She looked into his eyes and tried to plead with him but she knew there was no use. He had no soul so mercy was something he didn’t know about.
The herdsman brought out his knife and threatened to kill her if she tried to run, he grabbed her and pushed her down, pinning her with one hand while holding a knife in the other hand. He used the knife to tear off her skirt and her pants, she tried to crawl away but he stabbed her thigh.
The next pain Chidinma felt was between her thighs, she had always known sex was going to be painful the very first time, she had friends who had confirmed this to her. But this was different; she was being raped so she was sure the pain her friends felt was nothing compared to how she was feeling at the moment. Chidinma tried to push him away but she got stabbed again and again till she slowly drifted off into unconsciousness.
She woke up in a clinic heavily bandaged and sore. Immediately she opened her eyes she began to cry. Why was she alive? Why did she not die and join her family? She had a dream that everyone was alive and there was no crisis, they were seated at the table eating dinner and her mom was gisting them about what happened in the market. But now she was awake, back to reality and in so much pain. She had been brought in by a soldier who found her unconscious in the pool of her own blood.
Three weeks passed and Chidinma didn’t move from her sick bed. She was told she was in so much pain because they had a short supply of medicine so they had to share the little they had among the hundred and five patients that they had. The room Chidinma was in had about fifty people in it, male and female, young and old. There was barely enough walking room for the nurses. In her fourth week on that bed, a nurse she knew as Clarissa came to check on her.
“How do you feel?” the nurse asked.
Chidinma didn’t know how to answer. Although she still felt physical pain, that didn’t bother her as much as the emotional and mental did. But Clarissa’s job was to stitch her up and clean her wounds not talk about emotions. So she kept quiet and stared into space.
“You know when you were brought here, we all thought you would not survive, as a matter of fact, we told the soldier to go and drop you with the pile of dead bodies but he insisted that we try to save your life. He even got surgical needle and thread that we used to stitch up with his own money,” Clarissa recounted. But Chidinma didn’t react to the story. “He is here and he wants to see how you are doing.”
The soldier walked into the room and came straight to Chidinma’s bed, trying not to step on those on the floor.
“Good afternoon, my name is Danjuma, I came to see if you were alright,” the soldier said. Chidinma kept staring into space. “You know I thought you were dead and I almost buried you, I am so glad I felt your pulse at the last minute.”
” This is the man that saved your life, won’t you thank him?” Clarissa asked.
Chidinma ignored the question and kept on staring into space. The soldier turned back and was about to leave when she spoke.
“You shouldn’t have saved my life, you should have buried me when you had the chance to. Why should I thank you? Where were you when I really needed your help, where were you when my parents were killed or when the house was burnt to the ground. You are never there when the people need your help, you only show up after the damage has been done.” Chidinma cried.
The whole room had gone silent and everyone was staring at her. She went on her side facing the wall and started crying. It hurt to sleep on her side but she didn’t care, she wanted the pain to take her life away. She was sure her parents and brother suffered pain before dying and she wanted to feel the same pain they felt. Looking back now, she felt bad for lashing out at the soldier, he saved her life and she should have thanked him. There was little he could have done. Most of the power to fight these terrorists lay on the shoulders of the government and the government did not provide enough for them to do their jobs well.
Chidinma spent almost a year in that IDP camp, she had been badly injured by that herdsman, he stabbed her four times between her thighs, twice in her stomach and once in her chest. Clarissa always used every opportunity to remind her how lucky she was to be alive. The living condition at the camp was terrible, no human being deserved to live that condition but that was the condition millions of Nigerian’s found themselves in. They were given flat mattress to sleep on and some had to sleep on the floor and they ate once a day and the food that they ate most was beans.
Beans that’s always half spoiled and badly cooked. Chidinma knew what the government was providing for their upkeep may be small, but then the officials that were running the camp also made sure they took a large portion of that provision for themselves. One time, Chidinma saw one of them selling some of the medical supplies that had been provided for them. She knew she could not stay there much longer so she started thinking of ways to leave.
One day, a girl who Chidinma talked to, said she was going to Lagos. She said she had someone she could stay with in Lagos. Apparently, her cousin had escaped from the camp and gone to Lagos. He recently reached out to her and told her to come over. He had even sent her money to come down. Chidinma begged the girl to take her along and she did.
