The day I met Peter from Chibok (1)
There are some who believe that the writer has no role in politics or the social upheavals of his or her day. Some of my friends say: “No, it is too rough there. A writer has no business being where it is so rough. The writer should be on the sidelines with his notepad and pen, where he can observe with objectivity.” I believe that the African writer who steps aside can only write footnotes or a glossary when the event is over”- Chinua Achebe’s There Was A Country – Page55
IT has been 365 days since the Chibok girls were uprooted from their homestead. Like most Nigerians; I wish my eidetic memory were strong enough to recollect my activities on Monday, the 14th of March 2014.
Honestly, I cannot remember but I do recollect the pains Sope Martins (On Air Personality with Smooth 98.1FM) some days later as she kept on talking about it.
My interest was partially awakened with a tweet from Seun Kuti about a rally at Tafawa Balewa Square and two weeks later while unpacking my luggage in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, as I watched Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili on the BBC. But I became fully interested in the plight of the Chibok girls when a Nigerian (a top executive at Pfizer USA) informed me that ‘writers don’t have the obligation to keep mute.’
He made a valid analysis which I would paraphrase thus: “Nigeria’s issues can be solved if only the middle class supported the poor. The poor have the numbers to protest when policies don’t favour them. But the protests can’t be prolonged if the middle class won’t support them.
The Nigerian middle class is very comfortable with two-three foreign trips a year, a steady salary and a close door to the big man. Most Nigerian middle class only survive from the crumbs received from the big man who is either in government or has contacts in government.
Therefore, most Nigerian middle class don’t want anything to jeopardise their livelihood. But once the middle class can support the poor; the government would begin to listen. ” This spurred me to write about the Chibok girls to mark the 100 days of their abduction which was published in The Guardian and on my blog- dolapoaina.com
In the third week of last month, I was informed about a young man who is 19 years old; called Peter who hails from Chibok. I decided to track him and finally met him on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. My intention was to conduct an interview with Peter (who I refer to as a young man; he has a wife who is partly Cbibokian and a two-month old son with an interesting Biblical name).
Peter, who speaks good English, Hausa and pidgin was not bothered about the interview and questions; his main concern was; he had granted several interviews (audio and video) but did his interviews bring back the girls? You see, Peter’s sister and three cousins were taken. Peter told me; he could introduce me to other boys from Chibok who had sisters and cousins among the Chibok girls. I said I was interested in him and his story. I could tell from his eyes and body language that he had stories to tell but he just didn’t believe in the government.
I had about 12 questions for Peter and I showed him the question sheet. Answering the questions was not his challenge (as he told me in perfect English) but he said he had to think about it for he was busy with some chores. You see, Peter is the security guard of a large private house. His boss (who is a female; relocated from Lekki Phase 1 and still retained Peter.) I spent about two hours with Peter trying to get a proper interview. I even told him that I had a recorder with me and could have as well have been recording our conversation, but I would not do that. During our conversation; I realised I had ample materials for an article but I did not have an interview.
Peter was living in Chibok when the girls were abducted. When he mentioned his sister’s name I knew I could place a face to the name, a face I see everyday when I tweet the pictures of the girls on my twitter timeline (which I told him about and even wanted to show him the picture of the girls which he declined to see but still believed me.) Peter probably knows the level of laxity displayed or the time lapse of the military response. He probably knows all the Chibok girls. He probably has nightmares. He probably prays for their return (the Chibok boys in this area do).
For several months, Peter never heard from his family (he left Chibok and journeyed all the way to Lagos in 2014). But in January 2015, this brave man, travelled to Chibok in search of his parents (they are alive).
I never got that interview with Peter but my two-three hours spent interacting with him endeared me to him. A 19-year-old man with a wife and a two- month old son. Peter remembers Monday, the 14th of April 2014 with all the details like yesterday. But he would rather remain silent since after being vocal; nothing has changed.
To be Continued.
• Aina wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.