DISPLACED: A STATE OF EMERGENCY
Bekeme Masade-Olowola (Host): Hi guys, this is Bekeme on the Good Citizen Radio Show, you know what we do. We bring you real life stories from across Nigeria we want to talk about leadership and how us as Nigerians can become better leaders. The show is brought to you by CSR-in-Action the one and only and is funded by act foundation aka ACT Foundation which is a grant making organisation established in 2016 to support non-profits working in the areas of health, environment, entrepreneurship and leadership and this is why we organise the Good Citizen Radio Show, this is why we have these conversations around real life people and real life situations and how we can address them how you and I can address them. So today, I have on the show a very special guest you know how I go around. I am constantly looking for people. It is not about the fancy people; it is not about leaders in the leadership positions is about the everyday Nigeria. As you know, the past few weeks, we have been talking about the challenges that we have had with metering, and we have had to have conversations with NERC and we have come to resolution for some of the people who reached out to us. But we are still working on policy changes and all of that, because it is not just about being a top fat, it’s about making things happen. So, in recent times, I have had all sorts of information sent to me, I have an auntie, for instance, who makes it her business to send me all sorts of forwarded WhatsApp messages. If you have somebody from the north living in your house, please send them away because they are about to bomb Lagos. Okay, so I keep on hearing that on the WhatsApp platforms that I am on, I keep on hearing all sorts of conversations. Added to that is the turmoil that has been hard in the north. To many of us here in Lagos, it feels like Make something that is far away. It feels like it is a movie sounds like a movie. And that is why at some point we started that displaced series at CSR-in-Action’s Good Citizen initiative because we wanted to talk about people that have been displaced by the activities of terrorists, primarily Boko Haram in the north. We have also heard a lot in recent times about some killer herdsmen but, the truth is, you know, who are these people? Is everybody up north then part of this conspiracy to destroy Nigeria? I do not think that is the case. And so, we have today, a young lady who I happened upon, and I thought I heard her story and I thought you need to tell us the story. We need to expound on it. Um, her name is Ramatu Tolba and I am glad to have her on the show.
Bekeme: Hello, Ramatu.
Bekeme: Okay, so tell us about yourself.
Ramatu: My name is Ramatu maigery, I am from Adamawa state, I was born and brought up in Abuja, I came from a polygamous family.
Bekeme: Okay, so we started talking today and I listened to your story I was asking you questions. Where did you get educated? Where did you? Where were you educated?
Ramatu: FGGC Federal Government girls College Yola.
Bekeme: Federal Government girls College Yola. Okay, and then from there what happened next?
Ramatu: from there we happened to get, actually I am a twin, So, we happen to get into University of Maiduguri.
Bekeme: So, before you go there so let us come back a little bit, right? You say that you are from Adamawa your father is from Adam or Where is your mother from?
Ramatu: Gombe state.
Bekeme: Your mother is from Gombe state. And you are from a polygamous home, is everybody in Abuja?
Ramatu: No, not Everybody.
Bekeme: Is your father in Abuja.
Ramatu: Not in Abuja now. So, he works in Adamawa.
Bekeme: Okay, and what is he? Is he Fulani? Is he?
Ramatu: yes, he is Fulani by tribe.
Bekeme: Your father is Fulani, but what does he do?
Ramatu: He is a lecturer, but he resigned now to join politics.
Bekeme: Okay, so he has been in politics, and he or rather has been a lecturer and now he is a politician. Okay. He does not have any cattle that he is herding.
Bekeme: so, he has some cattle. Okay. So, he has cattle that he tends but he has something else that he does, right? He has a job that pays. So, who tends his cattle for him?
Ramatu: Actually, he pays some people to look after the cattle because his children, Let us say we are educated and I do not think they even got the wish to look after the cattle’s so, he pays money for them to do it for him and also some of our relatives that are still in the bush, they are not Christian, they are not Muslim, you know Fulani things.
Bekeme: So, not all Fulani’s are Muslims. So, what are they?
Ramatu: They do not go to church. They do not go to mosque. They do not pray.
