By Job Osazuwa and Adewole Adebusayo
Before 2009, Borno State, like many other parts of the northern region, was very peaceful. It was a place to be – a state for all, irrespective of tribe, religion or culture. Unfortunately, these realities have long disappeared, no thanks to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has wreaked an unquantifiable havoc in the state.
In the light of this, some students of University of Maiduguri (Unimaid) have been recounting their experiences studying amid fear and insecurity.
They recalled that thousands of the residents had for long been rendered homeless and helpless while many had been gunned down by stray bullets. They said some people who were lucky to be alive had long fled Maiduguri for their lives. And now, different Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state are overflowing uncontrollably with inmates.
The Boko Haram sect had conquered many communities, proudly hoisting its flags in the areas.
It got to a point that the deafening sound of gunshots, explosives and bullets dangerously flying in the air were no longer strange to the students and other residents of Maiduguri. The sounds often awoke residents every morning and in some instances prevented them from sleeping. To say that their peace was constantly threatened was stating the obvious. Several attacks appeared so horrible that there was no difference between what was being experienced and a state of war. Many of the victims of the circumstance were either killed or permanently maimed.
Daily Sun was told that the students’ attention in the class was constantly distracted just as their quest for peace within and outside the campus remained a mirage for many years. Uncertainty and anxiety constantly hung in the air, as no one could predict when and where the deadly sect would strike again. It was more like a difficult challenge for the students some of whom were non-indigenes of the area.
Adewole Adebusayo, a 300-level student of Mass Communication, Unimaid, recalled how many of his colleagues were deprived of the freedom to move around the city and even learn the Hausa language and understand the culture of the people.
“Out of fear, it was not and still not possible for us to do so many things in Borno State. You couldn’t simply associate with the indigenes because you never knew who among them was a member of the Boko Haram sect. It was worse for those of us who came from other parts of the country.
“On the campus, the tense atmosphere drove fears through the spines of everyone to the extent that we couldn’t participate actively in student union activities,” he said.
However, he said a few months after President Muhammadu Buhari came to power, there was a sigh of relief among the students who believed in his promise to deal ruthlessly with the insurgents. He recalled that when the military swung into action with helicopters, hovering over the sky, tension was doused, especially on the university campus.
He stated that the efforts and cooperation of the people of Borno State, especially the different vigilance groups needed to be commended. The local vigilance groups working with the military had begun fighting the insurgents who also snatched more than 200 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.
Adewole said that “the courage to study without fear had now returned to the university through the help of the present Federal Government’s renewed determination to crush the devils and return lasting peace to the state. There are many others, including the school authorities that have been part of the war against terror.
“Though, the memories of the past can never be erased from our minds, there is relative peace now,” he said.
Amzat Oluwaseyi Joshua, a 400-level student of Mass Communication, Unimaid, also recalled that going to school in an atmosphere of fear and tension was an a mixture good and bad experiences.
He, however, was thankful to God for seeing him through his programme despite Boko Haram’s constant threats and attacks.
“It was not easy to remain on campus because at some point, it became too dangerous to do so. Our parents kept calling us almost every day, asking us about the situation of things.
“Any time the insurgents struck our telephone lines rang constantly for days. Our parents and friends became so worried that if one missed their calls, they would almost develop high blood pressure.
“I couldn’t quit or run away from the city because I needed to complete my programme. Moreover, securing admission into most of the universities in other zones was not easy,” he said.
He regretted that the sect’s activities deprived him and many others of great things as students, to explore the environment.
“For me, many of the attacks were not new; but for the new students, they were horrible experiences.
“Although the attacks were not directed at the university, the intensity of the sounds of improvised explosive devices used by the dreaded sect and the jet fighters, which the military used to repel some of the attacks caused lots of panic and commotion among the students and residents of the city,” he said.
He urged the Federal Government to totally defeat Boko Haram in the North East, saying that the impact of the renewed efforts by the security personnel had been greatly felt.
Another student, who graduated from the university’s Faculty of Law who craved anonymity, said studying at Unimaid was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.
However, he regretted that the insurgents forced him to flee the city, recollecting that he quit at a point he was already hoping to stay and make a living there. He described Unimaid as one of the best tertiary institutions in Nigeria without any history of violence or cultism.
Tragedy as epilepsy patient falls into fire
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
Her name is Happiness Chukwu. But she has never known true happiness since she was born with a serious health challenge.
Happiness is a 20-year-old girl from Ohatekwe in Ezza South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Apart from being an epileptic patient, her parents are very poor. That meant that Happiness could not go to school. Worse still, she had no access to proper medical treatment. Both are disabilities that have each time compelled her to seek help from good-spirited individuals and groups.
Just recently, another tragedy struck Happiness. She sustained severe burns when her health challenge erupted like volcano, throwing her into a burning fire without anybody around to help. And she was not able to help herself either. As a result of that, she was severely burnt by the fire and was thrown into another difficult phase of life.
At the moment, Happiness is lying critically ill at the Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. She is in dire need of financial help to undergo surgery. And if this help does not reach her quickly, she might pass on.
On this occasion, her poor mother, Florence Chukwu, looked dejected, confused and totally removed from the world. She kept staring at her daughter whom she said was exceptionally brilliant despite the health challenge, which had constantly frustrated her academic pursuit.
She admitted that she and her daughter were from a very poor background and had over the years been struggling to make a living through peasant farming. She said Happiness was struck by epilepsy at the age of nine, a heath challenge she had, had to live with since then.
