I still remember

Dr Desh_196738

 

Growing up in the barracks was the best childhood experience. The communal life was second to none. The sharing of both Christmas and Sallah rice was always something to look up to; it tasted different from the Sunday ritual rice. The constant brawls between wives was mischievously a delightful sight to behold so far your mother was not involved. However, a day came that forever altered my affinity for my safe heaven.

 

7th January 2003 06:30HRS

I shrieked with excitement as mother pulled my white stockings and forced my feet into the brown cutina bata. It was worn from prolonged use but mother ensured it remained well maintained and polished. Next she forced on my little green gown with its double white strips. She took pride in herself that she raised the neatest children on the entire block. Mama Ibeji, as she was fondly called, was among the few soldier wives who were literate – half a term in the Teachers’ Training college before dropping out to marry my father qualified.

Today was particularly a joyous day at home; Taiwo’s admission slip into the Nigeria Defense Academy (NDA) was delivered yesterday by the dispatch unit. To the envy of his friends and admiration of all block D girls, he passed, on merit. Secondly, Dad was coming back today – the first time since he left for the operation in October. Mother therefore stalled the celebration until he returned. I could hardly contain my happiness. I still remembered how routinely dad’s sparse visit were: First, he would drop his small leather bag then the long green duffle bag. These bags contained all sorts of items ranging from his dirty camouflage clothes which we quickly tossed aside, to kwilikwili, kilishi and desiccated date palm.  Occasionally, he brought back very dried bush meat. Next I would help him pull his boots, wrinkling my nose from the emanating stench. Mama would quickly serve him a bowl of amala and gbegiri and unbuttoning his shirt, he would tell tales of Maiduguri amidst mouthfuls of food. Few minutes after, he always dozed off on the lone cushion in the sitting room snoring very loudly.

 

7th January 2013 7:00HRS

I dashed out to join the other girls as we strode towards Command Children Schoo. I overheard mother instructing Kehinde to kill our fowl in preparation for the evening. I told the girls it was a miracle the fowl had survived four months without being stolen – truants from the Day secondary school often came to steal chickens. My friends planned to come to our room in the evening in the guise of visiting in a bid to get a piece of meat. I could barely concentrate in class. My mind wandered many times until the teacher grew tired of calling me back

At the stroke of 1:30, I grabbed my school bag and ran all the way to the soldiers block. Approaching my block, I observed a small crowd close to our room. I took it as a sign my timing was accurate. You see, dad’s battalion always left Maiduguri at dusk. That way, they were sure to arrive Jos (the divisional headquarters) before 8:00HRS for the change of guard parade.

People milled around the ground floor and the staircase. They were mostly the wives of other soldiers. I thought they came to see if dad brought any message from their husbands or if they was still alive and well. Some husbands will send gift items to their wives, and some money. Only a few sent letters, something considered too weak in the war front. Perhaps if I had looked closer, I would have seen it in their eyes. Squeezing through, I tossed my bag aside screaming Daddy! Daddy!

Then I saw my mother. She was wearing a black jalabiya and weeping uncontrollably. She was surrounded by Mama Ciroma and Mama Adekunle, her best friends. I needed no one to tell me what happened. I had seen this scene repeatedly and it meant only one thing: dad was no more. Tears filled my eyes, and my head became hot. I heard words like ambush, Boko Haram, bomb and death. I stormed out of the house and headed to my favorite spot – the bank of the small river that passed through the barracks. My father was the most patriotic soldier I ever knew. He loved Nigeria more than his own life. He gave us names from Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba tribes and many people often teased him that one day, he’ll name his children after the towns in Nigeria. I still remembered how he always shined his shoes till my teeth reflected on them. And how he always told us “always do your best, because you are the best.”

I don’t know how long I spent there, I must have fallen asleep because I only recall that I woke up on my bed the next day covered in thick duvet. Taiwo must have found me and carried me back to the house. I was exempted from school that day and the day after. All I wanted was my father, my Warrant Officer.

 

January 15, 2016

It has been 13 years since dad passed on yet his death remains my greatest loss. I still remember the pain like it happened yesterday. Watching the President as he lays the wreath today, I know it’s time to journey back home. Jos is the only one I ever knew.

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P.S. In loving memory of Col. G. Ahmed, Col. U. Yakubu, Capt. Kenneth Onubah, Lt. SK Leo, Corp. Ahmed Usman and countless others who have died that we may be safe. Though tribe and tongue differed, in brotherhood they stood.

 

 

By Chizzy Odilinye

29 replies added

  1. Fifi January 15, 2016 Reply

    I can’t even pretend to understand your loss. We are proud of our soldier’s effort.
    May the souls of our fallen soldiers rest in peace.

  2. Walter January 15, 2016 Reply

    Oh my! I’m speechless with empathy for all those loved ones left behind by the patriotic acts of the departed. 🙁

  3. Onyinye January 15, 2016 Reply

    Am proud of you Sis!!! The story brought tears to my heart. In remembrance of the fallen hero, May their souls keep resting and strength to their loved ones left behind.

