I know its been over three weeks but I still cannot get the thought of 53 children murdered in their beds out of my head.
I went to a Federal Government college. It was a great experience, as anyone who had that privilege would quickly tell you. In our days it wasn’t necessarily a club for the rich. No. You wrote an examination passed it and then went for an interview. You didn’t have to be the richest kid in the room but you did have to make good grades. Yes there was still the quota system but even that was moderated by the insistence of merit to a considerable degree.
What made our Unity school experience unforgettable was the fact that it represented all the colours of our country. I am an Anglican. My grandfather was an Archdeacon of the Anglican Communion. I knew next to nothing about other denominations including my catholic brothers and sisters not to mention any other religion before I got into the Federal Government Girls’ College, Abuloma.
Besides being an Anglican, I had a pretty sheltered childhood. I had spent vacations in Lagos with my uncle outside vacations with my parents abroad but didn’t know anywhere else outside Rivers State. Even my holidays in Lagos were very controlled so I really was more of tourist and didn’t get a feel and hang of the true Lagosians. FGGC, Abuloma therefore opened completely whole new worlds for me. My friends, from outside Rivers State, Jummai Williams and Margaret Angulu who came from Niger State, Kaka from Potiskum, Amina and Talatu, Nike and Funso Williams, Stella Ofong Ekpe, Jacqueline Kalu, Uloma Onwuchekwa, Ijeoma Ukpabi and all the other girls taught me about my country and the world. I remember looking forward to the new term and the Date palms and Aya that would come from our friends in the North, the party snacks brought by the Lagosians, while those of us resident in Port Harcourt made up for it with meals cooked by our parents to support an entire troop.
Visiting days were the most fun as every parent brought food knowing that they all had responsibilities for all the children in the dorm. During mid term breaks our sisters from outside Port Harcourt had ready homes to go to as their parents happily allowed them go home with almost total strangers whose homes, languages and creed were worlds apart from theirs.
I learnt the word azumin and learnt to respect the Muslim fast even though I was quite jealous of the fact that they got to have all those sumptuous early morning meals. Our Muslim sisters also learnt to respect the fact that our faith as Christians was more than just a ritual. It was our very lives and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. I got to see a Scapula and even learnt to say Hail Mary, even though I didn’t quite agree with the concept. We lived together, laughed together and shared great moments together.
We learnt to fight, disagree and make up. We knew each others homes and families through the many stories we shared. We cried when any of us had a misfortune. We ached when there was a loss. We even cried when one of us got expelled for a misdemeanour too major to be forgiven.
Our faculty loved us like their own. On mid term breaks, our wonderful foster mum, our principal then, Mrs. Ada Agwu, would take the girls who lived too far away to go home to her house as an outing and would allow them fall over the place like her own biological children would.
I remember my days in Abuloma, a chubby 10-year-old child, after dinning, prep and lights out trying to sleep. I shudder to think how terrified I might have been if as I dozed off, scores of gun wielding marauders attacked my hostel. I can’t imagine if I ever would have recovered watching my sisters slaughtered like rams or shot dead or burnt alive. I can’t think of the pain I might have gone through if I myself was slit in the throat or burnt to death. Even as I prepared to graduate from secondary school at 15, I cant think of how I would have coped with being abducted, separated from my parents, family and friends. Shut off from the world and kept incommunicado for several months. I do not know how if I ever would have survived the scars.
I am over 45 and a mother of four amazing children. My oldest is 21 and my youngest 13. I can’t bear the thought of any them being murdered in their sleep.
It is for this reason that I don’t understand the loud silence over the death of the children in Bunu Yadi. I don’t understand how as a country we could dance on their graves and think nothing of it. I can’t understand that every time we hear of mass murders in our country, we just continue with business as usual. I don’t understand that we aren’t shocked enough to shut down everything for a moment and just try to fix this madness. I don’t get the fact that we do not notice that perhaps we no longer have a country. A country that eats its tomorrow is finished. A country that murders its future is without hope. I am scarred that my generation, which thought we had lost the good old days, appear to have lived in paradise compared to the country that is being bequeathed to our children. I say being bequeathed because I also notice that not many in my generation have had a chance to affect governance. A few have, and it is those few that appear to be exuding anger. The generation just before us and those before them appear unwilling to pass the baton. They sit tight and sadly do nothing. Maybe they have become such a big part of the rot or have stayed in the stench so long they have lost their sense of smell. They bask in their putrid opulence oblivious of the murder at noon.
I really am scared. Scared that my children may have nothing to hold on to. Not even the great memories I had of a great school filled with Nigerians of all shades, shapes, tongues and religious persuasions. I am scared that I am losing my country, the only place I can call home with relish and a sense of right. I am scared that we the elite have become so enclosed in our little unreal world with our limited view that the world begins and ends with us that we are not seeing the signs of a possible rebellion by a dissatisfied populace who have been taken for granted long enough. I am scared that while we are busy majoring on our inconsequential lust for power and greed for filthy lucre we have failed, even for self-preservation sake, to make our country work even minimally for the benefit of our neighbors. I shudder to think that just as death crept upon the innocent children at Bunu Yadi, very soon our castles, palaces and mansions may no longer be safe enough to protect us. I shudder because as long as we choose to ignore the signs of rain, we will be thoroughly soaked by the impending thunderstorm and may even by carried away by the storm.
I am shocked that fathers, mothers, grand fathers, grandmothers and even great grand parents, wined, dined, clinked glasses and laughed in what they termed a centenary celebration while the smell of burnt bodies and the blood of innocent children cried for attention from the land of Bunu Yadi
I know that I may be ranting, perhaps even making no sense, but whichever way, I just shudder to think. I am scared.
Mrs. Seminitari, the Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, sent in this piece from Port Harcourt.