Many Nigerians families in Benué State are living with hunger and discomfort in displacement camps after fleeing attacks on their ancestral homes by Fulani herdsmen. FIFA World Cup 2014 is offering them distraction – and the hope that the national team, the Super Eagles, will triumph.
By King James Yiye, Makurdi
Displaced people at the Tse Ichwa in North Bank Makurdi are hungry. With the farming season gradually passing by, their hope for more food is waning. But the camp’s residents also remain hungry for football. Children play it throughout the day using tied-together rags as balls and small burnt bricks as goalposts.
Meanwhile, adults pay 50 naira (25 euro cents) to watch World Cup matches at the ‘viewing centre’. Built out of scrap wood, it can seat up to 60 people, uncomfortably. The structure’s gaps allow some additional small heads to peep through. These gaps also let the rain through, but no one complains. Everyone just wants to watch their favourite team play and win.
Reducing the burden
Solomon Heman, a man in his late 30s, has been living in the camp for three months with his wife and two children. They came here after his house had been torched by Fulani herdsmen. Fulani leaders have for years complained about the loss of grazing land crucial to their livelihood, and resentment between the herdsmen and their agrarian neighbours has risen over the past decade.
To support his family, Solomon sells items such as biscuits and hot drinks from his ‘table-top shop’. Solomon says he loves football more than anything else and is giving all his support to Nigeria during the World Cup. "I want the Super Eagles to bring the cup home. Every time they play, I ask my wife to stay here and sell these items while I go watch at the viewing centre,” says Solomon.
Solomon considers himself luckier than most at the camp, but he still puts much hope into the national team winning. “It will greatly reduce the burden on my mind,” he says.
Text continues under the images
Opening the door to victory
Aôndoakaa Dyegeh is the second-in-command of the vigilante group in charge of camp security. "I’ve loved playing football since my mother gave birth to me. In fact, even when I have money and I’m hungry, I would rather use the money to buy boots to play football. When my heart is troubled and I am watching or playing football, I always forget all the things worrying me,” he says.
He says everyone is hoping and praying that Nigeria brings home the cup. "God says, ‘Knock and the door will be open’. And since we are praying and God is alive, our team will win this time," says Aôndoakaa.
The games master
Ato Samuel (54) is a physical education instructor who has double trouble: no salary for almost a year, and no home for over three months. He is one of thousands of primary school teachers in this state who have been on strike for better pay for over a year.
He’s drinking a locally-brewed gin, ogogoro, mixed with tree roots. This cocktail and football are now his only pleasures. "When my heart is troubled and I'm watching football, I forget all my sorrows," he says.
“I believe the Super Eagles will win the World Cup and put more smiles on my face. As a lay man, I can’t give technical support to the national team.
"But I will clap my hands when Nigeria plays well and scores a goal. And I will frown when another team scores against us,” says Samuel.
For people like Samuel, the performance of Nigeria's national team in Brazil will change their lives – whether for the good or bad. If the team wins, he will surely forget his present troubles and, temporarily at least, forge ahead with his life. If Nigeria loses, he will remain internally hurt and temporarily displaced.