Victims – Episode 35
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
They didn’t bother to cover their hairs before they hurried inside the church, which drew dozens of heads towards them and murmurings of disapproval. She didn’t even realize how awful she looked and why she had those people looking at her in disdain, only Kafaya noticed the looks, heard the voices and was afraid to keep walking inside the church.
Yet she kept moving on, twice she hit her bare foot on the edge of a pew, she staggered but kept walking, her head turning like the seconds hand of a clock, her eyes roaming while she kept muttering his name under her breath.
A woman walked up to them, a church warder, Kafaya knew this by the sash which the woman wore, as the woman held Ukwuoma by the shoulder, forcing her out of the church, Kafaya hurried to her side,
“Madam you are distracting the prayer section…” said the warder
“I am looking for my son,” Ukwuoma said inaudibly, struggling to free herself from the church warder’s grip
“Madam please…leave her…let me take her home…” Kafaya said in a hush voice, they were drawing attentions and some church members were already on their feet
“I am looking for my son! I am looking for Ogugua my son!!” Ukwuoma was desperate, turning to every direction
“Why will you allow her inside?” a man said to the warder “Sister please take your mother out, we don’t have any lost child here…” more hands held her and tried to push her out
“Leave me! Leave me alone!!” she struggled “Ogugua!!”
The boy heard her voice, no matter how long they were apart, he could recognize the voice he once called ‘ Ma’. He started crying, wiping tears and mucus that were running down her eyes and nose with the back of his palm while trying to get out of the pew in search of the voice.
He saw the boy as he made his way out of a pew on the third roll from the western door, he had little time remaining “Thirty minutes” Yusuf had told him and he had less than ten minutes left, so he increased his pace.
The boy glanced at him once but kept walking towards a group of people dragging a woman out of the church, “Ma!” he heard the boy called. At first he thought his dead wife had come back to life until the woman turned towards the boy, wiggled herself out from the grips of those holding her and ran towards the boy, “Who is this woman” he thought he didn’t want to find out, his time was ticking, unless Yusuf was found by his men and probably killed, he would be playing by Yusuf’s rules.
The woman got to the boy before him, she roughly held the boy to her bosom and pushed him away as fast as she hugged him, with the look in her eyes, it was obvious she found out. For she quickly pulled the woolen cloth off the boy, exposing the belt fitted around his bare skin.
For that split of seconds the world around them stopped, the chants, the sounds from the church organ, the shuffling of feet, then… “Yaron da aka saka wani bam ! (The boy is wearing a bomb!)” someone shouted.
The three five feet entrance door of the church suddenly became too small for worshiper to escape for safety. People were pushing against each other, forming barricades against themselves, it was a case of the strong stampeding the weak, as some worshipers found themselves on the ground, mostly women and children, while other stumbled and fell.
He looked at the bomb, the time was already set off and was ticking, he knew nothing about bombs, Yusuf was the expert, the best the group had. He needed to do what he could to make Yusuf stop,
“Yusuf!” he called out “ Da Allah, ya ne dan (please he is your nephew” no responds. Ukwuoma sat at the feet of the boy, she had her arms wrapped around him while sobbing
“Baba (Father)” the boy called him when he saw him. “Baba abin da ke faruwa (Father, what is happening)” the boy sobbed
“Yusuf! My son!! Kada ka yi wannan (Please don’t do this)” Husayn pleaded “ya kasance kamar wani dan muku (he was like a son to you) you used to call him son!”
No responds except Ukwuoma’s sobs, The boy’s crying and the beeping from the belt.
“come in now, we have our man” Lieutenant Abdul ordered on the ear piece that curled on his ear like a baby snake.
Six military Men on mufti surrounded Husayn, he had his phone taken and two of his men brought to him on handcuffs before he could make any call,
“He is my son! Umaru is my son!! Allah will not forgive you!” he was shouting as they escorted him out of the church, into a waiting van “I am a servant of Allah! You are making yourselves Allah’s enemies!!!”
“Go to hell!” Abdul replied him “…Get that woman out of there! Everybody out! Out!!!” he shouted as he made huge strides towards the scene. But the woman refused to let go of the boy, her hands were on him like an iron welded on a poll.
“Chief You didn’t tell us the boy has a bomb on him” one of his men said in confusion
“I don’t have any idea…where is Elia? Someone get me Sargent Elia on line now?”
“How many minutes do we have sir?”
“Four freaking minutes, anyone ever saw the Yusuf of a guy?”
Kafaya tried again to get Ukwuoma out, “Don Allah mu je ” she pleaded, but the woman shoved her hand off;
“Zan mutu tare da shi, bari mu tafi mu hadu da wasu a can (let me die with him, let us go and meet the others over there)” the woman was laughing and sobbing at the same time as she caressed the boy’s cheeks and spoke softy to him, “Zan nuna maka, yan uwanku…da mijina, su duka suna son ku…Zan gaya musu ban kasa ka (I will show you your brothers, and my husband, they will all love you…I will tell them I didn’t fail you)”
Kafaya gave out a sob as she was being dragged out, they had three minutes left. Senator Kazeem’s number was switched off and Abdul could not get him, and the men had combed all the nook and crannies of the church, no one seemed to have seen Yusuf
Abdul was stuck on either getting out of the church to save himself or seat with this woman and the child trying to figure out what to do with the little time left
He was not trained in explosives and the only person who was trained on the damn thing was still on his way. Yusuf has disconnected his phone, making it impossible to speak to him.
“You guys should get out of here now” he said to his men
“I said you guys should get out now!”
“What of you… and the woman?” someone asked
He didn’t plan it this way, first he wasn’t expecting that woman to appear. Her presence complicated the whole plans. If things had worked the way he planned it, the boy would have exploded right before Imam Husayn, he wanted to torture husayn, now he was torn apart emotionally.
He owed the woman so much, he knew that. He recognized her the first day they met after he let those men to her house;
“Wey dokita wife?” he had asked that day.
He didn’t know her, but Mohammed had led them to her house, they had killed her husband before coming to her, her two boys had died with his own blade cutting off their heads.
He was very stupid; he knew that now. “They are Kafirs, sacrifice them to Allah and build your own mansion in paradise” Husayn had said to them before they left that morning.
The sight of blood had intoxicated him, he may not remember the faces he tortured and killed during that riot, but this woman’s face was on his head.
He didn’t know she would live; they had left her almost dead. ‘rabo ne mai kariya’ (Fate is a b****)
And there he was, doing the same thing he did months ago to her. He knew Abdul was trying to get to him, he didn’t trust them, neither did he trust Senator Kazeem, he had sneaked out of the church immediately Husayn was arrested, he was there when husayn was pushed inside the van, their eyes had locked and he saw the hatred in the old man’s eyes while Yusuf gave a ghost of a smile.
He also disconnected his phone, he broke the sim and left the phone for anyone to pick. He has only one thing left on his mind, to find his way out of the church, out of Abuja and if possible out of the country where he would lay low for a while, but he must see his father first.
He got out from the parsonage, he scaled the fence and landed on a mud, the whole place was deserted as well. They must have gotten wind of the bomb and must have all ran for safety.
He brought out the little remote he hid on his back pocket, the boy has fifty-eight seconds left, “who will pay for what you did?” he remembered the question, hissed and brought down the switch. He threw the remote on a hard ground, smashed it with his boot and kept walking.
To be continued
⬅️ PREVIOUS episode