(About Boko Haram insurgency)
Moses Opara Chibueze
It was a harmattan season, everywhere was dusty and cold as tension occupied the sky. Aisha woke up at the middle of the night to see her mother panting like someone whose heart would rip off the next minute. She had not had sufficient sleep for the past one week. Her thoughts had been unstable, she would think of her late husband who was killed in an ambush by the rebels. And her children Aisha and Abdullahi who were 10 and 7 years of age. She was afraid not to lose them to the cold hands of death. The cloud was filled with blood and sorrow, the village was quiet and also is the smallest among all other villages. The villagers were only left with their fearful voices to fend for themselves in the dark. Many of them were too afraid to wash their pants of urine. Many had an anaemia of doubt. The rebels had attacked a village close to theirs and had sent a letter to their village head that they would come for them next.
It was 3am, they heard screams of gunshots and bombs far away. “Mother, have they come to send us to the dust” Aisha said with fear written all over her face. Abdul was still sleeping, curled like a hopeless child on a hopeless raffia mat on the floor. They have come to get us Aisha, wake your brother let us run for safety. She went to knock at her widow friend’s door, mama Jamil whose only child was killed by the rebels on his way to Manta to write his Jamb examination. She woke up confused and didn’t know what to do. The gunshots were drawing nearer. The villagers had woken up from their misplaced dreams to find the nearest escape root to save their lives. Some ran into the dark forest while some were still confused of what to do. Aisha, woke Abdul up and gave him a worn out clothe to put on his torn short. While she dressed up too. Her mother came in and took some items they would need on their way. They set out for escape through a thick forest.
The rebels came in covered robes chanting the name of their god. Some are very young and some old. They were happily shooting and destroying things.
The village was burnt down and nothing was speared. Some people were beheaded while others who couldn’t escape were burnt alive. Before the military men could reach the village. The rebels had fled with the things they looted from the villagers. Aisha, was clouded with thoughts too heavy for her mind. She held her mother’s right hand while Abdullahi held her left hand and was walking with rented steps. Mama Jamil looked weak, she sat down panting hoping the forest will be in their favour. Many thoughts rush through her mind. She imagined the rebels coming towards them, her home and what is ahead of them. “they preach peace, but are against it. What kind of life is this?” mama Jamil said with sadness written all over her face.
The sun had started setting on the lips of the west. They had to run fast so that the night won’t rest on their hearts. Abdullahi broke down and started crying. The cause of his tears no one knew. Aisha embraced him and brought out some piece of leftover yam from her bag and gave to him. It was obvious he was very hungry. Her mother, Ralia looked at him and a drop of tears fell from her eyes. Mama Jamil sat beside a barren tree looking at them, she also broke into tears and rained ungodly causes on the rebels in her dialect. “what are they fighting for? Why are they killing the innocent? Is it for religious or political purpose or Allah sent them to kill the innocent ones? No, Allah is love and Islam is a religion of peace. I don’t k of where they got their own doctrines and who told them Allah is evil and delights in their evil acts.” she said to break the silence. Ralia could not say anything. She was busy consoling her children to be strong that everything will be fine.
It was getting dark, they were lost in the forest. They only had with them prayers to guide them through. They encountered piles of dead bodies . Some who dies as a result of hunger and some who were massacred. They were lucky that the rebels had divorced that path of the forest for another village. Aisha, spoke with a calm voice. Kakah, as she always calls her mother, look over there. She looked and saw few men in Khaki holding guns. They went closer to undress their fears and realised they were soldiers laying in ambush for the rebels. They approached them with joy and a big sigh of relief. The soldiers gave them a warm welcome and some food to eat with a place for them to sleep for the night. They didn’t want to be distracted from the ambush. Soldier Ponjul, is the commander of the troop. He is a friendly and kind man. He always wore a big laugh on his face. He raised Abdullahi up and down and asked him if he would like to be a soldier. He didn’t object to be a soldier and protect his family and country from the hands the rebels. Abdullahi asked sergeant Ponjul few questions while Aisha sat down observing the environment and was wondering how the soldiers stay up at night not minding their lives, but that of others. She broke the silence, Abdullahi had slept off. “soldier Ponjul, are you people paid well?” he laughed loud to dodge the question. She continued, “you soldiers are really giving your all” she said with a half smile on her face. “Aisha, I like your intelligence. You have shown me that their is still hope for our country. You are a child with great understanding. I didn’t take the job for he money, but for the love of my country. Some took the job for the money, to be feared and accorded with respect as uniform men, but mine is to protect and guide my country from the hands of rebels and those who don’t want peace to reign.” he paused and wiped his face with a handkerchief.
