Posts Tagged ‘Borno’

This is the second instalment of my Maiduguri trip tale. MTT. Sounds nice. Dope abbreviation. Sounds like something serious. This is serious biko. As serious as serious can get. But I digress. Part one is here. Let’s get on with it.

So! One of the first things that hit you once the announcement about the descent into Maiduguri is made and you look out the window might be that there is the Maiduguri we all hear of and the Maiduguri you meet (in person). Perfect opposition, especially if you’re besotted with foreign media reports.

It’s the red roofs and cream-colored buildings, the wide expanse of uninhabited land; it is the land itself. Green and luscious one minute, dry and scorched the next. This contrast presents itself throughout the duration of this trip exaggerated many times over by the insurgency.

Immediate thoughts on sights at the airport?

  1. Maiduguri international airport, like several international airports in Nigeria, is, unfortunately, international only in name. The absence of an arrival lounge reduced hopes for a carousel or conveyor belt to mischievous thinking. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for our bags, and it was off to our lodgings in a convoy dotted with an armed security truck in the front and at the rear.
  2. Decrepit buildings, chipped away at some corners, time, negligence, and incompetence ensuring that even the lettering on the building announcing the airport was barely visible. I confirmed the airport had never been attacked. What was the excuse for this eyesore then?

The second thing I noticed (or that hit me) was the heat. Dry, prickly heat, and yours truly was wrapped in a jalabia and head scarf. I genuinely thought I was going to have heat stroke.

So, we got into our cars and drove in a convoy to our lodgings, a place called Lake Lale Guest Inn. Here’s an idea of the sight I became accustomed to for the rest of the trip.


The first room I was given had bad locks and because I didn’t want any how stories starting from “while she was sleeping…” I asked and was given another room which was cleaned while I was there. Tut tut tut.

We were to have a team debrief at 8:30 pm. I had been warned that the restaurant was a bit slow but I forgot meaning that the chicken and chips I ordered weren’t ready before our meeting. By the time the meeting was done, I got back to my room and asked for the food. It was brought and the rest I captured on twitter.


Anyway, I ate it like that, spoke to Tata and my folks, and slept off, grateful for safety, a roof over my head, and the privilege to be on the delegation to a place I had only heard about. A few mosquitoes, but nothing the airconditioning wouldn’t handle. Or so I thought.

The evening and the morning, the first day. Tomorrow? Bama.

I was born in Kano, and raised (amongst other cities in Nigeria) in Kaduna and in Abuja. My mother says we spoke Hausa fluently at some point, and having lived in some western cities at some other times, we spoke Yoruba too. Matter of fact I vividly remember acting in Yoruba plays in primary school and coming top of the class in Yoruba. My parents are (still) fluent in three Nigerian languages, while I currently struggle with all three. Life isn’t fair.

Like every good student, I know the states and capitals and having the privilege growing up in at least thirteen locations in Nigeria cutting across most of the geopolitical zones, I have a fairly intimate understanding how people in these parts behave. Except the North Eastern part of Nigeria though – Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba, Borno, and Gombe. My parents were never transferred there, and my travels as an adult never ventured there either.

From 2009, we heard bits of the North being famous for things other than agriculture, vehicles, fabric, or even cattle. Religious extremism (in various parts of the country), like a pot silently boiling over, peaked. Not the brand Kano, Kaduna, Benue, Nassarawa, and even Plateau had seen, a new wave challenging the tenets of Islam and more importantly, condemning everything Western, especially education. Say hello to Boko Haram.

With this sect came a wave of devastation and destruction I dare say Nigeria had not seen before, ravaging whole states, especially Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa.

Fast forward to 2016, my work with a client focused on the reconstruction of the devastated areas, and therefore an assessment trip to Borno.

At first, I had said no as the trip coincided with another trip I was to make outside Nigeria. Fluctuating forex policies/restrictions, an agent with an interesting attitude, and a lot of back and forth communication after, it was obvious to me I wouldn’t make my flight date, at least not without spending approximately #150,000 more than the ridiculous amount I had already spent. I decided I couldn’t afford it, retrieved what I had already paid, and said yes to Borno. Note that three months after I made that trip out of Nigeria at about half the cost of the original ticket I initially turned down.

The next few pieces chronicle the trip with all the accompanying visuals; I hope it comes just as alive for you as it was for me.

