CHIBOK GIRLS DAY365:THE DAY I MET PETER FROM CHIBOK
There are some who believe that the writer has no role in politics or the social upheavals of his or her day. Some of my friends say, “No, it is too rough there. A writer has no business being where it is so rough. The writer should be on the sidelines with his notepad and pen, where he can observe with objectivity.” I believe that the African writer who steps aside can only write footnotes or a glossary when the event is over”- Chinua Achebe’s There Was A Country-Page 55
It has been 365 days since the Chibok Girls were uprooted from their homestead. Like most Nigerians; I wish my eidetic memory were strong enough to recollect my activities on Monday, the 14th of March 2014. Honestly, I can not remember but I do recollect the pains Sope Martins (On Air Personality with Smooth 98.1FM) some days later as she kept on talking about it. My interest was partially awakened with a tweet from Afrobeat musician Seun Kuti (son of Fela Kuti) about a rally at Tafawa Balewa Square and 2 weeks later while unpacking my luggage in Kigali-the capital of Rwanda; as I watched Mrs Oby Ezekwesili on the BBC.
But I became fully interested in the plight of the Chibok Girls when a Nigerian (a top Executive at PfizerUSA) informed me that writers don’t have the obligation to keep mute. He made a valid analysis which I would paraphrase thus “Nigeria’s issues can be solved if only the middle class supported the poor. The poor have the numbers to protest when policies don’t favour them. But the protests can’t be prolonged if the middle class won’t support them. The Nigerian middle class is very comfortable with 2-3 foreign trips a year, a steady salary and a close door to the big man. Most Nigerian middle class only survive from the crumbs received from the big man who is either in government or has contacts in government. Therefore most Nigerian middle class don’t want anything to jeopardise their livelihood. But once the Middle class can support the poor; the government would begin to listen. ” This spurred me to write about the Chibok Girls to mark the 100 days of their abduction which was published in The Guardian Newspaper, Ynaija; Genevieve Magazine and on Omojuwa.com and on my blog- dolapoaina.com
In the third week of March 2015, I was informed about a young man who is 19 years old; called Peter who hails from Chibok. I decided to track him and finally met him on Wednesday, the 25th of March 2015. My intention was to conduct an interview with Peter (who I refer to as a young man; he has a wife who is partly Cbibokian and a 2 month old son with an interesting Biblical name).
Peter who speaks good English, Hausa and pidgin was not bothered about the interview and questions; his main concern was; he had granted several interviews (audio and video) but did his interviews bring back the girls? You see, Peter’s sister and three cousins were taken. Peter told me; he could introduce me to other boys from Chibok who had sisters and cousins amongst the Chibok Girls. I said I was interested in him and his story. I could tell from his eyes and body language that he had stories to tell but he just didn’t believe in the government.
I had about twelve questions for Peter and I showed him the question sheet. Answering the questions was not his challenge (as he told me in perfect English) but he said he had to think about it for he was busy with some chores. You see, Peter is the security guard of a large private house. His boss (who is a female; relocated from Lekki Phase 1 and still retained Peter.) I spent about 2 hours with Peter trying to get a proper interview; I even told him that I had a recorder with me and could have as well have been recording our conversation but I would not do that. During our conversation; I realised I had ample materials for an article but I did not have an interview.
Peter was living in Chibok when the girls were abducted. When he mentioned his sister’s name; I knew I could place a face to the name, a face I see everyday when I tweet the pictures of the girls on my twitter timeline (which I told him about and even wanted to show him the picture of the girls which he declined to see but still believed me.) Peter probably knows the level of laxity displayed or the time lapse of the military response. He probably knows all the Chibok Girls. He probably has nightmares. He probably prays for their return (the Chibok boys in this area do). For several months, Peter never heard from his family (he left Chibok and journeyed all the way to Lagos in 2014). But in January 2015, this brave man, travelled to Chibok in search of his parents (they are alive).
I never got that interview with Peter but my 2-3 hours spent interacting with him endeared me to him. A 19 year old man with a wife and a 2 month old son. Peter remembers Monday, the 14th of April 2014 with all the details like yesterday. But he would rather remain silent since after been vocal; nothing has changed.
