GUEST ROOM | You Need to Choose Love in a Loveless Society

Enugu in February 1970 was still covered by the dusty winds of harmattan that come every December. These harmattan winds carry the scratchy scent of the Sahara, swirling dust that coats everything brown. Everything dries up and crackles during harmattan. Tree leaves twist and snap in two, clothes bristle and are static to touch, lips crackle and bleed, and everyone carries a tube of vaseline in their pockets or bags to shine their ashy, dusty bodies for the Church Bazaars of the Christmas season.

However, the Christmas leading into 1970 was anything but shiny. The brown winds of harmattan carried dust as well as the stench of blood and rotting bodies from Nigeria’s concluding three-year civil war. Church bazaars were replaced with mass funerals. Screams of “Happy New Year” were overshadowed by the woes of families who, with shaky hands, threw dirt over empty caskets. Bits of red flesh, ripped to shreds by shrapnel, were scattered on the roads. So families could only collect tiny parts of their mauled loved ones.There was nothing to be buried. 

War is not a new phenomenon in human history. We see its disastrous realities in movies;  many popular games are predicated on the violence of war and death. I might go as far as claiming that the practice of war has become an event that we are desensitized to because, in many ways, consciously or unconsciously, we believe it is normal for humans to kill other humans. When I see my precious six year-old brother thumbing away on Call of Duty, shooting person after person, blood splattering everywhere, I cannot help but wonder if his mind is being conditioned to accept the death of people by others as a fact of human nature. As an international student, my perspective on war has always been shaped by the experience of my grandmother in 1967, during the height of Nigeria’s civil war with Biafra.