by Hauwa Mundi
We’d run to the pigsty in the neighborhood during our hide and seek games, because it was the safest place to be if you didn’t want to be found easily as it had so many tiny rooms in it.
Considering that we were Muslims, being around pigs was something our parents would never tolerate, if they ever found out we would have been bacons now. But our friends reared those pigs and nothing would stop us from playing together, even if it meant pushing boundaries. We built houses out of sand, enacted dramas where we used candy wraps as money. Thank God we had a normal childhood, there’s nothing about growing up in the typical Nigerian setting that we didn’t experience, that I must say we are indeed grateful for.
We all looked forward to growing up, experiencing adulthood together as we did childhood, unfortunately we were denied that. Sometime in February 2000, I think it was my second year in boarding school (Junior Secondary), I ran into my elder sister in the hostel and she told me the news she had just heard. That the place we once called home, our haven, the streets that once had people greeting one another with sweet smiles, was going up in flames. That the people who held our tiny little hands as we took our first steps and those who babysat us were being butchered and torched.
I was so scared that I couldn’t even cry, my feet became very cold and I started to tremble. The first thing that came to my mind was my mum, I asked her (my sister) and she told me mum was away in Abuja and was going to stay there till the crises was over. Then I thought of our friends and their parents but we had to wait till we got home during the holidays to find out who made it or not.
It was a terrible week for us in school as we could hardly concentrate because the thought of how suddenly things had changed and why they did kept creeping in and that feeling of fear would take over our being.
We got back to Kaduna during the holidays (2001) and had to meet mum in our new home, met new faces, mostly people who were affected by the crises. After so much pressure on mum she decided to take us to our old neighborhood, whether that was a good idea or not I cannot say but I guess we later realized why she didn’t want us to go there. Mere words would never be enough to describe what we saw and how we felt looking at the remains of the house I was born and grew up in. I still ponder when I’m alone, I think over and over again and ask questions but I never find the answers I want.
What could have happened, where did the love go, when, why and how did neighbors who once lived in harmony become sworn enemies? Is there anything worth losing a friend over? Religion has been in existence for God knows how long, and people lived happily together. Why do we choose to interpret our Holy books differently now? Who benefits from our disputes and why have we become so blinded that we do not reason no more? Who is bent on having a filled day at the detriment of others’ happiness? What do I tell my children?
Lives and properties were lost and bonds were severed. Sometimes I’d sit with my sister and we’d recall the moments we had growing up, read lines from our dramas and relive the highlights of our childhood. We’d have good laughs, we’d laugh so hard but the laughter would gradually fade into tears, for we wish things were different. Who wouldn’t love to hold their children’s hands and proudly show them where he/she once played? We have been denied that right. Gone and gone for good are the times when the days of our lives had meaning, and were worth looking forward to.
What we have now is a life with no spice what so ever, no trust, no patience, no tolerance, no understanding. A life full of pretence and so much hatred for one another, a life full of selfishness and greed. We go to the same markets, hospitals, places of work and yet can’t open our eyes to see that there’s something wrong somewhere. We are blinded to the fact that it is only those of us who cannot afford to go abroad, build mansions or drive luxury cars that are affected by these unrests. Those at the other end wine and dine together, they have the same religion, they worship the same god, the god of wealth and affluence. They settle their disputes over glasses of wine, during a friend’s dinner party or trips to Dubai, the only thing they torch is the meat they’d have for barbecue, not one another. Do we not see these things?
We have been cheated by our elders, because they sat with folded arms and watched things go wrong, I pray sincerely that a time would come when we’d be able to redeem the situation of things in Northern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole. I pray to God that He instills in us the zeal to want to make a change, so that when our children ask questions, we’ll not look away or find a way of distracting them because that would only be temporary. One day we’d have to explain to them what happened and why we had to wait for them to clean up our mess.