It was an emotional reunion when 68-year-old Adebisi Coker met friends of her late daughters last Saturday. Coker lost her two children and her apartment when the entire structure collapsed in November 2012.
The friends thought she died with her two children in the incident but later learnt from newspaper publications that she survived. However, it took them a while to locate where she was moved to.
When they eventually did get her address, the young women, who were secondary school mates and friends of Coker’s deceased daughters – Bukky (30) and Toyin (26), set out to show love to the grief-stricken mother.
Coker’s eyes were expectant, even though the burden of her tragedy was unmistakable, when the group with our correspondent entered her tiny apartment on Borno Way, Ebute-Meta, Lagos – a temporary abode relations provided for her.
About 35 friends of Bukky and Toyin had organised themselves and contributed money in order to ease the suffering of the old widow.
Coker managed a smile as the group entered the apartment. She made frantic efforts to make them comfortable even though the room had only two plastic chairs.

She was obviously overjoyed to see her daughters’ friends, although the tragedy seemed to have wiped out the ability to express the joy on her face.
She dashed into the room to get a bag of sachet water she had bought in anticipation of their visit.
“You must take this. You have to take something,” she told them.
The widow thanked them profusely for their visit while the young ladies tried not to mention the names of her daughters, so as not to arouse sad feelings in her.
“We will ensure we continue to do what we can to cater for you, to ensure you do not suffer or beg for food as far as our ability permits us,” Augustine Okitiakpe, who spoke for the group, told Coker.
The young women, 10 of whom represented the group, gave the widow a cheque of an undisclosed amount. They also gave her some household materials.
Coker’s lips quivered with emotion as she received the cheque. “This will take care of me for a long time,” she said. The widow launched into a litany of prayers for the young women. They were an answer to her prayers, she said.
“You have all become my daughters. I am very happy that even though I lost my children. I have gained another in all of you. Nothing like this will ever happen in your homes. You will all live long. Please do keep in touch. I will also try as much as possible to keep in touch with all of you,” Coker told them.
Coker’s case whipped up a lot of sympathy from the public after her house at the Jakande Low Cost Housing Estate, Isolo, Lagos, collapsed on November 20, 2012 in the middle of the night.
Her only two children were crushed on their beds. She could barely retrieve few papers from the ruins of the building.
“My children still come to me in my dreams. I miss them so much more than anyone can understand. Even the day before yesterday, they still appeared to me in my dream. They sat at the edge of my bed,” Coker told our correspondent.
Asked if they say anything in particular to her anytime they visited her in her dream, Coker said they only come quietly without any word, sit with her awhile and leave.
For over three months since the incident, Coker has been living on her pension and the magnanimity of her relations
The help the state government promised her has not been forthcoming.
“I have not heard anything from the government. I feed and transport myself to the hospital with my meagre pension. So far as the pension keeps coming, I will be able to go to the hospital for the physiotherapy on my leg,” Coker explained.
She sustained an injury on her leg when the house collapsed and has been receiving treatment for this at a hospital in Apapa.
The widow said she wanted nothing but “the strength and grace of God when asked what she yearned for most to ease her day to day living.
“The house that collapsed was bought with the entitlement I got after I retired from Shell Petroleum. The rest of the money went into my children’s education. So right now, I can only look up to God,” she said.
The women said that they were very glad when they learnt Coker survived the collapse.
Okitiakpe, who had earlier spoken with our correspondent said, “You cannot imagine how glad we were. We checked the pages of the newspapers for stories about her so we could get her address.
“We will be here on her birthday on May 6 just to give her a feel of family love. It is not like we are rich, but we just want to do whatever we can to ensure that she lives happily to some extent.
“We were really confused about what to do for her because we knew it would take a lot to make a change in the life of someone who was once very comfortable but tragically became homeless and someone who has nothing within one day.
“We were classmates with Toyin in Maywood Grammar School, Ebute-Meta. We referred to her as “mummy’s girl” at the time because she and her sister, Toyin, who was our junior in the school, were very close to their mother. They were also very quiet girls.”
These friends of Coker’s children said it would make a huge difference if the government and spirited members of the public came to her aid even though she would live out her days with the memory of what she once had and the family she lost.-punch

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