livelihood

“May God meet them at the point of their need”

A young volunteer resident in Yola spoke with displaced persons granted shelter in a camp in Yola, Adamawa State. The displaced from this camp were mostly from communities on the border with Borno and Adamawa States, including Madagali, Michika and Mubi. These interviews took place in the Hausa language, and a translation of the interviews is below. 

What is your name?

Abubakar Manu.

Why are you here?

Well, we came to camp because in this camp, government is providing security for our lives, feeding us and taking care of our well being.

Another person speaks:

My name is Mallam Garba.

You came from where?

Gwoza.

Why are you here?

I am a refugee here in Yola. I am eating and drinking and wearing clothes. I am enjoying here.

What message do you have for the people that brought you here?

I am grateful to them. I am grateful to God.

Another person speaks:

What is your name?

My name is Haruna Jos from Lasa.

What brought you here?

We ran for our dear lives because of Boko Haram.

How long have you been here?

I have spent two weeks here.

Any ill-health?

Yes. I had an ill-health but I have recovered now.

Another person:

Your name?

Hamidu Ali.

From where?

From Gwoza.

What brought you here?

For refuge.

Another person:

 Your name?

Mamman.

From where?

Gwoza.

What brought you here?

Refuge.

Doing have any problem here?

No.

Do you eat well?

We eat well.

It is rumoured that school has been opened for you here. Is it true?

It is true.

Do they teach?

They teach everything, including Islamic schooling.

If you are given money to start business here would you accept?

Yes, I will accept.

If you are told to go back to Gwoza now will you?

No, I can’t go back now.

Another person:

Your name?

Cecelia Husseini.

From where?

From Gullak.

Why are you here?

We are here for refuge.

Do you get enough food here?

Yes.

Is it true that they have started teaching you?

Yes.

What class are you?

I am in JSS (Junior Secondary School) three.

What is your challenge here?

Nothing.

Another person:

What is your name?

Hannatu Marcus.

How many children do you have?

I have five children.

Which town are you from?

I am from Gaba West.

Where is your husband?

He is here. We are together.

How are you coping with five children here?

Here we are. But we have no food. That is the trouble. If it is six persons they would make it five persons. As it is now I haven’t gotten food.

Another person:

Your name?

My name is Maryama

How many children do you have?

I have five children.

From where did you come?

From Michika.

How is life in camp here?

We are grateful to the government and glory be to God. But the food should be enhanced for the children so that we can also get.

How about your husband?

He is doing fine. We are together here in the camp.

if you are given a trade so that you go back to Michika, would you go back?

I would go back.

Another person:

What is your name?

My name is Fatima Ibrahim.

From where?

From Gwoza

What brought you here?

I came here for refuge.

How is life here?

Glory be to God. We appreciate Him.

How many children do you have?

Two children.

is there any of them that ever got sick or something here?

Yes. This boy here was injected and he had problem with the leg.

 What call would you make to the government to help?

I don’t know what call to make. We appreciate God, we appreciate you, and we appreciate government for receiving us and making us feel at home. May God meet them at the point of their need.

Another voice: Bilkisu the young girl…because of the way they are handling in Adamawa, they want their children to satisfy by these community leaders who had three name-sakes… his Royal Highness the Emir’s wife, Aisha, the other one, myself here. So

Among these ones that delivered, is there any that lost her husband during the crisis?

Camp Director responds: No. What happened is that most of them that we met they tell us that their husbands are staying somewhere in Cameroun. They cannot crossover because of the insecurity situation. So talking. Some of them who are hoping to be with their husbands here, they are the ones insisting that we should select the children after… so far these are the figures I have.

“This is, to me, what has laid the foundation for the upsurge of Boko Haram”

This post is part of a series of interviews with subject matter experts on the northeast of Nigeria and the ongoing militant violence. TAP hopes these interviews will contribute to an issue-driven conversation on what relevant actors in the region can do to help stop the violence and improve well-being of Nigerians living in violence-prone areas.

TAP interviewed Dr. Muhammad Kabir Isa is a professor and Head of Department at the Department of Local Government and Development Studies at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria, Nigeria on the origins and evolution of the much-feared Islamist militant organization Jamā’at ahl as-sunnah li-d-da’wa wa-l-jihād, better known as Boko Haram. Dr. Isa is one of the first people to write about the Islamist group, and has been researching and writing on Islamic fundamentalism for years. In this interview, Dr. Isa sheds light on the history of Borno State, the psychology of Boko Haram, the key factors that have fed into the growth and expansion of the Islamist group, and the role that the protracted dearth of development and good governance has played in readying the ground for situation today.

