SAD STORY: Woman Narrates What Her Soldier Husband Told Her About Boko Haram Before He Was Killed
It was a true love story when they met. She was just 15 and her country was in turmoil.
Mayhem was let loose and brothers killed brothers in a civil war that was snowballing into genocide. Could it be worse than Rwanda? It had the potential.
But the international community, perhaps reacted faster than they did in Rwanda and averted what had the potential to be deadlier than what happened in Rwanda.
Many peace-keeping missions invaded Liberia and mustered forces to quell the inferno. Nigeria played a prominent role in ending the Liberian crisis. John(not real name) was among the Nigerian troops in Liberia. He fought wars, stayed in the forests, starved in some cases, escaped bullets from the warring factions but the end justified the means as he was among the heroes that ended the war in Liberia and brought peace to our continent.
It was while fighting the war in Liberia that he met the love of his life. John was in his late 30s and the girl that charmed him was just 15. They became inseparable and got married in Nigeria on John’s return from the mission where he saved lives and properties.
Today, they have three children; the first is eight, the second five and last three years. But where is John?
That 15 year old girl is now 24 and a mother of three. We caught up with her at the Ojo Barracks and she was in tears. Her sorrow seemed limitless.
“It’s very painful losing your husband this way. If this is what life is all about then I don’t really know how to describe it other than nothing.”
At 24 she is now a widow. Her late husband was posted to the North East to fight Boko Haram. The insurgents killed him. And now, like late Koofi Awoonor wrote in Songs of Sorrow, the sun beats her on one side and the rain on the other side.
Hear her story:
”It is a painful experience losing one’s husband and yet facing this excruciating situation.”
“I am an orphan. My husband was all I had and that is why I feel very bad that he died in the battle. He had been going to war. There was a time he was instructed to follow a troop to Bayelsa state. He spent three years there battling with the militants. He did not die. He fought in Liberia. He did not die. He died in his own country in what I still can’t understand.”
Narrating how her husband died, she said, “he was on an escort with his Colonel and other eight soldiers when Boko Haram sect attacked them. They fell in an ambush. He was said to have been burnt to ashes by the sect. We didn’t see his remains. He was burnt to ashes. How can one survive this sorrow? How can one survive this mental torture?
“In Liberia, soldiers and their families are treated very well. If a soldier dies in Liberia, his family members will be taken care of. His children will be on scholarship up till higher institution. But, I don’t know if it is the same here in Nigeria.
“The letter I was given indicated that Nigerian government will sponsor my children to school but right now, I don’t know how realistic it is”, she lamented.
Asked if she was satisfied with the Nigerian government on how Nigerian soldiers and their families are treated; she said: “I am not satisfied because they are making many women widows. I am already a widow at 24. I am not happy with the Nigerian government.”
“My husband went on the Boko Haram mission on December 23, 2013. When he narrated his mission, I wasn’t comfortable. Each time, he briefed me on the activities, they were always horrible stories. They were horrible stories of how they were killing people, how they were torturing people to death, something you can’t believe human beings will do. My children and I used to pray for him, but unfortunately, he died in the battle five weeks ago.
“I discouraged him from embarking on the Boko Haram assignment but he said, there was nothing he could do to abort the mission because it was the authority that signed him on.
“He told me that he did not want to go, that people die on a daily basis in Maiduguri,that the place is a dangerous zone, unfortunately, he died in that battle”.
“I did not hear the news of his death until after three weeks. My husband has left me and my children to suffer. I don’t know what to do or where to run to. His family members have abandoned us.
“I married him because I loved him. We have been married for eight years. I met him in Liberia when he came for peace keeping mission. It never occurred to me that he was going to die prematurely. He was born in Kogi State. He was in the military for 21 years before he died. He joined in 1993. He died and was buried in Maiduguri,” she said, sobbing and tears having a field day rolling down her face to her body.
