AISHA Ibrahim is a young woman but she appears to have the weight of the world sitting on her shoulders. She had great plans for her life but fate had something else in store for her.
She is one of several women from the Northern part of the country who are taking an exhausting walk through life in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. They had been forced to embark on unexpected journeys southwards after being dealt cruel fates by Boko Haram terrorists back in their home states. This writer caught up with some of these women. Some of them shared their pathetic stories.
For Aisha, the nightmare which has now become her life started on a dark night in Makasara in Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State, a place she, her husband, father and siblings had thought would provide a safe haven for them. They had relocated to Kaduna State to escape the ceaseless strife which was making life difficult for them in Katsina State.
One day, marauders came, brandishing weapons and shooting into the air. They were unprepared for the midnight invasion of their village. The invaders left in their trail, blood and sorrow.
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Houses were set ablaze, farmlands were destroyed, cattle were rustled and many villagers were killed. Among the dead were Aisha’s father and husband, Ibrahim. The village became desolate; life became difficult for the survivors, having been stripped of their livelihoods. The invaders had rustled their cattle and laid waste their farmlands. At 35, Aisha, the first of the five children of her parents, had to find a means of survival and thus began her journey to Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
In pursuit of a better life, Aisha had left her once-peaceful home alongside several other women. She boarded a truck to a destination unknown.
“It was just God that brought me here. When I left, I had no idea where I was going to. I met other women like me at the park and I joined them and here I am today,” she said.
Prior to her journey to the South West, Aisha was happily married. “I was living with my husband in Makasara in Kaduna State when bandits killed him. God had not blessed us with a child. I had to leave. I came in company with other women. I don’t have an idea how my siblings are doing. I don’t know whether they have found a way around life or if they are dead,” she told Saturday Tribune.
For Rukkaya Bello, her once peaceful nomadic life was cut short in Borno State when Boko Haram fighters invaded their settlement in Doron Baga in Baga Local Government Area of the state about three years ago. The havoc done by the terrorists had left her widowed and homeless. “I came here about a year ago. It was a year last month since I came to Ibadan,” she said.
Rukkaya narrated her ordeal and how she found her way to Ibadan. “I don’t have any children anymore. Boko Haram killed all my seven children and my husband. They rustled our cattle and abducted my daughters-in-law. I have no one left; it is just me and God. I didn’t have female children; my kids were all boys but Boko haram shot and killed them all. I was all alone and lonely, so I came here. God brought me here. After they killed our husbands and male children, they left a lot of women in the bush. We couldn’t stay in the bush without our cattle so we had to move to town.
“We were moving around with our cattle when the gunmen followed us into the bush. They killed all the men and the boys. The Boko Haram men offered them bombs and guns to attack people in another town but they refused. The Boko Haram then killed them because they would not join their cause.
“If they had accepted to be part of them, they could have been alive today but I would rather my sons are dead than living as Boko Haram terrorists. After killing our husbands and children, they said we, the mothers, could go. We headed in different directions but God brought me here. We take all that has happened as the will of God,” Rukkaya said.
Aisha and Rukkaya are among several women with similar stories begging on a bridge in the Ojoo area of Ibadan under harsh and unhealthy conditions. These women, together with their children, survive mainly on alms and food given to them by people of goodwill. “God usually sends Yoruba people to give us food, money and clothes,” Aisha said.
As a way of preserving some of the cooked food they get, these women spread the leftovers on the bridge to allow them dry after they have had enough to eat. They told Saturday Tribune that they re-cook the dry foods at home. “We understand the value of food, so in order to avoid any waste, we dry the foods here then we wash and re-cook them when we get home.”
The question of menstrual hygiene is far from routine for these women. According to Aisha, they use rags for sanitary towel. They lack other essentials to maintain a good hygiene.
“We don’t find joy in sitting by the roadside but we don’t know what else to do. If we stay at home, who will provide for us? We could not even have chosen to stay back in the North because the gunmen continued to lay siege to our homes both during the day and at night,” Indatu Abdullahi another of them said.
