by Eromo Egbejule
You hear a lot of stories about North-East Nigeria, a slice of the country that has been at war since 2009, at the hands of Boko Haram. But we have largely only heard a single story. Sending a reporter across 7 cities, we tell a more complete story – personal tales of survival and recovery – that speak to hope, to strength and to faith. Stories that speak to life. Across 20 narratives over the next 3 weeks, you will hear the most inspired and touching stories about Nigerians – at their best, even when they have only just recovered from their worst.
In the summer of 2014 when Boko Haram attacked Bama, one of the largest local government councils in Borno state yet again, 30-year old Falmata was pregnant with her fifth child. She remembers the date vividly; it was 13th August 2014 and it was a Monday morning.
She was preparing to go about her usual business of selling kolanuts and sachet water when she heard the sound of sporadic gunshots punctuating the peace. Two of her husband’s goats died, followed by a neighbour’s ten-year old son.
The insurgents who first sacked the military barracks within the LGA, came armed with swords and guns which looked extra menacing as they moved from house to house, seeking men and young boys to kill.
“They forced the women among us to attend qur’anic schools,” says Falmata, now 32. While some did as they were told, a majority hid in the bushes, coming out early in the morning to scout for food. One day as she went out looking for drinking water, she miscalculated her steps and fell down a slope; the outcome was a few bruises and an unfortunate miscarriage.
Six months after, she and her four children escaped to Maiduguri where she has been housed by a distant relative ever since in a host community for Internally Displaced People in Galtimari, a suburb of the capital. Initially established by the Norwegian Refugee Council and a few other sister organizations, the settlement is yet to attract the attention of the government at federal and state levels through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). And that of the international NGOs seems to have waned as they divert funding to many other communities also in need.
“We left Dalori camp because the feeding there is too poor,” she said. “We eat once a day while the people running the camp take the food items out at night and give their wives to sell.”
With Falmata’s husband still in the Dalori camp in the heart of the city with his other wife and five children, the onus is on her to provide for her kids – and her parents who joined them earlier this year. There are many like them in pockets around the city, stretching its population from two million around this time last year to an excess of three million people.
“There is nothing I am doing to support me and my children and we have to depend on my relative and any gifts we get from time to time. And that takes time; the last gift I got was two pieces of soap from the ward head in this community.”
“But we will manage till something better comes so my children can go to school,” she paused, but only for a second. “We survived Shekau’s men, we can survive hunger.”
*The next installment will be published at 10am WAT tomorrow.