Victims – Episode 14
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
Ukwuoma increased her pace as she saw someone that looked like her, on all fours crawling and scavenging the debris.
Ukwuoma started running towards the ruins as military men started pushing the scavengers of flesh and bones away; ‘securing the crime scene ’ they call it in the movies
Her eyes caught a woman carrying the head of who was supposed to be her husband;
“Dim ka anyi na nu o…
Ka anyi naba nu banyi biko nu” the woman soliloquized
Two military men were already holding Ifeoluwa, trying to pull her up and drag her out of the debris, but the girl suddenly developed the strength of hundred warriors, she stayed rooted on her fours, shoving anyone that tried to hold her;
“Abraham… Aby… Aby where are you? I think I have your leg where is your head?…” she was picking and dropping things as if she was picking the body parts of her little brother.
The sadness that came upon Ukwuoma grew from her belly, it shoot through her bones and like a rushing air it escaped through her mouth like a sob as she came close to the girl,
“I can sew him together… part by part with mama’s needle and thread…, he would become a boy with no eyes if I don’t find his eyes…” Ifeoluwa dug deeper into the debris, talking incoherently to herself
“Madam take her out of here, there is nothing left here for anyone to find”
Some military men helped her to pull the girl up and walked them out of the scene, with her face mired with dirt, her cloths torn and her skin bruised, Ifeoluwa kept looking back and muttering incoherent words to herself.
The camp was in chaos, families were seen carrying pitiable sacks of belongings and headed towards the gate but where not giving access to leave, angry voices raised, protesting their desire to leave.
Mariam was outside when they got back;
“I heard the blast, I was worried when I ran home and didn’t see you”
On seeing the girl with Ukwuoma and the look on their faces, Miriam said no more, she took the girl from her and they walked inside the house.
Ukwuoma took the girl to the bathroom, Ife stood motionless, gazing on the mirror without blinking. As Ukwuoma ran the soap on her, her bruises gave her no pain.
Mariam sedated the girl and dress her wounds;
“Who did she lose?” Miriam asked Ukwuoma
“Her only brother”
Both women were silence for some time; then Mariam stood straight and looked Ukwuoma in the face;
“You… who did you lose?”
Ukwuoma didn’t answer; she looked at the woman and walked toward the window
“The question would have been…what did I see?” Ukwuoma said solemnly
“I saw my children dancing around me without limbs, I saw them…those men drinking blood from my husband skull, I saw…I saw… Abraham with stitches like a patched cloth, I saw…”
When Mariam held her hand, she broke into wailing and embraced the old woman.
“Report getting to us now said there has been a bomb explosion at the Internally Displaced People’s camp in the 3rd Armoured Division Barracks, Bassa, Jos.
The report says that the bomb exploded when the State Governor’s wife was on a visit to the Victims of the Jos Crisis who are taking refuge in the Barrack.
Our correspondent reported that the suicide bomber set off the bomb before the military could intercept her, killing more than twelve persons and injuring about ten.
Meanwhile, Her Excellency has been reported safe…”
Imam Husayn switched off his radio and rested his back on his chair;
“Typical of them to report less casualties” he muttered
Ishmila had told him that so far, the military has counted thirty six dead bodies, excluding those blown to pieces.
“As-salamu alaikum ” he greeted
“What is going on? This bombing story, do you know anything about it” the voice from the other end bellowed angrily
“Major Usman, I am as surprised as you when I heard the news” Husayn said piously
“Then talk to your boys, call them, someone is trying to make me look bad! I did my bidding when you approached me, I aided you and your boys during the riot, I delayed my men and gave My Superiors false reports, I deserve better than bombing my own territory!” Major General Usman sounded like a sinking man
“Major please, I am an honorable man and I keep my words, Allah forbids that I repay your kindness with evil” Husayn sounded convincing
“Please Imam, help me ask your boys, fish out who did this, I will try my best to delay actions from my command but please do something, this is a slap on the military”
“I will do all I have to, insha’allah”
The line went dead and another call came through;
“As-salamu alaikum ” Husayn greeted pretentiously
“Wa-Alaikum s-Salam ” Senator Kazeem replied
“Have you read the papers? The news of the explosion is everywhere” the senator said
“Yes, I don’t know what to say…” Imam Husayn replied
“Sir, did you…did you have a hand in it?” the senator asked, being careful not to offend the Imam
“Don’t insult me senator, I gave you my word the last time you came here and I meant it, I heard about the bombing this morning just like you” Husayn feigned anger
“I am so sorry Sir; I was only worried, because my party paid your boys well to back down. I am so sorry my lord…”
“Only Allah is supreme, I am only his servant” Husayn cut in piously
“True…True sir…thank you sir, meanwhile my party has a gift for you, we will get it across to you so you can cater for your faithfuls” Senator Kazeem said
“Your gifts to Allah will be appreciated senator”
The line went dead and the Imam gave a ghost of a smile.
