25 August 2012

Nigeria: 'My Daughter's Death Lesson for Youths to Be Wary'

The paradox of the journalism profession could not have been anymore stark than it was on Friday as I approached the home of the Osokogus whose last child and only daughter, Cynthia, had only recently been killed in a Lagos hotel by "friends" she met on a social networking site.

There was palpable gloom at the family's residence at ECWA Staff Quarters on Zaria Road, Jos, Plateau State, but despite the anguish it was still expedient, from a news perspective, to hear relatives recount their fond memories of her. It is such moments that create the erroneous - but nonetheless worrying - notion that journalists seldom show empathy towards the bereaved.

I managed to voice my condolences before deciding on what I believed was an appropriate ice breaker for anyone seeking to speak to a father who had just lost a child.

"Well, the point is my daughter was in Nasarawa State University, Keffi, doing her master's programme," Major-General Frank Osokogu (rtd) explained in response to the question of how the tragic story began.

"So, she stays there. I stay in Abuja and Jos while my wife stays in Jos. So, we are not together. It became very difficult to know exactly when she was missing from school. But eventually when I got to know about everything was when her friends started looking for any of her family members and through contacts they got to know me and got to know my number.

"Anytime she was coming to Abuja, she stayed with them. So, this time around, she (my daughter) now called them that she was coming to Abuja on her way to Lagos because she was going to buy some items. They didn't see her; that was when they started looking for any of the family members. That was how I got to know that she was not in school that she travelled and that she was missing. She left on Sunday, July 22, and she told them she was going to spend about three or four days."

On how the intense media coverage of her daughter's death has affected him, he said: "When things like that happen, a lot of speculations will come, a lot of insinuations will come. That is not my problem now. My problem is to get focused. Luckily, the police have been able to do a thorough job from what I was told. I have not gone to Lagos to see the police but my brother and my son had been there. And from what they told me, the police did a marvellous job in tracking down the suspects as of now. So, we are worried about how to move forward with the case, not what people say."

The 24-year-old Cynthia Osokogu was killed in a hotel room in Festac Town, Lagos, allegedly by two undergraduates, Okwuoma Echezona Nwabufo and Ezekiel Odera Ikechukwu Olisa whom she met via a BlackBerry Messenger group. They had both lured the deceased from her Nasarawa State base with the pretext they would be supplying her clothes for her boutique

Below are excerpts of the interview:

When did the message finally get to you that she was missing?

That should be about the end of July. Immediately they called me and they told me her car was there and some of her belongings, they wanted to return them to my house for safe-keeping, then I said okay they should bring them. I gave them the description and they brought the items.

When they came, I told them that returning the items was just not enough, that they had to go to the police to make some statement so that we keep it while we are still looking for my daughter because at this time we didn't have a clue of what had happened. They agreed. So, we drove off to Gwarimpa Police Station because they live in Gwarimpa and that was the last point that my daughter must have travelled from.

We went to Gwarimpa Police Station. They made statement and the Gwarimpa Police Station referred us to the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) FCT since they have the technological know-how to track missing persons, missing telephone, coordinating or whatsoever. They gave us quick passage to SARS. We went to SARS, they made statement too.

The SARS swung into action. So, the search started in earnest. I think the police did a good job under the circumstance, at least in arresting those suspects. If anything to prevent them from causing more havoc. I also want to commend all those who by visits and calls sympathised with us. I must mention the Sultan of Sokoto, the Lagos Police Commissioner, the area commander in Festac Town, all the service chiefs, the Obis of Owa, Ute-Okpu, Otolokpo and Ute-Ogbeje kingdoms, the Chief of Staff to Delta State governor and all the generals serving and retired and colleagues too numerous to mention, who have identified with us in these trying moments and I say may God bless them all.

What memories do you have of her?

Oh, she was a very good girl, very serious, very focused. She had done very well. She finished her youth corps at about the age of 22. She had never been lagging behind. So, I was very confident that she was full of promises, full of potential. So, we didn't have any problem with her.

Are you gradually coming to terms with the loss?

It is devastating, it is incomprehensible. Our consolation is that well when something happens, you just take it with equanimity the way it comes. What cannot be helped must be endured. I believe too that the situation that is unfolding is a big lesson for other youths that are coming up. They have a lot of lessons to draw why they should not, just be chatting with strangers on facebook, internet or BlackBerry or whatever and then decide to go visiting them. So, I think that was the capital mistake in this episode. So, those youths must learn a lesson from what had happened. If they do, I will be consoled too that they have saved some other lives.

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