This is only one of the numerous pathetic cases of families whose bread winners died in the fight against terror in Nigeria.
Some years back terror sounded like a fairytale on our shores. Today, it is real. Hordes of military men are being killed in the battle against Boko Haram. What happens to such bereaved families? How insured are our military men who risk their lives to keep Nigeria one and maintain law and order?
For Mrs. Maria Adamson (not real name), whose husband is still in active service, it’s all prayers so that the authorities do not post her husband to troubled spots.
Ï’ll just die if anything happens to my husband,” she tells us.
“He receives stipend as salary and I have to sell second hand wears to support him. We always pray that they don’t post him to Maiduguri or any of those states that Boko Haram operates. God will continue to hear our prayers.”
Another widow, Iya Akilo, as she is fondly called within the barracks in Ogun State, narrated her ordeal after the demise of her husband.
“When I lost my husband, I was confused and frustrated.
I have not received a positive response from the military authority on my husband’s gratuity. Getting compensation from the authority seems impossible. I have been going from one office to the other since the incident but there is nothing forth coming.
Many eulogise the Nigerian military for their performance in peace-keeping missions outside Nigeria. But now that there are crises at home, they appear to be found wanting. Two weeks ago, our cover was on the challenges of the military. They range from poor funding to poor equipment and to lack of training that has made their intelligence unit fall below par in the war against Boko Haram. Many of their statements also give them away as poorly trained in the area of intelligence gathering and use.
Their challenges continue with the agonies their families face especially when they fall victims of Boko Haram as the Liberian widow captured above. Take this: A Nigerian soldier posted to the battle of Boko Haram reportedly earns additional N30,000 monthly while his counterpart on peace-keeping mission abroad gets $3,000 excluding other allowances. One hundred thousand dollars is paid to the family of any soldier who loses his life in peace-keeping mission abroad. Families of such victims in Nigeria have no clue on any form of compensation. They are not sure of anything. Take another:
“In all fairness to the officers and men of the Nigerian Army and Police, they are doing their best given the circumstances they have found themselves in. But honestly, Boko Haram is better armed and is better motivated than our own troops. And believe me, I am an eternal optimist as I have always said, but I am also a realist. Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram.”
With those words, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State entered the fiery controversy over the frequent packages of large-scale death and arson delivered to Nigerians by the fundamental Islamic terrorists called Boko Haram.
The words had hardly left Shettima’s lips when reactive fires started flying in against him from different directions. Presidential assistant on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, addressed a news conference in Abuja the following day, saying Shettima’s view “is based purely on a civilian perception of the situation at hand,” that “it is clear Governor Shettima does not have the expertise to categorise or classify the effectiveness of any weapon,” and that “the statement on low morale and lack of motivation is equally unfair and misplaced.”
“Whereas insurgents are usually motivated by ideological fanaticism,” said Okupe, “on the contrary, well-disciplined militaries like ours are (supposed to be) spurred by patriotic sense of duty, national pride and strict adherence to professionalism. Therefore, the morale of troops engaged in this war is high and ought not to be dampened by unsavoury and certainly untrue comments of low motivation.”
A lot has happened since then to vindicate Shettima. The insurgents have increasingly killed more Nigerians. They have increasingly destroyed more properties. They kidnapped over 200 school girls who are yet to be rescued two months after the incident that has attracted global attention. While the government and military appear clueless as to how to rescue the girls, Boko Haram keeps on killing and maiming Nigerians. The military officers are part of the victims of the insurgents. They are fighting, killing the terrorists and also being killed. Families of the victims are wailing. They are Nigerians too.
A soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that some soldiers deployed to Borno State to fight Boko Haram insurgency never came back. What he said wasn’t new but the agony on his face spoke more than his words.
“It is a pity that the soldiers are not appreciated. Many died in the process. And when a soldier dies, that is the end of the story. His family members are also forgotten. We fight with our lives, yet our wives and children suffer.”
