Sanctuary - The Story of Ayuba


"They have no one else to help them but me."

Ayuba Azagwu is currently sheltering 58 people in his house.

Sounds pretty tight, right? Ayuba has nine rooms and one toilet - it can't be the most comfortable of living arrangements.

But actually 58 people is nothing. It's peanuts. It's nowhere near the most people this remarkable man has sheltered at one time. He's had 136 people in there before.

And he doesn't have to do it. He's not duty bound. As far as he's concerned, it's just the right thing to do.

Let's rewind a bit and give you some context. Whilst living in his village, Goza, in Nigeria, Ayuba heard that Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant group, were becoming active in his area. Not wanting to wait until his village was actually under attack, Ayuba left before many of his neighbours and managed to find a property in the Wulari community of Maiduguri.

"I arrived in Maiduguri alone and ... started to try and settle the place for my people to come and stay."

Ayuba was clever enough (and, let's be honest, rich enough) to get out ahead of the violence. Many others were not so lucky. Boko Haram swept into the village, burning everything before them and driving out the inhabitants. Ayuba lost three houses in the inferno, all of which he had built himself.

That's when the families started arriving in Maiduguri. The first family he invited into his home, he owed a favour to, he housed them in order to repay a debt. But then came a second family and a third. He couldn't turn them away. Not his own people. Soon Ayuba was sharing his property with well over 100 others.

"Many of the people here are from my own village and I know them. Many of their belongings have perished in the fire. My belongings perished also. They had no one else to help them but me. In the village I helped and it’s an obligation for me to help now."

It's a pretty bleak situation. Ayuba made his money as a farmer but he can't plant crops with Boko Haram still a constant security threat and even if he could, guess how he used to afford to buy the seeds? That's right, rent from the property he's now giving away for free.

It's a situation that's taking a toll on Ayuba - both financially and physically.

“I now have a kidney issue and an ulcer. I think maybe it's been caused by stress.”

Maybe? Yeah, I guess having everything you own burnt to the ground, your family chased from their home and then generously giving away your one source of income because you feel duty-bound to help your neighbours might cause some stress.

It's definitely a possibility.

And deep down in my heart, this story makes me feel so small and humbled. Because to be honest I'm not sure if I could have done the same. To give up my privacy, my autonomy; to cut off the one financial lifeline I had - just because it was the right thing to do.

I can't truly say whether I'm capable of that level of generosity and grace.

Ayuba can though. He's losing everything, bit by bit, so that others can get back on their feet and start to rebuild. Can a solution be found before there's nothing left for him to give?

"We ask that people pray for us, so our lives can return to normal and we can go back to our old life which is better than what we have here."