It is now exactly one year after almost 280 schoolgirls were abducted on 14 April, 2014, by Nigeria’s Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, as they slept in their school in Chibok, a rural area about 130 kilometres from Maiduguri in the country’s northeastern state of Borno.
The world started to remember them in a commemoration event that took place for 7 days and an inter-denominational service was held in Abuja also. Today April 14th there is an on going march in their honour and lots of media discussions too.
One of the most tenacious advocates of this cause, my friend and mentor Bukky Shonibare, has been carrying out a Social Media count down till today April 14th. She expressed her experience as an advocate this one year weaving in her own personal experiences.
Read her thoughts and see more pictures after the cut:
STILL, I STAND!
The initial title of this piece was 'Depressed'; but I changed it because I'd rather not infect others with the deep sense of depression that I feel right now.
For friends who know me long and well enough, they know I'm not one who'd so easily display deep emotions or my vulnerabilities publicly. And when subdued for so long, my tears give me away as it's sometimes my way of exhaling. A friend once said I'm too proud with my emotions, but not necessarily, I just don't like being pitied or experiencing that extreme display of sympathy. It puts me in a position of weakness and I always like to have it all together. I prefer to be strong so I can be there for others. Knowing myself, I'd so easily do away with anything/anyone that'd have me display emotions. But my involvement in the #BringBackOurGirls cause has seen me display the direct opposite of who I thought I was, emotionally. I have been more emotional than I've ever been. And today, yet again, that strength I have hitherto relied on failed! I am penning these musings with hope that I feel relieved; publicly so because I'm being sensitive to the likely experience of the one or two friends I unwaveringly trust with this part of me; and, most importantly, to take myself off mute.
The reality of commemorating one year since the sad abduction of our girls is 'killing'! I feel a sense of 'failure' despite attempts to pick and focus on the bright side. I have lived in denial since this period. I told myself it is not happening. Lately, I carry that placard and just refuse to allow the numbers sink in. But today, my strength failed. The reality has found its way through my head and heart. I can no longer stop myself from thinking. It just won't go away. If I feel this way, I imagine how the parents would be feeling with the reality that it's almost 8,760 hours - 365 days since their daughters were taken by a deadly terrorist group.
I am only one of the many campaigners on this cause; which explains why each advocate would have a unique narrative of what this period means to them. I have met extraordinary men and women in this struggle who, in their individual and unique ways, have raised their voices and brought different shades to the advocacy. We call one our Martin Luther King - her way of delivering and drilling home her thoughts is captivating. Another, we say, is our mascot; her consistency and vigour is unmatched. How about the Amazon, who is just not too big to weep uncontrollably when the chips are down. She takes and swallow insults, and sometimes she just let it out. She's human, afterall. From her, I learnt practical Emotional Immunity having studied the theory. Not forgetting those who, in their silence and introverted approach, have raised their voices so loudly. And the men? They've been our pillars. They hold us together and ensure we don't let go. We've all done this for almost 350 days! We've all had our birthdays during this period! And a child who was conceived during the week of the girls' abduction would be sitting by now. That, my friend, is THE reality!
We've had high and low moments. Lows that come with several failed expectations, and highs like "We Know Where The Chibok Girls Are"; "We've Found The Chibok Girls"; "Ceasefire Agreement"; and the several "Shekau Captured" or "Shekau Killed." They just take our fragile hearts and smash it on a rocky ground. Do they really understand how each of these dashed hopes feel? Really, how much can a heart take? Until you wear our shoes, you just may never be able to understand the emotions that come with each of these experiences. For us, our lives took a sharp turnaround since we became 'born again', we just never remained the same again since we started this marathon that was once thought to be a 100-metre dash. It is definitely not a roller coaster, trust me! Sometimes we just let it out and wail - publicly and privately. We all lost our 'big girl' or 'big boy' parole. We retained our professionalism though; we became 'professional humans.'
There's a part of me that wants us to win before it's one year. I wish I have some supernatural powers. There's this anticipation to see their parents laugh wholly again, and see all their dreams revived like that of 'Sarah' who promised to take care of her mum after she finishes school and become a doctor. I mean, how do we face those parents after one year and console them? How?
Undeniably, there's the quest to see Nigeria's dignity and our sense of "Nigerianness" validated yet again, just as the feeling that came with the successful and smooth process of our recent Presidential Election. Also, having demonstrated and set a world record of redefining humanity, I somehow believe the girls' return is a validation of that sense of humanity our movement represents and exhibits.
I just want to tell myself that we can win on the path of allowing our natural humanistic tendencies play out despite the challenges that come with it. A part of me wants to show my husband that he wasn't helping to write those placards for fun. A part of me wants to finally have a cogent answer to the communicated and unasked questions that I get from my 6-year-old inquisitive daughter. I want to tell my girls and our gate man that they'd no longer need to help take the pictures for the daily photo campaign.
But right now, having done the bit within our limit, we are still saying the same thing. The depressing feeling that comes with this is nothing words can put together. To cover this lacuna, I have told myself, and even encouraged others, that we are winning in some other ways. It's true. But at this moment, I'm unable to relate with that. What really is our win without the Chibok girls? What?
I drop this device with a deep sense of depression, while PRAYING that a miracle happens. Life would just never remain the same without a meaningful and positive closure to this issue. Even when they are brought back, it just would NEVER!
Yet, I stand.