Ruined by Boko Haram
•Returnees recount tales of woe
•35 corpses of Igbo still in Kano
Sunday, January 29,  2012

 If the threat by the Islamist fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, to Southerners living in the North to leave or risk being killed sent fear among the Igbo in that part of the country, last week’s multiple bombings in Kano that claimed no fewer than 200 lives in Nigeria’s second largest city, triggered off mass return of the South Easterners to their home land.
They needed no further prompting after their apex socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, asked all Igbo living in the state to return home. And the exodus, since it began, has been accompanied by tales of woe.

In Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, some of the returnees, who spoke with Sunday Sun, narrated their experience in Kano and their resolve not to go back if nothing concrete was done to arrest the insecurity in the land.

My family and I are now refugees –Adikwe
Mr John Adikwe, 57, a trader, who had lived in Kano for over 30 years, stated how the activities of the Boko Haram sect not only turned him and members of his family to refugees in their own country, but also sent him over 30 years back in life.

Adikwe, who was visibly shaken as he spoke to one of our correspondents, said when he left his village in Ebony State as a bachelor sometime in 1976 for Kano to engage in business, he never envisaged a day all he laboured for in his life would be lost in one fell swoop and he be forced to come back home to start life afresh. “I left my village in 1976 at the age of 21 for Kano to serve as an apprentice trader after which I set up my own business and later got married there. All my five children were born in Kano. But all of a sudden, these Boko Haram people have forced us home, abandoning my business and some of my children’s academic work disrupted,” Adikwe lamented.

He stated that the decision to return to the South East with members of his family stemmed from what happened in Kano recently, which he said was reminiscent of war. He reasoned that no right-thinking man would stay back to be killed more so when the dreaded sect was continuing in its threat to eliminate Southern Christians in the North if they refused to leave and that the government had not done anything concrete to contain the insurgents.

For Adikwe, his sons could go back to Kano if they wished when the security situation in the city normalizes, but not for him as he is planning to start a new life in Aba. “From what I saw in Kano and at my age, I don’t think I will go back there. But my sons, if they so wished, can go back when the security situation improves since it will be difficult for them to adapt to life here,” he said.

I’m back to square one –Onuoha
Chinedum Onuoha, another returnee, was in Aba dealing in textiles when in 1991, owing to lull in business, he decided to relocate to Kano where he felt things would be better for him. As expected, his fortunes improved and he had to relocate his family to the commercial capital city of northern Nigeria. But they are now back to square one as they have all returned to Aba, no thinks to the deadly explosions and the sect’s continued threat to Christians in the North.

I had to leave after 25 years –Madu
The story was the same with Agu Madu, who went to Kano to set up a business about 25 years ago. He was among those who fled the city last week owing to the activities of Boko Haram. If Madu is willing to return if the security situation in the city improves, Onuoha is not dreaming of that. “How can I go back to that city? I think I better stay here (Aba) and start my life all over.

“This is not the first time the Igbo in Kano were being targeted. Whenever anything happens in the North, they vent their anger on the Igbo. So I’m tired of living there,” he said. The chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Kano, Hon Tobias Michael Idika, told Sunday Sun in a telephone interview that they took the decision for the Igbo to quit Kano after the mayhem. His kinsmen, he said, suffered heavy casualties.

According to Idika, bodies of about 35 dead Igbo, who were victims of the coordinated bomb attack, were still in various mortuaries in Kano while 25 others who suffered severe injuries were also in hospitals. The Igbo leader appealed to the five South East states governors to send buses to Kano to evacuate their citizens, most of who do not have money to transport themselves back home. He said the fare had risen astronomically following the exodus as a passenger without any luggage would pay as much as N6,000 while those with property pay from N10,000.
Idika equally condemned the comments of the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, during his recent visit to Kano where he advised the Igbo not to leave the troubled city.

He said it was unfortunate that Okorocha made the statement at the airport without making any attempt to see his kinsmen that he claimed he was coming to see. Idika advised Imo indigenes still in Kano not to be deceived by the governor and that they should leave the city like their other kinsmen as their lives were no longer safe in the state.
Of the over three million Igbo living in Kano, the Ohanaeze chairman disclosed that majority of them had returned to Igbo land, leaving behind only those that cannot afford the exorbitant bus fare. Idika added that as soon as they conclude arrangements, they would bring back the bodies of their slain kinsmen for burial at home.

My daughter can’t study at BUK anymore –Mrs Oparandu
Mrs Victoria Oparandu, a mother of six, had lived in the Sabon Gari area of Kano State for 21 years and wished she would stay in the ancient of Kano to raise her children before returning to her country home in the South East. But such expectation was cut short by the recent deadly explosions in the state carried out by the Boko Haram sect.

According to Mrs Oparandu, who hails from Ahiazu Mbaise in Imo State, the city had been peaceful and they co-habited with their Muslim counterparts without any molestation. Now her husband, Nelson, who deals in chemicals, has been forced to relocate home while their first daughter, Dorathy, who is a student at the Bayero University, Kano, can no longer continue her programme because of the crisis.

“Since we are back from Kano, we will try to secure admission for her at the Imo State University to read Accountancy. The situation in Kano is no longer conducive. Every day people sleep with their two eyes open and we live in fear.  The house we live in Kano belongs to us and we do not pay rent. But non-indigenes in the state, especially areas dominated by non-natives, are prone to attacks. We have received assurances of our safety but the modus operandi of Boko Haram is more confusing,” she said.

Situation in Kano exaggerated –Bus driver
But a driver with a luxury bus company, The Young Shall Grow Motors, thinks differently, saying that the situation in Kano was blown out of proportion. The driver, who pleaded anonymity, said although women and children were fleeing Kano en masse, the place remained calm except for few incidents. According to him, some of the passengers left their property behind due to the high cost of transport fares.  The transport fare, which was N5000 per passenger before the crisis, is now N7000. He disclosed that there were no passengers traveling from Owerri to Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto states, stressing that his vehicle had not been able to move for days because of the crisis.

Fear of reprisal
Northerners residing in Aba are equally leaving in droves for fear of reprisal attack, raising concern within the Muslim community and the Chief Imam of the city’s Central Mosque, Alhaji Idris Bashir, calling for restraint.
Speaking with Sunday Sun, Bashir said he was worried that in the last two weeks more than three quarters of members of the Hausa community in Aba had left to their various states in the North. He expressed worry that the exodus had continued despite the assurances from the government and security agencies about their safety.

“As I speak to you, over 75 per cent of our people residing here in Aba have left for the North. This is despite the assurances given to them by government and even security agencies about their safety. “We as leaders of Muslim community here have also been talking to them about the need to stay because most of us have lived all our lives in Aba and cannot say for sure these are our homes in the North,” Bashir said.

Although he explained that the northerners started leaving the city due to the last nationwide strike over the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government, Sunday Sun investigation showed that the Hausa in Aba began their exodus after the Boko Haram killing of Christians and the subsequent order by members of the sect that Southern Christians should leave the North or risked being killed. The Chief Imam, while calling for restraint on the part of the Islamic insurgents, reminded them that Allah did not enjoin anybody to kill.

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