Most Nigerians probably never knew that there was the female wing of militants or freedom fighters, as some youths who delved into militancy in the Niger Delta region, preferred to be addressed.
Veronica (not her real name) told Vanguard Metro, VM, during her graduation ceremony from the Centre for Creative Arts Education, CREATE run by popular Nollywood actress, Hilda Dokubo, that she was in charge of the armoury in one of the camps.
According to Veronica, her job on the duty chart at the defunct militant camp was to take stock of every weapon that left the armoury and when they came in. She said she was recruited into the camp by her boyfriend. Nelly, also not her real name, said she acted as a spy on security men for her camp.
The graduates, all 50 females, had one story or the other to tell on their roles in their various militant camps before the advent of the Federal Government amnesty programme for repentant militants. They said they were now at peace with themselves since they embraced the amnesty programme.
Meantime, the Executive Director of CREATE, Hilda Dokubo, said it was not easy getting the female wing of the militants on the amnesty programme. According to her, the ladies were apparently not in the list of those to be disarmed, demobilized and rehabilitated.
This probably was because nobody imagined ladies played active roles in the militancy struggle. The understanding in some circles was that militancy was entirely an all male affair.
Platoon of militants
For Linda (also not her real name), militancy was not entirely a male thing. She said there were occasions she led a platoon of militants, adding that not too long after she joined the camp she was promoted to the rank of ‘Brigadier General’ for her courage and swiftness. She said she was likely the only female ‘Brigadier General ‘in any defunct militant camp in the whole of the Niger Delta region.
Dokubo said it took extra effort on the part of her organisation to get the females listed in the amnesty programme, after which 50 of them were recruited for the first phase of one year training in various skills, character and all other necessary areas required for proper rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
According to her, the girls literally had little or no knowledge of Western education, adding that her instructors had to start teaching them from A, B, C. “So with chalk and slates we helped them write A to Z, identify A to Z, pronounce them, read them by their sounds and by the way everyone else reads them. We also taught them how to write from one to ten all the way to a thousand.
Most of them couldn’t even identify their names if they saw it; so we also taught them how to spell their names by the sound of their names. And before they left here, every single one of them could write their names, identify their names even when it was written by somebody else, sign steady signatures that they never could sign before, go to the bank on their own, do transactions in the bank on their own, be able to count their money before, during and after purchase.
“We taught them skills, but for me what was most important that I think we gave them was value for life and value for who they are and making them understand that they can be the best of whatever they choose to be. We taught them two major areas of skills and I will say them the way NABTEB (National Business and Technical Examination Board) described them.
One was animal husbandry, which we call Integrated Agriculture and the other one was Creative Arts Craft, classified into decorative and accessories.
For the husbandry we did snailry, fishery and poultry and we actually started from hatching to processing because in the course of training them we took them to existing farms to see how farms are and to ask the owners what their major challenges were.
“For the fish farms we found out that the major challenge was how to market the product. So a lot of time they sold them in a hurry because after they get to a certain size if you don’t dispose them they die and that becomes a loss to you. Then we came back and said we must deal with that challenge and what will be our best way to deal with it.
We then agreed on processing; let’s dry these fish and chickens, let’s clean these snails and let’s package them ready for sale and we did that and that was how we took it all the way to processing. So from hatching the eggs of the chickens, the fish and the snails we took them all the way to processing, ready for market.
“Some of the trainees when they graduated left here to get actual employment and we are having to call back five of the women who did agric to send them to farms to help train people on how to do this preservation I talked about.
In a way we have also gotten employment for five of the 25 in the agric class; we ourselves are retaining three of our best as training assistants who are going to stay and work with us.
We believe they will serve as good mentors and motivators for the new intakes. Some of the bead works you see there (pointing at some beads) were done by them, the rug on the floor, all those bags (pointing at them), were done by them. We do a lot of bead and wire works, fabric works, our bed sheets, duvets and so many others, were all produced by these women; they have become professionals and anyone wanting to engage them can really do so.
“Whilst we were training them an organisation had an events management training and I decided to send 10 of them. Out of those 10 who went for that professional session, seven got certificates of excellence that was more than a pass mark.”