I do not reply.
Not because I do not want to but because I do not remember. I force myself to. I try, but I cannot. It is a blur. I only remember in snatches.
Maybe I do not want to remember because it is too much. Too much for me. Too much for the others I left behind.
‘Leave her alone’ my mother rebukes my brother in Hausa. ‘ She is tired. And you too, go to bed’ My brother scurries away, his unending questions about the kidnapping hurrying out after him.
‘Hauwa are you..?’ she sits beside me
‘I’m okay Ma. I’m fine’ My mother worries too much about me since I arrived with the vigilante a few weeks back. I know she is supposed to, but perhaps I am not used to all the care and fuss after seven months of living in the bush.
She swallows. I can hear it, hijab and all.
‘Let me hold her’ She looks at me, as though unsure whether to give me my baby to hold, as though somehow she feels I am not able to mother a child, as though because she named my child, I had lost all motherly rights.
She eases the girl into my hands
‘Why did you name her Aisha?’ I never asked
‘Why didn’t you name her?’ She searches for answers in my eyes
I stare out ahead of me into the night. April 14 comes rushing back. All of it. The strangers filling our school, the kidnapping, the bundling into a truck, the journey to Sambisa. I do not want to remember.
I scream. My mother tries to hold Aisha for fear she would fall.
I push her away with more force than I think I have. I see shock or is it fear in her eyes, then she retreats into the house.
I squeeze my hands firmly around Aisha and weep. I had not named her because I did not know if I was going to keep her. I did not know if I was going to be able to restrain myself from smothering to death the baby that was an offspring of a terrorist, a constant reminder of Sambisa.
Yet tonight for some reason I want to hold her. I want to accept her. I want to look out at the starless night and think of how Aisha can have a life better than mine. It sinks deep in my hurt heart that peace begins with love. I have to love her.
Tonight, I imagine a peaceful Nigeria, free of terrorism, disgruntled avengers, religious and social-cultural violence. I imagine a place free of Boko Haram. I imagine Stella, Faith, Joy, Khadijat and all the other 200 of us safe at home.
In the past two months since I returned, there have been what-ifs, regrets, suicidal thoughts even. I would replay the night of April 14th and blame myself for not doing or for doing, for not being or being.
Tonight, things change. Tonight, I come out from behind the mirror and stand before it. Right in front. I take a look at myself and tell myself that the only way I can protect the future of Aisha and millions of other Nigerians who could be victims is to work for peace.
I do all of this with Aisha in my arms, under the starless night.
Together we can achieve a peaceful and sustainable world. #UBUNTU
There is no way to PEACE, PEACE is the only WAY.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL PEACE DAY.
Compiled by Adebayo Caleb courtesy of Young Protégé Leadership Foundation