Monday, January 15, 2007

Nigeria Remembers

Today in Nigeria my country, it is Remembrance Day. It is indeed a course I very much identify with although I refuse to identify with war or violence of any type, I still believe that we should, for some moments stop to reflect on the pains and loss of the very souls who by virtue of the crises, became victims.

Exactly 40 years ago in 1967, just seven years after the British colonial government left us to run our affairs, our decisions ended in intolerance, disagreement, hatred and worst of all, violence against ourselves. Eager to each be the leader, weary to recognise ourselves as partners and brothers, we engaged in settling it through bloodshed. And thus came separation – the birth of a seceding state: Biafra.

Like in every scene of war, it is very miraculous to find a family spared of the loss that was to ensue. My mum lost the acquisitions of her young life in the beginning of it. My aunty lost her husband and her first son. She has remained a widow until today bringing up 3 children by herself. Many others abound.

And after that war, Nigeria has sacrificed uncountable soldiers in the pursuance of peace in various African state, the most difficult being in Liberia 15 years ago, which proudly today has a democratic government. And having lived in a military environment, I have had first hand relationship with families, young children, women and men bereft of their loved ones who had gone to Liberia, to Sierra Leone, to Somali, to Rwanda, etc and never made it back alive.

I had been witness to the cries, the agonies, the mourning. It has brought my choir practice to a stand-still, the whole church service turned into a solemn sad gathering, the barracks neighbourhood stilled… remaining soldiers downcast and fearfully waited as they are picked to go to the same death trap.

I remember them also. I remember that young friend who sang tenor in my choir, he died in Sierra Leone 4 months after he finished his training. We saw him briefly when he passed into the army and came home to us. He attended one choir practice, sang his resonant tenor while we all chatted and laughed and fare him well to his duty post after the practice. It was the last we all saw him. The next was to look at his picture and pray for his young soul. He was just 20. I remember him.

There are so many others. The leaders that sent them are still very much around, we the ones they fought to give a peaceful life are still running about, but they are gone. The smile we shared with them, the good and bad times, the jokes, the footballs games we played together, the fathers and brothers and sisters we never know. All these and many others, are the sacrifice these beloved ones made standing themselves in the line to defend us, for the madness of some lunatics. And like it is said, we will remember them.

We will remember them. God rest their souls, Amen.

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