Ekechi’s Journey to the Land of the Dog

They fled a Boko Haram massacre. Now, after years in refugee camps, families return to rebuild their lives.

Omawumi, Nigeria — Every morning, Ekechi wakes up at 5 a.m. to get ready for his daily ritual: washing his head and neck. “I have three children, a woman and a dog,” Ekechi tells me as he waits in line by the kitchen in front of his small hut. “There are two more to come,” he adds. When I ask where his children have come from, he says, “I have no idea,” but when asked if he has been reunited with his family after fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency in 2015, he says, “I’m not sure.”

He lives in an un-air-conditioned hut on the shore of Lake Kaduna. His wife and children, who were separated from him when he fled the city of Benin City to the relative safety of Lake Kaduna, are also in this tiny mud hut with their two dogs. A few meters away, more than 30 children run under a mango tree in a line that stretches over the beach. They play under the shade of a large bush, a few dozen meters from the house where Ekechi lives. After Ekechi’s eldest is done playing, the mother of the children tells us, “She will take care of the dog while the rest of us do the washing.”

Children play in a mango orchard at a refugee camp near Kaduna, Nigeria, in June 2019. Photograph by Oluwafunmi Olatiji for the Guardian

“When people return, they are a reminder [of] their own lives,” says Ekechi. The fact that he was able to return to his own home and wife, says Eikechi, shows what he can accomplish with just a little love, patience and perseverance.

As the story behind Ekechi’s return, along with so

Leave a Comment