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This Is My Story…This Is My Song

By Opara Magbeth Chinomso and Olaboludele Simoyan
19 April 2015   |   2:30 am
YESTERDAY, it was exactly four years that the unthinkable happened to some corps members caught in the all-consuming post-election violence up North. I was a victim.

corps membersYESTERDAY, it was exactly four years that the unthinkable happened to some corps members caught in the all-consuming post-election violence up North.

I was a victim. But, mercifully, I survived to tell the story! Thankfully too, Providence saved a similar possible calamity few weeks ago, but not without some bestiality still in some part of the country especially down south. This inhuman culture must change.

On Sunday, April 17, 2011, it all started like a sign after the presidential election in Giade Local government area where I was on national service as a youth corps member.

I was serving in Government Senior Secondary School, Giade. And my name is Magbeth. In the early hours of that fateful, unforgettable day at about 2a.m we returned to INEC office in Giade from our ward called Zirami.

I happened to be the presiding officer in charge of Saweri Fulani in Zirami. On getting to the INEC office, we were greeted by tear gas — about 200 metres to the police station. Political thugs had gathered at the INEC office demanding that the votes be tallied in their presence. We managed to escape to our various places of residence that night, oblivious of the terror lurking against the morning.

However, the following day, a Monday, April 18, 2011, the worst happened. We, the youth corps members were all in our lodge called Faida Lodge when reports of crises in other local governments in Bauchi State filtered out.

We thought it wasn’t anything to panic about and we continued with what we were doing. Before we knew it madness broke loose. At about 10 a.m the political thugs started burning worship places and business premises owned by non-indigenes in Giade.

On hearing the news I told our head corps member Kazeem to call our LGI (Local government Inspector) and inform him about the unfortunate development-taking place in our local government of residence. Kazeem did.

Our LGI told us that we should stay calm in the lodge and nothing will happen to us. That assertion ended up being so far from the truth. Shortly afterwards the DPO (Divisional Police Officer) of Giade told us that we should run to the police station because things had gotten out of hand in town.

When the thugs were through with the damage and wreckage they were creating in town, they moved to look for us ‘corpers’. They went straight to our lodge but met nobody there, so they came straight to the police station demanding that the policemen should throw us out for them to deal with but the policemen refused.

Before we knew it, the thugs started attacking the police station. Meanwhile the policemen tried to chase them away with tear gas, which didn’t work. And they ended up running out of tear gas.

They had to bring out the guns. The DPO specifically told the policemen not to shoot at the political thugs but that they should shoot into the air.

We were there inside the police station for over an hour while the policemen were shooting into the air hoping the thugs would go away which didn’t happen. Then the worst happened: the policemen ran out of bullets! How in the world could the police run out of bullets when our lives were at stake? Anyway it did happen and some of the policemen ran for their lives leaving us to sort ourselves out with the wolves waiting to kill. The thugs started burning the vehicles around the police station.

They finally set the DPO’s office on fire. The only policeman remaining with us inside the building asked us to pray and that it was time to run out of the burning station. Meanwhile there were about 1000 political thugs that had surrounded the building just waiting for us to run out and into their midst.

Earlier on I had told one of the policemen to call the Seriki of Giade to come and calm the thugs but he said that even the Seriki said that he had nothing to do about the situation.

The message was basically we were on our own! On our own we were! So as we ran out of the burning police station the killings started. We continued running aimlessly in no particular direction. Some of us ran for what seemed like about four kilometres inside the desert. Then we scattered in different directions.

I was so tired and thirsty. Then, I saw a well where a boy was fetching water for his cow. I asked him for some water and he started shouting “yamiri yamiri”.

He later stopped shouting and gave me some water to drink. After drinking the water I started feeling an awful pain coming from the blisters on the soles of my feet.

The pain was excruciating! I looked up for one second and saw that the ‘corpers’ (and the other people) I had been running with had been captured.

