Ten things I learnt in Maiduguri
On a sad evening, I learnt the Federal Government “accidentally” shot her own citizens in multiple airstrikes in Rann, Kala Balge LGA. It was one of those moments that you are in shock but the morning comes and you move on. I had moved on like you till FG North East Support agency said it was giving N10,000 to the victims. N10,000?
I started a rally on social media and I was glad, we have been able to raise N2.94m so far. I had to go to Maiduguri to provide funds to victims, fellow Nigerians. My trip to Maiduguri started in fear as I requested for MOPOL and maximum security but I didn’t get any. Allow me to tell you ten things I found in Maiduguri:
- It is peaceful than you think: I guess you might think people don’t live their lives or move in swift paces to fight off the next bomb attack. You are wrong. People in Maiduguri go through their business, the normal way. Soldiers adorn the town but not that heavy for the metropolis. I guess the people have seen the worst and they see themselves no better of the victims, who have gone ahead. It is also gracious that the airport is so close to the metropolis. I wasn’t ready for a long drive from the Airport like Abuja. You can’t but be shown the scars of bombs on the road. It is kind of interesting to find good pounded yam and Ogbono, well stuffed with goat meat. Yeah, I did it twice. The banks are overburdened and almost everything sells for the normal price. Fuel sells for N145 and everything retail isn’t pricey. The commerce flows and you can see that the worst is over. The music flows: “If I tell you say I love you..” Yes. It bangs. A people who have been through a lot. A part of me likes Maiduguri than Kano and Kaduna, two places in North I have visited often.
2. Permission to exit: 10km from Maidguri, just 10km, I am told is not safe. If you don’t want to be shot on the troubled highways, you need permission from the theatre command to be provided enough security to advance. Your pictures will be taken and patrols sent ahead.
3. A Place of Lie Your Head: Don’t walk into Maiduguri thinking you will get a room in a hotel just like that. The top hotels are mostly fully booked by soldiers, aid workers and government officials. Make sure you have “your guy” who can make things in advance. I was told the hotel I stayed pre-crisis was N1,800 per night, now you have to hustle to get a N20,000 room per night, no wi-fi but I had a bed and warm shower.
4. Lekki-Grade Houses: Borno is at work (that’s how politicians call it) and one can see a lot of buildings going on. One can smell the squalor and dusty atmosphere but there are also newly built estates, weirdly unoccupied. You can see the patience involved in building it and they can hold their own against the overpriced Lekki buildings. Of course, like most houses, they come with tall fences adorned with barbed wires.
5. Everyone but IDPs: The question being posed by few persons I met is when will this end. Most people I spoke to believe that this whole crisis has turned to business opportunities for private citizens, aid workers, government and they don’t have the incentive to end it. One person was very emphatic that 2019 elections might spur another round of attacks just to keep it as a burning issue. I could only sell hope. I visited an IDP camp, placed in the former NYSC camp and I was told those are the fortunate ones. That everyone is enjoying in Borno except IDPs. With forlorn faces, kids dressed in rags, long lines of empty kegs, shacks propped by UN, I wonder how else will the unfortunate ones be? Nigeria is doing huge injustice to IDPs.
6. The SAS Question: Few folks still believe that Ali Modu Sheriff has a case to answer on the issue on attacks. Some are still unclear on his source of wealth and how he maintains a private jet. I decide not to believe that someone so popular and also the contested chairman of a leading party can be involved in fueling crisis that has taken lives and destroyed properties. I know he had an history with the sect but why do they feel it hasn’t ended there?
7. Aid Workers and NGOs: I have been to Liberia and I was alarmed at the Hilux vans and the large convoy of foreign aid workers in the heat of the Ebola crisis. A lot of foreign non-profits in Maiduguri too. I had mixed reviews of their work but a person emphatically praised them. He said they brave the odds, go far into troubled areas in Bama, Gwarzo that spineless me won’t touch with a stride. I also saw a sprinkle of foreign soldiers too, looking stern and ready. It is not easy.
8. The Street called Lagos: It is kind of interesting that the street that leads to the Government House is named Lagos. In fact, there is a Doctors’ Quarters named after “Jagaban.” There is even a place called Lagos House, adorning beautiful buildings. It will be nice to know the history behind this. Like from Lagos to Maiduguri, draw it on the map, that’s end-to-end stuff.
9. Fast Lagos People: On the news of the bombing, they told me that Lagos people even get the news ahead of them. A friend was worried that this might be part of the conspiracy to keep the crisis going. The bombs go off, it is wheeled to press, more allocation is given for xyz.
10. 5am, its morning time: 5am is that time I struggle to stand up. I mostly wake up at this period to catch an early flight to Abuja. In Maiduguri, 5am, it is day, bright and fair. The prayer in the “Land of Peace” everyday, is that it continues like nursery rhyme:
“The Day is Bright
It’s bright and fair
Oh Happy Day
The Day of Joy”
Repeat till fades