July 23, 2014
For the first ten days, we nourished on disbelief. We said, ‘this could not be happening.’ Though we woke-up every next morning to see their ugly faces, we slept again each night in denial, hoping that when we woke, we will be in our beds – at home. We pinched ourselves… it did not work; we hardly believed it would. As we moved and responded to their orders those first days, we were sometimes stubborn, some of us got hit. This was because we still believed we were valuable, humans who could not be subjected to such a harsh reality.
The next ten days was our rude awakening. We realized this was no dream. We had gotten used to our captors’ names and faces. The forest as a new home was becoming familiar to us. This was real. We were abductees, forceful guests of the terrorists’ lair. We realized these days that we were not by any chance the first abductees of Boko Haram – there were girls here, abducted years ago. Mothers, who’d had kids in these camps. Young men, abducted and forced to fight for Boko Haram. We realized that things will never be the same again. We started to settle. We realized we had to be nice. And when some of us died – from snake bites, from rape and infections, and being shot, we realized our destiny did not have the pleasant stories of life in it, the sweet ending tales, but that ours was to be a story written with pain and blood. In these days we cried. We thought of home and saw our parents shriveling away. We felt them die. We knew they were dying. Lord have mercy on them.
By the third ten days we had begun to adapt. With cold hearts, we teased ourselves. ‘You are his wife, I will be his wife,’ we played. There was no fighting here. Though we wished to die and that death would give us peace as it had given some of our more fortunate classmates, a primordial instinct of survival kept most of us from giving up. Some of us cut ourselves, attempting suicide. We watched as their failed attempts left them worse off for it; their wounds treated with what they had of bandages and antibiotics and new wounds made in their backs with the cane, for trying to take their lives. In these days we had a new inkling of hope… we had heard a rumor that the Americans had come. We kept looking to the skies, hopeful of some stealth copters flying in and some Navy Seals picking out our captors and leading what was left of us to freedom – for whatever that would be worth.
By the fourth ten days, our hopes of rescue dissipated into the reality of our new chores. It was a life of little food and much work. This is not the type of work we would like to write about. Cooking and cleaning for the camps was the best part of it. At night, swallowing tears, we warmed their beds. We will never get used to this life. This is not the kind of life you wish on your worst enemies. This was not what many of us saved our virginity for. This was not what our parents taught us chastity for. This was hell. Where was our rescue? Does the world know we are here? We hated the world. We could not understand why the world would leave us here? Something must have happened. Have they forgotten us? Perhaps a catastrophe had wiped out all of humanity… because we could just not imagine how nothing had yet happened to free us from this. People could simply not just be living their day-to-day lives in Nigeria and across the world, abandoning us schoolgirls to this life with these beasts. All we had was God. All we have was God. We prayed God took us to Him.
By the fifth ten days, we started to smile. It was uncanny. Something had started to change. Was it resignation, or perhaps desperation? Some of us had not seen their periods. Some of us had decided to make the best of our situation, of our series of sexual partners. By these ten days, we had accepted our fate. We were going to make the best of our new heartless lives. By this time, some of us had made alliances with our captors, some of us had even set-up others among us, elevating themselves, getting less work and stable partners while working against others of us. We understood. We lived with beasts, this was a beasts’ world. We forgave them, we forgave ourselves. We were no longer chaste. We prayed. Yes, we prayed. Every day we prayed. While we worked, while we served them, we had found a way to resign to silent corners within our hearts where there was peace and serenity. Rooms of prayer within. There was solace in those corners of us, and we had developed a superhuman ability to resign into these peaceful corners at the same time as we discussed, made laughter, ate and were violated. We had developed dual personalities. The beast with a little piece of peace. It was during these ten days that we realized we will never be the same people again. It was these ten days that we rather we were not rescued. These beasts did not deserve to go home. There was nothing left here to take home.
By the sixth ten days, we were angry. These were the angry days. These were the bitter days. By these ten days, something had changed. We hated the world, we hated ourselves. Some of us asked to be taken on terror missions. Some of us wanted to go out and kill. We had completely lost faith in ourselves and in the world around us. Some of us still had faith in God, but frankly, some of us just did not any more. Our captors saw this in us. They commented that we had become more deadly than them. Our conversations were cold. We laughed when they talked about their campaigns of carnage. We discussed life with them; we discussed their plans with them. We discussed death with them.
The next ten days were the days of quiet. Were we remorseful? Had we been acting-out earlier? Things were spiraling. We were quite quiet. Energy was gone. We hardly ate, we hardly played. We hardly talked with one another. Faces were heavy and long. We were not getting anywhere. This life was full of pain. By these seventh ten days, some of us had confirmed we were pregnant. These were the days when reality hit. These were the days when we thought about the reality of birthing for barbarians and the reality of death. Several of us had died; we had come to know and be friends-of-sorts with barbarians who had gone out on missions and not come back alive. Life suddenly seemed to be moving pretty fast. These were the days when we aged. No longer children, this unsolicited right-of-passage transitioned us to adulthood. We would have to be responsible. We were the mothers in these camps; some of us were soon going to be mothers anyhow. This was our new reality.
By the eighth ten days, we took charge. We directed affairs and barked commands. The camps listened. They knew by this time that we were immune to their cane. They knew by this time that we no longer feared death. We were responsible women of the camp. We were the mothers of the jungle. We worked together as one family, but they were no longer the bosses of us. They had come to respect us. We had come to honor them duly. These men are barbarians, but they were the only men in our world. These men are barbarians, but the world outside us had no men. None had come to rescue us. We were in these same jungles of Borno and none had come for us. The world outside these camps seized to exist. What world will leave its damsels in the jungles for 80 days? This was our life and we will make the best or worst of it as we please. We the youth are leaders of tomorrow, you say after all; we guess this is our tomorrow.
By the ninth ten days, bellies could be seen protruding with bulges of fetuses. There was harmony in the camp. We had settled. We now thought again of the world outside us. By the ninth ten days, we spent a lot of time praying for our parents. We spent a lot of time praying for you. We felt empathy… no, pity actually for you in the world outside. You see, our fate was pretty simply laid out. We had done what we could, considering our predicament. We had been brave and fought the terrorists; some of us were killed trying. We had negotiated with them. Our destiny was determined, harsh, but circumscribed. But how are you? How is your world? Your world full of wickedness, corruption and politics. How do you sleep at night? By these ninth ten days, we wished not to return to your wicked world – a world where you could abandon your children in the forests with very very bad men and were able to sleep at night, able to go to work the next mooring, to eat, drink, have sex, laugh and play, purchase nonsenses: a world where you could do and did nothing; a world where you could feel and felt nothing; a world where you could choose and chose nothing. You made these men. You made this world. You created this terror and you left it this way, afraid, unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Boko Haram was your reward. We felt empathy for you, who could live with yourselves knowing what you had created and that you failed for 90 days to come here and fight or die fighting to rescue your children. In these ten days we prayed for you and for Boko Haram. We prayed for the world.
By the tenth ten days, we did the things normal people do: we cooked, we tidied, we ate, we slept, warmed beds and we prayed. We planned our future, our next days, ten months and ten years in these camps. We would want our lives to be as comfortable as possible, so we have to plan, hope you understand. Life was OK. We prayed for our parents and friends and sent word out to them to get rest; we are fine here. They should take care of themselves, stay safe and protect their health and the rest of the family. ‘Do not kill yourselves worrying about your daughters, we are fine.’ It all ends for you and for us when death comes knocking, sooner or later. Pray that when it does, you will be pleased with the account of how you spent your time here and what you did or did not do, and pray that you will be admitted through the Pearly gates. We wish you peace in your world.