Pastor Bitrus Tumba is the father of Ezekiel Bitrus, a 27-year-old boy who was reportedly slain by a security agent during the destruction of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, also known as EYN, in Maiduguri by authorities of the Borno Geographical Information System. .
Who exactly are you?
I am Pastor Bitrus Tumba, the assistant pastor of COCIN Church Santimari in the Maiduguri metropolis. I have seven surviving children and one granddaughter. I am 62-years-old. Aside from my pastoral work, I engage in farming and the rearing of animals to support my family.
Can you tell me about your son Ezekiel’s death?
He and other workers were working on a church building site in Maduganari when they were startled to see a bulldozer approaching them, followed by the civilian Joint Task Force in Hilux trucks with heavy weapons. They (labourers) were on the site the day before when a Muslim guy approached them and said, “Has the governor not stopped you from building a church here?” Mohammed Naga was instructed by the governor to inform you that this structure must be demolished. Why are you so adamant on finishing the structure?”
What did the workers have to say?
“We are only labourers here; we don’t know about that,” Ezekiel said to the man. You can meet and confront the church officials, but not us.” When he returned home that day, he told us the tale, and we urged him to cease construction, which he did. Later, he was asked to continue working on the building, with the guarantee that everything was in order.
The CJTF grabbed their phones before killing him, taking advantage of the firearms in their hands. The bulldozer then proceeded to tear down the church’s roof and demolish the whole structure. After the church was dismantled, Ezekiel approached the CJTF to ask for their phones back. The highly armed CJTF shot him in the chest at this moment. They shot him and murdered him on the spot. The CJTF continued to fire intermittently into the air in an attempt to frighten others who had come to see the drama unfold.
I went to my farm to inspect my crops and clear weeds from the fields the morning they killed my kid, but I was not at ease. I attempted to push myself to go to work, but my body was not cooperating, so I returned home. When I arrived home, Revd Emmanuel Balami called to inform me that Bishop Mohammed Naga had requested that we meet in the hospital.
Did you have any suspicions at the time?
At the time, I assumed the meeting had something to do with the church storey. It never occurred to me that my son may be affected. I was on my way to the hospital when the phone rang, and the caller advised me to return home instead. As I was driving home, another call came through, telling me to get to the hospital. “Ezekiel has been hit by a stray bullet,” another person remarked as soon as I hung up the phone. I quickly informed someone I knew that Ezekiel was no longer alive. I felt disoriented and went to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital, I noticed a large throng and went in, expecting to meet my kid, but I did not. As I was leaving the ward, one of my church members ran up to me and said, “You know you’re a pastor, what happened has happened.” I implore you to take heart. Please don’t let this bother you; I’m here to inform you that your son, Ezekiel, is no longer alive.” When I asked him what had happened, he told me precisely what I had just told you. When I inquired where my son’s body was, he replied it was in the booth of an SUV. My kid was found dead in a pool of blood with a white frothy material in his mouth when they opened the booth for me. I walked away after photographing the lifeless body.
How did you react when you learned of his death?
To be honest, I can’t put a number on the anguish I’m experiencing within. I haven’t stopped sobbing since his death. From morning to night, I’ve cried. I haven’t slept for a single second because I haven’t closed my eyes.
My son was not killed while attempting to steal. He did not die in a gunfight. He was not assassinated during an armed robbery. Ezekiel does not fight or argue with others. He wasn’t defiant either. He was assassinated because he was constructing a chapel. Haba! Even if I don’t cry, I’m still in anguish on the inside, but Jesus Christ warned us as Christians that we should expect persecution because he, too, was persecuted. In John 14, God also encourages us to endure in the face of adversity.
They may murder our physical bodies, but they cannot kill our souls, according to Jesus. So, pulling inspiration from the Bible and God’s word, I am sure that my son Ezekiel is not dead, but has just transitioned to the spirit realm. And I’m confident he’s sleeping in the presence of the Lord.
Every time I recall that Ezekiel is no longer alive, tears well up in my eyes. It is not simple for me. I’m carrying a lot of pain inside of me. I cry when I’m alone. I can’t sleep no matter how hard I try.
What other words would you use to characterise your late son?
He was a final-year Higher National Diploma II student. He was a bricklayer by trade (mason). As a kid, that was what he did. He was also a devout Christian. Ezekiel was always certain that he could not compromise on his faith and religion to anybody who would listen. He worked as a bricklayer on the construction of three churches: one in Dala, one in Wulari, and one in Maduganari, which ultimately cost him his life. One thing I can say about my son is that he was brave and bold. Nothing frightens him; if he were scared, he would have fled when the CJTF erupted in violence, but that is not in his nature.
He went to a church service in Shuwari, where he attended, the day before he was killed at the construction site, and urged them to pray for him because he was having difficulties with his work. After the devotion on Wednesday morning, his elder sister warned him to be careful with the church building since he (Ezekiel) had informed us they were under attack. But he came out and informed us that he was willing to die for Christianity, and that no danger would deter him from finishing the church. His sole contribution to the growth and spread of Christianity, he claimed, was that. Despite being Michika, he was proficient in Kanuri and had a good relationship with the Muslim brothers. Ezekiel was a farmer as well. He only grew rice and corn this year. He was a rock in our house. He helped me with the general care of the house.
Was he married or not?
He has a four-year-old daughter who is enrolled in kindergarten. He was the one who was responsible for her school tuition and food, but after his death, that burden has passed to me. Ezekiel was also a gospel singer. He has around 10 gospel songs that are popular among the church’s youngsters. Before he died, he had planned to release his record this year. His elder sister had a terrifying dream about him the night before, in which he was being pursued by weird individuals holding matchets. She informed him about the dream and encouraged him to relax, but as I previously stated, once he made up his mind about anything, no one could stop him, no matter how strong the resistance was, especially when it came to his faith. So he told his sister to pray for him, but he continued with the church construction, and he was slain the next day, Thursday.
Have you been approached by the authorities after your kid was killed?
My residence has not been visited by the authorities. But that isn’t the point, and that isn’t my issue. Allow them to come if they want; if they don’t, they shouldn’t. They did, after all, murder my son. The state governor gave the agency the order to demolish churches throughout the state. BOGIS is a government agency under the supervision of Governor Prof Babagana Zulum’s office. The agency’s executive secretary receives directives directly from the governor, and he follows every instruction given to him to the letter. As a leader, you should try to be a leader to everyone. The governor has authority over all living things, including animals, humans, trees, land, and everything else; if he were a sensitive leader, he would have come to commiserate with us over his administration’s conduct.
My message to the governor is that he is a leader for everyone, not just those who follow his religion. All of his subordinates are his appointees. He didn’t base his campaign on religious grounds when he went around the state campaigning; instead, he campaigned across religious divides and promised to bring everyone along. I trekked over 10 kilometres to my polling unit on the day of his election. To cast my vote, I walked from Damboa road to Mafoni area. But what has he given me as a reward? Death! As a result of voting him into power, I received the death of my oldest son. It’s no issue. I urge him to be cautious about the types of advisers he hires and the counsel he receives. Some people are only interested in their own self-interest. What continues to perplex me is the fact that the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Mohammed Naga, has not called me to express his condolences over my son’s death. My (phone) number is in his possession. He used to call me about other things, and he knows where I live. He hasn’t called or visited the house. It genuinely astounds me.
Credit : Punch Newspapers