One very dear colleague, Tijjani Abakar, notorious for seeking pleasure in being inquisitive and emptily critical of everything one does, even those as insignificant as blink of an eye, has taken me to task to do a piece on how things are faring in the city of Maiduguri presently; and here he meant to instruct me to write on how things have been since the return of relative peace.
Other colleagues have long learnt to listen but ignore his charges; and I had as well intended to follow suit, but for the fact that I understand he did so because in the past, record has it that I had taken time and again to recount the kind of difficult situations this city had seen.
where death had become no more any shocking or a sorrowful news
Not until I took it upon myself to write as charged did it dawn on me how damn difficult it is—i.e. to actually capture the trend of changes that have occurred in the past one year or thereabout in this home of peace that had then, turned into theatre of frontless wars.
Maiduguri, it was, to sum it all, where the common man had become a refugee in the openness of his own land, a prisoner of fear and uncertainty; where death had become no more any shocking or a sorrowful news and everyone was a possible prey and scavenger at the same time; where loyalty had to find its way back to its shell because it had become people’s main killer such that kinship ties and long-time friendship were no more a guarantee or conditions for establishing trust; where festivities were robbed of their ecstasy and merriment and in fact transformed into a full blown nightmare of sorts to celebrants.
the famous Monday Market, the biggest in the whole of Borno, had been reduced to rubble as traders and shops where continuously destroyed.
One would find it difficult differentiating the atmosphere of the street, which, prior to the unfolding of the insurgency was very lively, from that of a graveyard. The society in the overall, was awakened to a state of unending mourning: it is always either a bomb blast in Gwange or gunshots in Gomboru Market, Borno.
What remains of small-scale business, the very heart of common man’s source of survival in Nigeria, was not more than a carcass of an unwanted species for helpless lower animals to dine on. Through pains, in a certain piece, I recounted my encounter with a certain butcher who had about 60% cut in his earning as a result of night-time curfew. That was true of whatever business activity whose boom starts from 6pm.
Not least of this was so of our markets: the famous Monday Market, the biggest in the whole of Borno, had been reduced to rubble as traders and shops where continuously destroyed. While some fled, the remaining few who helplessly stayed back had just from 1pm to 4pm to transact whatever business they had.
Even with this, some traders after transacting business, had difficult times deciding whether to take their monies to the banks for saving or keep them at home or even in the shop, just as the banks also contemplate whether to collect or reject them, for fear of jihad-fronted armed robbery.
Babban-layi, a commercial centre at the heart of the city of Maiduguri, where the Civilian JTF emerged—and for obvious reasons—had suffered ravaging attacks and destructions from the group.
And by the way, talking on how things have changed now, it is heartening that most people are finding it hard to remember all these. For, what can one say: just as I write this piece, heavy drumbeats have, despite ignoring it, promised to distract—and it is but the mighty wushe-wushe, a popular Kanuri traditional music performed on weddings in Borno. Had this been few years ago, now being 11pm, the death of those outside revelling would have been a foregone conclusion.
That it was not impossible then was not only because of a dusk-to-dawn curfew, but for the fact that nobody had the composure and peace of mind to attempt such luxury.
In those days, even marriage numbers had dropped from about 20 – 30 per week to 2 – 5. Ahmed Sanda’s humorous naughtiness attributed this to the curfew, which, he said, had made it impossible for “two” to meet and shape plans for marriage; and that parents are also fearful of establishing new ties because just everyone could be dangerous—and then marriage became the lone victim.
Now, this Saturday, I have, me alone, over six weddings to grace; my boss is a recipient of nine invitations. I think enough is said!
Post Office road, officially known as Shehu Laminu Way, the road which runs across the centre of the city, had suffered a number of bomb blasts such that it was always avoided. However, it has now built a battering crowd. I am even wondering where the tens of hundreds of cars that jam came from.
The same suya man who I sympathized with in a certain piece “Maiduguri: A Mega-Barracks”, has today regained his previous losses. His complaints then were on how to manage his employees, but lo and behold, now he has employed new ones! This is not less true of all butchers in the city.
Once again, the city is re-emerging as new shopping complexes are being built and closed ones reopened. The mutilated life in Gidan Madara, one of the most popular shopping complexes in the city, has been resurrected as new shops are springing up overnight. The same is true of other renowned places such as Bolori Stores, Zarah Plaza, Kosoram Mall etc. And the entire informal sector of the economy which just recently was gasping for breath has re-emerged and is incredibly booming.
This has even developed the tendency of messing the beauty of the streets. You see many people selling goods of all varieties on the roadsides clumsily. It will indeed do a great deal if they are organized into shops and kiosks.
Most of those who had run away for safety have returned.
It is very heartening also that the Monday Market is regaining itself as the great commercial centre that it used to be. Today it is difficult to locate a shop one is used to patronising, because of building crowd and battering of shops with so many goods.
Most of those who had run away for safety have returned.
The case of Gwange, one of the oldest and most populous settlements in Maiduguri needs special mention. Gwange it was where I once said in a piece, “Maiduguri on Fire”, would never regain its population and liveliness because of a military scorched earth policy that led to evacuation. But, lo and behold, by Allah’s might, it has!
People now move around freely without fear or restriction.
Today, almost all major and minor intracity roads that were blocked have been reopened.
People now move around freely without fear or restriction. Old ties that were given up [for good] due to risk of giving out trust have now been revisited.
And anybody fond of playing or watching football should [notice:] head to the Monday Market, buy his boot/jersey and see to it in the frontage of the Shehu’s Palace—and if you a real time-waster, head to any cinema around in the night to watch El Classico.
The frontage of Shehu’s Palace was converted to football field since time immemorial. And as a matter of fact, ever since, it had never ceased until the eruption of the insurgency in 2009. This in itself is indicative of how things have changed.
But on a closing note, what is most important is that schools closed or burnt are now rebuilt and reopened while teachers and students have begun to fully resume. Nobody is afraid of sending his potential president to school anymore.
It is however important to close by stating that a lot needs to be done still so as to consolidate on what has been so far achieved. The community has to be more vigilant and watchful while the government should ensure that such things as we had seen never recur again.