I kicked my right leg violently against the wall as I walked through the passage that led to dining room upstairs. When will he change? I was coming from Father’s room, and we just had a tete-a-tete that made me really mad at him. Why wouldn’t he just allow me tell the principal he was coming to pay my tuition fees the following day. At least, it would buy me enough time to write Government and Literature tests, but Father wouldn’t agree. He said I should tell the principal that he would pay at the end of the month. That was roughly ten days away! I started to blame myself; maybe I shouldn’t have told him my suggestion; maybe I should have played dumb, listened to him and do what I had in mind. But what is the use of medicine after death? So I killed the thoughts.
I never understood Father. Did I just say I. No, it’s we; my elder brother, Fadehun, me, and my younger sister, Jummy. We never understood Father’s obsession with the truth. The most popular words from his mouth like the musical tunes from a canary bird are: “Obedience and Truthfulness are the foremost virtues of a good man.” No circumstance seemed to change him. I remember the last time the landlord came, about two years ago, asking for his overdue rent. We all knew Father had no money at that time. Luckily for me, I saw the landlord far off because I was chatting with a friend of mine outside our gate. I ran inside the house and told Father that the landlord was around and that he should hide. I would simply tell the landlord he had travelled. But to my surprise, he refused. The landlord came and caused a furor that even those in the next street from ours knew we owed rent. I kept staring at Father that day, shooting gaze of hatred at him. For all the disgrace he had brought on us was because he refused to tell a single lie.
My legs ached as I walked, but my surging anger, like the waves of the ocean, masked it up. I went to my room, shut the door and buried myself under my wool made blanket. I knew Father would soon come and knock, trying to appease me, but still driving his obedience stuffs into my head. I wasn’t ready to entertain that. So I connected my earplugs to my phone, and then I wore it. Soon I was blasting my eardrums with the Nigerian hip-hop songs that lacks good lyrical contents. In that way, I wouldn’t be guilty if I refuse to open the door when he came knocking.
I sucked throughout the whole day to the extent that I skipped lunch. I stayed inside my room because I resented Father’s presence. I knew he would only surge my anger if I see him, so I totally avoided him. He must have noticed it, so he told Jummy to call me. Jummy and I were very close like a crane and an alligator. We had each other’s room spare key. So when I heard my door’s key knob turn, I knew it could only be Jummy.
“What do you want?” I shouted at her as she walked towards my bed.
“Hey..Hey…hey,” she said, raising her palms in a surrender gesture, “please don’t transfer your aggression towards me at all.”
My voice was tinged with fear, and I knew it. But Jummy wasn’t the cause of my anger, so I cooled down.
“What does he want,” I asked, getting off my bed. I didn’t allow Jummy tell me she had been told to call me. Father’s move was predictable.
“I don’t know,” she slapped the back of her right palm against the left, “Maybe it’s his usual preaching. Everyone is in the parlour.” She was already walking out of the room.
“Including Br. Fadehun?” I shouted, but she was already gone.
I was still pretty much angry at Father, but not as much as I was in the morning. I wanted him to notice I was still angry at his refusal for me to lie to my principal. So I took my Nokia 1208 phone and Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ along with me as I went to the parlour.
Father didn’t talk about obedience or any of its related cohorts. He didn’t have anything important to say other than, “We are one happy family. If we can’t afford expensive trips to Dubai, at least we should be able to sit and watch one of your favourite Nollywood film on African Magic.”
For a spell of minutes, I locked my gaze on him, finding it hard to believe what he just said. BBC and CNN aren’t on strike,what the hell has entered Father’s head? The most shocking of it all was that the generator was on. Generator for African Magic! The heavens must be falling. In the past, the generator served three purposes: to pump water when our dear NEPA interrupts the power supply for days, to watch breaking news on BBC and CNN, and to entertain visitors if they are to spend the night at our house.
We all sat down, focusing our gaze on the screen, feigning pretense of watching the movie. It was a Ghollywood movie, I can’t recall the title, but I could bet it was a copied movie. I had come to the conclusion that Ghanaians were clueless when it came to movie making, and that any movies that looks to be top-notch was a remake of a Bollywood film.
Father was so engrossed with the movie that he didn’t see that Br. Fadehun has brought out his Android phone and was playing a game on it. The way he flicked his finger across the screen, and occasionally swerving left me with no doubt he was playing Temple Run. I don’t think Father saw him; otherwise, he was sure to rebuke him.
I turned back towards the screen, and cramped myself on the cushion adjacent to where Father and Mother sat, switched on the torchlight of my phone and started reading Murder On The Orient Express. I was really engrossed in it, and I was speed-reading, being careful about the red herrings carefully placed by Agatha Christie while trying to catch the murderer before Hercule Poirot did. Hercule Poirot had gathered the suspects in the dining room of the train and was about to begin stating his theories when Father’s phone rang. I lost my concentration a bit, and I was retracing the line I was when Father ran past me. I was still wondering why he ran out when the TV set went blank. The generator must have shut off.
The room was dark, but uncertainty lit the room. The only source of luminance was my phone. Br. Fadehun switched on the torch application of his phone and moved towards the door. Only heavens know what was going through his head. Just before he opened the door, Father burst inside, shut the door and he locked it with the key.
“Kill the light,” he ordered.
“What is it? What is happening?” Mother asked.
Father breathed out, “Boko Haram,” he said calmly. “They have entered the estate and they are burning houses, killing people.” He walked towards the window and I hear him drew the curtain close.
