Victims – Episode 4
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
The Tent woke up to a fight between two women, Ukwuoma could not understand the reason for the excitements and pandemonium at first, the previous night was the worst night she has ever had.
The stories of yesterday all seemed like a dream to her, this morning she woke up to reality. She barely closed her eyes last night, but when shadows of the night finally took over her worn out soul, it was disrupted by the distant Morning Prayer call of an Imam.
The fight erupted shortly as she was about leaving the tent with Ogugua, after folding the mat.
“No be here the water dey before? Na ghost go carry am? No be this thief woman” one of the women was saying
“So na me you dey call thief abi, how you take know say na me carry your water? Na only me day this camp? Onye Ihuorihuo! (Stupid woman) the other woman responded in rage, panting heavily after being saved from the grip of her bulky Opponent
who has already forced her head under her thighs, and was using her back as a drum, her wrapper already loosed and her breast flapping side to side at every landing of her opponent’s folded fist, before they were separated by some laughing spectators.
Ukwuoma left the tent with Ogugua, she did not know what the morning will bring with it, but she desperately needed water. She saw some people moving to a particular direction with buckets in their hands so she decided to follow them, with Ogugua tagging along.
Her plans to leave with her son at the wake of dawn did not work as planned, no truck from the east came into the camp. She heard from her neighbors that the extremists did not allow any truck enter the city, and those that managed to enter were hijacked by Angry youths, who looted every supply in the trucks and in most cases, the drivers lost their lives.
The queue was long, it was difficult to see the tap from the spot she was standing. It was obvious some has been there since the wee hours of the morning as most people were lying on the ground, while others sat in groups, talking, while waiting for their turn to fetch water from the tap that ran at a snail speed level.
From a short distant one could hear the voice of a preacher, screaming on top of his voice, as if he was in a ‘shout it loud’ voice competition.
“repent! Repent!!!… or you perish with the
sinners!!!…Jehovah God has come to wipe out the unserious and unrepentant Christians!!! The Devil has come down to burn Nigeria!!! Our sins has brought this calamity to us… repent now…” his voice rang high as he walked like a military Man on a match, up and down the area.
“He used to be the pastor of ‘Rapturable church ministry’ close to the main market, before it was burnt down” one of the men close to her said.
“eiyaaa… I heard he escaped through the back gate out of the church compound when they came looking for him, when he finally returned, the church has already gone up in flames, with one of his daughters inside”
“maybe the thing don make am mad, na em make em dey shout like this. Him wife Nkor?” another man put in
“ I heard she left with their sons when the rumor of this killing started, they said she begged the pastor to go with them but he refused, saying the lord will protect him… the daughter also agreed to stay with him” answered the second man.
“see am na…, him God don protect am well and him daughter don die put, mtcheew…him still dey talk repent and perish”
“Which kind Perishing the Man dey talk way pass the wahala way we dey so ehn? Abeg make him carry him preaching commot for here abeg” someone else said
“ Na so that man dey shout this perish perish matter since four days wey im come here o, me I think say na craze dey worri am…”
“ehe now, na which kind person way dey this condition way him dey so, way dey still remember perish and repent” a woman among them added.
Ukwuoma looked at the preacher again. Kunle, her husband never believed in eternal damnation and has never been a strong religious person when he was alive.
He believed that life is for the now, unlike her who has grown up having an Anglican Bishop as a father, ‘heaven at last’ was their watch word in the home.
Her father was disappointed when she brought Kunle home as the Man she wanted to marry. A Man that cannot even quote five scriptures of the Bible correctly, and his way of life could pass for what her parents termed ‘worldly’.
Her father gave in to her request of marying Kunle after many efforts to make her rethink her decision, she could vividly remember the looks on her mother’s face on her wedding day, her mother has always wanted her to marry an Anglican priest, as an honor to the family, and as an example to her other sisters since she was the first daughter.
A sharp scream from a child beside her and a little tussle got her to her feet from where she was sitting before, Ogugua has bitten the child, while they fought over crown covers both were happily picking before.
