The Boko Haram is usually referred to as the ‘biggest threat to Nigeria’s state security’ and, even, as one of the world’s deadliest militant groups. But in the first four months of 2016, the group has, clearly, been responsible for less deaths—208 to be precise—than other sectarian groups in Nigeria combined, which have accounted for 438 deaths so far, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker. A huge chunk of these are down to an ongoing conflict between predominantly Fulani herdsmen and settled farming communities, which is costing the Nigerian economy billions of dollars per year as well as hundreds—if not thousands—of lives. The questions that I’ve kept asking myself are: How did the conflicts degenerate to this level? Who are responsible for these attacks? What are the governments and leaders of these warring groups doing to stop further attacks? Clashes between mostly Fulani herdsmen and settled communities have been concentrated in North-Central Nigeria, particularly in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna and Nassarawa. Now, it has extended to the Southeastern part of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an inquiry into the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Benue at the end of February, which reportedly resulted in hundreds of deaths and the displacement of thousands. Besides the obvious security threat, the low-level battles are draining Nigeria’s economy of resources and potential funds. A series of reports published in July 2015 by global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps found that the four precise—than other sectarian groups in Nigeria combined, which have accounted for 438 deaths so far, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker. A huge chunk of these are down to an ongoing conflict between predominantly Fulani herdsmen and settled farming communities, which is costing the Nigerian economy billions of dollars per year as well as hundreds—if not thousands—of lives. The questions that I’ve kept asking myself are: How did the conflicts degenerate to this level? Who are responsible for these attacks? What are the governments and leaders of these warring groups doing to stop further attacks? Written by: Khadija Abdullahi Iya
The tall, well-dressed, dignified looking Caucasian man was on the same F-train with us one fine, sunny day on our way to downtown Brooklyn. With me were my two youngest children and the man found a seat opposite us when someone else alighted from the train. He looked at my children and smiled at my son. My son smiled back at him sheepishly, obviously uneasy at the way the man was staring at him. I wasn’t comfortable either. His smile, however, soon reduced our discomfort and he asked my son if that was his sister with him. Still smiling and as if reminiscing about something, he said, “Girls are pretty little things.” Then he began to mutter to himself, “Oh I love girls, I love girls.” He looked back at my son, who was by now visibly terrified and laughed hysterically. Looking him straight in the eye he asked, “Don’t you like girls? They’re pretty!” and he started to trace in the air with his fingers the shape of a woman, laughing at the same time. My little boy slid his hands into my mine, holding them tightly. They were all sweaty. A handsome, aristocratic Caucasian man had all of a sudden transformed into an obviously mentally disturbed one right before us, shattering my initial impression of him. My first reaction was fear, knowing that he could be dangerous and could harm us – not because he may want to, but simply because he wasn’t well. Who knew just how serious his case was? The whole train could be at risk of whatever he was capable of. I looked around and observed that other people sitting nearby were moving away from him, also petrified because of his behaviour. The train wasn’t very full and I thought to myself that if the situation gets very bad, we would get off at the next stop, even though it wasn’t ours. But as I looked at the man again, sadness for him began to replace the fear I was feeling. I tried to imagine what it must be like to be going through what he was; how his illness may have affected him socially and in many other ways and what it must be like to constantly have people react to him the way I had when I had realised he wasn’t too well ‘up there’. Questions about him I couldn’t answer raced through my mind. He eventually didn’t appear to be violent, but then, what did I know? I wondered what his story was. Nobody asks for mental illness and you do not wish it on anyone else. It occurred to me, as I sat on that train, watching the man that we need to understand that. There are many people living with mental illnesses here in Nigeria too – some cases detected, but most go undetected. I have a number of very close friends and colleagues who have one family member or more who suffer from some form of mental illness. It is traumatic for the individuals and the people who love them. It affects everyone close to them. Trending lately in Nigeria are cases of suicide that have come to light in our society. One very heartbreaking incident was that of a doctor who jumped off a bridge in Lagos. Who knows what he and his family may have had to endure before it all culminated in his taking his own life. Before we judge or look down on people with mental health conditions, before we laugh at or ostracise them, believing they are possessed with evil spirits or are being dealt with by some evil family member, let’s stop to consider what life would be like if we or someone in our family were to be in their shoes. A Quick Suggestion When a person is diagnosed with a serious mental illness such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, his/her loved ones are dragged through very trying times, but it is a time to support that person with love and more love. Dealing With The Disease Many can’t bring themselves to accept or deal with the trauma, but it is okay to feel shame, hurt, or embarrassment when a family member’s behaviour cannot be understood. In Africa and other developing parts of the world, mental illness is often ascribed to diabolic activity that cannot be identified or proven. Some feel anger towards the circumstances and especially towards the persons diagnosed. Parents of sufferers are the ones worst hit by this situation, as their first reaction is usually to engage in self-blame. Guilt over what they feel they didn’t do or could have done better leads to trauma, pain, shame and other negative emotions. Anguish becomes their constant companion. Note the following when dealing with a loved one’s mental illness:
- Remember always that it’s not your fault and you may never have been able to prevent it in any way. Sometimes, it may be derived from a biological component.
