Your Brief Bio:
My name is Rosemary Okafor. i was born on the 1st of may 1987, at Aba Abia state Nigeria, got my National Diploma in Library Science , from Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State. and my Bsc in Mass Communication from Rivers State University of Science and Technology Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. I write for social media, with non of my works published yet. am married and is presently residing in Rivers State Nigeria.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
This is a historical story, coined from one of the Major the Nigerian religious crisis. our story teller is an Ant, while the Story centers on a woman 'Ukwuoma'. her agony, pains and hard decisions as she journey through the story throws light on the battles within even in time of pain and nothingness.
as her part crosses with the child she later named 'Ogugua' with she turn away from this chance of living again? or will she lay down the burden in her heart to embrace this child?
I realize that we are not always as the same all our life time
People change, our believes…our convictions, our faith
Everything we hold dear and have learnt over the years
The cloud gets dark at some point
The storm comes thundering down
And our walls, comforts, faith and almost everything come crashing
We question even our very existence
Life is a baggage
Sometimes we get sandwiches from them as we take the journey
And sometimes, it is filled with stones too heavy to lift
But we will have to move on with it…
People do change, but not because they want to change
But because their baggage toughens or weakens them
Turning them to either monsters or saints…
Or even both, one hidden inside the other.
They say Humans should learn from us, the Ants
But there are so much for me to learn from this Human
I would have love to tell this story personally, but I would rather let the story tell itself
And watch, laugh and cry when the need arises
So how did it start?
Ok here it goes…
WE WERE VICTIMS
Jos, Nigeria 1998.
The city woke up to a violent crisis. Some called it religious crises, but to Ukwuoma, it was horror. Sounds of guns, dark smokes that covered the sky as men and beast burn in anguish, religious chants from young men intoxicated by anger and thirst for blood, pandemonium as victims tried to escape, running blindly and colliding with each other. Those militants,they were everywhere, butchering and hacking their victims into pieces.
Fanatics have decided to rid the state of some infidels.
‘‘Mama Okey!!!” She heard Uwa (Mama) Musa calling her while banging on the door ‘‘Mama Okey, open o. Abeg time no dey o, you still dey sleep you wan die?” she rushed to the door and Uwa Musa let herself in with a force that nearly pushed her down.
‘‘Mama Okey, Wey the sidren (children) dey? oya bring them make Una begin go.” Ukwuoma (Mama Okey) was more confused ‘‘go where? What is happening?” she asked Uwa Musa who has already gone to the bedroom to gather the children. She came back to the sitting room with Okey and Onyema, who were sleeping before she roughly lifted them from the bed. The seriousness in her face told Ukwuoma that something was not right ‘‘Mama Okey, u no no weti dey happen? abeg no dey ask question, oya make we see weda we go still find road cross you and the sidren go army barrack”
‘‘ what of my husband? He is not yet back from the clinic” ukwuoma answered
‘‘ ah Mama Okey! Dokita go find em way o, make we go barrack with this sidren first then u fit call Dokita your husband”
‘‘ Okechukwu please bring down that box On top of…..”
‘‘Ah! Inyamiri!! abeg no pack anything o, this people fit meet us here o” Uwa musa cut
disaster met them immediately, there was a hard bang at the door with a force that broke the door letting in some group of blood thirsty looking men, holding a half dead papa Okey with one of his hands and legs amputated while some of the young men were chanting something in Arabic holding the amputated limbs.
‘‘Way dokita (Doctor) woman!” one of the men asked. His dark face smeared with blood, with his teeth darkened probably out of tobacco, and some part of the front teeth already gone
‘‘I say way dokita woman!!” he shouted again.
‘‘Daddy” Okey screamed, running towards his daddy, like in horror movies, Okechukwu’s head Rolled on the floor, back to her mother, as one of the men removed the head of the little boy with just one swing. The head stopped exactly in front of her with her son’s eyes wide open staring at her and his mouth moved as if he was calling her ‘mummy’.
