OrderPaperToday – It’s been over 10 years since Boko Haram launched mayhem in the north-eastern region of Nigeria. The effects of the terrorism campaign have since begun to tell on its victims.
With dreams crushed and families uprooted from their homes, beliefs, traditions, festivals, and cultures that the displaced persons hold dear are evidently waning.
For Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in Bakassi, one of the oldest camps in Maiduguri, Borno state, they have stories to tell about how the boko haram terrorism has affected their way of living, forcing them to adapt to eccentric and alien lifestyles because as the idiom says ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune.’
They fear that their ancestral backgrounds and cultures will not be transferred to the next generation.
In the heart of the state’s capital, Maiduguri, about 20 IDPs gathered in mid-August 2020, to watch a replay of documented instances that birthed their new manner of living.
After the documentary displayed by PAGED Initiative, IDPs in retrospect took turns to narrate the impact of terrorism as it relates to their present way of living and predicament, since most arrived at the camp in 2015.
‘Aid workers making our women disrespect us’
*Saleh Ali living in Bakassi IDP camp, Borno state
Saleh Ali was displaced from Marte local government are of Borno State. He is sorely aggrieved. His wives no longer hold him in high regard because they have now welcomed a new doctrine of civilization taught by workers of international humanitarian agencies who assist them to alleviate their sufferings.
As it is the norm, back in their communities, the men are primarily the providers while the women are stay-at-home mums, taking care of the children and the home.
Torn away from their source of livelihood, and almost depending on handouts from the government, humanitarian agencies and well-meaning individuals, most men can no longer adequately provide for their families as they used to.
Left in this precarious situation, family roles have become reversed as the women are empowered through programs from the humanitarian agencies making them self-dependent to provide for the home.
As a result, the men are beginning to feel inadequate and threatened about the new positions assumed by their wives. Unfortunately, they have no choice but to support them (women) because the support provided eventually benefits the whole family.
“Before now, we go out and hustle to provide for our families while the women stay at home to take care of the house and children but now the insurgency has made everything to change. We rely on the government and others to provide for us. Since there is no market, we have nothing to give to our wives”, Ali lamented.
This sentiment is accentuated by the fact that a lot of empowerment programmes for the displaced persons are mainly focused on women. It appears to be causing discord between couples and in extreme cases, has led to divorce.
“We also cannot control our wives. Now, our women look down on us because aid workers have prioritized them over us (men). In the case of divorce, the man leaves the tent for the woman. In a normal circumstance, the woman leaves the house because it is his house but in the camp, the whites (foreign workers) make the men leave the tent.
“Because of this problem, our women are rude and shout at us. They do not follow our rules anymore. If there are incentives, women are given and men are neglected”, he said.
Fati Modu from Balwa in Konduga local government area of the state, also living in Bakassi, affirmed that dispute is beginning to thrive among couples in the camp because the men are no longer breadwinners.
“If your husband does not have what are you going to do? If he has and he gives you food and everything how can you disrespect him? You can’t. But he does not have it because he has no place to find it. That is what is making men and women fight”, the 50-year-old widow said.
“If the person is strong she can do it (business) by herself. Even if you ask and your husband does not give you, you can do business and make your money. We sell groundnut, cake, and fry things for sale. We don’t just sit like that. The man finds and we (women) also find our own.”
‘Children becoming disobedient’
The women’s presumed ‘disrespect’ is not the only concern. Their children are perceived to be also becoming defiant and disobedient. They get away with these misconducts because the aid workers intervene when they are about to be disciplined by their parents, Ali explained.
“Nowadays, aid workers are teaching our children strange cultures. For instance, we cannot stop our children from doing anything wrong or guide them because human rights organisations will intervene and tell them that it is the children’s right to be free and do what they want.
“There was a time we were building a school structure and the children were tampering with some building items. We tried stopping the children but the whites (foreign aid workers) cautioned us to leave the children alone. But for me, I discipline my children. I don’t allow them to go out at night.”
It saddens him that nothing can be done about these issues because they live in a place that does not belong to them.
