By Elvis Iyorngurum
An elder from the North once shared with me, a true story that happened in Kano during one of the many religious riots that the city and much of Northern Nigeria has witnessed over time. The crisis had erupted and while it lasted, people were slaughtered, pregnant women had their bellies torn open and left to die in agony, children were thrown into the blazing flames of their burning homes and all manner of inhumanity was metted on people who fell into the hands of gangs from another religion.
There was an Igbo man called Ezenwa (not his real name) who had found two Hausa boys stranded while he was fleeing on the day the riots broke out. He took them home and hid them in his house. When things got normal, he asked them if they could remember the way to their house and they agreed. Mr. Ezenwa took the boys in his car and they drove in search of their home. They found the house and he parked a few blocks away and let the children go in. He heard shouts of joy as the children shut the gate behind them.
The children’s father, Alhaji Sabo (not his real name) came out to see the strange Igbo man who had rescued his children. He ran to Ezenwa and hugged him, praying and blessing him and his entire household. He invited Mr. Ezenwa into the house but he kindly declined and said he had to head home immediately.
“Hold on,” Alhaji Sabo said to Mr Ezenwa, “I have some Igbo kids with me. Please take them with you and help them find their parents.”
Alhaji Sabo went into the house and came out with two children, a boy and a girl.
“Daddy!” The children shouted the moment they saw Mr. Ezenwa. They ran into the arms of their father who hugged them and wept while Alhaji Sabo watched, tears rolling down his face.
This is one story every Nigerian should hear and share with their friends and family. We have great stories in our country that show we are made of something more than corruption, poverty, anger, religious hate and tribal sentiments. Stories that show our potential to show love even though society teaches us to hate, to be selfless even though selfishness seem more desirable to many. The two men in the story did not know the fate of their own missing children, but they protected the lives of the ones they found and God blessed them and made them a lesson for all of us.
I lived in Bauchi for seven years and in Jos for a quarter of year, during which I witnessed dozens of religious riots. I saw and heard stories of horror, cruelty and barbarism. But I also heard and saw stories of love, mercy, kindness and human compassion. And I know that just as no matter how little a ray of light is, it overcomes every darkness, the little stories of good that come out of us are greater than whatever stories of evil we’ve made.
We all are a great people, chosen by God and united through human instruments, to live together in a geographic space that is the richest and most endowed on earth. But for so long we have fought and killed one another simply because we allowed some people to fill us with hate. We have been told we are too different but the reality proves otherwise. Everyday we live, trade and work together because the common humanity we share by far supersedes whatever so-called differences we have.
We have hated for years but that has not made us richer. There is poverty and so much suffering in every corner of our country. We have been cheating ourselves while the elites who incite us keep getting richer with their families. Remember at various times in your life, you have been helped by someone from a different religion and tribe because they defined you as a human being who needed help and not by your tribe or religion.
Now is the time to think progressively and say bye bye to politics of religion and ethnicity. We are made of much more than that. GOD BLESS YOU and GOD BLESS NIGERIA.
Iyorngurum is an editor, a writer, poet and the secretary of the Abuja Writers’ Forum.
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