Let me tell you about Audu (not real name). Before these heartbreaking images went viral, I was watching a documentary by one of the major news organizations, as they told the story of Audu in a bid to mirror the story of tens of thousands of West Africans traveling through the desert in search of a dream of which they may never wake up from.
Audu had managed to escape Borno state after running away from Boko Haram. IDP camps were no go areas. Tell me, how can one find shelter in a place that gets bombed just after escaping the same bombs in their hundreds? Audu was hungry, his family was starving and the country was doing absolutely nothing to help. So he decided to take matters into his hands.
He’d been told, Europe is the land of dreams. Find yourself in Italy. There, your dreams will come true. So he sold all he had left – whatever he could take away from his bullet devasted home. He put the money together and set out on a trip from which he may never return. He couldn’t afford to stay in Nigeria and watch his mother and whatever family he had left die of hunger. He was going to do what men do – provide.
“Do you know you may die at sea?” The reporter had asked him.
“My life is in the hand of God,” he’d started, “I must do what I must for my family.”
The road to Libya is not an easy one. The road is tough, but for you to make it to the sea, you must have enough money to keep the smugglers happy. There are ‘check points’ everywhere where men covering their faces must be ‘settled’, and that means more money. With little food, dangerous weather and terrain, smuggling trucks that travel at light speed, staggering rate of accidents on the road, most die in the desert.
You see, Audu as I remember the face, is (hopefully not was), a handsome young man. I can guess his age. He’s probably in his mid twenties.
So when the photos began to circulate, I remembered Audu.
Four years while researching for my novel (which is still being written) – a novel set in the 17th century and themed around the slave trade, it was difficult to imagine Audu as one of the characters.
Did he ever get to Europe? Did he die on the road or at sea? Or is he now a slave sold like a piece of cloth for a mere $400 to a new Libyan master?
What about his family? What of mama Audu that probably beat her chest and said to herself, “For the sake of my son, Audu, I will live. I will live to see him become the man he’s meant to be.” What of the hope that may be dashed when mama waits and waits but Audu doesn’t knock on her door.
Who should be blamed? The government of the respective countries for not providing the enabling environment for young bright men like Audu to thrive? Audu, for traveling and risking so much in search of a dream a little too far? The Libyan government for supposedly turning a blind eye to this gross inhumane acts? The international media for not crying out sooner? The UN for supposedly pretending nothing is happening?
I need not tell you, this is humanity at it’s worst. Will anything get worse than this? I don’t know.
Yes, we’ve shared it on social media. Yes, we’ve collectively condemned it. Yes, it has made its way to major media houses. Yes, some governments are beginning to respond. But I ask one thing of you, say a prayer for these ones, please.
I know you’re busy. I know your schedules are tight, but please spare a minute, and pray a sincere for them. Pray that they return safely to the families they left behind.