Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house of representatives, stopped breathing at some point in his childhood, forcing neighbours to ask his father to “bury this boy” as he moved from one health crisis to the other.
His father, in distress, asked the sympathetic undertakers: “How can I bury such a promising boy?”
Tired of using local herbs that failed to address his son’s failing health, the father finally decided to take him to a hospital in far-away Vom, in present-day Plateau state, where doctors treated the young boy but suggested that he might die before his 10th birthday.
These rare stories are contained in his biography, ‘A Reed Made Flint’, authored by Ovation publisher, Dele Momodu.
The book is due for public presentation on December 26, 2017 to mark the 50th birthday of the speaker.
Saratu, Dogara’s mother, actually thought his son would die — despite the extraordinary fact that he spent an extra three months in the womb.
Momodu wrote: “Such was the frailty of the boy’s health that most people would even say it to Saratu’s hearing that she was nurturing a boy doomed to die in infancy. They had their reason. Dogara was very sickly as a child. Despite its immense healthy atmosphere, the weather of Gwarangah and this scion of the Ganawuris were seemingly at eternal loggerheads. The health challenge worsened when Dogara was five years old. Dogara himself could not pin-point what was really wrong.”
“I cannot express it,” he told Momody. “But I wasn’t just a normal child health-wise. I knew something was drastically wrong. I sometimes had some kind of attacks and in most cases I would faint. I can’t say what was wrong most of those days until I was taken to Vom Christian Hospital near Jos. Since I was operated on, many years after that, I was never sick again.”
“Sometimes in the morning, he would be very healthy, buoyant and full of life,” Saratu told Momodu. “But by noon, his condition would suddenly make a volte-face and you would never believe it was the child that earlier effervesced with life.”
Wherever she was, even when in the church or outside, people would call her, alerting her, yet again, to her son’s swooning spell.
“During one of those spells, Dogara actually stopped breathing!” the author wrote.
“I remember my mother told me that there was a time he got very ill and it’s like he passed away,” Naomi, Dogara’s sister, recalled. “When sympathizers came, they gave my father a grim prognosis. Someone said to my distraught father: ‘This boy has died! Why don’t you just look for people to bury him?’ My father simply replied: ‘How can I bury such a promising child?’”
Momodu wrote: “Yakubu refused to let go. His faith soon paid off. Dogara rose suddenly from what had looked like deep coma. But then, again, after this excruciating experience, when hope was sprouting, Dogara went under the weather badly. And this time around it truly looked deadly.
“Together with her husband, Saratu fought a hard battle to keep Dogara alive. Being a farmer, Yakubu had some level of herbal medicine expertise. When it was looking difficult to sustain Dogara with orthodox medicine, Yakubu would mix sundry local herbs and give it to his son. This was efficacious for a season but it soon came to a point when neither the orthodox and traditional medicine of Gwarangah would suffice.”
“If we want this boy to survive,” Yakubu told his wife one day. “Then we must seek medical attention beyond the gates of Zaar land.”
“Anything for my son. Anything as long as it would help him out of this ordeal!” Saratu said.
That particular ailment led the Ganawuris to take him to distant Vom, a town outside Jos, some three hundred kilometres away from Gwarangah.
After much clinical scrutiny and more efficacious cocktail of medicine, Dogara was able to survive this present ordeal, but with a caveat: doctors in the Vom Specialist Hospital had a verdict for Yakubu and Saratu: “When your boy attains the age of ten,” they were told, “come back to Vom.”
“It was a statement carved in possible innuendos. Did the doctors feel the worst could still come? Fortunately, the Yakubus had no further cause to return to Vom so soon. The years passed and nothing happened. It finally looked like the worst was truly over for this beloved toddler,” Momodu wrote.