She went cold like a statue with no tears or voice left in her. She was yet to understand what was happening to her, when Onyema, who was now crying and trying to hide behind her was dragged by one of the men, she fought for her son not to be taking like the other, she cried and kicked like a wounded tigress but how could she overpower them, with the horror of seeing her husband in their clutch, like a slaughtered pork samples in a meat store, and the lifeless head and limbs of her son, a deafening slap on her face, gave her a temporal relief, and sent her to total darkness.
Like solders sharing the spoils of war, they took turn to pleasure themselves in her weakness, her womanhood abused beyond mercy.
Not knowing how long she had been on the floor in the pool of the blood and body parts of her loved ones, Ukwuoma stared, at first she thought it was all a nightmare, then stabs of pain jolted her back to reality, she sat up and her eyes roamed around what used to be her sitting room, and the pictures of her dead family members came back to her, their body parts scattered like animals on an ancient Egyptian sacrificial alter ready for Ra, the sun god. It all came back to her, the pain, the sorrow and the tears that refused to flow, the thick smell of blood, filled the room. She sobbed, not like any other sob, but a bitter groan.
Uwa Musa was no longer there, when did she leave? Or did they kill her too? She cannot tell, not that it matters now.
In as much as she wanted to mourn her own, she decided to leave the dead behind and move on, carrying only their memories with her, she staggered out of the room with almost nothing as cloth, she moving out like a ghost in the street. bodies lying on top of each other. headless, amputated, hacked. lost children, crying and calling “mother”, women screaming the names of their children and husbands.
That was how she met him, Oguguo (as she later named him) he was standing beside the body of a dead woman crying, with no cloth on and mucus running down his nose. Buried in her own grief, she took no notice of him at first, she kept walking, but as she walked, she could hear the cry of a child trailing her, yet she kept walking without looking back, following the movement of others towards a destination she knew not. “Madam, carry this pikin (babe) for hand, you wan make im die,” a woman shouted at her amidst the chaos.
She turned and looked at him, for the first time she actually saw him, his big owl like eyes, piercing her heart, going beyond it to plead for a chance to live. She was not sure if it was pity for the boy of consolation to her sorrowful soul, she yanked him off the ground and carried him with her, hurried her feet, with the air so thick with smoke and sting of burning flesh, she ran blindly, praying that God will at least spare her life and lead her to where she can at least be safe before thinking of the next thing to do.
3rd Armoured Division Barracks, Bassa.
They were greeted with the sight of overcrowded camp filled with people seeking refuge in the barrack.
Getting a good spot to settle with Ogugua wasn’t easy, it seems like the number people seeking refuge in the barrack was more than the available space. as she walked from corner to corner with Ogugua now sleeping in her hands, she was almost stepping on others who were lying face down like dead bodies out of hunger, some were chatting noisily about the violence going on, some still mourn the loss of their loved ones while others were looking at nothing in particular, one can hear the wailing of hungry children and the shout of frustrated mothers.
She looked around the dirty tent used as camp in search of a space, when she finally found one she made a quick move to it before another person takes it. The next challenge would be where to get a mat to lay the sleeping little boy.
‘‘nwanne i nacho ebe iga enweta ute?” (Are u looking for where to get mat?) Her Neighbor, an Igbo woman with her 2 daughters who were sleeping and a husband who was arguing loudly with another man, asked her.
‘‘eehm, yes ma” she answered
‘‘okey, I know u need a mat for yourself and your son” her neighbor commented
‘‘ yes, i was about to ask you where you got yours from”
‘‘ just get to that corner at the beginning of the camp, meet the officers in charge and tell them you just arrived”
‘‘ok, thank you so much, please help me secure this space while I get the mat” she answered before leaving.