Professor (Dr) Isa, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. I’m just going to start with the first of five questions. This won’t take too long. I want to start on the rise of Boko Haram. Some people say it is poverty, some say it is the breakdown of governance in the North, some say it is religion; what would you say are the real contributing factors to increased fundamentalism in the region?

It’s a combination of several factors, but first, I would like to start with the historical factor. You know Islam in the region had started in the Borno empire, in the Borno Kingdom from Songhai to Kanem-Borno. So there is this draw to proselytization and Islamic knowledge in the kingdom, and Borno is known for its excellent scholarship with regard to Islamic knowledge. People are drawn to Borno from all parts of the world to learn a lot about Islamic history, philosophy, legal systems, and what have you. And these are drawn informally around the city, where scholars have evolved in this tradition of passing this knowledge from one generation to the other. There are no official sanctuaries or sectors where this knowledge is drawn. That’s one.

Two – and this is very fundamental to me in recent times – is the issue of climate change and desertification. Borno State has over five million people, thereabouts, however a quarter or a third of that population is resident in Maiduguri. There was a gradual movement of people from the Northernmost parts of the state to the center, where Maiduguri is, because of desertification, erosion in the Northern parts. Most of the population is largely towards the Northern part of the state, but these parts have been taken over by desertification.

Another factor is the Lake Chad. There are communities that prospered along the Lake Chad for hundreds of years. Now the Lake Chad has shrunk in size; it is no longer within Nigeria, but entirely in Chad. So people have been compelled to move to the center in search of new livelihoods. So desertification, the shrinking of the Lake Chad, forced the population of Maiduguri to increase because it is the most cosmopolitan urban center in Borno, and people have been attracted to it because of its urban infrastructure and what have you. However, the bubble burst. Many realised that there are no jobs, no industries, nothing. The only thing that is available is proselytization – for people to preach and call [others] to Islam. And you have to understand that Boko Haram, which is not what they describe themselves as – they describe themselves as “Jamā’at ahl as-sunnah li-d-da’wa wa-l-jihād”, people propagating the Sunna, the teachings of the Prophet. Apart from the Koran, there are the teachings and practices of the Prophet. So these are the people propagating just the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet. Anything outside these two is seen as an addition, as influenced by what is outside what has been preached by the Prophet.

Now you have to also understand that what is referred to as Boko Haram today were once referred to as the Taliban and they felt that we are in an era when Islam is no longer feasible in terms of practice, people can no longer effectively practice Islam because of some corrupt influences such as Western influences, not just the issue of education. They do not condemn education or technological advances alone; they are not against it. Rather, for example, you know, there is this Darwinian theory which says we evolved from water-based organisms, to monkeys and so on. This runs contrary to even the Bible – human beings evolved from Adam and Eve. So as far as they are concerned, this is contrary to the teachings of Islam. There are also these theories that when rain wants to fall, it forms into clouds, and so on and so forth. No. In Islam, it is God that gives rain. They are not concerned about the facts: God gives rain, but how? So there is this myopia against, if you like, contextualising religious teachings. And so to them, it is not that western education per se is haram, but there are teachings, there are theories from Western education that are contrary or seek to contradict the tenets of Islam, and those should not be taught as far as they are concerned in schools. This is the way they feel.

And of course these teachings moved into other levels because over the years, politicians and Western-educated elites of Northern extraction who have been part of government have acquired enormous wealth illegally and they have not done anything to their community, this wealth has not trickled out; they’ve used this wealth to send their children abroad and have left their own people in perpetual abject poverty. So poverty of course you know from the National Bureau of Statistics is preponderant in the northeast and North-West of Nigeria, and the index of poverty is even higher in the North-East. Most of these people live in abject poverty; there is a high rate of unemployment with no possibility of employment, no possibility of wealth creation. So people are left fallow, despondently, in anger, in frustration and what have you. This is, to me, what has laid the foundation for the upsurge of Boko Haram. And these are also independent of course of previous types of insurgencies in the North.

