By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – On March 7, 2010, residents of Dyemburuk, widely known as Dogo Na Hauwa were woken to an unpleasant experience which would alter the course of their lives forever. Some called it genocide, others said it was revenge.
Whatever it was, by the time it ended, not less than 500 people, mostly women and children were killed in the midnight attack.
Nine years down the road, the nightmare has not left as the shadow of the incident still pervades the community. Survivors are carrying on with life but in their secret moments, tears still flow. They wonder if life would have treated them differently if the incident had not happened.
Looking back at the experiences these last years, they expressed mixed feelings about them. While some believed their lives would have been better off, some saw the light at the end of the tunnel and with tears in their eyes, exclaimed, “God is still on the throne, He knows best.”
Before the incident, Dyemburuk, a sleepy farming community with rusted roofs and mostly mud houses located in Jos South local government area of Plateau State was practically unknown. One could even miss the major entrance to the village as there was neither good road network nor much to suggest a village with about 2,000 residents was few kilometres away from the neighbouring Doi community.
Basic amenities like potable water, functional healthcare and educational facilities, among others were lacking and illiteracy appeared phenomenal as the people went about their quiet lives unnoticed. The calamity which befell it jolted the community into limelight; all attention was given to it but as the frenzy subsided, the benefits that came with it also ceased. The people were left on their own.
At that time, the atmosphere in the community depicted sorrow, fear and hopelessness. Small burnt houses, caved in and twisted roofs, charred property dotted the environment; evidence of violent death was palpable as traces of blood were seen on the sandy soil and unkempt survivors sitting in groups staring forlornly into space.
However, the contrasting scene was welcoming when Saturday Vanguard visited the community on Tuesday; the tarred road from Doi, which leads straight to the market square in Dyemburuk was having young men by the wayside seeking means of transportation to the city for what they call “daily hustle.”
The Primary and Secondary schools had received face-lift though they are on break. Some burnt public and private property renovated and the late night rain gave the community a peaceful ambiance.
As early as 8.15a.m when this Reporter got to the village, villagers were seen going about their businesses, the tailoring shops in the market were busy with the tick-tack sounds of sewing machines. Young people were fetching water from the only functional borehole in the village, older women were displaying their wares; mostly food items and fruits while children were playing in groups, stopping intermittently to see who was passing by. Aroma of cooked meals invaded the air, the sight was indeed refreshing.
Despite the lively atmosphere, their hearts carry burdens; and as some recalled the sad incident, fresh tears were shed as they narrated how they have fared in the last nine years.
Those who spoke including a nonagenarian, Baba Idi Inusa, one of the only two Hausa Muslims in the entire community expressed disappointment that the many promises made to the community after the incident were not fulfilled.
Sitting in front of his single room apartment, Baba as he is called; with a strong voice, showing no sign of visible sickness; narrated his experiences from “the time of Sardauna” when he came to the village and bemoaned the evil which had changed the course of life of the community. He preached that all should embrace peace in their lives and among communities irrespective of whatever affiliations.
Equally, the septuagenarian Acting Village Head, Da Daniel Jik who said he lost 24 people including his sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and other extended family members said unscrupulous people were using their misfortune to enrich themselves.
The duo and others including women, youths and other teenagers who were children at the time of the incident told their various stories, pleading for provision of things that could help their lives, resounding ones being the provision water, electricity, education and skills acquisition centres.
According to Baba Idi Inusa who spoke in Hausa; “I was an adult when I came to this village from Kazaure (in present day Jigawa State) for tin mining. I did not go to school so I don’t know the year I got here but I know it was during the time of Sardauna (Sardauna lived from 1910 to 1966, was actively in public life since 1934 and was the first Premier of Northern Nigeria in 1954).
“I lost my immediate family members, my wife and three children so I moved here in search of job in the mining fields. During the Fulani problem, I was here. At that time, my relative, Abu came from Kazaure to see me. We were inside this room when they came, they knocked at the window, we did not make any sound, we remained indoor and after some time, they left.
