This writing is based on the true story of Falmata Modu Goni.
Until after we were subdued by the dreaded Boko Haram sect that formed its maniacal kingdom in the northeast Nigeria where I came from, I knew nothing about violence. I only heard of war times from my grandparents. Then, war stories were only fairytales to me.
This is my story…
“My name is Falmata Modu Goni. Mala and I were married for four years before we encountered the Boko Haram terror group that separated us on a fateful Wednesday of February 24, 2013.
We started early on a passenger bus at 05:15 in the morning on our way to Maiduguri Borno State from Damboa, a small town in Yobe State Nigeria. We were ambushed in a serene area in the middle of nowhere. My husband Mala was sitting right beside me, holding our two-year old baby, Yagana.
The proud father was tickling his baby’s little foot joyfully, smiling at the toddler. I was all gay, watching proudly at my lovely family. Everything seemed normal – or so it seemed. Unknown to us, a great danger was lurking close by.
A few kilometers away, a faint shadow from nowhere suddenly appeared onto the middle of the road. The bus driver was quick to stamp on his breaks just before he knocks the man on the road whose left hand was raised up halting the bus; while his right hand was holding a gun.
Later, I learnt the gun was AK 47 rifle. His fixed menacing smile was a sign of danger. The screech of the tires awakened sleepers in the bus who jerked from their slumber trying to squint at what was going on in the bus.
From the middle of the road, the gunman beckoned from left to right, and in split seconds, other 10 gunmen appeared from the bushes around, circling the bus. In awe, we started uttering prayers and begging God to spare our lives from the hunt men.
To us the passengers, the red-eyed gunmen were robbers who will collect our money and jewels and disappear as they came; and life would be normal again. We were wrong!
“Come out all of you and lie face down with your hands over your head, men on one side”, roared the Henchman of the group, walking around the big bus; scratching the gun barrel around it as he barked his command to us.
In seconds, we scrambled over each other trampling over our gears. We finally came down and laid face down panting in fear, with some of us peeing in our pants.
‘All of you are ‘Kafirs’ (unbelievers) barked the gang leader. We will finish you because this is what God would have wanted. No one dares us and lives…”
One of the male passengers started to beg for mercy. Before he could finish, the gang leader pierced his skull with bullets, leaving him smeared in his o wn blood. There was total silence. We shivered.
“Your government is deceiving you. The government told you not to listen to us, and stupidly you believed her. Today is the end of treachery. You all die…” shouted the leader.
The over 20 men with us were instantly killed by the gunmen. As if it was not enough, the Boko Haramist ripped each dead body with rain of bullets, opening each dead body from head to torso like someone opening the two lapels of his jacket.
Smiling at his gun-trotting expertise, the leader turned and glared at us. The sight was horrendous!
We shivered in fright, almost choking to death. Mala, my husband was no more – killed brutally in my eyes. My entire world became shattered. I clung to my baby, hoping he wouldn’t be next because he was a boy. They were killing men and young boys.
From my position, I shook like a leaf in fright, looking at my dead husband’s tattered remains. My face smeared in tears and sweat. I shuddered, uttering my last minute-prayer.
He turned to his men. “Now package the women into the bus. You, Tela, drive the bus. The rest of you get in the bus. Watch any suspicious move and kill any woman who tries anything funny.”
That was how I was drafted into the Boko Haram camp in the vast dense forest of Sambisa. From day one, all the women and girls brought to the camp were beaten to stupor; our backside rippled into red slas’s ordinance. This was sheer act of callousness. This was a complete disregard to God’s Orders. I did not want to do this. I knew it was wrong. I cried and prayed silently for God’s intervention.
The driver showed me the Mall in Maiduguri. He parked in a secluded area. He ordered me to walk into the Mall. I obeyed sheepishly. My prayer was that, he did not have the second alternate detonator in his hand; just in case I would not detonate the bomb and he would do it himself. My heart pounded in my chest. I begged God to see me through because He knew I had no right and had no muscle to kill anyone.
Once in the Mall, my chest raced so fast I felt I was fainting. No one noticed me in the Mall. I was well dressed like all the others on shopping spree because I was bought a new dress just perfect for the occasion.
I looked around. A little girl of about four years ran towards me, hiding her face in my lapels playfully, trying to avoid her older sister who was on pursuit.
The little girl looked up and smiled at me. Her smile brought tears to my eyes. Why would I kill such lovely, innocent girl? Why would I end anybody’s life? What justification to that would I tell God?
Minutes passed, I couldn’t bring myself t o detonate the bomb around my waist.
Everybody looked so beautiful and lovely and happy.
The time of decision came. I wiped the tears off my cheeks and asked to be shown the lady’s convenience. I entered and bolted the door from inside. I saw an old bucket near the sink, climbed on it and squeezed myself through a small window; careful not to trigger the button on my waist.
With great effort, I finally lower. myself to the other side, falling with a big thud to the ground, sustaining a sprain on my knee.
I laid down for a while before I limped to a tree nearby. I looked back. No one noticed me. God has done it for me. The driver would be wondering why I took my time. I didn’t know when the tears came back rushing down my cheeks.
I limped to safety, far away from the Mall. Once clear of the Mall, I saw a narrow street and bolted into a run. I kept running until I came to an area full of people. I mingled around; sure the driver wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what took me so long to blow the whole place.
I stopped running not to attract any attention. I walked fast without knowing where I was going. Once I was sure I was safe to ask for direction, God gave me the wisdom to ask of a Police Station.
At the Police station, I slumped down. When I came about, an officer asked me to tell him why I was there. I asked to see their boss. The boss did not come until after one hour. When the DPO came, I asked to be left alone with him as I have important report to tell him. I begged him not to panic or shoot me because I was carrying a bomb.
The DPO was so terrified that he froze like a statue. I narrated quickly how Boko Haram forced me to kill people today but I refused because it was wrong to do that.
Finally, the DPO gathered himself together and called his subordinates who also listened to my story in fright.
About half an hour later, Special Bomb Squad came and dismantled the bomb belt from my waist. I was taken to a safe camp somewhere in town. Two days later, somebody who looked like a Police Commissioner came with about 10 uniformed men and asked me series of questions.
A week later, I was brought to this camp and given a bed, clothes and food like the rest of us here. So, here I am. I thank God I didn’t kill anyone. If I had, I would not have lived with myself forever.
I contacted home afterwards but understood that Boko Haram has killed over fifty people and burnt my entire village.
I have no idea where my parents are. I pray they are alive. I hope to look for them someday soon. In the meantime, the government is helping us search for our relations anywhere in the country.”
Manages a smile through tears…
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
– Mother Teresa