October 21, 2018
Evening has bequeathed us a dark mood. There have been killings in Southern Kaduna. Especially in Kasuwan Magani, a town further from us. Unknown persons have attacked and killed some of its inhabitants. They have been doing so. Like it’s a birthright. The unknown persons are unknown because they have no face, except that they carry guns and cutlasses, to shoot and slaughter.
The media reports that thirty-five persons were killed. But other reports suggest it’s more than that. Up to two hundred or more have died. The heat of the emotions has awoken dusts of reprisals. Here in Sabon Tasha, people are trooping in. News of attacks is floating.
My heart is running an endless marathon. I am calm or pretending to be. I don’t want to drink from memory’s dregs: the Sharia crisis of 2000, the Ms World crisis of 2002. Mama Danla is silent like a dead alarm. Her shop, an enclosure on the veranda of her inner room, sits by the dirt road, closed. She wraps the back of her head with her palms. Her husband has not returned. He went to a traditional meeting in another town.
Boys are buoyed by weapons – cutlasses, bows and arrows, sticks, and things I don’t have names for. They are off to the expressway. There is smoke. There are gunshots. The boys are running back. The armed forces have taken over. More gun shots now. Like claps of thunder.
The night was silent. Like a skipped breath. The early morning hours were echoes of it. There is curfew now. Twenty-four hours.
It’s crowded. It’s jostling. In the houses.
Everywhere, everyone is at home. Civil servants, students, businessmen and women.
Baba Danla has returned. He was brought back with many others in a military truck. He talks about how he ran and ran, and how he was saved by a Muslim.
Jagged laughter peels off from somewhere. An angry banter pastes on it. A shrill reels a dirge. Then endless prattles. The voices mix and chime like a long drawn hum.
. . .
Foodstuff is becoming scarce. Households and shops are running out. Mama Danla is saving her last stock for her family. We have to go from one shop to another, asking for salt, onions, soap, bread, beverage, hoping to get a yes from the shop owners.
The military helicopter is growling overhead like a flying dragon.
The order is simple: Shoot at sight.
I stroll to the expressway.
It’s deserted except for the armed forces patrolling. The smell of recent burning still hugs the air. Burnt tires, still smouldering, sit on the road like burnt offering.
There are guys sitting in front of closed shops by the road, idling away the morning. Some security personnel in mufti is saying something. Then a patrol jeep drives by. It stops
‘Come here,’ one of the officers barked.
The curfew has been relaxed. Dusk to dawn. 5 pm to 6 am. Residents are still at home. Tentative to move around.
But the expressways have come alive. Buses are hooting and swooshing. Conductors are calling out destinations. The banks, ATMs, cooking gas stations are crowded. Shops and kiosks are banging open. Hawkers, wheelbarrow pushers, are up and doing. The market is buzzing. The armed forces are here and there.
Sellers are busy with customers. The woman I bought six tubers of yam from days back doesn’t see me. She is lost in a bargain with a customer. She had told me after I selected the six large tubers that I had good eyes, and that I would make a good choice for a wife.
A man lies on his back, eyes closed, on the heap of waste sitting on the side of the road like an old cloth. Our popular mai suya’s stand is being reconstructed with new wood.
I board a bus. I sit in the last seat. The last passenger to board is gaunt. His gray and fading singlet accentuates his dust-covered skin. I wonder how many kids he has, how his wife is faring, what the past week has done to him, how much it has stopped him from feeding his family, how even today, he has a few hours to make some money before it is 5 pm.
Passenger drops. Passenger boards. Two fellows are lamenting the point of this mess.
‘Guje-guje ai ba amfani,’ they say. I nod.
. . .
It’s 2 pm. On the bus, going home. Traffic is jammed. It stretches long like a dead reptile. Everyone wants to beat 5 pm, beat curfew. There is a competition for space between buses and motorcycles. Curses, shouts, sighs, and groans, and sometimes, comradeship jump out when one driver outmanoeuvres the other. Our driver is a young guy in his late twenties. Tupac is jamming from the stereo. Ambitionz az a ridah. My head nods on my neck like it wants to leave my body. So, I forget about the prickly heat and the constant swerving in and out of spaces.
It’s Sunday evening. There is a scare. A bolt of scampering has ensued. We have gone out to see what it is. It is noisy in the streets. Residents have lined up the streets. On either sides. Nobody has mentioned the reason for this. People have been trooping in from the expressway with different slices of news. There are conjectures upon conjectures. Our hearts are staccatos of beats.
. . .
It’s calm now.
. . .
The twenty-four hour curfew is back. The king of Adara community was killed this morning. He had been in the hands of kidnappers for weeks. It’s the reason for the scare earlier.
The last day of October. Next month is my birthday. The year is coming to an end. A little over sixty days. The curfew has been relaxed again. Dusk to dawn. It took effect on Monday. There is no power now. I hear that something is wrong with the transformer. I hope it is not true.
Thursday. The first day of November. No more curfew.
I strolled yesterday. In the night. The streets were still buzzing. Like they wanted to recover the life stolen away by the curfew.
I’m taking a stroll this morning too. There is grey matter all over. You can’t see the other end of the road. I’m taking photos. Along the railway track is a refuse dump. A signpost ‘Don’t Drop Refuse Here’, with an inscription in red, is almost buried in the heap.
The morning is growing old. The streets are waking up. Dust is leaping from our uneven tea coloured roads, swirling in the arms of gusts of breeze like perky maidens, tickling our nostrils at the instigation of roving sounds of keke napeps, okadas, private automobiles, and the scampering feet of kids.
Ifeanyichukwu Peter Eze is a contributing writer atPanorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. His works have