DAY ONE: The Trip.

We start as always, with movement. I woke up on Thursday morning, first off smarting that I didn’t wake up in Frankfort connecting to Houston and then suddenly afraid of what Borno might have in store. I had read the briefing notes and known we would be going to Maiduguri and then to Bama, using the same route the UNICEF workers had been ambushed on a few weeks prior. Apparently, we were scheduled to visit twice: cue apprehension.

I cleared my movement with my family (sans my mum, lol),  and my dad’s excitement helped me feel a lot more positive about the trip. And then there was the dash to the market to get a jalabiya (outer, over-all type garment commonly worn in the North) and a veil. The plan was to blend in as much as I could.

Quick stop at TATA’s for Brunch, some goofiness and emergency Hausa lessons(lol) and it was off to the airport to catch 1.30pm flight which didn’t leave till 3pm. We will skip that point and talk about my intense feeling of nakedness when I met the rest of the team.

I had assumed (erroneously of course) that I only needed to don my extras on the way to Bama. The other females (mostly northerners) on the team, however, were dressed to the neck with veils, hijabs etc. – one person was even wearing socks. Yours truly was blissfully sporting my favourite pair of jeans, my sister’s pink and grey tee, and my favourite slippers. Guess who had to dig through her checked in luggage, retrieve her jalabiya and veil and become culture/religion complaint before we touched down in Maiduguri? Yup! Me!

As we took off I prayed a few prayers, especially for safety, strength (both physically and mentally), and the presence of mind to be able to get solid work done/think through creative solutions for my clients. I wanted to have an interesting tip too, something to write about.  And then I prayed for safety just a bit more.

One hour five minutes later, we touched down , Maiduguri International Airport. Nothing remotely international (or even national) about it, but we’ll discuss this and more tomorrow morning when the next instalment is up. Tomorrow.

I don’t live in Borno. Never been either, and the two people I know from there, are resident in Abuja. I have friends who live in/around Nyanya though. The blast on the 14th? Could have been any one of them but that’s not the point.

The 200+ girls missing from Government Girls’ Secondary School Chibok have parents, brothers, sisters, maybe even boyfriends and/or husbands who are looking for them, who are distraught because not only is our military not sure how many girls were taken in the first place, they seem to be clueless on how to get them back.

The sheer inequality in the way disasters are handled in this country is the reason why I’m joining a peaceful march tomorrow. The parents are alone, no empathy or visit from our leaders, no words of comfort, nothing that says, ‘we feel your pain”. Nothing.

The 28th of April (yesterday) made it two weeks since these girls were snatched from their dormitories (Lord only knows why the school wasn’t shut down like all the others but let’s not go there) and we don’t know where they are – if they are still alive, what horrors they must have been exposed to – how many of them have been sold, raped, beaten, used for rituals, we do not know.

Bring back our girls

As someone on Twitter said yesterday, “two weeks, over 200 girls, no tampons, toothbrushes or change of lingerie” – disgraceful. Even more disgraceful is that there is no sense of urgency with the way this disaster is being handled. A meeting of all the joint chiefs and governors that degenerated into a “we invited them but they didn’t come” vs a “we weren’t invited” argument? Really? We’re playing politics with lives?

I speak to my folks at least three times a week (AT LEAST), and no, I am not an only child. I must salute the courage, the resilience, and the ability to absorb pain that the parents of these girls have shown cos I know mine would have passed on from the trauma. What would your parents do if they didn’t know where you were? For two weeks? And it didn’t look like anyone was seriously looking for you?

If you’re in Abuja, please join us tomorrow at the Unity Fountain (opposite the Hilton) as we march to The Presidency to respectfully ask that someone find the balls to bring our girls back.

Time is 3pm – 8pm (please ask today for permission to close early tomorrow). We’re wearing red in solidarity (but please wear whatever you’re comfortable in).

At some point, we need to go past the comforts of ranting on Facebook and Twitter, and put actions where our keypads are.
Youth are the leaders of tomorrow? Well 200+ of them are missing.

See you tomorrow.


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Been quite a while I worked on the 3, 2, 1 Series on here, thought I’d bring it back with an interview I had a lot of fun with!

In these unfortunate days when the fear of Boko Haram is the beginning of wisdom (and the wrinkling of your nose/shaking of your head at our government that seems powerless in the face of these terrorists), I thought about how I would feel if I had family in any of the troubled spots. Immediately I knew I wanted to find someone like that, and as God would have it, Mark surfaced!

