Few kilometres to Makurdi, the Benue State capital, the Abagana Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp is a discomfort to dwellers and visitors. Thousands have fled their ruined communities to seek refuge in this camp, while many more have returned to their destroyed towns in search of meaning to the tragedy that has befallen them.
Inhabitants of the camp are distraught over their fate and are burning with unquenchable desire to return to their ancestral communities. In order to escape the prowling killers whose pastime has become a horrifying commentary on what it takes to be barbaric, the victims of the inhuman act are beginning to see life as an unbearable weight many cannot bear any longer. Scrawny faces at Abagana camp welcome visitors with mixed feelings.
I visited the camp on Thursday and was petrified by the obvious failure of government to perform the constitutional obligations of guaranteeing lives of Nigerians and their property. Let me confess here that I have never been to an IDPs’ camp with so many people with forlorn faces. I was grief-stricken as I came in contact with men, women and children undergoing the pains of an undeclared war. Though some of them have left the camp to stay with relatives as part of effort to salvage what was left of their lives, others are stubbornly clinging to the hope that, someday, things will be all right.
My visit to Abagana IDP camp reminds me of a painful metaphor that is the lot of thousands of displaced persons who have been denied their ancestral homes, with their lives fixed on the downward slope of despair and irreversible doom. Amidst the dearth of hope, these people have witnessed their loved ones decapitated and listened to penetrating sounds of painful cries as throats of their brothers and sisters and children are slit. Though alive, these survivors of human slaughters have since realised that, though they are physically alive, much of them have long died.
Many of the IDPs in Abagana look unkempt and some of them could do with good haircut. Scantily robed in tattered clothing, the environment in which they are staying could turn out to be a fertile ground for an epidemic. The gait of stooping human creatures in the camp assumes a groaning symbol of despair which further defines innate fear undetected by human gaze. Inability by men to provide for their families has dehumanized them and rendered them incapable of performing their duties as bread winners. They are often seen ruminating over their pitiful conditions at daylight as the wear forlorn looks and wishing for a return of the past. When old men in IDP camp smile, what plays out on their faces amounts to a snarling mockery of human’s capacity to veil the agony of the mind. As half-naked children run in every direction at the sight of a stranger in Abagana, the kids are concerned, not with getting better education for a bright future, but over where the next meal will come from.
The tiny legs and the gaunt structure of these hungry offspring in the nation’s IDPs camps may either serve as inspiring agents to reconstruct our tragedy or form the basis for destroying dreams. Government must remain in the frontline of efforts to combat the monsters of hate and quest for revenge. As children in various IDP camps in other parts of the country are made to suffer for crimes they never committed, these dehumanized kids must be transformed, not as flaming swords of revenge in the future, but as bridges upon which our people can walk across to a new dawn of a brighter future. If we cannot tame the wave of anger and end the dehumanizing conditions in the IDP camps, then, we must be prepared to hand over Nigeria to a generation that may ultimately seek to avenge crimes committed in the past.
The struggling spirit of IDPs is being weakened by attrition of disempowerment forces that are caused by economic dislocation brought by insurgency and bandits, among others. As men sit in solitude and cast a gloomy look into the open space, they wring their hands in utter despair, while women grieve over the loss of man’s capacity to love and protect his kind. In bringing peace to a nation that is facing a rising spate of killings, our country needs the collaborative efforts of all to end the nightmare and encourage mutual trust amongst our divisive ethnic and religious groups. Across religious divides and different political horizons, change agents must set to work in order to arrest the tide of self-destruction that is threatening the country’s corporate existence.
These kids born during in stormy days should have the capacity to either make or mar the future. The nation’s leaders, across board, must rise above platitudes and confront the haranguing challenges imposed by leadership deficits at all levels of government that is further worsened by a sheepish followership. Our IDP camps have been reduced into human objects of pity that tackling the ravaging violent nature should be at the centre of any genuine attempt at addressing the problem. A government that cannot guarantee the wellbeing of the less privileged cannot be trusted to protect the wealth of the few prospering individuals. The people living in these displaced camps have blood flowing in their veins. They deserve no less protection as provided by the relevant laws of the country.
Abagana is a frightening metaphor that has been allowed to fester for too long. From Zamfara to Benue; from Borno to Adamawa, the fiery demons struggling to dismember the nation are in full swing. Despite claims by government that Boko Haram has been technically defeated, their legendary capacity to unleash mayhem still drives terror in the hearts of men and women. Abagana reminds one of a war zone. If the leaders allow this undeclared war threatening to ruin the communities to continue unresolved, one day, and may be it may be too late, the country may succumb to the doomsday prediction. If the leaders continue with their lackadaisical disposition in resolving issues of conflict, the nation shall find itself struggling to salvage its soul from undesirable forces.
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