I am from the late Yusuf Shema family. We were a formidable family, but so many have died. Recently, my sister also passed on.
Can you give an account of how you felt when the news broke that Rabi had been sentenced to death by hanging?
What else can I do? I felt terribly bad. It was very deplorable and shocking… (burst into tears).
What do you think Rabi can do when she is exasperated or annoyed?
Well, I would not be surprised if you tell me Rabi fought someone out of anger or annoyance. Like I said before, she is hot tempered. But if you calm her down, she would give up and capitulate.
What is the contribution of the members of your family towards this incidence?
I can tell you nobody said anything. I am the only one going up and down.
Why were you left alone to handle the case?
I don't know. I am virtually the only one with my children and grand children going dealing with the situation .
What are Rabi's children going through now?
I can't say. From the start you could tell that it touched their lives seriously but they are managing it gradually. The first born, Sadik, who is now 21, came here yesterday and said he wants to visit his mom next week. Sadik is in college now. Others are still in secondary school.
You said Rabi is excitable and edgy, has she done anything that hurt the family before?
She has never engaged in anything that brought shame to the family except that they fight amongst themselves occasionally but nothing big happened in the family.
How was the relationship between Rabi and your neighbours like?
Like I said, nobody can tell you Rabi is arrogant except that she does not tolerate nonsense. She is loved by all within and outside the family.
Did you see Rabi after the death sentenced?
Yes, I visited her at the custody.
What transpired between the two of you? Can you tell what was her reaction when she first set her eyes on you?
Yes, when she saw us, she asked my people “why did you come with Mama in her condition? I told her that I was the one who insisted to come. We sat down and she just kept staring at me for a long time without uttering a word. I was sweating all over, Rabi took a handkerchief and began wiping my face… (bursts into tears).
As far as you know Rabi, has she confided in you that she committed such an offence?
(Still crying) Wallahi, I know she is innocent. Rabi never committed the offence! I was left alone with her in the room. She said she is very confident that she did not commit the offence and I am sure at this stage, she would have told me the truth if she did . She said, 'Mama, I didn't kill Auwalu, if I did, I would have said it, I know certainly they would either execute me or acquit me but to my God, I am innocent.' Those were her words to me. Knowing Rabi, she would have said the truth; at least I am her mother.
She told me that she was threatened over and over with guns. They used to take her to somewhere and point a gun and dangerous weapons at her, they will tell her to confess or they will kill her, but Rabi always stood firm. At a point, they brought a corpse and asked her to identify if it was the victim, she said it was not Auwalu, even his relatives confirmed that it was not the victim.
Have they recovered the victim's corpse?
No, as far as I know, they haven't seen the corpse.
Have you ever discussed this with Ibrahim's parents or relations?
Haram! I have never discussed it with them.
What about her lawyers?
They don't talk to me.
Who pays them?
They are government lawyers. They were paid by the government.
Have you ever asked Rabi the whereabouts of her late boyfriend Auwalu?
When you are in prison, there is a limit as to what one can see or discuss with a prisoner. It is because of me or my condition that sometimes, they pity me and give me a few minutes to see her.
What are your wishes?
(Bursts into tears) I wish Rabi could be freed and acquitted…
As popular as you are in this society, I remembered when I lost my bearing; somebody described this house for me right from Na'ibawa.
How is the death sentence afflicting the family and you as a person?
I am very popular here. People troop in to register their sympathy and sorrows. Some would come to see me just for their reasons, while others will come and commiserate with me.
Over the years that Rabi has been incarcerated, how do you cope with the children's upbringing?
It is the will of the Almighty Allah. I receive little support from some well meaning people in the society. I equally get support from some of my colleagues, whom we worked with at the airways. It is just through Allah's pleasure.
What is your advice to parents?
Parents should be prayerful. Children may fall in any eventuality through influence and so many unknown forces. They should always pray for the best for their children. But I still stand that my daughter is innocent. There is something hidden somewhere. God knows.
Finally, what is your plea to the government?
I am appealing to the Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso and His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan to come to my aid and help me. They should please look at my condition and revisit the case of my daughter… (Bursts into tears)
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