It's been an amazing week, to say the least! In my last email, I requested prayer regarding the strong opposition we are experiencing in our school in the northern state of Jigawa. Last Thursday, after hearing this news and sensing God's guidance, I left my grandson Shane in the Bobi reserve in Niger State, to continue our building project of two new school buildings and teachers' quarters, and with a driver and police escort, headed north to Jigawa.
We spent six days in Jigawa, trying to see the officials and clear up the rumors and misunderstandings about our school, all to no avail. Finally, on December 6, I decided to try and see the Emir of Hadijiah, the traditional ruler, (as opposed to the government officials,) and explain the problem, ask for his intervention. I went first to the Chairman of Hadijiah, as protocol demands. He told me that the Emir was to be at a program that morning, but that I could go along and see him there. But after the program was over, the Emir was carried off on his huge horse, and once again, I'd accomplished nothing.
Finally, that afternoon, I was invited to explain to a panel of 15 government officials why we have opened a primary school on the grazing reserve, and why we have hired 2 Christian teachers, (we also have 2 Muslim teachers,) and a Christian supervisor. I explained and gave evidence of our hiring practices, and was asked to meet with the Commissioner for Education the following day.
The next morning we drove to Dutse, Jigawa's capital city and were again given the runaround. The Commissioner was not in her office that day, but we arranged for the school supervisor, Pastor Mathias, to return next week, and drove back to Bobi reserve in Niger State.
Car trouble stopped us on the way, but no problem. We spent the night in the Sequoia, in a village police station, and made it to Bobi in time for the scheduled PTA meeting and meeting with the Director of Lands that morning.
After the PTA meeting, we rushed to our meeting with the Director of Lands, who, I'd been informed, was waiting alongside the road in the reserve. I came straight to the meeting, from PTA, with the two Fulani kings, (Sarikis,) Halliru, the Bobi schools supervisor, and others. The Director had come with a message from the State Governor!
Those of you who have followed my work may remember that the Bobi grazing reserve is over 90% encroached by farmers and farmlands. For over a year we've been struggling to find a solution. Last month I was able to meet the Governor, along with the two Sarikis, to plead the cause of these pastoralists. The reserve is registered as belonging to them, but they hardly have any place to graze their cattle. And are even forced by the farmers to pay when the cattle eat crop residue after the harvest. Yet, amazingly, the Fulani are living peaceably with the farmers and have even invited their children to attend the reserve schools.
Well, the message from the Governor was to about to change everything! Ground-breaking news! History in the making!
The Governor, through the Director of Lands, mandated me to choose 500 hectares of land out of each of the 7 blocks, (into which the reserve is divided,) for pasture land. The Director will then come with his team to confirm that the land I've chosen will be suitable for grazing. He will report to the Governor, then write letters to the farmers occupying that land, requesting them not to plant this year, and to relocate within a reasonable amount of time. The Governor will sign the letters! So amazing!
It remains now to work with the Fulani leaders to select the land they want. Shane will do the GPS marking on the reserve map which we'll submit to the Director. All of this must be done before the rains start in April so that the farmers won't plant in those areas!
Needless to say, the pastoralists are jubilant! Several men said that in all their lifetime, nothing like this has ever happened before. Wow. Bobi herdsmen and leaders are wonderful people. They love and are actively in support of the three schools we've started on the reserve. At the PTA meeting, they announced that they were already molding blocks, at their own expense, to build another classroom block! I'm so happy for them, so happy that now their grazing land, at least large portions thereof, will be returned to them.
We promised the Director to get right to work on our assignment, he entered his pickup and drove away, on his way back to Minna.
The two Sarikis and Halliru then approached me. What now? I thought to myself...
"We have heard of the difficulties you are having in Jigawa," Sariki Bello told me, "and we want to help. The three of us are going to leave, straight away, for Jigawa. Halliru will contact the Emir here in Niger State, who will phone the Emir in Hadijiah, Jigawa. We will visit the Emir and testify to all the good work you are doing in the Bobi grazing reserve, providing water and schools for our children. We will meet with the Commissioner for Education and any other officials involved and clear up any misunderstandings. We will ensure that the work you've started in Garbagal is 100% secure!"
I am so amazed and so blessed. So encouraged by this show of support.
Shane and I are back in Abuja now, packing for our trip back to Seattle on Wednesday! Looking forward to seeing family and friends again, and celebrate Christmas with our loved ones.
May you all have a wonderful Christmas!