Dapbok Girls: This God Has Started Again!, By Oluseyi Olufemi
Yet I must do more for every child I can reach, because when these conjugal wrongs leave the bush at Chibok and head for the palace of an Emir at Kano via a suburb in Bayelsa, the other retailed child brides may think God is happy with those who religiously marred Ese’s life.
Some years ago, I made out of the house to take my two-year-old son to his school. As I started the 200-metre trek down that clayey road, I held him as closely to my chest as any father would his only child. Then came this close range shot from the lad within my embrace: “Ooh this God has started again!” I didn’t get it. He had a tone of utter helplessness and frustration about God in that rude turn of phrase that made me more befuddled than offended. I regained my composure early, and gently asked him why he said that. He replied, “It has started to rain again.”
I could then add it up. Indeed, as we started out that morning, there was a faint drizzle. And I improvised with his school bag and my overhanging frame to hide his tender head from the elements. He felt quite besieged and uncomfortable, yet he saw the genuine efforts of a poor father to shield him from the rain. So in that innocent and intelligent moment, he blurted out his lament at this erratic if not sadistic guy that lives up there, who turns on the shower as he pleases, not minding dampening the school uniform of a little boy who lives downstairs; that Guy his clueless parents always said was God and nice.
So, in times as this, I wonder too what was going on in those pubescent minds of the Dapbok girls – the dearly missed Dapchi and messed-up Chibok high school students, during the attack on their schools by our own Boko Haram killers. I wander into Dapbok and hear screams of children in panic, their little separate prayers to God for help or escape from that day’s evil, which were not answered. I hear the girls’ muteness under fire, I feel their hot tears whenever they manage to think straight again. But a man must neither emote like a woman nor speak candidly as a boy, so, I can only mourn on in my mind.
Yes, I must move on anyhow, since these girls’ predicament has quickly been transferred to Nigeria’s armed forces and other paid defenders of the strong. But unlike when I reassured my son that day, I can’t tell these stolen daughters that the most beneficent Allah sent those holy marauders like the rain for our own good. It cannot be Allah that helps the Boko Haram Jihadist, that hears his prayers, that gives him repeated success whenever he sets out murdering humanitarian workers, killing school teachers, rampaging and raping, slaughtering boys and infecting girls with incurable venereal diseases.
I must move on from things that deeply hurt me, just as I earlier moved aside my inner scruples that questioned a president’s brutal equanimity at that blood-curdling massacre of poor peasants who spoke the other language, since to him, the divine had long approved the bovine to graze on the graves of reluctant farmers in Benue, Adamawa and indeed anywhere in Nigeria. But I still cannot learn how to supremely love a legendary merciless man, as that Deadly Sun editor now does his new boss, or unlearn compassion from those mothers in the National Assembly, who blame lifeless bodies and damaged lives for refusing entry to a superior race of cow men.
But we all have to move on. Although it’s harder for captured, ruptured and sutured lives. Yet one’s eternally displaced self can still birth a better promise than the dream they stole away. I too must seek a grander vision and forget nightmares filled with screams of schoolgirls in distress, as rebel seraphs of Chineke shouted fiery orders in Hausa, shoving the girls apart in different pick-up vans, shooting sporadically into the air in praise of Ogun the demoted creator of iron who ironically aided the Europeans with superior weapons to destroy the Yoruba people too.
It took my worried spirit to wander North-West to really come back to the ruling reality – that our daughters are not really among those languishing in the hands of those brute executioners. None of those unfortunate girls is our child. So much that we disown each helpless girl captured in Dapchi quickly, and rather own daughters that are safe and go to school without fear, and rally round daughters that consent to marry, whose noses are not concealed at all, and rejoice with parents who worship a better God than the parents of the Chibok girls, very important parents of schooled brides like the one captured in Kano government house.
I must then return South-West and see to my son’s schooling in spite of the rains, so he won’t have to marry helpless daughters in the bush and father hapless children like a homeless fighter that runs errands for a gun provider who lives in the city in wicked luxury. I must see to it that my daughters decently complete their education and become helpful to humanity, so that their hands can be honourably given away, each to her own humane and civilised gentleman. I cannot do less.
Yet I must do more for every child I can reach, because when these conjugal wrongs leave the bush at Chibok and head for the palace of an Emir at Kano via a suburb in Bayelsa, the other retailed child brides may think God is happy with those who religiously marred Ese’s life. Yes, I must disclose more of the lies we’ve been told, lest when it rains so fatally in Rann, and a nameless father’s head is soaked with hot bullets, lest his hurting son too should say ‘this God has started again’.
Oluseyi Olufemi writes from Lagos.