Rahima Gambo: Searching for Details
2014 Magnum Foundation Fellow Rahima Gambo is back in Nigeria, and in her childhood region, where Boko Haram is is violently separating families and driving thousands away from their homes. Frustrated by the faceless treatment of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria’s mainstream media, Rahima is seeking out the personal narratives of those buffeted by Boko Haram’s increasing presence:
“It was a weekday in Nigeria’s capital city and, unusually, there was no traffic. All roads leading to the central business district were barricaded and patrolled by security men because President Goodluck Jonathan was publicly declaring his intent to to seek another term. Just the day before, Boko Haram, an indigenous extremist group, had attacked a boys secondary school, killing 47 students.
700 km northeast of the capital city, refugees were flooding into government camps for internally displaced peoples seeking safety from Boko Haram, who had violently captured a string of towns in the region. The front pages of newspapers showed a smiling president surrounded by adoring supporters. There were no images of those affected by the insurgency in the northeast that had been escalating over the last several months. Information coming from the region was ambiguous at best and any reference to internally displaced persons was followed by numbers: 10,000, 400,000 or 1.5 Million - the latest figures released by the UN.
I really wanted details. I wanted to see and talk to those non-descript IDPs who were written about like they resided in a far flung country. I particularly wanted to know what was happening in Yola, Adamawa state, my home state and one of three states that had been under emergency rule for the last fourteen months.
Yola has always been that place that never changes. It’s like a museum. A pothole on a familiar road can trigger a childhood memory of a hot summer and a grazed limb. Now, my euphoric childhood memories were being replaced with more recent ones, filled with shell-shocked eyes and dusty faces.
Like those two sad boys sitting in a dark echoey room; the soft spoken farmer who was trying to move on with his life without his family; those people in the yellow bus who were excited to finally be on their way home; and that teenager with her five day old baby.”
- Rahima Gambo, 2014 Magnum Foundation Fellow