By Janet Crago
We met Ishaya at the temporary EYN headquarters in Jos this week. He’s from a small city in northeast Nigeria, which, like most towns in the area, is surrounded by mountains. This town was first attacked by Boko Haram insurgents in August of 2014. Ishaya was with two of his friends during the attack, and they fled to the mountains together. The Nigerian army dropped bombs from airplanes and a helicopter, but never took control of the town.
When the bombing finally stopped, Ishaya and his friends returned to their city, where they found that his mother, sisters, and younger brother had not fled. Together they decided that his mother and four sisters would flee south to Michika the next morning. His father had fled to the mountains and not returned. Because they were so concerned, Ishaya and his younger brother, Samaila, decided to go in different directions to search for their father. Ishaya searched for three days. Finally, Samaila found his father and they went together and found Ishaya. Naturally, they were very happy to all be re-united. But, — this wasn’t the end of Ishaya’s story!
Their father only had 1200 Naira ($6.00) on him when he fled to the mountains, so he didn’t have enough money to purchase transport for them to flee further from the insurgents. He also thought that Samaila was young enough that the Boko Haram wouldn’t bother him. So, he began telling Samaila to return to their city to get money and a few supplies from their house.
During this discussion, they were interrupted by gunshots. The Boko Haram were shooting in the air and they were very close. Their father told all of them (Ishaya, Samaila, and the two friends) to flee and hide in the bush. He said he would climb a tree to see what was happening. A lot of people had also fled to the mountains and were living in nearby caves. While his father was watching, the Boko Haram burned everything the refugees had stored in the caves.
After Boko Haram left, Ishaya, Samaila, and Ishaya’s two friends returned to the cave areas, but couldn’t find their father. They finally decided to climb further into the mountains. They stopped their journey in a village in the neighboring country of Cameroon, to the east of Nigeria. Luckily, Ishaya and some friends had visited this village in the past to establish a youth fellowship. He had made a friend during that previous visit and this friend took them in. The friend told them that their father wasn’t far away. They were able to make contact by cell phone and their father joined them.
(Side note – In Nigeria, everyone who has a little money buys a cell phone. They can purchase “time” from vendors all over Nigeria. This cell time is very cheap, and costs only a couple pennies per minute!)
After some time the friend left his house to them and traveled to be with his family. He left his food stores for them. They lived on the stored food for six months. There were many refugees fleeing from Boko Haram staying in the same village. Ishaya estimated as many as 700. Among the refugees were the 21 children and 3 wives of his uncle, who is a Muslim.