Raheem Oluwafunminiyi: Fleeing terror [Nigerian Voices]

by Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

The second half of my stay in Adamawa marked a period of both hope and fear. First, there was nationwide strike early in the year but by the time it ended with both government and the union agreeing to reduce fuel prices from N 140 to N 97, fuel still sold for as high as N 120 in most fuel stations across the state. I had thought since the call-off was still very fresh, all fuel stations around my local government would revert to the agreed price at some point but was wrong. Till I left Adamawa, all petrol stations in that particular axis sold fuel eventually for N 110. It was quite a shocking experience for me because it affected also the price of kerosene which I used for my cooking. It was not until the strike ended that I began to feel much of the effect of the subsidy removal – the high cost of kerosene and phone charge being few of them.

Second, the moment the strike entered into its fifth day, I began to see things clearly as far as the Boko Haram insurgency and the incessant killings in the state was concerned. All the events I couldn’t piece together from the series of killings in the state initially, especially against Easterners and indigenes suddenly became clearer. I had taken efforts to follow the trend of events, especially through the internet. My safety was top at a time when some parts of Adamawa was under siege and threats from all corners by men of the underworld. Not following the twists and turns amounted to danger to oneself and if I needed a threat-free service year, it was imperative I opened my eyes to all the angles to know where the rain was beating from.

The reason stemmed from the fact that despite the series of promises especially from camp and assurances elsewhere that we were safe in Adamawa and shouldn’t bother to redeploy, the long era of peace the state was known for was being tested by the reprehensible actions of Boko Haram. I in particular found it hard to grasp how Adamawa, assumed by many as the most stable state in the whole north-east, could have swiftly slid into insecurity and terror!

In fact, the security situation suddenly led to rumours that the Governor of the state, a Fulani, was behind and responsible for the series of attacks, as few of those caught were from his Fulani stock. The incessant grazing crisis between Fulani herdsmen and natives in the state amplified this rumour such that in Bali, several youth meetings were held where it was decided that any Fulani caught intruding on their land should be punished. The news days back that some Fulani men had captured two Bali women in their farmland and the gory tale that one was raped while the other luckily escaped with wounds, worsened things. The youth, for weeks, placed themselves strategically across the Bali community, carrying bows, arrows and all kinds of deadly weapons in readiness for battle with any Fulani around. Under the current circumstance, I was once told by a local that that was not the first time they were having issues with the Fulani amongst them.

“In fact, the first time it degenerated into a bloody war, my father was one of those who lost his life in the process of defending his people,” he narrated.

“If such had happened before, why are they still troubling your community?” I had asked inquisitively.

“Don’t mind them Corper! They are trouble makers and as you can see, since the harvesting season began, some of them have been going to our farms in the night to graze their cattle, spoiling our harvest, threatening our women and destroying our farmland. They are the original Boko Haram disturbing our peace in this state,” he narrated with much anger.

Even if I had not been told, I had witnessed the naked division and often, deep rivalry between the Fulani settlers and the Bali, having arrived in the community in late July. Their population, though small, made it easy for the Bali people to watch them at close calls. In fact, it was so severe that there was hardly any form of interaction between the two groups. Babamu, my landlord once told me that since the bloody conflict between them, they decided to ban the Fulani from their community but as things settled over the years, few of them returned and were accommodated, but forced to live under very stringent settler laws which had to be observed.

He also noted that the Fulani was another reason they had developed animosity for their Kpasham neighbours because rather than punish the Fulani like they had successfully done, the Kpasham refused, only to see them embrace the Fulani whole-heartedly and provide them free access to their community. Aside this, I observed that it was we corps members and visitors to/in Bali who mostly patronised the Fulani women who sold the local Nunu under a very large tree in the Bali market. I had wondered why the Bali people ignored this drink each time I visited the market to purchase a bowl and so, forced to ask one morning why this was so. I was shocked beyond belief when those I had asked separately claimed they didn’t trust the Nunu because they had no doubt in their minds that it must have been laced with poison to weaken them in case another crisis happened. It was hence, why the Bali ignored the drink even if an outsider intended to buy a bowl for them. I learnt they had been warned by elders in the community not to patronise the women, a warning most strictly adhered to.

At this period, it was not hard to find most people pointing accusing fingers at any attack in the state to the Fulani and when Boko Haram began its onslaughts fully, the Fulani became the dog which necessarily had to be given a bad name in other to hang it. I recall the day after our passing out; I decided to visit the Gombi market to buy some items, when I noticed an unusually relative calm along Numan road. The driver, whom I had asked, was keen to state that a serious conflict between the natives and the Fulani settlers had occurred few days back which had just been settled. He driver even went as far as tagging the Fulani settlers as Boko Haram members in Numan. However true the story was, I was certainly not sure because since the day the Boko Haram issue began to trouble the state, nobody had been indicted, whether Fulani or other natives scattered across the state.

As noted earlier, it was quite hard to point at those responsible for all of the attacks witnessed in the state. What became characteristic at the time was that any attack or killing that occurred was quickly linked to Boko Haram. Acts of armed robbery witnessed in the state suddenly disappeared among part of the crimes investigated by the Adamawa state police command. Every crime now appeared to be committed by Boko Haram in the state. Because of this confusion and the inability of the system to indict anyone, many were faced with a dilemma as to whether such killings were politically or ethno-religiously motivated.

Among the very first sad event I was privy to was around the third week of December. In fact, it was just some few days to Christmas when the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) at Nasarawo parish in Jimeta during a Friday night prayer session was attacked by persons believed to be Boko Haram. Over ten worshipers were killed. Not too long, another incident took place in Lamurde where four persons were reportedly killed. As if that was not enough, yet another Friday night prayer at the CAC in Mubi town witnessed the killing of about twelve people. By the time Christmas was over, about twenty people had been reported dead across the state. Worrisome as it was, the state governor quickly went on state television to appeal for calm, with a reward of a huge N25 million for anyone who could give vital information or lead on the killers. I remember that broadcast with nostalgia, all thanks to Babamu who provided me with the necessary English translation as the governor, typical of him, had spoken Hausa in his radio broadcast. In fact, Babamu, like me, also followed the emerging trends through his transistor radio daily and I recall how he always bumped into my room uninvited to inform me of yet another Boko Haram attack in the state. Unfortunately till I left, the N25 million was never claimed. I suspected fear as a major reason nobody or group ever came out to help security forces in the state to identify those behind the sad events. Hence, many non-indigenes for fear of their lives began to flee the state, especially those from the Eastern part of the country.

This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.

We publish, un-edited, Nigerians telling the stories of their everyday lives. Read all the narratives daily on the Nigerian Voices vertical. You can also contribute your own story titled ‘Nigerian Voices’ to [email protected].


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