I knew I didn’t have the luxury of time or the indulgence of feeling the pain caused by the blisters on my feet! I had to get up and run again for my life! I ended up hiding in someone’s farm for over an hour.

While I was in this farmland I made calls to the following people: my former LGI, our NDLEA area commander in Azare, my brother, the DCO, and a policeman called Emma who happened to be my friend.

I told them where I was and the situation I was in, just in case I didn’t make it out of this terrifying and traumatic circumstance. Just after I had made the calls the thugs found me.

I jumped up and continued running, leaving behind my clothes, credentials, phones, money, ID cards and ATM cards etc. I had so little energy left in me but I kept running and saying to myself “I am not going to die this way! These people are not going to kill me here in the middle of nowhere!” Some of them shouted “waya waya” (phone) so I threw the other phone I was making calls with to one of the young men. I was still running and they were so close to me that one of them whipped me with a huge piece of wood that had nails in it.

It hit me and I almost fell but I encouraged myself and kept running! Then I remembered the well I drank water from earlier on and decided to make my way back there because they were really closing the gap between me and them.

I had made up my mind that I would rather die in the well than have a painful death of being butchered by these people with their cutlasses, knives and axes.

I ran all the way to the well and without thinking twice I jumped into the deep well and tumbled all the way down to the bottom of the well. I landed plunging and splashing into the water in the well! When they got to the well the thugs started throwing different kinds of stones at me inside.

They wanted me dead! They still wanted to kill me even in that well. Finally, an elderly man from the clan that owned the well came out I think to plead with the thugs. He implored them to stop their actions.

He told them that the well is the only source of water for his community. The thugs started accusing me of committing another offence. My first offence (which I later found out) was apparently rigging the elections with my fellow ‘corpers’. Now my second offence was jumping into the well and polluting the only source of water this community has for drinking, washing and praying etc.

See me see wahala, plenty wahala! They wanted me dead at all cost and for whatever reason they could hang on my neck as a crime! They were the policemen, prosecutor and judge all wrapped in one! The old man managed to convince them that my life was worth sparing. So grudgingly they let down a rope into the well to help me get out.

When I finally got out of the well they rushed me and started rained more beating on me but the old man said no and persuaded them to stop. The thugs respected the old man’s request and they asked me to move away from the well and that I should keep running. I said no I would do no such thing. In my mind I was saying, “Do they think I am stupid or what?” I knew that if I followed their evil instruction they would just chase after me and kill me when I am out of the old man’s sight.

I held on tightly to the old man for my dear life. I knew I would be dead if not for him. He led me away from the well about 150 metres or so. Then we saw a man on a motorbike, his mission was to rescue the distressed youth corps members caught in the post-election violence in Giade. He was taking any rescued ‘corper’ to Jugudu.

He asked me few questions to make sure I was a ‘corper’. When he was satisfied he took me to Jugudu where I saw two local government accounts who happened to be my lesson students in Giade. Jugudu provide a place of rest for a while.

I kept saying in my mind – “I made it! I made it through this nightmare! I am alive to tell the story!” I was elated! I cannot describe the feeling! I was extremely grateful to God for sparing my life through the horrifying experience! I was later taken to Doguwa where other rescued corps members were.

From there we were taken to the General Hospital in Giade for treatment, and then we were all taken to SSS (State Security Services) development centre in Bauchi and much later to ATBUTH (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital) for further treatment.

In the whole of Giade Local government area, there were over 1,200 youth corpers serving the nation. We lost seven members and twelve of us sustained injuries from the post-election nightmare in 2011. This is my story and my experience.

I pray that no youth corper will ever be caught up in post-election violence again! That is why I have written my story for posterity. As a nation we forget too easily. And that is why many of our problems as a nation still persist! We must not forget the 10 corps members (the total number) that died in the 2011 post-election mayhem! We must not forget the over 800 Nigerians that also died! We must not forget the pain, the trauma and the injuries corps members suffered in 2011! We must never let this happen again. Never again!