When they got to Lagos, a wave of nausea washed over Chidinma, the last time she was in Lagos was when she was eight years old.
They lived in Lagos before moving to Adamawa. They located the guy’s house and he gave them a very warm welcome. He took them out to eat that night and they had a nice time, the next day he took them shopping as they had come to Lagos with only the clothes they had on. Her friend, Toyosi, who had brought her along to Lagos, adjusted well to the new life but it all seemed strange to Chidinma even though she lived eight years of her life in this city.
Something Chidinma found weird was Toyosi’s cousin whom they had come to meet, had an Igbo name, Chukwudi. Though she knew such a thing was possible, she still felt it was strange. Toyosi slept in Chukwudi’s room and Chidinma would always hear strange noises coming from the room at night. They were living in a flat at Ogba. The flat had two rooms and aside Chukwudi, there were almost like eight other guys living in the house with them. They all had laptops and were always on it all day. They also did a lot of drugs, the house was always reeking of marijuana, bottles of codeine littered everywhere and also cocaine. She knew drug abuse was becoming an epidemic, but she never realized it was this bad.
Chidinma didn’t like the condition she was living in, she didn’t know which was worse, the IDP camp or this Drug house. A lot of times the guys have made passes at her and she turned them down, but she was scared a day would come when they won’t take no for an answer. So she tried her best to find work so she could get her own place. But Chidinma didn’t get a job that paid her enough to get her own place. She spent two years in that house and in the two years she followed Toyosi to the abortion clinic six times, some of the guys they were living with left and new ones replaced them, they moved from where they were staying to somewhere further down in Ogba because they were always getting raided by SARS.
One day, two of the guys in the house overdosed on some mixture of drugs and started having seizures. She read in the news that a lot of people were dying due to drug abuse and she had tried to warn the people she stayed with but they laughed in her face. Now two of them were having seizures and they had no idea what to do. Chukwuma with the help of the other guys carried the boys into the car and they drove to the hospital.
When they got to the hospital, the nurses helped get the guys out of the car. Chukwuma told Chidinma that she should stay with them, he needed to go and look for money and that was the last time she saw him. The two guys died and police came and arrested Chidinma for their death. She spent one year in prison without trial. While in prison she wrote a lot of poems and whenever they had visitors from churches and people trying to reform the condemned as the wardens called the prisoners, she would read the poem to them. Most of the poems were dark and depressing, but that was the only thing that helped her keep her sanity.
One day, one of the guys who came to speak to them brought her a new notepad because she told him the one she had was filled up. He asked if he could take away the notepad and bring it back the next time and she agreed. Two months went by and he didn’t come back with her notebook. She was worried because the new one he gave her was almost filled up. He came a day later and she was excited to see him, but instead of a notepad he brought good news.
He gave her notepad filled with poems to a publisher who loved her poem and asked to publish. So he came to ask for her permission to publish which she gave him. He also said he told his lawyer about her case and he was willing to look into it. Now she was out of prison, she was a published author who was going on a book tour in America.
Her flight was announced and she got up to go check in her luggage. She bade farewell to Baldy as she was leaving, but he either didn’t hear her or chose to ignore her because he said nothing and Chidinma left. She went through the security check, boarded the plane, took her seat by the window and put on her seatbelt. The plane started to take off and even though it was her first time on a plane, Chidinma felt comfortable and calm, she stared out the window and watched as everything on the ground became smaller. Chidinma shook her head and smiled, and then she started to recite her favorite Poem.
It was one she wrote when she was thinking about everything that had happened to her in the past six years, a poem that explained just how broken her country made her. And she thought if she ever had her way, she wouldn’t return to the country, she used to have high hopes and think it was just a matter of time before everything changed. But with each day that went by, Chidinma felt the country straying farther away from grace.
We are broken
on the inside and out
existing not living
waiting for the end to come
We are broken
plagued by so many insecurities and uncertainty
robed in rags
with the word bastard engraved in our hearts
We are forgotten
no one remembers or cares for our existence
We are heartbroken and rotten
empty, mournful and dejected
a decay to society
Time has frozen, we are stuck in limbo
our souls wandering with our minds in a clutter
are the tales of what we used to be
and how we got this way.
We were once outspoken
but it made them uncomfortable
so they left us broken.
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Written by ALEXANDRA OPEYEMI