Her eyes were filled with tears, she hugged him and smiled and went to sleep.
Morning was fast to come. Sounds of birds were heard on the trees littered around the forest. All the soldiers woke up to prepare for another ambush. The rebels didn’t follow that route last night they attacked another village but were unlucky to meet a battalion of readily equipped soldiers, who deprived them from their evil plans. Sergeant Keshi, one of the soldiers woke them up to prepare for the IDP camp in the heart of the city. Other soldiers mounted with faces filled with insufficient sleep. Aisha, sat beside sergeant Ponjul in one of the vans. While Abdullahi was with his mother and Mama Jamil in another. He told her stories of the Fulani herdsmen in Bantu state. He recounted his his friends Usman and Segun were killed during a bloody gun fight with the herdsmen on a Christmas eve, and how they kill people like chickens. “How do they get their guns?” Aisha asked with pity.
“They use sophisticated weapons while we use worm out ones suffering from cold and mental kwashiorkor. We are not well equipped and provided for that is why it seems as if they are winning the battle. People don’t know how much we dedicate our lives to protect their interest. I stopped reading the newspapers because they are filled with diluted truths. At times, they will report only five soldiers died, and they are we taken care of, but we know the truth you all don’t know. You only know what they want you to know. I know I will die one day. But if I die on the battle ground, how will the country I gave my all celebrate my battalion and me? How will they care of my family and that of my battalions? I don’t expect much from life again. It is filled with sorrow and joy. We live today and tomorrow we die, what is the meaning of life?
My mother told me that the rebels killed my father with some of his friends. Aisha looked away as tears clouded her eyes. “Little Aisha, you will grow up to become a woman one day. Your education is very important, don’t allow anyone take it away from you. You and your family will be fine at the IDP camp. Just make sure you take good care of your mother and brother. We shall see again maybe in heaven.” Sergent Ponjul said with a calm voice and embraced her. The van halted at the IDP camp. Some young soldiers guiding the camp stood at attention as Sergent Ponjul alighted. He released them and had a chit chat with them. He would be living soon with his troops for another location. There were many people there, some were half mad, confused, sorrowful, joyful and lost. The camp was filled with mixed emotions. Ralia and mama Jamil were a bit relieved. They were taken to one of the rooms in the camp, it was tattered, dirty and filled with starvation. Ralia asked one of the women how they feed and have their bathe. She replied, with mock smiles. We eat twice a day and if you don’t go early you will starve all day. For bathing, we struggle. It is survival for the fittest.
Aisha, sat beside a small boy who looked sick and unhealthy as a result of malnutrition. She missed home and its warmth. She thought of what Sergent Ponjul told her, not to allow anything take away her education. She smiled and prayed for him hoping one day she will make him proud. She brought out a pen and a torn book from her bag and write down her experience in the forest and how God helped them. She looked at her mother and brother who some women to get their lunch. She sighed and smiled. She thought of the rebels and why they derived joy in killing people.
“If they uphold religion and tribe with zeal
Let them also uphold lives
For where love and peace ate lost
Religion and tribe are only but walking corpse”
She wrote down these lines and smiled at the small boy looking at her with seriousness. She was left with her dreams and hope to fend for themselves. She knew tomorrow will be better and nothing will take away her education. She walked slowly, to catch up with her mother and brother. The cloud was filled with groaning and horror. Every day, brings it own fears and hope.
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