Chapter One: Coming to Kano
Have you ever made grave mistakes in the past, and felt like committing suicide to put an end to your misery? Have you ever been treated like an outcast by the ones you love just because you refused to let them decide your future? Have you ever been a victim of circumstance, deceived by the ones you trust and mocked by the ones you adore? Have you ever made certain decisions in your life that you thought was right, but later back fired against you? Have you ever cried until your eyes got sore, with no tears left because the whole world seems to be against you? Have you ever failed in something that meant the whole world to you? Have you ever had to start life all over again from the scratch? Have you ever had broken dreams? Have you ever wished you had the second chance to correct the mistakes of the past? Have you ever been rejected, humiliated and thrown away by the same people you dearly and sincerely love? Have you ever found yourself at the top, only to see your whole world crashing down like dominos within a twinkle of an eye? Have you ever wished to sleep and never wake up, because all your hopes and dreams in life seemed to be defeated? Have you ever been so heartbroken beyond repair? Have you ever felt passionate to run away from your homeland to a foreign land for greener pastures? Have you ever left your homeland to a foreign land with no desire of going back, because of the Economic and Political atrocities that has crippled your nation and has subjected your people to hunger, poverty and hardship? Do you have any idea what it feels like to leave your homeland to a foreign land only to return back as a ‘’deportee’’? ‘’The truth is bitter, but let it be told’’ this is my philosophy, this is my auto-biography, this is my London story. My name is: Alexander Jon Paul Ezike, and I am a Nigerian, I am an African. I was born in Kano State in the Northern region of Nigeria on the 20th of April 1987. I’m from the ‘’Ibo tribe’’, in the Eastern region of Nigeria and my state of origin is ‘’Imo’’. My great grandfathers and grandfathers fought during the Nigerian civil war in 1967-1970. A war between the Nigerian government and the breakaway state known as Biafra, the land of the rising sun. The Biafrans were mostly Ibos, who fought for their freedom from the brutish hands of some Nigerian dictators. It was a war that erupted as a result of the pogrom in 1966, where over 30,000 civilians from the Ibo tribe were deliberately massacred as a counter attack for the coup, spear headed by the then military head of state of Nigeria – ‘’Aguyi Ironsi’’ who was also an Ibo man. It was a war which consumed the innocent lives of over 3 million civilians from 1967-1970. The Biafran war left an everlasting scar in the heart of every ‘’true Ibo’’. My grandparents and grand uncles were amongst the victims of the ‘’unjust war’’ in 1967. My father was a young boy during the war, and a royal prince in our village known as ‘’Amaruru’’. I come from a royal family; my ancestors were kings during the medieval era of the 20th century. At the age of four, I witnessed the mass murder of Christians in Kano State in the Northern region of Nigeria, the exact place I was born. It was during the military regime of General Ibrahim Babaginda, an era that launched Nigeria into the prison wall of perpetual corruption, an era that consolidated ethnic war, religious conflict and political instability, an era that launched the terrorist group known as ‘’Yan Tatsine’’. During the 1980’s the ‘’Yan Tatsine riots’’ led to a mass murder of over 10,000 Christians who were mostly Ibos, I can still recall very vividly the gory image of littered corpses and dismembered bodies across the main roads and local markets, precisely in areas such as; Baita and Nasarrawa. My father had travelled to Lagos for a business transaction before the religious war kicked off, leaving behind my young mother and three children which includes an infant who was barely a year old. My mother was only 22years old, very young and naïve; life had presented her an inconceivable task. A herculean task, which would have spelt doom for all of us if she had failed to be decisive. A ‘’do or die’’ task that would have made us all ‘’dead meat’’ if she had allowed fear to cripple her will to live. It was a time she desperately needed her husband for guidance, it was a time we desperately needed our father for protection, but he was kilometers away from us. Even though my father was aware of the massacre in progress, there was absolutely nothing he could do for us rather than pray to God if there was any, to save us from death! Also it was an era when Nigeria was technologically backwards in terms of telecommunications, so my mother couldn’t communicate with our father through a cell phone. The only available means to communicate with him was to post a letter, but it would have taken us ‘’donkey years’’ to send an urgent letter from Kano to Lagos or vice versa. We