Friday, January 20, 2012

"Me nene laiyafin zaman lafiya?" (What is the crime in living in peace?) Part 1

          I've been resisting the urge to write a post about #occupyNigeria or the bomb blasts in the North of Nigeria for partly two main reasons:
         I didn't want to write a post ranting about the need for change in Nigeria when I've seen the need for change since I was four. I lived in Kano, Nigeria from ages 4 to 17, and I've known that corruption and violence eats at the very core of our daily living. I didn't want to write a post in anger knowing that there is possibly nothing that I can do about it. Do I want change in Nigeria? Yes, I do. Do I want peace? Yes, I do. The question is how do we enact that change? I am not talking about about another inflated political campaign to pull in the reins of corruption or another NGO in the name of saving motherless babies or another strike that backs down in the face of government threats or underhand deals. I am talking about change that begins at the very core of who we are as Nigerians... In our homes, in our schools, and in our interactions... How do we change the mindsets of people when we were raised to believe we are different? I'm a Bura girl from Garkida, Adamawa State. I'm also a christian. I remember growing up with an internal struggle of going with cues from society on choosing friends either from my religion or my place of origin. Soon I learnt to categorize people as being either from Arewa or Kudu (north or south), and based on being either Muslim or Christian. My question is how do we change that mindset? How do we change the very core of instruction that automates us to categorize people based on states of origin or religion. Nigeria is diverse, hugely diverse with over 160 million people and 700 different language groups: our strength and our very weakness. How do we get to a phase where I am not just Bura and Christian, you are not just Yourba, Igbo or Hausa or Nupe, or Jukun or Marghi or Kanuri or Tarok or Chip or Chibok and either Muslim or Christian but we are all just freaking Nigerians??? How do we enact such change?
        My second reason is that I'm mostly pessimistic and minutely optimistic about Nigeria. I believe that change is possible... I know that change is possible, but I also know that it is impossible for change to happen if the same cycle continues. You can enact as many revolutions as you want, you have have as long a strike as you want but the minute we ignore the fact that change needs to come from within, the same cycle of corruption and violence will continue. We need a revolution on how we think of ourselves and how we think of each other - as Nigerians! This is our country, and sadly even though I'm writing this from the States, I'm reminded of the grim reality of the fact that millions do not have another country. If we don't repair it, if we don't want the good of it for ourselves, the British or the Americans or the Arabs are not going to come and repair it for us. We have to be the change we want to see - we have to take matters into our own hands if Nigeria is going to be habitable. And no, I'm not speaking of violence - I'm speaking of a change of heart, a change of mindset.
        I've turned this post into a rant because I don't know how to do this. I don't know how we can go about enacting change in the way we view each other. I don't know how as a people we can return to the very grassroots for a change of societal view.
        I just got off the phone with my sister and the rest of my family in Kano after hearing about the 20 serial bombings that happened today and I reached a crack point. Between having flashes of fear that I would lose my family, and not knowing how they were doing, I felt a rush of anger and panic. I tried to pray, and I couldn't. And the thing was everyone I was with on the phone kept mentioning prayer... I mean I know what prayer is... I've been doing that for most of my life... fasting and praying and pleading with God for change. That is what all Christians in the north of Nigeria specialize in - praying for peace in the North. We probably all have a Ph.D in it now. In my anger, I asked Him feeling so betrayed again: "Where are you? and What are you doing? And why do you let innocent people keep dying? Why all this fear for all these years?" In moments like this, I stand like the disciples confused at the mission of Christ. While they thought He came to rescue them from Roman rule, I stand wondering that if He has said it is finished then why are we still here... still struggling? It is hard looking at the light of Christ in the midst of fear and panic... Despite all of this... despite the walls crumbling and fleeing and doubts and so much frustration the truth is where will we run to? And I also mean this practically for Christians in the north? Where will we flee to when that has been our home for years? And our living?
And despite all this still, I stand like Peter asking that to whom shall we turn to except God? The first verses of Psalm 23 provide comfort in these times, and I'm also reminded of Psalm 91 reminding me that the Lord is our guide, our guard, our shield, our refuge and our everything... So yes, I know we ought to be on our knees - praying as always, and yet, It is enough. Something has to change.

There is no crime in peace.

And with that, I now take my stand publicly. I am #occupyNigeria. Enough is enough!


  1. Last year I was teaching at a university Nigeria and one of my students came to my office because her CA was low, I was about to lit into her about how she had been delinquent but for some reason i asked her why she didn't do the last 3 assignments and she was like when she went home for Salah break her father died, I said ahhh was he sick, she said no, he left that morning for a meeting in Kano from Yola and was shot.
    I was stunned
    During the Independence celebration she had a father
    Two weeks later, she doesn.t

    So we took a minute and prayed

    And for the rest of the semester I kept on checking in with her, just to make sure she was doing okay
    18 years old, first of 4 children, 100 level in university and it hurts.

    I have friends up in the North that i scream at regularly to pack their luggage and move south, one is a Christian Kaduna man and i worry.

    can Nigeria be whole
    will the mindset change
    do i want it to
    will i pray that it does

    the people living in the country that Mrs Lugard gave the name nigeria, and that the british almagated to transport peanuts to the coast, cannot change their way of thinking without God intervening

    I wish He will
    i really do

    what makes a Nigerian a Nigerian?
    What is the common tie that binds?
    Is there one?

    somalia, syria, zimbabwe, south sudan, D.R. Congo, Burma and the list goes on
    These countries have more in common with their people than we do and yet strife prevails

    I pray for peace
    but settle for peace of mind.

  2. Nigeria, our country. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I am scared for my country and what is in our future, but it is even more painful that there are real people dying needlessly. Really, our last refuge is God.

  3. He is our last refuge indeed. I'm scared as well, and I don't think it's over either. May God continue to protect the innocent.

  4. This is so deep that I was almost crying as I read the entire text word for word. One thing I took from this is that change comes from within. It starts from our hearts. There's a Hillsong song that says, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours." The truth is, how many hearts are genuinely broken for this cause? Are we really willing to implement change from door to door, and from person to person? This kind of change you speak about will take a lot of years and a lot of patience. But we must be ready. I am ready.

  5. Yes, I agree this kind of change will take years and a LOT of patience, the beauty of it is that with the spread of ideas we can can start with our generation until the norm becomes that we see each other as fellow Nigerians as a whole and not just Nigerians from a particular state or of a particular religion. I know it also takes more than that, but we must start somewhere. I stand ready with you too!

  6. I pray for peace of mind too, and not only that but for physical peace too. And even beyond that, that He continually comforts and strengthens everyone because it isn't just a Christian vs. Muslim issue anymore. I trust that God is intervening, even through the ugly, even though it's faint and slow, I know He is still changing hearts, and still using us to bring peace and change in Nigeria, as well as the rest of the world. Until He returns, this battle of good and evil will continue, but alas we have nothing to worry about because no matter what happens in this life, we are assured that we are more than conquerors and that He has overcome the world!