Sleeping in my small dormitory bunk, dreaming cheery adolescent dreams, I think I feel hands grabbing me but I’m sure I’m still dreaming… The pull becomes a tug and I start wondering if my sweet dream is turning into a nightmare of sorts as the hands are very strong and in fact, real! I jump up startled to find a vicious looking man holding me down.
Screaming as loud as my shrill adolescent voice could carry, I kick hard, trying to bite the man’s hands, but he slaps me, very hard, making my own blood run in my mouth. Right now, it begins to dawn on me that I’m indeed in very bad hands! Around me, a lot is going on, many mean looking men with firecer looking guns are barking orders at us, more girls are screaming, while a few have passed out. My God! Where did all these menacing looking men come from?! Where are my friends? Where is the house mistress? Did the security men not hear our screams?
These men are many, going from dormitory to dormitory and tying girls together. Scenes from D’jango come to mind as they lead all of us out…not one of us is left behind…their friends positioned outside make sure of that.
Scattered thoughts run through my mind, and I cant keep any for long, as it begins to appear to me that we have been captured by the dreaded Boko Haram men! Of late, young school girls have been their prized abductees. Many of the girls captured from a neighboring school have never been found! Kai! I briefly recall all the blood-curdling stories we have heard about them! Another shrill shriek erupts from my insides, before I pass out.
For the second time that night, I am rudely awakened, this time, by the rough jostling of metal against my skin, and I discover that we are in a lorry- all of my classmates. The lorry is packed full of dozens of us, virtually all the girls from school had been taken. Everyone is crying hard, weeping, for the unknown fate that awaits us…or is it the known fate we’d rather not imagine?.. that we would end up becoming sex slaves, satisfying the urges of these bestial men?..that we might end up chopped, and added in the ritualistic sacrifices these monsters make to whatever god they believe in, or hacked to just make a statement and pass a message to our government?..
Our government? Did I just say that? Do we have any, really? ‘Government’ is one of my best subjects in school and I remember being taught the duties and rights of citizens and governments. One of them, if I remember clearly is the government’s duty to protect its citizens, and I also believe I have a fundamental right to life…Where is my government in all of this madness?! Maybe they’re coming for us! I try to believe that they would come for us, soon…
But at the same time, I remember my cousin two villages away, shot to death for absolutely no reason by these same evil men. That incidence was never reported, let alone getting a mention from our president in his speech at a function the next day…I think it was a political function, yes indeed it was! It was a function to formally declare his intentions to run for office in the upcoming elections. Obviously, he has more pressing issues on his hands than caring out saving a few dozen under-age girls that couldn’t even vote!
I remember myself, and, kai! Allah kiyaye! God forbid! Definitely not me! Its not my portion to be wasted! Anger welled up within me from some place I don’t know… Not I, Julia, whom all the boys in my yard feared. I am the only girl in my whole extended family to have gone this far in school, and I still have dreams of more.
My father (oh I love him so much!) had coached me to be bold and courageous in all situations. I remember him saying that cowards die many times before their death. He said I would become a lawyer, advocating women’s rights. It was in order to be well prepared for my school leaving exams that I was back in school for the compulsory extension program. And now this! Would I just sit here, and allow my life and dreams be cut short by some animals? No! Never! As I sit confused, and scared, I feel the lorry slowing down, kind of, and the voices of our captors come to my ears.
I feel a serious sense of dread, thinking we’ve got to our destination. But from what I hear, it seems the lorry has developed a fault. It has now stopped. The men were bending down to try and fix the fault, talking surprisingly in apprehensive tones. It is at this point that I get up, crouching, saying a short prayer and summing up all the courage I would ever have, I motion to some of my friends to follow. There were low hanging branches of the Neem tree above us. Without looking back, I led as we latched on to some of these branches. Trembling, I silently thanked God for the miserable hostel food that kept us practically weightless, so we were easily supported. All the while muttering prayers that we would not be seen, I shudder to imagine what would become of us if that happened!
We stayed on our trees and watched with heavy hearts as re-inforcement came for them, and sadly, they departed, still with our friends. Too terrified to move, we stayed the rest of the night on the trees. We had short naps and took turns watching through the night. Miraculously, they didn’t come back for us!
As the next day broke, we jumped down, dazed, thirsty and bruised, we began our wandering journey back to the town. One weary step after the other we trudged on in the dangerous forests. Barely back in town, a team of local rescuers caught sight of us and we crumble into their arms, safe at last!
At some point, I hear reports that my friends have eventually been rescued by our indomitable army, praise God! Maybe I should have had more faith in them, and waited, after all, then, I won’t be in this much pains…Two days later, I find its only a ruse! What?! The army was only taking credit for my own return, our own return! My friends are still ‘there’ apparently! Why? Why do they have to do that? Its bad enough we had to find our way back, but did they have to raise peoples’ hopes? Why is everyone so insincere? Why is my country this way? Hmm. Moreso, why do people make themselves believe this is a ‘northern’ problem? It looks more like a national problem to me…
Well, why do I think this way? I’m only 16 after all, I guess I should just be happy for life… I should ask father how I’m going to eventually take the examinations. I’m still going to become that lawyer after all…maybe then, I could change things…
To the brave girls that made it back, please know that ‘Scars are medals branded on our flesh’- Paulo Coelho.
To the remaining even braver girls (whatever the correct figure), may God’s guiding light guide you back home safely.
To the rescue teams, God bless you!
Ms. Bola Gidado, a real estate consultant, is an avocational writer.