Chapter 3: Late Night News

It has been a fortnight since the soldiers took papa. We’ve not heard from him, we’ve no idea if papa is alright. My mother had been torn with anguish, she rarely ate nor did anything at home except sleep and cry.

This was the time for me to be the man of the house, to handle the responsibility that papa had bestowed on me, it was not easy as anticipated, I didn’t even know where to start.

I got some firewood and started to cook inside the kitchen. “Ikem” I called while he replied from inside of the house and made himself visible.

“There’s no water in the house, please go and fetch some water” Ikem did not complain he took the gallon and went off to fetch water, I was surprised that he had obeyed without complain, I kind of expected some resistance. I finished preparing food and served Ikem some then took some to Mama.

“Am not feeling hungry” mama sighed.

“You’ve barely eaten anything for a long time” I retorted pushing the plate of food back to her. After much persuasion, she ate the food reluctantly. Papa, you need to come back, I cannot do this, please God set my Papa free “I prayed hard in my mind. I tried to picture where my father would be, he would always tell us that every man had his responsibilities. Factually, I was not yet ready to take on this huge responsibility, I still needed him more than ever to guide my daily steps least I fall. Papa would always say that we should pray whenever we needed anything that he couldn’t provide. I knelt to pray that day but seemed to always run out of points. “God, please release my papa” I prayed incessantly. 

The house was normally quiet and serene these days, we rarely had anything to say to each other without breaking into a bout of tears. Mama came outside for a little while then stared at the sun as though she was subconscious.

“Where is your brother?” she muttered at last. “probably sleeping” I replied.

She nodded her head in affirmation “you need sleep too since you’ve really been stressing yourself” I really needed a break but I wouldn’t admint it. A man does not go to sleep when the roof is on fire… I was currently the man of the house and it was going to embrace that responsibility, work towards securing maximum satisfaction for my family.

“Am not really tired” I lied.

She cast a quick glance at me, stared at pap’s picture for some seconds and shuffled herself inside her room then locked the door… probably to cry again.

I sighed in relief and stood guard on the door, I tried to imagine a world of peace, a world of euphoria as art would normally infer. A moment when worry would cease, when the cosmic would innovate such happiness to spin the world around. I forgot my weariness and tiredness, I forgot all about the troubles of the day, maybe for only a mili second, all seemed to be well. Why do I have to care about these troubles, why were they here in my home? I was seized in this moment of imagination that I didn’t know when I fell asleep on the chair in the podium.

“Hey boy, wake up” a voice tried to wake me, I was feeling so drowsy and didn’t want to wake but somehow I felt like I knew this voice, it sounded familiar, resiliently tearing into my world of imagination and disrupting such moment of solitude.

The voice tapped me again in my sleep “Eze, wake up, it’s your…"

He didn’t need to complete the sentence, I had recognized the statics of the voice tearing through my imagination. If my assumptions were right then this was a part of my imagination, a moment of reconciliation and peace. I couldn’t satisfy my suspense nor keep my anxiety in laxity as I called out almost immediately, I opened my eyes.

“Papa!” I shouted excitedly. 

He was staring at me with a big smile on his face. I hopped into his arms, his cologne and everything was still there. My papa had come back to me as he had pledged.

“Mama! Mama!” I called “Papa is back!” I shouted excitedly like a loon who had lost his lucidity.

Mama rushed immediately, flinging herself into Papa’s arms. She danced joyfully and lumbered on about her prayers being answered by the heavens. My brother seemed to be awoken by the shuffling as he rushed out to see papa. 

The neighbor’s flocked into our compound and all smiled at the good days ahead maybe things were not really falling apart… 

Everything could probably be fixed, transcend to the good old days before the curfew… the god days before things started to fall apart. My papa was back and that was the only thing that mattered to me, I wouldn’t let him be… not again, never ever would we separate.

“I guess Eze has spoilt the fact of making my return a surprise to everyone” Papa said as we all trouped into laughter, he hadn’t forgotten his sense of humor, he was still the positive man that always shielded negative thoughts.

***

It’s been almost two weeks since papa came back, things seem to be going back to normalcy, people engaged in their normal routine and shenanigans, there’s a flying news that the strike would soon be over but for some reason Papa always felt insecure, he’d always look over his shoulders like he was expecting something to happen. I never understood the cause of papa’s fear, I didn’t ask him though, for I knew he wouldn’t tell me if I inquired. He was a secretive man and liked keeping things at bay. Papa came back but not the same man, he tried to hide his fears but most nights he would have those severe nightmares.

I guess he needed adjustment but the longer time he spent with us, the more he lost his sanity, he must have been affected psychologically when he was staying in wherever the winds of the soldiers had blown him. I was really happy to have him back, I’d always convince myself that things were not really diverting haywire. I’d always try to persuade myself that everything as dark as it seemed had a source of light. 

There was a little hope which our people clung unto, the belief that the dark days were soon to be seen no more…  We were filled with the thoughts of freedom, being free from this political-communal rivalry. 

The government seems to be working on a reconciliation program. An armistice with the defendants and it seems like our dreams are about to be a reality. The meeting had been organized to be held today and Papa was dressing up for the meeting.

“Eze, wear a shirt, you will escort me” I felt really glad like a man as I put on my shirt and brushed my hair.

The meeting was as expected, I saw different individuals both affluent and their community representatives. We exchanged pleasantries in our native dialect and smiled exclusively to everyone, a facial expression of “everything of everything is going to get better”. I sat at the back as I watched the ordeal unfold, a black jeep pulled to a halt and the proceedings of the meeting started. 

