Exactly three years ago, I moved out of Biu, Borno State where I was born, raised and married with 5 children. I was 22 years old at that time, confused, broken and traumatized, but not as much as my sister who had just lost her husband. He was killed right in front of her. Slaughtered like a ram after making him watch as each of the men took their turns with her. They raped her in front of her husband, then made her watch as they killed him, slowly. It was barely two weeks after their wedding. She was just 19.
Biu is one of the largest towns in Southern Maiduguri consisting of both Muslims and Christians. We lived together, traded together and our children went to school together. We lived in peace until Boko Haram. We thought we could stay even as they kept terrorizing towns after towns until they killed my brother-in-law. One of the few educated men in our family. They threatened to kill the rest of us for having supporting western education and even daring to enrol some of our children in school. We ran away from Maiduguri in the night around 1am cramped in a single truck with no source of light for hours.
One of my cousins was kidnapped from Chibok Secondary School. She was one of the girls that were shown on TV. She looked different, perhaps she had been given to one of them as ‘wife’, perhaps she was pregnant or even has a child. These were some of the questions that ran through our minds when we saw her on TV! We know nothing! We don’t know where she is, how she is coping. We don’t even know whether she is dead or alive. She ws just 16. Her parents were excited to send her to school. They saved up even though they earned little. Her father, like half of the men in Biu is a farmer. he plants crops like tomatoes and pepper and sells them in the market. He would give my cousin his earnings from selling the tomatoes so that she could pay her fees, buy school uniforms, books and other necessary items. He did so happily just to see her educated and successful. But he didn’t even get to see her graduate.
You see, all of us in this IDP camp have experienced loss. And perhaps that is what makes it more difficult. How do you comfort a person who is in as much ain as you are? What do you say? Do you say Let it go when you know it’s impossible? Do you say the pain will pass when you know that every day it gets worse?
Every morning when I wake up, lying next to me, snuggled closely together, are my children. I stare at them for a while asking myself what would become of them in the future when they grow up without education. Although my husband is an apprentice at a mechanic shop, we have a long way to go before we can provide something as basic as three square meals. We can never live the life we lived before but we are grateful for the safety we have here.
Sometimes when one of the women amongst us starts to cry, we let her cry because we know she needs it. She needs to feel relief albeit for a while. She needs to remove the heaviness in her chest before she can sleep. So we let her cry. And when its our turn, she lets us cry as well.
As much as I know that it isn’t most likely, I still hope that one day we all go back home and reunite with our families- the ones that are still alive- and find whats left of the happiness we had to leave behind in Maiduguri.
All thanks to Jaruma Magazine for allowing Us to share this beautiful and educative episode
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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