My Borno Experience

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read

By Funsho Balogun

I finally decided, after a protracted, mind-boggling consideration of insurgency events in Borno State to get to my phone’s keypad and state the little I understand about a people whose territory is bedeviled by a circumstance that is by far over their heads.

Being privileged to have spent some time amidst the very accommodating and especially proud Kanuri population during my NYSC year decades ago, and always being around afterwards on assignments on the same ground as directed while on duty with The News magazine years after, it’s a puzzle still that the state has degenerated into a theatre of sustained violence and bloodshed, defying sundry solutions.

A few years back, a Facebook post by Lara Wise, a journalist also formerly of The News, highlighted the almost unbelievable carnage and wanton destruction in Bama, which is one of Borno’s better cities in every term. I discovered it was true. I spent a year of my life in Bama, courtesy of NYSC posting, with all memories intact about too many pleasant and only a few not too pleasant ones ( weather-wise mostly), and finding myself recalling the best times since then.

These are not people given to violence, they are a people that thrived on peace, demonstrating this virtue as a culture. For instance, at the Corpers’ Lodge where I dwelled, my Kanuri neighbours incessantly invited us (Corpers) to meals served in large trays which we ate together, evenings unending, not minding the source. You knelt with the rest ( a funny position to be while eating in terms of what we were used to), and generally felt a bonding with the locals afterwards. Such meals, were observed in that manner across compounds. And why not? We were all teachers in their schools and were taken as part of the families.

The Corpers were accorded the privilege of entering their otherwise private cocoons, sheltering their wives and kids, where we taught to augment our miserly NYSC stipends.

There was never a mention of religion, Christianity, Islam or any other in these affairs. We met and mingled with many of the household heads at our places of relaxation, parties and the rest. Through it all, the Kanuri man, though somewhat inclined to value his privacy more than other tribes, deals peacefully with strangers. And it is notable that not for once did I witness any quarrel that degenerated to even mere fisticuffs, not in the neighborhood, marketplace or any other grounds.

My Borno experience, till date is a recollection of peaceful and good times, which has however been smeared by what has been playing out over the last decade. There is no smoke without fire. But the source of the smoke should be traced thoroughly.

There is the belief in some quarters that recruitment of insurgency elements is sourced from within the populace which hitherto had exhibited an established culture of peace. Unfortunately, utmost poverty has always pranced across backstreets of Maiduguri, and is more prevalent and obvious across smaller Borno townships and villages, underlining the possibility of the state being a breeding ground for disgruntled citizens with ample course to turn rebel.

However, much attention should still be directed towards the influx of elements from neighbouring countries that might more easily be responsible for the perplexingly violent state of affairs in this state. There is the need to apply more intelligence, above other efforts, in tackling the confounding Borno debacle. We should always be mindful of the fact of the permanency of a people sticking to their sense of history. This may truly be eroded by untoward circumstances. But The Borno issue deserves a clinical, urgent study to ensure the battle against insurgency is rightly directed. Of course there’s the issue of it’s borderline, always porous, and the rest………..

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