Silhouette: Northeast in a Siege By Tiijani Ahmad
Many people don’t know what is really happening in northeast unless they meet the victims or have testimony from an eye witness. The condition is beyond what we see on papers, on the screens of our televisions or what we listen from radio programs. As an average Nigerian who grew up in Kano, I do not have knowledge on what really disquiet is, hence never knew a gunshot let alone a bomb blast rather, a teargas whose torment I had ever experienced at sabongari stadium in 1990s, during the then ‘Tofa cup’ when there was a match between Julius Berger and Soccer Strikers. I cannot forget the unpleasant experience of the first bomb blast in Kano in January 20th 2012. It happened in the late afternoon of one Friday, when I was driving along BUK road. The experience was really terrible, shocking and frightening, up to the extreme that, I had to leave my car because I could no longer have any consciousness to calm myself.
After regaining consciousness, I started reflecting on how the people of the northeast are feeling; those in whose area series of gunshots and sporadic explosion of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) become common, day in day out. This brutal, sadistic and inhumane disquiet have been happening since 2009, with flimsy attention from government and other International Crimes Watch. The situation meliorates as the insurgents are getting bigger and stronger with succor from the way unknown to us, which as a result threw the region into a siege.
Northeast, a region that comprises six states of Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Barno, Adamawa and Taraba; with 16.5 million of population (Approximately) covering a land mass of 277,175 km2 shares land borders with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The region have fertile land that grows so many agricultural produce (mostly food crops) supplies to other regions, and natural resource (though not yet exploited), a host to largest fish markets in Nigeria; Baga, Bama, Banki and Gamboru-Ngala, all in Borno State and the second largest cattle market in West Africa, located in Potiskum, Yobe state.
Despite all these, the region remains backward socially, educationally and economically as they have 22% literacy level, high unemployment rate, and high mortality rate hitherto, with onward rural-urban migration coupled with poverty and diseases. No wonder it is considered among the poorest regions in the world. However, with all these eyesores, the region was in full repose until the present insurgency.
People like me, prior to having any knowledge of the matter through testimonies by some eye witnesses and victims, thought that the situation is nothing but a mere exaggeration. Not knowing how thousands of people are killed, disabled and displaced. An eye witness would tell you that, militants camouflaged in military uniform would break in to the houses and cater away any youth available without any due cause, kill them or even bury them alive; some were slit before their loving ones.
Do you know that thousands of people are fleeing to neighboring countries (Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic), and states in rescue of their lives? Do you know that thousands were abducted individually apart from more than 200 Chibok girls? Do you know that some schools in the Northeast have been closed for more than a year? Do you know that those younger brethren of ours in the North east were not able to complete their S.S.C.E syllabus, and that they just had to reluctantly write their exams?
Muslim communities in the affected areas are offering prayers in two phases, while one offering prayers, another is keenly watchful. Likewise for church services, some could not even remember when last they attended their worship places, for numbers of mosques and churches were burnt down to rubbles. Any person who appears to be unknown to a community is no longer allowed access into their prayer facilities due to fear of bomb detonation and explosion.
Potiskum town, the region’s commercial hub have only three banks running as all the remaining banks were burnt down since 2012, yet is one of the most populous local governments in the country, and is a base for the second-largest cattle market in West Africa. Governments are doing little or nothing to help these civilians, who are surrounded with the vicious circle of poverty, disease and excessive trauma.
Our soldiers deserve commendation, in spite of little motivation from the government, are tirelessly fighting day and night. But these insurgents are continuously taking over towns in Borno and Adamawa, and claiming territories, while the government is busy paying attention to less important things.
Just imagine the damages in terms of reduction in population, destruction in properties and cripple in economy. Can’t we be their voice as they are voiceless? Can’t we be their media as they have no access to one? Can’t we employ huge concern towards their situation as this is the right time to show it to them?
To end and drop my pen, we are calling for the government, Human Rights watch, other action groups and volunteers to come for the humanitarian aid, the situation of our dear brothers and sisters living in the Northeastern Nigeria are really pathetic, and this calling is a voice representing the unheard voices of Northeasterners. This is because a lot we see in news media are mere SILHOUETTES or rather propaganda but the reality is beyond the captured pictures and other videos seen viral via social networks.
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