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Memories of Eid Past

Growing up in Jos all those years back, Eid celebrations were occasions heralded by the perversive aroma of sumptuous cooking. The cold, misty air of…

Growing up in Jos all those years back, Eid celebrations were occasions heralded by the perversive aroma of sumptuous cooking. The cold, misty air of that city would weigh with the smell of fried and spicy meat, of steaming stews bubbling on stoves. The voices of excited children returning from school singing, “Gobe Sallah, za mu ci nama!” as if they are little hyenas catching the whiff of a fresh kill. Deals were struck with friends and acquaintances and frenemies too. An offer of niceness in return for a piece of the Sallah feast. Sometimes these negotiations start weeks in advance, old alliances are reinforced, and new ones are forged. My meat in exchange for yours. It is true that man is a political animal and from childhood negotiations over pieces of meat and scoops of rice, it is obvious this trait is inherent.

The excitement over Eid days is always palpable. Busy mornings running errands and trying to get dressed in time for the prayers. We would dress in our finest, with shoes a size too big, stuffed with paper to fit, so our growing bodies could wear them for a few more months. The business of eating was a serious affair, one that required taking off the clothes so they were not soiled with oil drippings.

But no Eid was ever complete for us then without running errands to deliver food to the neighbours. They were both Muslims and Christians, these neighbours. They received you with a smile, a gesture of appreciation, and often a treat or some change for your trouble. Goron Sallah.

Things have since changed. Time. The landscape. The neighbours. The cost of living. The people and us too. We have passed through the hands of time. We have grown from those excitable children to be what our parents used to be—the ones who worried that everyone has all that they need for the season, that all the shoes and clothes are bought and sown, that the obligations like zakkatul fitr are met, that there is food before Eid and food after it.

So often we find ourselves reminiscing with nostalgia about the good old days because for some reason, the old days are always good, romanticised to mythical status and all the flaws in them edited with a fine brush until only the good bits remain.

In this proclivity to look back, we forget the privilege we have to witness these festivities, to be able, somehow to afford to meet the needs and demands upon us despite the incredible inflation and the state of the nation today.

In these difficult times, it is easy to forget the misfortune of others, like the thousands of Nigerians who would unfortunately commemorate these Eid in the captivity of bandits and terrorists. Or the families grieving on a day like today when most of the Muslim world is celebrating.

Only two days before, on the 29th day of Ramadan, in anticipation of sighting the moon, popular Kannywood star, Saratu Gidado Daso, had made a video skit of her searching the skies for the crescent through a water pipe placed at her eye like a telescope. It was a playful video that typified the person she has been most of her public life. She went to bed that night and never awoke.

Her death is a tragedy and a deep loss for her family, friends, and associates. I pray that God comforts them in this time of loss. Her death is also a poignant reminder to us about the ephemerality of life. Here one moment, burdened with dreams, plans, and aspirations. Gone the next moment, like the light of a candle in the breeze.

Death is a certainty in a way, at least for the deceased, not necessarily for their loved ones. But for those who have loved ones missing, abducted by bandits or terrorists—and there are thousands of these across the country, the uncertainty is even more. Will their loved ones return, or will they not?

It is one of the many uncertainties that life in Nigeria today saddles us with. With uncertainties come questions, about justice and what it means and about responsibilities and complicity.

One person whose family will be having a happy Sallah though regardless of these circumstances will be the family of a certain Hamisu Bala otherwise known as Wadume the kidnap kingpin. He was released from custody in time to celebrate the Sallah with his family in Taraba. Only last August, he was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for his kidnapping for ransom ventures. The court backdated the commencement of his sentence to 2019 when he was arrested under controversial circumstances and this week, having completed his sentence he was released.

The irony is that both Wadume’s arrest and release have been shrouded in controversy. Upon his return from prison spotting a robust potbelly that he hadn’t had before his arrest, he was received with some pomp by the locals. He even paid a visit to the palace of the chief of Ibi, Alhaji Garba Salihu, to pledge his loyalty to the throne and his commitment to shun crime, according to palace sources. In these activities, perhaps it is not misplaced to speculate that this is the beginning of Wadume’s career as a politician. If not for his conviction, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his posters up seeking an elective office.

Many people will be asking well, where is the justice? This was a man who during his arrest was sprung from detention by some soldiers of the 93 Battalion led by Captain Tijanni Balarabe who in the process killed three policemen, two civilians and injured five others. Apparently, justice has been served, at least for the offence Wadume has been convicted for.

Were the people of Ibi wrong to receive their son back as they would a hero returning from battle? I don’t know what he has done for them to endear them to him like that but the optics are not good. “Repentant” Boko Haram members are being allowed to reintegrate into society. Even the prodigal son had a banquet laid out for him. Wadume, however, is no prodigal son but a convicted criminal. Ibi should have shown more restraint. He may profess to have been repentant now but he needs to earn his place back in society and demonstrate his commitment to helping security agencies to atone for his misdeeds and the lives he had caused to be lost.

What happened in Ibi around Wadume raises yet again the question of complicity of us, the people, in our tolerance of criminality. Not just tolerance but a lionization of criminals who throw crumbs at people, from kidnap kingpins to looters of public treasury. We need to ask ourselves questions and reflect.

After all, Ramadan is meant to be a season of reflection. The month that rekindles our faith in humanity. While what happened in Ibi does not rekindle any of that faith, what happened elsewhere in small pockets, in random acts of kindness from person to person does.

But against the larger picture of the bombardment of children and unarmed civilians in Palestine and the complicity of the world in an ongoing genocide, that faith suffers what should have been a mortal blow.

But that is the thing with faith. It is often hard to kill because it is being nourished by the small gestures that remind us of the overwhelming goodness of human nature.

In the spirit of Eid, I pray and hope that the lessons of Ramadan and the little things that rekindled our faith in the divine and the mundane continue to resonate in our hearts and remind us always to be better versions of ourselves, for ourselves.

Eid Mubarak!

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