- It is also okay to feel a variety of powerful — and often unpleasant — emotions.
- A parent facing this challenge (whether in a minor or an adult) with serious mental illness may find him/herself focusing less on the other children. This may develop into some unnecessary sibling rivalry that may worsen the situation when the healthy child, who feels neglected, begins to experience feelings of anxiety and frustration at the extra responsibilities he/she is expected to take on. Try setting up a little one-on-one time with your other children. Tell them how much you appreciate them and need their help.
- Communication is key for every member of the family. Make it simple and easy for everyone to freely and honestly communicate with one another.
We only have one life to live, so give it your best shot! Yes, the days can be long and dreary; yes, the winds of life can be severe and callous, but all we’ve got is just this one life... Thus, special moments, often times taken for granted, must be appreciated, cherished and, above all, valued. We underestimate the counsel of the wise who constantly advise us to live, practically, one day at a time. Caring less about the impending doomsday is how to make the most of each day. Sometimes, we allow our minds to be consumed by paranoia of the present or future that it fills us with fear and trepidation. Sometimes, I wonder why we have to punish and worry ourselves to death over a supposed impending doom which we have no business thinking of. A monk once asked: “Do you have a problem in life? If yes, can you do something about it? [If] yes, then why worry?” He asked again; “Do you have a problem in life? If yes, can you do something about it? [If] no, then why worry? Worrying takes away the beautiful moments of our lives. It robs us of our health and sanity and leaves in its stead elements that mess up the quality of life. So, why worry? Sometimes, the best moments in our lives are those quiet times spent with loved ones; those moments spent together, sharing and loving, giving and taking, are far more than words can offer. These moments are supposed to help us savour the sweet warmth of each other’s presence and, once they pass you by, you may never recapture them again. Why allow worry take that away from you? During my private salaats (prayers), I wonder why we have to deal with intrusive thoughts that would end up marring our connections with that Supreme Being we are trying to secure that connect with. I devised a mantra to help me concentrate. Anytime intrusive thoughts assail me, I hush them with the line: “I’m in the now, the present, my salaat!” I decided to extend the same mantra to my other obligations and duties. When I’m writing and I'm thinking I should do something else, I say to the intrusion; “I'm in the now, the present. Hush. Away.” These words have enabled me stay focused and enjoy the moment. They help me chase away the intrusive worries of taking on another task before I complete one. We often think that moments spent with our loved ones are ‘just’ things we have to do, but these are moments we would like to relive someday with nostalgia; maybe laugh, cry, reminisce about them or, importantly, learn from them. What is most important is that these are moments to cherish; moments we must not allow meddling thoughts or fear deprive us of it. Just musing… Author: Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya Join me on social media accounts: 1.Facebook khadijahSimag 2.LinkedIN Khadijah Abdullahi Iya
What stood out for me in the interview with Borno State elder statesman Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu on the plights of Nigerians, especially the nursing mothers and pregnant women (who fled their homes due to the insurgency by the Boko Haram militants in North East Nigeria) at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps was this gory image of a mother who was hysterically running away from these evil men, supposedly holding onto her child fiercely in terror on the bush path. Only to pause for a while to catch her breath and to realise in amazement that she was only holding her child’s arm all along! In her trepidation and panic, she had grabbed the child so inflexibly in order to save him from being attacked and didn’t realise she had pulled the child’s arm out of its socket, leaving her object of love and concern behind. Now, the dilemma is how or where would she go back to start looking for the remains of the child when she hardly can tell how long she has been running or where she was at that point in time? Only God knows what distress and agony was meted out to these women. In crises situations like wars and unrest, the most hit people are always women and children. Thus the reason why SI Magazine crew found it pertinent to zoom their lenses on the suffering of these set of people who are also the most vulnerable. To share in their pain and make others know what they are going through. A visit to these camps illustrated a tiny glimpse of what their daily lives are characterized. Their stories are heartrending. It would pull at your heartstrings when you watch the documentary. The term motherhood means different things to different people and it wouldn’t be fair to give a universal definition to it. “It is not uncommon to generalize the concept of ‘motherhood’ and lump everyone who upholds a single criterion – being a mum – into one group. But, really, motherhood affects us all in one