It was on a Friday evening that everything changed for me. My dad had just returned from the mosque; that was when the alarm clock said eight, and as was his tradition he wouldn’t remove his long white jalabia before he shouted.
Why is the generator not started yet?
I knew within me he was going to complain about my not coming to the mosque that evening which would add up to the problem at hand. To cover up one of the problem I dressed in a long Jalabia and left the house through the back door. I had to pretend I also went to the Masjid.
I sluggishly walked towards the door and tapped on it as though the Chinese door was complaining of body pains.
Who is that?
It’s me, I said stammering
When the door was opened I walked in as though I was carrying the weight of Mount Everest on my legs.
Where you not the one talking in your room few minutes ago? Queried my mum
Oh no? I shouted inaudibly. Mum you have destroyed my plan. How is your headache, she added. By this I knew I had to face my dad’s interview soon. Am getting better I said looking away.
My Dad was sitting on the sofa pressing his tablet pc. It was obvious he was reading news or perhaps on Wikipedia because as far as I knew him he never liked social media. He looked up briefly and turned all of his attentions back to his tablet pc, but I could see the ire inside of him waiting to be released.
Good evening sir, I said as he pretended not to have heard at all. I turned and was about leaving the sitting room when he roared out.
Come back here, you are now taking decisions for me in this house right?
Not so sir, I said babbling
Then how, tell me am listening, he continued. Maybe he was right. Often when ever he was away the house does as I say not because they were afraid of me but because I was given that opportunity and it was getting out of hand since I was misusing the golden opportunity.
Am sorry sir, I said leaving again but this time he got provoked as he stood up almost immediately and gave me the dirtiest slap ever. I slumped and it was the last thing I remember immediately I woke up on the hospital bed the following morning.
I was an asthmatic patient couple with the fact that I was feverish that day that I sweat and felt dizzy after walking few steps even in the room.
Immediately I opened my eyes I saw my Dad sat almost in front of me staring straight into my weakened eyes and it was at this time clear he was very sorry. His eyes carry the colours of a virgin sunset and his facial look was that of a cow. As far as I knew him he would never say sorry even though he was.
How are you feeling now Prof? He said touching my neck maybe trying to feel my pulse. He was fond of calling me Prof right from when I was a kid. I don’t know why but I could tell from his character how my education and lifestyles seems to be more of importance to him compare to my three other siblings.
Am fine, I said even though I knew I wasn’t as he made his way out of the ward. Let me go and see the doctor, he said closing the door behind him.
Immediately he returned, he rigidly supported his back on the wall. He stared vacantly at the window that barely had better curtain and shook his head every seconds and his eyes clouded with tears which he couldn’t shed.
“I will be back,” he said again even though it was not up to two minute he had just returned. The tone rang hollow, his emotions encased in a vacuum. He spoke as if it were some well-rehearsed line he had already repeated a thousand times. The announcement, though cold, remained firm, and it indicated more than just a temporary absence. The finality of the statement slowly took substance, and it lingered in the cozy room.
The words fell upon my senses like a lead weight. I stared at him turning his back, impatiently waiting for further explanation; and I was offered nothing.
Your mum will be here soon, he said as he finally bangs the door behind him.
It was when my mum returned that I was told I needed a blood transfusion, which I was given some hours later. It was getting late and my dad was yet come to the clinic which was some miles away from home.
We waited patiently but he didn’t come but only made a call to my mum that he wouldn’t be able to come until the next morning. My three other siblings were in a boarding school which means he would be alone in the house.
Mum there is something wrong with dad, I said pathetically.
What do you mean?
The way he left this morning had something more to it than just “I will be back” that he said before leaving. I said throwing away my face.
You know your dad, he hardly show his emotions, she said feeling relieved.
It was the next morning. The day was getting closer to noon yet dad was yet to come to the clinic and by this time the panic was high as his number refused to go through. My mum became restless and she couldn’t sit nor stand. Maybe it was because of my statement the previous day.
Hours later, the doctor walked into my ward and his face had stories to tell.
Hajia please come, he said as both leave the ward in slow motion motive. I waited for my mum but she was yet to return. I lethargically came down from the bed and made my way out the ward. In the reception I met one of neighbors and two of my family members sobbing and crying oceans out of their eyes.
What is happening? I asked as none of them answered.
You are not yet strong, the doctor advised as he led me back into my ward.
Towards evening I was discharged and met my house like a stadium. Everyone nodded their head like matured agama lizards.
Somebody help me, somebody please! Can anybody hear me? My mum sorrowful screams pierced through the neighborhood in a heightened tone. Her neck was revealing all the veins that lie therein as she cries the sorrow out of her heart. She shook her head vigorously and stamped her feet heavily on the harden earth yet it wasn’t enough. She rolled herself to the ground as she cried uncontrollably; she was absolutely inconsolable. Her cries of anguish echoed and wildly permeated through neighboring homes and within minutes more people hooted in. the entire compound was crowded with streams of sympathizers. Oh! Dad is dead? It can’t be, I cried
No! It can’t be. He is the most religious in this neighborhood; he can’t kill himself. He knows vividly how punishable it is for one to commit suicide. One of the mosque congregations lectured.
