By Adebayo Okeowo, Nigeria:
It's past midnight. It's precisely 12:09am in some forest within Africa. A girl carefully grabs the pen and paper she stole earlier on in the day and manages to write out her heart using the moonlight:
“My mom always told me some things are worse than death itself. I have come to believe her because I feel like I’m living the reality of those words right now.
I don’t know where I am but it feels like it’s close to hell. I hear muffled screams almost every night. I get scared thinking the worst has happened to one of my sisters. But the sun rises and I see everyone again and no mention is made of whatever happened the night before. Fear cohabits with us. It’s as palpable as the sand beneath our feet. But we have learnt to draw strength from one another through the few and brief touches and eye contacts which even though are laden with tears, still remind us that we are alive. Sadly, our strength continues to wane because 85 sunsets is a long time to stay strong. Many times we wonder: Is someone still coming for us?
I want to return home even though I am not sure if home is still standing amidst the chaos I have come to call life. But I am sure my family is still expectant because I feel their hope tugging at my heart. The problem is, if they do eventually find me in their warm embrace again, I am not sure I am the same me anymore. I was trying to write something meaningful in my life’s book by going to school but right now all I have are empty pages and truth is no one turns empty pages. Education has cost me so much! It has cost me my freedom. It cost my parents their ‘luxurious’ living and it may now cost them their only daughter…”
She heard footsteps approaching and froze within a split! She must not be found awake behind the patch of grass where she was hiding to write! The steps stopped. Whoever it was, was taking a leak. Shortly after, the steps receded and it was then she noticed she had held her breath for the last minute! She continued to scribble…
“Before I was taken, I remember hearing on the radio several times that government was sparing no effort in stopping the bombs from going off in my State. The bombs never stopped – they only rained down the more and after being here for so long, all the claims about caring for my welfare as a teenage girl ring as lies in my ears because if it were true, you would have pursued and won me back even if I were the only one! I am not naïve, only full of expectation.
In the end, it may not matter what you claim to have done because I am bleeding out. There is just so much a girl like me can take. And if these are the last words I ever write, I need you to remember, I am my parent’s daughter and my brother’s sister. I am not a statistic. I am that girl who hoped to become the Nigerian woman of difference.
Yes I had dreams… once!”
As she gently folded the paper, a tear dropped onto the creased sheet and she closed her eyes against the burning tears. The tears flowed out nonetheless and pelted on the paper like rain on the earth. She gingerly got up, slid the now wet paper under her head scarf and tip-toed back into her tent. She prayed that the 86th sun will rise and bring with it deliverance. But as her heart embraced sleep, her mind doubted her very own prayer.
This piece was written as a reminder that the abducted Chibok girls are yet to be brought back. It's been over 80 days as at the time this was written and their seats still remain vacant at the dinner table.
The Nigerian government must rescue the girls and reunite them with their families alive! (Article 25, African Children's Charter)
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