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Friday, 25 December 2015


Abdulahi had seen the good, the bad and the ugly. He had seen a husband beheaded and the wife slaughtered like a sacrificial lamb. He had even seen a vigilante youth killed in cold blood, his guts and intestines exposed. He was almost a victim himself in the last Cathedral bomb blast in Kayaya, Kaduna State. Their patrol truck had capsized as a result of the severe rock and the deafening sound of the blast. It had been too late to stop the suicide bombers. Blood-covered bodies—including children and aged, had littered the collapsed and smoking building. Surviving and injured mothers cried uncontrollably when they found their dead children. The sights could have moved even the hardest of soldiers but he wasn’t trained to weep in such times but to serve with courage and bravery. He and his teammates could do nothing to avert the already done harm. All there was left to do was rescuing survivors. The war against the insurgents was still fresh and vehement.

Last month had been worst; it was his closest confrontation with death. They were deployed in the dense jungle of Algabani, Borno State.  Intel obtained carried that some insurgents had recently inhabited a part of the jungle to plot and launch catastrophe in the surrounding town. Their mission had been simple or better put, clearly defined: destroy everything that has breath in the zone. They had been equipped with a couple of RPGs and assault rifles, some grenades and communication gadgets. The operation was a 48-hour operation before extraction. His right hand man, Samir always had a good air of humor in the face of extreme danger which was always good for him and the entire team. The eight-man team knew they were short armed, considering the nature of the operation. The same Intel had gathered that these insurgents carried sophisticated weapons and there was a possibility of them having a tank. “Na rantse! These our ogas de craze. See the kind rifle wey dem give us. My mama for village de use dis one do hunting. Chai! These people no like us! Mugayen maza!” Samir had commented the night before the launching of the mission.

The insurgents were taken by surprise in their camp. They had numbered over fifty, all armed up for mischief. The soldiers had spread out, some mounted strategic routes of escape. They had brought down the enemies’ vehicles and temporary resident structures with the RPGs, maiming a few in the act. There was strong gun fight but the insurgents were die hards. The table was turning as most of the soldiers were running out of ammo. The insurgents were overpowering and killing them one by one. Abdulahi had just fixed his last spare magazine which contained a little above a dozen rounds. Every shot had to count. He aimed and fired, he killed many, he took cover, he changed position, he fired some more before the trigger gave off a mere click sound. He was completely out. A black and armed insurgent was running up to him, rifle in hand ready to fire. Allah saved him as Samir came to his rescue, taking down the villain from behind. He was about to say “Nagode dan’uwana” for the brave act when one of the maimed and blood covered insurgent lying on the ground picked up a rifle and shot Samir on the neck. Samir, before falling to the dust, with his last breath, reacted by turning round and firing back at his attacker. Both men died while the few remaining insurgents fled. Only two soldiers; himself and Mohammed, the team leader had survived that mission and made it to the extraction point. The rest went home in body bags, including his best friend who saved his life.

Today, Abdulahi was off duty. He would resume in four days time. Sitting in his sofa, just wanted to have his smoke and whiskey in peace. Nothing else mattered. The horrific and bloody scenes played in his head in quick flashes, driving him insane. He drained another shot and took a long hard drag on his last stick of St. Morris. He emptied the bottle and drained the last shot. “For Samir, dan’uwana. Allah ya jikan sa.” Abdulahi was a peaceful man, a soldier of dignity and reputation. He was the one his team mates fell back on when in need of technical and moral counseling. He was good and devoted to the force. He was the exceptional one. But how would he counsel himself over the loss of his right hand man and his team? He was dying in depression and regret. If only the scenes would stop flashing in his head. Even as a soldier, with all the physical and psychological training he received, he was not prepared for such experience. 

The door opened and Binta walked in, expecting to surprise her fiancĂ©. He had told her on phone earlier that he would be home for few days. Binta was a serving corps member in Kaduna. Abdulahi had been their platoon commander and couldn’t help noticing the beautiful Linguist back in the orientation camp. The feeling was mutual and they had a couple of secret dates back then. After camp days, he had asked her for a serious relationship which birthed an engagement. He was a man of his words and knew he loved her, even Binta had marveled to meet such a different breed of the country’s bulldog. She had no doubt about him and therefore kept herself for him. What she saw in the room immediately dampened her cheerful mood. Her man was not an alcoholic or a chronic smoker. The two empty bottles of aromatic drinks and packs of cigarettes she saw on the coffee table was enough to raise her amazement but not as much as the helpless and messy state she had found her man. She knew something wasn’t right and she had to give him some help. He was awake now, seeing and recognizing who was with him but was in a helpless state. She helped him to the bathroom where he washed up and afterwards drank some fresh herbal drink she prepared to clear his hangover and throbbing head. 

