He looked at the starless sky from the small rock he was sitting on and shook his head slowly. It was unusually dark, it should be a bright night with dotted stars and a full moon. The little children ought to be out playing, singing their hearts out while they get stained in the muddy sand of any open space.
He ought to hear the sound of insect doing the round, basking in the moonlight and enjoying its brightness. There ought to be a distinct coolness in the air, a warm breeze on the skin accompanied by a never ending rush of fresh air.
But the air was dry and still, the usually luxuriant green leaves were lean and cranky. The ever noisy insects have all gone into extinction. The cheerful children were nowhere to be found. Everywhere was empty save the redness of the muddy sand, but that even was soiled. It was red not with its natural redness but it was with blood. He could still hear the shrilling cries and painful screams. It echoed ceaselessly in his head amid the deep silence of his head. He never expected the end of the world he had known to come so soon.
He dragged himself up from the rock he had been sitting to take in the view that remained of what few hours ago was filled with life. He looked from one end to the other and tears dripped from his eyes. Everything had changed, everything has. He knew there will be a reprisal attack and he was certain the attack will be on those who lest deserved it. Rage meted out on another crop of innocent people and they in turn will strike back. It was an endless cycle of violence, a vortex that keeps going on, taking all that lies in its part.
“Baba Tunde, you made it?” he heard a voice say to him and turned immediately to whence the voice came.
“Mama Kudirat!” he exclaimed with utmost gladness which immediately disappeared as the reality of his surrounding hit him.
“How did you do it?” he asked, mouth wearily agape as Mama Kudirat and her three children; Kudirat, Bisola and Tunde trooped out from a bush part few yards to where he had been sitting.
“We spent more time in the cocoa farm,” She replied.
“Kudirat needs to go back to school and we had to work extra as our big customer Oga Jimoh will be coming from Ibadan tomorrow. I promised to have his order ready when he arrived. We were still working when we heard the shooting and almost immediately we saw smoke coming from the direction of the village. I took the children and went into hiding. We are just coming out now,” she concluded and Baba Tunde wished fate had smiled on him similarly.
“Who were the attackers?” Mama Kudirat asked as her youngest child held tightly to her worn out buba.
“Who else?” Baba Tunde replied. “When this thing started we took it as child’s play, as their problem. Now it has come to our home, who knows where the wind will blow next?”
“Are there any survivors aside us?” Mama Kudirat asked. Baba Tunde merely shrugged his shoulders.
“I have not seen anyone. I was knocked out and merely regained consciousness few minutes ago. I don’t even know if any of my wives or children made it,” he said voice ridden with sorrow. All could sense he was in deep pain but his muscularity made him shelter his emotion. He was not just the eldest but also the man, he shouldn’t be emotional around children and women.
“Let’s go inside the village and check if our house still stands,” Kudirat said.
She was still in shock, it was just few weeks ago in school some students solicited her joining them in staging a peaceful protest against the incessant attacks and violence. She was one of those who nonchalantly dismissed it. What good would going out under the scorching sun to protest in front of government house do her? Moreover the day of the scheduled protest was the eve of professor Chimazie’s exam; the dreaded professor who cannot be bribed.
“We might be able to salvage some valuables…” she added.
They were about leaving when they heard shouting from the eastern end of the village. They all took to their heels into the nearby bush but were called back by Bisola; Kudirat’s younger sister. She recognized the voice as that of Baba 70; the Village drunk. He could sing all of Fela’s music especially when he was drunk hence he was called Baba 70.
“…seven minutes later, police don reappear, soldiers don reappear, dem regular trademark. Dem regular trade mark,” he sang with gusto amidst a croaking voice.
“Why is that lazy clown singing when people are mourning?” Baba Tunde asked rhetorically burning with rage.
“Guess the JTF is here,” Bisola said and true to her words some soldiers came out from behind a burning house and walked towards them and reported the attackers were no longer around as if they didn’t know. The soldiers told them to go to the Community Primary School where other survivors were. They would be camped there temporarily.
“All gone…” Baba Tunde said to himself as they trooped to the Community primary school accompanied by some of the soldiers while the others continued with a sweep of the area. He was walking behind Mama Kudirat and her children, sandwiched between the soldiers. Two led the way while the others followed closely behind. He shook his head as he saw lifeless bodies lying around, some burnt beyond recognition and others with tongues drooling out, eyes staring into nothingness and throats slashed.
“Don’t look,” he heard mama Kudirat say to her children and few minutes later they took the last bend and came in full view of the primary school. Half of it was in ruins; he saw one of his wives seated on the school field with several other survivors and heaved a sigh of relief.
“At lest all is not lost,” he said to himself as they walked closer and he began recognizing more faces.
“Baba! Baba!” he heard the voice of his last son Ade call and turned to see his boy running towards him with some soldiers from the direction of the local parish. He also saw his second wife and even his hunting dog that had already ran ahead of Ade. His heart warmed even more but deep sorrow still lay deep within. He still had a lot to account for, he had a very large household and he just knew fortune will not have smiled at him so much that all of them will be safe. He knew he had lost some. He knew his compound would not be standing; it was one of the biggest in the village. They sure will not spare it and what hurt him more is fear of the aftermath of this attack. He was more than certain there will be a reprisal attack and he was convinced it will be on innocent ones. He just knew it; he had seen the civil war and the thought of another brought a chill to his bones.
“Everybodi run run run, police dey come army dey come… everybody scatter scatter… dem leave sorrow tears and blood, dem regular trademark…” he heard Baba 70 singing one of the evergreen songs of the legendary Fela Kuti, old but timeless as its lyrics echoed the events unveiling before his eyes. He knelt down as his boy ran into his arms, while his dog danced merrily around, it had seen its master.
“May we not be architect of our own downfall
designers of our doom,
masters of our collapse
collaborators of our own destruction…”