By Mujahyd Ameen Lilo
The rainy season hurriedly packed as the harmattan came knocking. Already the days were becoming shorter and there was a slight dryness in the air that was beginning to smell of the Sahara sand. There were traces of haze in the sky. It was a familiar time. It was election time.
In the ears of my mind I could hear the drum of election beating. Around all the walls of the country it echoed and bounced. And the nation danced to it. Walls were painted with the posters of politicians. One couldn’t listen to his favourite radio program on radio stations anymore; for they are now full with campaign promises that stirred up no hope in the masses.
It was the season when chain of events led me here to where this story begins. Here in the traffic around State Road where horns blares as the vehicles swirl to find their way. The beggars too, swirl between cars, extending their bowls, chanting begging incantations, crippled or blind. I am one of the beggars crawling around.
I am slightly angered by a rude hawker who had stepped menacingly on my helpless left foot. He didn’t wait to say sorry, but rather rudely hissed and walked on. I shouldn’t have taken offence anyway for it happens a lot here in the busy traffic.
But I was particularly angry, made more so by the radical sun. I wanted to follow the hawker and teach him a lesson, but I had only one full leg. I quietly crawled to the side of the road. I sat chin in palms. I began to have wishes which I hate having. I wished I could stand up and toil and sweat to provide for myself. But I regretted the thought that when I once had complete legs I didn’t make a good use of them.
Then I had slowly killed my heart through drug addiction and being a thug depending on the money I got from being used by dishonest politicians as a tool for causing violence.
As usual, I closed my eyes and reflected on how I got to this stage. It was during that election season.
Most of the time as we sat there, I would look at us, our cigarette-darkened lips, our spiky hair, our rotten hearts, our scar- adorned bodies speaking of violence and I would regret a brief regret of ever choosing this kind of life for myself after graduating from traditional Qur’anic school.
Since when I was a young almajiri, I had had the desire of waiting for things to fall from the sky, never hustling to reach for them.I never learned handiwork as my fellow almajirai but followed bad company to pick-pocket. I stopped visiting my parents in the village for fear of being asked of money.
In the end, I began working for a cannabi or better known as “wee wee” dealer, who introduced me to smoking marijauna. The minute I graduated I began to live with the thugs in a cave in Kawo before policemen chased us out. We relocated to this uncompleted building.
In that building we survived many police arrests and court trials which arose from raping young girls and women, inflicting deadly knife injuries on our opponents, stealing, terrorizing whole neighbourhoods and instilling fear in innocent people. Such was the life we lived until that fateful election season came.
At that time, our leader had given us an assignment from a politician in our community. He wanted us to cause unrest when his rival arrives to cast his vote at the polling station, in order to spoil the chances of his rival. We should set buildings on fire, cut the rival’s boys was what he requested.
We told him not to worry, that that was not a big problem. We cheered as he dug his hands into his starched Babban Riga and brought out Naira notes. Our mouth extended to our ears as he slipped the money into our waiting hands.
We made preparations. We sharpened our weapons. We smoked more cigarette, snuff more ” madara” , took more wee- wee, drank more Totalin. We believed they made us invincible. We simply felt good to go.
On the election day; a haze veiled sky Saturday, we burst into the polling station at the right time when men and women had queued up, exercising their rights. I remembered everything in a blur like the memories of a dream because of the swiftness of events.
I remembered first setting fire to a building, scattering the people and causing the scream of “wayyo” to rent the air, confusing the security men. At that point we suddenly sprang on our targets. We raised and brought down our matchets on our opponents, sending many with fatal blows. It was mayheim; smoke curled up into the air and dust swirled, as evidence of our chaos.
It was then we heard the siren. We attempted to take to our heels through the tear- gas mist. Unfortunately, luck deserted me for I emerged out of the mist with a bullet- riddled left leg.
It was all like a dream. I could remember being abandoned in a hospital with the doctors talking above my head about my rotten leg that needed to be amputated. I never remembered the outcome of the elections though but what I remembered most was hearing, one day while begging on my single leg, on the radio the voice of the politician that had assigned us, condemning and cursing us to high heavens.
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.