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Observations of a Young Nigerian Female . Powered by Blogger.

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I am young, "normal" and I like to write. People say I eat too much, people don't know what they are saying.

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Agbonta: Ekoli bu Enyi

We are not the vanquished.

“Ndaa Mercy? Ndaa Mercy?” the woman asked, looking around the foot of the tree where some of us children had been gathered and instructed to sit and wait. Mma Mercy was a very fat woman and as she ran around the tree looking into each child’s face, her arms jiggled. At that time, not a lot of people were fat; food was scarce because we were not free to go to the farm frequently, and the crops the soldiers did not eat had to be rationed and was mostly left for the children. Yet, somehow, Mma Mercy was quite fat. She had just returned from the farm where she had gone to harvest the little that she could find. On her way back, she had seen the billowing smoke and had been told by the people she had met on the road that the children had been taking by the men into the forest, where they could be safe from the bloodthirsty marauders.

The minute Mma Mercy realized that her daughter was not among the other children there, she gasped in horror and without a word, she turned around and dashed towards the village; towards the smoke, the heat, and the men who would not live until everything was dead or almost dead. Two men ran after her, shouting at her to calm down and wait for them to find her daughter, but she did not pause for a second and she was soon out of sight.

I leaned back on the tree trunk and looked up at the branches that were far out of sight. It seemed like just a minute ago that I had been stalking a skinny, ugly lizard. I was trying to catch him so I could roast him and share the meat my many siblings. There was not a lot of food at the time. the war which was only supposed to last a few months during which our warriors would show the Nigerian army that we were strong, had somehow outlived Okom Eke’s sickly daughter.

My father was sitting just inside the house, listening to his radio, which he only turned on at news hours, in order to save his limited battery supply. Suddenly, he shouted “Ogwula nu wo! Ogwula nu wo!” (It has ended! It has ended!)

At the same time, men were shouting from other houses around, and soon, the village square which was right in front of our house was filled with people shouting, laughing, singing. Children who had no idea what was happening were dancing around the square with their distended stomachs; from the sides they looked like bamboo poles with two pots attached to the top and the middle. I looked just like them.

As we rejoiced in the square, many men were shouting, “No Victor, No Vanquished!”
The war had ended.

The drummers grabbed their drums and the people set to celebrating. Eze Mmam Orji declared a feast for the next day and told everyone to harvest everything they could because we were once again free to plant and to plan. We were counting our chicks; we had no idea that our eggs were about to be boiled.

Suddenly, several shots rang out and everything changed faster than anything I have ever seen.
I looked back and saw several soldiers holding up their guns and pointing them at us. The guns were big and scary, but not as scary as the looks on their faces. It was hate; it was pure, unadulterated hate. I was barely six years old at the time, but I knew that those men wanted us all dead.
Chaos followed, and we were all running towards our homes until we saw the soldiers throwing rags doused in petrol and lit with fire into all the houses close to the square. It was very early in January and the raffia on the huts were dry and just begging for fire. In a few minutes, there was smoke everywhere.

I had no idea which way to run. My father’s house was on fire, with the new catapult that I had just made, burning inside.

As I stood there, scared, confused and mourning my catapult, someone grabbed me firmly from behind and lifted me off the ground. I was already clawing and kicking when I looked and saw that it was my Uncle, Agu. He took off towards Iyi Akwa with me over his right shoulder. The smoke was everywhere, and my chest felt like it was going to burst. As my uncle carried me and raced away from the square, I watched as a soldier approached Mmom Nnenna, Okom Sam’s young wife. He was pointing a gun at her and shouting “Madam Kwom! Stop dia! Kwom hia! No run!”. As we ran farther away and into the forest, I watched as Mmom Nnenna stared with horror written on her face; not at the huge gun that he held, but at the great bulge between his legs.

It was the fifth day of a dark January, 50 years ago. The sky was black, like the hearts of the men who had painted it.  

On that day, 50 years ago, the people of Agbonta, Amaekpu Item were attacked, and everything we had was burnt to the ground. Today, 50 years later, Agbonta stands tall. Out of the charred ruins, life has sprouted, bloomed, and still blooms.

Today, surrounded by my family, I have sent out a goodwill message, wishing my friends a Happy New Year. Most of them have responded joyfully to the message; including Yahaya, Yusuf and Ibrahim, because even though their uncles may have raped my aunties and burnt down my home, I, John, first son of Odumogbaragu, was taught by the elders of the clan to only respond with love.

They may have destroyed the finest catapult I had ever made with my hands, but there is life and there is hope. The people of Agbonta have rebuilt and are more united than ever, and I have gone on to make a great many catapults after that day.

We are not the vanquished.

We rise.


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