By Turaki Adamu Hassan
February 7, 2016 will for a long time be remembered by hundreds of young children, orphans, widows and the aged who are camping at the International Christian Centre For Missions (ICC) Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp in Benin City, Edo State. In his latest outreach to the IDPs from the violence ravaged North East region, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and drove for eight long hours from Abuja to Benin City on a singular mission; to visit hundreds of people, mostly young girls and boys displaced by the Boko Haram insurgents. His vehicles broke down twice on the way, yet Dogara insisted that the journey must continue.
These young people travelled hundreds of kilometres from their ancestral homes in Borno and Adamawa States to find refuge in far away Benin City, courtesy of Pastor Solomon A. Olorunsho who runs the philanthropic organisation that caters for the needs of the IDPs. It is interesting to note that as part of its role as a charity organisation, the ICC also caters to hundreds of displaced Muslims in the camp. As early as 9am, the Speaker, in company of his colleagues, arrived at the ICC Uhuoga, Ovia North East local government camp, where a church service was underway inside a canopy.
Moved by the sight before him, Dogara couldn’t hold back his emotions as he saw hundreds of young boys and girls between the ages of five to 18, mostly orphans, whose parents were brutally killed by Boko Haram, as sembled in large numbers, far away from their communities. With a gloomy face, the Speaker struggled to control the tears rolling down his cheeks. In an emotion-laden speech, he encouraged the children not to lose hope, assuring that government is doing everything possible to return them to their communities soon. “When I came in here I saw people who are determined not to be broken in spite of the circumstances that surround them. I must encourage you,” he said, adding, “I am part of the region of the north where you came from. I am also affected. I had to concede one of my houses for IDPs from Yobe and Borno States to live in.” The Speaker urged the IDPs, especially the orphans, to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness in their daily lives. He said, “the situation we found ourselves is not just peculiar to us, but has been happening in the course of human history.”
Besides, he said It is painful, very painful. You may remember how you left and the people you left behind. Forty percent of you here are orphans. You may be tempted to always cast your mind back over what happened to you. Once you are stuck in that you will be filled with bitterness and anger and if that happens, you can’t make progress. I know it is difficult, but we have to take our minds off it.” He advised the people to put their trust in God because “there is no situation that God cannot change”, According to him, some countries have passed through similar or even worse situations than what they are going through now. Citing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as an example, speaker Dogara said it was because of faith and determination in God that they emerged stronger. Dogara also told the IDPs that the present administration is committed to rebuilding the North East and further reassured them that “as long as this government endures, you will always be in our hearts. Thank God for the change. If we had continued like before, probably Boko Haram will have taken over Jos, Plateau State, by now.” Giving credit to God, the Speaker said divine intervention saved the country from being taken over by Boko Haram terrorists and added that very soon, maybe, this year, some of them may be able to go back to their communities. He said this is something we must do because we have no other country than Nigeria,” he assured. The speaker was also delighted to know that the children are attending schools and some of them, with some even due to write NECO, WEAC and JAMB exams. He then pledged to personally foot the bills of 60 of them who are qualified to write exams this year. Commending the pastor of ICC for hosting the IDPs and orphans, he urged him to be faithful in catering for their needs as by doing so, God will surely multiply his ministry.
He told Pastor Olorunsho: “If God has trusted you pastor with these souls and you manage them well, there will be an explosion in your ministry. If you faithfully cater for them and take care of their needs, in no distant time, this ministry will expand greatly. He further expressed gratitude to the people and government of Edo State for hosting the IDPS, saying, “These our brothers and sisters travelled hundreds of kilometres and skipped communities and bye-passed many places before they settled here. That speaks to the nature of the people we have in this state. If they are not accommodating, they wouldn’t have been here. We thank Edo people.” As part of his contribution to the upkeep of the IDPS, the speaker donated trailer loads of rice, beans, gallons of palm oil, bags of sugar, cartons of noodles, clothing for women and children and medications.
The speaker added that he would soon send more relief materials to the IDPs. Receiving the items on behalf of the IDPs, 10 year old Grace Ayuba, who is from Borno State, expressed gratitude to the Speaker and prayed that God blesses him more. It will be recalled that in January, the speaker visited Wassa IDPs’ Camp in the Federal Capital Territory, where he donated relief materials worth millions of naira and promised to deliver on their request for a clinic in the camp largely for maternal cases such as labour. True to his word, a make-shift clinic has been procured for Wassa IDPs’ camp as it is the speaker’s belief that the greatest thing that government can do for the IDPs is to return them home; a cause he says he said is pursuing. As part of efforts in this regard, he is sponsoring the North East Development Commission Establishment Bill and has rallied his colleagues to be donating part of their monthly salary towards the North East project. He is also advocating for the convocation of an international donor conference for the rebuilding, rehabilitation, resettlement and recovery of the region’s over two million IDPs and refugees.
•Hassan is Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to Speaker Dogara.