The Booming City called ‘Sambisa Forest’

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Did someone say Sambisa in Borno State was a forest? You are kidding me. The amount of life discovered in that Boko Haram fort could have made it one of Nigeria’s largest hidden cities; or you can simply call it Nigeria’s Lost Atlantis now discovered. There were so many women, so many young girls and so many babies- many of the young girls were pregnant while some had just been delivered of newborns. At the last count, there were about one thousand or more “rescued” from Sambisa. But it is reasoned that no amount of Sambisa rescues can equate the finding of all or some or few of the Chibok girls.


Come to think of it-the still pictures and motions from Sambisa do not depict a jungle, or forest, as it was often referred to. It underscores a booming city, or at least, a huge baby factory for the Boko Haram movement, with the view, as reasoned by some, to procreate and produce a new generation or strengthen the demographics of the group. The findings included clusters of settlements, armories, vehicles and armoured tanks, shelters for the war commanders and troops, food dumps, drinks stores, medical supplies, et cetera.

Before now, Sambisa had been described as an impenetrable forest of evil Boko Haram generals and their renegade troops. Military authorities painted a picture of an uninhabitable place full of deadly snakes and animals that would sooner or later send the Islamists packing out of the jungle. Sambisa symbolized an unknown place that was fit only for beasts and could only serve as very temporary hideout for felonious soldiers or terrorists, and never a place for regular living.

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But the quantity and quality of civil life unraveled make a bold statement about how easily penetrable the place would have been, how palacious the place had become for the renegades as they took advantage of the timidity or indecisiveness of the Nigerian State all this while, and how it became a camp for pitiable and vulnerable Nigerian women and sex slaves. What could have been transpiring in that evil city-forest is imaginable- women and salacious young girls would be beckoned on to lie down and open their legs and the dirty rag-tag idiots called Boko Haram would have simply had rounds of sex with the hapless females. There might not be forceful carnal knowledge after all; it could just have been free and easy rounds. The children, husbands or fathers of such sex slaves could have been made to watch the orgies or simply wasted if they made any spirited verbal or physical protests.

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Food, water and drugs were flowing into Sambisa, or how can survival of all of these hundreds of captives and their wicked hosts be explained? How can the child delivery and treatment of sicknesses be explicated? How have they been surviving the snake bites, scorpion stings and mosquito infestation? How were the ‘building materials’ coming in to erect the shelters or overcome the rains and sun? Sambisa was probably therefore, a huge market for some unknown but obviously prosperous merchants from among us who were living like law-abiding citizens of Nigeria.

The military authorities have shown us how much of discoveries and rescues they have made in Sambisa, and they deserve all of the salutation and much more for the intervention, gallantry and successes. The Nigerian army and air force deserve plaudits for busting the Boko Haram strongholds and liberating the city-forest. So much for a war that was winless and seemed unwinnable and interminable for five years. The military has truly shown their gusto and justified the tag as one of the best in Africa. They seem to have recovered their lost glory and have put their names back in the Hall of Fame.

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However, why was there so much fuss about the impenetrability of Sambisa hitherto? For four years, the army venerated the warlords who hid in Sambisa and showed so much trepidation at the thought of moving in. Also, we were, on two occasions, told by the military earlier this year, that they had entered Sambisa and had found no one there. The military spokesman and chiefs had even declared that there were no signs of people in Sambisa let alone Chibok girls. The disclosures had made us to believe that indeed, Sambisa was a temporary cite for the miscreants who had since fled in the wake of a resurgent military power of Nigeria and the combined forces of the African neighbours to put down the Boko Haram problem. But weeks after the declaration, Sambisa city was discovered and over 1,000 women and children (mostly young girls) are now “rescued”. If about one thousand women are rescued, one can imagine how many more thousands of people in Boko Haram fighters and associates would have been residing in that place. Sambisa was thus not a forest. Human life does not exist or survive in a forest. Sambisa was a booming big city- Nigeria’s worst nightmare of a slave and enemy camp in the postmodern times.

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The counter-claim of discoveries obviously indicts the military- it shows that they either were not doing their job well hitherto, or that they have been part of the fray of politicizing the whole terror stuff, just as had been speculated and concluded in some local and international circles. The phased invasions and rescues of hundreds show an apparent thriving Republic of Sambisa that had reached such heights simply because some persons and authorities had betrayed or failed Nigeria. They were supposed to act when the die was cast, but they looked the other way and had complicit role in the fledgling Boko Haram empire in a sovereign state. The sudden intensity and activity from February 14, 2015 to date are clear even to a moron, that partisan politics was instrumental in all of these and that the military might have been hugely compromised or deceived by the politicians whose only motive was political and not nationalist or national gains.

But after these discoveries, what next? This is what the authorities should be bothered about at this point in time. What of the many IDP camps? What of the camps outside Nigeria with tens of thousands of Nigerians now forcefully learning the language and national anthems of their host-countries? Government should attack these issues fast and holistically. Chibok girls are not even among the rescued girls; or, like the defence spokesman said, have not been ascertained to be among the rescued girls. While I insist, as always, that those Chibok girls cannot be together again one year after capture and could have been sold or married out, killed or used as human defence shields or suicide bombers; it is pertinent to point out that frantic efforts should be yet made to ascertain their whereabouts or existence, recover traces of information about what happened to them and at least, rescue some of them and reconcile them with their parents. If any of these is done, the military and government would have truly succeeded in this war against Boko Haram.

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