Each time I remember those 234 schoolgirls in the custody of Boko Haram, I get the blues. I go into depression, melancholy, lugubriousness.
What are the insurgents doing with those teenagers now; feeding them with baby formula? Obviously not. Patting them on the head, and telling them to be of good behaviour? Surely not. Telling them tales by moonlight in the evenings and rocking them to sleep? Definitely not. Or going through their notebooks and helping with homework? Hell, no! That is haram! Boko Haram has no time for education, at least, not of the Western type. So, what are the insurgents doing with our daughters?
I have a daughter, a teenager. She’s on holiday from the university now. Each time I’m leaving for work, she’s there to bid me goodbye, and when I arrive back in the night, she runs to hug me first before her mum. In fact, both of them are usually at loggerheads over who hugs me first. My wife tells my daughter to be patient till she gets her own husband, but she replies: “He is my daddy. Go and hug your own daddy.” They laugh, and I join them. But for me, that laughter has been only an outward show in recent days. Unknown to them, I’ve been dismal and doleful for almost two weeks. Why? The girls, the schoolgirls. Do they have anybody to hug voluntarily? If there is any sort of hugging going on where they are, it is involuntary. It is punitive, violatory. A breach, desecration of the innocence of ones so young.
How many of those 234 schoolgirls would have known the things men and women do behind closed doors? Surely, not many. How many of them remain the same way today? Two weeks after being in the clutches of Boko Haram? How many of them have been defiled, turned to sex slaves, and even possibly have the seed of Boko Haram sprouting in their wombs? It does not take long, does it? Nubile girls can get pregnant at first encounter, not to talk of two weeks of unrestrained, unprotected assault. Two weeks of what? Being fed with milk and honey in the Sambisa forest? I doubt. Of being told bedtime stories? Surely not. Then of what? I shudder to think of it. And there comes my melancholy. My depression. My gloom and pensiveness. Where are our daughters?
In the evening, before you retire to bed, you ensure that your sons are in the house. Your daughters too. If they are not home, you at least can account for where they are. Remember how Frank Olize used to kick off News Line, which he hosted for many years on NTA? “It is Sunday evening, do you know where your children are?” Big question. Do we know where our daughters are? Which part of the Sambisa forest? What are they doing? What is being done to them? Do they have change of clothes, underwears, and other sanitary requirements? Did those who abduct them also carry their luggage along? Not likely. So, what are they wearing? Have they been in the same dresses for about two weeks? When it rains, what happens? When the sun is too hot, how do they fare? If they break away from their captors, like a few of them have done, how do they cope with reptiles, huge snakes and other wild animals? Questions, questions, questions. I’m not getting answers, and you ask me not to go into melancholy? You ask me not to get depressed? It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are? What an evil visitation, a tragedy of monumental proportions to befall a country!
But you know the worst part? Me and you, we carry on merrily. Easter holidays just ended. Didn’t we make merry with our families? Didn’t we travel, go to fun spots, and if we saw “a one horse open sleigh,” would we not have ridden? If we saw the bells, would we not have jingled all the way, even though it is April? We forgot the girls, the schoolgirls, who did not even know it was Easter. It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are?
He who feels it knows it. While we carry on with business as usual, some 200 parents are like the biblical Rachael, filled with mourning and lamentation. “A voice was heard in Ramah. Weeping, and lamentation and great mourning. Rachael weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (Matthew 2:18).” The parents are not comforted, cannot be, because the girls they sent to school cannot be accounted for. It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are?
My heart broke when I read earlier this week that some women were preparing to storm Sambisa forest in search of their daughters. Do you blame them? One woman was quoted as saying that it was better to see the corpse of her daughter, than to be held in a state of suspended animation for a longer period. Do you blame her? But when the women get into Sambisa, what would they meet? A welcome party? No. Music and dance? Such are surely forbidden in the camps of the zealots. What then? Guns? Sure. Machetes? Definitely. Rocket launchers, even anti-tanks, and anti-aircraft guns? Sure. Because they say Boko Haram now has all those capabilities. So, what will the women do, even if they happen on the schoolgirls? Beg the captors for mercy? That does not exist in such realms. Mercy? Mercy, my foot! Violence? But how do you go violent with a man who is prepared to die? Possibly, where the girls are kept is rigged with improvised explosive devices, ready to be blown skyhigh the moment an intruder comes. Already, the captors have warned the parents and security agencies to stay away, lest the girls be slaughtered. I shudder. Kill these innocent girls? And would the ground open its mouth and swallow their blood? What will the blood be shouting; vengeance, vengeance, like the blood of Abel, or mercy, mercy, like the blood of Jesus? The Good Book says the blood of Jesus “speaks better things than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24).” But what will the blood of these young ones speak? Vengeance, surely, and curses for a country that has got itself muddled up.
You cannot tell me not to be depressed with the state of our country. Blood, gore, tragedies everyday. And I should not go into melancholy? I will, I will. And let nobody try and stop me. And I will announce it from the rooftops. I am morose, depressed, and crestfallen.
Before the 1970s, depression was something to be ashamed of. It carried a social stigma. But today, it can be discussed openly. In fact, we now have the benefit of knowing people who suffer, or have suffered depression. Abraham Lincoln, a former American president had bouts of depression. A friend even said of him: “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.” Also, John Adams, the second president of the United States of America suffered from depression.
How about many actors, actresses, musicians, accomplished people? Depression was, and is, part of their lives. Marilyn Monroe was a sex symbol. She had powerful men at her beck and call. But depression was her close companion, and it eventually sent her to an early grave.
Buzz Aldrin was the second man ever to step on the moon. Is that not a great achievement? It is. But Aldrin came back from the moon, and fell apart. He went into severe depression.
Julian Assange is the celebrated editor of Wikileaks. But he suffers depression. So did William Blake, the poet, Agatha Christie, the writer, Diana, Princess of Wales, Charles Dickens, the celebrated English writer, Ludwig von Beethoven, the classical music composer, and many others. Even Dolly Parton, with her delightful country music, suffers depression. So also does Oprah Wilfrey, with her loads of money. And Barbara Bush battled depression, despite being America’s First Lady between 1989 and 1993. Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud? Well, I don’t pity those ones. They probably provoked depression with too much of philosophising and psychoanalysis. They got what they asked for.
Robert Burton, the British academic was so much at home with depression, that he wrote a book in 1621 titled ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy.’ What a life!
To beat depression, people go for jokes, for music, some take a vacation, and some find solace in hard drugs. Beethoven took to opium, and alcohol, and eventually died of liver disease. Sigmund Freud took to cocaine. What then should Nigerians take to in such times as these? Dance Azonto or Skelewu? That would be rather unfeeling, and would amount to dancing on the graves of many thousands who are dead, when some parents are currently very mournful and woebegone.
It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are? No we don’t know. And it is to our shame as a country.