Before she could get to the children, a young girl, gave Ogugua a hard knock on the head and the boy abandoned himself to the ground, gave out a loud cry with one of his fingers pointing to his head and the other finger from the left hand, pointing to the young girl as he saw Ukwuoma approaching.
“Why do you have to give him that hard knock on the head, can’t you see they were just children playing?” Ukwuoma asked the girl angrily.
“You no see watin him do my brother? Na the knock you go see, mchteeewww…” the little girls picks her
brother and walks away.
Once in a while, the queue is broken as someone tries to maneuver his or her way to get to a closer spot to the tap.
People where already getting impatient and uncontrollable at the tap before the big military gate was opened and three water supply tank trucks drove in.
The Tap would soon be deserted as people rushed towards the water tank trucks with their buckets. She picked Ogugua up, threw him on her back tactically, grabbed her bucket and left towards the trucks.
It took like forever before she could get a bucket of water, which reduced to half bucket, by the time she pulled herself out of the crowed. Due to the struggles and fights that followed the process of getting the water, the military officials had to use cane on people who were getting agitated and uncontrollable.
More families arrived in the camp in numbers, thinning out the little food and water supplied that comes daily in the camp, causing congestion, and terrible heat both inside and outside the tents.
Going back to the tent after collecting the pitiable food giving to them, will be roasting them alive, so she decided to settle under the Nim tree for some fresh air, while she feeds her son with the beans giving to them as breakfast.
Beans has never been one of her favorite meal, she remembered that she normally forces herself to eat it before her children just to make them eat it.
The boy almost finished the food meant for both of them, his protruded stomach shone with stains of the liquid from the food, she gave him some water and the boy went off to play.
She brought the spoon close to her mouth, to eat the little that was left for her, tears streamed down her eyes as she remembered how it used to be.
She has fed a number of people, food has
never been a problem to them, there is always more than enough for everyone, even the neighbors.
Doc wife, as she was popularly called by neighbors has always been a generous woman, her house was always filled with children who have hope of filled stomachs before leaving her house.
Some mothers would deliberately send their children off to her, knowing that their kids would be well taken care of at the end of the day.
Theirs was a popular family, and she was the queen
of the neighborhood. ‘oh life! So unstable like the wind, you once looked upon me with beauty, but now you have taking away both the floor and the sleeping mat from me’ she thought.
Chewing the beans was like chewing a spoon filled with gravels, she shut her eyes as the food passes through her throat, cutting its way down her stomach, and settled like a stone in her belly, one spoon was enough to satisfy her.
She wiped the tears from her eyes, and trailed the boy with her eyes, to make sure, he does not stray off.
Then she saw her again, the little girl that beat Ogugua at the Tap. Her little brother was crying uncontrollably, the little girl looks frustrated, trying to feed her little brother, who seems not be interested in the food, reminding her of Uwa Musa and the hard time she did have each time she tries to feed Musa her only child.
“Uwa musa, what have become of her after that tragic day?” She thought.
She could not stand hearing the cry of that little child,
“Abraham! no dey cry again na, abeg chop ehn,” the girl said amidst tears “oya chop three spoon, I go buy you sweet o” she pleaded with her brother.
Ukwuoma walked towards the children, settled Abraham on her lap and gently fed him while singing him a lullaby she learnt from her grandmother;
‘’Onye mere nwa nebe akwa
`Egb`e mere nwa nebe akwa
Wete uziza wete ose
Wete amara na ngwa ofe
Umu nnunu aracha ya
Okpo titi akpo gbue ya
`Egb`e ndo egbe ndo’’
The child slept on her lap soon after he finished eating, Ogugua took over the other lap in possession and jealousy.
“come and show me where to lay him’’ she said to the little girl, pulling Ogugua down.
Without saying anything, the girl led the way to the tent adjacent to the one she stay, she balanced the child on her body, placing his head on her left shoulder, she held Ogugua with her right hands and walked behind the girl.
To be continued