  4. Chuks January 15, 2016 Reply

    Chizzy has a way of capturing the readers attention, this particular work of fiction got me really challenged me….the ability to capture an environment not hers and share in the inner turmoils of its inhabitants, turmoils often hidden with smiles and faithfilled clichés. This is pure ingenuity.

    • Chizzy January 15, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Chuks. This means a lot coming from you.

  5. Yemie January 15, 2016 Reply

    This startlingly harrowing tale drew tears from my eyes and it does well to bring closer home the gravity of the horror that’s terrorism as is especially experienced and felt by those in the crosshairs…in the line of fire! A part of this narration also reminds of a TV series ‘Army Wives’, chronicling the plight of the wives, children and kin of those who enlist in the army; fully well knowing the many risks they take on by so doing! Can’t say I understand such a honourable and noble act but one thing I do know is that there’s no greater love than when a man lays down his life for his brother! These guys are pretty rare….selfless, altruistic and mighty compassionate souls; and whilst they aim to keep their fellow countrymen and loved ones safe from harm, they do so with less regards for their own lives and a knowing that the dawn of every new day may very well be their last! Such guts!

    May God rest the souls of all the departed unsung and fallen heroes the world over! Their labor of love and sacrificial acts of service shall never be forgotten! To their families, may the Good Lord give each and everyone the fortitude to bear these irraparable losses!

    Thanks for sharing this pretty moving tale Chizzy and Chisom, Shalom! ❤

    • Chisom January 15, 2016 Reply

      A big AMEN to that, Yemie … thank you for taking time to read and comment, means a lot to us to know people are touched by our stories. Peace, dear.

    • Chizzy January 15, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Yemie.
      Your comments are always well articulated.
      I say a big amen to your prayers.

  6. chinedu January 15, 2016 Reply

    I am proud of our gallant and respectable soldiers

  7. Nnamdi January 15, 2016 Reply

    A combination of fiction and a true story. This is so artistic!

    • Chisom January 15, 2016 Reply

      At a point, I couldn’t say which was which anymore. A very beautiful blend Chizzy created here.

  8. Eky January 15, 2016 Reply

    Boo mo o! As always am more than proud!!!! A great write and an even greater read!!!

  9. Gk January 15, 2016 Reply

    Oh yes, i remember. Nice piece

  10. obayaya January 15, 2016 Reply

    The greatest monuments to fallen men are not made in marble. They’re deep in the sea, deep in the jungles,.on foreign battlefields, a rifle driven into the ground with a helmet on top and some tags. And that is the tribute these men have earned. Your father inclusive.

    God bless the Nigerian Armed Forces

    • Chisom January 15, 2016 Reply

      And may their ultimate sacrifice never be in vain. God bless Nigeria.

  11. Dandaddy January 15, 2016 Reply

    Lovely writing and thought-encapsulating.

  12. Anthony January 15, 2016 Reply

    Thanks a lot for reminding us the pains, the agony and the huge sacrifices made by these men who risk their life for their fatherland. It was so real I only realized that it wasn’t your real life experience at the end of the story. Honestly, you guys are doing a great job. It makes me really proud. Thanks.

  13. Anyi January 15, 2016 Reply

    This is really touching. Doesn’t seem like fiction to me. May the souls of our fallen heroes rest in peace.

  14. Francis January 15, 2016 Reply

    Chai. Touching and interesting. God bless our country and d men who continually live in patriotism

  15. Ruthy January 15, 2016 Reply

    This is well written & the msg clearly conveyed. I pray God strengthened the family of the bereaved. Tanks Chizzy for this…mmmmm I’m really amazed at ur writing prowess. Kip it up!!! POY

  16. Tobe January 15, 2016 Reply

    Chizzy dearie, your write-up is amazing! Truly, the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. @ Martin, I like it here!

  17. Scad January 16, 2016 Reply

    Nice one Chizzy..

  18. A January 16, 2016 Reply

    Nigeria Soldiers, dead or alive deserves honour and respect for their sacrifice for the nation. Freedom comes at the cost of many lives. The sacrifice that involves giving of one’s life is second to non. I personally admire their courage-can’t enlist in the Army though. To die upholding ones ideal is a true definition of heroism.@Chizzy, thanks for taking ur time to honour our fallen heroes. I admire ur writing skills. Keep it up. smile

  19. Collins January 16, 2016 Reply

    God save our Nation.

    Can’t help but feel sad for the lives of our troops lost unnecessarily…

    We shall still stand in brotherhood

  20. Nonny Onyekwelu January 16, 2016 Reply

    Still amazed Chizzy at your ability to perfectly mix fiction with reality. That’s a rare quality even among writers. Thanks, for this timeous reminder. Wish u a beautiful muse on which to write more.

    God save our country Nigeria…

    • Chizzy January 17, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Nonso.
      God save our nation~ sounds like an adaptation of God bless the queen

    • Chizzy January 17, 2016 Reply

      Thanks everyone. I can barely reply your comments but just know that they are genuinely appreciated.

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