Vuli Ndlela

                Life never chooses when to start nor stop. It goes on and halts just when no one is watching. It tells you there is a solid ground beneath your feet and the next minute, you are sinking in your own carelessness. A faint instinct tells you to beat your chest with a braggadocio of ‘no regrets!’ but somehow, your hand freezes in the air. It sees through your ribs, the weight of the shame you inherited, growing at the expense of your dying breath.

             I see it clearly in the darkness, as it strangles his neck into dark scattered wrinkles. He is breathing heavily but not so fast. I hear the heavy tick of each second parting his next breath. Each pause, comes with a sniffing silence that closes the distance between him and breathlessness. Staring at him now, gradually being stolen by the distance to eternity, no nostalgia of his agile days could beckon out to him, make him turn to the widening distance between us and look at me. If it were possible to have him turn, I am sure tears of regret would line down every trace of his wrinkled face, consumed by an endless queue of choices he would have made otherwise.

            The cocks are crowing already and he has been lying down in front of me since the chimes on the clock jingled 12 A.M. Faced up, his legs spread apart on the dusty mat almost loosed to shreds. The horizontal lines appear slacked from their fittings. Only the vertical lines stretched, so that, the mat’s length is still noticed.

             He raises his head slowly to see my dark image buried in the night. ‘You don’t have to say it out, it is all over now.’ I broke out courageously and nodding my head in conformity, all in a bid to man up a little hope in him. He must not know my tears betray me too. Fruitless as this proved, my heavy sniveling punctuated the silence that filled the dark room. ‘Dear Lord! Vuli Ndlela,’ let him rest, I whispered, splashing out little drops of tears that now lingered on my lips.


Alpha E. Y. 2018


Recycled Life

Tabwal stands staring at the big yellow sun, splash into the western clouds. Whatever ran through his mind, one could tell from the solemn looks on his face that, conscious satisfaction breaths far from him. He is empty of any manliness. The sober fall of the sun which greets the evenings of Wamba, forges newer generations of tragic heroes. The early appearance of the moon is an ordeal to many survivors. Perplexing is the unfair treatment it inflicts on many like Tabwal, in a town, not big enough to contain the dreams they could work all day to have come true. This pricks one with a thirsty enthusiasm to seek and unveil the cockroach nature has in its cupboard, for having the same people of like fate exist in Wamba. A life you can call a recycled one. Nothing went straight developmentally. In fact, the few iron-shit roofs sitting flamboyantly at Ago Hills are canopies of a shy mirage. Not a proud story to be told nor a beauty to behold. For the few houses that succeed in crowning their mud bricks, corrugated shits, have in them the usual bamboo and raffia, resting on each other, so that, a moderate level is formed for a bed.

