Victims – Episode 11
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
The ray of the morning sun permeated through her eye lids and announced the brake of dawn to her eyeballs. She stretched and almost fell off the plain old couch that served as her bed the previous night.
At least it was better than the mat at the camp, which had thorn-like grasses pricking their skins from the tinny hole in it.
She yawned again and sat up from the chair. She had changed her old wrapper to another one, though not new but it was washed and smelt nice.
There was an old television covered with white lacy piece of cloth and an old radio by the left side of the wall closed to the entrance.
A stack of radio taps, she could see “Redemption song” by Bob Marley on top of other taps, and an old table fan that the neck seemed to be broken, though held together with a cord; the Fan reminded her of her Secondary school English Teacher who also taught them both Igbo and French.
Her neck was so thin while her head was as large as her mother’s big round Tray used for peeling hand melon. Sometimes she feared that the teacher’s neck would break out of the heaviness of her head, and the way she ducked the head when she tried to teach them French using Igbo language;
“coman Tapel Tu! Ngwa kwuo nu ya a!” and the children would respond. Non of them learnt any other French word except ‘ Coman Tapel Tu ’
“Mummy!” the boy screamed and ran to her. She held him so tight as if the boy might disappear if she let go.
“He is looking so good ma, thank you so much” she said to the woman.
“I am glad I could save him…” the woman sat on the couch closed to hers’
With Hijab on her head and covering part of her forehead and her neck, Ukwuoma could see only her face.
“Why did you help me” Ukwuoma asked
“Allah wants us to offer help to those in need, and I have been doing this since my husband died of gunshot eighteen years ago…”
Ukwuoma followed her gaze to the photograph on the wall;
“He was a good man, a good husband and father to us, he would have wanted me to do this so…”
“Eighteen years without your husband? Where are your children?”
The woman shook her head in sadness;
“Lost them too…”
“What do you mean?” Ukwuoma asked adjusting her hold on Ogugua who was wiggling to set himself free from his mother.
“…lost them to the White Man’s country, their father had wanted them to go to school abroad, that was why I had to sell almost everything he had, I used his gratuity and my savings to sent them to London for their University Education… they never came back, I only speak with them on phone once in a long while though, but the life of the white Man had stolen them from me… I now leave everyday hoping they would locate my grave whenever they would decide to come back after my death”
Ukwuoma remembered Nwankwo’s two sons whom were sent to Canada to study Marin Engineering and Medicine respectively. Their Mother told everyone that cared to listen, about how rich and famous her children would be when they would come back, she kept giving testimonies in women’s meeting about her children abroad, until other women started murmuring whenever she stood up,
The boys came back after twelve years, one with tattered dreadlocks and a guitar, and the other with only pictures of fountains on the street of Canada and white women. Mayor and chuks were their names. Their parents relocated to the village when they couldn’t bear the shame and mockery.
“You can call me Mariam… I would want you to stay with me… you and your son…” the old woman observed Ukwuoma keenly
“I don’t know… that is a good offer, especially for my son…”
“Think about it, I am going to work now at the hospital… I can even get something for you to do, you sound educated and I know you can be put to use”
Mariam stood up, showed mother and son the kitchen and closed the door behind her as she walked away.
Ukwuoma sank on the couch and wept again, she didn’t know what it meant to be comfortable any longer, she didn’t want to get used to this life with this woman, what would happen to her if Mariam would get tired of her and her son and ask them to leave?
She wept the more as she remembered the young girl and her brother Abraham, what would become of them? What would that young Army Officer subject her to, who would save her in times of trouble?
Ogugua couldn’t tell why his mother was sobbing, but he sat by her feet and cried too.
The girl was jittery. She sat beside her brother, under the tree Ukwuoma used as her resting place, with her shaky hands on her knees, she waited for the woman who had become like a mother to her.
She had gone straight to the woman’s tent and met her and her son absent;
“Her son dey sick o, she no go come back today na tomorrow she go come back” her fat neighbor had said to her
“Na why you dey find am? Make you tell me na, I fit helep you?”
How would she tell anyone what she did? How would she say that she killed an army officer? Would they believe her if she told them the reason why she had to hit him with a big stone from the back?