I sluggishly walked into his bedroom where his lifeless body lay in the bed. I was kaput and I bent to touch his feet as his bed was covered with his own pool of blood and the next thing I heard was “Prof, wake up its time for prayer”.
Subhanallah! I shouted. I am dreaming! It was a dream! But how can dream be this long and so true? Thank God I said with tears dripping down my eyes. Even though I couldn’t tell anyone the dream no doubt changed me for better.
Seeing these indigent lads gives me nothing but depression. To keep body and soul together I had opted to perpetually navigate my ears to the sound of their drum beats to tranquil myself from the turmoil portrayed by these lads.The so called recession has dreadfully hiked the number of these boys. Trotted in a single file along Jos-Abuja express road, beating their fragmented plates, gawking at the sky intently begging to cater for themselves and their masters. The name Almajiri sounds mammoth but it’s meaning was unfathomable to me at first.
Almajiri as the lads are frequently referred to spring forth from Arabic word Al-Mahaajirun, which precisely means (a migrant). Fadan karshi, a Southern part of Kaduna where I sojourn is predominantly dominated by these Almajiri Boys.
At about 9.am on Wednesday, I stepped out of a friend’s hummer Jeep fully kitted on my NYSC regalia. It was one of those days we flaunt our military uniform for admiration and to stylishly solicit for people’s help especially for a lift. With only #300 on me I was waiting for a vehicle to covey me to gwantu for CDS. Was flagging down any car possible. As I stood with unwavering optimism, my attention was driven away by a pitiable sight. ISMAIL, a famous Almajiri Boy deserted under a scorching sun, piercing into his pores. Weeping uncontrollably with his tattered duds, in-sensuous hair and cracked lips filled with blood stain alluring flies like abattoir where Shanu (Cows) are being slaughtered. Flies fed vigorously on the fresh wound at his right arm and his broken plate which serves as an identity for any almajiri. As I stood lost in thought, he jilted me with his pity-beckoning voice. So shallow a voice like a suckling scrambling for the mother’s breast. ”Corper, don Allah taimake ni ba da kowa” (please help me I have no one).
I Looked at him with much disdain clothed with a little bit of sympathy. How do I go to Gwantu if I treat him with my transport fare? Pressing that I needed to thumb print for the month of January, even though December allowee hasn’t popped-out. An act we are accustomed to. Immediately I shook both of my hands inside the khaki pocket in search of my wallet, just like a dream I was rounded up by these lads. the tempo of drum beat has gone atrocious as they plodded towards me with frowned faces like a hungry lion looking for a prey to devour. they are being compelled by their empty belly and licking pouches that has vowed never to retain anything valuable nor gratifying. I already had unhealthy disdain for their parents and their so called Mallams behind this unlawful act with the sole aim of enriching themselves and at the same time denying these lads their right in the society as well as decent and sound upbringing propelling them to litter the road, endangering their lives and causing heavy traffic every seconds for the Travellers. Invaded with these thoughts in the mist of confusion as to whom to offer help to like MMM. Obviously, like the MMM ponze scheme, I have been merged with the ALMAJIRI’S by the turbulence that betide us which has transposed the language of many even the snug Nigerians. Just like a soldier sent to the war front without arms. The boys have been unleashed to the street neglected, metamorphosed to beggars from background. Undeniably, the essence of the Almajiri has been defeated. Weeping bitterly for the sake of survival, he deserves to live. A voice whispered to my ears, thrown to the ground by a whirlwind from an unknown source, my hands got injured amidst this scene. The boys in their impoverished state took the saddle upon themselves to raise me up from the dust. The cry of the poor lad sank deep inside my heart, stood up like a statue of New York. Gave them #50 out of the #300 which was almost torn into pieces by these boys out of excitement. Rest the poor Almajiri boy on my shoulder in an attempt to cross, we were both knocked down at the middle of the road by a motorcycle and the lad swayed from my shoulder. Found myself later at the hospital bed but the abused, neglected Almajiri boy “Ismail” gave up the ghost. My community development service was done on that hospital bed. Ward 2A, room 15. Will live to remember that fateful day in the course of my service year. My heart wept for Ismail, the Almajiri boy.
Read part one HERE
I sat under one of the trees which was standing directly opposite my lodge and became more confuse. I couldn’t think straight. What really happened to Zee? My tears dripped down uncontrollably and I was shattered. I even forgot the fact that I had just resumed school. Even my belongings were outside. In my heart were feelings of guilt. I don’t why I had to be.
From afar, I saw Saleh coming towards where I sat with my hands wrapped over my chest. Topa (Tofa)!!! He shouted, which I didn’t give more attention to.
