Fatsuma Abdullahi lived with her parents in Damaturu, Yobe capital city, before she was kidnapped by her husband’s friends, along with others, to remote camps in Gombi and Talala and forced her to marry a Boko Haram ‘scholar’. In this interview with Daily Trust, she speaks on her experience with the Boko Haram insurgents…
After you were kidnapped by Boko Haram members, what happened to you next?
We spent four weeks in Gombi town and proceeded to Markas, a forest in Sambisa near Talala village where we finally settled. Months later, the insurgents insisted I marry one of them, an offer I turned down. I gave in when they threatened to sell me off. That’s how I ended up married to Boko Haram ‘scholar’, Abu Hafsah for three years.
How did you escape?
The ideology clash between Shekau and Mamman Nur helped my people escape, because the strong members were too obsessed by it. In fact, Shekau killed many scholars who advocated for the Chibok Girls swap deal with government. Shekau and his followers still hold the belief that all Nigerians are infidels, except those who follow his path. While on the other hand, Mamman Nur and the learned people among the members opined that anybody that observes the five pillars of Islam is a Muslim.
You said Shekau killed many in cold blood…
Yes. My husband, who is also a scholar, was against the killings, so he supported Mamman Nur. One day, he confided in me his plan to defect. Unfortunately, some militants came in the night and told him that Shekau ordered them to pick him. He woke me up and handed his new phone to me, and advised me to sell it and escape with the children because Shekau is going to kill him.
Weeks later, Shekau sent his fighters to kill all the men in Markas, because they rebelled. It was a major battle, but luckily our men defeated Shekau’s. After that incident, our men joined Mamman Nur, and we were taken to Gwangon area, very close to Damboa town. The persecution became worse after Albaghdadi announced his support for Mamman Nur. Shekau refused to back down, that Albaghdadi is also an infidel, and threatened that he will not spare even women and children in the forest.
Many of us panicked when he made that statement. I told the other women my intention to escape, but none of them bought the idea. They warned that vigilantes are everywhere in the bush, and they would be cruel if found that I escaped from Boko Haram. But I’d already made up my mind. About 11:30pm, I backed my child and took the bush path with my four children. We trekked for about four hours, then came across five insurgents. They helped me identify the proper route Buni Yadi. As we spoke, vigilantes sprang out of nowhere and shot one of them dead. I didn’t run, but my son ran with the escaping insurgents. I still can’t find him.
Had you ever been to Sambisa Forest, before the ideology crisis?
Yes, we went there after the army dislodged us from Buni Yadi. At that time, Markas was not a safe place, so we went to Sambisa. We spent some weeks but Shekau refused to talk to us, so we went back to Markas.
Were you able to see the Chibok girls?
Yes, but most of them were sold off as slaves. Some were married off, and others imprisoned. One of them lived in a room next to mine. She wanted to escape, but I couldn’t help her then.
Were you there when Shekau demanded for Chibok Girls swap?
Actually, it was Mamman Nur who tried to bargain for the Boko Haram scholars. But Shekau is the one keeping the Chibok Girls. He kicked against the idea, and threatened to kill the girls if it came to that. My husband told me before he was killed that Shekau will not release the Chibok Girls.