way or another and that way is as unique as the pattern of curves and ridges on a fingertip” Doublexscience These women have gone through all kinds of maternal anguish and most of the babies have experienced fetal distress. Having babies in unsanitary conditions or raising these children in this same tormenting conditions isn’t what anyone would bargain for. No child should go through this. The mothers look on forlornly watching the days go by; not knowing when their children would be able to get better care or go back to school. They wonder at how long the whole madness would last so that they can have their lives back. Most of them expressed their desire to go back home. Right now most of these pregnant women and nursing mothers do not have access to medical personnel; doctors or midwife who would identify signs of their fetal conditions or observe if their baby is unwell. Motherhood is stressful and it is a distressing period of a woman’s life even when she’s in her comfort zone and surrounded by all the luxurious amenities that life can offer. To be in a displaced habitat is the most upsetting condition any woman can find herself. Thus, there’s an innate need and a crave for all these women in maternity situations to go back home and WE at SI Magazine plead to the general public and the government to please give a hand to these people and help make their lives easier. Let’s show a little kindness and concern to these people by visiting and providing no matter how little. The pregnant women need medical care and food to keep them going. We also appeal to the Government of these communities and the Government of Borno State to kindly start designing an effective work plan that would enable easy transition back to their homes. They need psychologists or therapists that would help them handle the traumas they have experienced and endured. Let’s not leave all these to the Government only. Let’s join hands as a people and put a uniting front to help these Nigerians, after all they never asked for the evil that befell them and it could have happen to anyone… Author: Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya
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A few years back, I wrote an article in Searching Inwards, a weekly column in Leadership Weekend of the Leadership Newspaper title, detailing the concept of community and how God had programmed us to cohabit from inception... This was inspired by a documentary I watched titled, I Am by the Hollywood director- Tom Shadyac. The documentary sought the fundamental answers to what is wrong with our world? He visited world’s greatest minds, religious leaders and scientists searching for the fundamental problem that causes all of the world’s conflicts and pains while simultaneously reflecting on his own life choices of excesses, greed and eventual healing. After watching the documentary, I was left with no choice but to muse, and my take from the documentary is that God in His infinite mercy has designed us to take what we can and share with others; watching out for one another. That’s why we hardly can succeed at anything without the help of someone; which is the importance of community. Cohabiting with one another is the only way we can survive as a people, especially in our dear country Nigeria. This has prompted the popular saying, “Scratch my back, and I scratch yours”. Unfortunately, greed has ravaged and destroyed a lot of things in Nigeria. It is the major reason Nigeria is where it is today. Again greed, avarice and all the elements of continuous aggrandizement of wealth is the reason why a larger population is still suffering in Nigeria and Africa in general. This is why we are yet to overcome the filtering presence of poverty which is destroying all attempts to eradicate it. One of our features in this maiden edition of the S.I Magazine app was the visitation of the S.I Magazine crew to an intriguing community in one of the farthest part of northern Nigeria – in Adamawa State – where the concept of community in its pure form still exists! This community called Tipto despite the barrage of challenges confronting it comes together in times of crisis or famine to jointly fight their common enemy. Even when they thought that they needed formal education, they came together to erect structures to serve that purpose all by themselves. It’s amazing to see a community that is far behind in terms of modern day civilization possess this good sense of purpose and togetherness. Their ‘make-up’ encapsulates and reinforces the notion that, ‘You don’t need formal education to be able to understand the main concept of existence.’ Education however is the tool we all need to enhance the base experiences, offering and empowerment to survive. If we can come together and help one another; if we in our little ways can move away from our comfort zones to be there for one another, and live life the way God originally designed it to be, maybe all the conflicts, corruption, poverty and killings would stop. God would start answering all our prayers for the oppression of the weak. Welcome to a NEW, reinvigorating S.I magazine. Join us to help those who do not have a voice; those that cannot afford or have never been privileged enough to enjoy what you and I take for granted. It is a CLARION call for all. Let’s make it happen. Author: Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya
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