I decided to do a one short from the tales of the Nigerian/Biafran war I had heard a while ago, just dug it up again.
“I stood from the bare floor and walked over to the door. Everything was hazy and my knees shook, reminding me of the bullets they had been subjected to.
I scanned the area for anyone familiar but the road was bare and desolate, everyone seemed to have taken cover and fended for themselves forgetting the little girl they had in their custody.
It was not until evening that I wandered into the environment where we had taken shelter. We were outside roasting a lizard and some crickets for dinner when the first bomb tumbled from the sky, a hideous metallic egg shat by mammoth mindless birds.
We scurried off towards the nearest banana tree as the adults had told us, but not before two more bombs were fired. The ramp of the engines shook surrounding buildings and made the very earth quake. Lying face down, I was frozen with fright and could do nothing but watch as more bombs were released.”
She took in a deep breath and swallowed, willing the tears back inside. Her eyes refused to meet those of the children before her.
“Mama? Are you okay? You don’t have to finish the story.” I said soothingly.
“It was not until the slight sounds of the bombs could not be heard that I left the bush. The image that lay before me was one that will forever remain vivid until I die. My sister, Ugonna, lay on the bare floor, her arms spurting blood as vultures pecked at her skin. Ugonna was running with Mama when the bombs were released but must have been hit by a bomb before she could hide.
Ugonna was only nine years old.
Perhaps her memory will forever remain fresh because we could not bury her or because I had taken it upon myself to guide her. I still have nightmares about her death and still feel that sharp pang of guilt whenever I remember her death.”
“Mama, where were you coming from before the bomb?”
She stuttered for a few moments, as if wondering if we needed to know the horrors of war and the devastating memories it must have left.
“My mother had sent me to the only farmland that was still fruitful to harvest some cocoyam. It was the only food crop that grew on the land we farmed. On my way back, I stopped to collect some garri from my mother’s friend. It was there that some Nigerian soldiers carried me and my cocoyam to a bush just minutes from the house.
There, they had their wicked and animalistic way with me, subjecting me to a pain that forever scarred me and took away any dignity I had left. The war had already stripped us of our pride but the Nigerian soldiers yanked away my dignity.
I never told anyone the story until the war was over. Too absorbed in the death of her last child, my mother never noticed the huge red stain on the back of my dress that day.”
She looked at the wall clock and stood to bid us goodnight but Kelechi stopped her. Looking up at her with wide eyes, he asked, his voice laced with pain and a certain kind of fear that comes from hearing horrific tales.
“Did other nations ever try to help Biafra?”
Mama’s lips quirked up into a sad smile. Sitting back on the chair, she looked across the room and soon had a forlorn look in her eyes.
“A few months after the war, at the Refugee Center, a lady offered me a cup of beans and told me it was from the Red Cross. I threw the cup back at her and screamed at her. I asked in a shrill voice where the Red Cross were when we had to eat lizards and roast crickets morning and night. Where were they when my cocoyam was stolen and my dignity raped? Where were they when the Nigerian Army bombed my sister and we had to leave her for vultures to feed on?
It kept quiet while over a million Igbos were being slaughtered and our homes destroyed. The world was silent while our families were scattered because of the bombs and while our friends died of starvation.
Where were other nations, you asked? Once the war ended, they sent supplies and tried their best to help. But while the war was on, while our hearts bled with pain and sadness and our children died from malnutrition, the whole world kept silent.”
Mama picked up her wrapper and turned away from us, quickly shuffling out of the room, but not before I had seen the tears shinning in her eyes.
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