Businessman Aliko Dangote spent Sunday in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, visiting several Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in the city.
Mr Dangote, who was accompanied by legendary British singer of the U2 fame, Sir Paul David Hewson, popularly known as Bono, also visited a rehabilitation centre where former wives of Boko Haram insurgents are being deradicalized.
The British singer is an ambassador of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Mr. Dangote, who arrived Maiduguri at about 11am was led to some of the major IDP camps by Borno State Governor, Kashim Shetima.
He also visited a site where his foundation is building 1000 homes for the displaced persons.
At the Centre where the former wives of Boko Haram insurgents are being rehabilitated, Messrs Dangote and Bono were informed by Mr. Shettima that most of the women and girls there were full-time wives of the insurgents before they were rescued by soldiers.
“When they were brought in initially they were very hostile and unfriendly,” Mr. Shettima said. “But now they have embraced us and they are about to complete the deradicalization programme. After that, we have to educate the kids because education is very key in the whole effort to deradicalize.
“For the parents, we are going to empower them by providing them with a lifeline like irrigation pumps, and we have also procured special breed of goats that will be given to them to rear as well as cows that will be artificially inseminated for them to start a new life,” the governor said.
Mr. Shettima also introduced one of the girls, known as Ummi – a nine-year old – who was married off to a Boko Haram insurgent a day before she was rescued.
Mr Dangote, who addressed the women in Hausa, before an interpreter translated his message to women in the local Kanuri language said, “I am happy to meet you women; and I am even happier to hear that you all are doing well here. I beseech you all to constantly pray for the success of the state governor and his officials because it is not really easy caring for displaced people whose number is almost two million.
“The governor has really tried in his effort to make things right here. It was in appreciation of his efforts that we have decided to come in and offer our own modest assistance.
“It was in line with the commitment to help that I have decided to come with the international songster, Sir Paul David Hewson, as ambassador to see what we are doing so as to help us in taking your message to the global stage and help bring in more support for you all.
“We want to give you support beyond feeding and shelter; but also to help you have a new life of your own when you are done with this place.
“We want each of you to be able to have the means of sending your wards to schools, clothe and feed them as well as even rebuilding your homes. And if God wishes, by the time you are done with training your kids in the best form, perhaps some of them will even grow to be more influential than us today. We pray for God’s guidance as we hope to continue supporting you until we see that you have better lives.”
On his part, Mr. Bono told the cheering women that he was happy to be in Borno state especially on his meeting with them (ex wives of the Boko Haram insurgents).
He added, “Aliko Dangote is the real rock star who doesn’t shout on the microphone to entertain the world. But in his quiet tongue he makes a lot of sense; and his actions speak louder than his words.
“Dangote is your hero; so is the governor of Borno state. I have met many politicians in my life as a musician; I have met presidents, governors, ministers and diplomats; but I have never met a politician that has a very powerful message of hope to his people than the governor of Borno state.
“I know it is a full time job to take care of displaced persons like you, but it is a part time job to govern and here you have a governor that does the two and he does them very well. You women have a lucky leader whom you must support .
“Let me say this to you girls and women here; I have been to nearly all the capitals of the countries in the world including Abuja and Lagos; but I have never seen faces as beautiful as yours here in Borno state; I mean faces of women and girls who have seen what they should not have seen in life and yet they still look so beautiful and radiant.
“In Nigeria they say the great resource is the land and oil; but the truth is that in Nigeria the great resource is the women.”
Journalists were not allowed to interview the women and girls as officials of the state emergency management agency said doing so might expose their identity and location to their Boko Haram ex-husbands.
At the end of the visit, the Borno governor announced it was renaming a major road in Maiduguri in honour of Mr. Dangote who he said made the largest single donation of N2 billion to the displaced people and government of the state.