By Gambo Dori
AS the Boko Haram scourge turned into its tenth year, this must be the question, I guess, that must be agitating the minds of many, particularly those of us living in the afflicted parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
In the piece I shared with the readers last week, I touched on the trauma I experienced when my family was on the road to Maiduguri from Abuja on the very first day the fight began with Boko Haram terrorists. For most of the week I was inundated with messages from those that wanted to tell of their encounters with the terrorists. But that will be another time.
However, last week, I shared seats with a colleague on a flight to Maiduguri from Abuja with whom we spent the whole journey reflecting on this plague that had befallen the North-East in the last ten years.
He told me that he was, himself, in Maiduguri, in that infamous week of 2009, on a visit from Abuja, at the time when the Nigerian Army was battling to dislodge the terrorists from their base at the headquarters of Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of the notorious gang. But as the days passed and due to urgent calls from business associates in Abuja he became desperate to leave Maiduguri. There were no flights into Maiduguri since the fight started, and all roads leading out of the town were sealed by the Army with an intimidating curfew clamped on the people.
Somehow my colleague misjudged a calm period during the fight and attempted to ride out of the town. At one of the checkpoints near Ramat Polytechnic he was duly apprehended on suspicion of being part of the insurgents trying to escape the fight. He heard one of the soldiers manning the checkpoint pointedly telling another: “He’s one of them, trying to get away”. It was only after rounds of explanations that he was let off to head back into the beleaguered city. That was one lifetime experience that gave him nightmares for days.
But all these could be considered light compared to what had befallen many families. The fact that what had begun as a local insurrection at spots in some towns of the North, Maiduguri in particular, went on to nearly engulf the whole nation. Bombs were going off regularly, killing and maiming at all places, reaching up to the office of the Inspector-General of Police in Abuja. The grisly statistics of those killed and maimed by this murderous gang are too well known to be repeated here.
And as our plane headed towards Maiduguri that day, news of the insurgents’ fresh onslaught was all over the media. The devastating attacks by the insurgents on unarmed villagers attending a funeral in Gajiram leaving 65 dead was particularly galling and the international press had a field day reporting it. In the same space of time, the insurgents also attacked Bama and Benisheikh, though our ground troops supported by the Nigerian Air Force were able to repel them. It is cold comfort to the citizens to continue to assume that these brigands have been degraded and defeated. Actually these recent attacks are acute pointers to the grim facts that these misguided and dangerous terrorists are roaming freely in our plains armed to the teeth and are able to strike at will.
The sky was clear that day when we were in the air to Maiduguri despite the fact that it was August. When the plane went up through the patches of clouds to its highest point we could almost see the grounds through the dots of white puffs. As we flew over Bauchi and Gombe the plane made a smooth descent, preparing for the usual approach to Maiduguri. My colleague who had the window seat asked me to look out into the space outside as he had some observations to make. Fortunately, the plane banked to our side and I could clearly see the majestic wide-spread waters of Dadin Kowa Dam.
The plane calmly moved along and I could see from the edges of the waters it was all green on the grounds typical sights at the height of rains. My colleague asked me to look closely and observe that from there onwards there would hardly be any farming activities going on at all. It was a shock to me that at this time of the year when activities should be peaking on the land there is little to show. It was only when we were closing on Maiduguri airport that one could see some land showing some farming activity. My colleague said he was privileged to see parts of northern Borno from the air and the wide expanse of land is starkly bereft of its major landmark: livestock. He said one could hardly see the toing and froing of pastoralist herds in a land where livestock movements are taken for granted.
The insurgents have really done their worst. They have murdered and maimed our thousands in the name of some regurgitated dogma. They have carried off their properties, seized their women and children to be used as chattels. They have hounded out many from their dignified comforts to IDP camps where they become mere numbers. Now even those who have braved it and remained in the villages cannot come out to farm due to the fear of these murderous gangs. The situation is grim then. The people have shown an uncommon resilience. Their leaders at the traditional, local and state government levels could only do as much despite rising to the occasion whenever possible.
They rely for defence almost entirely on the security apparatus controlled by the Federal authorities. We must bestir them to do more than they have already done to get rid of this plague. Our armed forces have fought an internal civil war and were victorious in a matter of only three years. They have been sent to clean up other people’s messes in Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Sudan where they acquitted themselves to international acclaim. We had hailed them when they unleashed the blitzkrieg against the Boko Haram terrorists in 2015 that put all those gangs on the run. Much of the nation is free of them now but Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states are still suffering under the yoke of their renewed campaign.
Loss of Dr. Mohammed Gambo Kukawa – The medical family in Borno State and their teeming patients lost one of their most illustrious member, Dr. Kukawa. I met him at ABU Zaria in the early 1970s where he was a medical student. He was a role model to many of us as one of the few medical students from Borno. He was among the pioneer indigenous medical doctors, joining his contemporaries, some of whom were his seniors in the service: Dr. Istifanus Manga, Ezekiel Ogunbiyi, Sule Shehu, Garga H. Bwala, Sunday Bwala, Luka Balami, Mustapha Monguno and a few others. What made these doctors distinct was that for most of that period the medical profession in Borno was dominated by doctors brought in from Egypt, India and Pakistan. These pioneers set the pace to build and train most of what Borno has now as medical doctors.
I met Dr. Kukawa again when we both served as permanent secretaries in mid-1980s. Kukawa never really acclimatised to public office. He was too married to the medical profession and so utterly devoted to his patients that he refused to take his name off call duties in the hospital. He would never compromise and would rather allow his office routines to linger than his patients suffer. When at a time he was posted as a chairman of Biu Local Government, he inevitably became an additional doctor in the Biu General Hospital.
Finally, when retirement from the public service caught up with him recently, Kukawa still kept his stethoscope active by regularly attending surgeries in the public hospitals, till he fell ill three months ago.