•Love, excitement, fun as national troupe fetes Abuja IDPs


From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja

Stories about Internally Displaced Persons are not all gloom and doom.

There are exciting chapters of their lives well documented for posterity.

Within their overcrowded space which epitomizes squalor and depravity, IDP camps often morph into fun hubs where dwellers jettison their differences to display culture, love and unity.

An opportunity to show their unity in diversity came recently when the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), visited the Abuja IDP camp to celebrate the 2023 International Theatre Day.

The camp literally wore a new look just as the atmosphere was electrifying.

Children within the teenage bracket and below preached love through music and dance.

Virtually all tribes had something to showcase and it accentuated the rich culture and love found in all parts of the country.

The event provided a chance for talent hunters to sift through the crowd to identity raw endowments that need little or burnishing to purify.

In all their performances, one golden message resonated..”Nigeria remains a blessed country but cursed by bad leaders.

“It is one of best places in the world but lacks strong leadership to harness the abundant human and material resources. In turn, leaders have sown seeds of discord but we must let love lead”.

Some of the children who spoke to Daily Sun admitted making new families in the camp but insisted that they still want the war and killing to end so that they can go back to their original heritage.

One of the children, Mariam Ibrahim, said it has been a joyful experience all through her stay at the camp and would like the world, especially Nigeria, to be filled with the kind of love and oneness she has experienced in the camp.

She said: “I am super excited. I really enjoyed the cultural dances and wished  the world would continue like this. I have learned how to dance in different tribes that I never knew existed .

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“Though my mother told me that we are from Maiduguri, Borno State, I am dancing to Yoruba, Igbo, Tiv and other tribes’ music. In this camp, I have made a lot of friends who are more like sisters now. I have achieved things here in the face of our suffering.

“We are here today as a country because we allowed the enemy to invade our land and destroy our livelihood which is peace. We need love.”

According to the budding dancer, social unity and ethnic love have a lot to do in the development of every nation: “We cannot continue fighting when peace is easy to get through an open heart. Peace brings development and the enemy of peace is Nigerians enemy.”

Another child,  Usman Mohammed, who led one of the dancing troupes said: “Happiness is sweet. I have danced like never before because I am happy. I have learned different cultures in this place and have promised to keep them for life.

“Nigeria is one of the most blessed places in the world but the enemy came and scattered us. Though we have learned from the IDP camps, we still want to go back home. I have learned how to speak English from here and other things.

“We want the war to end so that we can go back home. Our towns and villages have scattered, that is why we are here. I see a better future through the present happening if our leaders can throw away their pride and make peace again.”

Sunday Ibrahim, another child, said: “We need to stop destroying what does not belong to us. It is because we don’t have love that is why our problem is  unending”.

He advised his fellow children not to behave like their warring parents,, adding that learning to love each other irrespective of tribe, culture or religion like what is experienced in the camp, would take Nigeria to the next level: “If we can learn how to love again, we will make this country a place of reference.”

Another dweller,  Joy Mshellia, said: “Peace is like air and no one can exist without it. I have  been dancing all through because I’m happy. Here in the camp I made a lot of friends, learned different things, so I’m so happy.

“The only thing that is troubling me is that I want to go back to my real home and I think the only solution is if our leaders will learn to love like us here. Peace is our air, water, blood, like and we can’t do without it.”

Meanwhile, Director, NTN, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed, said taking the celebration to the IDP camp would help the children to learn new things that will inspire them: “The desire to resuscitate the dying culture of folklore which many of us enjoyed while growing up cannot be over-emphasized. Back then, through this artistic and entertaining medium, we were taught many soft skills and oriented to hate evil and to love good.

“Through story-telling, our parents and elders delivered very salient and meaningful messages which helped to shape us in some ways. The stories rallied around different themes, such as love, friendliness, community life, peace, and marriage, and were characterized by the usage of animals or inanimate objects.

“To drive home these stories, children are sometimes made to sing along either in repetition or in response, thereby creating interaction and involving the audience. Today, folklore involves the audience.”

The competition saw the children perform dance, drama and song presentations in addition to presenting a few speeches on the importance of peace.

The performances were judged by a three-man jury, comprising the Deputy President, National Association of Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Esther Omale Onwuka; Director, Media and Publicity, NANTAP, Jerry Adesewo and NANTAP Abuja Chapter Chairman, Kayode Aiyegbusi, based on six criteria – originality (25), presentation (25), costume (10), audience appreciation (10), timing (10) and thematic relevance (20).

The first-place winner, Junior Secondary School, Karamajiji, received a cash prize of N100,000, and second place winner, Interfaith Schools were awarded N75,000. And N50,000 cash prize went to the third place holder, Sharing Prosperity Schools, while the fourth place winner, Beth Herbel School won N20,000 cash.