BY USMAN MOHAMMED & YUNUSA BUNU, FEBRUARY 15, 2022 | 10:35 AM
Many may have forgotten, but Damaturu, the capital of Yobe, and the seat of the state’s chief executive officer, was once a Boko Haram headquarters!
And this is how things can happen, change and be forgotten—and in so short!
It is forgotten, or of course nobody wants to remember, that the state had a Boko Haram governor, who in December of 2014, entered the Yobe State Government House in Damaturu!
It is now quite easy to forget, because Damaturu is not wearing the same look, even as, one would want it to better.
Even the government house has now had a face-lift, a new look, which further hides one of its worst days.
The dark days
Those days—emotion flaring to remember for its sons and daughters—terrorists made massacre an order of the day.
Killings—in choice means to them—were meted out indiscriminately on the state capital. It never mattered whether it was by slitting of throats, gun shots or bombs.
Sharing his experience, Akilu Idris, a victim, who described himself as being extremely lucky to have survived one of such bomb blasts at Damaturu Car Park, said he thought he was ran over by a truck after he was hit by shrapnel of the explosions.
'It lifted me up and smashed me to the ground. I was covered with blood. My forehead, leg, back and everywhere.
'Some people lost their eyes, others lost their lives, customers were injured… it was terrific,' Akilu said.
Destructions… schools, mosques, markets
Destructions, a la Mongolian philosophy of conquest by destruction, went on non-stop.
Schools, which the terrorists pretentiously say they are against, were set blaze.
Students were slaughtered in their sleep while at school.
Mosques, which they ought to protect if there was an atom of truth in their claims, were bombed when congregational prayers—which is one of Islam’s five pillars—were observed, all across the North East.
Nightmare of traveling across the city
In 2014, the onslaught of the terrorists in the state reached its peak, such that even trans-Damaturu travels was a big nightmare.
‘My family and friends would not be at peace until I tell them on phone that I had left Damaturu safely,’ one man who had the experience of traveling across the state capital those days remembered.
Parts of the city were given names reminiscent of terrorists’ playing field in the Middle East.
One of them was named by the locals as Afghanistan because of the large concentration and activities of the terrorists.
Security men, posts, stations as main targets
Even security men avoided those areas when in uniform.
They were the terrorists’ main target.
Their formations and stations were being targeted for attacks and bombings, which caused some to be temporarily closed down.
Some of them began to operate without uniforms.
Forced to flee and D-Day
Many big men in town, politicians, businesspeople and tradition leaders, had to flee.
Kano, Abuja or Borno, despite its own similarly terrible situation, became their refuge.
‘A day we will never forget in Damaturu is Monday, December 1, 2014. Boko Haram started shooting from Gujba Road around the university with heavy gunshots intending to take over the town.
'They took over the government house and declared their governor,' Ibrahim Adam, a businessman told our reporters in Damaturu.
If people were not sure about the fact the terrorists meant every bit of their threats, which is chiefly to overthrow the Nigerian state, the attack on the government house left no one in doubt.
David Mark, the then senate president, had to bring up the matter at the senate, describing it as the peak of the situation.
Of course, troops took them out under 48 hours; but it was still an indication that the situation had then gone overboard, by the fact of daring it alone.
But it was enough to cause the people to flee.
'The day I got scared and fled the town was when they (Boko Haram) slaughtered 30 people.
'We are afraid of reporting any suspicious movement because the terrorists will one way or the other locate you and kill you with their list of targets,' Ibrahim said.
How things are faring today
But what happened in between is best expressed in the fact that most people don’t remember that day now, or at least its details.
Yes, Damaturu was deserted by its people, which thus made it a real battleground between troops and the terrorists.
But it did not take long for Nigerian troops to rid Damaturu of the terrorists.
It was one of the earliest places to attain peace in the North East.
‘With prayers and the effort of our gallant troops, they were subdued and many of the terrorist were killed,’ Ibrahim said.
'But Alhamdulilah, peace has been restored now: you will come out for your business and go back to sleep peacefully,' Akilu also added.
Bulama Musa, 65 and the ward head of Ajiri community who had also fled by foot during the peak of the insurgency, similarly commended the efforts of the Nigerian military for restoring peace in the state capital.
'We have seen a lot of grief. I lost all my possessions during the Boko Haram insurgency.
'Surprisingly, today we sleep in peace, go to everywhere we want and come back peacefully: we thank God, and commend our soldiers,' the ward head said.
Damaturu is now peaceful.
People move in and out of the city without any fear.
The roaring sounds of bomb blasts or heavy military machinery, which they were accustomed to, is now forgotten.
The nights are busy, and still goes dead with so many businesses unfinished.
Markets are back, making the days also highly bustling with traders, buyers and sellers keeping the streets and cab drivers busy.
Mosques now litter with worshippers.
They give glory to God and give thanks to Nigerian troops.
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07 February 2022