Now that we have some sense of what contributed to the rise of Boko Haram, how has the rise of Boko Haram compared to the rise of other Islamist groups like Hezbollah, Al Shabab and ISIS in Iraq now? How is the rise of Boko Haram different? What are the core differences and similarities?

You know, Hezbollah is Shi’ite, and ideologically they are not the same. Boko Haram is Sunni. So ideologically they are different, and with regard to modus operandi they are different. Hezbollah behaves like a state within the Lebanese state, Al Shabab is contesting the space of the state.

It will surprise you to note that in 2009 and 2010, Boko Haram never claimed to want to Islamize Nigeria. It only took a different turn by 2010. In 2009 they were only seeking revenge, if you like; they were only attacking police, armed forces, security officials and agents of the security apparatus within the state. It was only late 2010/11, when their families were arrested by the state, that BH started attacking state institutions. They attacked the police headquarters in 2011, they attacked the UN Headquarters in Abuja also in 2011. Then they started attacking churches, then schools. So you can see there is a dynamic shift in modus operandi. This shift also dovetailed into a full-on terror campaign. They now started saying they want to introduce sharia in Nigeria. In fact, not just in Northern Nigeria, but in the entirety of Nigeria. So they started challenging the state.

And it has a lot to do with the way the state has responded to the crisis. Let me also make this clear; it is one thing to bring for example an army of Igbo extraction into a Northern area where there are differences of culture, religion, perceptions of ways of life – in the north, a stranger does not enter into the compound or family house without permission, culturally. So if you bring people from the east or west to fight in an armed conflict in the north] whose culture is different, it will exacerbate the conflict and not solve the problem.

You made a point that Hezbollah acts as a state within a state, and even Al Shabab if I recall had a way of establishing a soft power that almost endeared the people to them. The only time people started fighting Al Shabab in Somalia was when they started charging taxes, banning people from watching football, even banning cigarettes. So did Boko Haram ever attempt soft power? It seems like a major difference here is that Boko Haram has never tried to actually win people over, because for all the talk about the Western-educated elite not doing much for the region, [Boko Haram] have never attempted to even show [real concern for the people], even from the interviews we have done at TAP, some people have been saying that they didn’t know that they were that bad. So what was it in the beginning that made people think Boko Haram wasn’t so dangerous in the first place?

There was a microcredit scheme with interest-free loans through each Boko Haram cell, and each commander in the cell had a special clinic where any member of the cell can use. The movement takes care of their members. They paid bills. They give motorcycles. They ran motorcycling schemes, petty trading schemes, and each member benefited from this scheme through their cell commander. As soon as you got your interest-free loan, your duty was to bring another person. Boko Haram even gave marriages. So Boko Haram was not only about charismatic leadership, it was about economic leadership, which was manifesting in political leadership because he was now challenging the state, and criticizing democratic apparatus of the state and condemning it. That way, everyone gets a soft landing.

Coupled with the proselytization and the microcredit system, membership grew. Remember now, one quarter of the population of Borno state was living in Maiduguri town. Slum areas without roads, hospitals, no primary schools, not even police stations. There were only such facilities in planned areas. Most of these urban slums that grew in the past 20 or 30 years were not planned areas, particularly those who had left Lake Chad because of the desertification with the Sahara Desert spreading at almost 1.2km annually and the increasing deforestation. These people lost their farmland. Of course, there was also unemployment.

So the poverty itself must be seen within the context of bad governance. Bad governance must be seen within the context of climate change and desertification. Along the same lines is the shrinking of the Lake Chad, which was providing a livelihood. About 10 communities or more were surviving on the existence of the Lake. With the shrinking of the Lake Chad, these people lost their livelihood. These people had to move. So Boko Haram had a microcredit scheme that worked for them.

Everything must be taken into context.

“I have more than twenty refugees seeking refuge in my house as a result of this insurgency”

TAP interviewed Yusufu, a young civil servant from Damaturu, about his experience living under the State of Emergency in Yobe State. In this interview, he talks about his experienced with displacement as a result of the mass killings in the rural areas, and explains why he thinks the security forces are lacking the capacity to fight the insurgents. He also talks about lack of assistance from government, and why he thinks the insurgents are targeting the villages they attack.

This TAP interview was conducted by a volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering with TAP, do get in touch with us via email testimonialarchiveproject@gmail.com 

What can you say about the spate of violence that is happening in the Northern States?

