Dahiru Buba, 50, who trekked from Gombe to Abuja in support of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in 2015, tells CHIMA AZUBUIKE how the physical exertion has affected his health for three years, his expectations of the Buhari regime, among other issues
What do you do for a living?
I’m currently unemployed; I have not had any source of livelihood for some time now. I have two wives and seven children.
Are you a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress?
Yes, I’m a card-carrying member of the APC in Gombe State. I duly registered at the ward level in Dukku.
What is your relationship with Buhari?
The only relationship I have with him is the love I have for the APC, Buhari’s personality as a man of integrity and as a lover of the masses.
Why did you choose to trek to Abuja from Gombe for Buhari?
The idea came out of my excitement after the APC won the presidential election in 2015. It was because my party and my choice candidate, President Buhari, became the democratically elected leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This came after he had tried a number of times. When it was taking forever for him to become the President, I promised myself to do something big, not knowing he would win. So I vowed that if Buhari got elected, I would do something extraordinary. The best way was to trek.
How many days did the journey take you?
It took me roughly 15 days.
What type of footwear did you use to trek?
I used three slippers during the trip. I changed my slippers three times.
Who monitored you to be sure you did not use a form of transportation at some point?
I didn’t enter any vehicle. In fact, some people stopped to ask me what was going on and when I told them about my decision to trek, they wished me luck. Some others even offered to give me a ride but I declined. I’m always sincere in my belief or in whatever course I choose to course. Taking a ride would have eroded the genuineness of my plan and record so I refused to allow any car take me to my destination. When I got to my destination on foot, my legs were swollen.
What were the obstacles you faced on your way?
When I got to Kila village as I took the Kano road, I asked for shelter but people refused to give me shelter. Normally, I got assistance everywhere I got to but when I got Kila, it was different. Maybe the people there thought I had an evil plan.
In a picture of you that is online, you were holding a commendation certificate. What else did you get for the unusual feat?
I only got transport fare back home from Abuja. Although I expected much more but I was only given transportation fare, nothing more. Many well-wishers didn’t believe it when I told them that I didn’t get any money. Everyone that heard about my journey thought I returned home with huge money. But the truth is that only N10,000 was given to me.
What have you, your family or Dukku community gained from the trip?
Everyone was just happy that I returned home safely because some people from Kuma, who also trekked were murdered around Jos. When I trekked, I was hoping to be rewarded but when I saw that there was no reward, I decided to go to radio stations to seek assistance.
Who diagnosed your condition and told you that you have problems with your limbs?
First, I was going from one clinic to another, wasting the little resources that came my way until I was checked at Government House clinic, where they referred me to a private facility where I would be properly examined.
How did you know it was caused by the trekking?
I knew it was caused by the trekking because I never had that problem until that exercise. Of course I knew my body system before the trekking and I know how it has been after the trekking. I can tell when a particular part of my body begins to malfunction.
What is the problem and how long have you had it?
I’ve had it for over three years now. It started like a joke; it started with some reactions around my toes and they gradually moved to my knees. I started having pain in my legs.
How much do you need to get treatment?
I don’t know the exact figure but as it has to do with my legs, it requires good treatment. I just wish to be fine.
What do you think about the Buhari regime that you trekked for from Gombe to Abuja?
I feel very sad because some people mock me now, saying I only did that in order to be rich but I’m still poor while others enjoy insulting the President in my presence. But I’m usually helpless because I can’t really defend him.
People always harass me in Dukku, asking me what I have gained, especially those who know about my current medical predicament and financial condition. They know how I practically survive by depending on others. Some of my friends, in an attempt to ridicule what I did, said I should have trekked to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. They said trekking to Mecca would have been more beneficial. They said my trekking from Gombe to Abuja did not bring me any gain.
If you could relive the period that you trekked, what would you do differently?
Well, if I could, I would still trek for the President.
Do you regret your loyalty to this regime?
I don’t regret my loyalty at all; no way. It was something I did wholeheartedly. Nobody coerced me or urged me to do it. I don’t regret my loyalty to the party and the President.
Do you think you have become richer or poorer since Buhari became the President?
I’m poorer than ever.
What do you think can be done to improve the country?
The President should revisit the promises he made to the people and fulfil them. The government is trying its best; I’m happy with some things but there are some things that need to change. Their tenure isn’t over yet.
Finally you got medical attention, how does that make you feel?
I’m grateful to the state government for helping me. The Governor of Gombe State; Alhaji Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, is taking care of medical bill. I was at the Government House clinic and later transferred to a private hospital in the state capital where I’m expected to undergo treatment. Already, I have done some tests and X-ray. They have prescribed some drugs for me and I have been asked to report back within five days.
I want to also call on the government to please buy me a house because the house I stay in Dukku LGA is not mine. This is a way for the government to intervene and make people making fun of me to shut up. People have been taunting me for trekking without getting a worthy reward.