“The military authorities only allow the family members to stay in the Barracks for a while, after which they would be ejected. Salaries are stopped after a few months, thereby forcing and subjecting the widows to street trading.
“Soldiers who sustained injuries are also not well taken care of. There are countless wounded soldiers in the military hospitals who have been neglected. They become unimportant due to their health challenges. “Before, there used to be allowances paid to the soldiers but now, it is a sorry story. “I’m not married because I don’t want my family to suffer. The money given is not enough for me, let alone to have a family.
Another soldier lamented that, “there was a time, one of them who was shot in the stomach and admitted at a government hospital was abandoned. “We had to contribute money to pay his medical bills, because he was in pains and could not pay his medical bills.”
Appeal to government
The 16 families of policemen killed recently by Boko Haram in Gamboru Ngala attacks have also appealed to the Federal Government and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, to properly equip the police and other security agencies with sophisticated weapons so as to squarely tackle terrorism.
Speaking on behalf of the families of the slain police officers during the presentation of N1 million each to the next-of-kin of the deceased donated by the Borno state Government through the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tanko Lawal, held at the state Command’s Headquarters in Maiduguri, Mr. Abdullahi Dogara from Nasarawa state and Mrs. Kuve Maxwell Vincent now a widow, said, the continuous usage of inferior and outdated weapons and poor logistics were some of the factors affecting the effort of the police and security operatives in the ongoing counter operations.
They also appealed to Police Financial Regulatory Body to continue paying the salaries of their fallen bread winners for a certain duration to enable them cater for the immediate needs of their children.
Although the CP emphasised that no amount of money would compensate for lives lost, he agreed that it would serve as palliative measures to cushion the hardship being faced by the families.
Former Provost, Federal College of Education, (Technical), Asaba, Dr Gabriel O. Iloh, maintained that the families of the slain soldiers should be adequately cared for, just as he praised the ingenuity of the Nigerian military, describing them as the best in Africa.
Iloh continued: “Our military are doing a great job, but I also think they need to be well taken care of. A good soldier can only fight well when he is well fed. Government should do everything possible to make them happy as well as their families. Our military is the best in Africa, we have gone to several African countries including Europe for peace keeping missions and they succeeded, but the fact remains that you can’t fight what you can’t see.”
The Boko Haram is like a tsetse fly perched on a bunch of broom. And when the broom is lifted for an onslaught, the tsetse fly flies away.
That is why the fight against Boko Haram appears difficult. We have to encourage them, compensate the families of those who lost their lives. Compensation and support should not be left for the government alone; individuals, corporate and religious organisations should also help them because they have paid the supreme sacrifices and their families have become the victims,” he said.
A former presidential aspirant under the defunct SDP and a staunch NADECO member Sen. Olubiyi Durojaiye, in his own submission said that for Nigerians to consider soldiers remuneration as very poor compared to the western world, many things should be considered.
“Comparing the level of American soldiers remuneration with their Nigerian counterpart is not possible. The Gross Domestic Product GDP of America is incomparable to that of Nigeria. I am not against the military being adequately remunerated but with the level of productivity of the country, the purchasing power and the relative structure of salary generally for people in similar industry should be put into consideration.”
“Let us not take the remuneration of soldiers in isolation. But if you want to raise the issue of risk element, war allowances for soldiers, this should be seriously considered so as for their families to be rest assured of being taken care of by the government. But when there is no war, basic salary should be steady”.
“Nigeria cannot be that bad to the level of not taking care of the families of soldiers that died in active service for the state.
“The government should not allow it get to the level of soldiers wives going on the streets demonstrating out of fear of the government abandoning them after the demise of their husbands who died in active service for the nation. Soldiers wives should also know that it will amount to treasonable felony if anybody says soldiers should not serve the nation based on poor remuneration. Basically, I am in agreement that all workers should be well paid. Especially those that face serious life threatening challenges like soldiers.”
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