Read this amazing and heartbreaking piece about Umar (Fiction) written by my dear friend Lamide Johnson
My name is Umar, my father’s name is Ibrahim. I am the first son from my mother; my mother gave birth to two sons for my father. I and Zak. Zak is 8 years old, I am two years older than he is. My mother is the second wife of my father, his first wife died when she was giving birth to Maryam, her third child. I heard she died because the doctors in the village hospital were careless. Mother said they didn’t attend to her early enough. My mother’s name is Aisha. She is the daughter of the Chairman of Potiskum Local Government, in Yobe state. My father is a trader. He buys and sells Malu (cattle) there was a really big market for Malu in Potiskum, plenty people used to come and buy a lot of them, load them in big trucks and take them to other cities. My father was one of the biggest traders in the market, which was why he was allowed to marry my mother.
My parents believed in education. Grandpa said “education is the bedrock of societal development”, whatever that meant; he never stopped to encourage anyone that cared to listen to send their children to school. He always gave credits to education for giving him a winning edge in becoming the Chairman. My mother went to school; she studied Public Health at the University of Maiduguri. I was told that the University of Maiduguri has been shut down for about a year now. This was because of the terrorist attacks, BH. People often whispered their name here, or better still, they abbreviate it as BH. I strongly believe I once heard father say ‘Haram’, I guess that is what the ‘H’ stands for. Well, when I read Harry Potter, the book written by J.K Rowlings, Lord Voldermort was never called his real name, it was because the people feared that if they did, it will summon his presence, and his presence was a deep black evil, hence, they called him “you know who”. BH was our own ‘you know who’. I still didn’t understand why BH destroyed people. I didn’t know why it was so difficult for the military to capture all of them; I don’t think I will ever understand. Father says I ask too many questions, and my little brain will not understand them, maybe he is right.
On Monday, after I had taken my bath. I helped Zak have his bath too. Mother always says I should be a big brother to my little brother, well, I try. He is very stubborn. He always plays with the lather of the soap when I am bathing him. I didn’t like the mess it made. After we wore our uniforms, mother asked Tahir, our driver to take us to school. She was looking very sick, I didn’t know why, but she called I and Zak, held us closely and said she loved us. She always says she loved us, but now that I think about it, I feel it was different.
On my way to school, I saw some of my friends riding their bicycles to school. I always loved to ride, father promised to buy me one if I topped the class in my next exams, I know I will. The name of my school is Government Science Secondary School. I was in JSS 1. Tahir will drop me first and take Zak to his own school; it was a government school too. Grandpa built this school using government money. The people of Potiskum were very happy when he built it. Regardless of how rich my family was, my parents believed that education can be gotten from a government school too. That was why they didn’t send us to a private school.
“Umar, sannu” Alia said.
“Yaya kike”, I answered, my cheeks getting a little flushed
Alia was my classmate, she was the most beautiful girl in my class. My friends liked her, Mustapha, Nasir, Gambo and Suleiman. But she liked me more than she liked them.
“Let’s go to the assembly ground” She continued
It was quite an honor for me, I adjusted my trousers, which was falling off my waist and smiled at her taking note of the new hair braid she had on. While we walked to the already crowded assembly ground, she talked and talked. I was happy. I hoped my friends saw I and Alia together, I wanted them very jealous. We were talking about what we’ll write for our English essay. Our teacher, Mallam Isa asked us to write a short essay, with not more than 100 words on what we would like to be in future. Alia said she wanted to be a Doctor, while I wanted to be a Pilot. I always dreamt to fly an airplane. I really wanted to.
“”I want to tell you a secret, Umar” Alia whispered “BH means Boko Haram”
“Shhhhhh” I said, without thinking. She was a little embarrassed. I apologized
“Don’t call their name” I said
“Why, I thought you never knew what BH meant” she defended
“Well, I did. I just didn’t want to mention their name. Haven’t you heard that if you did, it may summon them?”
“Ah oh, may God forgive me” She prayed
I became a little scared. I hoped they didn’t hear their name. I prayed to God that they never get summoned.
We assembled on our line, we were almost 1250 in the whole school. My class alone, JSS 1C had about 120 pupils. Alia had to line up with the girls, and I had to go with the boys. As we sang the National Anthem, I was staring at Alia and mumbling the Anthem under my breath, her beauty ignited something inside my belly, I wondered how God will make a girl so pretty. Suddenly, like a flash of lightening, I saw the most horrifying scene ever, after I heard a bang that deafened me and then everything went black. Very black.
I woke up from the blackness that held me. I was in the hospital; mother was there by my bed side, she was crying, father was there too, he was comforting her. I looked for Alia, she wasn’t there. I looked around, I saw my schoolmates, some of them were on the bed, some were on the floor. Doctors were everywhere, more children from my school were brought into the hospital, the hospital was not going to be sufficient for all of us, I saw Mustapha’s parents crying, they said Mustapha is dead, they said it was a suicide bomber, they said 47 children died, Mustapha died! I hoped Alia was safe, I still don’t know if she is, I don’t know who to ask. I felt faint, dizzy; I felt a pain on my legs. It was a sharp pain, very painful, I’ve never felt that way before. It was like I was going to die too. I didn’t know if I preferred to die like Mustapha or endure the pain and look for Alia. I removed the sheet that covered my legs, so I could see if I broke a leg, but what I saw sent a chill down my spine. My legs were gone. From my knee cap, it was amputated! My left leg was gone!
I cannot clearly remember all that happened that day, that day when the sun refused to shine in my home, that day when evil visited my family, my friends, but one thing I know for sure is this – my dream has been snatched away from me, perhaps, I shouldn’t have bothered dreaming at all.
I still believe in my country, Nigeria, I’m not certain the peace I seek will come any sooner though. I heard the elections are barely three months away. Maybe, just maybe after the elections, there will be some peace, regardless, Potiskum is my village, Nigeria is my Country, this is my home, no matter how bad things may be, I will not run away from home!
Adohr’s Note: Nigeria will rise again. Children will dream again. They will not succeed. This war against insurgency and terrorism,we shall win.