By Emmanuel Ogebe
This is why I personally believe in Nigeria.
I had heard of this widow for years. I heard she and her kids had moved to Lagos after the horrific incident. I finally tracked her down.
She told me about her charismatic and studious husband who came back to Maiduguri for the weekend from bible school to visit his family. She remembers wistfully the sermon he preached at his church that weekend encouraging all to be firm till the end. As if he knew…
Later that week, Boko Haram went on rampage. They operated freely in the city of Maiduguri where they had a mosque, a camp ground and facilities. They rampaged through the city killing Christians.
Pastor George and his family were amongst those who fled to a military barracks for safety.
Several days later when the violence subsided a bit, he went in search of an old lady – a widow from his church who wasn’t hiding in the barracks with them.
During that rescue mission, he and a deacon were captured by the terrorists and taken to their grounds.
There Mohammed Yusuf, leader of Boko Haram, addressed a group of captured Christians from his throne, “Covert to Islam or die!” Pastor George refused. Instead he urged the other Christian captives to stay strong.
Incensed, Yusuf ordered for a sword to be brought and as Pastor George continued to encourage the others, pinned him down and slit his throat in their full view. Not done, he fully decapitated him. Then, holding up his severed head, Yusuf declared to the trembling group, “this is what we do to those who refuse to accept Islam!”
A few days later, Nigerian security forces captured Yusuf and he died in custody. His cup was full. He had defied the God of heaven for too long and shed too much innocent blood…
Some of the rescued captives who compromised after his beheading came and told her about her husband’s final, defiant moments…
She is probably one of Nigeria’s longest widow’s from Boko Haram terrorism going back to their July 2009 uprising, 10 years ago this week.
I asked her if she had received compensation from Borno state government as I heard some was being offered. She said, the state government claims they are only paying compensation for people killed during their tenure. Hers was before so they didn’t pay.
I was sickened. How could a nation fail to protect its citizens and then fail to comfort them?
Then she told me about Banjo.
A prominent pastor in Warri and another one in Lagos helped relocate her and her two kids from Borno to the south. She was pregnant then and had her third child there.
A man named Banjo got in touch with her and promised to pay for her kids’ school. This is very costly in one of the world’s most expensive metropolitan megacities.
Every once in a while Banjo would call and ask about the kids’ results. One year, she read the grades to him. Banjo said, “let me call you back.”
Sometime later, he phoned. “I have discussed this with my bible study group. Your son’s grades are not great. We need to move him to a better school. We will pay for the new school.”
It is one thing to be a one-off or cash-and-go philanthropist. It is a whole other thing to be a caring, consistent humanitarian. He paid the fees but he cared about the kid’s performance. In that wise, Banjo was doing what George himself would have done. George must be smiling from heaven…(the body works!)
I marvel at this man whom she tells me she has never met. Yes. He has never shown up to claim credit or glory for his charity. He is leaving it all up to His Rewarder. He is from the southwest, she is from north central and the pastor who relocated her is from the south south. They have no bond, no connection than the love of God. Ironically I found out during our interview that she was from my place…
This is why I believe in Nigeria but I believe in Nigerians more. We have been our own government when there was no governance. We can be our own ministers when there are none. We have proven time and again, that we can survive without them and inspite of them.
4 Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
…7 Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
…9 Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
…10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
….15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.
This weekend was the 10th anniversary of the public beheading of pastor George Ojih by Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf. Yusuf himself was killed days later.
Pastor George is survived by a wife and three kids. In those 10 years no assistance or compensation came to the family from the government state or federal. His widow Veronica wanted to move to Kaduna because of the high cost of living but discovered after buying a land there that it has been taken over by Fulani Herdsmen.
It is ironic that the anniversary of the oldest hero of the faith martyred by Boko Haram, George, also coincided with the news of the martyrdom of the newest heroine of the faith, Leah. If truly she’s been executed, the God of George will arise on her behalf again like he did before.
It is sad that after 10 years such tragedies continue to occur in Nigeria. In the UK, a Nigerian grandfather Oluwole Ilesanmi was arrested by the police for preaching on the street. The police have since apologized for wrongful arrest and paid him compensation of £2500.
However in Nigeria, Evangelist Eunice did exactly the same thing – preached on the street in Nigeria’s capital – was slaughtered in cold blood and three years later her admitted killers have not been convicted. Pa Ilesanmi is guaranteed better protection under the rule of law in UK than in Nigeria. Ironically, the third anniversary of Eunice’s burial coincided with apology of the British police to Pa Ilesanmi.
The ultimate travesty is not just that this continues to happen but that the killers get away with it or are even rewarded. The Nigerian government has paid billions to the terrorists but their victims continue to languish.
The Shiites are the ones who have been killed in the hundreds even though they never committed the atrocities of Boko Haram, yet, they like IPOB members have been tagged as terrorists. Where President Jonathan pleaded and made peace with El Zak Zaky after the killings of his sons by the army, General Buhari has poured petrol on a fire.
No society is viable or sustainable with a value system where victims are ignored and villains are empowered.
Today we honour the memories of all martyrs and victims of a failed nation and we commend kind-hearted citizens who succeed in caring for those whom the government has failed.
I believe in Nigerians. Nigerians are greater than Nigeria and their government as currently constituted.