Life seems to have taken a terrible twist for Christiana Eruh. Like her late spouse, Sylvester, she prayed to see their four children attain the best in life, until the cruel hands of death snatched her husband of 40 years away by marauding bandits. Speaking with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND’s OLAOLU OLADIPO and SAMUEL ABULUDE, she recounted their lives together, saying despite the fact that he displayed valour as a soldier, he died cheaply.
For Sylvester Eruh, life was upbeat that fateful Saturday morning, the journey to Ilorin the capital city of Kwara State was to commence as planned. To the retired Brigadier-General in the army, Ilorin is quite familiar as he had served in one of the military formations there before.
Aside for the reason for the trip, which was to attend a burial ceremony of the father of a fellow church member, the trip provided yet another opportunity to visit and possibly rekindle old professional and social ties in the town which had almost became a home having lived there for some time.
On that fateful day, his wife of 40 years, Christiana had woken up very early in the morning to get him set for the trip as they (the couple) had envisaged that he would to return to the warm embrace of his family members. Nothing suggested to family members that the day would mark a turning point in their collective lives.
Along with some other members of his church (name withheld), he travelled as planned on that fateful day, 7th of July, unfortunately, the trip later turned to be his last, as he met with untimely death, just few kilometers to his Akute (Ogun State) home upon his return after a very busy and hectic day.
His death could be said to be rather ironic as the retired general had at different times been part of numerous peace keeping campaigns overseas and in all, he was said to have distinguished himself as dependable in active military engagements only to die cheaply in the hands of marauding bandits along the Lagos-Ibadan Express way.
His car reportedly had a flat tyre around Kara area of the long bridge but his decision to replace the deflated tyre became his greatest undoing. He was attacked by the bandits and his assailants stabbed him repeatedly all over the body.
Efforts to secure a first aid treatment for him proved futile as he died at the Lagos State owned Accident and Emergency Trauma Centre located at the border with Ogun State before medical attention could reach him.
Since his death, the family has been thrown into mourning as his residence has become a Mecca of sorts to an assortment of guests who continue to throng it to console his widow and his four children.
Recollecting her initial reaction to the news of the demise of her husband, the widow said, “I was in the house preparing for his home coming; he indeed called me before leaving Ilorin to prepare his favourite dish as he never liked eating out. But at about 6 o clock, some people called from church that it seemed something bad had happened to my husband,” said the widow in a chat with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND.
According to her, she overcame the initial shock and immediately made for the accident centre where unknown to her, the lifeless body of her spouse had been kept for onward transmission to the morgue. “When I went with some of my family members to the Lagos emergency hospital, they didn’t want me to see his body, they didn’t know how I would react if I see him dead.”
But one way or the other, the information still got to her thus shattering the dream of the couple to see to the successful completion of their children’s education. “He had prayed that all his children would get the best education could offer, he worked towards it but now that he is dead, how do I cope? How do I ensure that the standard he left behind would be met?”
The daunting task of managing the situation is seen in the fact the first child had completed both his 1st and second degrees but is yet to secure a job. “I have another in Igbenedion University and Covenant
University and I don’t know how I will cope with their fees. The children will miss him too. They are distraught about the issue.”
Lamenting, “You should see how badly the Fulani herdsmen dealt with his body, they shot him with an arrow before stabbing him,” just as he recounted with specific details how her husband met his death in the hands of his killers.
“The day they attacked my husband and he was rushed to the hospital, the nurses said that a similar incident had happened as people were also attacked by Fulani herdsmen. Also a man was attacked and one of his ears was cut off. Late last year too, I was told, a man was killed.” She said.
According to her, the late general was a dotting husband to her and a caring father to their kids, “My husband is the best husband a woman can ever have. He was a Christian to the core. He was my adviser, my father and would always lift my spirits when I was down.
“I don’t know how I will cope without him. He served in ECOMOG, in the United States and in India. He has the birthday dates of most officers’ because he worked in Nigerian Army Records. He would call them on their birthdays.”
The union between the two began as kids who attended the same church, who played together oblivious of the fact that fate and destiny had actually conspired to put the union together for a life long relationship of bliss.
“We met in the church. We were in the same choir in Baptist Church in Auchi. We once acted as Joseph and Mary in the bible which was the role we played together and people started associating us together.
Later on we became closer and I knew he would marry me. We lived together in Agbor, Delta State precisely Gbojigboji area.”
Midway into their adolescent life, Sylvester opted to join the Nigerian Army but the decision did not in anyway obliterate their already well entrenched relationship. When he got his commission, he approached the family of Christiana seeking her hand in marriage and since then began a life of happiness that was to span over four decades.