• Story of widows, orphans of Boko Haram attacks
BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
Sunday Vanguard spent last Tuesday evening with inmates of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at Ohordua, Edo State. The children and Coordinator of the camp, Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, were seen playing football and the reporter had no choice than to join the game. After that, Sunday Vanguard went round and the place was a beehive of activities. Women were cooking dinner while some were washing clothes. Some inmates were in the Adult Education Class learning. Everybody was happy, leaving you to doubt if any of the inmates will be willing to go back to Borno State where most of them had been displaced by Boko Haram insurgency before they found succour in Edo.
Two women in the Adult Education Class caught the attention of Sunday Vanguard due to the zeal they exhibited to learning. Hawa Musa and Tani Phelmon later narrated how their husbands were killed by Boko Haram fighters. The Coordinator of the camp, Pastor Folorunsho, on his part, gave insight into the happenings in the camp, explaining how the children had missed the immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and his wife, lara.
I have spent two years here. I came here because I had to run from Boko Haram. The fighters pursued us, destroyed our house. Boko Haram killed my husband. When they came, we ran to the mountains, but they pursued us and caught up with us. They killed my husband, took my children and I captives, and held us in the forest. We spent two months in the forest the terrorists took us back to our village and insisted that we must denounce Christianity and become Muslims otherwise they will kill us. I refused and they started beating us. One night, the opportunity to escape came when the terrorists, including those keeping watch over us, suddenly disappeared. We believed they went on an operation and, before they came back, we had fled. We escaped through the bush. I have seven children. Six are with me here, the seventh is in Abuja.
I wanted to be educated but my parents didn’t send me to school because of the discrimination against the girl-child. But when we came to this camp, I had the opportunity to go to school when I joined the Adult Education Class. We are very happy staying here and we cannot go back Borno unless peace returns to our area.
I have been here for three years. Boko Haram fighters invaded my village, Gava, Borno State. Before they came, they had written to us that they were coming, so we fled to the mountains. That was in 2014. They still came to meet us on the mountains. Everybody fled in different directions. After some time, I started looking for my husband. I looked for him for days until one girl told me that he had been killed on the mountains by Boko Haram. I did not believe her. I continued searching for my husband. Then I found his body on the mountains. I wept. I needed to give him the semblance of a decent burial. So I ran to the village to ask my mother if she could help. My mother and my in-law went with me.
We went there to bury the body because the confusion in the village would not allow us to bury him there. While we were doing the burial, Boko Haram fighters came and took us captives. They took us to Gwoza. From there they said they were taking us to Sambisa. But God helped me to escape and I fled to Mongo Nugoro and then to Cameroun alongside other villagers also fleeing from the terrorists. It was in Cameroon that government sent vehicles to bring back Nigerians. I joined them and they dropped us in Yola. From Yola I made my way to Maiduguri and it was from Maiduguri that Pastor Solomon sent money to us with a message that we should come and stay here.
I have six children and all of us are here. I can now write and read after joining the Adult Education Class.
How has it been running this camp?
I want to first thank God and everyone who has helped us in taking care of these children. It has been good in some aspect and some aspect very challenging.
What is the total population of the inmates?
We have about three thousand inmates. The children are more, over two thousand. The unfortunate thing is that most of the children don’t have parents anymore. Sometime ago when the Red Cross people came, they tried to locate the parents of the children. Most of them don’t even know the whereabouts of the parents while some could recall how Boko Haram fighters killed their parents in their presence. There was a time we were able to unite about four hundred children with their families. Some had to join their parents while some of the parents who had nowhere to go came here to join their children. We see all of them as our children and the good thing is that they are happy here.
When they came here, they could not speak English, but they can now speak English fluently and doing very well. We thank the state government for their assistance each time the children are writing primary school leaving examination. And since we started, we have not recorded any failure; that is to tell you that the children are very intelligent. And in the last two years, their performance in SSCE, WAEC and NECO has been excellent. The last JAMB they did, we are still celebrating it because they were among those with the best results. Many of them scored 295 in JAMB. We enrolled 63 of them for JAMB, 59 scored above 200 and four had between 180 and 200. Two of the children who wrote JAMB before the latest batch are in UNIBEN, one in Edo State University Iyamho, three in ABU Zaria, about 10 in University of Maiduguri and two in University of Jos.
Who is responsible for the children’s school fees?
We really do not have a particular person that is paying. What we do is that we ask people for assistance. When persons visit us, we appeal to them and when they give us we put in in education, health or feeding. That is how we live. I want to use this opportunity to beg charity organizations, local and international, to come to our aid; they need to come and see what we are doing here. We have not been able to attract the attention of international charity organisations and the children need them so much. Whatever they can do to help us will be appreciated.
Plans for children who have lost their parents
We feel we should give the children good education. And the ones already in university, when they graduate, they will look for jobs and we expect them to come back and assist those they left behind.
I found out that the children are more science inclined. Before they came from the North, they were more into arts and social sciences but I am amazed that, after spending some time here, 99 per cent of them are into science. And when you ask them, they will tell they want to be doctors, pilots, engineers. The main challenge we have in the area of education is that we don’t have a modern library. And we need one so urgently. We are very grateful to our father, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who built a state-of-the-art school here. I wish I have access to him to tell him that the children are missing him. The secondary school he gave us is world class. Because of the good quality of the school, the children are doing very well.
Feeding the children is a huge challenge. Sometimes even when we have food stuff, it may be that we have no ingredients to cook. When people give us rice, they may not bring oil or tomato. There was a time the children looked so malnourished and doctors said we should be giving them brown beans. So what we did was to do trade by barter. We give those who sell tomato, for instance, rice and they give us tomato in exchange or beans so we can give them children balanced diet. We are even into farming to be able to feed the children but how much of farming work can the children do? So feeding is a big challenge; sometimes I beg people to give us food. And I thank God people always respond.
If I have the opportunity to meet with President Buhari, I will beg him to give Oshiomhole a big position so that he can continue to help us. It is after he stopped being governor that we knew his worth. Apart from what he did for us, himself and his wife, the fatherly role he played to the children was mind-boggling. There were times he would come and when I come out to meet him, I will see him dancing or playing football with the children. The children will gather around him and his wife. We miss him a lot. Sometimes he will call and ask whether the children had eaten, just like his own children. That really touched the children. Once you mention his name, everybody listens; every morning, they pray for him in the chapel.
We are also happy that Governor Obaseki, in his first year in office, spent Christmas with the children here. We all ate together and we are begging him to always remember us. We are very grateful to him.