Calm, smart and beautiful were three words Mrs Amarachi Oku used to describe her three-year-old daughter, Ihuomachukwu, whose life was cut short after she was crushed by a sliding gate. Years on, the grief is still fresh in her heart.
Mrs Oku had moved to Johannesburg, the South African capital with her husband and three kids a few years after their marriage. The late Ihuoma was her second child; her first daughter, who, according to her, was everything like her. She was just three years and four months old when she died.
“Her voice sounded exactly like mine, and we looked very alike. She also has a calm demeanour. But, she was also very attached to her father. They would play together, sing together and even sleep together. It was such a beautiful bond to watch.
“Her dying was the last thing I saw coming. It was too sudden. She was not sick. It still feels like a dream,” she said.
A few weeks before the incident, she had got a call from a distant cousin based in South Africa whose husband based in Nigeria had just been kidnapped.
It was a troubling period for her, as, according to her, the Nigerian community in South Africa was very close-knit and bore one another’s burdens.
So, her husband begged her to take their three kids to go stay with the wife of the victim of the kidnapping while they tried to raise the ransom money so the abducted man would be released.
She packed her bags and off she went. Her husband dropped them off. After a few weeks, Mrs Oku said the ransom money was paid and the abducted victim was to return to South Africa to be with his family. Consequently, they had to leave.
“It was not our intention to go at the time we did. We wanted to stay to see Uncle (abducted victim) and be with his wife who was always crying because he was away. But, surprisingly, she (wife) said she was fine and needed to be on her own.
“She didn’t have to be express in what she said. She wanted us out of her house. I was even trying to prevail on her, stressing that she needed moral support till her husband’s return, but she was sure she could do it on her own. So, I called my husband and told her that our work there was done and he said he would come pick us up. That day was October 16, 2015. I cannot forget,” she said.