She hadn’t thought of the act until she saw him from afar, she saw how he spat on the cat and how he went to ease himself, she saw the shadow of his long joystick on the wall, which was when rage enveloped her.
She knew what he wanted to do to her, he had whispered those ugly words in her ears before;
“I want to drag your hair till you cry in pain…I will tie you up, strip you Unclad and flog your buttocks until they turn red… you are my slave and I will treat you like one…”
Those words had hunted her, scared her and echoed in her mind;
“Have you been bleeped from behind before? Them don Bleep your nyash before?” he had asked her roughly the night his friend raped her
“I will do it to you, I wan stretch you nyash, until you go begging shout, I know say you go like am…”
Like the cruel hiss of an old serpent, he had whispered those words loudly in her ears.
She had thought that hitting him from behind was her chance of escaping that night, but when she didn’t hear his scream or his footsteps after hers, she turned back and found him lying on his own blood, unconscious.
“I killed him! I killed him” she had muttered throughout the night as she rocked herself back and forth like a deranged girl.
The guilt was screaming loud around her and she had wanted to talk to Ukwuoma, but as she sat under that tree, her eyes roaming like a thief who was afraid of being caught, he patient was thinning out.
Abdul ended the call and dropped his phone on top of his bed. His first wife had gone to see her mother, she was called yesterday that her mother was sick so he dropped her off that morning with his uncle’s red Toyota Camry.
He walked toward the window and slid the window open, his younger wife was outside with the children. The girl would be fourteen by October that year, her parents had no choice as his Uncle, the Imam was a well respected cleric and had promise the family, supplies for their basic needs.
He was intoxicated by the freshness and innocence of the girl, and had always stood by the window to get a glimpse of her every morning when she goes to school.
He had wanted her for himself, though his wife Kudirat wasn’t happy about it, she didn’t voice her disapproval, she knows he was free to marry as many wives as he could take care of.
Abdul walked towards the fridge in his room and pull out a bottle of beer;
“This is one sin I have not conquered” he murmured to himself as he opened the drink with his teeth.
He was sure his uncle didn’t know that he drinks alcohol, just as he didn’t know that he had masturbated with the image of the girl every night before he finally married her.
He smiled again and took another gulp from the bottle. Everything seemed to be going on well for him, his uncle had giving him a delicate responsibility and had promise him a promotion in their sect if he bring results.
“Insha’allah , the guns will arrive from Saudi-Arabia in a months’ time we will start training the new members”
His uncle was already pleased with him;
“Allahu Akbar ” Abdul muttered with satisfaction to his progress so far.
“She wan make you stay with am for this fine house? Chai! Your luck don shine oh!”
Mmesommachi sucked all the juice from the orange she was licking at one draw, she had not seen good fruits since they came into the tent, and had jumped on Mariam when she had offered the oranges to her, almost decapitating the poor woman’s arm.
“I am scared still…” Ukwuoma said, her eyes watching Ogugua like a hawk
“Watin? Why you dey fear?” Mmesomachi looked at her sharply
“My friend I have lost the taste of comfort, this looks like a dream that may turn to a nightmare, what if we get used to it and…and…”
“Mtcheeeewwww” Mmesomachi gave her friend a sting look and resumed her battle with the orange. She turned the orange inside out and chews the roughage like a camel,
“I no no the English way you dey speak, watin I know be say… your God don answer you, if you like make you come back follow us dey suffer” she spat out few orange seeds and continued;
“Me sef, I don fix myself somewhere o, I don follow those women way dey cook for us, at least me and my children don sure say we go dey chop better food for here” she smiled with pride
“You mean am? Ah ah my friend, that one good o…” Ukwuoma commented
“Yes na, I been tell that my yeye husband say me go make am for this place, make him no dey do shakara with army man bread and sardine for me, now him don see am…” she laughed throatily
“I don start sef, na yesterday I start, na so the yeye man come back two nights ago, dey look me like rat way them pour hot water, I hear say the army woman don dey follow that fine bobo way dey for the other Tent, so my husband man no get were him dey sleep again, I no even answer am”
Okechukwu had come back in the night, it was said that he had been busy running errands for his Military mistress only to come back to her house that same evening to be welcomed with the loud moaning of his mistress and the Unclad butt of the young man humping her like his life depended on it.