The queue was long at the officers offices, people were already losing their patience in the hot sun and once in a while fight erupts from one point or another as people try to maneuver another in other to be in the front roll. She took her head gear off, tied the edges around her neck and allowed it to flow down her back in other to cover Ogugua who was still sleeping, a torn head gear and wrapper she got from a woman who could not bear seeing her tattered cloth, and decided to share her little cloths with her, “to say someone still look out for another amidst such chaos”, it finally got to her turn after a long wait, she registered her name and was waiting for the officer to hand the mat over to her. the officer gave her a sheepish smile, exposing a set of teeth darkened with tobacco and kola nut;
‘‘fine woman, oyibo pepe (fair like an English woman), see as your skin dey yellow, dey shine like fresh paw-paw” other officers were drawn to her by that comment, laughing and looking lustfully at her, it was not difficult to see her once beautiful face and yellow skin even though life has decided to flip an ugly side on her
‘‘ please can you give me the mat now, my boy needs to rest” she replied in disgust, wondering within her how easily she came to accept the boy on her back as “His boy”
‘‘ hei! see as you dey speak like oyibo (you speak like the whites), come make I tell you, if you need anything for this place ehe, meet me, i go give you” still smiling sheepishly
‘‘the mat sir” she requested pretending not to notice his flirtation.
She finally settled Ogugua on the mat to continue his sleep and decided to go and get the pitiable food she saw some others eating. It was already dusk before it could get to her turn to get the food.
it was The same officer who she met earlier, he looked at her, savoring her body while licking his lips
‘‘ madam abeg wait for me inside make i come give you the one way dey inside”
‘‘ Ah! oga officer, my baby fit don wake now, abeg give me the one way dey here make I go give am” Ukwuoma replied, deciding to speak in local English to avoid drawing attention to herself
‘‘madam I said you should wait ” he shouted
After waiting for a while, the officer came in and took her inside the office
‘‘ Ehe! Madam, I say make u wait make I give you your own food and provision special” the officer said as he walks close to her trying to hold her in a romantic embrace.
‘‘She wiggled herself away from his embrace.
‘‘You be pikin? You suppose know watin I want now or you no want the food again? ” asked the officer who tried to forcefully embrace her
‘‘get off me you idiot” she shouted, pushing him off
‘‘look make I tell you, for here I dey in charge o, no be only food I go give you but I go give you plenty milk for your son and new wrapper so you fit change this dirty one”
‘‘Oga, na only food I need, I no need any other thing. And no near me or I go shout make everybody hear and see waiting you dey do” she threatened
‘‘ see this woman o, i wan help you and you dey do shakara, common comot for here, you no dey serious o, go make you and your pikin die of hunger, i go push you o”
‘‘what of the food oga, please no do this to me, for my son’s sake abeg help me, just a little for my boy please…”
‘‘common shut up your mouth, which food, get out of here, when you dey serious you come” he pushed her out.
her head was light, with tears blinding her sight she walked back to the camp only to see the mat empty and Oguguo missing.
‘‘ where could he be?” she thought, the few hours that passed has brought them close so quickly, because to her he became a consolation, yet she saw her past, and her future in him.
She asked her neighbor who said she was sleeping and didn’t know when he left.
‘‘Oguguo ! O..gu..guo!!!” she called out, shouting his name aloud, her eyes roaming to and fro in search of him.
She spotted him at the far end of the camp, standing beside a family who were eating without noticing him. He was trying to grab some yam from their plate while a woman, who must be the mother, shove him off like a chick being shooed from grains, and each time she did that Oguguo cries. Ukwuoma watched the scene like a movie, her son was being treated as a common begger and she blew the only chance she could have provided food for him, she had watched and her family was snatched away from her, so helpless she was and death stole them away, and could not watch this one, the reminder of the sons she once had, taken by hunger, her tears was uncontrollable as she ran to pick him up, away from there.
‘‘Ogugua my son, i will not fold my arms and watch hunger take you away like the others” she came back to her mat pleaded with her Neighbor to look out for him and left. She ran as if something was after her, crying aloud and her breast flapping side by side with the force of her speed.
She knocked at the door of the office, the door opened and the officer opened the door as if he was waiting for her, he smiled broadly and ushered her inside the little office, with no much words to say, she removed what was remaining of her cloth and allowed it to fall on the flour. She eased herself on the floor and closed her eyes.
