The story of a 47-year old Zainabeu Hamayaji, who hid her eldest daughter in a hole for nine months to save her from being abducted by Boko Haram is indeed a brave one.
When Zainabeu heard that the terrorists would soon reach her town, she knew she had to to do something about her 12-year old daughter.
So, she dug a hole in her compound, hid almost 100 jerrycans of water inside it, sacks of non-perishable food and some leather bags to use for pooing.
Then, she covered the top of the hole with corrugated iron, and erected a tent on top, and there, her daughter was hidden for nine months.
When Boko Haram got to her town, they went from door to door looking for young women, having killed the men of the town, including Zainabeu’s husband.
With a tip-off that Zainabeu has a daughter the terrorist came to her house but she swore not to have a daughter and they kept beating her because they didn’t believe her.
Zainabeu told THE IRISH TIMES,
“They came every day to beat me and they were constantly terrorising me. So I decided to strip myself of all of my clothing and just walk around naked in the village. I unplaited my hair to look like a mad woman. I urinated and put faeces on my hair and my body. I’d go to the town centre and roll around in trash so they would think I was mentally unstable.
Boko Haram decided they did not want a child from a madwoman. Previously they had killed a madwoman and the curse from the mad woman prevented them from any military successes.
“They didn’t want to kill another, so I was spared because of their belief. They wrote something on the wall saying nobody should attack this mad woman, it will be a curse. So I was protected.”
Her other three children also joined in the pretence, telling the militants that their mother had been attending a psychiatric hospital before the town was invaded.
Zainabeu explained that, while pretending to be mad, she would pull her other daughters close to her, with flies perching all over her and this was another plan to save her children.
Nine months after, the Nigerian military got to Zainabeu’s town and they almost didn’t believe that she survived the ordeal without help from any of the terrorists.
Zainabeu still has a dislocated shoulder from being repeatedly beaten, accompanied with constant headaches, which stops her from working. She also has a scar on her forehead and a missing tooth.
According to her, not every woman will do what she did. She explained that some women gave away their children because Boko Haram was giving out money and food. The amount paid for children was from 100,000 upwards.
She also added that women were happy to be given lands captured by the terrorists as a kind of dowry for their daughters.