boundaries, whether in times of peace or conflict, as demonstrated by
couples who found their spouses in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)
camps in Nigeria, ARUKAINO UMUKORO writes.
was hoping to find in an Internally Displaced Persons camp was love.
Last year, the extremist group, Boko Haram, had launched an attack on
Isa’s village in Borno State, forcing her and tens of other villagers to
flee into the mountains. But when Cupid’s arrow sought her at the IDP
camp in Malkohi, in the heart of Yola, Adamawa State capital, there was
no place to hide.
25-year-old Ibrahim Musa, a volunteer security guard at the camp, just
after the customary Muslim Friday prayers. For Musa, it was love at
volunteer at the IDP camp here. I help the military to open the gate and
take note of people who come in. On one of those days, I saw Fatima for
the first time and I felt excitement because she was beautiful to look
at. So, I approached her and I told her my feelings.
said I was not playing around because I had fallen in love with her. She
then asked why I was interested in her. I said that was how God
destined it. She said since I was interested in her, I should ask my
family members within the camp to approach her family and ask for her
is a rocky border town in Borno which is famous, within security
circles, for hosting the elite police academy where mobile policemen are
trained. But since the Boko Haram crises began, it has suffered several
attacks from the violent sect.
Isa’s first marriage ended abruptly. During the attack, she fled to the
mountains in terror. Her husband of two years, Adamu, was not so lucky.
He was killed by the insurgents. So for Isa, love and marriage held
persistent overtures, put her past aside and decided to love again.
According to her, Musa’s concern for her emotional welfare was crucial
to her decision to marry him.
husband and how he was killed by Boko Haram. He was there to comfort me.
We both shared our stories of how we managed to escape from Gwoza. Our
stories brought us closer.
that he can be a responsible man. I also like his faith and he showed
that he can handle responsibility,” a smiling Isa told our correspondent
one afternoon at the IDP camp.
which was conducted by an Islamic teacher at the camp, the couple say
life has taken a better turn.
rent an apartment outside the camp; that is why we are staying here
together. But some day, I would like to return to Gwoza. I’m looking
forward to raising a home with him outside the camp. The number of
children we would have depends on God,” she said, adding playfully that
she felt a bit jealous when he looked at other women in the camp.
had seen other women here at the IDP camp before I took interest in
her, from the first day I saw her, I knew she was the one I would marry.
For me, she was the most beautiful and pleasing among them. Nothing has
changed. It is God’s will. I hope we can spend more time together in
the future as husband and wife.”
like knitting, while Musa said he desired to go back to farming after
they return to their communities.
camp speaking to officials, social workers, clerics and displaced
persons, Cupid’s presence was unmistakable, despite the pervasive air of
despondence in the place. An official at the camp said there have been
about five official weddings at the camp in the last one year.
are one of such young couples. Solomon fled his village in Michika
Local Government Area, Adamawa, last year, in the dead of the night,
chased by a hail of bullets fired by a horde of Boko Haram fighters. The
25-year-old said he survived simply by a stroke of fate.
village in Borno State, where I lived for several weeks. Later, they
also attacked the village. If not for the grace of God, I would have
been dead long ago. Boko Haram killed many people in my village; but it
was God who saved me. I am lucky to have survived those attacks,” he
told our correspondent.
friends were not lucky. They were killed during the attacks. Solomon
said their deaths deeply affected him, so much that he wanted to give up
on living. However, in the midst of deaths and personal loss, while
fleeing to Yola, the Adamawa State capital, Solomon said he found a gift
that changed his life — love.
Boko Haram onslaught on Michika. I’ve always liked her since we were in
Michika. But it was when we were escaping that I knew that I wanted us
to be together always,” Solomon recollected.
