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Joseph’s football dream ‘Locked Up’ in IDP Camp

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Heading to the Home for the Needy Foundation Camp in Uhogua, Edo State, South-south Nigeria, a gigantic signboard with the inscription- International Center For Christian Mission, welcomes you into the community. Unlike the case with some other Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in some parts of Nigeria, the Home in Uhogua is in exclusive environment surrounded by green vegetation and mountains.

Without traffic bottleneck, the journey from the state capital, Benin City, through Siluko road, down to Ego market, takes about 30 minutes drive.

The IDP Camp, Uhogua, managed by the Home for the Needy Foundation, was initially for vulnerable children and orphans. It has been in place since 2007, but the insurgency of Boko Haram in North East Nigeria forced some other people to join them.

The killings and high level of destructions resulting from the insurgency of Boko Haram in many cities across the North East of Nigeria had forced hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children to flee from their villages and towns. Many of these children witnessed how their parents and relatives were ruthlessly killed, and their houses burnt to ashes. They lost everything they had, triggering suffering, hunger, exhaustion and sicknesses like cholera and typhoid. In order to escape the unimaginable violence of the terrorist group, the people hid in mountains and caves for days before arriving at the IDP Camp, Uhogua. They were highly traumatised.

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Among the IDPs in Uhogua camp is a 20-year old talented footballer, Moses Sakaba Joseph, who says he wants to use the round leather game as a tool to inhale.

Joseph hails from Senchi community in Zuru Local Government Area of Kebbi State. He is one of seven children of his parents. They lost their father some years ago.

Speaking with The Guardian during a visit to the IDP Camp, Uhogua, Joseph stated that since the demise of his dad, life of hopelessness became certain.

“Things became so difficult for us in the family,” the young Joseph recalls with nostalgic feelings. “My mother and other siblings decided that I should join the Home For the Needy so that I can seek for education and other ways that will enable me to care for the entire family in the future.”

For Joseph, the entrance into Uhogua IDP Camp was like sojourning abroad as immigrants do to survive. He has been in the camp since 2015.

And for six years, Joseph has been combining education with sports. He loves football and wants to be famous through the round leather game like Cristiano Ronaldo, his idol. But he is handicapped from lack of game time or access to a real football team.

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With excitement from the ongoing EURO Football Championship, as well as build up by athletes around the globe for the Tokyo Olympics, Joseph hopes his dream of becoming a great football star comes to reality as soon as possible. “I am praying and hoping my dream of becoming a football star comes to reality very soon because I want my people to watch me on television playing professional soccer,” he said.

The 20-year old Joseph, an attacker, uses both legs on the field of play, but is more dangerous with his right foot. Outside his dream of becoming the Cristiano Ronaldo of Nigerian football, Joseph wants to become a lawyer so that he can stand up and defend his people, community and the entire country in years to come. He is preparing hard for his senior secondary school examination.

Coordinator of the Home for the Needy Foundation (IDP) Camp, Uhogua, former Super Eagles winger and member of Tunisia ‘94 AFCON winning squad, Edema Fuludu, told The Guardian during the visit that the primary objective of the camp is using Nigerian children/youths to participate in sports related activities to promote literacy and social well being.

“We use this IDP Camp, Uhogua in channeling the youths energy to become well balanced future sport men and women, leverage on their talents to promote peace and also empower people in both the rural and urban communities to fulfill their potentials and achieve their dreams,” Fuludu stated.

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