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 mid-August 2016, 23-year old Fakhrriyyah Hashim took a break from her farm on the outskirts of Abuja, the nation’s capital to spend one week in Maiduguri, capital of Boko Haram-ravaged Borno state. She had stories about the place the press commonly referred to as ‘the birthplace of Boko Haram’ but had never been there.
A few months earlier, she had signed up to volunteer for Abuja-based NGO, Girl Child Concerns which focuses on education of the girl child and empowering women across Nigeria.
Finding time to escape from the rigours of work on the farm which she personally supervises was hard, but for Fakkhrriyyah who was born and bred in Kano to Yemeni parents, sacrificing her time to make Nigeria great is equally necessary. Since returning to Nigeria after completing a degree in Business Administration at Abu Dhabi University, she has been campaigning for a better future for young girls like her.
Her visit to Maiduguri alongside Dr Mairo Mandara, chairperson of the GCC board to empower girls and women among the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the host communities, came on the heels of a fundraiser and picnic in Abuja.
“We went to Borno in order to facilitate an income generation scheme for female IDPs”, she says What we focused on was something that women from Borno specialize in – cap making. So yeah we bought all the items they needed and we shared it among a hundred and twenty-five of these women. The women call the caps Aisha Buhari.”
What we plan on doing is, after every month, when they’ve made enough caps, we buy at market price from them and sell to people [outside Maiduguri]. Whatever proceeds they get from sales, they reinvest as capital to do more.”
For maximum impact, the duo also advised the women to take others in the camps under their wings. For the girl child, there was also a package.
“You know, since GCC focuses on girls’ scholarship scheme and is focusing on IDP girls, we went there to make arrangements for primary six students to take exams and those of them that pass, are going to be given a scholarship and will be taken to Kaduna and they’ll start schooling there and GCC will sponsor every aspect of it for six years.
While in Maiduguri, Fakhrriyyah heard stories of loss, of anguish, of frustration, of helplessness and of hope too. Curiously, the standout experience of her stay was not the story of any of the girls or women she and her boss spoke to. It was Abubakar, a 14-year-old boy from Gwoza who charmed her.
One night, Boko Haram invaded his village and in the ensuing melee, he and his parents went in opposite directions. “Nice kid”, she remembers. “The reason why he stood out for me from all the others was because of how calm and collected he was. He does not know where his parents are and whether they are alive or not.”
“He’s a kid that I definitely will go back to Maiduguri for when I have a concrete plan for him. The identification thing – we can’t really depend fully on government to find families of displaced kids and reunite them. So I need to actively work on something that will help him be reunited with his family. And if they are dead, I’ll probably have to find a means for him to move on.”
For a young woman with all the trappings of a good life and a business running smoothly, why risk her life to go to a conflict zone? “I just don’t like seeing people vulnerable. It kills me.”
*The next installment will be published at 10am WAT tomorrow.