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“Blessons” from a visit to two internally displaced persons camp in Abuja

The reception became warmer and the smiles appeared believably more sincere when Gbenga “Cardinal” Aruleba explained who we were, stressing that we were neither a government delegation nor an NGO. The applause that followed their understanding that we were a group of very ordinary Nigerians, driven by love for one another was deafening, even though the number of those willing to gather to receive us was infinitesimal compared to the thousands we understood were languishing in those camps.

I was fortunate to be among those who represented the entire family of the MoFeto Miracle Shush of Later Day Scientists at the charity programme on Wednesday, march 11, 2020 in Abuja. I joined the movement by accident as I was in Abuja for a botched project and only learnt of the scheduled visit a few hours to take off time. And God! Was I glad of the humbling experience!

Take off was from somewhere close to the Human Rights Radio premises near the Games Village in Abuja. Lara Wise, Bunmi Awonaya and Gbenga Aruleba were there waiting with a cab loaded with food items destined for the IDP camp at New Kudigoro. Our destination was a very short ride from the games Village. But it took a bit longer because the cab driver carrying our donations was the typical type that expects the Holy Spirit to make up for his refusal to fill his tank with gasoline.

He ran out of fuel shorty before the Camp and had to send a cyclist to help him buy a mere 4 litres before we continued the journey. It was well we had such a driver because he provided us the opportunity to share jokes about the attitude of cab operators to their businesses.

When we entered the camp, one thing hit our sister, Gbenga Aruleba and which he whispered to me. Right across a high wall separating the IDP camp from comfort and civilization was a plush estate, from which the residents would look down at all times, with the squalor and deprivation in this camp in full view. It was the typical heaven and hell scenario, but in this case, the gap was so close even the affluent on the other side of the fence would never claim to be immune from the roasting heat radiating from the camp.

We were complaining of the very harsh weather in Abuja but upon sighting the “homes” of these unfortunate Nigerians, we pocketed a=our grudges against the inclement weather. The best homes were built (wall and roof) with corrugated iron sheets, otherwise called “zinc.” The middle class here made their own homes from sewn-up Ghana-must-go bags while the lowest of them merely loitered.

Somewhere on what looked like a long veranda, a lone teacher was struggling to impart knowledge to children aged between 4 and 9 in an environment that pretended rather poorly to be a school

. While some “youths” in this community were offloading our goods with apparently familiar reluctance, a lone man emerged from deep inside the camp, struggling with a well fattened goat. I recall that Lara even asked him of how much he was selling the animal when it was revealed he was taking it to the market. The man didn’t pay heed to us and was busy trying to goad the goat unwilling goat into taking a “sales” stroll with its owner. We later learnt that the man was the leader of this camp who was not interested in receiving people who had come to donate relief material to him and his people.

A few of the women and the youths gathered. We introduced ourselves. We told them we were not from government. We told them we were Nigerians from across regions and tribes, united only by our desire to build a nation out of the enduring raw material of love and kindness.

That was when the faces relaxed their cultivated entitled expectations from donors they have grown not to trust and love.

You see, our brothers and sisters are suffering in these camps. But in the midst of their sour conditions, they have also come to view those who visit them with gifts as commercially-inclined people who are in the business of handing out tokens. As far as hey are concerned, every donor has a profit motive; collective huge sums from government and donor agencies and giving fractions of the actual.

I do not know how you would view the minds of people who have come to believe that people use them to collect trophies of selflessness while hiding behind well-carved commercial intents. How do such people view the larger society? How do we even expect them to leave these camps (if and when they ever leave), habouring any love for a society they grew to believe make businesses out of their misfortunes?

But that was what we saw. It was this this mindset that made the leader of the camp not to take us seriously and considered dragging his reluctant goat to the market rather than according us a reception.

But our explanation calmed their women and we got treated to songs to which we responded with a little dance. That was why when their woman leader prayed, it appeared a lot more sincere than the initial plastic greetings thrown casually at us upon arrival.

Done with the donations of food stuff at this Camp, we headed to the second location, known as the Malaysia Area Camp, Located in Apo. Chris, who organized the rehabilitation of the borehole we commissioned there waited for us somewhere and led the way.

And we arrived to the same atmosphere of subdued distrust, until, once again, we explained that we were neither from the government nor from the NGOs they have been familiar with.

This camp has not had water supply for years. Their leader informed that only the “affluent” among them could afford to buy water from cart vendors, otherwise called “Mai Ruwa” while the rest made very long journeys to a certain stream just to get water. I don’t want anyone to ask or wonder what kind of water these people get from this stream. For them, whether clean or not, water is water.

I felt both relief and sadness when the people warmed up to us after Gbenga Aruleba had again explained who we were. I was relieved because although I have been taught that in charity, we should not expect gratitude, as a human, “thank you” goes a long way.

But I still felt sad that not much is being done to make these suffering people feel genuine, selfless love and care. These our brothers are feeling used. They have grown to believe they are mere revenue instruments for unscrupulous business people who deploy so much press after giving so little and with underlying commercial interests.

In both camps, the cry was for something to be done for them to return home. Even as they spoke of this yearning, my attention was on the very young, vulnerable children among them that were obviously born in such debasing conditions and whose idea of home was an environment of deprivation decorated once in a while with gifts they do not even trust came from a genuinely concerned cheerful giver.

You now know why I said this visit was full of “blessons?”

We took away blessings on behalf of all MoFeTo members who made this day happen. They all prayed for you.

We also took away life-changing lessons that should not only humble anyone that encounters people like this, but also serve as a strong motivation for us to embark on projects like this a lot more often.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • nimabi

    Thank you very much for sharing, I learned a lot from your article. Very cool. Thanks. nimabi

    November 27, 2023 at 4:20 am Reply

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