The average duration of a pregnancy is nine months — but Yakubu Dogara spent a year in his mother’s womb, prompting fears that he was going to be an “abnormal child”.
According to his biography, ‘A Reed Made Flint’, the unusual duration of the pregnancy brought back sad memories of a previous experience of infant mortality in the family.
The book, authored by Ovation publisher, Dele Momodu, is due for public presentation on December 26, 2017 to mark the 50th birthday of the speaker.
Momodu narrated: “It was a cold harmattan morning of December 26, in the year of our Lord 1967. Along the edge of a rustic but neatly paved road, in the picturesque town of Gwarangah in the then Tafawa Balewa District of old Bauchi Division of Nigeria, an elegant but modest bungalow was on the threshold of history. Saratu, the matriarch of the Yakubu Tukur Ganawuri household and veteran of five previous maternity days was on a gruelling journey to her sixth.
“The child she was expecting had prior to this fateful day sent dangerous prenatal signals: not only had the baby in the womb tarried more than three months longer than the natural nine-month pregnancy period – a veritable source of huge apprehension in its own right – the delayed birth had also triggered a kind of labour complication.
“It is said that the birth of giants is often heralded by turbulent, uproarious awakenings. On this auspicious day, it was as if the elements were sending signals to the world that the birth of a star was imminent. Some six months earlier, the Nigerian Civil War, popularly known as the Nigeria-Biafra war, which eventually lasted from 6th July, 1967 – 15th January 1970 had set the country on fire. It was the season of war. The thunderous cacophonies of civil war rent the air some 800 kilometres away. Inside the household of Yakubu Tukur, patriarch of the Ganawuri family of Gwarangah, a family waged its own battle of fate.”
As was common in those days of superstition, rumours soon spread around that something was spiritually, nay devilishly wrong with Saratu, Yakubu’s wife, according to Momodu.
“It was obvious that the strain of overdue pregnancy would take its toll. Saratu was in excruciating pain but she was not alone. Birth days of the previous five children had always been smooth and hitch-free but this very ordeal defied Yakubu’s imagination and tasked his usual calm in the face of stormy circumstances. Not only was his expected child in danger of the physical and mental complications a baby suffers due to delayed labour, Saratu was particularly too precious to lose to maternal mortality,” he wrote.
“Indeed, the birth of a baby to his Zaar tribe was an unquantifiable endowment in their highly religious society. When a child comes, the Zaar rejoice. They considered it a huge blessing from the creator. It was a great calamity among this people to suffer a loss in such manner. Besides this, Yakubu had always looked forward to this child.
“Long before he was born, his parents had mixed premonitions that an unusual child was in the making. First was the shock of his delayed pregnancy which was like an emotional sledgehammer on the home. Saratu had never had a pregnancy so complicated. She was fighting the battle of her life. Her private moments were spent in apprehensive contemplation of this most unusual maternal ordeal.
“After all, she had had five children prior to this one and it had always been a smooth, timely delivery. Had she taken maternity too far? Had she sinned against God? Was there something she should have done that she neglected? And to worsen the nightmare, the rumour-mongers of Gwarangah had gone to town. Worst of all, friends were among the folks that deepened the ordeal.”
“Saratu may not give birth to a reasonable child,” one of them was said to have thought aloud.
“Kwarai,” replied one of her listeners. “I’m afraid for Saratu. I’ve never seen a baby take this long in the womb. This is unnatural. What manner of fate is this? A child in the womb for 12 months…”
The couple had lost a child after birth, and it looked like history was going to repeat itself.
“It was also an opportunity for Saratu’s detractors to recall a similar unfortunate experience in her life. Yakubu and Saratu had suffered the painful loss of a child previously. That it was the first child of the wedlock, a boy who died immediately after birth made the matter exceedingly painful,” Momodu wrote, quoting Naomi –Dogara’s sister — as saying the “fresh ante-natal ordeal reopened the wounds of that painful loss”.
It took Saratu’s deepest reserve of faith and, as she revealed, the Christian strength of her husband Yakubu to sustain her sanity and not harm the tarrying child with undue worries and concern about the rife rumours among busybodies, Momodu wrote.