Victims – Episode 13
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
“I killed him”
The little girl said amidst sobs, she sniffed in the mucus that would have run down her nose and covered her face with her hands.
“Ife, what happened? How…when? I don’t understand…? Ukwuoma asked, she was scared for the little girl
She had come looking for the little girl immediately she was done with her cleaning at the hospital. Mariam had offered her the job and she had agreed, with that she could earn her stay with the old woman, and equally afford to take care of her son with the little allowance of one thousand naira.
“He threatened to kill Abraham if I don’t come to him, he said ugly things to me, I didn’t know what to do…”
Ifeoluwa was her name; she was reluctant to grant Ukwuoma the luxury of knowing her name and Ukwuoma knew better than to ask. She
finally knew her name the night they sat together and shared their woes.
She chose to call her ‘Ife’ because of her University roommate, Ifechukwu, plain, masculine tall Ifechukwu with a male voice, who had no dates in school, not that she never wanted to but she was never beautiful enough to be asked out for a date.
The only day he roommate was ever invited to a birthday party; she was overjoyed and had spent her money buying new cloth and jewelries. Ukwuoma had wished there was a way she would have talked her roommate out of going, but the poor girl was over the moon.
She had come back from the party sad and depressed and never wore that cloth and jewelries again.
“How did you know that he is dead?” Ukwuoma asked
“I don’t know…I guess he is, he didn’t even make any sound, he didn’t come after me, I went back to check on him and saw him…saw him…lifeless, he has not come looking for me here since then too…”
“This is serious, if he really is dead, his colleagues, may want to know who killed him…” ukwuoma said almost whispering
“That means I am in trouble! Hei God o… I was saving myself and my brother, I didn’t want him around us anymore, I didn’t mean to kill anybody…” Ife cried
“That is if they trace it to you, but as it is I don’t think anybody will suspect you, just pretend this didn’t happen please… so you won’t give yourself out” Ukwuoma held Ife by the shoulder tenderly
“Okay…okay I will try, I am just afraid…”
“I know, but you will be fine, God knows you didn’t mean to kill him”
Ifeoluwa nodded in agreement,
“Meanwhile, I am talking to my neighbor, the woman you spoke to in my tent, to see how you could be of help to them; you could get enough food for yourself and your brother, while you occupy yourself with the work”
“Thank you Aunty, I… I really don’t know what I would have done without you here” Ife wipes her nose with the back of her right hand
“I am doing what I will equally do to a daughter…so how is Abraham doing?” Ukwuoma asked, withdrawing her attention from the girl to observe their surrounding, she saw the two children, Abraham and Ogugua walking playfully towards the Banana plantation.
She wanted to call them back; she had never allowed Ogugua out of her sight for few minutes;
“He knows his way around now, they will come back.” reading her mind, Ifeoluwa assured her.
Her eyes didn’t leave the children, though she was talking with Ife and exchanging pleasantries with other settlers;
“They said the governor’s wife is coming today” Ife changed the topic
“She will be here any moment” Ukwuoma said with her eyes still on the children playing under one of the banana trees
Her eyes shifted from the children to a man standing few feet away from them, she watched him keenly, his looked like someone she had met before but couldn’t remember where or when.
He had his eyes on Ogugua and he had the look of one who was trying to recall a memory.
Then he moved towards the children, she watched him still. He lifted Oguga from the ground; the boy kicked and threw his little fists on the big man’s chest as a form of resistance.
Ukwuoma rose from where she sat her wrapper fell off from her body revealing her flimsy gown, she ran towards the stranger, and grabbed the boy from him.
The stranger offered no tussle but had the look of shock and realization on his face.
The blast of siren from afar prevented the Man from saying or doing anything further, as he pulled out a telephone, said something she didn’t comprehend while he had his eyes on her and hurried off.
She grabbed Abraham while she carried Ogugua, they met Ifeoluwa half way;
“There are dangerous people around here, please don’t let Abraham go far from where you are…”
Ifeoluwa couldn’t understand why the older woman was so agitated at the moment.
“You are doing a great work taking care of them”
The governor’s wife feigned relaxed and flashed her teeth for the Journalists to take pictures, as she was being shown around by Lieutenant Ada Nwosu and other officers, with her police entourage trailing behind her like ferocious dogs.
“Thank you your Excellency, God is helping us” Lieutenant Ada grinned sheepishly, squeezing herself close to the governor’s wife to appear in every picture being taken by the Journalists.
She had eyed the truck that brought the food stuffs from her Excellency, and had monitored with greed as the bounties were unloaded from the trucks, stretching her neck to count Bags of rice, gallons groundnut oil, bags of beans, garri, cartons of Indomie and spaghetti.
