By Romanus Ugwu
As claims, counter claims and endless debates rage over whether the Federal Government has degraded or out-rightly won the war against the victims and casualties of the menace have continued to recount the traumatic ordeals at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Abuja.
From the young to the old at the IDPs camps in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the psychological and physical ordeals inflicted on them by the Islamic militants have become a visible scare, toughened by the torment they are passing through now.
With similar narratives on the harrowing experiences of missing deaths in the hands of the insurgents by the whiskers, trekking several kilometres, depending on villagers along their fleeing routes, the victims lamented that they are currently bogged down by the difficulties confronting them in their camps.
Each of them has different accounts of the memories Boko Haram left in them, ranging from 14-year-old Usman Mohammed, who lost his friend, Musa, to Boko Haram attack while playing football, to Usman Jubril, who could not supress tears while narrating how he lost his fiancée to Boko Haram and romantic Sunday David, who met his heartthrob while visiting relatives at Nasarawa IDPs camp.
I lost my fiancée to Boko Haram
While fighting hard to suppress the tears flowing down his cheeks, Jubril, a former Mighty Jets FC of Jos player, had cut shot this chat and walked out to overcome the agony of losing the lady he was planning to wed to the activities of Boko Haram.
According to him, arrangements for their marriage, which had entered into speed gear, were truncated on that fateful August 14, 2013, when Boko Haram attacked his village in Goza, leaving everybody to scamper for safety.
For Jubril, part of him died that day as he could not reunite with the lady he had invested emotionally, psychologically and financially on. He lamented that when he finally established a link with her, he got the shocker of his life when she informed him she had gotten married to another man:
“I am from Goza LGA in Maiduguri, Borno State. It was the activities of Boko Haram that sent us out of Borno when they attacked our village on that fateful August 14, 2013.
“It was just like every other day. We were playing football, others were returning from market, when we suddenly started hearing gunshots, cries and saw people scampering into safety, shouting ‘they have come, run, they have come.’
“We left the game and ran into the bush, then climbed the mountain where we spent six days with the little food and water we had. On the seventh day, we started another trek that lasted over 100 kilometres relying on the generosity of the villagers we came across for food and water until we arrived Madagali where we spent some days.
“We later left for Mubi where we got the intervention of certain persons like Senator Alli Ndume and Governor Shettima who gave us little money to eat and transport ourselves to Gombe. We became beggars in Gombe and have to depend on the generosity of people before we could eat. It was the little money I gathered from people that I used to transport myself to the Abuja IDPs camp almost one year after leaving my village, Goza.
“I finally arrived the IDPs camp in Durumi, Garki Abuja on August 11, 2014, and it has not been easy since we left everything we laboured for in Borno to run for our lives. The condition we see ourselves in the camp has been very tough because we are facing a very tough condition at the IDPs, but the good thing is that I am alive to face this condition now. My consolation is that they said we have to thank the Almighty Allah in every condition we found ourselves.”
Asking Usman to quantify the magnitude of his loses to Boko Haram was like pouring fuel on a flaming fire. From ending his football career abruptly to breaking his heart missing his fiancée, he retorted that he has no option that to accept his fate:
“It was after leaving my village that I realised that I had lost my three brothers to Boko Haram who killed them when they took over Goza. Out of six of us, only three are surviving today.
“I am losing many things in my village including my house, my shops, but I have taken it as one of those histories I must share with my children and grandchildren.
“I have accepted all that happened as my fate even though they are too much to bear. I seem to be the worst hit by Boko Haram. At a time we lost count of the number of persons they killed in my village and those who lost their lives due to related activities of the Islamic sect.
“I was into active football career. I played for Mighty Jets FC of Jos, Plateau State, in the 2010/2011 season among other league clubs. It was Boko Haram activity that killed my football career.
“The most painful aspect was that I was finalising the arrangements to get married when they struck. I lost contact with my wife to be after the attack and escape from the village.
“I kept hoping we will reunite and seal our union, I kept thinking that things will be okay financially for me soon to finalise the marriage until the last time I finally established contact with her when she told me she has finally married another person. The information left me heartbroken.
“I seem to be the worst hit by the insurgence because I did not only lose my brothers to Boko Haram but also lost the lady I loved so much and have invested so much on her. Sincerely, I have not recovered from the shock of losing that lady because part of me died.”
Government abandonment of IDPs
For another displaced person, Sunday David, the situation he found himself was an admixture of joy and pain. The joy of finding his missing rib while visiting relatives at the Nasarawa IDPs camp could not soften the pains of idleness, biting hunger in the camp and ultimately losing relatives:
“I found myself in the Abuja IDPs because of Boko Haram. I had spent all my life in my village in Goza without visiting anywhere, but my suffering started when Boko Haram attacked my village killing many people. I was lucky to escape but not the same with my brother Boko Haram killed.
“When they struck I was among the lucky ones that escaped the village through the hill, trekked several weeks sometimes with food and at other times without food. Like others, we depended on the small villages we crossed for food and water to survive the three weeks wilderness trek. We trekked to Cameroon to escape Boko Haram attack.”
His father’s death in Cameroon
Beyond the pain of trekking and other traumatic experiences Boko Haram inflicted, one agonising experience still weighing David down was the death of his father. According to him, they had to abandon him at a refugee camp in Cameroon when his body could no longer carry him on their journey back to Nigeria:
“When we left Cameroon, my father was no longer strong enough to join us. We had no option than to leave him behind there at the refugee camp. But as I speak with you now, my father has died in Cameroon because he could not withstand the distress and sufferings.
“Imagine the pain of not only losing my father in a strange land but also the shame that none of the family members were able to see his corpse. Boko Haeam separated my family because even though my mother in the Adamawa IDPs camp is still alive, those of us still living are still separated as I talk with you.”
For David, there is nowhere like home and even the abandonment of the IDPs by the government authorities has contributed in increasing the nostalgia. However, before the security situation at home improves for his return, his appeal is that the IDPs should not be allowed to starve to death:
“I would like to go back home even today if my village is now safe and secured. I have been jobless and all I do is sleep and wake up. There is no sufficient food in the camp because NGO and individuals are no longer bringing them as before.
“It has also become obvious that government has abandoned us at the IDPs camps because they are not bringing food or any other thing to us. People are suffering at the Abuja IDPs camps and waiting for the announcement that their villages are safe for them to return home.”
Marriage at IDPs camp
Although he admitted that marriage never crossed his mind in Goza, however, many factors combined to ensure he did not resist the temptations to settle for an equally displaced lady in a marriage started and consummated in an IDP camp:
“I am now married in Abuja interestingly to a lady from an IDPs camp in Nasarawa. I met her while visiting our people in that camp too. Before escaping from my village, I did not dream of getting married, but I had to do that to overcome the idleness and other hardships facing me at the IDPs camp.”
Boko Haram killed my friend playing football
Fourteen-year-old Usman Mohammed is still not only nursing the pain and fighting hard to forget the death of his bosom friend, Musa, whose life was cut short by the heartless insurgents while building his career as a young footballer, he is also facing a setback in his academics:
“It was Boko Haram that forced me to come to Abuja. Life was very normal for my parents and I until 2014. They had stormed my village in Barma, shooting and killing many people including adults and children.
“Many died but I feel too bad when I remember my friends and classmates they killed especially Musa, my closest friend. They shot him while he was playing football. Some children that were lucky to escape with us lost their parents but I am lucky to leave my village during the attack with my parents.
“We trekked for days inside the bush begging and depending on the villages we crossed for food and water. We did not take bath for several days because we were afraid Boko Haram might descend on us again. We were constantly on the move.”