Octogenarian businesswoman, Madam Aduke Jimoh popularly known as Mama Aduke, who has traversed the northern part of the country, as far as Niger and Cameroon, shares her encounters with the dreaded Boko Haram sect with Taiwo Abiodun.
She is in her early 80s, expectedly quiet and could go unnoticed in a crowd. Even her simple dressing belies her vast experience and wealth. She is also a philanthropist, having made money and acquired properties in her hay days, criss-crossing the country and trading across borders. But hers is a quiet philanthropy and she also does not live ostentatious life.
In her compound in Owo, Ondo State are heaps of animal hides and skin, kegs of palm oil, among others, packed in all the corners, items that she has traded in over the years.
As if pre-empting this reporter, who wondered how she gets around at her age despite the pervading insurgency and other dangers that dot the terrains, she swore that she is not afraid. “I don’t fear anybody except God. Walahi! I have come across tigers, bears and some other dangerous animals and even bandits while crossing the Cameroon border; I have also come across the so-called Boko Haram militants, but I can tell you that they respect me.”
Meet Mama Aduke Jimoh, the brave woman of steel and commerce, who has spent the last 60 years traversing the country buying and selling hide and skin and palm oil. “I don’t know any other business other than buying and selling hides and skin, palm oil, and I have been doing this for the past 60years.
“I buy my products from Muni in Adamawa State; I had my children and trained them there. I have houses in Damaturu, Baga, Bauchi and in some other places in the North. I am a philanthropist. I hate to see people suffer.
Encounters with Boko Haram
The first time Mama Aduke encountered Boko Haram members was about 14 years ago, when they were yet to be this aggressive. “I used to meet them in the bush; they were then armed with their riffles and I would be singing for them: Yaro mbasa Yaro, baba Yaro mbasa times, I came across them three years ago and last year. I remember them saying then Yaro, while they in turn would be dancing. And then they would let me go. They used to tie red scarfs on their heads and leather strings on their waists.”
In recent that part of their grievances was that they don’t want prostitution, they don’t want to see people (women) who go about half-naked and many other things. Some of them were Almajiris before. But later I began to hear news of how aggressive they have become. The first time I heard of them ever killing, was when they killed policemen. I felt so bad because that negates the image I had of them.
“In those days, they hardly gave anybody serious cause to worry. Some of them are in Dorobaga, Oke Dutse, where they used stones to build houses. The other issue I heard them complain about was that our government was bad and that after going through school, young people have no jobs. They also said as an old mother or woman like me is supposed to be entitled stipends from the government and not be working like I was doing.”
She said, even the Boko haram members usually sing and dance every time she met them:
“Whenever I see them, they would start singing for me and they would be dancing too. I used to meet them around the Maiduguri border.”
Mama Aduke also takes time to describe the now dreaded Sambisa forest, where the sect is said to be domicile. “Sambisa is around the border when you are about to enter Niger Republic.”
She also said the Boko haram members used to tell her that they would stop fighting the day someone like General Muhammadu Buhari became president, because all graduates who are out of job would get jobs.”
Would that mean that Gen Buhari is behind their insurgency as is being widely bandied, we asked.
No, the vastly travelled octogenarian retorted. “Buhari has no hands in it and neither does IBB; people just mischievously used their names because of their fame.”
Aside Boko haram, she said she and other traders used to encounter other dangers during their business sojourns. “We use to see dangerous animals like Tiger, but I was never afraid. Whenever I saw them, I would say ‘Kai na mana!’ and they would go into the river. I remember when some bandits attacked us when our vehicle broke down around Potiskum.” Asked if any of them were ever sexually molested, she smiled and said “they did not attempt raping me; you know I am an old woman. They just took my money, 50,000 naira and left.” Curious, this reporter asked if she has some supernatural powers that keeps her from danger and made animals like tigers obey her commands; she gave a knowing smile and said ‘I don’t know.’
She said the sect reminded her of the unfortunate pogrom of the 1960s, when Hausas where killing the Igbos. She recalled that to identify an Igbo person, the Hausas would ask a suspect to pronounce ‘toro’ (three pence), which could only be pronounced then by Yoruba-speaking persons. The Igbos could not pronounce it and that often betrayed their identity. “Those are days better forgotten,” she said.
“The painful thing,” according to her “is that it took a long time for the government to suspect them of their behaviour. They have been domiciled in that Sambisa forest for a very long time.”
Over time she has also acquired competence in several languages. “If you know the kind of people you do business with, you learn their languages. I speak Yoruba, which is my language; I speak Hausa language, like I’m chewing kolanuts; while the French language for me is like speaking my Owo dialect. So you see, I am a linguist.” She said with visible pride, and immediately started speaking the different languages, as if in a trance!
Coming back home
“I came back home due to my old age. I had all my children in the North and they all went to school there. Today they are scattered all over; some are in the US, the UK, and Nigeria, practising their different chosen professions. As I speak, I not only have landed properties in the North, I also have houses. So I am blessed. Some of my children are still in Damaturu. However, my husband is dead.”
Faith in Buhari
Mama Aduke says she knows the new president (Muhammadu Buhari) before he was elected and that she’s sure he will deliver. “I know Buhari; now that he has come, there will be peace. He is not the greedy type, he has only one house. He is also a generous man. I remember when I met him during a Ramadan festival, we all went o his house where he fed us and gave us money.”
To underline her love for the new president, she suddenly burst into a feat of song in Hausa, praising President Muhammadu Buhari.
Her wish when she dies
I want to be buried in my house in Owo. I have houses in my town, Owo. Like I said earlier, I also have houses and pieces of land in the North. I am an old woman; I don’t need money for anything. All that gives me joy now is to assist people who are in need.