Tabwal waves Akumu goodnight and sets upon his usual lonely road. He staggers lackadaisically, dragging his loaded financial trauma along the grassy plains which leads to his home. This added load of misery is heaped upon him by the deflated tyre of his wheelbarrow; a factor that consistently denies him a full-day work. It goes flat any time he sets for the biggest deal of the day. He has to do something about it, if he will one day, stand the rating of the male gender. Yes, he has to fix it, else, he would not get to the People’s Republic today. The People’s Republic is a popular eatery which has grown to be the comfort zone of Tabwal and his contemporaries. They yearn for the satisfaction of the food, and dream of the varieties of locally brewed drinks it offers. Factor, they consider in maintaining their culture. In fact, they equality and reverence of voice it liberates to them replaces the dead people they are.
Pulling a sharp stop, Tabwal turns the wheelbarrow to the ground so that the handle is facing where he headed. The pan lies flat to the ground and pointing the devil-born tyre to the skies. He unties the screw between the shaft and the wheel but could not get a good hold of it hence, he bends his right knee to the ground so that his left leg is some inch before it. Frustrated by the trickles of salty sweat from his face now streaming down to his mouth, Tabwal pauses to wipe them off. He wipes his face severally with his wrist, hissing out all forms of lamentation; his usual saying: “we won our freedom but lost our people… even more, we’ve bread leaders ordained on alters coated by our bloods.” This further leaves him wondering if being a well-fed slave is a more honorable dignity than being a hungry free man. A question he would ask God if he makes it to Heaven.
Tabwal has his locomotive back on its wheel again just in time to catch the moon on the brink of chewing the last remains of sunlight for that day. Pushing through a light bush swaying dancingly by the gentle air breezing, Tabwal makes it to the People’s Republic to meet Birabi, Audu and Aklo all seated and munching what their toiling for that day could fetch. “All hail the Republicans” Tabwal salutes from the corrugated zinc-coated entrance. Without hesitation, he grabs a seat and calls out to Pam, the waiter. “Four parks of noodles, one boiled fish and three fried eggs.” He ordered without mincing words.
“I tell you, that greed-filled pot belly is our major barricade to success.” Aklo crunched out the words with particles of biscuit from his mouth. “I dare you to break it open and you will see that, it is that gluttony that has reaped us of our destinies.” He added. Pam chuckles while pickling Tabwal’s eggs. “You fat lab rat, keep laughing like that and all you will end up with from this falling shop of yours is a rusty, yet guarded relic. Your son will hand it over to his son with no electricity in it.” Birabi, haven listened to a perfect introduction to his seminal essay continues from where Aklo stopped. “We’ve got all the fortune to change us from ordinary wheelbarrow pushers into bus drivers or perhaps, attendants to some government busses.” He hisses out loudly and waving his right hand in the air, as if to signal a crowd out of his sight. “I hear there are a lot of them parked in Maitama. They were bought to convey the civil servants who now own cars. Who would drive in them anyway?” He concludes, with his eyes now gazing at Tabwal. “I tell you faithful republicans that, this is the reason to why the margin between us and freedom is like from the solid earth to the fairy skies. Who the hell named the word “democracy” into existence? God is the only government I know.” “Birabi, you sound as if God is a place we can go to after tonight, because I don’t want to see the face of tomorrow. We are all pathetic to think a divine hand would lift and fly us somewhere other than earth. The only place where true freedom can be found is the space between heaven and earth” Tabwal suggests. Banging the empty calabash on the table, he stands “You know what? Nothing can feel better than a second chance that would accommodate me as a major character. The current plot of life we are in, needs to be looked at again by God.” He says this with all seriousness this time, pulls his old coat from behind his chair and heads towards the door. He was losing his temper amidst his turbulent senses and eyes. That would mean too much to handle. Tabwal’s words came hard upon the republicans like a gavel smash the table. So that, the house falls under the spell of a bewildering silence. Their thoughts must have been sent on a wild quest for answers beyond God. Tabwal bangs the door behind him. He raises his arms to shoulder level to rest on an imaginary support as he struggles to find the slightest sight to his next step. “Fools, they will never learn” he condemns, as he staggers into the night, fairly lighted by the moon.

Alpha E. Y. 2017©


Afandai sat still for about thirty minutes glaring at her son, Aku, as he struggled to bring the Grain Mill back to life. She thought she enjoyed watching her son put to practice, his four years of apprentiship. I am proud of you Aku. She whispered slowly in her mind. She couldn’t tell if he heard her or not, but of course she is. It didn’t matter if he knew about it. For a moment, her optic nerve couldn’t collect anymore. There were no newer images to fascinate her. Only the broken Grain Mill lingered before her sight. For her son, he is just a drenched blank paper, upon which no story would be written nor read. He will certainly grow to be nobody. She could do her best to teach him the basic ethics of life, but how that would mean a capital for life’s enterprise remained perplexing. Her eyes swelled with tears. She could cry it out loud, if only it would change a thing. They only flowed with no obstacle nor voice to echo the agony from her heart. Will she ever be able to explain the meaning of the statement “I am proud of you?” His father said that once when he was born but never lived to explain it in full. Maybe, he only said it to show the ecstasy of surviving the stigma of childlessness from the society. He was a certified father by the order of Aku’s birth. He never intended to stop there, until he created a significant chain of bastards. Children that would have to start their lives on their own. Fight their way through the harsh realities of life. On Afandai’s part, her husband could do whatever, for all she cared, but she could not vindicate herself from being a cohort in wasting this boy’s life. She was part of the plot. Even though she never knew about the end.
Her pains would have been balmy if Aku’s failure to be useful to his generation remained her only duel in life. But she is also broken afar from her wants. Her first union with Aku’s father faded away like the morning stars. For the second, she can’t really explain why he vanished. It was again on an attempt to see the crest people say is greener on the other side. She wanted it for herself and Aku too. Having failed, she only blames herself to have ever asked from life again. She is obviously part of a generation marooned in a world in which heart desires become the very means of a person’s bondage.
Her second attempt at happiness still lingered in her memory cogently. She still burnt with fury at the deception he wore on the first day they met. She could feel her bare foot being willed into the labyrinths of destitution. If only she knew he was a married man, or perhaps, if she was still married to Aku’s father, the Solomon of their days… She wondered if there was a better wisdom God ever gave to man.

