Perhaps the Boko Haram sect’s banditry and bestiality in the North-East will go away one day. And when it does, the story of the insurgents’ savagery will be told be in detail. But one wonders where those who drank the sect’s wine of sorrow to the dregs will begin telling all that they went through. And what form will their tale take?
Whatever form the narrative might take, the accounts are sure to be filled with narrow escapes from having throats slit with daggers, how people slept in the bush and forests for days, running and walking unendingly. Many would talk about their companionship with beasts in the forests, for animals in those areas were also afraid of the rampaging sect; so they kept fleeing for their lives and had no appetite to harm; many would definitely be talking about how they managed to endure hunger and deprivation, blood-cuddling sounds of guns and weapons of mass destruction whose bullets and pallets kept singing and whistling in the air at shoulder level. Some would recall how at some point they kept wondering whether they were alive or dead or simply waiting to die. It would be a story of sorrow, pain and agony sticking out from every line. Weaved into a book, it would be a compelling thriller.
In Abuja, recently, Rev. Tonborokai Robert Gajere, related to his audience a fraction of horrors of the Boko Haram terror group in his native Adamawa State. It was an account of destruction and pillaging of property that hitherto served the people. In doing so, the terrorists reversed the gains of many years in a few days of madness.
Rev. Gajere is the Adamawa State advocacy chairman of the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN). His organisation supervises all Christian missionary hospitals in the state. Once every year, CHAN, which, according to the Secretary-General, Dr. Daniel Gobgab, has more than 5,000 hospitals and primary health centres across the country, gathers its members to review the activities of its health institutions. One of such elite hospitals, for instance, is St. Gerard’s Hospital, Kaduna. Another is Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta, Ogun State, believed to be the oldest health institution in Nigeria. These are hospitals and clinics that CHAN proudly calls mission institutions (MIs).
On the day in view, CHAN members had converged on Pope John II Catholic Centre in Wuse, Abuja. The attendees were drawn from more than 25 states across the country. Most of them were distinguished medical experts, some were clergymen. They came to share ideas and learn from one another about how to effectively manage their hospitals and administer quality health care to the poor and unreached, sometimes at no cost, as well as how to attract donors in these austere times. All of them had success stories that they took turns to tell and received applause at the end.
Howvevr, one story was different, Rev. Gajere’s tale of destruction in Adamawa. From the start, his account dripped with pain and sadness caused by the Boko Haram Islamist group. He told the gathering that, like a swarm of locusts, the killers swept down from the Adamawa highlands on helpless villagers, burning their houses and stealing their food; he relived how they turned to schools in the area and razed them to the ground, true to their name Boko Haram (Western education is forbidden). They did not spare churches either.
They also stormed hospitals and primary health centres in the area and completely destroyed them. Some of the facilities were built by white missionaries who departed Nigeria decades ago. Rev. Gajere recalled that before the reign of terror started, many of the health facilities were the only ones generations in the area knew. Even some of insurgents who destroyed the facilities were born there, he said. Some Catholic nuns and other health workers working in those facilities had fled, some to of Cameroon, some to other states in the country, before things came to an end when some unlucky ones were either butchered or roasted in the fires.
Rev. Gajere said, in some instances, the terrorists took away some hospital equipment that they considered useful, as they also needed health care. Then they burnt the hospital buildings.
As soon as the clergyman began to speak at the CHAN gathering, silence and sadness descended on the arena. Everyone was quiet, listening with shock and awe.
“Much of what you are hearing about the devastation of communities in Adamawa State is very, very true,” Gajere said, “In fact, the real truth about the spate of devastation in the region is yet to be told in full. The reason is that accessibility to most of the worse hit areas, especially in Adamawa North senatorial zone, is a big challenge. The area comprises seven local governments. They experienced the fury of the insurgents the most. Unfortunately, that is where we had most mission health facilities.
“As it is, the whole world is yet to hear the whole story of the plight of the people of the region. The little you might have heard is not only true but an affirmation of the reality of the situation.
“All our affected health clinics were either burnt or looted. Some of the hospital buildings were constructed many years ago; their structures have all crumbed to the ground. This is the much we have been told by those who saw what happened. Some of them are our staff; they are still in shock; they are still traumatised.
“They recalled seeing the insurgents cut people’s throats while setting buildings ablaze. Tell me who would see that and not be traumatised? Some of those who saw those horrendous things are currently undergoing rehabilitation. The process has not been as rapid as we desired. Some who escaped with severe injuries are permanently impaired; having to move on is a different thing. Their experiences are better felt than imagined.”
Rev. Gajere also expressed worry that churches who owned the affected health facilities were all in pains, fearing that the host communities would suffer more whenever normalcy returned to Adamawa State. “The state of health in those areas before the insurgency was slightly above average. Virtually all the hospitals providing those services there were owned by churches. They were all there for the people until the insurgents came to destroy them all.
“Right now, we cannot even go to those areas because it is still unsafe to do so as the insurgents are still believed to be lurking in the forests. So the question of rebuilding the hospitals is out of the question. Worse still, I wonder whether the owner-churches will get the money to do so.
“What that means for the people is that the level of health care delivery in the affected areas has been drawn decades backward. Unfortunately, government health care institutions cannot meet the challenges now posed by this development.
“Now, we have internally displaced persons (IDPs) all over the place, most of them coming down to where we have a few health institutions; there is enormous pressure on the hospitals we have in the southern parts of the state. This is posing a great challenge to government facilities there because some of them were not even able to meet their needs in normal times. So it is better to imagine our plight at the moment.
“We are pleading with donor agencies and philanthropic individuals to come to Adamawa State and see things for themselves; let them come and assist us to get existing mission hospitals running again,” he said.
