DUGUNDE: PORTRAIT OF A TROUBLED BAUCHI TOWN
Khadija Abubakar Saleh is a Fulani woman from Dugunde village in Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State. And for the woman, just like it is for every other resident of that community, life is like a long, unending nightmare. The mother of eight and her husband, Abubakar, 40, live in this pastoral hamlet which has about a hundred households.
The situation of Dugunde mirrors the neglect of the needs of the rural people by government at all levels and the efforts of a few non-governmental organisations such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to make a difference in the lives the villagers.
Like most rural communities, this closed desert Fulani society has no electricity, no school, no clinic and no pipe borne water, even as residents are faced with drought, diseases as well as exploitation in the hands of government officials who capitalize on their illiteracy.
The only source of water for both human and animal consumption in Dugunde is a well dug years back, as government seems to be close and yet very far away from the people.
Though the community lack basic facilities that make modern life more meaningful, for the villagers, life is simple and quiet.
The people of Dugunde say that during electioneering, politicians come to them and make a lot of promises but when they get into office, they abandon them.
Nobody owns a television in Khadija's community and there is no public viewing centres.
A few own bicycles, which they use to run little errands here and there, but the mode of transportation are horses and carts, each powered by two bulls.
Khadija or her husband, like most members of the community, travels to Azare or Bulkacuwa town to buy their household needs like soap for washing and bathing.
'I am a farmer but I make calabash which people used to decorate their homes. I started this design business three years ago and I take them to Raga, Madara Bulkacuwa markets to sell,' Khadija's husband told our correspondent.
Khadija, like most Fulani women, is hardworking and submissive and as parts of her task besides rearing children, milks the cows and helps her husband cultivate crops such as millet, groundnut and beans.
Life seems to come and pass by. After the farming season, the people are mostly idle.
The corruption pervading the larger society has somehow infiltrated this little community. Abubakar complains that government officials collect money on almost everything from them.
Since the villagers lack western education, these officials use all manner of excuses to get money from them in the name of revenue.
This seems to be the trend in many villages, like Makara-huta, Masunguni, Madara, Birniwa and Buskuri that shares similar features with Dugunde.
He says: 'We have not heard of fertilizer this season for instance. Yet they have come to collect money from us. If you refuse, they will seize your goods.'
Abubakar and his only brother settled in Dugunde almost two decades ago.
'My parents were nomadic Fulani who moved to Madara. My younger brother and I decided to come and settle here,' he says.
Abubakar owns a small transistor radio through which he monitors both local and international news on BBC or Voice of America in Fulfulde or Hausa.
Khadija raises her children in this small community. There's nothing to suggest that they will ever attend school.
'I teach my children Quranic education,' she says. 'My son, Mohammed Naziru is 13 years old now. I don't have money to send him to school.'
Abubakar says that he heard that the state government has introduced a policy where women and children below the age of five get free treatment at government hospitals and clinics.
He however laments that the health officials collect money from him whenever he takes his wife to the clinic. As a result of this development, the couple is very sceptical of attending clinics.
'There was a time I took my wife to the clinic in Bulkacuwa. We were asked to pay the sum of N2, 000, before she could be discharged,' he told Daily Sun.
'We were told that mosquito nets were distributed to households to prevent malaria. But those of us in this community, nobody remembers us at all.'
Most women in the community like Khadija hardly go to the clinics. Instead, traditional birth attendants attend to them any time they are giving birth. But when Khadija was to have her sixth child, she became very ill. Her husband took her to the primary health care centre in Bulkacuwa in a cart driven by two bulls at midnight.
Since then, she has been visiting the clinics for the antenatal introduced by UNICEF during her pregnancies.
'I used to fall sick and I often experience problems during delivery. But since I started visiting the clinic, I feel better now. In the clinics, the health workers used to teach me many things that I did not know that would make me and my baby healthy,' she says.
But the distance discourages other women.
'I used to trek seven kilometres to attend antenatal at Bulkacuwa,' she says, adding that there is no health centre in her village.
Khadija confesses that she has benefited tremendously from the UNICEF programme on ante natal care but is yet to practise the modern method of breastfeeding infants: exclusive breastfeeding.
'When I first heard about it, I thought it was wickedness not to give my baby water. But I was made to understand that the breast contains everything my baby needs. I have had my eighth child and I don't know. Maybe I will consider it, but I wish I knew earlier.'
Many rural women, just like Khadija, are now adopting healthy practices as a result of the interventions of organisations such as UNCEF which give them the required information for their survival and that of their children.
Hajia Asumao, a midwife with the Primary Health Care in Bulkacuwa says: We give them health education on various topics on ANC, nutrition, child-spacing and hygiene such as hand washing immunisation for them and their babies. We also give them drug suppliments provide by UNICEF.'