These women come out to beg under the sun and in the rain to ensure survival for themselves and their children. For some of them, they still shoulder the responsibilities of their children and relatives back home.
For Zainab Aliyu, she still caters for her mother and her 11 children after her husband was killed by bandits five years ago in Funtua, Katsina State.
“Two of the children are taking care of my mother who has been bedridden as a result of the injury she sustained during the attack in which my husband was murdered. Three are with my in-laws and I have the remaining six with me. So, the little money we get from begging, I send it home for them to feed as well,” Zainab said.
As harrowing as their stories are, the women expressed the hope that one day, things would get better; the government would be more responsive and they would return home and be reunited with their families.
Insecurity: Terrorists, bandits are threats to 2023 poll, says Dambazzau
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Former Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau yesterday reflected on the worsening insecurity in the country, warning that terrorism and banditry may threaten next year’s general election.
He urged security agencies to intensify the war against terror and kidnapping by taking the battle to the criminals in their hideouts.
Gen. Dambazau, a former Chief of Army Staff, who delivered a paper at the yearly Public Lectures and Impact Series/Awards of the Blueprint Newspaper Limited in Abuja, lamented that terrorists were creating cells close to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
He called for the review of security strategies and reforms to combat criminality, while also warning against ethno-religious politics.
As concern mounts on insecurity, governors are expected to meet today in Abuja to deliberate on the common threat and solutions.
Yesterday, Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle signed the death penalty bill as part of measures to combat kidnappings.
In Lagos State, stakeholders who expressed worry about the security situation in the country, called for a total ban on commercial motorcycles (Okada) operators in the metropolis.
In Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodimma, who donated 10 armoured vehicles to the police, charged them to effectively maintain law and order in the state.
At the Blueprint Lecture Series to commemorate its 11th anniversary were Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, his Kogi counterpart, Yahaya Bello, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, and the Sarkin Sudan of Kontagora, Alhaji Mohammed Barrau II.
Danbazzau urged security agencies to take the war against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping to criminals, who are building their cells close to Abuja.
“Terrorists are inching closer to the seat of power. So, also the motorcycle bandits whom had almost taken control of the Abuja-Kaduna Road; and to some extent, the Abuja-Lokoja Road, and Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road.
“These roads or highways must be constantly dominated by security activities, and the terrorists and/or bandits must be pursued with adequate firepower aimed at eliminating them.
“It is clear that the violent activities of these groups are designed to make citizens uncomfortable, in addition to embarrassing and discrediting the government.
“To elicit emotions, raise tension, and influence public opinion against the government, the terrorists would normally post video of their helpless victims and/or activities.
“They extort money as ransom from family members of their victims, and sometimes they even murder their victims after payment.
“They make deliberate efforts to put the government on panic mode, leading to closure of schools, businesses, and other public activities.
“This situation will encourage their audacity. From now on, we should take fight to wherever they are, put pressure on them and make them very uncomfortable, where the opportunity avails itself, eliminate them.
“We must live our normal lives, and not allow some violent gangs to make us live miserable lives, full of uncertainties.
“As we are preparing for the 2023 elections, we are also thinking about the possibility of attacks or disruptions of the election processes by these violent groups.”
He added: “The security threats against the 2023 politics are not limited to the activities of the terror groups in the North, but also the proscribed IPOB in the southeast, which has not only been terrorizing the people of the region, especially while enforcing their illegal sit-at-home orders, but also killing and destroying properties of northerners seeking livelihood in the region.”
The former COAS, who made recommendations to address the security challenges, said the welfare of military personnel is paramount, regretting that the Police and the military are currently being overstretched right now.
He also advised the military to put their differences aside and work together as a team in tackling the security challenges.
Danbazzau said: “The reforms of the security sector in line with the current and future security challenges are inevitable, and there are no options other than to carry them out.
“The sooner we commence the process, the better. I believe that this should be the very first item on the agenda of the government coming in May 2023.