On that day, Afandai had watched the two basins of her cassava flour, sit on the table like pyramids of Egypt all day. No transaction reduced them, except the adventurous eyes of tourist which her customers had imbibed lately. On that day, even Mother Nature swore a siege against Afandai. Day-light bowed in respect as the clouds roared in labour at the final minutes of their ninth month. She packed in her pyramids of “Alebo” quickly and was soon on her way home. She lifted her legs fast. Forcing them to move at an unusual pace. She had not gone far when a black Camry (2008 model) drove slowly beside her, so that, they were parallel to each other. She kept a mindless attention at first and continued home. This time, at a breezy pace. The car was not the type to give up easily. Not when feminine passengers are involved… “Madam, permit me to put an umbrella over your head through the rains,” came a gentle-manly voice out from the car. She knew she needed an umbrella for the rainy weather at hand, but hardly saw the umbrella willing to cover her even through sunny days. Hesitation at that point was not necessary, hence it gave way for urgent familiarity. “But sir, as much as I would appreciate your kind gesture, I refuse as well, any inconvenience I will cause.” She said, with a cheerful smile. Men hardly knew when not to strike, not when you announce your willingness through such a smile as one Afandai showed. “With great pleasure madam, I wouldn’t mind carrying a real umbrella through the rains for you, better still, I think the car makes it much easier.” The man replied. And so it began. A journey that led her to nowhere. He couldn’t just stop visiting, and sometimes, made of flowery gifts his accomplice. Desecrating gifts that could be used to paint lifetime joy in some cases. He held Aku by the hand and talked to him about how special he was; making it clear when necessary that, it is only one who is void of senses that could abandon such a set who needed the best of all attentions. Anytime he did that, he made sure Afandai watched with thoughts through her mind. He could imagine her thinking about how angelic he is, what a benevolent life saver he is. Coincidentally, he was right. All her thoughts, whatever they were, practically culminated into the popular axiom: “you don’t know the value of what you have, until it’s gone.” He confirmed this in her readiness to start a new life for herself and offer to her son what she considered to be the best. True enough, Aku needed a father and a family. On Aku’s part, agreeing with the situation at his disposition became paramount. He couldn’t imagine the ecstasy of having to wake up one morning with a father. He had always envied the children in school, whose fathers made it a duty of making the fatherless, such as him, feel less cared for by coming to pick their children from school every day of the week. Now he has a father, he will not ask a silly question such as “which market was he bought from?” no one in his shoes would.
Looking at Aku now, Afandai couldn’t lie to herself that Aku is a symbol of her error in life. She sobs. He is innocent and deserves more to his life. He is intelligent and hardworking, but it couldn’t do more than give him a very good jamb result. The admissions shut their gates at him. It was the biggest stride she fought, but it only mocked at her from afar. It became apparent that he needed someone to go with him and see a person or two, to identify with him and say his life could also be useful to the development of the nation. This alone can make solid her liquid thoughts.



