I had a dream
I want to be a steward. We had finished learning singular and plural just the week before. My admirable teacher, Mrs. Okereke, stood, spilling her towering shadow over us. “Adama Aliyu, what would you like to be?”
Adama rose. “I would like to be a doctor”. She sat. My eyes followed her lean frame as she sat. Adama’s head was big. I often wondered how it passed through the neck of her uniform. I hadn’t fully understood the magic of zippers. Big head. I sulked. She took the words from my mouth. I wanted to be a doctor too.
“Segun Adekoye!” Mrs Okereke’s cane lashed my thoughts even though she had only flogged the table. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I…I want to be a…” I stuttered. My heart raced. I didn’t want to be what everybody else wanted to be. I wanted to be different from the lawyers and doctors and engineers, even presidents of Nigeria that most of my Primary 2 classmates had mentioned. I wanted to be different; something that I could barely define myself. I stared at Mrs. Okereke. I wondered how proud she would be of me if I mentioned that I wanted to be one of those words she had just taught us today. Should I say ‘Astrologer’? No! Astronomer. I thought. Or something she hadn’t defined yet ‘Steward’.
“I want to be a steward ma” I stated proudly. She laughed and pointed her cane away from me.
“Akinyemi Makinde what do you want to be?” Her voice trailed off.
That was over 20 years ago. All of us, naïve, not exactly sure of what we were saying but we brimmed with some level of excitement and energy that motivated us to pursue excellence in our academics.
Most youths in Nigeria, grew up like me, protected from the realities of the world outside, shielded within the confines of the educational system to believe in a world that waited, that wanted us to be all we could ever dream. In the square-ness of our learning we believed that we lived in an arithmetic world that permitted only English language.
The common denominator is that we had dreams that we held and worked towards.
ASUU and all sorts
Reality begins to bite as we realized Secondary wasn’t exactly as pampering as primary schooling. You hit the tertiary institution and your body is laced with teeth-marks from the gnawing maxillas of systems that have gone awfully wrong. Apart from the fact that you were coerced into studying a course that will potentially put-food-on-your-table, you attend night-vigils and make your lecturers prayer points so that you will be accorded you own scores and not someone else’s. The Academic Staff Union and the Government decide that you will be the scapegoats as they engage in a never-ending cycle of issues bordering on salary increase and job security.
We still don’t give up fighting through everything from being broke, surviving cult clashes to students versus indigene clashes. It is at this point that we begin to appreciate our parents and how much protection they gave us in primary and secondary schooling years. We look into their eyes and see their struggles in ours, as they give all to see that we succeed, make it through to the finishing mark. We make promises and assure them at this point that we will take them to the best places in the world and give them the best things, loving them for giving us heaven in the midst of hell.
We will not forget Aluu4
Exactly a year ago, four promising young students who nurtured dreams, like we did had their lives cut short in their prime. October 5, 2012 would forever linger in our hearts. Millions of us were not there but we watched the nightmare as it went viral across the social network platforms in Nigeria. The Aluu4 story is the story of the Nigerian child. It is the fear that we harbor in our hearts daily as we go out pursuing our dreams praying silently that we return home safe and sound.
The Aluu4 story recounts the horror that Ugonna Obuzor, Lloyd Toku Mike, Tekenah Elkanah and Chiadika Biringa were subjected to before they finally gave up ghost on that fateful day. All four, undergraduates of the University of Port-Harcourt were brutally killed by residents of Umuokiri-Aluu community in Rivers State after being falsely accused of robbery.
This is Nigeria where time has not found the power to change yesterday. People live on the edge, frustrated by almost every sector that interfaces with humans. They pool their irritation and unleash on the next helpless thing that can be found.
This is Nigeria, where crime usually finds an escape route and lost lives reap shrugs, clasped hands, shaking heads and dissonance of a thousand whispers. The deed is done, the gossip is done and people head back to their normal ways of life like the proverbial African woman heading back from the stream after much gossip.
This is the Nigeria that bubbles at the buzz of the moment and forgets, doing nothing but leaving the state the nation to God and to fate but #ibelieveinabetterNigeria nonetheless.
Spoilt and Rotten in Umuokiri-Aluu
In the last 365 days, everything has happened in Nigeria except proper accountability and justice.
After the mob attack that led to the demise of the boys, the Nigerian Police force and justice system swung into action, stating that they would bring the perpetrators to book. Well, the suspects, Lawal Segun, Ex-Sergeant Lucky Orji, Ikechukwu Louis, a.k.a Kapoon, David Chinasa Ogbada, Abiodun Yusufu, Joshua Ekpe, Abang Cyril, and John Ayuwu a.k.a. Johnny Babber, were charged with the murder of the four students at Umuokiri-Aluu community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The traditional ruler of Umuokiri-Aluu, Alhaji Hassan Welema, Okoghiroh Endurance, Ozioma Abajuo and Chigozie Evans Samuel were charged with four count charges of negligence for refusing to prevent by all reasonable means when felony “murder” was being committed. When the suspects were formerly arraigned, they pleaded not guilty to all count charges.
But I remember there was a mastermind whose name is absent from this list, how come?
Normal life returns to Aluu community however justice seems delayed.
Don’t Walk Away
Where do we go from here? We will continue to speak and see to it that justice is served fairly. We will raise a hand stop a mob action before it escalates. We would not walk away and let another innocent life be lost to jungle justice.
Our hearts are lifted in prayers to the families of the deceased. May the souls of the departed rest in peace. May Nigeria find peace in this rather disconsolate period. Amen.