He had wanted to shout but had swallowed his anger at the sight of the gun that hung on the wall. He had stood there watching and taking in the entire scene like a child whose cookies were taken, and threatened with ‘Koboko’ if he said ‘pim’. He had walked out of the one Room apartment and had sat on the corridor like a subdued wife waiting for her Man to call her back, but the two has remained inside the room till night came upon him like a wicked witch, and his military mistress’s laughter trailed him down to where his wife await his return with mockery.
Ukwuoma laughed as she wondered how easy it was for Mmesomachi to talk about sex so freely without feeling about it, like her Grandmother
would call the female private part “ Otu” while her mother would say “ihe ijiri buru nwanyi (what made you a woman)” and would even look away while saying it.
She had always laughed within her whenever her mother struggled to use a more sinless word instead of calling ‘ v*****’ even when she was already in the university.
The two women chatted about everything and everyone in the Tent, like Jonah who stole some banana from military plantation and was stripped Unclad and flogged openly, his wife who eat the bananas with him couldn’t watch and ran away in shame, the mother lost a child and had kept every other person awake with loud wailing till the child walked in with a chunk of meat after two days. The new Tent supervisor who would always use big grammer, ‘poo men’ and ‘bleeping idiots’ to address them.
“the governor wife go come for here tomorrow, them they clean all the nyama-nyama way dey for all the tent, they repair the old canopy them, even the toilet side sef…hmmm… this people eh, them wan show the governor wife say them they do well…” Mmesomachi added with a shrug
“Na so na… I go come make I hear watin the governor wife wan talk… ehem… please my friend, I get one girl way I been wan know how she dey, she na small girl way her breast just dey comat small, she dark…”
“She get open teeth?” Mmesomachi asked
“Yes, she get small brother way dey always follow am”
“Ehe… she bin come look for you that day way you comot o, she dey worried,but she no gree tell me why she dey fine you… I tell am say you no dey…”
“I need to see her, she must be in trouble and is looking for me” Ukwuoka said with worries written on her face
“watin happen? Why she go be in trouble?”
“I don’t know but I am so worried about her, something fit done happen to her…”
“I no understand why you go dey break your head for another person matter for here, she be your daughter abi your pikin? You never even care for yourself and this one here finish, na em you want carry another person join body”
“My friend… you no go understand, e get as that girl matter be…”
“Okay o, make you go fine her now, me I no go fit carry anybody come for here, make this woman way they helep you come vex say you dey carry plenty people come her house”
The two women were silence for a while, both consumed in her own thought, the old clock on the wall broke into their thoughts as it stroke eleven in the morning, Ukwuoma observed a wall gecko moved fast to grab a cockroach.
“This boy…” Mmesoma said
“Which boy?” Ukwuoma asked
Mmesomachi pushed her head forward towards Ogugua;
“Watin happen to him papa?”
Ukwuoma was taken by surprise, she wasn’t expecting that question from Mmesomachi, she knew a time would come when she would be forced to tell her story to someone, but not now, not like this, not when the wounds are still fresh,
“Him Papa na Hausa?” Mmesomachi asked again
“Why you ask?”
“Him resemble them, you no look am well? This pikin no resemble you at all, him resemble Hausa boy…”
Ukwuoma looked away from Mmesomachi and rested her eyes on her son Ogugua, what she saw scared her, as the boy looked back at her, she realized…
Today would have been the boy’s birthday, his son Umaru would have been four years today, but he had lost him with his young wife on the day of the major attack.
“A small price to pay for Allah’s command” Imam Husayn thought
He rose from his bed, walked towards the backyard and splashed water on his face from his kettle;
“As-salamu alaikum” his first wife, Hajiah Khadija greeted him with a bow,
“Wa-Alaikum s-Salam” he responded to her with a wave of hand
Khadija has been with him for twenty six years now, she came into his house when she was twelve, and she had given him four beautiful girls, who were studying in London.
He washed his hands, feet, arms and legs, gaggled with water and spat it out before walking back into his room to perform the ‘Maghrib’
He chose to stay at home today, probably in remembrance of the Son he lost.
“He would have been a strong one, I would have raised him to take over when I am gone” a sudden agony enveloped him
Fatima, his young wife had been a stubborn woman who knew nothing about values and laws. She had made friends with loud women, and had challenged him with her education.