I had to inform and enlighten Peter on the need to tell his story; not to keep quiet. That one day, the right people would read, hear, listen or watch his story and something positive would occur. One suggestion that brightened Peter’s face was when I told him to begin to write down all his recollections about that day and his journey to Lagos. I asked him; “do you have an exercise book? Buy one and begin to write down everything you remember. It would become a book in future. Tell your friends from Chibok too. If you don’t write it down, you would begin to forget the little details.”
As I left with Istifanus; my friend who introduced me to Peter, my thoughts were on overdrive. I began wondering about the whole Chibok Girls’ abduction and the government’s response. Why did chards of false intelligence continue to ricochet from one government source to another? Why wasn’t there a collective willingness to believe and why didn’t this abduction grip the upper echelons of the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Administration? Isn’t it glaring that something about the government’s lackadaisical nonchalance was just too “velvety-bosomed and too Rolls Royce” as fragments of corroborative information were swirling amongst the populace but not even swirling in the air-tight corridors of power in Abuja?
In all my articles about the Chibok Girls, I have always included comments by two African Presidents and this piece won’t be an exception. The reason for the addition is to bring to your notice, the mindset of African leaders who know the meaning of safeguarding their citizenry.
That is why the Ugandan Head of State- President Yoweri Museveni would state in disbelief and berate the current Nigerian administration headed by President Goodluck Jonathan; for calling on the United States to help him rescue the Chibok girls. In President Museveni’s words “We have never called the United Nations to guard our security. Me, Yoweri Museveni to say that I have failed to protect my people and I call on the UN: I would rather hang myself. We prioritized national security by developing a strong Army, otherwise our Uganda would be like DRC, South Sudan, Somalia or Nigeria where militias have disappeared with school children.” He said, inviting foreign power would be a vote of no confidence in his government, if the state can’t guarantee security of the people.
That is why Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (who doesn’t kowtow to the whims and caprices of the West) made this hard-hitting and sincerely blunt commentary. Don’t read his comments if you don’t have the guts to read the truth. For those who have read some of President Kagame’s speeches, you would concur that he tells you what several other African Presidents wouldn’t dare say. President Kagame went thus "When I am watching television and I find that our leaders, who should have been working together all along to address these problems that only affect their countries, wait until they are invited to go to Europe to sit there and find solutions to their problems…it’s as if they are made to sit down and address their problems, Why does anybody wait for that? In fact, the image it gives is that we are not there to address these problems…they are (African leaders) happy to sit in Paris with the President of France and just talk about their problems.”
The Rwandan President went further; “It doesn’t make sense that our leaders cannot get themselves together to address problems affecting our people.” And he concluded by stating “African leaders, we don’t need to be invited anywhere to go and address our problems, without first inviting ourselves to come together to tell each other the actual truth we must tell each other,” he said.
Monday, 13 April 2015
As I concluded this piece, I tried to call Peter 5times between 9.40am to 1140am but he did not pick my calls. But during the first attempt, my call was picked, no one spoke but I heard the cries of his two month old baby boy in the background. Memories of my conversation with Peter rushed back, flooding my mind like a Tsunami.
“Forgive them; you might say, for they know not what they do. But there comes a moment in history when ignorance is no longer a forgivable offense...a moment when only wisdom has the power to absolve.” This aforementioned quote taken from Dan Brown’s Inferno might sum up the thoughts of Peter and his friends from Chibok. But can they forgive a government that they feel has failed them?
After my friend and I said our goodbyes to Peter. I asked Istifanus, if the Chibok boys can ever be normal, since I am fully aware that they would be battling with nightmares, psychological and emotional traumas related to the abduction of their siblings and family members. Meeting Peter from Chibok; I know the answer to my question. That is for the boys; what about the Chibok Girls? I shudder. My heart was blown to smithereens when I saw Peter’s eyes and his body language when he said “he just wanted the government to rescue the girls”. I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless.
I got home that night and soliloquised about my country and this present administration. And someone out there has the moral temerity to clamour for a Nobel Peace Prize for conceding defeat? I dare say, that a social media Nobel “Piss” Prize isn’t even appropriate. I can hear someone quip “don’t even contemplate a Pooh-Pooh Prize either.” We just need the girls of Chibok rescued.
Is that too much to ask of you Mr President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; before you return to Otuoke by the morning of May 30th 2015?
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