Here is a short account of my life as a soldier and a father. The first I can boldly attest I was and still am. But for the latter I shall leave to your impartial judgement. To tell if I owed the essence of my existence to either my family or to the country I swore to protect. I wish the clock would take a deep breath in its workings against the lengthiness of my story, so that, I can bring to you a detail of the vagaries myself and many Nigerian soldiers faced in the battle against Boko Haram. It was a battle that fought us on three fronts. The first is the ambitious warfare of greed amongst our political leaders. Such that breeds an avarice that is puffed up with vanity. The second and most overbearing front is the psychological crises of our obligations as fathers to our…

View original post 2,745 more words


Life would not find completely its essence if it does not explain cogently to Laila what justice meant. How and where her birth stepped wrongly on the order of existence is what she could not decipher. She was a blessing to her parents for being a fulfilment of their union. But the torments she grew with over the years would clearly mean she is just but a missing link between a child and the result of an underserved pleasure. God should not have permitted children to be born from every fertile ejaculation. All these clouded Laila’s mind as she leaned by the wood upon which the lingering kitchen rested on as a pillar. The night breeze was restless so that it flung the kitchen’s corrugated iron sheets clapping, and extending their duties to her young dark skin. It penetrated underneath her half sown wrapper, parting open the torn part and swaying dancingly her follicles. She stood patiently and darting her sight to the pot as the blazing flames flicker round it. The water would soon be ready she wished, or perhaps, would soon hear Aunty Wiki’s tormenting voice, instructing her to come and clear every crumb on the mat for her dinner. Washing the mat after Aunty Wiki and her two children finished dinner was the only duty Laila did with every passion. At least, her stomach at that point had records of food particles drop in it, like pebbles settle calmly on the floor of a sea.
“Laila!” Came Wiki’s shrill voice. “Infidel!” she re-echoed. Laila’s heart sprang like a pendulum so that she answered twice at a time. “Aunty, Aunty.” She cried. Trying to catch the pace, her flappy wrapper ran through a nail on the cupboard fixed beside the outer passage of the kitchen, so that she jolted slightly. It threw her rapidly to a bucket whose mouth was open to pay her for her wrong steps. Gathering every strength she could, Laila limped into the room. She stood coiled to herself like a hen that just escaped the torments of the rains. Her limbs danced as water escaped their way out of her wrapper, and forming  streamlines down to her feet. “Infidel, how long does it take you to answer me?” Wiki thundered. “Sorry aunty, I fell to the ground.” Laila’s teary voice jostled out advocacy. A voice that should say how much she wished to have arrived early enough. One that should drop an ice on Wiki’s fury, and just say to her, she is also a daughter and aught be acknowledged as one. The cascade of tears on her cheeks, her running nose, wriggled lips and the emptiness of life she wore, could tell that Laila’s heart crawled out to her face. She wished to say more. However, she was wrong, for Wiki was quick to refute: “Shut your mouth! You are only lazy and you deserve nothing more than where you belong right now.” It appears clear to Laila now that her voice can push not more than empty echoes of justice. Not when an infidel like her remains her own attorney. And so she bent to gather the plates. She picked Pipi’s. Her tears trickled into it but she tried to hold them back by sniffing them through her nostril. She turned round to pick Wiki’s plates, but it was no use obeying now. Clemency was never Wiki’s ally. Not when it concerns voiceless non entities like Laila. All they deserve is penury for their parent’s misdeeds. Parents whose long-professed love withered at the sight of its test. It was never meant to stay longer than the wedding day. Wiki swung her hand rapidly like a crashing plane and made of Laila’s cheeks the impact point. It sounded loud so that Pipi fell sideways to the ground with her hands on her ears. Okinwa, Wiki’s son, only stared with intense admiration at the exposed part of Laila’s young thighs the incident exposed. Pipi opened her hands slightly and pointed at Laila’s right leg. “Mummy, Laila’s leg is bleeding.” she cried! “Oh darling” wiki responded quickly. “She is only excreting waste blood.” Pipi stared at her in amazement. One could tell from the expression on her face that, she found it hard to chew her mother’s response. Perhaps, at four, her incisors were not strong enough. She threw another question that would confirm what her mother said. Any answer she got, will remain in the never-fading side of her brain. “Mum, are you sure it doesn’t hurt?” “Don’t worry dear… never mind.” Wiki stammered. “Ok mum” Pipi concluded and stood to retire. “Laila, don’t worry, you will be fine.” she consoled. Laila gathered the plates into a bowl, wrapped the mat carefully as she struggled to avoid the scornful and lustful looks that came from both Wiki and Okinwa respectively.
Soon, she had finished all that was left to be done for that day except for the waiting-for-her-mat thing which often ushered her in to the house for the day. The December breeze had intensified in its assaults. The rough sounds from creaking iron sheets could confirm it. She leaned upwards in order to prevent her tears from falling, but it was unnecessary as they only found paths down her ears. The stars discharged every light directly at Laila as she glared to catch every ray from where it shone from. She dazed to the skies to see if her mother’s words were true, or if the God people say exist could lift her hand off this boiling crucible. She could hear her mother now, comforting her with her usual tone of regret “I wish it did not happen my daughter…”

