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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Letter From A Soldier.


Veronica,

It took me 3 years to pick courage to tell you what you already know: Ejiro is dead.
But it's not true, however, that the war took him. Ejiro gave himself to the war. I know; I was there.
They say only brave men die in war. It's true. But the men in Squad 6 never saw Ejiro as brave. To us, he was a reckless,
trigger-happy soldier with a big mouth and dirty mind.

'Hail Mary, full of shit.
Let me suck your goddamn tit.'

"Hail Mary,  you dey craze? 
Abeg I wan leave dis place! "

These're the kind of things that came out of your brother's mouth. He was a bad man.  A  bad,bad man.
I was in charge of Squad 6 when we invaded Bayawe, a village that was rumoured to be a Boko Haram stronghold. I
took Ejiro and instructed the other men to fan out in groups of threes. Only a handful of people were about, but something in the air kept me on my toes.

"Open eye," I muttered to Ejiro.
"Make I open teeth join sef," he grinned.
I ignored that. We walked past kids who stared at us, imitating how we carried our weapons, and past women whose unease
was apparent in the way they started calling their kids to go inside.

The first echo of gunfire came from north of where we were. A ricochet of deathly thunder that made us throw ourselves to the ground.
Gunfire roared again, closer this time.   Ejiro moved, crouching behind a wall as screams started  mingling with the sound of  gunshots and doors slammed hard.

"Allahu Akbar!"
A deafening explosion followed the cry. We threw ourselves on the ground again  as shattered bricks and balls of fire tore into the sky. Ejiro was already moving north. I followed.
Three turbaned men were racing our way, machine guns in their grasp. Ejiro's gun roared and their bodies did jerky death-dances in response.  A head poked from a corner, I raised my rifle, but the head exploded before I could pull the trigger. Ejiro could move like lightning and strike like thunder.
We heard before we saw him; his yell on God's greatness gave us warning. By then, six of our men had joined us.
He came from the cloud of black smoke like a ghost. He was staggering towards us from sixty paces. His hands were empty, but his gown bulged with a strapped bomb.
He looked ten. Maybe nine.
Unbidden, my son's face flashed before me. Toba, eight-and-a-half. He would  run to me whenever he saw me coming home. He would run like he was in a race to reach me before tomorrow .  Run like he was trying to escape the hands of time slowly creeping to steal his childhood.
I wanted to run towards this kid as I always did my son, sweep him off his feet with a hug and a laugh, wipe his face and his mind;
banish violence and bind war.

Instead I raised my rifle to shoot him.
That's when Ejiro started to move.
I've never seen him run. Had no idea he was so fast. He flung his gun away as he barrelled forward, his shoulders hunched,  his body tipped like he was about to trip over his own feet the way Toba used to do when he started running, and knocked the child to the ground with a quick around-the-legs tackle.
He was still trying to wrench the bomb off the kid when it exploded in his face.
Every night, he comes to me in my dreams, the kid with him. He looks happy, but he looks lost too. He smiles and starts to say something, then looks at the kid and stops.
This post was written by Hymar Idibie David,. 

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