The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they choose their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.
This week’s ‘The Nigerian Voter’ subject is Enoch, a 28-year-old volunteer at the Kuchingoro Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp.
He shared with us how the Boko Haram terror group displaced him from his state in 2014, his motivation for volunteering at the camp, and how he plans on voting as a means of revenge against the government for poor treatment of IDPs.
What is the Kuchingoro IDP camp?
This is a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) due to violence from attacks from the Boko-Haram terrorist sect in the North-East of Nigeria. The attacks started in 2014 in villages in the North-East. Some villages are not accessible, while some are accessible but with a high presence of terrorism. The people are here to find a hiding place away from all the violence.
Kunchigoro isn’t the only IDP camp. There are almost ten of these camps and settlements in Abuja, although not all of them are officially recognised. Karonmajigi, Lugbe and Kuje are examples of these camps, amongst many others.
You volunteer at Kuchingoro, how did you get here?
In 2014, I was in transit to Lagos from Borno. I decided to stop by Kunchigoro to see how some of my people were faring there.
Even though I am a displaced person, I have formal education and skills. This gave me some advantage in the camp than those who can’t read or write.
Women sitting under a tree in New Kuchingoro Camp
Before then, my dad, siblings and two of my cousins were killed on the same day during the Gwoza village raid in Borno by Boko Haram. My cousin’s wife was also abducted. My mother, however, was in the hospital receiving kidney treatment in Abuja, so she was safe.
That day, I was in my dormitory, preparing to finish my final year at the University of Maiduguri. A few days later, some of my relatives that survived came to break the news to me and I wept and wept. I don’t think I’ve ever cried since then the way I cried on the day my relatives came.
So sorry for your loss. Where did you go after university?
Until I graduated, a lot of my friends gave me financial and emotional support. Most of those friends were staying in various parts of Abuja.
I had plans to go to Lagos and look for work, but I’d have felt very bad if I had bypassed them after graduation without showing appreciation for their good deeds.
Therefore, I made my stop for a week in Abuja.
During that period, one of my friends told me there were displaced people from my village in the IDP camp at Kuchingoro. A man who was left-handed and used stones on the Boko Haram members to chase them away during the raid was part of them. As a result, he sustained multiple gunshot wounds on his left arm, which made it diseased. I visited the man when I heard he moved to Kunchigoro.
When I got there, the man was very sick. It was a very emotional moment for me because this brave, courageous man stood up for himself and was getting death in return. I then thought, “what if I was in the village that day? Wouldn’t I have been killed?” I quickly rushed to get him medication, and slowly but surely, he improved.
That thought alone made me realise that I could do something to help people in need, especially IDPs. After two months, I came to Abuja from Lagos to advocate for donors and humanitarian organisations that could help the Kuchingoro camp. I went to Channels, Max TV, and even radio stations like Ray FM, Nigeria Info and Kiss FM just to beg for help on air.
It wasn’t easy, but with aid from Help of God International Church and others, we spread awareness about the camp. More people came here. The numbers grew to 6,000 in that same year, 2014.
What has it been like working in Kuchingoro?
It has had its ups and downs. I remember when people trooped in their thousands around 2014 and 2015. I felt alarmed because the humanitarian support wasn’t there. Thus, I decided to use my knowledge of statistics to take the exact numbers of people in the camp and a tracker of people looking for their loved ones. I contacted the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)and Humanitarian Watch.
I thought the statistics would be able to help with more donations for the camp. However, it didn’t turn out as I expected. Even though some were and are still coming in, I’ve noticed that most of these organisations (especially the federal ones) love to cut out their share of the donations meant for us and give us the remnants. Some even justify this by saying we are not an actual IDP camp. This has forced us as a community not to depend so much on handouts but to fend for ourselves. And with almost 80% of the adults being illiterate, it is very, very hard.
Netcodietsmann supporting IDP children in Kuchingoro with free education.
Now to the good parts. I feel fulfilled being able to work here and also being able to make a good living through farming and harvesting locust beans. This is the same as most of the male persons here. A group of Reverend Sisters here in Abuja donated about 50-100 plots of land for us to farm and make money. Many of these IDPs have been able to sell their foodstuff to other states like Lagos and Ibadan, and receive good profits. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) built a school for children. We also started a skill acquisition program for women. About 70-80% of these women have finished their training and can now do basic handwork like soap making and cosmetology, which can fetch them money. It has been fulfilling so far.
Since 2014, we’re down to 1,700 people in the camp. This is because people are making enough money out of their farming business to get a home for themselves on the outskirts of Abuja. But we that are here still need any form of help that we can get. Buhari and the federal government have done a good job on this so far. I hope the next president can be better.
What is the general atmosphere in the camp towards the 2023 elections?
The people here are very eager to vote because we love our country. No political party has come to campaign here to look for votes. As I speak, most of us have our Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs), and we are even looking for ten fourteen-seater buses to go to our polling units to vote. And even if we can’t find the buses, we’ll trek there if we have to.
This election is crucial for us because we hate the government’s approach concerning our rehabilitation back to society. I still hear of village raids now and then in Borno state. That’s a problem they didn’t solve. They didn’t give us our full rations or even care for our emotional welfare. Some new folks have had their minds corrupted by Boko Haram. They’ve seen the way the government treats ex-Boko haram members with money. They want to join the Boko Haram just to follow that route. I can’t allow that same party [the All-Progressives Congress (APC)] that caused all this to be in power again. I am voting as a means of revenge and rebellion against this government. Affliction cannot rise a second time.
We’ve even hidden our PVCs just so that politicians don’t have any ideas of thinking that they can bribe us. We are ready to show them ‘pepper’.
Who would you say people would like to vote for and why?
I can’t speak for everyone. However, from the people I’ve talked to, there is a division between Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
For Peter, people love him because he doesn’t seem to belong in the same corrupt category as the other two candidates. He is also the youngest and seemingly healthiest. I side with the people that are for Obi.
Those for Atiku are mostly doing it for tribal reasons. That is, he’s from the North and I am from the North too. For me, there is no excuse for this. He has a past record of corruption as Vice-President, with embezzlement of public funds. I don’t trust him.
What problem(s) would you like your candidate to solve if he becomes president?
I would like him to establish a database for missing persons and a Special Assistant or Adviser on IDP Affairs. We need someone who understands IDP people’s needs and can liaise directly with the government. That’s the only way I believe true rehabilitation of people in the IDP camps and communities can be met.