Her mother’s words became a resounding gong on Laila’s mind since the day they ushered her into the flames of hell as a saint. Yes, she could see her resilient mother whom God did not allow to live longer than she prayed. She knew for sure that if mortality could fight its helpless nature against the scourges of death, her mother would choose to watch her grow forever. For it was in a bid to bring this to fulfilment on a day that her mother went out but never returned.
That faithless morning, upon which clouds without rain engulfed her young sunny life. Laila waved her mother continuously, as the road down the street stole her visibility away. Her right hand seemed tired, yet her left hand offered an extension. She made that a duty whenever she didn’t go to school. For some time now, it had become her perfect obligation. She has been home from school for two months already. Her fees have not been paid. Laila felt she could go out to do whatever, just to help her mother. Disappointedly, her mother wouldn’t let her. “I will do my best for you Lai” she always said. Laila had always believed in the good judgements of her mother. And so she resolved to pray for her each time she went out. Whenever she swung to the right, the prayer that went with it is: “God Bless mama today”, to the left: “God please keep her safe today” again to the right “God keep her safe please”. And so on that day she waved with pride filled in her heart. She hoped that her mother was just leaving for some hours and would be back to her by nightfall.
The breeze gradually died into a tranquil calmness, so that only crickets creaked. The perfect solemnity that filtered Laila’s senses could confirm aunty Wiki and her family were fast asleep. She folded her mat carefully as she sets to retire for the day. Aunty Wiki had just three rooms apartment in which two served as bedrooms for herself and her children respectively. The biggest served as the sitting room in which Laila finds a corner for her bedroom on faithful nights she is not asked to sleep outside. And so today marked one of those. She settled her mat behind the three sitter cushion and laid gently on it to allow her young bones smile in their weariness. The night’s dark hardly had the strength to dim her senses. Nothing could sleep her mind. Not even now, for her eyes were forced slightly open by the stream of tears from within it. She could hear Okinwa crouch closer. Amidst the heart of the night, she could feel his hands gradually slide apart her wrapper. Her tears intensified with no voice to go with them. She only sobbed without struggling as he parts her legs. Her tears were enough blows of struggle to his conscience. She wished. However, she was wrong, Okinwa had not a drop left in him. He carried out his course whenever he had the chance. Laila’s case was a minor issue. She should be used to it by now he thought.

