Pastor Ayuba’s daughter, Amina, was among the more than 200 girls Boko Haram abducted from the Chibok State Secondary School in April 2014. Since then, Boko Haram has also burned his church and looted all of his possessions, forcing him to seek refuge with family in a different area. World Watch Monitor spoke to him about his daughter’s abduction and the difficulties Christians have been facing in north-eastern Nigeria.
“Boko Haram entered [the school] by the main gate and then assembled all the ladies and told them, ‘We are not Boko Haram, we are military men’. Because they all appeared in army [uniforms], you cannot differentiate them from the soldiers.
“And then they entered with big vehicles. They packed the girls in, and then moved with them to Sambisa. When they came out from the main gate, some ladies developed courage. They jumped down from the car and then began to run into the bush. They were able to escape, but [for] all those who reached Sambisa, that was the end of it. Up to now, we have not even seen one.
“When I heard this thing, I really shed tears, but what can I do? The only thing I can do is give it to God. When I heard that my daughter, Amina, had been kidnapped by Boko Haram, I had not even agreed to inform my wife. I called her and said I had a call from the school that yesterday Boko Haram entered their school, but I learned that they ran into the bush. I told her, ‘I will go and then come to inform [you]’. So I went there, and after confirming, I came back and informed her what exactly had happened, but [that] we are trusting God that the soldiers … with the recommendation of the government … are doing something about it. She cried, she cried, she cried … The following day, I had to carry her to Chibok to see exactly what had happened.
“So as she went there, she saw many of our colleagues, those whose children had been kidnapped together. So they cried, cried, cried, cried, cried … We wait and wait and wait, receiving many fresh promises. Up to now, we are still waiting.
“We do not see anything. People agreed, we are waiting in good faith, but later we would not see any positive answer to that statement … Actually we cannot believe what the [government] are saying.
“All we are trusting is God [and] that what man thinks is impossible, is possible for God. I think God who is in position, God who is in power, [can] create a way where there is no way. God will make it possible for these ladies to come out. [But] even if they do not come out, we have already put our trust in the Lord and have faith in Him. Nobody has come to stay permanently in this world. We are [going] to meet in faith before the Lord.
“Every day, we pray, morning, afternoon and evening. We declare fasting and prayer. So we fast that if it is the will of God, let them come out. If it is not His will, or if it is His will, let it be so. I have entrusted all to God. It is in the hand of God. Whether for good or for bad, she is in the hand of God.”
Boko Haram, but also marginalisation
Despite the international attention this case has enjoyed, the people of Chibok continue to face insecurity. Between November 2014 and March 2015, Boko Haram occupied their area. In April, its militants looted Ayuba’s house and burned down his church. Nothing was left standing.
“When Boko Haram came, everything that belongs to me [was] looted. Thank God they did not burn the house, but everything that was in the rooms they looted completely. [We have] nothing apart from the clothes we are wearing – people had to donate [some] to us.”
This forced Ayuba to seek refuge with relatives about 300 km away from Chibok.
“We have all run to different places now. Because other areas have been occupied by Boko Haram, nobody would enter, especially if you are a Christian. You cannot go out. If you go to the market, if you are not a Muslim, they will find you out and when they get you, they will kill you.”
An employee at Open Doors International, which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, explained: “The abduction and the insecurity have to be seen within the wider context of persecution in north-eastern Nigeria. Christians here have been facing years of marginalisation that aims to limit the Christian testimony in this area. Even if Boko Haram were defeated tomorrow, Christians do not expect these circumstances to change.”
Ayuba added: “Persecutions [can be found] all over. If [you apply for a] government [job] in Borno State, you will not be given any position. You can be a degree holder, and someone who [has only] a secondary school certificate can [get the job ahead of] you. You cannot [beat] him. If you give up your life, if you can give up your faith, then they will give you a position that you are not even worthy of. To be a Christian in northern Nigeria, particularly in our area, in Borno state, where the majority are Muslims, I think it will be very difficult in the future. It will be very, very difficult.”
When asked if he ever thought of moving away, Ayuba said: “Where can we go? Whether for good or for bad, we have to go back to the area, despite the condition. There is nowhere we can go. If we go to the area that we didn’t know, who will give us food? We feed ourselves from these local farms, so if we are to leave our area to go to some other areas, where will [we find] farms? Where will we get food? Where do we get shelter? It is not easy.”