March 1st 2014 was one of the happiest day of my life. Having passed out from the Direct Short Service (DSS) of the Nigerian Army, I felt like I was in heaven with those uniforms on me. Everyone congratulated me, and I was welcomed home like a warrior who just came back from conquering lots of enemy clans. The celebrations lasted through the night with everyone drinking and enjoying life as it was.
“I missed you baby” Genea said while planting a kiss on my lips. The smile and the excitement on her face was enough to remind everyone that true love was really in existence.
“I missed you too darling” I said as I dragged her closer to sit on my laps. Everyone came to have a picture with me, and I wasn’t weary to keep putting on those smiling faces in their pictures. I loved Genea so badly that we spent our own celebrations talking about our future and when exactly our wedding will take place. We were deeply engrossed in it, before she disrupted our conversation.
“Tell us what happened there” Genea finally asked. I was about opening my mouth and telling the tales of suffering that happened at the camp, before another bigger man disrupted the convo again.
“Will you come to my school and visit me, so that my teachers will stop flogging me” That was Genea’s brother speaking, and everybody went into deep laughter.
“Yes Champ; I will be in your school when it opens and nobody will ever touch you again” I said to the looking boy who was already feeling excited and jumping all over me. Every passing day was a celebration, because they believed that I was lucky to be among those selected. I often told them about how some other guys died and how they were buried without a ceremony.
“God!!” The little boy yelled.
“Was it a bullet that gave you this cut on your face?” Genea asked.
“No, it was a punch” I replied with a smile
“Punch?” She and others asked simultaneously
“Oh yea” I replied. “We were having a physical combat class, where they train you how to be physically strong without ammunitions. That was where a guy landed me a punch and a technical knockout” I explained while smiling all through.
“Did you die?” The little boy asked. There was a general laughter and I settled down to answer him.
“Yes…I died” I said while touching him on the head, to make sure the answer sank into it very well. He was even done with the questioning.
“So how come you are here” He asked albeit surprised “Or are you a magician?” He added.
With a smile on my face and while looking at Genea, I explained to him “I remembered about someone I love so much. Someone I couldn’t think of leaving behind; my greatest inspiration and love, the one that make me stronger while thinking about her. She was the person I remembered and came back to life” Everywhere was silent like I was performing some sort of illusion that was so captivating. I never knew the power of words in love till this very moment. Genea immediately stood up and hugged me.
“I thought you were talking about Jesus” Her little brother asked “Why is sister hugging you?” He asked confused.
‘When the time is right, I will explain to you.” I said as I asked him to give us just a little space and go do something else.
“Will Aunty Genea get pregnant for you?” He asked as he was about standing and leaving.
“Do you know about pregnancy?” I asked in shock
“Yes na” He replied confidently
“What do you know” Genea added immediately “Come go inside and do something else” She yelled at the little boy who was about pouring his mind and soul out. We giggled over the scenario that just played out and laughed about it.
“Don’t go back soon” She begged while holding my hand firmly and was kissing every part of it. I held her closer and placed her head right on my chest. She could feel the very sound of my heart beat.
“You feel anything?” I asked in a low and romantic voice
“Yes…your heartbeat” She said.
“As long as it keeps beating, you will always be mine” I said as curled my fingers round her hair.
“Same with me baby” She replied.
“I promise not to go back anytime soon” I said.
I didn’t keep up to my promise again because I had to return back to base as an urgent call was given to all cadets who just graduated from the military school. I forgot that I was under command as military personnel. When I told Genea about my departure back, I could sense the anger, frustration and sorrow in her voice.
“But you promised?” She asked as she was almost in tears.
“Don’t cry, I will be back” I assured her. That wasn’t enough to calm her down as she immediately went into tears. She terminated the call, and I tried calling back and she never picked up again. I was thinking of how to tell my parents about the recent development.
“Hey Dad, Mummy…I will be leaving tomorrow” I said to them while we were seated at night for our evening devotion. Daddy kept staring at me with a kinda look that was suspicious, and the countenance on his face was sadness written all over it.
“What’s that papa” I asked. He didn’t still reply and kept looking at me and mummy too was even almost crying.
“Where are you going to now?” Daddy asked when he finally spoke out. I didn’t want to add to their fears, even though I knew we were going to be taken to the fiercest part where the battle against insurgents was going on.
“To fight” I responded plainly
“Against the boko haram?” Daddy asked
“Yes” I responded with no emotions on my face. Mummy quickly rushed to where I was seated, held me by the cloth and went into a deep cry.
“Don’t go again please” She begged with tears all over her face “you can be a any other thing, I can sell all my cloths even if it is to open a business for you” She kept pleading. Tears were forming in my eyes, but I decided to remain resolute.
Daddy was mute all these while and never said a word. I could see sadness in his eyes, but there was nothing I could do.
“I have to go sleep, I will be leaving tomorrow morning” I said to them as I stood up from the chair and headed straight to my room. I sat on the bed, thinking about what would become of me at the war front. I have heard stories of people being killed on their first day in action, and “what if I die, how will mummy survive?” I kept asking myself.
I could hear footsteps towards my room, and I quickly took a sleeping position.
“Baby” That was mummy’s voice calling me with a low tone. She tapped me when I acted like I didn’t hear. I knew the torment she was passing, seeing her only son being taken to sacrifice his life for a country that doesn’t even care about him.
“Please don’t go back” Mummy kept dragging my feet and was shedding tears. It was really an emotional night for her, and I had to wake up and hug her.
“I won’t die…I promise” I said to her, as I held on with the hug. Those simple words were so powerful that she immediately ceased crying and looked me in the face
“Promise you will come back for Me, Daddy and your girlfriend” she said. I immediately smiled and gave her the promise she wanted.
“Just believe me mom, I will be back home soon” I whispered into her ear. With a smile and a kiss on the cheek, I finally found peace to sleep that night.
“Remember…everybody is home, waiting for you” Daddy said in the morning after I was set to depart to the 82 division very close to my house. That is where we would be transported to our fighting base at Barma.
“I will be back soon enough” I shouted as I entered a waiting vehicle and was greeted with salutes from junior ranked soldiers, who came to pick me up and off we zoomed to the barracks!
“Hello captain” I greeted with a salute to one of the officers I saw at our camp some few months ago. He quickly received my salute and brought his hands forward to greet me. I extended my own hands and infact, he hugged me and was so happy to see me.
“Look at you; you see the effect of those pains you suffered?” He asked and I probably wasn’t expected to answer him. I smiled back, and we entered a very long discussion.
“Have you ever been to the north-east to fight” I asked him in a very gentle tone. He giggled and looked at me, probably to know my intention of asking.
“Nothing really, just wanting to know things I will expect from there” I explained my motives immediately. He smiled once more, tapped me on the back
“We have born fighters and I am not one of them. Every year, I have to go through a lot of bribing to retain my position here in the office. I don’t want to die yet” He said with a smile. Those words really struck me and I felt bad.
“Are we now the sacrificial lambs to be killed?” I asked myself within. Either ways, I smiled and left him to meet up with fellow comrades in order to commence our journey down to the land of death!
To Be continued. Hold on for episode 3.