Saleh Zee is dead, I said but from the looks on his face it was clear enough to know it was no more a new news in the town. He was laughing and his expression changed abruptly as if angry with me.
What is your matsala (problem) about her death? Forget about that girl jor. She was foolish walahi. He preached as I looked at him stunned and confused at a time. Foolish? How do you mean? I asked as if I could bring her back or turn the hand of time if he explain what he meant by her being foolish. He looked at me for some moments and then he began:
The plight of Zee started about three years ago as far as I could remember. That night was a hit for all of us, you know am an indigene so I mostly roam about the town sometimes mostly in the night. That day I was looking for high (cannabis) and I was out of cash so I decided to go from club to club until I finally caught up with one. Though it wasn’t really a club, it was Mariam’s birthday celebration and being a prostitute she was, there was no way she could celebrate without such things involved, so I decided to go there with a friend. It was there I met Zee for the fifth time. You know I always tell you I used to like her before (I nodded in affirmation).
Every expression on her face shows she was new to everything that was happening. Zee was a modest girl but how she ended up with Mariam still remain a mystery to all of us till date. From her mode of dressing, it was enough to tell she wasn’t there for the party because she was fully dressed in Hijab unlike everyone in skimpy dresses that almost exposed their body parts. She sat close to the door leading to Mariam’s room which was a little distance away from where we were having the party. Because I was interested in her, I didn’t lose a single glimpse of her presence. Each passing moments and seconds were all in my knowledge.
It was getting too late, when the worst was beginning to happen. You know parties, (demonstrating with his hands as if I had idea of what he was talking about) people must misbehave with girls. People getting drunk and others making out rowdily. The light was dull and I began to search for Zee but it was already late when I founded her. She lay on the ground and all I could hear from her was:
Allah Ya’isa (God will punish you).
Her voice was too low and she could barely stand on her own legs. What is wrong Zee? I asked but she could only muster the energy to say same sentence as before. By this time, I need no prophet to tell me the drink given to her was mixed with some hard drugs. She was crying and inconsolable. It was clear enough she was raped as blood dripped down her legs as I carried her home on my two hands.
About last two months ago while we were on holiday, because she was diminishing a lot and her frequent complain of headache she was force to the clinic where it was confirmed she was HIV positive. But it was too clear she wouldn’t make it due to her condition. She was also having ruptured kidney.
No one really believed her until few days to her death when she told everyone she knew about her HIV status about two years back but she couldn’t tell anyone due to the shame and stigma behind it, which made it difficult for her to get the management drugs. Thus, her predicaments.
I listened to Saleh with my heart boiling as though I were a frying pan on wire. Zee was gone forever.
Rest on Zee… Till we meet to part no more.
The truth are but ache in the hearts of the liers…….
Truth and reality.
Zahra’u stood by her doorstep with one of her hand to her waist and the other at the top roof of the door. For a moment neither of us spoke. I stared directly into her eyes, because the PHCN (the Nigerian power distribution company) didn’t disappoint us that night, there was light which made it difficult for me to talk. I was bewildered and couldn’t utter a single word as I fumbled at my own self.
The moment I opened my mouth to talk my hand began to shake and as though there isn’t a single bone in it. How cowardice of me, I sighed.
‘ba hausa’ you’re not saying anything! What is the froblem (problem)? She said silently as my heart quakes as if she were going to punish me for being so ungrateful.
Thank you Zee, I didn’t even thank you earlier. Nagode… I said leaving cowardly. That night I couldn’t sleep proper as I ponder over my cold nature and slowly I dozed off.
Times passes so quickly as days turned into weeks. Because I was too big a coward, I could not even sit and have a gist with her not even for a minute. Each time she came closer, I become too cold with her until she become tired of me. It was visibly clear she didn’t like any of it a bit. In spite of all that, she never gave up trying to cheer me up. Little by little I began to catch some hausa lines and also was able to muster small courage which was an improvement.
Sometimes later, the session came to an end and I left for home for the long vacation. Very stupid of me, I didn’t even say good bye to her.
It will be without any sense to talk about how my vacation was and how I felt throughout about her. When the vacation finally came to an end, I headed back to school with a gift which I bought for her. It was a wrist watch with an inscription ‘Zee’ inside. Immediately I arrived I became nervous and I was like I need to see her first hand before anyone else.
When I finally got to my lodge, I came down from the ‘achaba’ (motorcyclist) and walked slowly to the gate. As I opened the gate I met people in small groups and some cluster together as chicks do to their mother and I became nervous. We have never had such crowd before in my lodge as far as my memory could recall. Some wore cow faces and other just sat with their gaze fixed to the cemented floor as if counting the little sand on it or perhaps as if discussing with some sets of insects. I became confuse as this has never happened before. I muster the courage and opened my door. As I was about entering inside the room a loud wailing came out of one of the rooms and my heart paused. …….
PART FOUR COMING