Meanwhile, CHAN scribe, Dr. Gobgab, told this reporter that details oif the number of hospitals, maternity homes and primary health centres destroyed by the terrorists and their staff murdered or unaccounted for were merely trickling in. He regretted that most of the health facilities were destroyed by the insurgents in remote areas unchallenged. He also affirmed that no one could go to the affected areas right now because of their remoteness.
“Full details of the facilities lost by the Catholic Church are yet unknown, but her maternity home at Shua was destroyed; EYN Church lost four facilities in Madagali, Kwanhi, Michika and Wandali. Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) lost 14 health institutions in the whole of Adamawa and Borno states. We are yet to get details of the losses sustained by Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), the Anglican Communion, United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, RCCN, NKST churches and the rest,” he said.
Charity, innovation take centre stage at fashion school’s anniversary
By Christine Onwuachumba
Glamour and merriment were sacrificed for charity at the fifth anniversary of Zaris Fashion and Style Academy, a two-day event held in Lagos recently that saw four sets of 91 graduates of the academy receive their certificates and the outstanding ones honoured with awards.
The graduation at the academy’s premises at Centage Plaza, Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, was witnessed by families and friends of the graduates as well as fashion industry stakeholders, including Mrs. Chito Mark, Lagos State co-coordinator of Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN).
Instead of the fanfare that characterised its previous graduations, the academy’s choice of a sober approach for this year’s valedictory ceremony was in consonance with its theme “Giving Beyond Garment.”
A day earlier, the two-day event kicked off at the academy’s premises as students, alumni and friends of the institution walked to the Lagos State Correctional Centre for Boys in Oregun, Ikeja, to present donations of sewing materials and food items. An entrepreneurship talk on fashion designing and its benefit to the country was also conducted at the centre, before the day’s outing was concluded with the award of scholarship to the centre’s best student in tailoring to further his studies at the academy, a gestured described by Ifeanyi Kalu, president of Zaris Alumni, as “impacting lives through the world of fashion.”
He affirmed that “this year’s graduation theme is centred on and deeply rooted in acts of charity.” One of the academy’s facilitators, Oluwagbon Oshinowo, challenged the graduates: “As you face and tackle the inevitable changes of life, living and the ever boisterous fashion industry, remember to hold on to your value system, your work ethics and, most importantly, your sense of charity; it is these qualities that will guide you further on your journey.”
The special guest on the occasion, Mrs. Chito Mark, amplified the positive impact of Zaris Academy in the industry while the two guest speakers, Chris Moweta and Ajibola Bamidele, took turns to give the graduates entrepreneurial lessons.
Moweta, a brand specialist, emphasised the importance of developing a brand in entrepreneurship.
“People that would come to you will not come to patronise you because you are a good fashion designer; they will come to you because you deliver value. And because you deliver value, wherever you are, they will locate you,” he said.
His second nugget of business was the necessity of developing a strategy to take the business forward at each point in time: “The strategy you use in starting the business is not the strategy you will use two years or five years into the business. Therefore, innovate. Your business has to see beyond today. Businesses that fail to innovate today should be prepared to die tomorrow.”
In drawing his audience’s attention to the big factor that sustains business, Moweta urged the graduates to borrow a leaf from the theme of the ceremony. He said, “In business whoever does not have the business person in focus will lose relevance over time. Connect with people and be people-centric, and you become competitive.”
Bamidele, a business consultant who started as professional tailor, educated the graduates on the business dimensions of fashion designing, harping on the need to be thorough professionals who strive for excellence.
“We now live in a world where we must embrace the social media. Nowadays, people pick designs online. They are too busy to come and check your shop. So, as a fashion designer, you are the first marketer of your product. You must also develop the skill to also go around finding customers. You must learn how to sell,” he said.
Rotary moves against maternal, infant mortality
…Says Nigeria can eliminate polio, malaria
By Tessy Igomu
The Rotary Club of Ikeja-South, Lagos, has expressed worry at Nigeria’s deplorable health care system, with the dclaration that the club is committed to ensuring that maternal and infant mortality is reduced to the minimum.
Recently, the organisation took a step to stem the tide of infant and maternal mortality by putting together a comprehensive health awareness programme for residents of Alausa Community, Ikeja, Lagos.
The programme, which was the major agenda in the activities lined up for the maiden visit of the Governor, District 9110, Nigeria, Patrick Ijehon Ikheloa, included a health talk, de-worming exercise for children, immunisation against polio, distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, baby cots and other materials to mothers and children in the area.
The event was held at an open arena, close to the Lagos Mall. It started with a health talk, delivered partly in Yoruba, by Mrs. Aminat Raji, a senior community health officer from the Alausa Health Centre, Ikeja. She taught the women how to take care of themselves and their children and how to avoid infection and sickness. She also educated them on how to rid their environment of dirt to avoid turning it to a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pathogens. The health official practically took the residents through important steps to take before hanging the mosquito nets for use.
President of the club, Mr. Adeniyi Otunuyi, noted that the organisation came to the community as part of Rotary’s renewed effort in the fight to end polio. He regretted that two new cases were recently detected in Borno State, warning that polio in any part of the country portended danger to all children across the country.
Otunuyi further explained that Rotary, as a global community, rendered services to humanity by taking care of the health and educational needs of the less privileged.
“We look after the less privileged in society to help give their life some meaning. There is no political, professional or cultural barrier in the Rotary society. This is why I would implore professionals from different fields to join us to empower women and youth, and create leadership programmes for people from all works of life,” he said.
The club’s president noted that the donations were meant to help reduce infant and maternal mortality from malaria.