Bekeme: Oh, are you serious? All right, So, that is another myth debunked. So, not all Fulani are Muslims, so some of them are just free roaming. They don not necessarily affiliate to any religion. Do they have traditional religions, or do they have any way of worship?
Ramatu: Oh, I do not think so. Because my dad did not teach us anything about religion. may be Fulani has a special religion that they worship or practice. you may be a Muslim or a Christian or a pagan like that.
Bekeme: Yes. Right. So, these people who tend your father’s cattle, do they have any level of education?
Ramatu: No, they are not educated.
Bekeme: Not at all. So, from the young to the adults and this is all they do, do they work solely for your father?
Ramatu: Yeah, the work he paid them. working for him.
Bekeme: Only for him or do they work for other people as well?
Ramatu: They also have other people and they have their own Cattles too but it is not that much so they think they can join them with orders and take care of so they can get more income.
Bekeme: So, is this a ranch or they roam with your father’s cattle and other people’s cattle. so, growing up were there any challenges with these people in terms of what we are seeing now in the north in terms of, you know, indiscriminate killings or ransacking People’s towns. Did you ever have any of these challenges with the people who looked after your father’s cattle?
Ramatu: No. Actually, because I do not go to where they stay.
Bekeme: you have never heard it.
Ramatu: They do have issues but not with us actually. It maybe between them that are rearing the cattle or with some other people like farmers.
Bekeme: right? So, they have always intruded in Farmers land.
Bekeme: Because they do not have land that they look after their cattle. Okay. And so, your father is Fulani, amongst the Fulani, any particular tribe?
Ramatu: Just Fulani.
Bekeme: Just Fulani. so, in Adamawa state Where is he from exactly?
Ramatu: Adamawa state, Lamurde local government.
Bekeme: what local government?
Bekeme: Lamurde local government. And the language that the speak is what?
Ramatu: We have some minor tribe they speak but the major is Hausa. Because Adamawa normally is register with Fulani. Anytime you say you are from Adamawa; they will always say you are Fulani. They speak some other languages, not just Hausa or Fulani.
Bekeme: So, your father’s language is Fulani?
Bekeme: Okay. Okay. So, let us come back. So, your father is what is he? Does he have any religion?
Ramatu: Yes. Yes. Christian he is a Christian. Okay.
Bekeme: And so, your family is a Christian?
Ramatu: Most of my family members, now are Christian, right. I will not say all because some are still in the bush. So, it is not all.
Bekeme: okay. So, in case you are wondering, it does not matter what religion he is that is not why I am having this conversation. I am just trying to put everything into context. Because we have preconceptions typically, and across the country just think, Oh, this person is from here. So, they are this, this person is this and so they are that. Okay, so I am just setting the scene now. Ramatu you see your other name is Nonya so, in case I slip.
Ramatu: the reason I am using Nonya is because it is like a twin name, just the way Yoruba use Taye and Kehinde. so, when you use Nonya and Donya, that is from my mum’s place.
Bekeme: Your mom is from Gombe? yes. So, let us go back to how you arrived here. You said that after secondary school, I mean, what was your focus? The art sciences, social sciences?
Ramatu: I am an art student. Right. After my secondary school.
Bekeme: What were your best subjects?
Ramatu: my best subjects was literature.
Bekeme: Your best subject was literature. Why did you like literature?
Ramatu: Because I love everything that has to do with stories drama, and I love reading a lot. So that is why I go for it.
Bekeme: Okay, so what happened next after you finish school?
Ramatu: After secondary school, it happens to be that me in particular my result is not that good but my other sister’s result is good, and I do not want her to go and leave me so, we have to I don’t know how they did it because my dad then he was a lecturer soon. We got it, I think through connection, something like that. I am doing result awaiting, in my year two second semester, we had this encounter of Boko Haram stuff that was how it started.
Bekeme: What do you mean encounter? what really happened? what were you studying?
Ramatu: I was studying Law.
Bekeme: Okay, and your sister?
Ramatu: The same course.
Bekeme: two of you were studying law?
Ramatu: yes. I think that time it was around 2am, they now called the school authority that they should open the students to run out.
Bekeme: who called the school authority?
