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1

“Abba, takalma na sun chinye, dan Allah ka saya mun sabo”, Amina said sitting on her dad’s knee. Musa contemplated her request for new school shoes, he looked at the ones on her feet, truly, they had holes in them, you could see they had been patched several times and his wife Zarau probably bought them second-hand from Wuse Market. He shook his head, then smiled at her, he said “this evening, when I am coming back from work, I will bring you a pair of brand new shoes!” She smiled, gave him a hug and ran to meet her mum, who was fanning the flames on their kerosene stove. Musa got into his unpainted cab and drove to Emab Plaza, where he was on the cab rank.

2

Binta was very happy! Finally, her father had agreed for Dayo to marry her. She knew it was because her father thought it’ll give her a better life, but whatever his reasons were, she knew she loved him. She sang as she arranged her tray of bananas and groundnuts. Dayo was a civil servant, so what if all he did was buy food and run errands in his office, he was a civil servant. She will be a civil servants wife, no longer carrying a tray on her head and walking the streets of Abuja! She sang as she picked up her tray, called out bye-bye to her father and headed over to Banex, there were always a lot of customers there.

3, 4 & 5

Comfort also got dressed. Her business had grown. She no longer carried a tray, she now had a shed, she sold watermelon, pineapples, paw-paw and will soon add vegetables (no lettuce though, spoils too quickly), I’ll add cucumber and pears soon she thought. Her children, Precious (7) and Prosper (3) will come with her today, exams had started in school but they had been chased out for not paying their school fees completely. Today’s earnings, if God favors her and these rich Abuja ladies don’t haggle too much, will “complete” her school fees money. And they will go to school tomorrow,for today, she will tie Prosper to her back and hold Precious by the hand as they walk to their shed at Banex.

6 & 7

Rita is a lawyer at one of the better law firms in Abuja, she’s beautiful and trendy and dresses really well- her big sister is in the UK you see? She has no shortage of T.M shirts, and Mattalan dresses. Last week, her sister sent her, her old iPhone, which still looks really good. She took it to the phone shop at Emab, because it needed to be unlocked. They told her to come and pick it up today, so, come lunch time she convinces Seyi- who likes her, but whom she knows is not her type- to please drive her to the Plaza, Seyi is only too happy to spend some time alone with Rita, without their stupid “oga”- the Managing Partner ogling at her chest and monopolizing the conversation, so off they go.

8, 9 &10

Alhaji Halilu asks his driver to drive up to the Plaza, he needs to make photocopies before he gets to the office where he is hoping to get a contract or “kwangilla” as it is called in Hausa, if this works out, he will finally be able to get 2 houses, one for wife number 1 and the other for wife number 2, the bickering and early morning shouting would drive him to an early grave, he thinks, shaking his head as they pulled in at Banex. Wife number 1 sitting by his side, just glared at him and hissed- wondering what his head shaking was about, if he hadn’t married number 2, there would have been peace!

11, 12, & 13

” I either need to find something else to add to my wares or leave the front of this Banex” thought Chukwudi. “Really! How many people can be selling cell-phone covers in front of the same shopping complex. Last month, I even added car chargers to my wares, but what do you know, same day Nnamdi and John added them too. What is wrong with those boys?” He thought shaking his head as he walked.

14

Ada, is her daddy’s princess! She knows she is spoilt, she knew it won’t be too long before he agreed to buy her that car… He had said if she did well in school. She had, it was just her Project that was outstanding and she will bind it this afternoon, then go to Mummy’s office, collect her pocket-money and the driver will take her back to the university in Gwagwalada. There is a business centre where you bind at Emab Plaza…

15, 16, 17 & 18

Reuben, Hassan, Adamu and Salisu are the new “security protocol” that the uniformed guard company had just deployed to Banex. It was something of a choice posting, you see, the busier and more high brow the area you were posted to, the more tips you were likely to get over the course of the day, so they enjoyed their posting, sometimes when the supervisor was not around, they even helped people carry their shopping to the car- for which they got hundred or two hundred Naira tips.

