Victims – Episode 37
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
Protests, more protests, then buckets of violence, maybe we should call them riots braking out here and there once in a while, for different reasons characterized the months that followed the arrest of Imam Husayn.
Agitation for different things at the same time; ‘Saki Imam ba tare da lokaci (the Imam should be released immediately and unconditionally)’ ‘ Shafin shakatawa haram ne (Beauty pageantry is Haram and should not be hosted in Nigeria)’ ‘Majalisar Dinkin Duniya ya bar musulunci kadai (United Nation should not interfere in Islamic states and their affairs)’ ‘Shari’ar shari’a dole ne ta tsaya, dole ne a bi Alqurani (Sharia law must stand; the Quran must be obeyed)’
The case of Amina Lawal , who has been sentenced to death by stoning according to sharia law, and the federal government being under pressure by NGO’s to step in to overturn the conviction added to the volatile atmosphere.
Ukwuoma was on her way to Ogun state, with a small ‘Ghana most Go’ bag held tightly with her right leg on the floor of the bus, while she balanced the sleepy Ogugua on her laps, she sat by the window where she watched trees flew by.
The window side of a vehicle has been her favorite spot as a child whenever she was traveling to see ‘ Nne ’ or coming back, she would seat and count houses; big houses and small ones, and widen her eyes in amazement as the trees hurried by ‘ifiam! Ifiam ’ tall trees and small ones, “ Ofia na agba oso (the bushes are running)” she would tell her mother who was always by her side. Few times they had traveled home late during Christmas and the moon had also traveled with them, the huge bright light would always smile at her whenever she looked out from the window of the vehicle, and she would challenge the moon to a looking contest until her head would sway out of dizziness.
The galloping of the rickety bus on the dirty road with lots of potholes jolted her violently and sent her stomach in turmoil, she rocked her son gently for him to go back to sleep. The Man seated in front of her coughed violently, cleared his throat which sounded like ‘ Mama Ike ’ scrapping burnt fufu from her big clay pot, he pushed his head out from the window and spat out. The spittle battled with the rushing wind and lost, the wind carried it back to the man’s direction and his neighbor, a young woman with a weave-on that looked more like the bristle of a brush used for washing Jeans, was bathed with spittle missed with mucus. While some part of it hung on the bus like a leach,
“Ah ah Oga you wan blind my eye with your spittle? Na watin be this now?”
“No vex you hear? Sorry”
“Which one be sorry? You spit on me come dey tell me sorry”
“watin you wan make I tell you before? No be sorry I tell you now? Oya fall and die now if sorry no do you” the man retorted
The little quarrel was a distraction for some of them in the bus who needed something to take their minds off the long Journey.
“…Old papa way no dey respect himself” the young girl said
“Ashawo… who know the sugar daddy way you dey go visit for Ogun” the man put in, not wanting to lose the battle of words
“your wife, your mother and all your Daughters na Ashawo dem be, radarada…”
Most of the commuters were laughing, including those that were sleeping previously. Ukwuoma put her hand inside her bag, she felt the content buried at the bottom of the bag and covered with few cloths. She wouldn’t be staying long in Ado-Odo, her husband’s village, she only needed to go and bury the dead so she could have peace.
Kafaya had brought her to the park where she boarded the vehicle. She had persuaded her the previous night not to leave;
“You can bury them here, in the cemetery” That was after they had gone to Jos together with three women and a man, she didn’t know who they were, but Kafaya said they were interested in the case of the young girl Ifeoluwa talked about.
Ife was able to tell the story a month later, she remembered the names and the place it took place. Though she still got scared when she was alone, she would look behind her like she was expecting someone grab her at any moment.
Ogugua adapted to his new environment faster than any of them, for the first few weeks when he came back with her, he had always thrown tantrum, cried without reasons and had always called ‘Baba’ while pointing at an empty space. She had felt for Kafaya, she wished there was a way she could compensate her for her kindness and patience. Ukwuoma wished she could get a place to move out with her new family, at least to give the young lady her well-deserved privacy. Coupled with adding Ogugua to the house has increased mouths to feed and it had bothered her.
“It is necessary I go, they don’t belong here”
“Are you going with the Umaru?” Kafaya asked
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“His name is not Umaru” Ukwuoma said, she looked at the boy who was engrossed with ‘Tom and Jerry’ on the TV “I have to, they may trace him to you and may want to take him away again” she said
“I don’t think they will, at least not now…” Kafaya assured “When will you be back?”
“I don’t know? I am not sure of anything now…” Ukwuoma answered adjusting her weight on the chair “Ife…how long will she stay at your hospital? I am worried about her”
“She will be fine; she is getting better. Don’t worry she will be out soon, she can even go back to school, it will help her to get her life back” sensing her worries Kafaya said: “Don’t worry about the money, there are schools she can go to with little fees, I can take care of that for now”
“Thank you so much, May God bless you”
“He will bless us all”.
Ukwuoma didn’t know how long she had slept in the bus, she was awoken by wares fighting their way into the bus from the window and hawkers trying to outdo each other with shouts of “Plantain chips…Gala…Lacasara…”
“Where is this place?” she asked the man beside her
“Illesha” he said
When he thought he was about to enjoy the special treatments, his cell was changed and the condition of the new one was worse than the previous one, there was no mat so he had to sleep on the dirty floor, dragging space with rodents. The number of times he was being fed has been reduced to once in a day and the food was pitiable, he could see his face on the soups.
The walls were made of iron sheets, covered up with tiny hole where plat of food would pass through. He had not read the papers for weeks, unlike when he was on the other cell where newspapers were brought to him every morning and he could write letters.
At first, he wasn’t bothered with the harsh situation he found himself, he was used to denying himself food and pleasure for spiritual gains, but
he was almost losing his mind since he hardly saw or hear any voice. He needed to know what was going on outside, he needed to communicate with his members:
“who is there!” he shouted for the umpteenth time with his voice bouncing back at him. Imam Husayn didn’t fare well with solitude, and these few weeks had driven him to the point of talking to himself.
He heard approaching footsteps, he quickly staggered to his feet, glued his face to the tinny opening, he tried to get a glimpse of the warder that was walking by;
“Hey! by Allah Answer me!”
The warder stopped but didn’t turn
“Please! Help me… I am sick!”
The warder resumed his walk without looking his direction
“Please stop! Get me out of here! I am dying of cold!” when he heard the footsteps fading away, he crumbled at the corner of his cell, with his palm on his face his shoulders rocked as he cried.
He was getting old all of a sudden.
“He is getting paranoid sir”
“I don’t know how long he can take it; he has started talking to himself now sir”
Mr President smiled and nodded, “sounds like we are breaking the heard guy” said Danladi
“I am afraid sir, he may die there, he hardly touches his food and I think he is sick”
“And how did you know this?”
“He said so himself”
Mr President paused, he paced in his office, his thoughts running. He needed the Imam alive, but broken enough to be able to jump at any offer he would present to him,
“Give him some more weeks there, he would be ready by the time I am ready to meet him”
“I will send a doctor who will attend to him, as for his feeding, make it as bad as possible”
“And Malaki…you are a dead Man if I see or hear this anywhere else”
The warder was unsure why the preside picked interest on this Imam, and why he would be picked to do the Job. But he nodded in fear and walked out of the office asking no further questions.
To be continued
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