By Alpha E.Y .  2017 ©


Here is a short account of my life as a soldier and a father. The first I can boldly attest I was and still am. But for the latter I shall leave to your impartial judgement. To tell if I owed the essence of my existence to either my family or to the country I swore to protect. I wish the clock would take a deep breath in its workings against the lengthiness of my story, so that, I can bring to you a detail of the vagaries myself and many Nigerian soldiers faced in the battle against Boko Haram. It was a battle that fought us on three fronts. The first is the ambitious warfare of greed amongst our political leaders. Such that breeds an avarice that is puffed up with vanity. The second and most overbearing front is the psychological crises of our obligations as fathers to our families. I have always thought that despite our call to a national duty, we had a root, a legacy that must be maintained and a pedigree that must be sustained. The third front is basically our primary assignment. A job we all swore by our lives to get done. And that was facing a set of beings whose death brought them favour from their god. However, the first front I mentioned earlier produced us into trash cans of their political blunders. Therefore, it was difficult fighting a battle that was not a just cause. More so, with the poor welfares we grew on, it was difficult to put your life on the line for a country you know would never defend your family when you are gone. All of the above could form an encyclopaedia of sorrow when broken into details. Nonetheless, as I also wish to bother you less with our personal grieves and predicaments, I shall be concise, straight to the point and leaving out unnecessary explanations of the politics that led us to that path.

It was 4:30am on the breezy morning of the 6th of July, 2011, after a night of fierce exchange of fire. We managed out with barely no ammunitions to survive another heat. And for a moment we had time to talk about optimism. “Hey son of a gun, what are you going to do when this whole thing ends?” Looking up to the skies, Joe coughed twice; not so much in joy, but more with hope written on his face. “I will rebuild my family, have myself a life, yes! I mean a life”. I held my breath for a while and wondering what Joe meant by a life. Did he mean we were not living? Not to sound naive, I restructured the question. “Hey man, you mean marry a new wife?” As if to understand my pranks, Joe chuckled and gasped. “Hey Bro, who on earth doesn’t know this khaki thing means we are alive but dead?” Though rhetorical, the question blew through my ears and forced some unnaturally-brief clarity in my eyes. It forced me to look at Joe with a puzzled but slight gaze, and then at my rifle. Both seemed new to me. For my rifle, it appeared as though I had been holding a carved stick all the while. Looking around, the blurriness from my eyes could tell nothing was familiar. It wasn’t the lonely forest we had trekked for nights that seemed strange, but the scantiness of the humans around. We travelled in ocean-sands to Maba. About hundred fathers, thousand sons, uncles, I can bet even brothers too. Trying to count how many of us were left only formed watery clouds in my eyes, there was no need, because I could not count Joe properly, it trickled down my cheeks so that I thought Joe more than one. But I was wrong, for we were just four still standing in nowhere, with no map, compass nor food. In fact, I will tell it clear! It was hell on earth. Joe’s hand was round my shoulders now, all in tears too. My tears were not if I would see home or not. They were all for my little girl out there, my heartbeat and my all. I hate to say it, “I am a worthless father. A father to a daughter who was never my daughter…” “Incoming…!” Thundered Private Tayo. Falling to the ground, I gleamed to where Tayo’s alarm cautioned us to. Not an image made any meaning to my sight. It wasn’t darkness nor was it hazy. It was a red splash this time. It presented Tayo’s head in two equal halves and swaying his body dancingly to the ground. My eye balls were losing hold of the dam behind them. Joe was in a similar state too as he cried, “Sun of a gun! When you see God, tell him I Loved Ana truly. I was not just there to show it.” Let’s return the favour was his command. I saluted from where I lay and with a lightening outburst, we opened every last flame from hell at the opposite direction. This time, with a fury of patriotism, not just for Nigeria, but for Tayo, the kids at Potuskum, and all the fallen gallantries of the Nigerian Army. Still breathing brimstone, we kept the artillery. “Form a parameter!” came a second command from Joe. How could three men form a barricade became my thoughts at that point. Yet, we advanced forward, still unleashing rage until I noticed Joe’s left arm rise to a shoulder level, in a manner of a plane taking off the ground. For a moment, a pin-drop silence accompanied the cool breeze that travelled that route. I could sense a divine hand to a turbulent sea. He stepped forward, clearing the little bush that sprang in front with the tip of his gun. Suddenly! A shot went out. It sounded so close that I could not tell who it hit. I could however feel some activity within where my right and left ventricles sat, so that, few results ran through my arteries and further to my left arm. This confirmed it wasn’t me. Joe! Joe’s groans answered my confusion. Dragging all that was left of my life, I shot severally at the direction the shot came from and moved back to Joe. He had been shot on the hand. “I got you brother, don’t move it, just stay calm.” I remedied. “Aliyu, give us some cover.” I tore part of my khaki and tied the wounded spot in order to save his spilling blood. “Aliyu keep it low’’ I cautioned again.

