At first, she only wanted to write about American blacks before she saw the news on AIT about a university lady that was murdered inside a church while she was reading and how women outcry seeking for justice overwhelmed the media. She didn’t know if to feel sad, unhappy, angry or cry. She wasn’t surprised anymore by the evil intent that could seal the conscience of a man to take another’s life in cold blood, the lack of sentiment that would not consider the grief, pain and loss that a soon to be deceased family and loved ones would have to endure. She didn’t want to wonder, to keep wondering what it was that the world was becoming, what values were left in the world if there ever were any left, what humans were turning into, could they be the devil leaving amongst men? She tried to visualize the lady’s head squashed with a fire extinguisher in spilled blood, red clogged liquid making a map of Africa on the threadbare floor of the church, her cold lifeless body mangled in death.
She didn’t know what to feel anymore. Day after day there would be a story, if not of brutality, it would be of abuse, if not abuse, it would be of segregation, if not that, it would be of oppression or lack of emotion. She now wanted to write about the world, the cost of dehumanisation, the cost of anything else that has made us less human. She didn’t want to use them, she preferred to use us because in everyone there would have been that moment that we were less human toward another, maybe even without knowing it.
If she was writing about all-encompassing dehumanisation she probably should write about the pain and unending agony felt by the parents of Meribe, an only child who was shot thrice on the chest by the gang of the Buccaneers who wanted revenge for their killed member. The poor boy whose parents strived financially to get through higher education appeared to be one of The Black Axe gang that tormented the university community.
The Police were afraid of them. The police only had metallic gongs for guns openly strapped to their waste. The cult members and the other students on campus knew fully that their guns where incomparable to that of the police. After shoot outs happened on campus between the cult groups, the police will only resurface at the calm of the moment to patrol in their rickety overused SUV to stand ajar in ostentatious security. Meribe’s friends had asked him not to go but he insisted on seeing his girlfriend who had called him to meet up under the dark silent tree overlooking the Bursary the night before he was found by a grounds man in the bushes.
What he didn’t know was that they had threatened his girlfriend at gun point to lure him. When he appeared and rang her phone the Buccaneers surfaced from the dark corners of the tree and grabbed him, dragging him into the bushes as he silently groaned in their conceited deceit. Then they shot him three times on the chest. She remembered how Meribe’s death became a deterrent used by parents to drag their ears in advice to their children in higher institutions to desist from joining cult groups. She recalled vividly her mother speaking in Igbo and dragging her ear, “Uju, I hope you have not joined cult. It is not good. Onweghi uru a na eritaya – there is no gain from it.
She would also want to write about the twelve year old girl who was raped and left to die in the pool of her own blood by herdsmen in Bauchi. If not for the soldiers that rescued her while they were checking for glimpses of life from the bodies that lay on the threadbare floor, some covered in dust, others ashen in death, she would have suffocated in her own cold blood. Yet she wondered what memories the surviving raped will have of men, of their ego, their self-loathing exaggerations of accomplishments, their over aching drive for superiority, would she ever forgive such men or would she have this – self-loathing, drive for superiority and ego qualities as her everlasting stereotype for men.
Uju was bent on becoming a voice for justice as the women outcry for the university lady. So, she solicited to add on her column, Chikere, the sixteen year old girl who was shot by the police in Lagos. The drunk police man was demanding two hundred naira from a motorist to allow him passage. The motorist had argued, disagreed and disregarded his impenitent, drunken, lousy demands and was driving off when the police man triggered his gun and shot at the driver and arrested his conductor. Onlookers who appeared agape, approached cautioning the dastard, aversive act of his, dissuading him to desist from hurting another soul when he started shooting sporadically at everything that emerged, things that seemed to move toward him. Then, the shout of commotion five metres away was heard above all else, the clamour of having shot someone, having shot a girl, a sixteen year old was unending. The clamour from the deranged crowd had transformed into anger, rage, fury and resentment for revenge against the police force.
The deranged crowd, their blood stricken eyes borne of compiled and deflected injustice approached with a hell bent intent to vanquish when the police man with other officers forced their way into their vans and sped off. Chikere would die in a hospital three days later having lost a lot of blood and her parents too wretched to cough out the pay for blood and infusion.
So, Uju stood up, curled herself free from her husband and walked to her study, sat down on her table, flipped open her empty manuscript, picked up her pen and wrote down at the tip of the empty white page “A strike on one is a strike on all and sundry”.