By Frank Garriba in Abuja, Nigeria
Musa Salihu 32, looks unkempt, has not eaten the whole day and appears to have been crying by the time I meet him late in the day. I can still see the dried tears on his cheeks.
I met him in Garki Village, a predominately Muslim and business district in Abuja, the federal capital. He is wearing a Barcelona team jersey and blue jeans and is surrounded by a handful of his Muslim friends. He tells me he was not only lucky to be alive but also to have a room over his head in Abuja; he lives with four other friends in a one-room makeshift house in Garki Village. He dropped out of school early in life and was a butcher at the time of the military raids in Baga last month.
“The state of emergency came a little late for my family,” Musa tells me with a sigh. “My father, mother, brother and sister were killed and have been buried for some time now…I wish they were alive to see another president declare another state of emergency,” he adds.
He was referring to the state of emergency President Goodluck Jonathan declared on Tuesday, May 14 in the semi desert states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe in an all-out attempt to flush out and defeat the violent Islamist militants now blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians since they began their armed insurrection in Maiduguri in 2002. Their set aim is to defeat the government and set up an Islamist state.
Musa is one of thousands of other Muslims who fled from Borno State in Northern Nigeria following another confrontation between armed troops and Boko Haram. His story illustrates the life changing havoc the Boko Haram uprising has caused to the lives of thousands of innocent Nigerian civilians since they began their bombings and killings. His junior brother, Salihu Mustapha, was a secondary school student at the time of his death. His junior sister, Hadiza Fatima, was only 17 and about to marry when Boko Haram militants killed her.
His parents, Salihu Mailafiya and Salihu Madina, were poor peasants who just managed to feed their family of three children. Musa does not even know where his entire family was buried following their deaths during the Baga raids. He only managed to escape through his wits and weeks later, does not understand why his family was butchered by the militants who accused his father of not “cooperating” with them.
As far as he knows, his parents had no enemies and had never harmed anybody.
Musa now has shelter over his head because of the kindness of his friend, Saidu Sale. Also born in Maiduguri and now in his early 30’s, Saidu is well built and fresh-faced. He re-located to Abuja years ago and tells me he decided to help his friend when he heard about the tragedy that wiped out his siblings and parents. Though he says by declaring a state of emergency, President Goodluck Jonathan could hopefully end the carnage, he is worried the army might violate the rights of ordinary civilians who had nothing to do with the crisis as was the case in Baga.
“I wish Allah gives these army officers the heart to know they are dealing with human beings and not animals,” he tells me.
According to the Nigerian army spokesman, Brig Gen Chris Olukolade, the military will use every available means to finish off Boko Haram once and for all and this could include using helicopter gunships. For the first time, the Nigeria army accepted Boko Haram had seized some areas in Northern Nigeria.
The Nigerian army has not given any time-scale on how long they will need to defeat Boko Haram. The army is aware it is very difficult to defeat them in urban areas like Maiduguri where they simply disappear inside the civilian populations and bid their time till the military leaves and they start their atrocities all over again.
Whatever happens, Musa will never see his family again. The damage the Boko Haram uprising has done will remain with him for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Nigeria and Cameroon have agreed to strengthen cooperation and collaboration on trans-border security.
In the aftermath of the declaration of a state of emergency in the North Eastern states of Nigeria, which share borders with Cameroon, Nigerian President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, met with Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister, Mr Ahmadou Ali, who brought a special message to the Nigerian State House, Aso Rock, yesterday, May 16, 2013.
The special message from President Paul Biya included an invitation to his Nigerian counterpart to attend a summit on security and maritime safety in the Gulf of Guinea to be hosted by Cameroon.
“As criminality and terrorism have risen globally, it is important for countries to cooperate maximally, in order to protect citizens,” Jonathan stated.
President Jonathan briefed the Cameroonian Vice Prime Minister about the state of emergency he declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states of his country, and assured the special envoy that Nigeria would work with her neighbours to ensure security in the sub-region.
He requested Mr Ali to convey Nigeria’s appreciation to President Biya for the warm relations between the two countries.