Mark Amaza studied Environmental Management at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, after primary and secondary school education in Maiduguri, Borno State. He runs MINDcapital, a strategy, branding and innovation consulting firm he founded four years ago.

He is also a blogger in his spare time, where he writes about politics, entrepreneurship, education, self-development and other random ideas on his blog,

He also contributes articles and opinion pieces to a number of sites, including The Scoop, Nigerians Talk, Love Nigeria and The Herald. He has also been published in YNaija, YADA Magazine, Nigeria Dialogue and

Mark is the curator and brain behind NHBi (No Holds Barred interactive), a chat show on Twitter every Wednesday night by 9pm. Brilliant stuff!!

Show loads of love and give a warm welcome to my guest, Mark!

FGS: Welcome! Want to tell us about #NHBi, what inspired it and what the vision is?

Mark:  It was quite spontaneous, I was tweeting one night on relationships and then the next day, @Rosanwo asked for my opinion on money and relationships. And from there, it became a weekly thing. Right now, we’re all about making it a platform where young people can talk on all topics of relationships and sexuality, and also working on monetizing it

FGS: Talk us through the format of the show please?

Mark:  we have 45mins for d guest to talk about a chosen topic, and then 45mins to answer questions and comments

FGS: What’s the response been like? Numbers?

Mark: Excellent! It’s been wonderful! We’ve reached an average of 30K accounts per episode; our last episode had 51K accounts reached, and about 2K tweets.

FGS: Massive! What’s the most popular topic you’ve had?

Mark: I think the one we had on sexual addiction and relationships last season.

#NHBi Season 3 Episode 1

FGS: I think I can remember it, the guy who talked about not being able to get enough. Interesting bit for me was the way he got over it, just by deciding to. Anyway, when you’re not moderating sex and relationships related questions, what do you do??

Mark:  I run MINDcapital, a management consultancy. We advice clients on strategy, branding, innovation, business planning and business process improvement

FGS: So, what problem would I come to you to solve for me?

Mark:  If you want to start a business and you need advice on how to, or you want to introduce a product or service and you need to build a brand or a strategy. Basically, any management issues except HR and accounting. You can find us here

FGS: How’s business?

Mark: Business is good, moving gradually

FGS:  Let’s talk Boko Haram. What are your thoughts? Off the top of your head

Mark: Hmm, that’s a complex one. Boko Haram is complex. It has become a cover for many different people to do their evil: the Federal Government, politicians, the military, ethnic supremacists.  And yes, there’s the real Boko Haram…

FGS: Yes, there is. If you could, how would you tackle it? Three things.

Mark:  There has to be that political will to take on everyone involved; there are too many bigwigs are involved, and they’re protected. So how would I tackle it? One, take action on the intelligence that’s there. Two: secure the borders. I don’t have a 3

FGS: Ha ha ha ha!!  Ok… Tell me about your (recent) trip to Maiduguri, capital of Borno.

Mark: Compared to say a year ago, things are much better. There are less checkpoints, there’s ease of movement, except everyone is apprehensive about the civilian JTF (Joint Task force). Though they’ve helped immensely, if care isn’t taken, they could be another Boko Haram

FGS: they are armed right? This civilian JTF?

Mark: They are armed, and mostly on drugs. They use weapons like cutlasses and axes and knives.

FGS: oh wow. How does it feel having family in Borno? No holds barred please (lol)

Mark: I’m not scared anymore. I was very concerned for my younger brother who’s in the University of Maiduguri, especially when 3 of his friends were killed about a year ago. He left for his industrial attachment in March and so I am more at ease. Almost everyone close to me has left.

FGS: So, Borno’s no longer on your mind?

Mark: No, it is. But it doesn’t bother me that my folks are there, because things have gotten much better. My only concern is seeing things improve so much that another Boko Haram doesn’t happen years from now.

FGS: True. Maybe you can give me a tour sometime, I hear I can buy quality gold there…

Mark: Yeah, you can, although I don’t know what quality gold is. Lol!

FGS: Thank you for chatting to me Mark

Mark: Anytime!


Want to read more of these interviews? Go here, or here, or here, or here! Do you want me to interview someone you believe is doing great things? Say so!