Today is the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death. Today is also my most precious niece’s birthday. Third born in a family of three boys, two before her and one after, she was a sweet bundle of joy as an infant and a thunderbolt tearing through the house as a toddler. Seeing her then, you would not believe the Senior Financial Analyst she is today.
She was named for her maternal grandmother. And who knew at the time that these two lives would round out as they did and be joined by a singular date 11/10. So as I mourned my mother 10 years ago, I celebrated the presence of my niece and urged her silently to see the date as an auspicious one and to celebrate the life of her grandmother and emulate the spirit of love she embodied.
When I watch my niece playing the role of older sister to my two daughters, I see that embodiment made whole.
October is also a special for me because it is my birth month. This particular birthday has an added significance because in reaching it I became as old as my father was when he died 34 years go. That realisation gives special emphasis to other questions, such as, how far have you come, what have you achieved, what will you leave behind, how will you pass on what was given to you and make it significant in your way?
Just the fact of being alive to celebrate birth, graduation, first job, and to see a generation come into their own is its own reward. Each family, each nation, charts its history through these events and thus dates become important anchors of memories and points on a road map of life.
For some 279 Nigerian families that process has come to an impasse. Each day brings nothing but foreboding, grief, ceaseless loss and fear. Each day is a fight against despair and the reality of what it truly means to hope against hope.
From one month to 6 now. That is half a year. Will it get to a year before the Chibok girls are traced?
Some girls made their escape at the outset of their capture. It took 5 months before another girl was found, pregnant, the news reports said and wandering weak and dazed in the forest.
She is in safe custody with the army, but little else has been revealed about her experience, the stage of the pregnancy, who she is, or confirmation she is part of the original group abducted from Chibok. No word from relieved parents or family.
This is all very strange…
And so we come to the recourse of the ‘powerless’: the clinging to hope, the counting of days, the chanting of mantras, the focus on keeping the “story” alive, the siege on social media, the prayer that something will give…one day be one day.
But questions remain.
Are those girls in one place? Is there any point to covert military tactics to trace and rescue them?
Should we be looking at a different kind of search for individual girls, tracking them one by one?
Have they been trafficked? Sold/married off? Otherwise dispersed?
Is the condition of the last escapee a pointer for the state of the rest? Does that suggest how we should be looking and the kind of organisations who should be handling such a search?
Nigeria is a do it yourself nation: An, on your own enterprise, an army of armpitcos. You do your own electricity, do your own water, do your own roads. Why not do your own rescue?
What? You are waiting for government? Ahh!
At a time when a nation such as ours is beset with problems – Ebola/elections; education/elections; health/elections; governance/elections; money laundering/elections; buying arms on the down low/elections; surely the answer is clear?
According to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) says it will need $18 million to bolster Ebola ravaged Sierra Leone’s health system and the same report quotes a sum of $11million, which the World Food Programme requires for its operations in Guinea and Liberia, the other major centres of the epidemic. All put these sums are a tiny fraction of the, $49billion, or is it ‘only,’ $20 billion ‘missing’ from Nigeria’s oil funds.
We were aided in our actions against an Ebola epidemic (just one more thing we need to worry about while searching for our girls) by the presence of an emergency command centre financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and set up in 2012 to fight polio. And still, we go on, unable to achieve the basics without outside help.
‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death’
Macbeth at this point was a leader riddled with regret, contemplating the uselessness of his life. Goodluck Jonathan is contemplating another term of office. Why ask why?
Stanley Macebuh once recounted a Nigerian version of this definition of tomorrow, brutal in its emphasis, given by those who spend much of their time, standing and waiting at checkpoints and the like. “Tomorrow no dey finish.”
In short: Today is the day. Do it today, because tomorrow can finish for more than 200 girls.
Let us end this horror, wipe this stain, redeem the day.