By Mary Ukiri
This essay was written in light of recent happenings in Nigeria and inspired by countless reminders to ‘Never Forget’ tragic happenings such as the Lekki Toll Gate incident, as well as countless instances of nationwide insurgency.
A deeper look into the manner by which undoubtedly historical events unravel in our present society tends to reveal a quite repetitive thread in the way we are made to absorb these, often tragic, happenings into our daily lives.
One might notice that a decent number of individuals who share the same trauma and pain we feel, repeatedly remind us to, ‘Never Forget’.
Yet, it seems as if they always forget to explain to us what it truly means to ‘Never Forget’. If they were to explain, what exactly would they say it entails? Perhaps they will inform us of the never-ending pain that we will become incapable of healing from.
Or maybe they would tell us of the despair we experience when we look around and acknowledge the fact that our unbearable situation has, once again, failed to improve.
They might even explain to us that it involves holding on to the anger and rage we feel in our hearts when we realise that all our cries and pleads for assistance and change have fallen on deaf ears.
Regardless of how they choose to explain to us what it really means to ‘Never Forget’, we have already been made to live with the exhausting challenges we are plagued with when we make the slightest attempt to carry on.
In our day-to-day lives, we are constantly reminded of the blood that has been made to spill over the past decades due to the insurgency in our own nation caused by terrorist attacks, banditry, and kidnappings.
Since these are occurrences that we have been made aware of, one might be led to ask the question of what it really means to ‘Never Forget’.
We train our minds to be able to ignore the repeated thoughts that haunt our minds of “…that could have been me…, that could have been my family member…, that could have been my friend.”
We say a quick prayer and hope that our everlasting laughter, joy, and aspirations, can undermine the trauma we experience as we watch the news and attempt to process numerous innocent killings.
We fear for our children’s future as we watch them mature in a country where their dreams, safety, and chances of success are never guaranteed.
We contemplate the possibilities of obtaining aid from foreign countries as we strive to come to terms with the fact that we cannot rectify the damages that have been done to our own fatherland.
We look around us and we catch sight of the ever-rising number of youths who are made to tackle a system of generational injustice and strife.
We bear witness to the countless victims whose careers have been made to suffer from the inevitable hands of corruption that has been deeply sown into the fabrics of our home.
We watch as the current situation of our nation provides room for ample division among our own people, on the basis of the things that make us beautifully unique and outrightly distinctive.
We endure the weight of frustration and resentment that we are forced to carry on our shoulders due to the endless amount of disappointment we receive from the individuals who we trusted, not only to lead our country correctly but to ensure our happiness and comfort as well.
We find ourselves in a situation where we have almost neglected the motive to ask for basic necessities like water, electricity, and food.
We find ourselves begging our government for the absolute bare minimum we require as citizens of our country: life. We plead for life.
In addition to all this, we ask ourselves how many lives might suffice in order to receive the justice we deserve from this country?
How many of our peaceful protests must be dismantled, invaded, and attacked, in order to attract change from our dear leaders? How many years is necessary for our nation to become a home that is fulfilling all of our basic needs as citizens of a nation?
We look around us once again, but this time, we see each other. This is because our identity betrays us. It ties us down to this land. It defines who we are. Our culture discloses our entire heritage.
We realize that we cannot keep it a secret even if we tried our very best to. Our citizenship exposes us to an ongoing battle that we are continuously trying to fight.
We begin to ask ourselves, ‘What happens if we quit the fight? What will our future look like if we surrender in this battle?’ The truth is we do not know.
We have never stopped fighting. How could we possibly know what life would become for us if we give up on the fight that has been passed on for generations?
Nonetheless, we can only imagine that we do not have the option to quit the struggle; we simply do not get the option to be tired. Instead, we train ourselves to be able to witness the pain and despair of people who share our identity and carry on the fight without getting discouraged and exhausted.
We fight for them. We fight for the ones who have fallen. We fight for the ones who have been taken away from us. We fight for the opportunities and entitlements that have been stolen away from us by a government that we trusted to keep them safe.
We know in our hearts that, that is, in fact, what it truly means to ‘Never Forget’. It entails accepting this battle as our very own battle that we have been born into.
It means coming to terms with the fact that no matter where we might be on the planet, it will remain our battle to fight.
It means acknowledging our imperfect history and applying it to our everyday lives and struggles. It means pleading to the Almighty to supply every one of us with the strength, courage, and motivation that it takes to carry on.
It means going to distant lengths and measures to obtain the wisdom and understanding that is necessary in order to reflect a change in not only our current societies but in the upcoming ones as well.
It means being a fountain of love for those that share our battle and identity regardless of what differences might attempt to divide us. It means fighting with and for one another regardless of societal class and education standards.
We are aware of our goals and only we understand how dear they are to us. It is only us that yearns for our victory just as much as those who have lost their lives for the sake of this battle.
To ‘Never Forget’ means to avoid being silent. It means to cry out for justice and change. It is a known fact that they only attempt to silence us with killings and retaliation when we are raising our voices and desperately pleading for changes.
This can only mean that they are disturbed by our cries for help; they are bothered by our attempts to create awareness of the injustices happening all around us.
As a result, they partake in everything they can in order to silence us. They kill, they threaten, they invade, and they place bans on our biggest sources of obtaining information.
Therefore, we must continue to persist by the use of any means possible. We must continue to scream until they have no option but to grant us our heart desires.
We must push until their backs are against the wall and they have no possible means of escaping our complaints and petitions.
We must do this because that is who we are.We must fight this battle because that is our identity.
We belong to this fight. We belong to this land. And we shall truly ‘Never Forget’.