I was sitting in the bus when a thought came into my head.
‘What happened to Kainene?’
For those who may think me crazy, let me explain who Kainene is and possibly, why she came into my head today.
One of my all-time favorite persons in the world is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. From the moment a friend walked up to me and said I needed to watch a TedX Talk titled, We Should All Be Feminists, I have been enamored of her. Prior to this time, I had never heard her name and I didn’t know that she authored books. Or if I am more truthful, I didn’t read African authors at that point in my life, so I didn’t know who was in the scene.
When I heard that great (GREAT) speech, I was blown away by the very essence of who she was and, I wanted to guzzle everything she had ever put out. Thankfully, not long after that, I heard one of her books – Half of a Yellow Sun – was going to be adapted into a film. I was excited! At that point, I had not read the book, and though I usually prefer books to their film adaptations, for some reason, I wanted to see the film first.
So when it got out, I immersed myself in the film. I was introduced to Olanna and Kainene, twin sisters who had returned to Nigeria after studying in the United Kingdom. Through the story, we see how the lives of five people – Ugwu, Odenigbo, Olanna, Kainene and Richard – are changed as a result of the Nigerian Civil war which happened from 1967 to 1970.
This brings me to what happened to Kainene.
At first, it seemed that Kainene was ‘unfazed’ with the war that was leaving a trail of death and carnage all around her. Then, seeing first hand just how brutal the war was, she put on a more humanitarian persona; which was translated in her running a refugee camp. Due to the lack of food and drugs, she decided to go into ‘enemy’ territory and trade with them for the basic necessities which her people desired.
That was when she disappeared. No one knows what happened to Kainene; till today.
Kainene is a reminder that so many people who lost loved ones during and after the war do not have closure.
Let me explain this.
If someone you love dies during a war or a crisis or an accident or anything bad that you can think of, you may possibly have a body to grieve over, or a gravesite to put in that person and the memories you shared. You can begin to heal every day and in time, their memories become less painful. Your mind tells you that you can only grieve so much before you have to stop. That is the finality that comes with death.
But if they just disappear, with no hint of whether they are alive or not, you remain in a state of perpetual grief. You continuously wonder if today will be the day they walk in the door; if they would reach out; if they are held against their will; if they have eaten; what they have eaten; how they look; if they had children; if they were doing well; and every other thing that your mind can possibly fathom. If you take a cup of water, you wonder if they have water where they are. If you laugh, your mind wonders if they can laugh and torments you for daring to. Every day, every hour, every second of every year that they remain ‘unfound’, you lose a bit of yourself and your sanity because there is no closure.
I once read of a story of an old woman who sat a certain couch everyday staring at the streets in front of her house. When her children asked her what she was doing, she said she was waiting to see if her brother would return home. He had been in the soldier in the civil war. She did this until her children had their own children; until her grandchildren wondered if grandma was losing her mind; until she could barely see the road in front of her house. Still…her brother never returned and the day she believed he was not going to come back, she died of a broken heart.
So why did I think of what happened to Kainene? It was more about a group of other girls far, far away from Kainene’s Nsukka. I was thinking of the Chibok girls and every other person that has been kidnapped by the insurgent group, Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, or as they are commonly called, Boko Haram. Beyond that, I was thinking of family members who had been separated by the insurgency; families who didn’t have phone numbers and couldn’t contact themselves. I thought also of internally displaced people whose loved ones were scattered about in different IDP camps, with no hope of reaching them. It made me ask myself, ‘how were these people doing?’
Kainene is a fictional character. Yet, I am constantly wondering what happened to her. Imagine the people with the real Kainenes in their lives; people searching for answers about their loved ones; people wondering what horrors said loved ones are going through; people holding hope up that one day, they would return home; and people who will die with that hope never becoming a reality. These people cannot heal because their loved ones have been separated from them without the necessary closure they need to move past the pain.
Where is this all heading to? For starters, the security situation in Nigeria is becoming more severe, with daredevil abductors taking up citizens at their whim. Many of these victims will return home. Many will not. And for people like the Chibok Girls, or Leah Sharibu, or any number of women, girls and children who may have been abducted, their parents may never recover from not knowing what is happening to their child in this very moment of existence.
And that right there, is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone.
It is important that we know what happened to Kainene, and all the other girls like her across the globe, because that may be key to how we can save the thousands of citizens condemned to a life of pain (and maybe death) because we have failed as a nation and as a people..