“At daybreak when we came out, the people were very happy to see us that we were not killed by those people. I have been here in this village since my youth, now I am very old, the people in the village are taking very good care of me; they bring food here and ask their children to help me. They are very nice and peaceful people who did not deserve the problem that came here.
“After the incident, my family members came here to take me back to Kazaure but I said no, I won’t go with them. I can go and greet them and come back, this is my place and these are my people. Nobody disturbs me here, I pray five times a day and I ask for peace every time.”
Baba appealed to “government and all those people that used to come here when the sad incident happened to come and establish a vocational centre here so that the youths who are not engaged in any trade or school can have something to do.”
The Acting Village Head added, “What happened to us here is sad and the exploitation is much. People are using what happened here to make money; year in year out, many will come and refresh our memories over what had passed without us seeing any tangible results.
“What is disturbing me is that people are taking this place as a business venture while we are trying to forget it but all the time, people keep reminding us of the sad incident, everybody keeps coming to ask what happened here. They will come and write what they want to write and once they leave, that is the end, you will not hear or see anything again; all the promises made to us by diverse groups are not fulfilled.
“That one is not our problem; we have lost people and property here, recently, people came and snapped lots of photographs, some would promise that they would fix the place, but nothing, the roofs here, termites have eaten the entire thing, those people did not come back again after the first visit.”
He continued, “People are using the unfortunate situation to make money and buy big cars, but we are committing everything to the hands of God. We don’t want people to keep coming to disturb us, reminding us of the past without adding any value to us.
“Recently, people came to write but we are tired of telling our stories without seeing any help. Most of them, when they leave, you don’t see them again, what is the essence of what they are writing; people should leave us, we have lost all and even if we don’t have anything, God will take care of us; God and time heal wounds.
“We have been saying and people are seeing, all the neighbouring communities here have electricity except us, we need electricity, we need water. Some kids from here are in schools in Port-Harcourt (Rivers State), Abeokuta (Ogun State) and elsewhere, some are left here without help, struggling to survive. Government and those NGOs should come and help out surviving youths to stand on their feet.”
To the Ward Head, Da Daniel Zang, despite the situation, “There has been development here especially in areas of education. Before in this community, it was hard to see our children educated but after the incident, our children have gone far in education, getting educated in different types of schools. That is the number one development we got in this community.
“At that time, President Goodluck Jonathan, he sent this present Senate President, Bukola Saraki to come here, the federal government came here like twice to see what happened. Again you see the road was tarred for us, it was Baba Jang (Senator Jonah Jang) that was in government then, and he really cared for us.
“The indigenes of this place that left initially due to what happened have come back. At that time, we sent our surviving women and children out of the community because we didn’t know what would happen next but they are back now because we cannot stay without our families.”
Speaking on the peaceful nature of his people, he stressed, “We have two old Hausa men who never left even with the unfortunate incident, they are still here with us, we are taking care of them and feeding them. We did not force them to change their religion of Islam and join ours as Christians because religion is not by force.
“If they wish to become Christians, it is their choice but there is nothing like fear of religion even as they are living here with us, they are practicing their religion. Even with their religion, we are taking care of them because that is what God expect from us.
“Many of us were having nightmares in this community especially the children but God is helping us, the negative effects are eroding gradually; that does not mean that we have forgetten the incident but the healing process is gradual.”
He advocated a landmark intervention from government and relevant stakeholders like a project to remember the dead saying, “Apart from the annual prayers we have been having from different denominations in memory of the incident and the loss of our loved ones, we are yet to have a landmark event to mark the day.
“We know that one day, we will have something because what happened here should not be swept under the carpet, it must be talked about not to bring grief but let humanity know that such travesty should not occur again, not only in our community but anywhere.”
A youth, Shedrack Gyang, stated, “When the incident happened, I was 12 years old; I didn’t know much but as a youth now, I think about it sometimes. What I want to say is, when youths are growing without jobs, they involve themselves in different kinds of crimes like stealing, kidnapping and different kinds of things.
