Malam Umar Sani, a 65-year-old Nigerian man, was a bonafide hero.
Sani had spent most of his life by the riverside, but unfortunately, it was the same river that claimed his life.
A canoe Sani was paddling after he rescued eight stranded residents from the riverside on the 18th of September capsized and Sani was swallowed by the wave of the famous River Kaduna, around Kabalan Doki.
Eyewitnesses said that having rescued eight residents who appeared stranded on one side of the river, Sani had steadily made his way to land as he had done several times. But as he paddled to the middle of the river, a strong wave forced his canoe to overturn and the nine occupants found themselves in the river.
Despite being a good swimmer, Sani, who had farmed rice by the riverside for decades, had been swallowed by the river while the passengers he rescued had survived the mishap.
Musa Mai Rake, one of the survivors of the mishap, told Daily Trust Saturday that the incident occurred within a “twinkle of an eye.”
Musa, who survived the incident with seven others, said the deceased, who owned farms at the riverside, was an expert swimmer.
“We were at the other side of the river with other farmers, waiting for a canoe to come and convey us. So, Malam Umar Sani saw us standing from afar and decided to come with his canoe to aid us. Unfortunately, the canoe capsized in the middle of the river and we all fell into the water. We were lucky to come out alive, but Umar got drowned before help could come because the water was moving fast,” he said.
Our correspondent gathered that those who survived the canoe accident include children and two other elderly men who were rescued by farmers, while some were able to swim to the shore.
One of the residents of the area, Murtala Kabala Doki, who taught the deceased how to swim as a child, said only God knows what exactly happened as he described the deceased as a good swimmer.
“I am still in shock but we have left everything to God. Umar knew how to swim and he has been at the riverside for years farming. This is why we were surprised to learn that he got drowned in the same river. May Allah forgive his shortcomings,” he said.
Two weeks since the incident, there is still shock and disbelief at the residence of the 65-year-old farmer as his remains are yet to be found. Sympathisers have continued to troop into his residence, close to the river bank in Kabalan Doki community of Kaduna State.
The farmer’s wife, Maimuna Umar, was surrounded by her sisters and other family members when our correspondent visited the house. The resounding prayer from sympathisers is for the remains of the farmer to be recovered.
Recounting her last encounter with the deceased, the widow said her husband had asked her to prepare a local pap for him at breakfast.
“When he was about to leave home that early morning he asked me to prepare koko (local pap) for his breakfast. Shortly after he left home, I got the news that a canoe capsized with some people and that my husband had drowned,” she said.
The mother of 11 children described her late husband as a good man and said life would be difficult for the family without him.
The farmer’s 26-year-old son, Abba Umar, said the family would miss their father because of his love and compassion for others. It was that compassion, many said, that moved Sani to rescue the eight stranded residents.
“I was not in town when the incident happened. My father was a good man and we are going to miss him. I grew up to know him as a farmer and swimmer. We all learnt how to swim from him,” he said, adding that the search operation for his father became difficult and dangerous because of the increase in the water volume due to continuous rain in the state.
The chairman of Kaduna North Local Government, Muktar Baloni, who visited the community, said the river became dangerous because of the increase in rainfall across the state, adding that this has affected efforts to recover the remains of the farmer.
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