were ultimately trapped in the middle of the crisis, we were surrounded by a large population of people who were ‘’blood thirsty’’ and ‘’mad hungry’’ to exterminate our kind. We were surrounded by a huge population of radical Islamic bigots. We were surrounded by an angry mob of uneducated, uncivilized and barbaric zealots. We were surrounded by elderly men and youths who were heavily armed with sharp knives, daggers, cutlasses, guns and other violent instruments of war. We were surrounded by a mammoth crowd of Muslim crusaders, who were spilling the innocent blood of those they call infidels i.e. ‘’Christians’’ for a disjointed and unethical ideal. Even though I was only a little child, I could clearly see the horror. Even though I was too young to understand what was going on, I could strongly feel the tension. It may be controversial to say that at the age of 4, life had given me an impossible task to protect my young mother and two sisters. But what could I have done? How could a 4 year old little boy save his family from death? As the only male figure in the midst of vulnerable young females including my mother, maybe I ought to have done something or anything, but I did nothing because I was only a child. All I could do to help my helpless mother and sisters was to cry like a baby. Yes, I cried and cried like a baby, which of course I was. But why shouldn’t I, when I could hear the thunderous sound of gun shots in quick episodes? Why shouldn’t I, when I could see the image of death in human form? Why shouldn’t I, when I could see chaos and social violence in the land of my birth? Why shouldn’t I, when I could see my mother crying like a child and calling on the name of ‘’Jesus’’ to save us? I had the exclusive right to cry, and if tears was the price I had to pay to buy freedom from the brutish and fatal hands of the charging extremists, then I guess I was ‘’tearfully buoyant’’ to save my family. I can still clearly recall how my mother cried and panicked nonstop when a close friend to my father dashed into our house and broke the news about the ongoing massacre which was few distances away or approximately 20 minutes from where we lived. Interestingly, the man who came to deliver the ‘’life saving’’ news to us was also a Muslim. He informed us on time and urged us to evacuate or runaway to a safe place before the angry mob gets to our street, he even volunteered to drive us to the proposed ‘’safe place’’. My mother had to be decisive and wise; she knew it would be highly dangerous to trust the Muslim who also happened to be a Hausa man. It was logical enough for her to doubt his kind gestures, because the Hausas and the Ibos have been best enemies, since 1966. The tribal animosity between these two populous ethnic groups since the pogrom in 1966 and the subsequent civil war in 1967 has remained immortal and ever growing even till this very day. My mother had no other better choice than to take the risk of trust, an expensive ‘’trust’’ it was. A trust that would have either saved our lives or made us the next ‘’dead meat’’ in Kano state. My young mother had less than 60 seconds to make a decision, if to run away with her children without the help of the Muslim, which was a very risky venture with great possibilities of us being caught and massacred by the insurgents, or put her faith in a Muslim who could easily lead us to the ‘’point of slaughter’’. Finally, she decided to trust the Muslim. We ran away leaving behind our personal belongings, valuables and properties. We ran away leaving behind all our life savings and investments. We ran away empty handed, not even a single pin was taken from the house. But, it is noteworthy to state that we ‘’ wisely’’ ran away for our lives. The Muslim man hurriedly took us to his 504 Peugeot car, and sped off. The man drove so ‘’fast and furious’’ I guess he was driving 100km/hour on the express road. Through the car window, I could see hundreds of dead bodies on the ground; some were burnt to ashes others were butchered like goats and chickens. There was blood on the main road, loud gunshots and pandemonium. Thick smoke and wild fire coming from shops, churches and residential buildings. Anything and everything that belonged to Christians or Ibos were burnt down like an evil tree. My mother wept in the car as she saw the bodies of innocent Christians littered on virtually every section of the road and streets. Suddenly we got to a market that linked to an army barracks, there we saw young Muslims with weapons except guns. The Muslim man quickly ordered my mother to close the car windows and bend down for cover. Within a twinkle of an eye, big stones and arrows were thrown and fired at us, as we tried to get to the path that connects to the army barracks which was the proposed ‘’safe place’’. Some other vehicles were behind us, desperately trying to escape from the insurgents, some succeeded but others didn’t. My elder sister who was 5years old and my younger sister who was still an infant all began to cry, my mother quickly joined them and the only way I could console them as the man of the house was to join them in crying. We all cried, like a team of choristers made up of tenor, falsetto and bass we harmonized our ‘’cry’’ like a sorrowful music with no instrument nor choir master. As the stones smashed the windows, my mother buried us under the chair in an attempt to save our lives. I could remember her crying out loud and calling on ‘’Jesus’’ to save us, I didn’t know who Jesus was, but as soon as I heard my mother screaming ‘’Jesus! Jesus!’’ I thought ‘’Jesus’’ was actually the one throwing stones and shooting arrows at us, so I joined her in rebuking ‘’Jesus’’ to stop the rough play. How ignorant I was, how was I supposed to know that ‘’Jesus’’ was the good guy in this context? Luckily for us, we safely passed the dangerous market and took a turn that led us to the Army barracks. In less than 20 minutes we had arrived at the cantonment; the soldiers opened the gate and allowed us in. The Muslim man had indeed saved us from being killed, that noble act of kindness kept us all alive. This is the ultimate reason why I do not stereotype Muslims, because I know that NOT all of them are the same in terms of character, some of them are actually angels. The Muslim risked his own life to save us (Christians), if not for him; I wouldn’t be alive to write this book. I would have been a dead meat a long time ago, and I feel forever indebted to that man who did the inconceivable and what seemed rather impossible. I can still recall when we had arrived at the army barracks which became a ‘’refugee camp’’ he dropped us off safely and waved us goodbye, that was the last time I saw that saint or angel who happened to be a Muslim and a Hausa man. The massacre continued for days and weeks, those who couldn’t make it to the barracks were brutally murdered by the insurgents. The military head of state did nothing to pacify or unify the people, rather he chose to intensify the pogrom against the Christians by ‘’casting a blind eye’’ to the extermination, destruction and gruesome massacre of lives and properties. There was inadequate food supply and water for all the refugees; we were almost on hunger strike. My mother had to fight and struggle with a huge number of people to get food for us to eat. I could still recall the pain and physical assault she endured for our sake, just to make sure we had something to eat until the crisis had subsided. Sometimes, she would eat little or nothing just to make sure we had something. I could still recall how exhausted she would be after breast feeding my baby sister with no food to replenish the lost energy or nutrients. It was a ‘’jungle adventure’’ at the refugee camp, a survival of the fittest, you have to struggle for food or go hungry. If not for my mother’s love and determination to keep us alive, I and my sisters would have probably died of hunger and starvation. My mother was our hero, she is indeed a ‘’Super woman’’. For almost a month, the deliberate massacre of the Ibos continued in perpetuity with no hope for an end. But, one evening the elderly men and youths in the camp rallied together and decided it was no longer healthy to ‘’return the other cheek’’ it was time for ‘’an eye for an eye’’ it was time to reply the brutality, the massacre, the butchery and the injustice. The minority tribe known as the Ibos went ballistic, the theme for that evening was –‘’ enough is enough!’’. There were over 2000 Ibo volunteers who were willing to engage in a fierce battle with their enemies, they were supplied guns by some Ibo soldiers. And so they marched into Kano city unannounced, the Hausas were unaware that the Ibos had charged up like an angry red bull and were coming to revenge. It was crunch time in Kano city; the Ibos massacred every living creature on sight in the city of Kano. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor were fired to death. The Ibos unleashed hell at their tormentors, the Hausas ran for their lives but were pursued by the angry Ibos and killed. It was war! The Ibos through ‘’jungle justice’’ demanded for their ‘’pound of flesh’’. When the news about the uprising got to the head of state’s office, he finally broke his silence and ordered some military soldiers to intervene for the sake of the Hausa’s. General Ibrahim Babaginda did nothing to stop the initial attacks against the Ibos, until subsequent attacks against his tribe. After months of bloodshed and massacre, peace was finally restored. Finally, we could walk in the streets of Kano again, but we had lost everything, our house had been burnt down and destroyed. Everything my father had labored for all his life was brought down to nothing. It was another day another problem, my mother cried as she tried to see if she could find any of our valuables that she could grab her hands on but there was none.
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