By Deen Ameen
IT WAS late June, 2012. It was a Saturday in early rainy
season. The sky was decorated with dark clouds, wandering, reaching
for each other; the sun was lukewarm; the wind was dusty
smelling of rain; the tall ‘dogon yaro’ trees were reluctant dancers
and singers of a ‘shoo- shoo’ song. I had just turned 17, had just
graduated from secondary school, waiting for admission into Unimaid.
It was the day my fate twisted, took a different shape; the day
everything began to fall apart in my life; the day my parent and my
only brother died in a Boko Haram attack at a mosque that shared wall
with our bungalow on Balewa Avenue. I would have died with them but I
had gone earlier that day to visit a friend of mine. It was on my
way back back through the silent Sardauna street that I heard the deafening
boom of bombs, shattering the peace of Maiduguri, shattering my
life. A surge ran down my spine, warming my blood , and my heart began
to pound as though there were yams inside. I knew at it was Boko
Haram. The sound seemed to be coming from Balewa avenue. I quickened my
steps. I ignored the fleeing restless people that kept reminding of
the danger of where I was heading towards.
Our street was swallowed in an ominous silent when I arrived; the
attack had stopped, replaced by an emptiness.The sky was a blank sheet enveloped
with smoke. Strong smell of burning flesh contaminated the air, most of the
houses were burnt ; some still burning . There were body parts
scattered everywhere around the mosque where just hours before was full
of worshipers listening to a lecturer from a respected Sheikh. Here a burnt head.
There a burning hand. Here scattered brains.
For the rest of my life, the images of that scene would never stop
flashing in my mind.
Our house was still burning.My father’s car had exploded and dotted the
compound with its parts. Though breathing was hard , and my feet were
burning underneath I stood in the compound from where I could see the
burnt corpses of my family. I would never sleep and wake in this house
to my fathers qur’anic recitation , to the birds singing on the mango
trees in the backyard. I would never sit in the living listening to my
father grumbling about his unpaid pension. I remember how that day we
were all sitting in the living watching France 24 including my
brother who had visited from the hostel. I remembered I had to collect
a book from my friend. I asked my brother to come with me but he
refused and took a Sidney Sheldon novel on the coach. Now they are
dead. I wished I had remained with them and died. I would have been
in heaven listening to the sweet song of heavenly birds.
I broke into uncontrollable tears , sprawling down my cheeks. I almost hit my head against the walls in indescribable anguish.
But I wailed instead.My wailing echoed in the silence, in the eerie
I didn’t know the amount time I spent there waiting. Waiting for the
nightmare to end, for my mother to come and say its okay, patting my
back. The police and ambulance sirens seemed to tell me that moment would never
come, that it was reality. I stood up and left the house for I
couldn’t stay in the house that had my family melting in it.
A mourning air hung in the refugee camp that supported rickety
tarpaulin tent that I feared a gust of wind would take off.There were
skinny, hungry , rusty haired wandering about in the camp. I sat
outside a tent , wishing there were anywhere I could go but my
grandparents had died during the Baga Massacre.
A Kanuri woman, fair in complexion with dark lips like my mothers,
wearing a lapaya Indian sari-like invited me into her tent which
contained a sack sprayed as mat, some pile of clothes, some kitchen
utensils. The woman’s two children sat at the far end of the tent
pressing themselves together that I believed a mere movement might
scare them enough to make them slip into each other and become one.
“They have not eaten for two days” the woman explained. Perhaps
because I had been staring at them. “The government used to help but no more,” she said, bitterly.
I sat down, wanting the woman to keep quiet and leave me with my own
worries. Indeed I felt like I was alone in this world. I was feeling dizzy and I
could feel a bitter taste of fever on my tongue.
Later that night, as we squeezed ourselves on the sack, the
woman told me her story. Her husband whom she eloped with had died in a
Boko Haram attack. Now with two children she was helpless as she was
sure her family wouldn’t accept her for eloping. I sobbed with her as I
told her my own story.
The voracious mosquitoes were vicious, the heat unbearable. I couldn’t
sleep and all I wanted at that time was to strangle myself.
Early the next day, there was a suicide bombing in the camp. The
swiftness of event made it hard for me to recount . I remembered running
for several kilometers and wailing and being in a hot bus.
Then I was in Kano.
Mujahyd Ameen Lilo,also writing by the pen name Deen Ameen was born in 2003. He’s currently an SS2 student of Sunshine International College, Kano. He was once a Poet of the Week of Daily Trust. He had presented many of his poems in ANA Creative Writer’s Forum. He hopes to publish his book next year.