He thought he could tame her but realized when it was too late that she was wild and dangerous especially to the sect.
“They are human’s ‘ mijina ’ Allah did not command us to take lives!” she had said to him when she caught him making that call for his boys go ahead with the riot.
He had slapped her face when she had threatened to go to the police, and had ordered her to be locked up till he was satisfied, but when he heard that she had escaped, he had ordered Yusuf to find her and kill her.
Not that he was scared of her threat, but she was beginning to sound like his own mother;
“Husayn, Allah loves those who love one another” his mother would say to him
And his father the late Imam would always quote the Quran;
“You will not enter paradise until you have faith;
And you will complete your faith till you love one another.”
“Baba was a weak man, he would have taken this state and make men tremble before him” he muttered angrily
He spread his mat, stood on it and raised his open hands to his shoulder level
“Allahu Akbar ” he proclaimed before crossing his right arms on the chest.
He couldn’t concentrate and he knew why; his son’s picture that hung on the wall caught his eyes, he held the boys gaze as it looked at him.
Khadijah his wife, had told him to remove the picture from his room as it would always make him bitter, but he had chosen to leave it,
Yusuf had returned to him with the news of his wife’s death, but his son was nowhere to be found.
“I didn’t kill her myself”
He had assigned someone else to track the woman with the baby and kill her, and didn’t remember to instruct the person to grab the boy and bring him to the mosque as instructed by the Imam.
He didn’t mourn his son properly, he was busy giving instructions and assigning responsibility, but today he was consumed with grief and had refused to eat anything.
There was a knock on his door;
“Who is that?” he asked
“Ku shigo (come in)”
Husayn left his praying Mat to meet nephew.
“The Governor’s wife is coming to the Barracks tomorrow” Ishmila said
“Then it will be the perfect moment to try one of the bombs that was brought in this morning”
The young man with the military Uniform looked at him with bit confusion;
“I thought we are supposed to call off the riot, the senator and his people had fulfilled their promise”
“They are done with us, but we are not done with them. This is not a riot my young man, it is a course, a Jihad, our duties to force people to live according to our Allah” Husayn massaged his beards and sat down
“But the military base? There are lots of people taking refuge their…”
Imam Husayn observed the officer for a while, tilting his head to the left;
“Your heart is very weak young man… give the bomb to Yusuf, he knows what to do, I have already briefed him”
Husayn watched him leave and smiled to himself. Uhammad al-Baqir, his mentor in Pakistan would be proud of him, soon he would subject Nigeria to it knee.
Yusuf lay awake gazing at the ceiling. For the first in his close relationship with his Uncle, the Imam, he had fear grip him.
What was required of him was too much for him to do, was Allah testing him like his uncle said, or was it his uncle putting his faithfulness to test;
“Allah needs her and you can not reject Allah’s request” his uncle had said
How he had wanted to fight the man, how he wanted to look him in the eyes and tell him to go to hell, but the Imam had a way of intimidating him.
“She is the vessel Yusuf, that was why Allah brought her to you as a wife, tomorrow at 11 am, she would carry the bomb into the IDP camp and perform her duty to Allah, our men are on ground to give her safe entry” his uncle had said
“Shouldn’t Allah chose another person, please Uncle, chose another person…I love Fatima…”
“Love is for the weak, and besides, ‘Jannah ’ awaits her, and you too for this great sacrifice…don’t forget that”
He couldn’t argue further, his Uncle wasn’t expecting him to do so, so he left his uncle’s house with the burden of his wife’s death, her body blew in pieces.
He had made love to Fatima that night like a beast, that would be the last time he would have her before she would be gone.
He had cried as they made love, he didn’t know how much he loved her till now
“Mijina, you are crying” Fatima had asked him as he bathed her young breast with his tears
“eh…” he couldn’t explain further
She had hold him and had run her fingers on his head, he knew she was happy, they had not had sex like that before, he had not giving her the luxury of lying with him this longer after sex.
He sat up from his bed and contemplated running away that night with Fatima,
“That would be Useless” he shook his head.
His uncle knew he may contemplate that and had set two other men to watch him. He wouldn’t go far before they would be caught.
To be continued
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