“Hello”, the boy who came to share my desk greeted.
“Hello”, I replied.
“You are Muslim?”, he said in what looked more of an exclamation than a question, as he stared closely at the scar on my forehead.
“No. Do I look like one?”.
“Not actually. Am only surprised at your american accent and the…,” he pointed at the scar, “…possibility of your being muslim”.
“Are Muslims banned from this school?”.
“No, why? Nigeria is bi-religious. Only, there are scarce muslims schooling in the east”.
“Its a birth mark”, I lied. “My father has one”.
“Hey!”, the lecturer was referring to us.
“Get out of my class”.
“That guy is harsh”, Paul said, as we strolled down the hall of Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Everybody stared as we walked by. How everyone seem to know I am new here, despite the grain of students around, seem not to surprise me much. I am relatively white, and its second semester that am being admitted. Even the newest set of students would have registered themselves as family, friends and foes to each other, and I am just like the white egg coming to join the hatch, only later.
Paul said I must be strongly connected to be admitted at this time of the year. Its half way through the session, and admissions have long been closed. Not even a direct entry student can be favored as such. Paul is not far from the truth, my uncle works for the presidency. Its no false about the connection.
“John”, he called, suddenly. I thought there was something he wants to show me. “Are you Nigerian?”, he asked.
“Yeah. Full blood. Oh, because of the complexion?”.
“Yes, but you have lived all your life overseas?”, he seem to ask. I nodded.
“Your complexion relates the fact that it has not seen much of the Nigerian sun”. We both chuckled.
I am on a transfer from the Central Michigan University, America. My father had died earlier this year. My uncle plainly said he was murdered by America. Till this time, I have still not understood why America killed my father. He worked for them, he was CIA.
Mallam Jibril, my uncle, said to me; “that’s America for you. Always gets what he wants, no matter whose head goes for it”.
He also said America killed my father, an American citizen, simply because he is muslim.
Yes, am a Muslim. My real name is Rasheed Kano, though my documents reads John Okafor. Among the tribes in Nigeria, they said I looked more like an Igbo, than I am Hausa. They also said my accent and fluency with English was an advantage too. And about speaking Igbo, not every Igbo student speaks the language, someone had said.
Part of the plan was that I will be attending church. I have really not attended one before. And even though I have been in near church occasions, I still entertained some fear as I followed Paul to the school chapel that evening. I have watched Pastors display great metaphysical powers before on TV, and I feared someone might just point at me, and say, “what are you doing here?”.
Many things the Pastor said were in concordance with the words of the holy Koran. Though, I have known that the line that separates Islam from Christianity is very thin, that sometimes you switch muslim names with their Christian concomitants unknowingly: but only now was I really making some comparisons.
The man of God was talking about love. And some of the scriptures he cited had Koranic connotations. He also gave some parables, for example, of the good Samaritan, which reminds me of how the prophet had instructed muslims to treat non muslims.
Some years back, when I and my father visited Nigeria from America, because my mother was late, my father and Mallam Jibril had a light argument. Mallam Jibril had accused my father of working for Al-Kafeerins, worst of all accepting American citizenship. He said my father was an infidel for that. My uncle quoted the following verses of the Koran; surah 4:101 which says the infidels are your sworn enemies, and surah 28:86, which says never be a helper to the unbelievers. He even quoted the verse that says wage war against the infidels.
My father pointed to him that those words for infidels and unbelievers, would have been ‘Man-Kafeerin’, if the Koran was really referring to Christians or Americans. “But it uses the definite article ‘Al’, which stands for ‘the’, because he was referring to a particular set of people that are long extinct, particularly those that fought against Islam at its early stage”, my father added. Mallam Jibril could not speak, my father laughed victoriously. But I saw Mallam’s eyes, it had great animosity welled up in it.
Talking about the good samaritan, that night, as we approached the hostel, I wanted to ask Paul, if he would still show me the love he had already shown me, if he knew I was a muslim.
That night, at 10pm on the dot, I received a call from Mallam Jibril. He asked me how well I have been faring. I told him that I am in the hostel with a friend. I had an hotel room advancely booked to cover a long space of time, long enough before the arrangements for an apartment for me is concluded.
For some reasons, the place of my residence is to be strictly selected. When Paul offered to accommodate me in his hostel room, I had acceded, not because it would save me cost. Its simply because I don’t want to start attracting attentions, this early.
“Okay. Its good you did not reject your friend’s proposal. Anyway, Bash would be there in a week to help you settle, then brief you on the plan”.
So far, I have always heard the plan-the plan, yet all I know about the plan is just some few basics. When I was briefed about my mission in this school, the pictures that played in my head were all from 007 James bond movies. The thought had excited me, it was an adventure worth venturing, despite the risks, I thought. But so far, it had looked all simple and in-tactical.