The Plight Of The Displaced

Credit: The Guardian Nigeria Terror struck the morning of Sunday, 7th August 2014, when members of the insurgent sect – Boko Haram – took over Michika town in Adamawa State. Many people were not aware of the news until they began to see huge influxes of people into Yola, the State capital. People were on trailers and lorries, and jam-packed in other smaller vehicles. The fear factor reached fever pitch when news spread that the military had closed the gates of Mubi, keeping the fleeing residents trapped in the town. I was in the office, totally oblivious of what was happening, when I got snapped out of my false sense of security. One of my colleagues came in and said he had seen over seventeen army trucks lined up in town and many fleeing refugees with nowhere to go. When I went outside, it was to see other colleagues in a state of frenzy. I walked slowly, hoping to find out what was happening and telling myself over and again that getting scared wouldn’t help me. I realized that many people were making speculations and no one really knew what was happening. At that point, I was tired of the rush of emotions I was feeling and just wanted to go home. The company driver said he couldn’t head out because the roads were clogged. At that pronouncement, staff members – including those who had their own cars – decided to head out on foot. I followed them. I asked my program partner to join us and she was adamant because she didn’t know what we were going to be walking into. I was sure we would be safe but she needed some convincing. After a few minutes of cajoling and threatening to leave without her, she finally budged and then we set off. We took a short cut and came out on the main road after walking for about ten minutes. It wouldn’t have taken a magician to know that something was really amiss. The cars were lined up as far as one could see and at each other’s bumpers. All the cars were full, and in fact, over loaded with people, bags, properties and what not. Adamawa had become the latest to suffer at the hands of the insurgents. Months after that first major attack, there have been many more, which has prompted more and more people to flee into the state capital: Internally Displaced People or IDPs for short. They were talked about in the news, among traders and drivers and even among the elite. To many, they are nothing but statistics and numbers. But today, they were real to us. One of my colleagues decided to spend his birthday with these displaced people. He called on friends and family to support him by bringing clothes, food, toiletries and other necessities for the IDPs. The response was massive. People went all out to help in whatever way they could. On his birthday, we all headed out to the Bajabure IDP camp in Adamawa. There was a convoy of cars filled with materials for the people. When we got to the camp, I must say that we were a bit surprised. The camp was an estate built by Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako on the Numan road. The area is a bit far from town and the houses were largely empty. As a result of the overwhelming influx of people into town, the estate was turned to a camp for the IDPs. So you can imagine our surprise when we got there and saw a row of nice houses. When we got to the gate, the security man made a fuss about our visit and only let us in when the celebrant called the camp director or someone like that. As soon as we got in, people started trickling out to see the visitors. It wasn’t long before the word spread; visitors had come and they came bearing gifts! Soon enough, people started coming out in droves. We were suddenly surrounded by a sea of people. I must admit, I never knew they were that many. They couldn’t wait until the address from the celebrant was done. All they cared about was the piece of the bounty they were going to get from us. Some of the women and children moved closer to where I stood. Their murmuring drew my friends and I even closer. We asked what the problem was and they told us that we had to stay for the distribution of the items. When we asked why we needed to wait, they were quick to tell us that certain individuals had crowned themselves bosses and were hoarding relief materials for their personal gain. My friend and I shared a look. We proceeded to ask more people if these statements were true. It turned out that they were in fact true. A few people were using the pain these people were facing to dominate them and accrue more materials to their selfish selves. I spoke to a boy whom I’m going to call Kwaji. He sounded very intelligent, somehow knowing my Hausa was stilted and proceeding to speak in English. He didn’t speak the Queen’s English but he wasn’t far off. His tenses were correct and his grammar sound. I asked if he was a student and he said, quite clearly I might say, that he had been in Junior Secondary School 3 (JSS 3). My next question would have been what he wanted to be in life but looking at his condition at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I kept repeating that it would be well, not sure whether or not he believed me. As soon as the distribution started, any dignity of their person fled. They crowded the distributors like ant to sugar. I was shocked at the desperation I was seeing. It was no surprise that a fight broke out and got out of control. People started clawing their way to get the items. I must admit

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