We served together in Enugu. When I resumed at my PPA, she had settled already. There was no room available for me yet. There was a batch A corps member that was leaving soon. I was asked to wait. Aishat Mukaila asked me to stay with her.
I left the North with some anger and prejudice against Muslims. It was hard not to. After an SUG election turned to a religious skirmish, I was tired. Everyone insists that Islam is a religion of peace but my years in the North told me that I did not understand the meaning of the word peace.
I didn’t want to stay with her. I had hoped that the batch A Christian girl who was also a ‘mama’ would offer me to stay with her but she didn’t.
So, I stayed with Aishat.
I have never met a better person in my life.
She embraced me to the point that it was embarrassing. I am not a morning person but I had to become one just so that I could stop her from washing my clothes. Yes. She would wake up and wash all dirty clothes. She would cook and clean and I was constantly battling her not to fuss or to let me do something.
Aishat Mukaila was devout and committed to her faith. It guided everything she said and did. We talked about our faiths all the time without judgement. I would ask her questions and she would answer without anger. She would ask about Christianity and I would answer her.
She made me a better Christian. Simply because of how she cherished her faith, I had to dust my own and honour it.
I did a deposit at Union Bank, Jos before coming down to the village we were in. They assured me that I would have access to it when I got there. The money took forever to appear in my account…. almost five weeks. So, I was broke.
I tried to hide it from Aishat. But she knew. She carried me for that period as I had not even bought foodstuff or cooking utensils because of the money that had to trek from Jos. Aishat Mukaila kept trying to give me from the little that she had. I would lie that I didn’t want to eat food and she would read me the riot act and force me to eat.
I tried to convince her that I loved black tea and biscuits (all I could afford and I hated imposing) but she saw through it.
We lost contact soon after we finished. But I have never forgotten her. If I did not have a faith I believed in; I would have followed her just based on her lifestyle.
Till we passed out, we never had a falling out. Differences in opinions but no fights. Such a kind person.
The sad thing was that she was seen as a pariah because of her hijab. We all know how people from the East feels about such things. The good thing is that no one ever acted on their reservations on covered Muslims. But the distrust was always there.
We can live together. Our religions can coexist. But some people will never give it a chance.
When I shared my experience, my friend’s husband, reached out to me on FACEBOOK. He gave me her number and we have plans to see very soon.
I made it a point to go through a lot of comments on the Facebook post as it was being shared. I learnt something that I had lost sight of because the unrest and the incessant killing going on in the country.
The majority of Nigerians are not interested in breaking up. We do not really hate each other because of personal things that happen between us and people of various ethnicities or religions. The problem is because many Nigerians have been targeted and killed in the name of religion; such that there is so much distrust. People are afraid to co-exist. People are afraid and that is why they are choosing to remain with people who are like them.
Nigerians really want the same things generally.
- A secure country where one can move freely from one point to another; without fear of losing their lives or being kidnapped.
- An enabling environment where one can thrive economically. We have the grit. We have the hustling spirit. And we have the ideas. We are not lazy. We just need policies that make it favoura ble for us to grow our business and do our transactions.
- Affordable and quality education.
- Good and accessible and also affordable healthcare.
- Freedom to practice our faiths without fear, coercion or intimidation.
- Justice when especially heinous crimes are committed. We want to see that no one can get away with mowing down a whole village or a single individual. The lack of justice is what has bred religious and ethnic intolerance. We need criminals to be brought to book and not protected or forgiven.
- Good infrastructure.
This is just a basic list. The fact is that if we have a government that is committed to delivering these basic goals; we will not care what part of the country they are from or if they steal our money. We are not asking for much.
It is not true that we need to be one religion or one ethnic group for progress to happen. That is the biggest mistake this country will make. To break up because people feel disenfranchised because they are not a particular tribe or religion.
I love this country. Despite everything. I don’t want us to split up.
May God answer our prayers.