19, 20 & 21

Daddy had gone to work and mummy has travelled, so Ladi who just learnt to drive, decided to take Mummy’s car for a spin. He called Banke his neighbor and asked her if she wanted to come along, she had her friend Halima with her. So the 3 of them jumped in the car. They decided to stop at Banex to buy shawarmas. The afternoon was off to an exciting start…

21! Each in engaged in different activities when they started to feel tremors, like the ground was shaking, then the blast came. Pieces of Ada’s project flying through the air, Ladi felt his car, fly up… Comfort’s last thought was that she had sent Precious to go and buy sachet milk and Prosper- she will not see his wife. Musa was actually pulling out, a customer in his cab, the one who would have made the money for Amina’s shoe complete, but as the fire burnt his skin and his fuel tank exploded, all he could think of was how he would never see her again. The sound was deafening! The black cloud of smoke impenetrable… Pandemonium everywhere! Screams from within but heard as though far off, filled the air! Wails and the smell…

21 lives were lost in an attack on Emab (formerly Banex) Plaza in Abuja yesterday! 21 lives! Not numbers, LIVES! PEOPLE! Real people, they loved, they were loved. They came from homes, they had dreams, they had aspirations, they had hope. The day before that, 8 lives were lost in Kano in a similar attack, same day, 103 lives were lost in Kaduna in another attack and more lives lost in Adanmawa in an attack on a World Cup viewing centre. Numbers, numbers, numbers, lives, lives, lives! People’s father’s, children, wives, mothers, suckling children, the hopes of their families… Gone! And for what?

I cried all night last night. I didn’t know any of the people who lost their lives (of course you realize all the characters above are fictitious). I cried all night because I am a firm believer in God and His purpose! I believe I am Nigerian for a reason- to be part of the solution. I cried because I love this nation! I have lived in Obosi, Onitsha, Lokoja, Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, travelled to Taraba, Jos, Borno, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, schooled in Niger. Enjoyed the fruits in Fiditi, loved the camaraderie and feeling of oneness in all of the North during Ramadan, loved the “owambe” parties in the South and the fierce business acumen of the East. I see how this nation is blessed with water, with people, with oil, with gas. With Precious stones, with lush green vegetation. I wept, because Nigeria as God intended it is beautiful and fully loaded. I wept because I don’t know which Nigeria, this is. I wept for the impotency of it. I wept for the injustice of it. I wept in groans that shook my body and made me sound like a wounded animal, because for once, I didn’t have the words to pray. I just hoped that God will see my heart and the hearts of many scattered across this nation who wish the nation to RISE UP & PROSPER again! I brought repentance for His word says “if the people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This is the time not only to PRAY (because pray we must, who is the defender for the defenseless? We are all defenseless as we can see), BUT it’s also the time to TURN from our wicked ways- a society that does not take care of its orphans or widows, whose pensioners beg for money they worked for all their lives. A society that does not protect its own and take care of all equally! A society that does not provide equal opportunity, leaving whole land masses unprotected, uneducated, unvaccinated! It is time to TURN. It is time for the churches to TURN, that we speak the truth and for the “churched” to TURN- we are Christians while on the pew, in the parking lot after service we become ourselves- from Monday to Saturday at our jobs and in our lives, there is no indication of what we profess on Sunday! It is time for government to TURN! Do something! Or you will have no one to govern and I know you are not afraid of posterity or eternity but I tell you, no deed, good or bad, goes unrewarded. I believe that Nigeria can recover from these times, I believe it will all be different, but my belief alone will not change a thing, if we don’t ALL act…

The numbers you hear daily, they are not numbers, they could be you or yours! What one action will you take this week, who will you rub minds with, so that we can start making the change? Will you write to your representative at the House of Reps, to demand better from the government? Will you not give that bribe or not turn that blind eye? If you are still alive, it’s not too late and you can’t do too little, just do something! Let’s reclaim Nigeria for EVERY Nigerian- northerner, southerner, easterner, middle belt, minority! May Nigeria rise again!

Read news article on the blast here . May God heal our land!

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