Jemi Abubakar: Tribute to a Friend
By: Deji Yesufu
2004 was a rather difficult year for me. I had concluded my national youth service and was in Lagos foraging through the Nigerian labor market in that city because we had been told during NYSC that Lagos was the city that hosted the best jobs for graduates. After close to a year in the city the job was not forthcoming and I was becoming a pain in the ass for the family that had graciously hosted me for a whole year. I thought I had a problem until I received a call from my younger brother of another family’s problem that pretty much dwarfed mine.
The Abubakar family reside in Ibadan and they had very graciously housed my brother in that city all the while he was seeking admission to Bowen University. When my brother was on break from school, he would stay at their home because the mother of the home, Mrs. Abubakar, took him as a son. One faithful day in 2004, my brother called me to inform me that Jemi, the first born of this family, had been involved in ghastly motor accident. Jemi was returning from her place of primary assignment, during her NYSC, when she had the accident. It was a terrible one but God very graciously spared her life. Although Jemi survived the accident, she never did walk from that time on. She had been badly managed at the accident scene and this was said to have affected her spinal cord. All efforts to restore her to full health proved abortive – despite numerous medical trips to India and the United States of America. If I thought I had a problem that year 2004, looking over my shoulders I realized I had no problem.
Fast forward to 2017, I was involved with a media campaign with Prof. Olayinka Omigbodun, to shed light on the 50th Year anniversary of her father’s death: Victor Banjo. It was this campaign that led eventually to my writing the book #VictorBanjo. I stepped into Prof’s office only to find Jemi there.
“What are you doing here, Jemi?”
“I work here…” She responded.
Her response was also a veiled rebuke at the nuance in my question which might have betrayed my surprise at her seeking to work despite her disability. Jemi Abubakar was a graduate of Biochemistry, Ahamdu Bello University. Even after her accident, Jemi went on to get post graduate degrees and was determined to live a normal life in spite of her disability. Thanks to her mother and her siblings’ support, Jemi did go on to live a normal life after her accident and she lived 16 fruitful years following it. We would often meet on the corridors of University College Hospital, UCH, as she propelled her automated wheelchair to or from the vehicle that brings her to work.
Jemi Abubakar also had immense faith in God. She sincerely believed that God would heal her of her disability. Sensing her optimizing, one day I asked Pastor Dotun Ajayi of Vine Branch Church, Ibadan, to come to their home and pray for her to be healed – and he graciously did. Jemi was not healed of her disability but I know that even that incident never deterred her belief to one day walk or live a meaningful life.
Jemi passed away yesterday, 6th July, 2020, after a very brief illness. I learnt of her passing off the ubiquitous Facebook, when one of her friends pasted it on her page. I immediately called her younger brother who confirmed the news. I was shocked.
Jemi Abubakar would be sorely missed on this side of heaven. Our hope however is that she is with her Lord and her Savior, Jesus Christ, whom she trusted wholly throughout her life and ordeal. While those of us her friends rue the fact that she became incapacitated by an accident and is now dead at what some may call “untimely”, I have this feeling that God used the last 16 years to prepare Jemi’s soul for eternal glory. Despite her condition, one thing you could not take away from her was her sustained smile. Jemi would listen to you when you talk to her and she would counsel you gently. My wife was still talking about Jemi’s liking and commenting on a post she made on Facebook just a few days ago. She was doing all that despite the illness that finally took her life away.
It is those of us on this side of heaven that are mourning. On the other side, Jemi’s hopes of walking again are fulfilled: as she is at the moment walking the streets of heaven, hand in hand, with her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
Adieu, my dear sister – Jemi Abubakar – till we meet again.
It is well. I will miss Jemi’s gentle mien and remarkable smile. Her smile was almost therapeutic. Wow!. I don’t get to say happy birthday,but I believe you’re in the best place Jemi. Glory be to God!