Are we truly safe when some of us are sleeping in shelters and others are in the rain with nothing over their heads except their prayers and wishes? How do we ensure our safety if the safety of the ones we dare call brothers and sisters, the very ones we share living spaces with, is not guaranteed? How do we go about hosting cocktail parties just because we can, wearing plastic smiles, reveling in fancy outfits, and living our best lives with no consideration for the very ones whose lives should concern us?

Is our society really strong if some factions are in health and wealth while others can only hope the tides will turn in their favor?

When did it become okay to look at fellow human beings and say, “Oh, it’s a ‘them’ problem and not a ‘we’ problem” because we aren’t affected directly?  How dare we stand in conferences and speak for hours about these people, yet do nothing because we’re only concerned about the money that’ll find its way into our bank accounts when we’re done?

Like cancer, the crisis will continue spreading if we do not find sustainable solutions to seemingly irrelevant issues. If we truly want to be the change, we have to move from parroting kindness and respect to putting in the work that comes with the territory. There has to be a collective effort to ensure the safety of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. For our friends and those, we call enemies because of differences in political beliefs, religious bigotry, geographical barriers, or whatever else has been a separating factor over the years. We must ensure that they are seen as equals and get the justice they deserve for themselves and their loved ones: they are, also, human beings with dignity and it should take no reminder for us to know that saintliness is not a prerequisite for dignity.

It is in our place to speak up for them when we are in positions to do. Because we are in a position to do so. Not to make them feel small and helpless nor replace or erase their voices but to add vigor to their cries and show them through our actions that they will never walk alone. We ought to open our arms wide, to break glass ceilings and cut iron doors and usher them into those places we have gotten into. The places we can stand in with our heads high. To mention their names and cases in rooms of influence and use the liberty accorded us to help them regain theirs. To ease their already difficult lives and reduce the burden of pain, shame, regret, anger, and frustration that they carry on their shoulders without help from us and those who came before us.

To reiterate that brotherhood & sisterhood aren’t simply beautiful concepts but as citizens of this country, Nigeria, we understand the importance of holding up to one another. We can only truly know peace when others are assured of their worth in society. When we put aside socio-cultural ideologies that prevent us from seeing them as full people deserving of respect.  Beliefs that keep us from acknowledging that those we see today may be us tomorrow depending on decisions we may or may not have control over.

It’s realizing that classicism and respectability politics will keep us from achieving our full potential as citizens. That the caste system is stalling our collective effort. For in the presence of marginalization and inequalities, social cohesion and communal growth will remain figments of our overactive imagination.

We need them to complete this circle because we aren’t strong enough as a unit in their absence, despite the lies we tell ourselves, we aren’t strong enough. Call them by their names, remind them of who and whose they are. Provide more food and shelter, educational opportunities, jobs, fellowships, and apprenticeships. Hold up torches as they navigate their journey from experiences they didn’t choose to the proverbial better days. Stand up in unity and restore the good name of diplomacy. Actively work towards integrating this marginalized group into different parts of society. Show respect and demonstrate acts of kindness even though they may have nothing to their name except the hope of a better tomorrow.

Remember, they are first humans, with hearts that ache under the weight of what should have been. We must let them know that although we may not fully understand the scale of this problem, they are heard, they are loved, they are accepted and they are wanted.