Unashamed and Unafraid; Malaika’s story.

fearin

They just came to take papa, exactly seven days after they took mama. The day looks the same; the timing is almost the same. The only difference is the fear that is in our hearts this time is greater than the usual fear that lives with us in these turbulent times.

I was feeding the chickens out of my hand when the van, raising dust after it, sped to a stop outside our home. Our half blind papa had struck his walking stick twice when he heard the engine quench from where he sat at the verandah. It was basically a warning for me to run and hide in Mama’s closet. I only turned back to look at him and my little sister, Sara who was seated on his laps and continued feeding my chickens.

If there was something I could do, I would have done it. Neither parents owned weapons, so I was no match for the men in weird army like uniforms, coming out of their vans, fully armed. Yet, I continued feeding my chickens. Last Sunday when they took Mama, I had fought them hard, kicking and pushing at them, but they’d only laughed at me and kicked me into the dirt.

I managed a momentary glance up. Like my mother’s captors, these soldier like people covered their faces with black masks. Only their eyes were visible. They approached me and tried to scare me off. They only succeeded in scaring off my chickens. I stood up and turned to my papa who was beginning to stand up. Sara was thankfully nowhere in sight. She would be in Mama’s closet. It was the agreed secret hiding place.

I wondered what they would do to my Mama. I constantly wondered if truly they were torturing or raping her. It was what papa said they would do to her. She brought it upon herself, he said. Why won’t she allow the war times to be peaceful and quiet for them an average family, he lamented.
It horrified me to think they would do those things to my Mama. But what wrong had she done? Papa said the law of our land was crap. That the terrorist group that took Mama ruled the country, not the president.

I gulped hard hearing those words.
I watched my papa’s creamy brown skin glisten with sweat as the men finally reached him. They had no words for him and unlike Mama’s arrest, in which they’d had to resort to violence, papa’s taking was peaceful. Papa offered himself, hands thrust out. They cuffed it and pushed him down the stairs.

“Malaika, take care of your sister” he said lips trembling. I watched his full lips quiver, unable to cry. Why was I unable to cry? Why was I taking it all in as if, this was routine and normal? I placed a hand over my heart. I wanted to beg the men, convince them to bring back my mother, tell them I would die without my parents.

I heard my sister’s fast footsteps, I heard her sobs. I held her to my side, my chin on her hair. I couldn’t tell her everything was going to be alright like I’d done on Sunday. That would be a lie.
When my papa was finally in the van, his face looking out the netted window, I managed to talk to the last soldier.

“Sir, what about us?”

He gave a short nervous laugh “you don’t want to go where you papa is going. You’re in heaven, stay here” Was it sympathy I saw in his eyes or nervousness I heard in his accented English? No, the hard hearted man could have no sympathy.

I wondered how this, my current situation, and that of my neighbors, who were probably watching the scene through their window was heaven. I wouldn’t blame my hiding neighbors. Any resistance and the resistor would be in the van too with my papa, away from his family to face the fury flames of hell. I took a deep breath and watched as the dust circled after the van even when the van was not in visible sight. I turned to the elements. I watched as the sun spread its wings across the earth. It seemed a massive cobweb, ready to take domination of the world.

A few minutes later, Nkechi’s Mama was on our lawn, approaching us.
“Come,” she said “I would take care of you, everything would be alright.” She smiled sadly “your mama was a good woman. She said things that were true, things that didn’t make the bad people happy. She condemned the bad people”

It was unfortunate that Sara and I would hear a different story in a few minutes. “Mama Nkechi, I told you not to bring these children in here” Baba Nkechi said strolling around his room, bare chest as we entered his parlor. His stomach told tales of beer and drunken nights. It told tales of heavy meals after 8pm. It told tales of sleeping while his mates were working.

“Baba Nkechi, they are my friend’s children”

“oho, why din’t you tell your friend to stop running her mouth like water. Ehn? Abi you din’t know this evil would come upon her, da way she was always going paparampapa all over da place. As if she’s da only preacher in this town. da woman was a dumb fu—’

“Baba Nkechi, watch your language in front of the children” she warned

“I dun care” he said as he settled into a sofa that sunk under his weight “read my lips, I dun care, this is my house—”

“Children, please go outside” Mama Nkechi said

We went outside to sit by the steps with Nkechi. I didn’t know what to do; I just kept the weight of my head under my palms and looked at the approaching night darkness as it covered us with a cloud of doom and sorrow.

I wondered, thinking it weird that, if only my Mama had shut up, we won’t be facing this. I considered it strange because we’d been groomed to speak up. Mama taught us that there was nothing wrong with having opinions. I wondered who wanted Mama’s life for saying the truth. The person must simply be horrible.

