Northern Nigeria & Internal Displacement

I was born, and have lived over half of my life in Kaduna State, which is located in northern Nigeria.

I was born during the 1992 Zangon Kataf crisis, which was a result of an explosive mix of religious and ethnic rivalry. This crisis led to the burning of buildings, destruction of property, the death of many and hence the displacement of several.

In 2000, I was a witness to the Sharia Crisis – a religion incited crisis- which also occurred in Kaduna State.

Lives were lost, properties were destroyed, and thousands were displaced. Social structures (schools, hospitals, and financial institutions) experienced total or almost shut down. This was where I had my first personal encounter with internal displacement. My families home which I considered somewhat safe, became the place of refugee of over 100 displaced inhabitants for a period of six weeks. Our garage, chicken coop and every inch of our home became a living space for many individuals driven from their places of habitation. During that period, I witnessed childbirth outside of a hospital or health care facility, but in my own home.

Being a child at the time I did not fully understand the gravity of the situation. I felt excited that school was out for so many weeks, so many playmates, and lots of activities going on, yet I could still sense the fear, uncertainty, and the sadness. Friends of my family had lost loved ones, businesses had been razed to the ground and livelihoods destroyed.

Further, there were rumours that there were attacks planned against the quarters we lived in. With not much time to pack up, we left to stay the night in the open air away from the comfort and shelter of our home. While it was a novel experience and looking back, I could describe it as an ‘adventure under the starry sky’, it did not seem so at that time. It was a matter of survival.

When things calmed down, I thought the worst was over. However, in the wake of that particular crisis came a change that till this day I despise. While I can come to terms with the saying that the only constant in life is change, I was not prepared for the jarring change to the city I had called home all my life. Families who were non-indigenous to Northern Nigeria had lost all their property and businesses had to relocate back to the east and west. Our place of worship took a direct hit that meant fear amongst families and individuals and that resulted in a drastic decline in attendance at worship meetings.

Friends and schoolmates I had grown up with and spent all my life building relationships with were torn away. This was a lot for a child my age to come to terms with.

If I ever were to categorize my life’s experiences, one category would definitely be: before the 2001 Kaduna crisis and after the 2001 crisis.

I currently live in another northern city away from Kaduna, which is relatively more peaceful than Kaduna. However, Kaduna remains home to me. Very recently, another crisis sprang up; caused by misunderstood words that very quickly escalated into kidnappings, killings, and destruction of property. It was all so sudden, it sounded like ridiculous rumours. I thought to myself, I had just spoken to my family that still lives in Kaduna the day before and I did not hear of any crisis or impending crisis and then the next day reading about the happenings on the news, I was sad and worried, too many thoughts were racing through my mind.

My sister, who is a teacher in one of the secondary schools in Kaduna state was telling me how schools had to be shut down for over two weeks as a result of the unrest. It felt more real to me this time, as an adult who understands the importance of quality unobstructed education in the development of children, it did not feel to me like it felt in 2001 (time away from school spent at play with friends.) It felt like what it truly was, a break from a child’s education when her colleagues in the south, east, and west of Nigeria were in school enjoying an unhindered education.

Now, I do not think there are fun sides to crises. I do not like those experiences. People still wonder why my family and I are still based in northern Nigeria. I wonder though, northern Nigeria is still a part of Nigeria, it’s all supposed to be one country.

I have visited many states in the North of Nigeria and the social and economic challenges of crisis are everywhere in terms of the wide development gap that exists between the north and other parts of Nigeria.

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