The ambush seemed to be over but dawn was gradually closing in on us. We needed to keep moving, moving to nowhere, just to tell the story and say how it became a history. I held Joe with his unwounded arm round my shoulder, and instructed Aliyu to lead the way as we gradually dragged down a hill. Suddenly! Aliyu started down like a mad dog towards something that looked like a stagnant water. It didn’t seem like anything the body would be friendly with when taken. I was wrong, for before I spelt correctly the word health, Aliyu’s head was buried in it already, gulping every liquid that could pass through his throat. I dragged Joe into it too, so that, we drank hungrily, every liquid that could pass down. Shortly, we were forced into a stop, when an alien sound was heard. One that had nothing to do with water. It came clattering, swivelling and ground breaking. Aliyu crouched first, I dragged Joe from behind so that we instinctively dodged behind a cluster of some green leafy plants. The Armoured Tank passed first, but mysteriously went still as if to have vanished. But I knew the Tank couldn’t have gone nowhere. So I whispered to Aliyu to create a cover from his view while I do the same from behind. Joe will do the same from the middle. Heated perspirations ran down my chest, through my trousers and culminating into a flood to my boots. I could hear movements crouch closer. All that was left for me was to say my last prayer. Say finally, I meet what thousands met before me. At this point, I only felt sorry for my daughter. But she has to understand we are all casualties as J. P. Clark would say. My wife too. I wished we never married than unite in a night just to be apart for the rest of our lives. “Father in Heaven, accept my Soul. Amen!” I prayed. I instructed Aliyu to fire on my shot. Pointing forward, I unleashed every weight on the trigger with my eyes closed. Disappointedly, not a faint meow was heard. Apparently, I was out of ammunitions. I grew cold like a hen in the slaughter house. Turning to see Aliyu’s state, he was fully concentrated and ready to pull his trigger on the count of my shot. My shot never came, not even now, for a round iron steel was resting on my neck. Cold shock ran down my spine, I was ready to die but was not sure if I wanted to be shot. Put your weapons down and lift your hands where we can see them. Aliyu turned in shame. His thought perhaps was, “I sold us out to be prisoners of war.” I turned round gradually, with my hands pointing to the skies and anticipating my end. However, as our lives are like leaves on trees, so is every life designed to last till its end. Certainly, that was not the end of mine. I could feel joy pump from within, jostling against my earlier state and up to my neck. It culminated into tears in my eyes. They are Nigerian soldiers. Wake me up from my dreams, on the dogged badge that glued the chest of the soldier pointing a gun at me, I could see a green to the left, a mud soaked white in the middle and another green on the right. That’s my home, I could say it when I saw it with the slightest vision my eyes could afford. Throughout the journey back home, I was lost completely in a wilderness of thoughts, so that, I hardly noticed the motion of the truck. Each thought presenting images of bodies I saw go lifeless. Returning from such an expedition is one that keeps the body shivering till the end of one’s life. The diverse pictures of blood bath could keep one’s vision blur from normal life outside of the front. If not the inhuman nature of how an enemy’s head was chopped off, the pain of watching your brother in arms fall slowly to the ground, is enough to throw you out of your spirit and far away from normalcy. How I survived this war is what my yesterday has to answer. Yes! I could recall vividly how we left the barracks in full flames of chants and morale. About hundred trucks left Mogadishu Cantonment to Maba. I looked from where I was sitting, the few number of trucks that made the convoy back home, soaked my heart in tears anyone would cry at the sight of his entire family in a blazing house. My brain calculated randomly, the number that left the barracks that day and what my eyes were counting. Where are the rest? What happened to their trucks? Did they run out of gas and will somehow catch up with us? Tears drifted their path down my face, each trickle consoling me thus, “death is once!” I tell you! I saw greed massacre millions into shameless bowels of gluttony. I watched vultures reduce to bones, able bodied Friends, brothers, fathers, husbands and lambs. They were burnt into putrifying ashes, trying to quench a burning forest they knew not how it went ablaze. Joe patted me with his hand round my shoulders. “Man, you got to know if we could, no one would have been left behind, and I mean no one.” His voice shivered too, letting free his emotions. “I swear I will cry no more.” He lied. Or perhaps the stripes of liquid cascading down his face were not tears. “Remember the morale that ushered us on this path? I tell you, those who wish to go for war have truly never been there. Yes! They have never had an experience of it.” By now, he was more into it than I was. He bent his face to the iron platform that made the floor of the truck. I placed my right hand round his shoulders too, so that our hands are entangled. The sirens, the helicopters and the noise from the crowd that gathered seemed familiar. We were back to base. No I was back to base. The shimmery ambivalence on their faces was difficult to say who was happy or sad. There he stood in tears of joy and beside him she wallowed in an ocean of sorrow. Such assessments were quite unnecessary. Especially when your family were yet to know on what part of the welcome ceremony they fell. And so I crossed my bag upon my shoulder and stole the once forgotten path that led to my quarters. The grassy plains only stared like a dog who could not recognise its owner. The breeze perhaps was striking.

