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Usman Shamaki: Chibok Girls: 120 Days After, Lest We Forget




“Time heals all wounds.” This means that with patience and the passage of time, any emotional or physical wound endured by a person will dissipate totally. In disagreement with this saying, Rose Kennedy said “I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” The difference between both sayings is the latter is more elaborate than the former. However, they converge with regards to the issue of time.

To my mind, the time required for an emotional or physical wound to heal is not a fleeting moment. It depends mostly on the nature of the wound, the degree of the hurt or injury caused by the wound, the individual who has to bear the wound and if any remedy or solution has been proffered to alleviate the pain caused by the wound. However, for some wounds, there are standard healing durations which can apply generally to all or a wide spectrum of individuals based on the collective human frailty or nature.

After a fracture, it takes about six weeks for the bone of the finger or the wrist of the average healthy adult to heal. For larger bones such as the thigh bone, it takes a considerably longer period to heal; six weeks to three months. A broken heart from a failed marriage or relationship can take years or even a lifetime to heal. The heartbreak of having one or more of your children taken from you by marauding beasts can take more than a lifetime to heal. In fact it can take generations for the pain to even begin to subside because every new birth of a child in such family reenacts the hidden pains. When such an inhumane, vile and unprecedented act affects about 219 families (57 girls have so far escaped from captivity) within the same town, then the history of the town, the state as well as the entire country will have to bear the scar of this assault on humanity forever. In any other country in the world, an act of villainy such as this would have its citizens’ faces contorted with grief and completely shocked out of their wits to no end.

However, Nigerians being a people like no other have once again set another world record. This time we have topped the charts as holders of the new and only world record in the shortest time taken for the citizens of a country to defy the inbuilt psychological programming of the human mind to completely get over the pain of a national tragedy of titanic proportions. And all it took was 120 days. Congratulations everyone! We’ve done it again! Did I hear someone ask if there is a prize that comes with achieving such an astounding feat? Yes, there is! However, we may want to replace the ‘z’ in prize with a ‘c’. The price that comes with achieving such a feat is that for each day that culminated into the current 120 days since those poor girls were in captivity, we the people and the government lost a shred of our humanity each day.

It is believed that our humanity consists of our hearts and souls, but more of our souls. Considering the fact that the soul is an abstract object incapable of being seen, touched, measured or quantified, I will put it aside and focus on our hearts. Let’s apply a bit of elementary mathematics to see just how much humanity we have left in us. If the average human heart weighs between 250 grams (in females) to 350 grams (in males) and we are to subtract 1 gram for each day of the 120 days that have passed since the abduction, that leaves the ladies with a heart weight of 130 grams and the gentlemen with a heart weight of 230 grams. Ouch! That’s not a lot is it? It seems we’re almost a few notches away from becoming quite literally heartless.

On a daily basis we are assaulted by the sickening whimsical horseplay that has become our reality. A reality where the government considers it far more important to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers to “maintain law and order” during elections rather than deploy them to the areas they are needed the most to protect and rescue the people to whom it owes a major constitutional duty, a reality where the impeachment of governors is the order of the day and serious discussions to reunite children with their parents is not even considered worthy of note. I cannot recall the last time I saw any news updates or briefings by government spokespersons about plans, if any at all exist to rescue the girls. Even if you don’t care or don’t have a plan, the least you could do is fake it! Pretend to care!

Sometimes it would seem that it is a crime to be poor in Nigeria as the travails and troubles of the common man seem to carry no weight whatsoever on the conscience of the government. I have no doubt in my mind if the abductees were children of highly placed individuals or those in government, there would be daily newspaper and television commercial advertisements with their pictures displayed, asking Nigerians to pray for their safe return while talks are held to negotiate their release. But as Chibok is considered a small town tucked away in a far corner of the country and those affected are not considered worth worrying about, there is no harm in forgetting about them and moving on.

We cannot be absolved of wrongdoing as well. We the people also form part of the government and as such we have a duty to act as the government’s conscience. Therefore, if the government forgets its primary responsibility and moves on, should we do the same? Perhaps it’s because we are not affected and we bask in the false security of thinking we are immune to the same event.

A parent of one of the abducted girls said she would have preferred to have buried her daughter than go through such anguish. For those who died from the grief of losing their daughters and the anguish that comes with the buck passing, ineptitude and nonchalance of a government that failed them, some form of closure has come their way. For those still living every day, their screams for a government they placed their trust in to hear their pleas is met with deaf ears.

Amid the negativity however, there is some good news. An amazing group of individuals have for the past 120 days made their presence felt on every platform available to share the grief of these parents and to remind us all that despite whatever differences may exist between us, at the end of the day, we all belong to one another and when children are involved, all differences should and must be set aside. They have been undaunted by the harsh weather elements and the inconsiderate words of individuals who still bow to the primitive doctrine of dictatorial hero worshipping. These amazing individuals are known commonly as the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign Group. However, I call them Nigerians, for they are the true patriots who put aside all sentiments to stand together and in unison continue to pressure the government to do what is right.

The truth is they can’t do it all alone. It’s going to take all of us because we are all in this together.

If after reading this you still find it difficult to relate to why it is important not to forget these girls or the plight of their parents, please try to put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Try this, shut your eyes. That dark, empty void that pervades you when you shut your eyes, that’s what these parents have been living with every single day. Our children are the light in our lives. When they are taken from us in such a horrible fashion and we cannot get a sense of closure; that’s all we see: a dense dark void. This little exercise is just an approximation of what it feels like to lose a child. The reality is much worse.


Usman Shamaki can be reached via [email protected]



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