PAIN in my heart, tears in my eyes, I write you this letter, dear Hassana, the young, brilliant kid, kidnapped by Boko Haram in the night of April 14, 2014. You were in school preparing for your exams, with great dreams for the future. You had big dreams, to be a doctor, scientist, engineer or lawyer. You dreamt of being a good child to your parents and responsible citizen of your country.
Then, they came. The men from the dark, with hearts of darkness. They stormed your hostel and took you and some of your other colleagues away, to God-knows-where. Since then, we all-your family, school mates, friends and even those who do not know you, have been awaiting your return. But, it’s been like waiting for Godot. It’s either no news, half news, unsubstantiated news, photo flash, some hideous voices, making promises not meant to be kept and so on. Even the government says you will return home safe and sound. Former President Goodluck Jonathan said so, but nothing happened. President Muhammadu Buhari has made the same promise. We just hope and pray so.
But, the bottom line is: You haven’t returned. Until you all return sound and healthy, can we ever take the promises of government serious? This is where I honestly believe we must continue to appreciate people like the vocal and courageous Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and her colleagues in the #Bring Back Our Girls campaign for keeping the fire burning. Were it not for them, many would have since moved on with their lives. Not many Nigerians have long memories, especially when they are not the ones directly affected.
Dear Hassana, do not ask who I am. I am just a concerned Nigerian, a writer and public commentator, who has done several articles expressing his worries about your plight, which is our collective plight. But I know you, even when you know me not. True, we may not have met face-to-face, as we say in this country. But I can connect to you in the subconscious, in the spirit. I have seen your photograph published many times in the newspapers, in the long, sad list of the abducted. Faces that show how helpless our nation has been in the face of terror.
I weep in my heart anytime I see your face and those of 218 others being flashed in the newspapers and television. Recently, you were even on global news outfit, the CNN, released by your abductors just to show you are still alive. But, surely you can’t be said to be okay. No one who has been unwilling hostage of rough fellas, clutching AK47, and high on things we don’t know can be said to be truly fine. We hear that your abductors have even sowed seeds of the womb in some of you; and some may have given birth to ‘ baby Boko Haram.’ That is quite frightening. Will baby Boko Haram grow up in the ways of ‘father’ Boko Haram? What a world we will have!
Hassana, anytime I see a 13 or 14 year -old girl either going to school or on the playground during festive periods, I can’t help remembering you. I can’t help imagining that any of the young girls on the streets could have been among the abducted, and kept in the prison of Boko Haram for a whole two years, separated from the love and warmth of family and friends. I can’t help imagining what you have been through since the night of terror, when the marauders stormed your hostel and abducted you and your mates.
In your face, I see fear, I see confusion, I see embarrassment. Of course, there’s unspeakable pain and agony. I see the indifferent look of the stoic, one whose spirit remains unbreakable, despite your travails. I am sure it’s that unbreakable spirit that has kept you and your mates going in the last couple of years.
Do I see anger? Yes, subdued anger. Indeed, you and your colleagues do have a right to be angry with us, the adult population. No one will blame you if you are, at this time, mad at your nation and government. This, indeed, is one of the reasons I write you this letter, dear Hassana, as a sort of self-purgation. Yes, we failed you. Your government failed you. We all failed you in your moment of great distress.
How can any sane mind rationalise the fact that a group of people, for whatever reasons or grievances, will storm a school hostel and abduct over 200 of our citizens, hapless young girls, and two years after, we still can’t find or free them? How can it happen that the most populous black nation on earth, some say powerful nation, will have over 200 of her citizens in the firm and wicked grasps of kidnappers, and for two years running, we can’t say for certain when they would be freed?
In other climes, the country would literally shut down as the angst of the citizens would compel the heartless abductors to let go their captives. In saner climes, we would not leave the wailing and gnashing of teeth to only the families and relatives of the abducted. The citizens would be on the rooftops and the streets, demanding of their leaders to do something or stop calling themselves our leaders. If government can’t protect the lives of its citizens, of what use is it? Even our constitution expressly states that government exists to safeguard life and property.
But here, everything must be reduced to politics and politicking. It’s unbelievable that some people were even doubting if Chibok girls actually existed, that it was a political invention to blackmail and harangue Jonathan out of power! Now, don’t we all know that citizens, flesh and blood, were indeed abducted. That’s how low politics is played in this land. Even at the expense of human lives!
Dear Hassana, you must pardon my outburst. It is how emotional the Chibok issue stands for some of us. It is how depressing the issue is, especially the fact that government can’t, two years after, assure us when you will return home. So, I am writing to let you know that you are not alone even in your lonely abode. But, the question is: Am I even sure this mail will get to you? Will the stone-faced guys, hooded like Robin Hood and Rambo, with assault rifles and other dangerous weapons, keeping eagle-eyes on you, their prized hostage, their human shield against the military forces on their hot trail, ever let you receive any message from friends, relatives and other well-wishers?
For me, it makes no difference whether Boko Haram allows you to read this letter or not. I write in the hope that someday and hopefully soon, you will breathe the air of freedom and you and your colleagues will get to read this letter, because someone who knows someone that knows you or any of the girls will tell that not all Nigerians cowered in the cloak of cowardice or indifference, when it mattered most.
Goodnight, dear young friend, as I rest my case for now, even as your case is not yet closed!