I began to tremble. I had only heard of Boko Haram and the bomb ladled mayhem they usually unleash in churches, mosques, military bases, and other public places in northern Nigeria. But Ogbomoso is southwest now. When did Boko Haram start to operate in southwest? I began to doubt if Ogbomoso was indeed in the southwest. After all, it was close to Ilorin which was in north central.
Gunshots from the street jerked me from my thoughts.
“What do we do now.” It was mother who asked. Her voice was coated with fear. We could hear screams mixed with cries from the ambiance.
“What do we do..do…do,” Father repeated like it was the chorus to a song. He sounded off ideas, and he snapped his fingers together as he thought of an idea.
“Let’s run to the police post in the adjacent street,” I suggested.
“No…No…No… The police can’t even save themselves at this instance. How will they save us? I suggest we stay here, and pray they don’t notice us.” He had stopped snapping his fingers.
“What if they notice us?” Jummy, who had been silent since, asked.
“They won’t,” Mother snapped.
“What if we assume new names…? Muslim names,” Br. Fadehun suggested.
“Brilliant,” Father said. “That’s a very nice idea. You will be Hassan, and I will be Hussein…”
Br. Fadehun cut in, “No I can’t be Hassan. Hassan and Hussein are supposed to be twins.”
“Okay. That’s very good of you. I will be Fa-rouk, and you will be Raheemi. Your mother will be Kha-di-jatu, while Jummy will be Aisha. Ayo will be— M-”
We heard gunshots. It was at our door! Mother grabbed me and Jummy, and her hands trembled as she held unto us. The door blew open, some of its debris flying to my position. Multitudes of ninja styled men wearing white turbans, and some with cloth mask round their faces. No less than four of them were holding a stick that was wounded with a burning cloth at its end. Many of them carried rifles, and they held them in a combat ready stance. One of them was holding a rocket launcher, and he was at the back, with the nozzle of the weapon rising above his shoulder.
“Everifodi…on the plour,” one of them shouted, stepping forward.
We obeyed, and as we did, I could hear the safety of the rifles being turned off.
He moved amongst us, and walked round our sitting room. “Kafiroons,” he screamed. “Kill them,” he said in Hausa.
“Oti o,” Father said, “We are Muslims.”
“Shat up! Who ask you to falk?” He stopped near me. A cold feeling ran throughout my body as the butt of the rifle touched neck, and it only helped increase my trembling. Mother was whispering ‘Blood of Jesus’ repeatedly. Uncertainty filled her voice.
I peeped. Jummy was being touched with a rifle.
“What is your name?”
“Ai…Sha…Aisha,” she stammered.
“You… stand.” It was my mother now.
“A-di-jatu,” she said even before she was asked.
My father was next. “Fa…Fa…fa… fafa-rook.” He shook as he spoke. Only heavens knew what was running through his mind as he spoke. He must be praying like the Mantis.
“Raheem… AbdulRaheem.” Br. Fadehun voice was sharp and devoid of fear. His pronunciation was crisp too, like an Arab. It was no surprise, Br. Fadehun had so many Muslim friends, and his association with them must have perfected his tonation.
It was my turn, but I wasn’t aware. I was carried away by my thoughts.
“You,” the voice rang out. I felt the butt of the rifle on my bushy head, and I jerked out of my thoughts. Then I rose up gently like a child who is just learning to stand. Alas I remembered, Father didn’t give me a name. He was about to when the Boko boys entered. What name do I give myself now o? Tunde… no… that’s a Yoruba name.
“Ay…” I said halfway.
A destiny resetting slap fell on my cheek, and my eyes rolled like someone who has just been hit by a trailer. He placed the rifle on my head. My mind sank into oblivion. Mother ran to me and held me.
“Yarinya, I go soot you,” he threatened.
Mother was resistant, and she held on. “He is a Muslim like everyone of us. He is just scared.”
He slapped my mother, and she fell to the ground. I heard the rifle being cocked, and I tried hard to recall a Muslim name. Islam… Arabia… Muslims…Prophet…
Mother had already risen, and she still held on to me. Now she started to beg.
Prophet of Islam… my mind produced the answer, and I spat out quickly,
“Muhammad.” I have never felt so happy pronouncing a name.
The rifle was still pointed to my head and I kept on saying Muhammad repeatedly. Then he shot. The bullet sailed past my ears and screen of our TV set gave way as the bullet found it’s way through.
“Allah Akbar,” they chorused as they left.
One evening the following week, when normalcy was returning to the ambiance, I had a brief conversation with Father when he was enjoying the breeze from our verandah.
“What do you think of the Boko Haram guys?”
He heaved out and looked at me. “When one places personal interest ahead of laid down principles, and one hides under the disguise of a Religion to unleash political laced mayhem, the product is Boko Haram.”
Father didn’t know where I was headed, so I laughed mildly as he was answering me. “I noticed you didn’t kick against telling a lie when they came last week. It is against your—”
“Yes, I told a big lie, and it saved us all,” he turned and touched me on my left shoulder, “see, I know where you are going, and I’m not in the mood for it. You might be surprised that I told a lie, but I only did when the necessity crept in. if I didn’t, who knows, we might be dead.” He set his gaze on my eyes, and he wore the most sincere look I have ever seen. “But know this today, in life, to every rule, there is an exception.”
I smiled. Father didn’t know what he had just done. He had just tied a bell around his cat, so our rats could always be saved whenever his cat made a move. He had just given me a wormhole to his proverb, and I made use of it from there henceforth. Fear did the magic!