It’s not often that you see Nigerians gathering together for a major cause. Weddings, 50th birthday celebrations, party party party, and more weddings are usually the types of occasion that bring different types of Nigerians together. Unity is one of the major things that made this protest special. But would I call it a protest? Not at all! When I decided to go to this event, I personally just felt like I was going to a social gathering where I would be raising awareness about the missing Chibok girls. Because up until yesterday, I had colleagues who didn’t know that some girls were missing, but knew about that missing MH370 Flight.
Knowing so much about my fellow Nigerians and our desire to always “show out” wherever we go, it wasn’t an epic shock to see heavy makeup, lashes, wigs, and sew-ings at this “rally.” From university students to grown mamas, we had everything from midriffs showing to big and bulky box braids, to the torn jeans (yes! from the mamas as also) at this event. The weather was beautiful, damned near perfect. I was somewhat disappointed that some were not as conservative as could be, knowing what this cause was about.
One thing that I wish was stronger were the speakers. Where was Chimamanda? Not that she had to be there, but what this event really lacked was a strong voice. Granted, there were one or two speakers who incited some loud cheering within the audience and also some “preach girl.” We also had a few mothers who spoke to audiences and though they had much to say. I was expecting them to appeal more to our emotions than they did.
There was even one mother who came up and at the end said a prayer that sounded something like this “let every terrorist be hit with tranquilizer of heaven..” or something like that (please feel free to correct me if you were there). That was when I covered my face and was like ‘oh lawd, really?’ What a typical naija prayer.
There was one Ethopian woman who came out as a mother who basically said that one African country’s burden is all our burdens. There was also a non Nigerian Muslim woman who offered a prayer in Arabic showing everyone that Muslims and Christians can unite and do unite on a regular basis despite religious differences.
The rally continued with students from Howard University and George Washington University coming out and speaking their minds. There was a sense that some people weren’t as prepared as they should have and that the organizers were winging things as the event went along. But, on the other side, it helped the speakers come out from their hearts without having sat by their desk the night before concocting some over the top speech.
Speaking of speeches, there was an adorable 10- year old girl who gave a short and powerful speech to audiences. She was born in northern Nigeria before her family migrated to the U.S. “It could have been me”, she shouted out. I was moved her speech as it echoed behind the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.
Then our local musicians came out and blessed the stage with renditions of popular songs that they had made to tailor to this event. Jay Cube particularly brought the stage down, making audiences sing along with him as he delivered his own version of Michael Jackson’s ‘We Are The World.” I almost cried here. It was moving.
At the end, all the ladies stood on a number that had been written on the ground in chalk, as photographers took a very unique photo of all the DMV ladies who had come out in unison to commiserate with the 234 Chibok girls and their families. Then the men also did the same thing. Then there was a moment of a silence which turned awry. I argued with a lady who insisted that the moment of silence must not hold – saying that the girls are not dead. And you know how argumentative I am. I said well a moment of silence does not always mean someone is dead. A moment of silence can be a time of reflection as well. But correct me if I’m wrong. The moment of silence or “reflection” still held. Afterwards everyone dispersed back to where ever they came from or were going after this rally.
At the end of this event, an overcast of sadness came upon me because the realest part of me felt like there would be no hope for the 234 or however many missing girls there are. It has been too many days. There has been too much waiting on the government’s part. There is too much corruption in Nigeria. Our military is too weak; even though Boko Haram is mainly comprised of untrained inactive young boys with no particular aim in life. They are fighting for nothing but with all of their might. Can our voices be a weapon? Yeah we’re here, creating awareness and stopping every non-Nigerian in the DC. vicinity and begging them to care. “I can’t keep calm. 234 girls are missing,” We shouted as beads of sweats streamed down our moist armpits – having held the placards one minute too long.
When it’s all said and done though, I couldn’t be more proud of everyone young man and old woman who came out to this event to lend their voices. We stood in solidarity and in joint pain for what the families of these missing girls are feeling. A part of me wanted to address the people saying that we all should move back to Nigeria if we can. ‘The nation needs us, ” I would have shouted. “Nigeria needs us home. Nigeria needs our skills, our learned talents from a nation that works.” But I’m glad I didn’t.
Not everyone is strong enough to move back. Not everyone is well equipped to move back. Not everyone can give up their secured life with monthly bills in exchange for car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, and the most basic electricity insurance. Where we lag, the government is meant to endorse us. Where we are weak, they are meant to be strong. How else do we commiserate with those who have moved back and have spent their sweat and savings trying to make Nigeria work… but have been met with every form of frustration there is for one individual to bear.
“I didn’t destroy Nigeria, so why should I care anymore. I’ve kuku tried my best.” Well you didn’t help build Nigeria in the first place. So can you honestly and truthfully say you’ve done enough. No! Neither can I. It will never be enough. Lagos and Abuja cannot be the only two states where children can safely go to school. They cannot be the only states where over 168 million Nigerians want to live. What about the other 34 states? We have so much work to do as a nation. But we can only do it in Unity.
If you live in Nigeria, don’t be upset that we’re protesting with smiles, when you weren’t there to see the moments of tears and anger. Don’t say, “everything is okay for them in the U.S so they cannot possibly understand.” We do understand, and everything is not okay. Many of us, including myself cannot afford to buy a ticket every single time there is a catastrophic event to protest in Nigeria. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care.
Many of us would rather be living in Nigeria but were opportune to live a different kind of life. Just join your hearts with ours because we are the the same Nigerians and we are all mothers, sisters, cousins, friends of peace and enemies of evil. It will be calm one day, but there is still much storm we must pass through and the only survivors of the storm and those who unite and I’ve got your back my brother.
Do you have my back?
Photo Credit: demotix.com
Toyin Olaleye is a writer pursuing a Masters degree at the Johns Hopkins University, USA. She’s the unpublished author of “Oh! So You Are From Africa, How Come You Speak English” and is extremely passionate about Nigeria.