Ramatu: I do not know that is the information we have after the incident because we are in the school, so we do not know what is happening.
Bekeme: This school was the University of Maiduguri you say?
Ramatu: so, students were asked to run away. That was 2015. Everybody now begin we started running because it was in the night. There is nothing we can do. Everybody was just running.
Bekeme: Around what time?
Bekeme: Okay, so, somebody just came and started shouting.
Ramatu: No, we have been hearing the sound because then there was this Boko Haram stuff very much in Maiduguri, they always throw bombs like that, even students do not go out.
Bekeme: they put bomb where? around the school?
Ramatu: Yes, Plus, even if it is not close to the school but you will be hearing the sound they used to threaten people, they will write letter that they are coming to the school to come and bomb the students. So, people we are scared the securities they are scared instead of them to loose everybody, they thought is a good idea to open the gate for everybody to run away so that at least even if you are going to die not all of us will die. so, that was the idea they had. so, we now ran away running away at the process we entered the bush, we do not know our way back because inside the bush, that was how we got separated everybody was running.
Bekeme: You ran out with your sister. Yes. What were you wearing?
Ramatu some people were wearing pyjamas, I was wearing one red gown like that actually. She was wearing one shorts and a singlet. So, we are just running up and down. Our phone got off. We cannot communicate because even inside the bush there was no network so, maybe at the process of running you meet some people also running, then you join them because you do not know where they are going to, you too you do not know where you are going to. you are just running. so, at the process of running, we now enter their hand because we do not know we thought they were Soldiers, they were wearing all these Army cloth so we are thinking they were Army, we were thinking they will help us.
After we got there, we now found out. you know they will not show you that they are Boko Haram because we do not know that yes, it was when we got into their place, they now captured us, they gathered.
Bekeme: What do you mean their place? In the bush you ran a group of people like an encampment.
Ramatu: They have camp. Not one place, not two places, they have camps like just the way armies used to camp, that is how they camp too. So, we went we run up that we run into them they now captured, some of us, some of us happened to run away and are among the people ran away.
Bekeme: Did you see them yourself?
Ramatu: we are actually in their midst but, when the soldiers are following us in the bush too because they have told them that students have ran into the bush, they should enter so that maybe they will rescue them so, right when they are like exchanging like they we are shooting.
Bekeme: exchanging gunfire right are you in the midst of this?
Ramatu: Yes, we are running up and down we do not know the bullet may even shoot you because at the process of running they would not know, they will just shoot you. Even the soldiers can shoot you, so we were just running. So, from there when they were confused we started running, so I do not know where my sister ran into me I just find my way, we were just running, we thank God we got to one on boarder, one Cameroon boarder like this, those soldiers from Cameroon site now took us to a port one where they camp themselves.
Bekeme: How many of you?
Ramatu: We were many, it was not just one person.
Bekeme: that ended And that camp at that time?
Ramatu: In the camp, it was not actually the students because there were also some people also from town we are running away.
Bekeme: Yes. So, you when you arrived, like how many people were there with you?
Ramatu: The only student I remembered Ruth. I remember Yoruba guy they call him. I used to call him Ade but it is Adegbemi or something like that. We used to call him Boko Haram.
Ramatu: Because after the thing you now see that he wants to become Boko Haram, because they actually they killed his friend.
Bekeme: Hmm, So, he was like, since they have killed his friend, he might as well join them.
Ramatu: Yes. So, we started calling him Boko Haram. And the girl, the other Igbo girl Ruth, she is a little bit chubby so, I think, before we even came out of that boarder, she was late.
Bekeme: So, when you were running, you remembered the people who were running with you at that point. But you knew that at some point you are left with Ade and Ruth.
Ramatu: Yeah, because they are my fellow students.
Bekeme: Okay, so, hold that thought and we will go on a short break on the good citizen radio show. We will be right back.