“Aside the issues or factors earlier mentioned, the reasons why these reforms are necessary are that firstly, there appears to be no synergy among the security agencies in terms of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration while carrying out their activities, rather they operate in silos with no role convergence; they hoard information; and are reluctant to share intelligence, as if they are in competition.
“Secondly, there is poor security governance, making accountability and transparency almost impossible; and thirdly, there is duplication of efforts, leading to wastages of resources.”
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Dambazau urged Nigerians not to focus on ethnicity and religion in making their choices in 2023 general elections.
He said with over 60,000 abandoned projects in Nigeria, which is estimated to cost about N12 trillion, Nigerians should be more interested in poverty reduction; food security; youth unemployment; improved power sector and others..
He defended the choice of ex-Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State as the running mate to the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
He said Shettima was a product of merit and not religious factor.
He listed factors that could influence 2023 politics, including zoning, restructuring debate, ethnicity, religion, widespread insecurity and socio-economic challenges.
Dambazau delivered a paper in Abuja at the Annual Public Lectures and Impact Series/ Awards of the Blueprint Newspapers Limited.
He expressed concerns that 2023 politics has started with the mundane issues, which have led to insecurity and instability.
He said: “It is apparent that we have started 2023 politics with the mundane issues that brought us to the level of insecurity and instability we are today.
“We have more than enough challenges or issues confronting us. Rather than directing our energy on religious or ethnic controversies, we should be more interested in such issues as poverty reduction; food security; youth unemployment; improved power sector; quality and affordable healthcare services; and improved education system.
Dambazau however, defended the choice of ex-Governor Kashim Shettima as the running mate to the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He added: “If it(religion) were, he could have picked from the Northwest, where about 90 per cent of the population is Muslim.
“When strategising for winning elections, all factors are put on the table for consideration. Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima could not be by chance. Kashim Shettima had in the past demonstrated leadership as a two-term Governor of Borno state under the stress of insurgency, violent extremism, and terrorism.”
“We are also aware that Borno state is one of the northern states that have been hard hit by the impact of Climate Change, resulting in land degradation. With the insecurity challenge in Nigeria, including climate-related conflicts, the choice of Kashim Shettima to leverage on his crisis management experience was apt.
“At the level of personal relationship, it is an open secret that Shettima had shown loyalty and support for the presidential aspiration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. “While it is not expected that everyone agrees with such strategic decisions, no one can also deny the candidate his right to make his choice, of course, after due consultations with party stakeholders, and this is applicable to all our fifteen or so candidates.”
Dambazau listed issues that may shape 2023 politics, especially the presidential race by 15 candidates.
He said: “So, what are the likely issues or factors that could influence the 2023 politics? Firstly, the politics of zoning the presidency between North and South, that re-emerged when the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum insisted that for the 2023 presidential elections, the parties must produce candidates from the South, to which the Northern Elders Forum opposed.
“As a matter of fact, the zoning controversy was further reduced to the level of ethnicity with the agitation of what was termed “Igbo presidency”, meaning that 2023 was the chance of the Igbo ethnic group to produce the next president after Buhari.
“The development of critical infrastructures is also a key area of concern, and although the APC government under Buhari has done remarkably well by completing many of the projects it met in 2015, in addition to new ones it originated, there are however approximately 60,000 abandoned projects in Nigeria, estimated to cost about N12 trillion. And what can we do to mitigate such waste? These are only a few critical areas the 2023 politics should focus attention on, not religion and ethnicity.”
The ex-minister said tackling insecurity should be on the front burner in 2023.
He said the security problems could affect 2023 poll because “some communities would still be displaced and the terrorists would likely continue attacks on soft targets.”
“While the government records significant success in tackling Boko Haram in the North-East, the Northwest caught the insecurity virus with several incidents of banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping for ransom. Banditry is multifaceted with a variety of events and activities, but unlike the Boko Haram insurgency, which is ideologically driven hoping to establish a state, the bandits have not shown such territorial ambition.
