I will never watch the video of how the train ran over my wife – Alhaji Fatai Suleiman is the husband of NTA Accountant, Selimota Suleiman, Chief Accountant of the Nigerian Television Authority, Channel Five, Abuja who was run over by a train while trying to cross. railway last Thursday in Kubwa area of Abuja. The grieving husband speaks to her LILIAN YOU ARE about the tragic event
What is your name and how are you related to the victim of the train accident last week in Abuja, Selimota Suleiman?
My name is Alhaji Suleiman Fatai. I am the husband of the late Selimota Suleiman. I work in the National Assembly.
Who told you about the terrible incident?
It was my friend’s wife who gave me the news. On that fateful morning, his son washed the car and put everything away. I was lying on the couch in the living room while he was getting ready for work. When she was ready to go to the office, I looked at her and called her Mrs. Suleiman. As I had no intention of going to my office that day, I said, “Please bring something from your office when you come back.” He looked at me and laughed and walked away. Before I left, he reminded me that I said I was going to get something from a friend. Thirty minutes after he left, I went to my friend’s house, not far from my house, not knowing that something terrible had happened to me.
While at my friend’s place, his wife went home and I told her that something happened near the rail and I told my friend that my wife just went to office. He asked to know the exact time, then I told him it was 30 minutes earlier. At that point, I asked myself, “Could it be him?” Then I asked my friend to call her number because I left my phone at home. He dialed the number and called but no one picked up. So we ran out, a car was approaching us from another street, we got into the car. When we got there, a man on an okada started shouting, “Alhaji, she was your wife,” while others said, “She was not your wife.” They know his car, so they said it wasn’t his car. Then a friend held me as we tried to approach the runway. The train was still there, the car was still under the train. The police surrounded the place, they did not allow anyone to get there. I was shaking, someone came and picked me up with his car and took me home.
I picked up the phone and called my friend Nuhu who was there and asked him to investigate whether it was my wife’s car or not. He demanded to know the license plate number of my wife’s car. By then I was already confused. Then my wife’s brother called from home and someone called with my wife’s number and said my wife had an injury. That’s how I met him. Before I knew what was happening, people filled my house. My wife was sane and kind; he was full of life, (he had) very nice smiles.
Did you take any immediate action then?
It was a rough bump, I almost fell down, I was dizzy before a man held me down and put me in the car. I was no longer in control of myself. But still, I was still not sure if it was my wife (who was involved in the accident). I couldn’t believe it until it was confirmed.
Some reports said his car got stuck on the railroad tracks, others said the car broke down. What exactly did that witness tell you?
I didn’t ask the witnesses any questions other than what I read in the news. I didn’t see any witnesses. All I know and can say is that the car was in good condition; the car was as good as new. Toyota Camry is a new 2010 car, no repairs were done. However, people say that it is the magnetic effect of the train. You know I wasn’t there so I wouldn’t know.
Did you visit the scene of the accident afterwards?
I did not visit the scene of the accident; they didn’t let me get close. I was looking at the train from a distance before they held me back, they probably knew (she was my wife) so they didn’t want to get close to me. From then on, I still thought it couldn’t be my car.
A person who claimed to be a witness posted on social media that police allegedly beat and pepper-sprayed sympathizers trying to rescue Selimota. Did anyone tell you about it?
I heard that, but I don’t know how true it was. Rescue in what sense? Was it when the train was coming? I heard someone somewhere was making a video of the incident, which I refused to watch until today and never will. According to those who saw the video, they said my wife was trying to open the car door to get out. The video would be no longer than a minute or two. I wonder why such a person would do that (make the video) instead of helping another human being; I thought that person would help instead of making a video. But I believe it is God’s work. After the calamity happened, then people were struggling to reach the place. I heard the police were there, shooting tear gas or whatever, because they didn’t want people to come near. Maybe the woman could still be rescued then, I wouldn’t know. The police refused to let the people approach. I’m sure even if I was a husband, if I had tried to approach her, I would have been tear-gassed too, because they wouldn’t know that I’m her husband.
Did they take you to the hospital after you got out of the car?
No, they didn’t take him to the hospital. By the time they got him out of the car, he had completely given up (ghost).
Is it buried?
Yes, he is buried; he was buried the same day according to Islamic rites.
What kind of person was Selimota?
She was my wife, loving and caring mother, friend. He was everything to me, a problem solver, I shared my whole life with him. When they say someone is a mother, she was very supportive.
Let me tell you one thing that will give you an idea of the type of person he was. The incident happened on Thursday, which was three days before my birthday. My birthday was Saturday, December 17. She asked for a cake to make a surprise birthday for me. Only a loving wife will do that. I told him I wanted to see what he would give me as my birthday present and he smiled; after his death the kids told me about the surprise birthday cake.
On my birthday, the baker brought home a cake; maybe he was not aware of the tragic incident as my wife had already paid in full. I did not see (the cake), my people asked the baker to remove the cake and do whatever he wanted with the cake or give it to the poor or anyone.
How many children do you have together?
We have three children, one girl and two boys.
Is the property you live in close to the railway?
Yes, my house is very closed from the railway.
Is it true that the residents were clamoring that the government should build a bridge across the railway line?
Yes, I personally wrote two letters to the Ministry of Transport as secretary of the community association and I can bring copies if you wish. The letters were received and sealed, but nothing has been done to date.
Was this the first time the community had experienced such a fatal train accident?
It wasn’t the first time. We had two such incidents, but my wife’s case was different, because she was in the car. They were the ones that had passed by in previous riots and we could hardly identify them after the trains were mutilated. In such cases, the Nigerian Railway Corporation would come and ship the mutilated body. We have had about two or three such incidents and no one knew any of the victims.