Okay, we are back on The Good Citizen Radio Show. I have had Ramatu Noya Tolba, talking to me about her experience with Boko Haram. And how she ended up in Lagos. She was just telling us before we went on the break, about how they were running through the bushes at Maiduguri, where she was temporarily a student at the University of Maiduguri reading law. So, Noya, you are telling us that you remember running with some friends and then by the time you ended up at this camp on the Cameroonian side, the one person that you remember being with Was Ade because Ruth the other girl did not make it because she was slightly bigger and you thought maybe she had gotten tired and then you have not ever seen or heard of her till today.
Ramatu: they took her corpse, those Army from the boarder.
Bekeme: you saw it?
Ramatu: they took her corpse, those Army from the boarder.
Bekeme: so, you saw it?
Ramatu: Yes. It is actually not far from where the camp is.
Bekeme: Was she shot at?
Ramatu: she was not shot; I do not know what actually happened she just fell and died. Is not that somebody told you is in my present like this because we are together. Sometimes you feel like she cannot run again, we will be dragging her because she is a little bit chubby.
Bekeme: So, how many hours you think you ran for?
Ramatu: I do not know is too much because at night and daytime you keep running, Yes. You can stay now because they may come to you and kill you for nothing so, just be running.
Bekeme: It must have been hours. so, like you think you ran from day to night out? You know, you started about 2am.
Ramatu: Yeah, I was in the bush for like a month and a week. During this ordeal, yes, I mean, and for good one week, no food, no water. For good one week.
Bekeme: This was before you met the Cameroonian Soldier.
Ramatu: Yes. Because we do not know our way out, it is just a forest, you do not know where to go, you will be thinking maybe thinking maybe at the process of going like this you meet them, so, we were just confused. And I was thinking about how I am going to see my sister because there is no phone to communicate nothing. I was not even in my sense when they told me that my sister died.
Bekeme: How did they find your sister? so, your sister died. So, but how would it because you were running all up and I am so sorry to hear that this was your twin sister. You went to school and that was the end. One day this happens, and you lose your sister. That is, you know, that is the saddest thing. And then you get to see how corpse.
Ramatu: I am just saying I saw her corpse but I did not actually see her corpse because when we are rescued, the government asked that we be taken to the hospital, because some of us are having because of the gunshot and the sound of the bomb, some of them some of us are being mental. I do not know how to put it right. They are mentally affected. So, even if you do not have, they have to take you for a checkup, yes. You spend like two months, three months in the hospital.
Bekeme: Where was this hospital?
Ramatu: Mine was Gombe state because my mom was, she was just crying that she cannot allow somebody to take care of me, so I was taken to Gombe state.
Bekeme: so, your sister, you do not know.
Ramatu: The only thing I know about her is after that two months when I came out of the hospital, they now they do not even want to tell me about it.
Bekeme: Did anybody see her corpse?
Ramatu: Yeah, it is my dad, my mom, everybody saw it. They were give the corpse to burry but I did not see her corpse. only saw where they buried her in my mom’s house. that is our maternal home. Because my mom was married in Taraba state, she was not in Gombe State. So, that was how I saw my sister. I actually did not see her corpse, the last time I saw her was when we are running and when we got into their hands, everybody was screaming.
Bekeme: So, when you ran into them everybody now dispersed, we try to escape.
Ramatu: Especially when we saw those soldiers at the back because we do know that they were soldiers, we are just running away from them. when we started hearing it the sound of the gun we then noticed they were soldiers, because soldiers do not wear uniform in the bush because they will not be caught because even the Boko Haram are wearing the camouflage. so, they do not wear uniforms, but they wear somethings like Bangles to identify themselves, but we do not know so, that is how we keep running. that was the last time I saw her.
Bekeme: Oh, so sorry and then you were in the hospital but you were how do I say this, You were alive throughout your conscious throughout you did not faint at any points or anything.
Ramatu: I did not faint; I know I had body stress. sometimes I do not at some point, I do not remember anything. I will just be looking like a doll, if you ask me anything, I will just be looking at you, so, we had to be taken to the hospital for checkup and some treatment. That is how it happened.
Bekeme: So, do you suffer Do you think from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD, so, it is when you know you keep on having flashbacks of some of these things this is it is about five years now.
Ramatu: Yes, But the memory today is not that easy. That is why I do not really like going to the north, like 5 years now.