“Good day, my people” stated an elderly voice “they say that the toad does not run around barefooted in the hot afternoon for nothing” he took a brief pause and glanced at the people around him “We are here to resolve this long dispute which has only innovated tragedy in our homes. The government has offered our people a peaceful resolution and we must accept it since we have nothing to lose.”

“We will only accept when they provide what we’ve asked” retorted another voice while the crowd went into commotion.

Papa held my hands firmly, I guess he had a sixth sense for danger. The first sound of gunshot sounded in the hall while silence rented the air. The victim slumped to the floor silently, the soldiers had acted, they had broke the conventional methodology of negotiation. 

There was a loud commotion, the incessant sound of gunshots, tears, shouts… The hall was painted red with such anguish. “Eze, hold on to me firmly” papa shouted sensing my fear. Papa was meticulous to study all the entrances, we cut across the other side of the hall and jumped through the window.

“They are escaping!!! “I heard a voice sounding resiliently but we had cut through the bushes.

The soldiers from the bush came up while papa pulled me down to the grass as we ducked the sporadic shots of the soldiers. Papa dragged me firmly as we cut across the other side of the bush and ran unceasingly into the unknown.

The peaceful resolution had turned to a massacre. Papa as right, there was much reason to be terrified, this scene had exacerbated the problem. This as an act of war by the government on its people. A form of leadership which was only concerned with accumulating wealth though fair or foul mans, a form of leadership lackadaisical to the welfare of its people. How would a nation thrive on such conditions?

Papa got to the spot here he parked his motorcycle and  drove home,  was sized with fear,  I shivered incessantly, quivered by the flow of blood, the narrow escape from the hatchet of death.

We got home as papa slumped into the chair, his face depicted with dysphonic and depression.  Probably he had expected something to change this time, he had anticipated a peaceful resolution though he knew that it was almost impossible.

The possibility had happened, the leaders had once more failed our people, taken advantage of our people and implemented their jurisdiction.

Mama came to meet us “How did it go?” she asked covering the smile on her face when she saw the disappointment written all over my father’s face.

“it was catastrophic” replied my father. Mama shook her head in negativity, the blaring of the soldiers sirens seemed to disrupt the serenity in the environment. Most times we would hear a loud gunshot and cries of pain from people but we couldn’t dare step out to find the bone of contention. Mama hid Ikem and I under the huge bed in her room while we expected the worse. Phobia-well that’s essential part of my life these days.

***

The dusk soon defeated the light of the sun. our town was like a stray dog dying of hunger, we were all drawn to the comfort of our homes to avoid meeting the parading military men who had warned us sternly that they were to shoot any moving creature on sight.

I was famished but I really did not care about that fact right now, I could be a corpse in the next minute. This particular night held so much haunting memories, imaginations of the apocalypse.

We sat quietly in the sitting room not daring to make a single atom of noise. Sometimes the light of the soldiers would boom across our windows just to make sure the everyone was calm.

Papa sighed in disappointment, the town was very unsafe and we couldn’t stay any longer, we had planned to leave at dawn the next day before things ent to dust.

Papa switched on his radio as the statics cackled for some time, he tried to tune to the correct frequency. He feigned a smile when he got the frequency, we could hear the voices of the broadcaster on the radio, he was carrying across a late night news.

“The head of state of the country has decided to debrief the nation, he is live on the station with his news”.

Papa increased the volume of his radio as we heard the sound of another voice take over the stereo, a man who had innovated so much fear in the heart of our people, a man we only knew by the sound of his voice but afraid of his reflection.

“Citizens of the state” , the voice started off the pending message of anxiety “it is with regret that we are opposed with the problematic behavior of the east towards the sovereign state,” he gave a brief pause then continued” we’ve been quiet to their behavior but we can no more turn a blind eye on their violence. Their violence towards my administration, towards the armed forces designated to these areas. “he smacked his lips “its time to set against this injustice, time to set against this man who seems to be addicted to power… We can no more fold our hands and watch everything that our forefathers had worked and toiled hard for to go down the drain.” The serenity in the environment stench of the smell of fear “We have a list of everyone who has been disobedient to this administration (could have implied the easterners disobedient to the administration). We will strive towards securing our policies and this can only be done if we can eradicate the concept of anarchy in our society “the voice paused for a little while . “ if its violence that they want then we have it. This administration is here to solve the problem of corruption in the state and no one can stop it from achieving that objectives” he smacked his lips again  “the easterners have spoiled our state before and we cannot let them do it again, we cannot let them control our public finance and policy anymore, they must be subjected. We are the leaders of this country and they are our servants. We must use a scape goat to achieve our objectives. God bless the nation”.

The state of the radio faded into the silence of the night. Papa stood yp with depression underlying his face. We could hear the chants by an angry mob.

"We no go gree ooo!" they continued resiliently. We took cover inside the house as there was an exchange of sporiadic shot between the soldiers and the angry mob.

The people had replied, they would not take this anymore. we heard a zoom of their vehicles as the people chanted victorious songs. We looked out from our window to find the soldiers gone, they had fled, ”were free”. Thought they had caught a soldier hiding in front of our compound, the mob unleashed their anger on him, beating him with sticks and stones then lynched him.

“we no go gree !” chanted the night incessantly until my eyes withered to sleep. What to eccept tomorrow?

 I do not know, but we had been victorious today….

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