While family disputes have become worrisome, Muhammad Abdullahi, a Lecturer with the Department of Public Administration at the University of Maiduguri, explained that aid workers concentrate on the women because they adequately manage resources given to them better than men.
“They (men) don’t manage the resources efficiently. Sometimes they take part in the provisions to do other things with it but if you give it to a woman, she makes sure that the children do not stay hungry, by extension the family entirely”, he said.
It was learned that the aid workers give women financial benefits through vouchers depending on the amount of children they cater for in the family, making unmarried women with such welfare more sought after by the men.
Abudllahi said: “There is also an issue where the women are given cards or vouchers instead of men. In a situation where the woman has that, it gives her more respect or recognition from other men especially if she is unmarried. If you are not married and you have that card, you have the upper hand of getting a husband.
“In other instances, you end up marrying a woman who does not have her source of income and ends up relying on the men. In the beginning, it was a problem, but in places like Monguno, where women who have these cards are more loved by men even if her original husband divorces her. The difficulty that people run from in the past, is what they now want not directly but at least the financial autonomy.”
While some of the men in the camp complain about these changes, others have accepted it because it affords daily feeding provisions for the family.
“You will be surprised that people are not even complaining about it simply because they are hungry. The problem at hand is beyond cultural provision. One has to look for what to eat first before you get to other aspects”, the academician explained.
He advised that the men be sensitized and made to understand that financial empowerment of a woman should not be viewed as a problem but to a means to an end to cater for the household.
Also, traditional institutions such as ‘Bulamas’ (traditional ward heads) in the camp, should serve as an instructional figures to educate the men, he added.
‘Practices and cultures are eroding’
The conservative lifestyle of northerners appears to be wearing thin as both genders in the camp are faced with odd situations and are forced to adapt to their current realities.
Customarily, women do not go out without the permission of their husbands. They are mandated to be fully clad and they do not share toilets with the men. These practices no longer hold.
Ali explained: “In the IDP camps, we don’t practice our culture. In our village, women do not go out without the permission of their husbands but now they move around without permission. We can’t stop them because whatever she is going for, will benefit the family.
“In the camp, there is no privacy only if you build a fence around your tent. But people can hardly fence because they do not have the capability so the tent will be widely open and people can see all that is going on inside.
“The women are no longer shy. They remove their clothes and wrappers openly even when people can see them. In our village, the culture does not allow women and men to go to the toilet at the same time but in the IDP camp, we have no choice than to go at the same time and in the same place.”
Annual festivals celebrated in their communities are no longer practiced leaving the children to rely on video recordings of events from previous years.
One of such festivals is from the Kanuris and is attended by notable persons in the northeast where they spend the whole night reciting the Quran and praying for the nation.
Similarly, Dikwa and Marte Development Association (DDA and MDA) holds every year with a lot of people in attendance from Tchad, Cameroun, and Niger.
“Our children no longer have interest in the celebrations because of the insurgency so we don’t practice it anymore. But we have video clips of the festivals so we show them. The culture that our children got from the IDP camp is bad. We are trying to advise our children not to adopt it”, Ali stated.
*Gideon Danja, Music Producer
With respect to these cultural celebrations, a music producer, Gideon Danja, is working on a research project to archive sounds of musical performances for sustainability and cultural education.
“We are looking at how we can bring in technology to record some of these unadulterated traditional musical performances. So that when normalcy returns back, they will have something to hold unto that can help to portray what happened back then- just to preserve the past and present culture using sound archiving to promote the sustainability of indigenous performances”, he said.
This, he noted will be done by having sessions with musicians from the communities and camps, recording with digital equipment, then the sounds will be uploaded online with a description of the entire production.
For displaced persons, who lack access to the internet, Danja said the sounds will be sent to radio stations for them to be aired and given to educated persons in the camp who will help with passing the information to the next generation to promote cultural education.
“As music producers, we would like to use some of these performances and incorporate them into modern singing. A popular artist can then add some modern touches to it and then we can promote it. The artist will give credit to the community in which the sound was gotten from so that people will know where the sound was sourced”, he added.
Asides seeking to return to peaceful communities, IDPs long to reunite with their age long values, practices and celebrations.