He would no longer find it difficult to pay for his shipments; with these money gifts coming, he could easily pay for more arms.
He wished he could speak to Yusuf now, but the big man has not called him since the operation, and his line has been off.
“Let me allow him to mourn his wife” he muttered
He had wanted the boy to feel the pain of losing someone dear. After he lost his son, which was Yusuf’s responsibility, his heart has been filled with vengeance.
“I am sorry Uncle, I was taking care of the other operation, I dint know Ahmani didn’t bring the boy until it was too late” Yusuf had pleaded
“You were his uncle Yusuf, you were supposed to secure him for me, I gave you that responsibility and you failed me” The Imam had bellowed angrily
“I am sorry Uncle, I will continue to look for him…”
“He was all I have to take over from me…you let him die out there!” he had accused Yusuf
Sorry was not enough, the boy never came back and so did his thirst for vengeance grow.
He was almost afraid when yusuf had challenged him on the plan to use Fatima as a vessel for the bombing, he thought he has lost grip on the boy, quoting few passages of the Quran had help calm the boy down.
“I thought it would be easy to convince him, which means I have more work to do on him before he would be ready to head the sect” Husayn thought.
“What are you doing here” Mallam Kabiru asked
Standing in front of him as he opened the door was his son whom he has not heard from for the past Nine years.
“Baba…I hope I can still call you that” Yusuf looked at his father straight in the face
The old man gave him space to walk into the sitting room, littered with books
“You still read” Yusuf said, his eyes roamed the place and rested on a book on the shelf ‘the Essential Rumi’. He walked towards the shelf, picked the book and flipped through the leaves; his father’s eyes followed him.
“You kept it” he referred to the book
“Was I supposed to throw it away?”
He pulled out a little picture of his mother’s smiling face from the book. It was a gift from his mother when he celebrated his birthday before
she died, he placed the picture carefully inside the book and returned the book back to the shelf.
“Why are you here?” His father asked him again
“I came to see your face” Yusuf answered
He was a broken man, full of grief and pain, but he would not admit before his father how broken he was.
“I came to see if you are feeling well, it’s obvious you are doing well for yourself” Yusuf said as he made towards the door
“How is your new wife?” his father halted him with that question
“I heard you got married to a new girl… how is she?”
Mallam Kabiru heard about the woman, he also heard about the explosion and her death,
“He made you do it” it was a statement
“I don’t know what you are talking about” Yusuf was uncomfortable with the conversation
“He talked you into blowing up your own wife” The old Man continued
“Allah took her! She was a vessel to Allah!” Yusuf shouted back at his father
“Was that what he told you? Same thing he told your mother and made her die for nothing ‘Allah want your service ’ he had said to your mother” Mallam said
“You are lying Baba, lies! You couldn’t save mother when she was caught with guns, you left her to die!”
“Your mother shot herself before I could get to her; he made her swore she would die for Allah instead of exposing him”
“You are weak Baba! Just like Grandfather! Uncle Husayn fights for Allah while you hide like a coward here, reading your books!” Yusuf bellowed
“Allah fights for himself! Husayn fights for his greed and hatred! He is the son of Iblis, Shaitan is his father not Allah!” Mallam Kabiru shouted
The tension between the two men was very hot, Yusuf removed his cap, wiped his head and put back the cap
“Your grandfather was a good man, he was nothing like Husayn” Mallam Kabiru said
“Grandfather couldn’t get followers for Allah with his message of peace and love, he couldn’t control the government, he couldn’t even rule his household” Yusuf said with spite
“Yet you loved him”
“I am loyal to Uncle Husayn and Allah now”
“So why are you here?”
The silence was loud, their heartbeats were audible.
“I found the boy”
His father’s eyes widened in realization
“You found Husayn’s son?” Mallam asked
“Yes…in the camp, he calls another woman ‘Mama’” Yusuf said
“What do you want to do now?”
“I don’t know…I have not figured anything out yet…everything happened so fast I couldn’t even get the boy” Yusuf said
“Does Husayn know about this?”
“That is why you came” It was a statement which took Yusuf time to answer
“Yes…No…part of it”
“Do the right thing son”
As he took a taxi back to his house, he kept wondering what the right thing was.
To be continued
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