This is how we died. It started on a rough day in December. You were seated on your rocking chair, sipping coffee or Zobo from your mazagran cup. On the TV in front of you, you see a small dirty child sitting in a chair looking as though all the happiness in this life had been sucked out of him just a moment ago. You looked. But because you were too busy with your Zobo, you had the volume of the TV reduced to zero. So you heard nothing. You did not hear the reporter talking about your brothers dying in Aleppo. Instead, you think about your own brothers working with Apple. You never heard. You had shut your ears to the cries of the world. And so you never heard.
We died on a Thursday. You were just scrolling through your social media feeds when your small beautiful eyes saw a video with the title ‘Aleppo: The Beginning of the End.’ And because it did not occur to you that that video is the summary of some people’s life, you scroll down and laugh at an ‘Akpors joke’ written by a secondary school leaver who is waiting for his NECO results. You chose laughter over sadness, comedy over tragedy…because you had a choice. You do not know that those in Syria do not have a choice. It does not occur that you might wake up tomorrow in a Syria of your own making.
This is what we will write in our history books. This is what we will write in our poetry collections in the years to come. This is what will become the future Half of a Yellow Suns. This is what we will write when we are describing the countries that never was. We will write that we sat in our rooms, under our AC and fans, and watched humanity die on TV. We will write that we were with our notepads, quickly noting one point or the other and trying out our alliterations to see which one will make our poem great. And then it will no longer matter to us whether or not our poem made people see what they closed their eyes to. What will matter is the number of likes and comments we receive on Facebook. This is what we will write in our history books. We that remain – those that remain – will tell our/their children that we were writing poems for likes and not change when the world fell.
This is how we died. We died the day Bolu looked at Obi with hatred in his eyes and told him that Musa was the enemy. We died the day we watched Musa put a knife to Obi’s throat because Obi was weaker. We died the day our son came home and started listing all his friends. And he mentioned Michael, Daniel, Samuel. And we realized that there was no Fadipe, no Ogunro, no Mohammed, no Saddha,no Emeka, no Ani. And we saw nothing wrong in this. It did not occur to us that our son had taken the pencil from our hands and had drawn a line, putting humans on one side titled Enemies and putting humans on another side titled Friends.
We died the day we decided to vote for the man who gave us loaves of bread when winter was here, the day we saw bigotry and corruption on the stand and we declared him innocent. We died the day we saw the news about Russia and China exercising their veto power concerning Aleppo and then we switched the channel and turned to Game of Thrones, forgetting that the most important message of this movie is that War is a brutal and terrible thing. It takes away our loved ones and make us wish we ourselves were taken away. We died when we saw Blacks being killed like Christmas chickens and forget about it the next day. We died when we put a rope around the thin neck of truth and let go. We died the day humanity called on us for help and we said, ‘No. I’m busy!’ This is how we died.
And this is how Aleppo too died. Merry Christmas 🎄