Mrs. Chukwu lamented the burden of coping with the additional tragedy of nursing her burnt daughter to health in these difficult times hence she called on good-spirited individuals and groups to come to her aid to raise money for Happiness’ treatment.
Happiness, who spoke to our reporter from her hospital bed in the Plastic Surgical Ward of Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, recalled that she fell into fire when she was struck by epilepsy.
She said that it was through the help of some good Nigerians that she was taken to the hospital, as she was a poor girl.
Her mother, Mrs. Chukwu, said the family had accumulated an unpaid medical bill in the region of N1.5m yet Happiness needed to go for further medical operations as medical experts have said.
Mrs. Chukwu emotionally narrated how her daughter had suffered epilepsy for years, a condition that caused her to fall into the fire, regretting that her family had sold all their few belongings to save Happiness’ life, yet noting significant had come out of it.
She, therefore, appealed to all Nigerians and organisations to come to their aide to save Happiness, who needs additional N1.5 million for further treatment.
The Matron in charge of the surgical ward, Mrs. Anthonia Egekwe, said that Happiness was in a very bad condition when she was first admitted but with the dogged efforts of the medical team, her condition had improved.
She further called on the general public and governments at various levels to assist the patient recover fully.
The hospital’s Head of Department, Medical Social Works, Mrs. Sorochi Otuu, described the condition of Happiness as pathetic, pointing out that her case was referred to her department for assistance, as the family could no longer foot her medical bills.
She also called for assistance to save the girl’s life.
Happiness’ family can be reached on 07035103103.
Auto crash leaves UI graduate shattered
•Needs shoulder replacement abroad
By Job Osazuwa
Anytime Charles Clement Odohoedi looks back to January 7, 2014, he feels miserable. It was a day he was involved in a ghastly auto crash that left him shattered.
After that incident, things have never remained the same for the man whose left shoulder got broken in the crash. He now takes lots of pain relievers to fight the excruciating pain that persistently troubles life.
Odohoedi, 39, who hails from Afaha-Osu in Okobo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, was travelling from Ibadan, Oyo State, to Oron town when the tragedy struck. The six-seater, commercial car he was travelling in collided with another vehicle sending him into coma.
He was returning from University of Ibadan (UI) where he had gone to purchase form for admission to study for a postgraduate degree.
Odohoedi recalled that all the victims of the accident were rushed to Iquita General Hospital in Oron. But doctors at the government hospital were on strike; no one on ground to attend to the dying accident victims.
He said that his cousin, who luckily ran into him at that moment was like an angel sent from heaven. He rushed him to St. Patrick’s Hospital where he received treatment for three days before being transferred to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) for comprehensive treatment.
Ironically, Odohoedi hurried out of the hospital after recovering briefly to sit for an aptitude test for admission into UI. He said he went to Ibadan with the hope of also being admitted for further treatment at the University College Hospital (UCH). But he was wrong because doctors at UCH were also on strike.
“I had to patronise a traditional bone setter because I was living by the grace of pain-killer drugs. I was reluctant to visit the traditional home, even when I couldn’t access any government hospital due to the strike.”
When he was not getting any better at the traditional healer’s home, he said he returned to UCH for treatment and was slated for surgery. But he couldn’t afford the N200, 000 he needed for his treatment.
By then, UI had offered him admission and he was managing to attend his lectures after a relative had helped him to raise some money to pay. But when he returned to UCH again for treatment, the doctors had embarked on another round of strike. When they eventually resumed, doctors who attended to him recommended fresh evaluation and eventually told him that he needed specialist treatment overseas, as Nigerian hospitals lacked the facilities to carry out surgery to correct his damaged shoulder.
He said despite his health challenges, he struggled to complete his second degree in Philosophy within the stipulated time and even went on to apply to the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), Ibadan Study Centre and obtained a National Diploma. But all that while, he was always in the throe of pain and regularly taking pain-killers and would sometimes sleep for several hours.
He tendered a letter dated April 14, 2016, signed by a Consultant Orthopaedic/Trauma Surgeon, Henry Obamuyide, of the UCH, confirming that he had a two-year history of inability to use his left shoulder, following his involvement in a motor accident.
The letter read in part: “Examination then revealed wasted left shoulder muscles with arm in 45 degree abduction. He had multiple scarification marks and hyperaesthesia in the regimental badge area. There were no features of radia, ulnar or medial nerve injuries.
“A diagnosis of an old unreduced left shoulder fracture-dislocation was made and he was counseled for open reduction. However, surgery was delayed due to the need for him to raise funds, his school examinations and industrial action at the hospital until four months after presentation when he had already developed x-ray features of vascular necrosis of humeral head.
“He was then counseled for shoulder replacement surgery, which we do not currently offer at our institution and thus the need for this referral.”
Meanwhile, John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA, has said it needs $105, 000 to have the operation done while BLK Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi, India is asking for $30,000.
Odohoedi said a consultant Orthopaedic at another Indian hospital, Marina Sharma, said the total shoulder replacement would cost him approximately $26, 000 dollars, excluding other sundry expenses.
In a letter dated June 11, 2016, the doctor stated that after discharge from the hospital, Odohoedi would need to stay for another seven to 10 days in a guest house near the hospital for a follow-up.
In another letter by Dr. R. C. Arya from Max Super Specialty Hospitals, New Delhi, India, Odohoedi would need MRI on the shoulder followed by surgery to correct the injury. The cost stands at $30, 000.
He is to undergo a “ball part shoulder replacement,” the letter said.
Odohoedi is pleading with kind-hearted Nigerians and Governor of Akwa Ibom, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, for assistance.
Odohoedi can be reached on 08067849053 or 08060688596.