Thursday, 5 June 2014

234 is more than a country code

On the evening of May 1, 2014,  I tried relentlessly to call my sister's phone lines as anguish encircled my throat
 Another bomb had gone off at the park in Nyanya, where she would  normally board a cab home. And board a cab she did, minutes before the bomb went off.

As the call finally connected and I listened to Sister Esther recount how the blast had sounded so loud, anguish squeezed out hot tears which slid down my cheeks to my nightie; tears of relief and frustration. For a contraption that used to be a country, I shed tears for her nonexistent government.

My country has been at war for the last three years, but this is a much-denied fact. Our tears are dried out, cushioned as we are in the familiar numbness that has set in. If you live in the south, the general feeling is ‘it happened to them, not us’.

That narrative changed with the Chibok girls. Somehow,  234 was no longer just our country dial code; it had become the code of blood. 
This abduction would not be another sad news that would get swept under the carpet of denial and levity where all the other killings and abductions had gone.

We became street and cyber activists convinced that if we made enough noise about the missing girls, our government would stop pretending that over 200 vulnerable girls were not kidnapped by a heartless extremist group.
I joined the protests and chanted 'We want our girls! Bring back our girls! Abduction must stop! Bombings must stop!' I marched in the sun and rain so that the world would hear of this atrocity and come to our aid.

Our conviction worked. The ‘bring back our girls’ hash-tag caught on like an infectious disease.
Yet, that night as news of a second Nyanya bomb blast scrolled through my TV screen, it felt like that was our collective punishment for daring to carry out worker’s day protests across the nation. But we were not deterred; even as the death toll rose.

One month after the abduction, America sent troops to help our army find the girls and flush out the enemy.
Between videos of BH telling the world they were sanctioned to sell the girls, and another showing the girls as new converts to Islam, then news of mutiny within Nigeria’s soldiers, to more news of the girls being ill and in different camps, this ugly drama keeps unfolding, and we struggle to make sense of the many twists.

So far, it has been 53 days of not knowing what those unstable elements may have done, and are still doing to the girls. More than enough time to lose faith in your country, yourself and life in general. How many of them will return, whole in body and mind?

Indeed when this war ends, how many of us will be left whole in Nigeria? 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Toast to Maya

Reading about her passing on Thursday, May 29, 2014 was somewhat heavy for me.The news brought an unexpected pain.
 Somehow, I scouted the internet in search of news to the contrary. I failed.
I remembered the last tweet I read from her earlier in the week; 'Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God'. I wondered; could she have sensed it then?

I recollected reading a Facebook update from her, an update where she informed us that she had missed a special event organised in her honour, based on her doctor's advice.

But after it all, I sent prayers for her swift passage to the next realm. And at Pentecost, what a time to pass!  

The next day I was able to write this small tribute to a woman I loved and admired. for her intelligence, her wit, her strength and her pride. Journey well Maya!

She knew Why the caged bird sings

She knew why the caged bird sings...
And in her words I found reason, rationale to be true to self and craft.

She wrote heartfelt poetry and told stories with a passion and honesty that shamed even the darkest of circumstances. 

She belonged nowhere and yet belonged everywhere.

Her writings illuminated the assertion that when a person shines, she gives glory to her Maker and inadvertently gives others the nudge and room to shine too.

Thank you Maya Angelou! 

Poet, storyteller, dancer, singer... Your words gave this bird wings to take flight. Your stories gave hope; they give hope still.

Sing on soul sister! 

Sing on in lighter realms. 

To joyful activity may you awaken, Amen!