Bekeme: So, did you come to Lagos straight after this?
Ramatu: That was 2016 my aunt took me to Lagos. Because I do not, even use to go out then, I was scared, So, I do not go out, the only thing they could do was to bring me to Legos, she told me a lot of things that in Lagos there is no Boko Haram a lot of things like that. It is not easy for me but, I started to and I am getting through it, it is not that easy but I knew that I am not the only one, my own is not even that very bad like from other people you wake up one day you will not have family, you will Just be roaming about only you, no family You do not even know anything about your family, like the kids, I am talking about the kids.
Bekeme: Young children, you know, Boko Haram can just ransack their villages and then it is just children left. Yeah. Do you think that you face any sort of, what do you think about? I mean now that you are in Lagos, do you hear things that people say that you consider untrue about you who you are as being a Fulani? Do people know that your Fulani from the north, how has it been so far? You know, with different other tribes.
Ramatu: You know, people everybody have the way they define people. when you tell them the part of the country or city you are from, they begin to call you Boko Haram, but I do not take it as anything. The reason why they are seen like that is because of the Boko Haram issues our heart has been hardened like the northern part, but you can do it. Like me, sometime, you feel like when you are angry you feel like killing somebody. So, they will be thinking because they capture you, the Boko haram gives certain training that even if you release them, they do become problem to the society, because they will start killing just like that is where the problem is coming from so, if they say you have your Boko Haram because you are from North sometimes I do not blame them but not everybody that is Boko Haram because even both the Christians and Muslims, nobody is safe in the north. They can kill anyone; they do not care.
Bekeme: so, do you think that has affected your behaviour and your thoughts about Nigeria? What do you think? Do you see yourself as a Nigerian Do you think that you know what, what do you think? What do you think your opportunities are in Nigeria for you? Do you think that it has been fair you and what are your aspirations?
Ramatu: Let me see sometimes it is destined to happen. Nigeria is my country but we the experience I had, I think the government supposed to do something that people that have such experience, take care of them in the way that they will be having that kind of psychological illness.
One and secondly, there are people like me that they are being captured and they are being released. We just give them some treatment and let them go. But in some years to come, the thing will start affecting them when captured by Boko Haram and released Yes. And also, do be like even where they are working, they will be having problem with people, people will not know that is something that is disturbing them that is causing all this thing. I think the government should do something to help those people, a lot of people do not have village now. Because you will see that they have burnt, kill everybody in the village, you run alone to the city. So, you will be having that kind of life.
Bekeme: psychological trauma and you think that it is not addressed, we will just kidding having all these kinds of people loose in society.
Ramatu: And the doctors after a treatment, they will discharge everybody. without knowing that those people are going to become a problem to the society. The reason I am saying is because my other friends that we have been treated together, some of them are now let me say they have ran mad now, and some of them use to have up issues in their workplace because I have their contact.
Bekeme: okay, but you do not you have somehow managed to adjust.
Ramatu: That is because I think they do not have the families do not care; those kinds of people need love.
Bekeme: So, family support is also needed in helping people.
Ramatu: They do not care enough. you know people now.
Bekeme: Yeah, okay, totally understand and you have been listening to Ramatu Nonya Tolba. Talk about her experience of Boko Haram experience in Maiduguri, and you have heard her, there really is a lot to be done in providing psychosocial support and families play a critical role but in a situation where there is no family, what then happens? Government whoever is listening anywhere, this is something that needs to be addressed. If you are a Nigerian anywhere who keeps on thinking, oh, they are from the north, they are Boko Haram. Please have another think. There are human beings that are going through intense challenges, and this situation in the North has to be curbed in other that there is no further implosion. You have been listening to Bekeme on The Good Citizen Radio Show. I would be happy to hear from you in our comments section on our social media. handles @goodcitizenng on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. So, please come at us and give us your thoughts. Have a great, great Friday and I look forward to having this same conversation with another subject with another individual next week Friday, have a blessed week. Bye bye. Remember the show is brought to you by CSR-in-action and is funded kindly by actfoundation. Have a great, great weekend and talk to you again next week. Bye bye.