The net that covered the front door of Nkechi’s house suddenly came to life as it was snatched open and slammed, and then snatched open and slammed again. Mama Nkechi was running after Baba Nkechi. “Where are you going to, there’s a curfew, you’ll get yourself killed”

He hissed and looked at me with blood shot eyes. “Now look here boy, I dun want you in my house no more. I dun want them to torture me as they’re doing to your goddamned mama. Do you know that they cut off her ear just yesterday because she was preaching Christianity? They’re making her convert to their religion, and it’s either she breaks or they kill her. You know that right?” he laughed, mocking me gently, staggering off like a stallion in a game. He wanted me to believe him. He was guessing. He didn’t know what was happening to my mother. No one knew.

I bit my lower lips, and let the tears flow down. I watched as it hit the floor and then covered my face in shame. Nkechi took my left side. She held my hands tightly. In another life, she’d have been my girlfriend. I tried to smile, but the more I tried, the more I cried. Mama Nkechi ran inside the house, her frustration, obvious.

“Your mama is a good woman” the older girl said. Usually, I’d have looked down at her maturing breasts, distracted, or studied her lips, enchanted, but today, my eyes saw her soul. “Your mama was helping us. We are a minority group in this area, we Christians. I’ve read in the books that the war is against western education and corruption. But I think otherwise. Teacher from down the street says this war is against Christianity. She’s right because they’re constantly killing and kidnapping our kind. Despite this, your mama was unafraid and unashamed, speaking at the market square and public roads. She was speaking out for all of us. My papa is a coward, I’m afraid. I want to be like your mama”

“Why did they take my papa?”

“It is part of the game of torture” she said carefully “i’m suprised they didn’t take you and Sara. You must be lucky. unfortunately, the luck won’t last. they would be coming after the two of you soon.”

She squeezed my wrist

“isn’t there something we can do” I asked

“the police don’t care, the army have a hard job catching this terrorist group, the pastors would pray, as they should, the president is giving silly excuses like he has or had no shoes so he cannot do his work, I don’t know.”

I looked at her disregarding the humor.

She looked back with a gentle smile.

“Be prepared Malaika. Be prepared”

****

My little way of celebrating human rights day (December 10th) has been to write this story and share with you Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The following are fundamental human rights enshrined in the 1999 constitution and accorded to all Nigerians. –

1. Right to life – Section 33: Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life,save in execution of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.

2. Right to dignity of human person – Section 34: Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of person and accordingly no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

3. Right to personal liberty – Section 35: Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty.

4. Right to fair hearing  – Section 36: In the determination of a person’s civil rights and obligations,every person shall be entitled to fair hearing.

5. Right to private and family life – Section 37: The privacy of citizens,their homes,correspondences and telephone conversations  is guaranteed and protected.

6. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – Section 38: Every person shall be entitle to freedom of thought,conscience and religion,including freedom to change his religion or belief.

7. Right to freedom of expression and the press- Section 39: Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions.

8.Right to peaceful assembly and association – Section 40:Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons or political party.

9. Right to freedom of movement – Section 41: Every citizen in Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof.

10. Right to freedom from discrimination – section 42: No Nigerian shall be discriminated upon on the basis of his community, ethnic group,sex,place of origin and political opinion.

11. Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria – Section 43: Every Citizen shall have right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.   12. Right against compulsory acquisition of property – section 44

Can you point out one or two contravened human rights in Malaika’s story?

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17 thoughts on “Unashamed and Unafraid; Malaika’s story.

  1. Lool! Ope please we’re not law students and this is not an exam. We’re on vacation and Christmas is coming. You nerd.

    But beautiful story. So many children suffer like this around the world and our hearts and prayers go out to them. Well done. You’re gifted.

  2. Can’t you prose writing folks finish the whole thing in two stanzas/paragraphs?
    Lol. Just kidding. Not bad at all but I’ve seen you write better.
    Am I raising the bar? Maybe but it’s not a problem right?

  3. This is the shiznit girl!! it’s a sensitive issue, and I think you hit off the right chords calmly. I actually think this is one of your best works so far.but since you write on so many issues in different ways I can’t really say.

    I’m really impressed. keep it up.

    For your asked question,
    I believe his parents rights in s33-s39 and s42 are being violated but what do I know : D

  4. Human stories like this capture the heart of the matter. Families are destabilised. Women and children suffer a great deal in war times. What future do the children have? One does not have to read the constitution to understand that the children have suffered an injustice, though to be educated is a very good thing.

    It is sad, but as the captors said, their being left behind is heaven . . .
    Btw, why would their father tell the son, in graphic detail, the treatment his mother was receiving? Seems to much for a child to handle. War, crisis, obliterates meaning . . .

    Thanks for using this to celebrate Human Right’s Day. You have reminded us of those whose rights are abused.

    1. Yes, the burden falls more on Women and children, the future of the latter uncertain. Their father must have been an half blind, half mad man for such irrational behavior.
      Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

  5. Lol. Almost all our rights have been trampled upon but we will be provided with the grace to be unashamed and unafraid like Malaika.
    This is a beautiful story dear.

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