Prior to the declaration of state of emergency and deployment of troops to three of the North eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa due to the activities of the terrorist sect of boko haram, and quite unlike Adamawa or Yobe states, there were two parallel governments in Borno as Boko Haram had virtually taken over the state.
Nigerians who do not know what was happening in Borno greatly criticised the declaration of State Of Emergency by the President especially fellow Northerners who misinterpreted the move.
Earlier, the Borno elders council called on the president to withdraw the JTF from Borno and other Nigerians followed both calling on secession of military activities and a negotiation with the Boko Haram sect, who will never listen to nobody except their Shura Council, which had turned a blind eye to that call. One does not expect them to come to the table when they are ‘winning’ the war against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Anyone from Borno or who has been to places like Maiduguri at least for a week will opt for a military option to fight the insurgents rather than negotiate. Negotiation will be the final option one day when the might of Boko Haram has been totally broken by the Nigerian army. Now that the sect is on the run, with proper approach, the only option left for Boko Haram will be to ask for the negotiation table or face annihilation.
There was a time when one cannot drive his car to Mafa, Dikwa, or Ngala not to talk of heading north towards Marte. The chances of running into a Boko Haram checkpoint is 99%. The harm that such a person faces if this happens is better left to the imagination. The towns mentioned lie on a major road linking Nigeria to the republic of Chad and Cameroon, unarguably buzzling with commercial activities for all countries connected by it. Sometimes last week, I drove all the way to Dikwa town alone, and although the road was deserted, I was confident and for the first time in a very long time I was not afraid. It was on that road that my principal Alhaji Tijani Mafi and others were ambushed and shot by Boko Haram scouts.
At Dikwa the people I was able to talk to were happy with the presence of the federal troops. A village head and his son in one of the Shuwa villages after Dikwa proudly told me how they welcome the soldiers to their village. He said men, women and children came out chanting songs as the Nigerian soldiers arrived.
“That night I slaughtered my biggest bull to celebrate their arrival. Tell me, what is one bull compared to the number of cows we lost to Boko Haram” the village head retorted.
I later found out that young girls have been abducted from that village too. I have been to that village just before the declaration of state of emergency and I saw the sect had virtually taken over the village. Armed youth with AK47 patrol the market with their Toyota Hilux parked. Abduction of girls are hardly mentioned for the Shuwa Arab see it as shame and a weakness to have failed in protecting their daughters and wives. A number of young men and fathers have been put to the knife for making an effort to stand of for their sisters or daughters also.
I have not been to Marte or Krenoa since the military operations started but I have been to Bama and other places and from the reaction of the people they are not only happy with deployment of troops but are quite happy with the president. His approval ratings in the villages have skyrocketed.
What my politicians do not want has somehow happened.
“We thought the government has abandoned us to our fate” a villager who lost a wife and two sons said.
An old fisherman from the village of Alau pointed out that “the president did the right thing by sending troops to liberate us from Boko Haram. I may not forgive him for doing nothing before when he has the power to do that all along”.
Just after Maiduguri are villages I often visit, places I dare not go some few weeks ago. Although, there is no presence of the army there, villagers said they came and moved on to Sambisa but expressed the joy of their protection even when not stationed there. These villagers equally claimed men and women have been abducted from their villages; while some were released, others are yet to be.
I also had the privileged to talk to a number of the victims. Sadly, I could not talk to the females as their parents are still under the fear that Boko Haram fighters might come back. An elderly man in his late 70s who was abducted by members of the insurgents said they came in with two vehicles dressed in military uniforms and called on all the villagers to assemble. The innocent villagers came out thinking it was the army that summoned them. The armed youth now ordered all those working for or have ever worked for the government to move to one side. They ordered the women to move to another side and further separated the married women from the unmarried. The old man who was a retired police officer and four others were taken. Two armed men who the villagers confirmed were foreigners identified themselves as soldiers of Bin Laden who came to aid their brothers in Nigeria, walked towards the girls and picked out four young girls. They called out the girl’s parents and told them they have claimed the girls as their wives and gave the parents five thousand Naira each as dowries and drove off with their victims. One of the girls is still missing.
The best of their cattles were selected by the sect and taken from time to time as they watched helplessly.
Even within the Borno capital city of Maiduguri, one could feel the palpitations of fear but now the people have a level of courage never seen or imagined. They do not just point out to the soldiers where or who is a member of the Boko Haram insurgent, they indeed catch and deliver them to the soldiers.
Two fighters known to have been terrorising Bulabulin ward of Maiduguri were apprehended and handed over to the JTF along with their guns on separate incidents. There was also a report of a lone fighter who surrendered himself to the JTF with his gun. Now, the people catch and deliver sect members to the security operatives and prepare for any eventual retaliatory attack. The few counter-attacks from the insurgents resulted in the killings of those who partake in the apprehension of their members but the people are undeterred and has further apprehended more which shows that the people are tired and have confidence in the army unlike before.
The JTF itself has changed tactics in dealing with civilians. The people are no longer afraid of the army or the JTF. These are the feels of residents of Maiduguri and the different villages hitherto subdued by Boko Haram.
One would shudder listening to the plight of residents during the invasion of their villages and can appreciate the liberty they now feel with the intervention by the soldiers.
Imagine living with people whose slightest provocation result in death. Many young girls were abducted and raped. The atrocities were just too many and too painful to recount.
Suffice to mention that in Bulabulin Garanam, Zajeri and Umamarari wards, we are yet to hear of military operations neither is it accurate to affirm residents’ cooperation with the JTF. Some sect members apprehended in other wards had turned out to be from Bulabulin Garannam or Gonglong wards – known Boko Haram strongholds in Maiduguri.
Well, the people of Borno have sacrificed and risked their lives to corporate with the JTF in other to achieve peace. My prayer is for the government to pursue this fight to the end, to fight the insurgents to the finish. We must appreciate the danger should these killers be allowed to organise themselves again. The peaceful people of Borno state, including the villages that welcome the army amidst songs and celebrations will be in serious trouble.
Should the army fail in this operation, one can consider fatality beyond comprehension.
The people have suffered in the hands of Boko Haram as well as in the hands of the JTF. Nigerians abandoned us then, we do not want a repeat.
Now that the government has taken the right steps. We should all give the needed support even though our lives are in danger, to secure a future for our children even if we are not going to share in that future.
– Ahmadu Jirgi (Twitter – @jirgispeaks) writes from Borno, Nigeria
Leave your comment here