The Agege, Lagos residence of the Hassans still maintained a gloomy silence a week after Samson Hassan, 27, along with some other passengers, died following the October 3, 2013 crash of an Associated Airline charter aircraft.
Samson was a photojournalist, working with MIC Caskets, which lost its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tunji Okusanya, his son, Olatunji Okusanya (Jnr) and four other employees in the crash.
Samson’s family members said the household would never be the same again, following his death. In the house where Samson grew up, his aged mother, Christiana, who seemingly stared into space, intermittently sighed deeply, muttering to herself.
As sympathisers arrived and left, offering their condolences, Christiana kept repeating to herself, “my son, my joy, my pride.”
Christiana’s grief has been profound. Five months ago, she lost her husband and a daughter within three days, to undisclosed illnesses.
She said, “What I face is bigger than what any other person may be facing. Since my husband fell ill and died, Samson had been my father and my mother. He came to see me every Saturday, handling all the family responsibilities. He would call to encourage me and tell me not to worry at all.
“As young as he was, he was a pillar to this family, especially since my husband’s death. My husband was in the hospital and I was tending to him, meanwhile, my daughter was also ill at home. I got back home and met my daughter dead. My daughter (Samson’s elder sister) died on a Sunday and I think it was the news of her death that killed my husband in the hospital on Tuesday. This was just five months ago; now this has befallen me again.”
The news of Samson’s death had come as a shock to Christiana, who was not aware that her son was flying to Akure on the morning of the crash. Initially, all she heard about the crash was that Samson’s boss, Okusanya, was in the plane and that there were survivors.
She said, “That morning, he called his wife to tell her that he was travelling, but his wife’s phone battery was flat, so they couldn’t finish the conversation. When I heard about the crash and that his boss was involved, I was hurt, because his boss was a very nice man. We were even praying for all the surviving victims of the crash, not knowing that my son was among the dead.
“We started calling Samson’s number but it kept ringing. We thought he was busy tending to the crisis situation since his boss was in the crash. I knew he would also be part of the work his boss was going for, but I thought he was going by road.”
Christiana said it was later in the day that some relatives went to the hospital to find out about Hassan since no family member could reach him on the phone.
She said, “When they (relatives) got to the hospital, they were told that there was a survivor whose identity was still unknown. But the following morning when they went back there, they were able to see him. I was told that his body was swollen but that they could recognise him.
“Later, they were told that he was moved to Gbagada General Hospital (special burns unit), but by Sunday morning, when our people left for Gbagada to see him and I was preparing to go to church to continue to pray for him, our pastor and some others came and began preaching to me. From the way they were talking, I knew something was wrong. I shouted that they should not mistake my Samson for someone else. I didn’t know that the Gbagada where they claimed to have taken him would be his way to the mortuary.”
Samson is survived by a wife and two children, a two-year-old boy and a baby less than two months old. Meanwhile, Hassan had been responsible for the welfare of the two children left behind by his deceased sister, aged seven and four.
Christiana said, “My Samson had been the one taking care of all of us. I’m old and I’ve stopped work since I had an accident that affected my legs. Samson had been the one taking care of the family. He was a very nice and loving child.”
However, Christiana appealed for assistance from the government and well-meaning Nigerians, describing keeping the four children, Samson’s and her sister’s, in school, as the biggest challenge facing her.
She said, “If they give me money, I will finish it but my concern is for these children. Samson was responsible for their education and now that he is no more, I will appeal to the government to assist us. These children need to be in school; that was Samson’s wish also.”
The last person to see Samson alive was his guardian, Mr. Segun Shobiye, who had introduced him to photography at a young age and through whom he also met and started working for Okusanya.
Shobiye, the owner of Posh Magazine, said he had acted in a godfather capacity for Samson since he was 13 years old.
He said, “His (Samson) sister was my god-daughter. He was about 13 years when he was brought to me to learn the work. I was into photography and when we started Posh Magazine in 2007, naturally, he joined us.”
Shobiye said his hopes were high after receiving news that Samson was still alive on Friday, the day after the crash.
He said, “Initially, when we heard about an unnamed person also surviving the crash, my editor, Bola Oke, said the person would be Samson because we knew him to be very strong. It was because of his strength that we dubbed him ‘Omo Aiye.’”
He recalled sometime ago when Samson suffered an injury in the arm during a riot in his area, he still showed up for work after getting himself treated at the hospital.
Shobiye said, “He kept saying the cut wasn’t much until we saw it. That was the kind of person Samson was. So, our hopes were up when we heard that he survived, so we went to the hospital. On the way, we kept praying that he should live up to his name, ‘Omo Aiye’ and live. But I was standing by him at the hospital, the tone of the life-support machine changed and I called the nurses. The nurses said ‘no problem’ but by the time we got outside, we got news that he had died.”
Shobiye, who had visible goose pimples each time he spoke about Samson, wept continuously during his narration.
“I believe that being the last person to see him alive shows the kind of bond between us. He was a very good guy. He taught my daughter to eat biscuits because he liked biscuits so much. My daughter still cries till now,” he said.
Oke, who also worked with Samson, before he joined MIC Caskets, described him as “trustworthy.”
She said, “Samson would never disappoint you. If he said he was coming, then he was coming. I always say that it’s easier to make Samson laugh than make him cry because he didn’t take anything too personal. He would never complain.”