“Yes darling, am home now I said”. Lowering my bag to the ground, I opened wide my arms with my eyes closed. It was ten years already since I left. When our daughter was only six. I deserved more than a warmth I thought. The way she looked at me gave my tears a strong mandate to betray me. “It’s me darling’’ I cried. As if the words my teary voice pushed to her mind became some very clear source of identification. So that, she fell into my arms like a tree whose roots had given up its grips. She now recognised me. “How have you been?” I stammered. At first, I thought my voice would fail me, but the persistent regurgitation of her cry sank into me, seeking to find explanations to my displaced priority as a father and her husband. “Let’s go inside, I am home now and I promise to leave you no more.” I said. However, she did not let a word out amidst her uncontrollable tears. It was dawning on me that something more purged her tears. “Darling…our daughter, where is she?” I inquired. She only pointed towards the door. It was evident now that all was not well with my baby girl. Like a mad dog, I made straight into the house, turning in different directions at a time. However, I could not practice any further my state. There she was, lying with her face upwards in my haggard and rickety couch. The sight of her tears arrested me into a gentle felon before his prosecutor. My legs submitted to the orders of my heart so that, I fell helplessly beside her. I tried to wipe the strips of tears that now lined down her ears. She over-heard the conversation between her mother and I. “Baby look at daddy, I am home now” I said. Her face was aimed at me directly. All covered in rash and battered by pulse. “Daddy why did you leave me out in the cold with no coat? … Look at what they did to me. I am going to die pretty soon the doctor told mamma. I never had a daddy is what I shall say to God.” Her tears pushed my face to my wife. “What did…Who did this to her?” I roared! Needless as it sounded at a time as that. I should have controlled my anger. For the sake of my family. However, it’s insignificance and emptiness was easily explained by my wife’s refutation. “Don’t you blame it on me John!” she thundered. “You have no right to give orders around here. If you must know, they raped the life out of her and killed her because… she is …!” She bursted out in tears. With this, I became unstable in consciousness and wishing I never recover. Or better still, I should have died in the fronts. Give me life or death, just not the khaki thing anymore. “Daddy you are a soldier and I am a nobody.” Her slow but steady voice stole its way into my heart, my ears had no powers over them. “Alas! That is why they did all that to me, with no you around.” Her voice broke in segments, but her tears was consistent with her heart. “You said you don’t ever want to see your good girl go bad? You said you will be there when I needed you, you will be there when I smiled, you promised to play with me all my life.” She added. “Baby no!” I screamed, as I held her shoulders tight. My incompetence became my guilt and judge. She remembered every bit of thing I said to her. Baby I will always remember the good girl you were. Her head fell sidewise. I could see my life fall along too. What gun did I need to have stopped those eyelids from burying her eye balls? Certainly there was none but for my lone tears.

By Alpha E.  Y.  2016 ©