“It is a complex combination of violent business entrepreneurship through kidnapping for ransom, cattle rustling by the criminal gangs, and attacks on rural settlements.”
Dambazau said the nation must address its population explosion, especially what he described as the “youth bulge.”
“The UN had projected that by 2050 the population would double to a little over 400million which also means that the young population would also double. The extent to which this human capital is developed, and its well-being adequately taken care of, is of utmost importance. The youth bulge is a matter of serious security concern now and in the future. What are our plans for the youth? This is a relevant question for 2023 politics.
“If we do not have positive plans for them in terms of poverty reduction, accessible and quality education, employment opportunities, skills acquisition, healthcare services, shelter, and other aspects of human development, there are readily available criminal and terror organizations that would easily recruit them for their violent activities.”
Buni said: “The theme “2023 Politics, National Security and Nigeria’s Stability” is very apt in view of the security threats that usually accompany National elections and the already existing security challenges that have bedeviled our nation.
“The success or otherwise of the 2023 elections hugely depends on us the politicians, the political parties, candidates and their supporters, and of course, the political umpire the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“The need for peace to conduct the elections and to have good governance and development cannot be overemphasized. It, therefore, becomes obvious for all of us to make sacrifices and consider national interests above personal interests for a free and peaceful election in 2023.
“As patriots, with the zeal to ensure the unity of Nigeria, there is no election or interest of any single individual that is worth sending Nigeria to war.”
Appeal Court frees Kano singer sentenced to death by Sharia ruling
The Court of Appeal in Kano State, on Wednesday, discharged and acquitted 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif Aminu sentenced to death by a Sharia court over alleged blasphemy.
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Umar, in his ruling said: “Section 38 of 1999 Constitution provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief.
“This is the judgment of the court, the appellant is discharged and acquitted,” Umar declared.
The Sharia Court had sentenced the musician to death by hanging for blasphemy.
The 22-year-old was convicted based on Section 382 (b) of Kano penal code of 2000 after he was accused of committing blasphemy against the Prophet in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020.
‘We had turned them back’, Lagos beach reacts to drowning of four teenagers
The management of the Elegushi Beach in Lagos State has reacted to the drowning of four teenagers who went swimming to celebrate their external examination success at the beach on Tuesday.
Chief Ayuba Elegushi, while speaking on behalf of the beach management, said in a statement made available to newsmen that the incident occurred at an unmanned section of the beach area, which was not open to the public.
According to him, about 10 teenage boys visited the beach on Tuesday morning to celebrate the success of their West African Examination Council (WAEC) results.
He said while the beach authorities and security team had turned them back, the boys took a detour and went to an unmanned section of the beach area to swim.
He said unfortunately, about 10 of them were almost drowning before the beach security was alerted to the scene and six of them were rescued alive while four were not that lucky.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, confirmed the incident, adding that investigation was ongoing.
He said, “The teenagers were from Kuramo Senior College, Lekki. Four of them are missing. They are two males and two females. Efforts are on to recover their bodies. We have yet to meet with the parents of the victims.”
Elegushi said, “We initially sent them away from the area of the beach they wanted to swim in. Then, they went to another place that was not for the public at all. It was the child of our kinsman, Abass, who took them from school to the beach and those kids followed him.
“They did not pay any gate fee to access the beach. Abass used the leverage that he was one of us to take them through another place.”
The victims were said to have raised the alarm as the water swept them away.
Elegushi said some life guards plunged into the water and brought out six of the pupils.
“Out of the six that were rescued, some escaped by the time we got there. We were able to arrest two of them and we took them to the Jakande Police Station.
“As of now, there are still four missing as our seamen have not been able to bring them out of the water. We have informed their parents and they have come to the police station.
“Abass is one of the missing kids. There is another boy we have not identified with two other girls,” he added.
He said the arrested two boys told the police that they were chased from the beach before sneaking into the restricted section to swim.
He said, “They wrote in their statements that they were chased from the first section they went to. Abass told them that they should not worry and he would take them to another part of the beach. He took them to another end of the beach where no one could see them.”
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