Words failed me this morning. This International Women’s Day! American Gospel artist Wayne Watson’s ‘Home-free’ is playing in my head. It looks like I just entered the same place he was when the first line of the song came to him many years ago. “I’m trying hard not to think you unkind, but Heavenly Father, you know my heart, surely you can read my mind, good people underneath a sea of grief. Some get up and walk away; some find ultimate relief…”
How do I wrap my head around the heartbreaking story of what happened to the young lady named Oluwabamise Ayanwole on the evening of 26th February after she boarded a BRT bus heading to Oshodi from the Ajah area of Lagos? Oluwabamise is a Yoruba word meaning, “God helped me do it.” That was the name the parents of the 22-year-old Oluwabamise gave her many years ago. While we may not know how God specifically helped her parents for them to give their daughter such a name, it is enough that they gave her a name that acknowledged the help of the Almighty God. Yet she is no more. Some persons still at large, believed that murdering her and using her body parts would help them break whatever biases stood between them and the kind of life they believe they ought to live!
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘breaking the bias.’ While the emphasis may differ for individuals and groups marking the special day, the life of Oluwabamise Ayanwole, who was abducted inside a BRT bus, and her dead body reportedly identified by her relations a few days ago, definitely offer us some elements by which we may reflect on the theme of this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day.
She lived in Sango Ota but worked in the Ajah area of Lagos. By keeping up her daily commute from one far side of town to another side, she broke the bias underpinning whatever institutional inertia that directly or indirectly enables the nasty, depressing, irritating and debilitating Lagos traffic for the many times she did the rounds.
She broke the bias that enables the indignities associated with unemployment! She could have found excuses and used them as crutches instead she found a job for her hands. She worked with her hands! As a fashion designer, she was in her little corner, contributing to the beauty in our world before some people chose to break our hearts by first breaking hers before violating her body.
She was a smart young lady. When she sensed danger, she acted smartly and quickly reached out to her friend using her phone and breaking the bias of indecision in the first place. It was smart thinking. When her suspicions grew, she sent a video of the inside of the BRT bus to her friend. In the process, she broke the bias and condition that favours the absence of useful leads for the police. By those simple actions, she left a very useful trail for those who will track her killers. And lastly, she asked for help. Her last reported message was ‘Please pray for me.” While her assailants bid their time, she managed to reach out. She broke the bias of conspiratorial silence, distance and helplessness! The fact that she asked others to pray for her means she must have prayed for herself, even if weakly or with doubt! May God rest her soul!
She was cut short in her youth, her murderers breaking her away from her family and the rest of humanity. Her murderers probably have television sets and android phones and may have seen some reactions following her death but that is not the real story inside the story. These murderers must have seen, read about and heard of cases similar to Oluwabamise’s before they embarked on their wicked mission but those cases did not deter them. That also, is not the real story inside the story. The real story inside the story is that while there is widespread condemnation of her abduction and murder, the sad fact is that some persons are at this moment perfecting plans to embark on a similar mission! They have yielded their faculties to the one seeking whom to devour! But they do not, and will not have the last laugh, word or joy. The Ultimate Breaker of debilitating Biases will see to that.
While we wait in hope and continue to pray for a better world, we send our warm regards to women everywhere!