Slowly we walked through the deserted forest that used to be the stronghold of the menace the whole country faced.
With every step we took, you could hear the sound of crushed leaves and sticks wrapped in solitude. The atmosphere expressed dryness to our minds and bodies.
I could hear the various tweets and sounds of birds that also came back from exile to take solace on trees they once nested.
We were adorned in our white regalia, emblem on it – the prestigious red cross, walking through the forest like messiahs, yet we were not the true messiahs. Because, when the destruction struck the hardest, we all viewed the news from our various houses far away in other parts of the country.
Men in black boots, khaki clothes, resilient hearts, and red eyeballs faced the heat of the battle and drove away the devils. These were the messiahs, and I came all the way down from the south-west to explore the conquered territory.
My adventure started with a 21-hour road trip from the south-west to the extreme north-east.
This was my first time of leaving the south-west region of the country, all my journey in my 25 years was within the region. My confinement stirred me up the more to join the set of volunteer, and I chose to make it a remarkable one.
I could have gone via the air in less than an hour journey, but I choose the long and adventurous part.
The 21-hour long journey started with a deep sleep through the night, we took off 7 pm. As the day blossomed, there were a lot of sights to see.
Most remarkable was the expanse of Mother nature unharnessed, forests filling up huge land spaces to my left and right.
I thought to myself, how much unexplored solutions could be in the thick jungle that walled the road through my journey to the northeast.
Along the road were also hunters who set forth their games to entice interested buyers, they held antelopes, gazelles, grass cutters and even snakes.
Just when I thought I had seen enough, upon arrival in Borno state where Sambisa is situated, the cold and dry air welcomed us. Some places were beaming with life, which was a proof that peace had been restored to the community.
We were lodged in a small guest house for the night to get ready for the next day’s exploration. Our stomachs sang to the delicious native meal made of rice – “tuwo”.
After the meal, we had the time to interact with some locals who shared their sad experiences with the terrorists. It was a teary moment as some recalled their lost friends and family. Just like you would have thought, I spent the night recollecting the stories, they even played back in my dreams.
As morning dawned, I prepared for the day – laced up my boots ready to go through the experience of my life.
We were accompanied by security operatives who took us through the wide forest, as we moved, I could see the aftermath of the battle. There were blown-up cars and bikes sparingly dispersed around the forest.
Sambisa used to be a location for farming for the dwellers in Borno, but all I saw were abandoned farmlands taken over by tall weeds.
While we looked forward to seeing an animal, the security operatives told us Sambisa was marked out as a game reserve by our colonial masters. They recalled that it was a haven for wildlife – elephants, monkeys, lions, antelopes and every typical savanna habitat animals. They lamented the abandonment was due to poor management.
I didn’t expect to see any of the animals through the journey after the hot air strikes and land strikes pulled by the military, the poor creatures would have sought for tranquility, or some died in the process. Fortunately, we spotted a huge rattlesnake through the journey as it crawled back into its hole, scared by the sound of the engine.
In about 2 hours we arrived at the main area the terrorists used to take solace, we were welcomed with a bad stench coupled with strange scenes.
Fallen flags of the insurgent group laid on the floor, while the green-white-green flag stood strong and tall. I found out the base of the terrorists was once-upon-a-time the training ground of some security operatives that protected a former head of state during the military regime.
The walls were scripted with several Arabic inscriptions, every space I entered within the base formed a strong emotion in my mind. I felt like I could see and hear the crying girls that were kidnapped and raped, the citizens that were beheaded. It felt so real that I’m remembering the experience even as I write this.
But Thanks to our brave soldiers, who gave everything to ensure this ended. I wouldn’t have stepped a toe there if not for their victorious conquering of the terrorists.
Even though the terrorists still linger around surrounding countries, our fingers are crossed that the menace will be fully conquered soon.