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Time to feel


May is the month of my birth and this year I turn 50. So, yes I reserve the right of introspection. We were the generation born during the Nigeria Biafra war. My mum says I was the alert that the bombers were arriving. Long before anyone could hear the planes, my tiny voice would scream “a yo paaaane voom.” And then everyone would scamper, taking cover, ducking. I must have thought it was all a joke. Found it funny I guess. So I didn’t die during the Biafra war. First escape! Not everyone was as lucky as I. Certainly not Tamunodienye Gabriel Toby, my older brother who died because the war made it impossible to access appropriate and adequate medial care. He died right after his first birthday and just before my birth. My mum still cries each time she remembers. This is why I could understand the peaceful protest on May 22, 2018)by the Catholic Church. It is why I can relate to the cries of the mothers of the children who have been slaughtered like animals in Benue, Borno, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, Rivers, Taraba, and Zamfara.

I don’t understand this numbness that has overtaken our souls. This shrugging off, of death, disaster and chaos. I don’t understand the silences of people who have voices and whose voices can make impact but who prefer to look the other way in the face of the destruction of our humanity and our nation hood. We have become a people who have lost any sense of pain or shame.

Who did this to us? Why have we stopped feeling and lost the ability to cry? We are an emotive people. God gave that to us. He gave us the ability to express our feelings.

Nothing to be ashamed off. Jesus showed us an example, the bible says, he wept. I don’t know much about the Quran but I suspect the Prophet Muhammed, PBUH, must have had moments when he too shared his humanity. So, what is this stone heartedness that now pervades our society?

Politicians, those elected by us, for us think nothing of making us canon fodder. No one in leadership will ask his or her child to be among the “youth” to deliver their units or wards.

No one in leadership will buy knives, and guns and bullets and hand to their children to go to a war. No. They would much rather sacrifice whatever it is for their children’s safety. But it seems fair game to sacrifice the child of another person. It seems good news to be told that young boys and these days girls were engaged in a gun duel in order to massage the over bloated ego of some “ eader” ensconced in safety. How does that make any sensible leader feel? Good?

I had a brief foray in politics, by virtue of appointment into government. It was a good experience and taught me quite a bit. I must have seemed like a fool when I insisted that we would win the elections in my unit without as much as a brawl. I even fasted and prayed about it. I just couldn’t live with the idea that as a mother, people young enough to either be my children or my younger ones would engage in “war” because they had to win an election. I still can’t live with the idea. It is sad and unforgiveable that any one can.

But what is sadder is that we have stopped counting our dead. Bombs and grenades are going off like popcorn machines and we are immune to the sounds. Those who can afford have left the areas of conflict, those who can’t die by the minute. Like me and the bomber jets in 1968, we think it is a funny joke. And don’t tell me it is government. Everyone is complicit. Don’t tell me it is religion either; every one is guilty of being cohort.

Taking back our country can be done by us if we want to. All of us together are the reason crime and these killings continue. Protecting some crazy fella in the name of religion, political interest or ethnicity is why the killings, kidnappings and crime continue unabated from Kano to Rivers. Death may be a grim reaper, but the lives we are loosing were those we by ourselves tossed to death.

Like I said, I turn 50 this month. The good thing about having lived half a century is the fact that you have earned the right to introspection, sitting in the elders’ corner and speaking truth no matter whose ox is gored. Happy (?) birthday to me. 

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Ibim Semetinari is an award-winning investigative journalist, editor and publisher who has worked for over 20 years with the leading publications in Nigeria and America.She has also worked as a Journalism Trainer/Editor with the BBC World Service Trust. She was the first Nigerian female journalist to win the CNN African Journalist of the Year Award and came second in print journalism in the 1997 CNN African Journalist Award for her reports in the Nigerian print media