As he had his way, she refused to feel any physical pain, the only pain she could feel was the pain in her heart. at that moment all she could remember was that fateful day when she lost everything, her family killed before her, as he thrust deep in her, tears ran down her cheek, she opened her eyes and turn her face at the other side of the office, all she could see was the hungry face of her the boy Ogugua.
With the boy now soundly sleeping on the mat, she was left alone curling at the edge of the mat and her legs folded in front of her. Her body felt so strange, as if it belong to another, sleep was a punishment for every moment sleep tried to steal her away, the horrible pictures of her dead children and husband came calling. She allowed her eyes to roam around the tent, which is over populated with people, and the air, too stuffy and hot.
The snores of sleeping men, producing some cacophonous, frog like rhythm filled her ears, and she wonders how people could be so far from what they once called home and easily adapt to the sudden pitiable change that fate suddenly throws at them.
‘‘kpam!! ” her neighbor slapped her left arm on her leg trying to kill a mosquito that was feasting on her blood.‘‘ what ‘s the use” Ukwuoma said to herself, with many mosquitoes singing choruses in her ears as if to tell her something, where will she start from in shoving them off, and to think that these little insects are so bold, daring her for a fight ‘‘mtcheeeewwwww” she hissed.
she could hear the crying of a baby from the other end of the tent and the angry scold of the mother, ‘‘ surely ugly situations like this has a way of robbing people of love and care, leaving them with anger, resentment and frustration”. She looked at her son Ogugua again, now covered with sweats that has already soaked the cloths he is putting on, one of the cloths giving to him by an organization of Muslim women in the barrack. She removed his cloth and wiped the sweat streaming down his body like water.
‘‘What was his life before this unrest? Was he living like a prince or were they managing life? Who was his father? Was his father prominent and well to do? ” she couldn’t tell, ‘‘Religion has succeeded in striping us of all we had and hold dear and has pushed us in the cold, naked and half dead, wondering like dead men with their eyes sunk inside their heads filled with emptiness like zombies”. It doesn’t matter now who he was before, what matter is that he is now her son. Even though he may not make up for the family she lost, but she is going to love him and nurture him as if he is a thousand sons.
Tomorrow, they will leave this place. One of the women from the organization has told her in confidence that a lorry will arrive tomorrow morning with supplies and if she is lucky, she could follow the lorry back to Lagos. she knew she doesn’t need a supply, what she need is to move on, and she can do anything to achieve that, even if it means squeezing herself and this boy inside a sack at the back of the lorry.
She looked around the tent, to be sure nobody is watching, she untied the end of her wrapper and looked at the money the good woman gave her to keep in case of any difficulty.
not wanting to remember the ill and the cruelty life has treated her with this past few days, she was determined to look ahead, calling every abuse and emotional turmoil she has as a sacrifices for the only thing she now has, the only child left for her now to call son. She looked down once again at him she knew that her life now centers on him, fate has brought him to her and she won’t let go.
‘‘We leave at the wake of dawn my child, away from this place that has brought sorrow to us, there the memory of the past will be erased from you and you will only see me as the only mother you know. i will see my children in you and will give you the best i can get. ” The boy made a sound as if in agreement while she pet him softly with her right hand, wiping a drop of tear with the other.
The silence is deafening
I can feel the troubled souls from the sound of their breath even as they sleep
As I creep out from the little hole that houses me in the day in search of the crumbs from their plates
I see her, this woman, still awake muttering words to herself
Too distance in her thoughts to notice me picking from what is left of their food
That is the advantage of being an Ant
This place used to be our colony, with one of the most beautify mansions owned by Ants
What do humans call it again? ‘Ant Hill’ yes! I got that from one of them when they came to destroy our home that has housed hundreds of thousands of us, many of us died of stampede
Others left in search of a better place
I choose to stay with few others, hoping to make something out of this whole situation.
As I make it back to my hole, with some food balanced on top of my head
I have that usual feeling that her story is not yet ended, so I will hang around, if possible, journey with her as she journeys
But tonight sleeps on… tomorrow holds another story.