Edward Soje appeared very excited during the naming ceremony of his triplets, exactly two weeks ago at a private hospital, in Abuja, according to those present. The children, all male, were born a week earlier, October 7th, after 20 years of a childless marriage. They were named Elijah, Elisha and Enoch.
Soje and his wife Grace wore matching clothes as their well-wishers joined them on October 14th for the naming ceremony, their family friends told Daily Trust. However, two days later, the police found Edward Soje’s body dangling on a tree behind the Mammy Market at Maigumeri Barracks, in Lokoja.
Soje, 54, hailed from Ogori town in Ogori-Magongo Local Government Area of Kogi State, and was a Grade Level 16 Officer with the Kogi State Teaching Service Commission. Revelations that he was owed 11 months salary by the Kogi State government and so may have taken his own life because he couldn’t cope with the growing responsibilities, generated public furore and denial by the state government. But findings showed he was having financial difficulties before his death.
Pastor Femi Adeoye, the couple’s pastor , told Daily Trust that Soje had approached him at the church in Abuja for counseling from time to time to lament that he doesn’t want to be a burden to his wife, as she had been helping him financially. “I remember he kept telling me that ‘I love my wife and I don’t want to be bothering her’ but I kept advising him that his wife is not complaining, that she wants him to be okay,” he said.
Asked if he was privy to what drove Soje to suicide, the priest said it came to him as a shock. He added that Soje never discussed the aspect of the state government owing him salary with him. “If he’d discussed that with me, I would have counseled him to be patient.”
Mr. Abarshi Yaro, who was also present during the naming ceremony, said “He was cheerful, so no-one imagined anything like this would happen.”
At the time of going to press, Mrs Grace Soje had not been told about her husband’s death. When Daily Trust visited the hospital where the woman and children are on admission , relatives and friends whispered and went very faraway to talk or discuss anything about the issue to ensure that she was not in the know.
The pastor said Mrs Soje had not been told about her husband’s death and her phone had been switched off because doctors had advised them not to, and that revealing the information could worsen the situation. “The hospital is cooperating with us to keep this news away from her for now,” he said, explaining that Mrs Soje who is in her late 50’s was hypertensive. Also, one of the children has a malfunctioning organ which may likely be operated on.
“We told her he’s been running around for money to take care of the children,” he added.
Also When Daily Trust visited the hospital, only Elijah and Elisha were around, as Enoch was taken to the National Hospital, Abuja. It was learnt that the bill incurred by the family is N750, 000 and is still growing.
Mr. Yaro said the woman and her children are in dire need of support, and enjoined organizations and individuals to come to the aid of Mrs. Soje. “The family’s rent has expired, and it’s a tight apartment.”
“The province has contributed some money to assist her, and the provincial pastor and her wife have visited. The church has also given out her account detail openly for people who want to assist,” Pastor Adeoye said.
According to the Kogi State Police Command Public Relation Officer, ASP William Aya, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Area D received information about the incident from the military intelligence office in the barracks. “Police moved to the scene and removed the corpse to the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja. There’s a rumour that the deceased left a suicide note but the police has not recovered that yet.”
Aya said when the incident happened, there was no one to identify the corpse until last Friday (20th October) when some family members came. He added that the police command is on the investigation, and will ensure that the details of the autopsy are made public.
Late Soje’s elder brother Cornelius added: “He was the one who usually prepared meals for his wife after the delivery. Then the naming ceremony was scheduled for a Saturday after the delivery. On the very day of the naming ceremony after they had concluded the ceremony, he left the wife in the hospital to their residence in Abuja.” He said Edward Soje’s wife called him on Tuesday ( October 17th) at 6.30pm. “According to his wife, she said when it was time for him (late Edward Soje) to bring the afternoon meal for her, they could not find him. It was her (the wife’s) sister who went to the cafeteria to get food for her. Then the sister later went home and the landlady of their residence in Abuja gave her the house key, telling her that daddy (late Edward Soje) said he was going out.
“That he said that in case if somebody comes in his absence, she should give the person the key to have access to the house. This sister got home and saw a note and according to his wife, she told me in a phone message that the sister came back to report to her that my brother bought a cardboard and wrote Psalm 121 and prayed for her and her children and closed it with the word, “goodbye”.”
Cornelius said he left Okene where he is resident for Lokoja the following day, Wednesday and started calling relations, searching for him. “I never knew at that point that my brother was already lying in the mortuary.” He said he returned to Okene after a fruitless search only to be called by his nephew, a Civil Defence officer on Thursday of that same week, that one of his colleagues told him that he heard that somebody hung himself behind the new Mammy Market. He then rushed down to Army Barracks, and was shown the picture and he confirmed it.
The elder Soje said he doesn’t not believe his brother died because he was not paid salary for long. “Even if he is not paid for two years, he will not kill himself,” he said.
The Kogi State Government in response to Soje’s suicide denied owing him 11 months salaries. A press statement issued by the State’s Head of Service, Deaconess Deborah Ogunmola, said: “He continued to receive his salaries till December, 2016 even while the Staff Screening and Verification Exercise was ongoing. His pay was stopped after proof emerged that he falsified his age records. His confession to the offence is on video. Following engagements with Labour which spanned several months, the Kogi State Governor magnanimously commuted the disciplinary action, by grant of pardon. Mr. Soje fell into one of the categories. Pardoned staff were processed for reinstatement and payment in batches. Mr. Soje was in the September 2017 batch and he was aware of this fact.”