22 DECEMBER, 2002
We sped down the highway, after dropping off Madam Ifeoma and her children at Garki in Enugu State. The journey had been uneventful since we left Pandam in Quan’pan L.G.A, Plateau State, except for the occasional stops, for Chijioke and Emma, Madam Ifeoma’s children, to ease themselves. We only had the large expanse of grasslands and pot hole infested roads to keep us entertained. Now it was just Chekwube and I, occupying the back seat of the Peugeot 504 my elder brother had just acquired. He drove quietly with his wife and my little niece, Mma, in front.
I would be the center of attraction at the village this Christmas, with enough clothes and accessories, and money to spare, everyone would feel me at home this time around no doubt, I smiled, thoroughly enjoying my thoughts. Chekwube looked at me, and burst out laughing, I looked at him half surprised; he paused, looked at me, and burst out laughing again.
“Your smile reminds me of that roasted goat we saw at the market yesterday”. Chekwube started.
“Close your smelling mouth, before you spoil the A/C abeg, or infect Mma with your diarrhea of the mouth”, I shot back at him.
“Bia Diri you people should be careful there o”, my brother managed to say, as he laughed with his wife, they were used to our usual teasing.
Chekwube was our neighbor at our village home; my brother had taken the both of us to stay with him in Pandam, after we finished our primary school. At home we were inseparable, people called us twins. We did almost everything together, but we constantly teased each other. We had just started of such teasing sessions, when, as we descended a hill, we noticed people crying and running towards us.
It was around 12 noon, so no one suspected what was about to happen. The people kept pointing to a luxurious bus parked on one side of the road in front of us, my brother sped towards the scene, with intention to save those he thought were involved in an accident. As we passed the bus, and descended another hill, my brother shouted “okwa ndi ori o”. We could see the robbers operating in front of us. My brother stepped on the break, put the reverse gear, swirled the car around, facing where we were coming from, as he screeched off, an oncoming bus blocked us, as it’s driver tried to flee the robbers. Then we heard the shots, it sounded from before and behind us, I’ve never in my life heard such rap of gunshots. The group of robbers before us had emerged from the bush, shooting directly at our car, from the driver’s side, we all managed to dive out from the other side of the car, and lay flat on the ground.
We were sprawled on the ground, when one of the robbers came towards us, put one of his legs on Chekwube, and started shooting at the center of the circle our heads had formed. As I lay there hearing the sound of the bullets hitting the ground, I felt I had died, my mind drifted aimlessly around many things. I was jolted back to life when I heard Mma crying. In all her one year of living, she had never heard the sound of a gun, except in movies, and neither did she understand the danger of a bullet. She was circling one of the robbers as she cried. Mma, my Mma “O God please save her” I prayed silently. Surprisingly, the robber carried her, and began to pet her, till she eventually stopped crying.
After about 45minutes, they completed their operation, taking all our belongings and that of other travelers, the robber that kept us entertained with rhythmical gunshots collected my chain watch, and that of Chekwube, after he had removed all the money in our trousers. Mma was handed over to her mother, then shooting sporadically into the air, the robbers entered the nearby bush and disappeared. About 10minutes after the robbers disappeared, the police came, with sirens blaring and commando-like display of alertness, which was trivial at the moment, as the robbers had left the scene.
We attracted the most attention from onlookers after the robbers left, as only our car was shot at by the robbers. Even those that were robbed at the same spot could not believe that no occupant of our car was hurt. If not that we were all there, no one would have believed that we all came out safe, without being hit by a single bullet. One of the bullets actually pierced through the driver’s door, and burst out through the passenger’s door, yet none of us, including Mma, had the slightest bullet lesion.
The journey started again, everyone was sober as we went on. Mma’s mother was visibly shaken by the incidence; she kept saying “Chineke dalu”, thanking God for his deliverance, even Mma who I carried, was quiet, until she slept off on my chest. We arrived my village, Ozara, in Abia State, late in the evening. The news quickly spread, like wildfire in harmattan. People rallied round us, sympathizing and thanking God for delivering us. I felt real love, I eventually became a centre of attraction amongst my peers, but not like I had imagined.
That Christmas, I spent a lot of time indoors; it was a time of reflection for me. I kept thinking of what would have happened if I had died. I offered lots and lots of thanks to God; I realized that Christmas was not about showing off and irrational display of wealth, but a time to show and share love. It was a turning point in my life. For the first time in my life, I celebrated Christmas with just one trouser, one shirt, and a miserable looking Five Naira, which the robbers did not see, in my breast pocket; however, I thanked God I was alive to see that Christmas.