As the Nigerian military continues efforts to contain the insurgency of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, it has recruited local hunters to help. One of them stands out – because she’s a woman.
Aisha Bakari from Gombi town in Adamawa State spent much of her childhood shooting antelopes. Now she’s hunting down Boko Haram fighters and has become a hero in her community.
In this chat with BBC Africa, she shares her journey into becoming a Boko Haram hunter.
On her background
When I was younger, I was always fighting with men because a lady would fight me or say something to me negatively and I won’t even bother but if a man would cross me, I would not let him go. And so because of that, there was a time I fought with a very big man in the market place, I beat him to a pulp. Because of what had happened, a lot of people started calling me with the nick name, jetfighter, but now, everyone calls me Aisha.
I was born and raised in Gombi and I have about five older brothers, one younger brother and a sister. Because I grew up amongst boys, I’ve always being like a tomboy, always wanted to do whatever they did, whatever fun they were having, I always wanted to join in that. If I was given a kind of barbie doll, I would say no, I want that type of toy so that’s how I grew up
Hunting is part of my family. I grew up into it. My father is a hunter, my grandfather was a hunter, so I grew up seeing my father and brothers going, so I would follow them, they would teach me how to do it and it became a part of me. I got so good at hunting that I would actually go with my younger brother and show them how to do it. All of us or most of my brothers already have something else we were doing. I am a seamstress, so, hunting is just to pass the time. It’s a surprise to a lot of people in my area that I go hunting because there’s hardly any woman you would find that is into hunting.
Fighting Boko Haram
When they came into our town, we went back into our house and stayed there. They didn’t come into our own house but they had burnt other houses and killed a lot of people and they left. The second time they came, they did the same thing.
The third time was when I said, enough is enough. When they came in the third time, some of my brothers came in from town to try to protect us. I knew my older brother would stop me from going out to fight because I had had enough at that time. I told him to just give me his car keys, so, he gave me his car keys and I went out and locked his cars. And I took my bow and arrows and left because I was on my way to fight Boko Haram.
While on my way, I met some of my cousins who were hunters themselves, they asked me where I was going to, I told them I was going to the battle front but they said they were enough. Because I knew they were going to waste my time, I just ran away to where the battle was going on and when I was there, I saw a stranger and when he saw me, I could see in his eyes that he was proud of me and he took the bow and arrow from me and gave me his gun and then we went into battle. After then, I heard no word from that stranger but it was with his gun I went into battle with Boko Haram.
On The Courage To Fight Them
Truly, whoever comes into the North-east Nigeria and sees the way the situation is, will definitely see that the situation is unbearable. Boko Haram had destroyed my town. They slaughtered a lot of men and women. Seeing that really affected me and I don’t think that it’s something I’ll sit down and watch and that’s what made me really angry and wanted to fight them.
On People’s Reactions
A lot of people were surprised. Even the Boko Haram members were even more surprised. Once we entered a town that Boko Haram had taken hold of, when they saw us coming (because anytime I go to fight, I wear my hijab) and they saw a woman amongst the crowd of people coming to fight them, they ran off.
How She Helps The Nigerian Army
The Nigerian army definitely needs us because some of the routes the hunters are familiar with; the armies are not. Some of the paths we know and understand, the army have no knowledge of.