Solomon a debt of gratitude, adding that he was a source of strength as
things got tough as they fled from danger. She said, “It was when we
were running together (that their relationship started). His constant
words of encouragement helped me not to give up. One of those days, he
told me to keep running and not look back; he said we should stay
Faisal Musa and wife, Fatima
long. There was yet another attack and in the midst of the crisis, they
lost contact. Solomon found his way to an Internally Displaced Persons
camp in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. He had lost Deborah. But he
held on hoping that they would meet again.
set in 1757 during the French and Indian war, where one of the
characters said to his lover, “I will find you, no matter how long it
will take, no matter how far,” Solomon never gave up hope of finding the
love of his life. “I was determined not to lose her. So, I went in
search of her,” he said.
phone call from Deborah’s parents, informing him of their daughter’s
safety, and giving him the address of the place she was staying with her
aunt. “They had my telephone number before the attack but they could
not reach me immediately because there was no network connection then,”
Deborah recalled, “When I heard he was also in Yola, I was so happy.
When I finally saw him, I was happy. I told him I was not going to stay
with my aunt anymore, that I would go back to the IDP camp with him; I
did not want anything to separate us again, no matter what, I wanted to
be by his side.”
knew he did not want to wait a day longer to marry her. He said, “Life
was harder without her. I missed her so much.”
year, the love-struck couple were joined as husband and wife by a
reverend father. They now have a beautiful eight-month-old daughter
named Susanna and Inigiju, which in their local language means, “She
belongs to God.”
I would have been long dead, if not for God’s grace. That is why I gave
my daughter that name,” Deborah explained happily.
village, Banki, in Bama Local Government Area, Bukar said he and many
others luckily escaped to Cameroon. After spending several months in
Cameroon, Bukar and others were rescued and brought by the Nigerian
military to the IDP camp in Yola.
the couple never knew each other until they met at the IDP camp, Yola.
Then love happened.
love with him too, but as a woman, I could not tell him directly. So,
when he came to me to tell me how he felt about me, I was happy,” Abba
said. As she spoke, she kept looking at Musa, before breaking the
narrative at a point to throw her right arm over her husband’s shoulder.
first day, but I became bold a few days later. I told her I love you
directly, and went to look for her people at the camp,” Bukar said.
the presence of an Islamic scholar, elated family members, friends and
officials at the camp.
Centre, a non-governmental humanitarian organisation, that is part of
the Norwegian Refugee Council, estimates that, as of December 31, 2015,
there were about over two million (2,152,000) IDPs from 207 Local
Government Areas in Nigeria.
1,434,149, has the highest number of IDPs, followed by Adamawa
(136,010), Yobe (131,203), Benue (85,393), Plateau (77,317), Bauchi
(70,078), Zamfara (44,929), Taraba (50,227), Nasarawa (37,553), Kaduna
(36,976), Gombe (25,332), and Kano (9,331).
figure of IDPs, 85 per cent of them were displaced as a result of Boko
Haram insurgency attacks, down from 95.3 per cent in August, 2015.
Communal clashes and natural disasters were the other factors.
that Nigeria has the third highest number of IDPs in the world, behind
Syria with 6.5 million IDPs, and Colombia with 5.7 million IDPs.
Management Agency in one of the IDP camps in Yola, Mr. Ibrahim Sumaila,
told our correspondent that a major challenge for married couples was a
place to formally conjugate their union.
enough to approach us, we find a private separate place for them. The
camp setting usually separates men and women. The men usually come to us
through the imam, one of the Muslim leaders or the chairman and we
would give them about two weeks and some form of privacy in that
location to spend enough time with their wives. After the two weeks, the
woman and the man move back to their separate locations. But majority
of them don’t come to us.”
in Yola, who did not want to be named, said some of the challenges
married couples face in the camps are the lack of health care facilities
for new-borns and pregnant women.
