His friend who was at the open field which played host to the CPC presidential candidate, was so alarmed by the sort of messages been bandied about that he decided to record the event on his phone.
Only very few minutes was dedicated to highlighting what the party intended to do if elected into office. Most of the time was spent rousing the crowd mainly youths into a frenzy. The speakers in the podium will ask the crowd who the man to vote for in the presidential election was, and in unison the crowd will respond with chants of “Mai Gaskiya”, which roughly translates from the Hausa to mean “The Honest One”.
The dialogue went on in this manner:
Speaker: What should we do after casting our vote?
Crowd: We will stay behind!
Speaker: To do what?
Crowd: Protect our vote!
Speaker: We know we are the majority, aren’t we?
Crowd: Yes we are!
Speaker: If they say we didn’t win?
Crowd: *discordant tunes as to what punishment will be meted out to those responsible for counting votes, declaring results, even supporters of the ruling party follows*
After listening to the recording his friend had made, he knew that the stage was set, atleast in the North where the CPC presidential candidate had most of his support, for a bloody confrontation. Borno was already tense by reason of the smouldering flame there, to add the tension from the national politics will be like adding gasoline to it.
He had just acquired 4 plots of land in a choice area of Borno state just off the state capital where he lived, and things were going quite fine for him, so good he had extra change to send home to meet the needs of his siblings and other close relatives, he even had his sister-in-law come live with his young family to relieve the burden of furthering her education on her parents. He was also rising steadily at work and in the penultimate year at the University of Maiduguri. He was also making plans to buy a second car.
Some of his colleagues at work and at school were increasingly becoming sympathetic to Boko Haram, especially indigenes of the state, as well as others who weren’t but were Muslims espousing the more radical tenets of Islam. They began to wear their beards long and rough, disposing of their shoes in favour of leather slippers, and wearing trousers that didn’t touch the ankle. They became more introverted and would see a role for religion in almost everything, condemning what they termed the sinful ways of today’s civilization facilitated by a western education that is anathema to the will of God. They became confrontational when their ways are in the slightest means criticized, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to argue with them.
He once saw one of his (now indoctrinated and radicalized) supervisors practicing some martial arts moves in the storeroom after work. He would’ve just let it pass had he not seen him teaching the same stunts to others who had become like him in recent times. A few of them resigned, and many simply stopped attending classes in school. The trend stopped after a while in what may have seemed a change of tactics by members of the group, in order to ensure continued recruitment among the intelligentsia as well as from the corporate world.
The 2011 General Elections was fraught with irregularities in Maiduguri, and as he heard in other parts of the North. Children and teens below 18, were on the queue with voters cards, exercising an illegal electoral franchise, in the full glare of other voters, observers and media organizations. Youth Corpers who were adhoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and mostly non-indigenes were subdued and prevailed upon to turn a blind eye to these and other irregularities, sometimes even under threats.
He thought that the reason politicians mostly opposed to President Jonathan’s bid in that region must have embarked on this ignominious part was to counter what they envisaged will be the rigging in the South. Their fears appeared to be confirmed when some states in the South-South and South-East churned out 100% or very close to that, in total votes cast in favour of Goodluck Jonathan. A particular video went viral on social media were one buxom woman was supervising the thumbprinting and stuffing of a ballot box for a ward suspected to be in one of the South-Eastern states.
The announcement by the INEC that president Jonathan had won the presidential elections was greeted in the North with rage. Youths went on rampage, targeting mostly the Youth Corpers who were used by the electoral body as adhoc staff. Not even the sanctuary of the police station where some of them had run to, to seek refuge could save them, as some of those who did were mown down there with some policemen or others who attempted to save the Corpers. Maiduguri was not as affected as the capital cities and towns of states like Bauchi (where the governor was roundly criticised for saying that the unfortunate death of the Corpers within his domain was an “act of God”), Kaduna, Kano, and others where even homes of politicians of the ruling PDP were torched.
Those threats made at CPC campaign venues were carried out to the latter, especially in the few North-Eastern and North-Western states where Jonathan had defeated Buhari or got considerable votes but still lost. The whole of South-West, save Osun State, as well as all of the South-East and -South, including majority of the North-Central States went to Jonathan.