Well, with regards to the insurgency, I can give you some answers.

With regards to what we are witnessing these days, what can you say are the causes of the recurrent Insurgency?

You mean the cause of the insurgency that led to the killing of innocent lives and destruction of properties? Well, I cannot actually ascertain or narrate the cause of the menace.

How can you describe the condition of the people that have been affected by the insurgency?

Peoples’ lives have been seriously and negatively affected. In fact, as I speak to you now, I have more than twenty refugees seeking refuge in my house as a result of this insurgency. I swear to you, I have more than 20 refugees in my house. Our villagers can no longer go to their farms and above all, people’s means of livelihood have been severed.

So far, have you receive any form of assistance or relief from the authorities concerned?

Our people are yet to receive any form of assistance from the authorities concerned. Our people are still in Damaturu at Anguwan Gunje for more than four months now to be precise in anticipation of relief or assistance from the concerned authorities, and so far, they are yet to receive any of such assistance. I must admit here that few days ago, some people came and collected our names and our contact details inclusive of our phone numbers and left. We have written to the authorities several times but to no avail.

Is the heavy presence of the Police and the military personnel helping you in any way?

To be frank, they are helping us. But as you know, the magnitude of the insurgency as at now is beyond their capacity.

Are the insurgents giving you prior notice before carrying out their attacks?

Yes, most at times, especially in the villages, they do give notice prior to their attacks and if they strike, they will burn houses, valuables, kill and displace the villagers. But within the State Capital, due to the heavy presence of security personnel, I can say that we are safe for now.

The State of Emergency that was enforced, is it yielding any positive outcome?

Sincerely speaking, it is not yielding any positive result. In fact, it is of no use to us. The emergency rule took effect about a year ago, but up to today, the insurgency is still escalating. If you live in Damaturu for instance and you decide to move down to places like Yandudori up to Dambao, you will discover that more than twenty villages and towns have been deserted with thousands of villagers forced to flee their homes.

You said the security operatives are doing their best. Are you satisfied with their stay so far? Do you have peace of mind with their presence?

Yes, they are working hard, to God be the Glory, and they are doing their best. I think one major problem with our security operatives is that they are not properly commanded. That is why we are not winning the war on insurgency.

It looks like you are staying in the city, but do you think that the insurgents are selective in carrying out their notorious attacks on nearby villages?

Well, I cannot categorically say yes to this question, but I know that most at times, whenever they seek for assistance from the villagers, if they resist and turn down their offer, they will attack them and burn their houses and kill as many people as they can.

There are insinuations from some quarters that people especially the youth are still joining the sect despite all the atrocities they have committed. What do you think are the reasons behind this move?

I think who ever join the sect is destined to do so. But I think there is no reasonable human being that will join such a sect. I repeat, no reasonable and responsible human being will join these misguided people.

Is the Boko Haram sect assisting people in any way?

There is nothing good that has ever come out from them. These are people that kill innocent people and rob them of their means of livelihood.

“When God brings a plague…”

A volunteer for TAP spoke to Hamid, a man who lives in Maiduguri, about the impact of the militancy on the livelihood of those in town and villages. The violence in Maiduguri has subsided, he says, but challenges remain in towns and villages.

What changes have you noticed as a result of the militants’ activities in your area?

Bismillah Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim(In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful). We are facing challenges in the town [Maiduguri] no doubt, but with what we have seen before it has subsided unlike the way it was previously. What concerns us is that which is currently happening at the villages and the sad events around us.

In terms of feeding, commercial activities and ordinary day to day activities what has this incident caused?

Well, when God brings a plague, or problems like this, there are bound to be challenges no matter how little. We have faced serious problems in our commercial activities, with our families, it is affecting the education of our children. What we get before is not the way it is anymore. Our buying and selling activities have dropped, even the usual day-to-day hustle.

 How is the violence impact the livelihood of people in Borno State in both the towns and villages? how have they been coping?

It is a serious challenge. Because the people in towns and villages depend on themselves. The challenges are severe in the villages because now they cant stay in their homes or go to farm as usual and this leaves the towns without food. Those in the villages are usually farmers, we in the city are mostly into business. We buy their produce, we pay them and they survive. We pray to God to bring an end to all this, to protect us, and forgive those that have gone during this problem.