Michael Olugbode writes that due to the incessant killings in Bornu and Yobe States by Boko Haram, churches are almost empty on worship days, while business places are locked up more than they are open and nightlife is at its zero level thereby crippling the states’ economy
“The crisis has taken us back 20 years. We’re literally going back to ground zero...” These were the world of Governor Kashim Shettima on the impact of the Boko Haram insurgence on Borno State. About eight months ago, while calling on the Federal Government to invite the insurgents to a round table talk, he said the ongoing crisis has pauperised his people, as everything is almost dead in the state.
If the words of the Borno State governor did not show a clear picture of what the people of the state are going through perhaps, the words of the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Salma Anas Kolo was clear enough. She told journalists recently that the facilities at the state hospitals in Maiduguri especially, the mortuaries have been over-stretched as a result of the Boko Haram crisis.
She noted that the biggest hospital owned by the state government, the State Specialist Hospital Maiduguri has been over taken by stench oozing from it’s mortuary, she while decrying that the State Specialist hospital is over burdened and the government is doing everything possible to expand facilities to meet with the demands.
The gory happenings in the ancient town of Maiduguri was equally captured by the Borno Elder Forum which includes Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, Alhaji Gaji Galtimari, Alhaji Kyari Sandabe, Brigdier Abba Kyari, Alhaji Hamza Yerima, Alhaji Abubakar Gaide, Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, Alhaji Modu Rijiya, Bukar Gana and Alhaji Bulama Mali Gubio. Others were Hajia Aisha Wakil, Ibrahim Abba Gubio, Sheik Goni Gapcha and Imam Zanna Laisu. They said the once peaceful town of Maiduguri has been turned into theatre of war.
The elders said: “Our people can no longer engage in any meaningful activity to sustain their lives. Nowadays the people cannot perform the five obligatory prayers in congregation in mosque near their houses or perform the Friday prayers in several mosques in the town. We are no longer practicing our religion as desired. Our markets and other places of business are no more. Many people can no longer access schools for their children. Many of our Islamiyya schools have collapsed. All the things we held dear to our culture, tradition and pride are gone.
“Even going through the current farming season has become increasingly difficult. People can no longer move from one point to another without being subjected to harrowing experiences.” They lamented that: “Thousands of lives were lost and others were either maimed or traumatised. The recent upheaval that followed burning, looting and destruction of several houses and shops by the soldiers resulted in forced or voluntary social dislocation for fear of insecurity by several thousands of people in some wards of the state capital.
“The people totally became desolate and refuges in their own town. In a nutshell our entire life fabric is at its lowest ebb. Our once proud people are now disillusioned. Our people are desirous of the end to all these problems. Our people need to go back to their normal life and be able to live in a decent society, devoid of all hurdles on their paths.”
The words of the elders best described what has become not only of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, but neighbouring Damaturu and Potiskum, the political and commercial capitals of Yobe State respectively. There is rarely any day in these three towns in the last one year without someone falling to the cold hand of violent killing as a result of the Boko Haram impasse.
Many have been killed in churches, few have been allegedly killed in mosques, though this is disputed but the fact that some Islamic clerics have been felled is not in dispute, the killings are not limited to places of worship alone, tens and hundreds of people have been killed on the streets and in the comfort of homes where there is no more comfort; the death have followed them to their offices and places of leisure; and one conclusion is that no place is safe in these two neighbouring states of Yobe and Borno.
Many have fled the towns and the Governor of Yobe could not but at separate fora in the last one week asked for more deployment of soldiers on the streets of state and pleaded with residents to reconsider fleeing the state. If Maiduguri is described, as the ghost town, then perhaps Damaturu and Potiskum are graveyard.
Churches have been deserted by the Christian faithful for fear of been attacked by the sect members, even with the churches being guided by stern looking military men, many worshippers still fear the omnipotence of the Boko Haram sect and would not want an early journey to meet their creator.
As one engineer who gave account on why he decided to keep the worship of the Lord a thing of the heart, Anthony, a lecturer at Ramat Polytechnic said “I do not see any wisdom in going to church and getting killed look how they wasted lives at the Bayero University Kano, these people are plagues and I won’t want to be wasted by them and I believe churches even with the soldiers are their main target.”
Anthony, has many others with the same belief and fear and this has affected attendance at churches in both Yobe and Borno, this is attested to by Pastor Elijah, a shepherd at one of the Pentecostal churches in Maiduguri, who said that his church which used to have an average of 120 members in attendance before the Boko Haram crisis now has about 40 persons attending the Sunday worship service and as little as five members in attendance during the weekly programmes. He volunteered that most of his former members have fled town.
The Yobe State Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria, Rev. Garba Idi has few months ago described what is happening to Christians in Yobe could be described a genocide, he said that almost all non-indigenes have fled the town (Damaturu) and the indigenes that are Christians have equally been made to relocate. About four months ago, he said there have been cancellation of Sunday worship services and weekly programmes because of the crisis.
He lamented that during attacks in the first quarter of the year in Damaturu, out of the 30 churches in New Jerusalem, the place where most of the churches are located only one church held service. The Christian leader said that the situation also affected other areas in the town as well as other towns of Gadaka and Potiskum in Yobe State.
He said with 21 out of the 40 churches in Potiskum burnt there is no longer worship service in the town as just a church held worship on Sunday 15, lamenting that majority of the churches have closed and their pastors fled. He said that most of the Christians in the state have fled to Jos, Plateau State as there is no more guarantee that lives are safe, revealing that he knows of over 200 Christians that have relocated to Jos.
Idi said those left are at the mercy of the fundamentalists, stressing that they have no more faith in the security apparatus on ground as there assurance is from God. That was few months ago and there is nothing to show that the situation has improved but instead has deteriorated, no wonder the governor pleaded for deployment of more soldiers and security apparatuses during the visit of the National Adviser on Security to the state.
It is not only the religious life that is badly affected, as God seems to be annoyed that he has been denied his food, worship and has closed his eyes to the people cries and everything about them is now on the precipice. Businesses are dead, robbery and other crimes on the increase and many had no choice but to flee. The two state governments have been reduced to minimal developmental projects, as they have to employ a Marshall plan to keep afloat and fight the poverty in their states, which was the root cause of the crisis anyway.