Most pregnant women put to bed and do not have clothes for their babies;
so many are unhealthy. Also, sometimes when cases like candida is not
treated, the man keeps re-infecting the woman, and we don’t have enough
facilities to handle such cases. You can’t blame someone for falling in
love and getting pregnant because he or she is in an IDP camp.”
conducted in the camp he oversees in the last one year. Most of the
weddings are usually conducted in the presence of a Muslim or Christian
disaster risk reduction officer, in another IDP camp in Yola, Mr. Joe
Odo. Odo who is also a NEMA official said, “We have recorded about 10
to 15 weddings since December 2015. We are regularly called upon to
settle domestic issues between the couples and advise them. Also, we
have empowerment and skill acquisition programmes which cater for about
90-95 per cent of women, so that they can be independent, even without
the support of a man.”
the IDP camps was stigmatisation. “A lot of these women especially are
looked down upon by society, because they feel they have been violated
by the insurgents. So, when they find love in the camp, it acts like a
cleanser and helps them to deal with the pain of their past,” he said.
among the couples were low mainly because they don’t face the challenges
normal couples encounter. He said, “We provide for most of their basic
needs, just like for everyone else in the camp. I’m sure if we were not
providing for them, issues might occur that are common with normal
but there have been one or two cases, but more among couples who got
married before coming to the IDP camp.”
Nnaogu, said the blossoming of love among IDP couples were proof of one
of the three sections under Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which
includes love needs, such as intimate relationships and friends.
No matter one’s occupation or circumstance or condition, everyone
desires to love and be loved. Even being in an IDP camp does not stop
people from loving or being loved, despite their prevailing situation,”
Nnaogu told our correspondent.
Peter Ogunnubi, noted that it is an adaptive nature of human beings to
want to surmount any problem despite the prevailing circumstances.
coping mechanism creates a field for love to grow, even in times of
adversities and conflict.
witnesses to insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria, the love stories
of couples at the various IDP camps in the country, seem to give
credence to what the psychiatrists said.
Madagali, another town in Adamawa, which was recently liberated by the
Nigerian military, he is overjoyed and contented with having a woman as
the love of his life.
wife, 24-year-old Fatima, to his way in the IDP camp in Yola. They had
both escaped the killing fields that was Bama and Madagali at the peak
of the insurgency in 2015, and brought to Yola by the military.
would eventually become his wife, had experienced an horrific tragedy
prior to their meeting at the IDP camp. She had witnessed the killing of
her first husband by extremists when they attacked her village in
Gwoza, Borno State. They were married for five years.
That knowledge of her past, he noted, drew him even closer to her,
because of the way she carried herself. “I was even more attracted to
her because of her courage, beauty and simplicity,” he told our
the void left by the death of her former husband. She said she
appreciated his concern for her welfare. More so, he did not act like he
was bothered that she already had four children from her previous
marriage, she said.
last year, the couple got married. Fatima said she would like to return
to her village in Gwoza when it is safe to go back, but noted that she
would go wherever her husband, Musa, goes.
would stay there or anywhere, as long as he is with me,” she told our
correspondent. The couple have a baby together, Aisha, who was delivered
in the camp. The baby has even brought more joy to their lives, and
made them closer than before, Fatima noted.
Haram when they attacked Gwoza, Amina lost her husband after he decided
to join the extremist group, a few years into their marriage.
when he said he wanted to join Boko Haram. When I got to the IDP camp, I
reported him to security agents. I dont know where he is now,” said
that rescued by the military from Boko Haram captivity in Sambisa
forest. The insurgents had attacked her village in Gwoza and killed
many, including her uncle and seven of his children. Her younger sister,
who was also captured is still missing, she said.
Chibok girls in Gwoza, when the extremists moved them from Sambisa,
while trying to escape the assaults from the army.
did not see the Chibok girls, but we met them in Gwoza, they were the
ones teaching us. I remember the name of one, Maryam Mohammed. There
were different classes, and Maryam was the one teaching us. We spent
four days in the bush before the military rescued us.”
the memory of her recent past. But the love she has found in the IDP
camp has helped her move on with life, she told SUNDAY PUNCH.
At the time our correspondent visited, her husband was not available for
comments. But she expressed joy in finding him in the camp.