Over the cup of drink, with a cast down countenance and soberness, he apologized to Binta for being in such a state. He told her all that had happened in the mission. She felt his pains and wept silently; he hugged her close to himself for comfort. He was a man and a trained one so he fought with his own tears. They consoled each other with the intimacy of lovers. His lips found hers and they kissed passionately. He was a hungry man and she was a starving lady, the intensity ascended and clothes were thrown off. Picking her up to the room, he carefully dropped her on the bed, searching, wanting and tasting all she could offer. He was driving her crazy, every nerve in her body, every muscle in her body, all strained to the edge as he filled her up. He was gentle and sweet, providing just the way she yearned, she could feel herself nearing the cliff’s top. The sudden vibration of Abdulahi’s phone on the bed drawer completely shook them off their passionate ascension. He ignored the call but the caller was persistent. He picked it up on the third ring. 
His annoyance transformed into a surprise as he noticed the caller was Major Yusufu, the man who dished out operations from the GOC.  He opened the line and listened to his superior, Binta studying his face curiously. When he dropped the call, he almost smashed the phone out of annoyance. He had just received new orders to report for another mission. 

In the barracks, Abdulahi walked into Major Yusufu’s office where he met a new team he was to work with for the mission. They were briefed and equipped with adequate information. The location was circled out on the wide map on the Major’s desk. It was Bammar, a small village in Borno state where the insurgents had started infiltrating. The mission was to last two weeks. They were to work with the already deployed soldiers in the area to put down the tension in the region. All they could say was, “Yes Sir!” before and after the Major dismissed them.

The weather in Bammar village was extreme at nights; the camp fire they usually setup was their most reliable source of warmth. When the fire died out late in the night, they resorted to smoking and liquor. Bammar village was gradually becoming isolated as the inhabitants were relocating on daily bases. The team had stayed for over a week but there was not even a single sound of gunshot or insurgence until today noon when they received a call from Kaduna base, informing them of a potential location where the insurgents camped. They were commanded to invade and destroy the enemy camp the following day at 1500 hours. All the necessary briefing was given. 

It would have been pitch-dark, if not for the burning dry woods that lit up the dark night. His team of four men was fraternizing well with the other soldiers deployed to that location.  After the round of cards they were presently playing, they had made up their minds to retire to bed against the task the following day but when Nassir, one of his teammates increased the betting on the winner, he automatically pulled everyone in for another round. 

Abdulahi had noticed how often Bello, one of the deployed corporals left the group to make his phone calls. He wondered what was special that he had to keep such a wide gap for a phone conversation. Unlike Bello, tonight, he was the only one not playing cards. Abdulahi ignored the young man and minded his game. It was already past one in the morning.  They all needed to rest, tomorrow was going to be war. 

He saw Binta in his dream, dressed like a bride and walking towards him. He could see her smile behind the veil. There was jubilation and merriment but suddenly things changed. He heard shots fired in the air, people ran for safety, and chaos emanated. That was when he jerked up from his flat mattress in his tent to the sound of real gunshots. Their camp was under attack! Nassir also slept in the same tent with him. He was also awake in no time. Instinctively, they grabbed their rifles and fled the tent, gathering themselves up at the command of their team leader, Mohammed. Everyone was accounted for except Bello. “Tonight, we stand and fight these tsinannu! Prepared or not, we have to face them! Soldiers, take positions! Kase su!”

The insurgents were now visible, all masked and armed, throwing grenades into the tents and firing randomly. The soldiers gunned some of them down from their positions but the insurgents had come out in full, outnumbering the soldiers in multiples. The predator became the prey and the war was lost. Abdulahi watched his team go down again, few others fleeing into the bush for their lives. The team leader, Mohammed was shot on the forehead, the insurgents still trooping in for more havoc. It was him and Nassir now, firing their rifles with anger, bitterness and venom. They did not gather enough grenades from their vehicles and they were fast running out of ammo. Abdulahi rose and fired the last of his bullets at several encroaching insurgents until he was out. That was when the first bullet hit him, then the second and third. He had known a time like this would come. He fell down smiling, Nassir kneeling on his side, trying to press down and stop the blood oozing from his chest and stomach. Abdulahi knew it was futile. He could barely speak, the pain was excruciating. He managed to pull a tag off his neck and deposit it into Nassir’s fist. “Tell—tell Binta my kyekyawar mata—tell her I love her. Allah be with her. Go! Go, dan’uwana! We—we will meet again. Allahuakbar.” few minutes after Nassir took off, he gave up the ghost. 

**The End**

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