Letters from the Ashes

by Aliyu Isah Chiroma
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The night before Saturday morning was difficult to devour, express and comprehend. Saturday morning strikes us with the calmness of the curfew imposed. A deeper inspection reveals to us its vastness. We slept that night with one eye open, like a rabbit. It was a trembling sensibility, where clashes occur between two religious groups on Friday night. This has kept members of the community in fear of terror attacks on the major roads leading to our communities.

In the silence that followed the remaining days, we felt some ease indoors, which is more comforting. But one of the most disturbing issues about this situation is that those who started the fight are not those who fought it. It becomes a war of senseless direction, filled with interwoven narration from different angles. Just across the streets, between the houses, through the windows you catch glimpses of men in uniform. Though the odds were slim to none, an assessment needs to be carried out and find the root cause of the situation and tackle it.

In Bauchi state, Yelwa has been known over the years for religious crises, where killings, and burning of houses and properties is routine. This issue has been addressed over the years, but it always reoccurs. We can recall vividly, a few weeks ago that there was an incident of blasphemy by a student in Sokoto, who was burnt to death. This incident echoed across the country. Then suddenly, an incident also occurred in the southern part of the country, where a mother and her innocent children and other northerners were murdered in Anambra. Those two incidents, which are separated by vast emptiness across the country, from the northern region to the southern part of the country, have caused a lot of chaos. Every religious group is just waiting for a slight opportunity to voice those anguish and take action.

When we look at peace not from blindness, but from clear vision, not from what we claim to maintain in our societies, but from insight into what our history documented, it is now a different story to tell. Our grandparents lived peacefully over those decades with each other, and their children (our parents) grew up together and schooled together, but our societies now seem to be different from what we inherited.

This is the true nature of our environment; we pretend to be our brother’s keepers, but when a misunderstanding occurs, we are the first to attack each other, painfully our closest neighbors. We became contributing factors to the collapse of peace and other vital qualities we ought to possess as humans in our communities.

My first time under curfew was something terrifying. I never thought it would appear to be the worst situation a citizen can find himself. Even those of us who are always indoors become under pressure for not having the freedom to do what we want to do or carry out other activities. People were chased like animals for violating those laws. It brought tears when a father was arrested on his way to get food for his little children at home who had been crying from hunger. This is a single story from hundreds of stories of people trying to survive the situation.

It was overwhelming when the governor himself came to address the issue. This got our attention and shows how concerned he is to maintain peace among individuals. We need to have a mind that is governed by peace and the body to get connected with other parts of the body and work together to be seen in our actions and activities. We need to know the good and love it, identify the bad and hate it, not in violence but in an understandable manner. I believe this would bring lasting solution without shedding blood or loss of properties.

Those days, all we could say is that we felt a lot of extraordinary things happening and the realization left us with a vague feeling of disappointment. But what could we do as collective individuals who need peace in our society? In moments of painful honesty, we must believe and admit that some group of us caused those problems we are facing. We must make our future to be as reflective as a mirror, to access our actions and do the needful to change ourselves for the betterment of our societies and the country at large.

Those issues need to be looked into fearlessly. We must investigate the root cause and search out and admit the truth, to restore peace, harmony, and security in our communities.

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