“When that thing happened, I am sure those youths they hired had no jobs and they were given money to come and kill people without mercy. I want to advise that if you don’t have a job, have patience, believe in God and keep trying and believe in yourself and one day, you will get a job.
“I don’t have nightmares again like before, but sometimes, I think about the whole thing. I can still remember some of the things that happened, we were having our apartment separate from our grandparents, we were sleeping in our apartment and my grandmother came at about 3am and knocked that we should run out that Fulani people have entered our village, I was surprised because that was the first time I could remember that I heard gunshots in that magnitude.
“I was thinking it was vigilante but the sounds were confusing; my two brothers, (one my senior the other my junior) were still in the room but I started running alone and my junior followed. We were running to my parents’ house because we were not staying with them, we were staying with our grandparents.
“When I got to my parents house, we all started running seeking refuge; we saw the people coming towards us shooting, I don’t know how it happened but I escaped without them shooting me. As I was still running I met some other people and we moved together, as we were about taking a corner, one man brought out a long knife to cut me but I dodged; the knife met the girl who was behind me, she was cut with the long knife and she fell.”
Speaking on his escape he added, “I ran into one pit to hide there with some other people but my mind was telling me to leave the pit so I left the others in that pit and went to another place and hid under the heap of grass, I was there alone. In the morning when the whole thing stopped and I came out, I saw that the people that I left in that first pit were killed; the two males there, one man and his son; their hands were cut and left in their pockets.”
Faith Gwom, who was 10 years old at the time of the incident, is now in SS1 in a school at Akwanga in Nasarawa State. He noted, “The incident was a setback for us. I can’t remember most of the things because it was in the night. We were sleeping, at about 3am when we were woken from sleep by gunshot sounds; at that time, I thought sand was pouring on our roof but those were actually gunshots.
“When I woke up, I saw our neighbour’s house on fire, burning so I called my younger brother to come let us go and meet our parents in their room but when we left our room, we met our parents in the sitting room with a girl who was injured and bleeding. The girl was just shouting for water. The girl did not make it; people were just running everywhere but our parents hid us in the corner and left all doors open.
“I believe when the people came and saw all our doors open, they thought we had run out, that was how we survived right inside the house until the whole thing stopped. I can’t remember their names now but some of the kids we used to play together were killed in that incident.
“Although many of us are moving forward but some of my age mates are still carrying the burden, some of my age grades here are not in school, they are hustling to survive but I want to encourage them that even with the hustling, they should put themselves together and stop losing their energy in backbreaking jobs but go to school as I have done because by the time they will grow old, they would have already lost their energy in the menial jobs they are doing. At this age, I am old for SS1 but I have decided that I want to be in school and I am here.
An aged woman who also lost loved ones, Kumbo Chok said “We have been left on our own since the year of that incident. All the promises of rebuilding our houses and empowering us have not been met. Though some children are in school we are really in need of water and electricity. If we have these, the quality of our lives will improve.”
Although Governor Simon Lalong in his first year in office had visited the village to console the people and celebrate Christmas with them; it was not clear what his government planned for them.
Reacting to the seeming abandonment of the community, the Director of Administration of the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Roseline Kefas who said she has spent about three years in the Agency with many inherited cases noted, “It is not only Dogo Na Hauwa that is in need of help, there are other communities and even flood disaster victims that Government could not reach out.
“If you follow the trend you will remember that even at Maza, it happened there too about that time and Dogo Na Hauwa cannot be singled out because there are other pending matters of that nature as well. Yelwa in Shendam also got an issue about that time.
“We have some allocation in the budget for such cases but it depends on the release of funds from what government receives as statutory allocation. All the needs from Ministries, Departments and Parastatals depend on that; if we write memo for their needs and money is released to us, we will definitely reach out to them.
“We cannot do without releases, the law establishing SEMA is the same with that of NEMA. Ideally, we are supposed to be given 2% statutory allocation for the Agency to meet the needs but because this thing is not adhered to, we are subjected to budget and writing of memos. If the memo is approved and backed up by releases, definitely we will carry out our responsibilities. Right now we are handicapped.”