She was satisfied with the quantity and couldn’t wait for the Governor’s wife to leave before her allies would do their job and keep her share for her. Buyers are already on ground waiting.
“This is my little contribution, I promise to bring more as soon as I can” The governor’s wife said with fake humility while Ada nodded her head with a plastic smile.
“Apart from these food items, I came with cooked food for the people…”
Ada watched as bags of packaged foods were dragged out from another truck, people were asked to queue in other to get their own share of the food. But it didn’t take long before the people came like bees on attack, fighting and tearing each other apart like savages, the women sharing the food left the bags and ran for their lives, while the dwellers descended on the foods like packs of wolves on territorial fight.
Foods where overturned, fights broke out in groups, some people packed more food while some didn’t get at all, children crying and running after their mothers, there were more food on the ground than there was in the stomachs;
“Pigs” the Governor’s wife muttered unconsciously to herself
Lieutenant Ada heard it but pretended not to hear, to her, it was more funny than annoying. Her Excellency just witnessed one of many free for all fights that did go on there, and the look on the woman’s face is worthy of making the front page
“You never see something sef, you think say na to wear high heel, enter AC Jeep, and dey wave hand like Nigerian flag” she replied the woman in her mind.
“Your Excellency, it is time to see the other sides of the camp, I have equally gathered some men and women here so you can speak to them and they will also speak to you…if need be” Ada said
“Yes…yes…” The Governor’s wife couldn’t stand the sight of grown men and women eating dusts as the pick foods from the ground.
“She is heading towards you people, position the vessel where she will be able to do the job effectively” Ishmila gave the order and dropped the phone
He looked at Yusuf who was seating at the driver’s side of the car, with his eyes closed. Ishmila pitied the man; he didn’t know why the Imam had chosen his Nephew’s wife to do this job.
He tapped the big man by the shoulder;
“Sun kusa wurin yanzu (they are almost there)” Ishmila watched as Yusuf eased his back from the car seat rest, with his face swollen and his eyes red, he knew the big man has been crying, but he dare not ask questions, he had overheard their heated arguments;
“Why uncle…why should I be the one to kill my wife?” yusuf has asked
He had driven Fatima to the mosque and had handed her over to the Imam who led her inside the inner chamber;
“It will be an honor to you Yusuf, doing the will of Allah earns you more joy and reward…” Husayn had replied
“I don’t want this reward Uncle, I don’t want this glory, Jannah should wait, I want my wife Uncle…”
“Stop speaking blasphemy!” The Iman rebuked him with clinched teeth
“Your life is no longer yours Yusuf, Allah owns us all and takes whoever he chooses, today he has chosen your wife for this mission, who are you to question him?” the Old man bellowed
“Please Uncle; don’t let her die… Dan Allah Kar tura ta mutuwa !”
“Oh ye who believe! Fear Allah as he should be feared and die not except in the state of Islam, Surah Al-imran, 175. Yusuf, your wife is dying for Islam, Allah commands it!” The Imam said
“Then why should I be the one to blow her up?” Yusuf had asked with a subdued voice.
“You are not blowing her up, you are helping her depart from this sinful world into paradise. It is your duty, a way of approaching Allah for your blessings according to Surah Al-maida 35”
Yusuf had not replied again and he knew the old man had won, he always win.
“Lokaci ya yi (It is time)” Ishmila said to Yusuf as he got off the phone.
He saw drops of tears fell from Yusuf’s eyes and he muttered something with trembling lips. His hands shook as he felt the button
“Allahu Akbar ” Ishmila hailed
“Allahu Akbar ” Yusuf muttered amidst choking sob, before he pressed the button.
The sound deafened her and held her legs on the ground. Then came the scre-ms, the chaos, the ‘tatatatatata!! ’ of sands settling on top of the canopies like rain drops, the ‘kakakakakakak ’ of guns as the security men tried to make way for Her Excellency to leave.
“Ife! Ife!!” it came as a whisper from her mouth, then her eyes widened and realization settled. She threw Ogugua on her back, held her with her wrapper and ran towards the sounds
“Ife!!!” she called, tears blinding her, while she tried hard to make her way through the confusion.
Then came that smell, the smell of burning flesh, it filled her nostrils tearing down her lungs, choking her, she coughed so hard
“IFEOLUWA!!! IFEOLUWA O!!!”
The smokes became stronger; Ogugua was coughing continuously as if he would spit out his heart at any moment.
Meanwhile at the gate, the black Toyota Camry reversed and drove off with speed. Ishmila was on the wheel as Yusuf couldn’t drive, the phone rang;
“It is done” Ishmila said over the phone
“No, she escaped, they drove off” He replied to whoever was at the other end of the phone.
To be continued
⬅️ PREVIOUS episode