Within weeks, Boko Haram’s bombing raids assumed a more dangerous dimension, with the nations capital bearing most of the brunt. Churches were targeted on Sundays, Christian festival days, at vigils etc. States like Niger, Kogi in the North Central were also targeted by the group. The always tense state of Kaduna, now governed by a Christian (Patrick Yakowa was deputy governor to now Vice President Kakadu Sambo, who was picked by President Jonathan after President Yar’Adua’s demise, had become governor in the 2011 elections) for the first time since it’s creation (though half the population of the state were Christians and/or animists) also was not left out of the attacks. The state which had witnessed post election violence by those disgruntled by the loss of the CPC in the state and nationally was visited with some of the deadliest venom Boko Haram could muster. High density areas like the markets were targeted, even the nation’s elite military academy in Jaji wasn’t spared. He watched a video on youtube in which a policeman had gone to defuse what looked like an Improvised Explosive Device, IED placed in a black nylon bag in the middle of a road in Kaduna, with a wooden stick with which he poked at the nylon. It turned out that it was indeed a bomb and the resulting explosion ripped the policeman into unrecognizable bits.
The police headquarters in Abuja was bombed in what looked like an assassination attempt on the then Inspector General of Police, Hafis Ringim, by a bomb-laden car targeting the IGP’s convoy but was diverted once inside the compound of the police headquarters to the car park with an unfortunate policeman who many suspected entered the suicide bombers car to solicit for financial inducement, and not to direct him to the right place to park, as the Nigerian police later stated. He watched in horror on TV the aftermath of the bombing of a United Nations building in Abuja with the attendant loss of lives and injuries of numbing proportions that was on screen before the Broadcasting Corporation placed a ban on the screening of such offensive videos and pictures on national television but such videos remained available online, some of them captured or made by the foot soldiers of the insurgent Islamist movement.
Maiduguri and neighbouring towns in Borno state were also under siege of the insurgent group. He watched on his friend’s phone the beheading of a woman the insurgents in the video claimed was a member of the State Security Service, SSS. Family and friends now became increasingly scared of his wellbeing, especially after a cousin barely escaped with his life in an attack on a police station outside of town. He couldn’t hold down the contents of his bowel when he saw some of the injuries sustained by other victims of the attack, when he visited the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital to see his injured cousin. He knew that many of those who died could’ve been saved if the doctors had been trained in handling such injuries, which military doctors are more conversant with.
His wife was expecting a third child, though in it’s early days and he was beginning to give serious thought to the possibility of leaving Maiduguri. The intensity and frequency of attacks in the North as a whole was now beginning to be seen by many to have political undertones especially as before the General elections some supposedly powerful elements and elite in the North had made certain statements to the effect that they were going to make Nigeria ungovernable for president Jonathan should he decide to run for presidency which they feel wasn’t due a Southerner (of which he was from the Niger Delta in the South-South, from which most if not all of Nigeria’s wealth is derived) yet, as had Yar’Adua not died less than two years into his presidency he’d have probably done eight years in power like his predecessor Obasanjo from the South-West had done.
He found that he couldn’t trust anyone at work anymore, especially most of the indigenes and others who were Muslims and were sympathetic to Boko Haram’s cause. Some of those whom he’d vocalized his disgust of the group to and mentioned his discomfort with the attitude of some of their colleagues were now seen often with the same people whose presence made him uncomfortable. Mild threats were now been issued in his direction.
His suspicions were confirmed when the same supervisor at work (which he once saw practicing some martial arts move in the storeroom) was arrested during a raid on one of the insurgent’s hideout. He was said to have been one of the masterminds of an attack on a police station and a bank in Bauchi state. Another colleague, Adamu a Muslim from some other northern state, who was also arrested following a separate incident was later released after it came to light that he’d actually reported his car (which was used to perpetrate acts of terrorism) missing, days before the incidents for which he was arrested. Unfortunately, he’d been tortured, as was with the Nigerian security forces, and according to him had not yet “found the mouth with which to narrate his ordeal at the hands of the security agents”. His family and close friends suffered several indignities while he was in detention. Once released, he tendered his letter of resignation, sold the few properties and goods he’d acquired at a considerable price and moved his family out of Maiduguri.
In hindsight, he knows now that he should’ve made his move back then, but interestingly quiet was beginning to return again, largely due to the presence of large military and police presence on the roads, following the declaration of a State Of Emergency in some Local Government Areas in certain states in the North including Maiduguri in Borno State.
Many criticised the President for not declaring a full State of Emergency in the affected states, as the situation following the lame declaration was no difference from the heightened state of security in place before the declaration was made. This act by government contributed in no small measure, howbeit indirectly to the emboldening of the insurgent group, leading to a situation that precipitated his exodus from Maiduguri with his heart in his mouth.