MY COUNTRY

 


Photo by Ayanfe Olarinde in unsplash

I am awoken by gunshots; though not in my house but in one close to mine. Well, it’s no more a new thing for homes and families to be evaded by the Military on daily basis. Here is my country Nigeria where no one is safe again, with no place to run to.


(The past)

Once, I’d tried applying for a visa so that I could leave the country, but the Federal government had shut down every international movement till further notice. It’s been five years now since they put a ban across international trips.


(The Present)

I double tap my iPhone 17X screen which is lying beside me on my bed. I know it’s wrong to sleep close to a radioactive device such as my phone. Well, these days coupled with such terrible conditions in the country, we care less about what the doctors and every other medical personnel say about it.  


The time says 9:00am, and today’s date is 30th January 2100. Yes, we’re in the year 2100, still struggling in a country whose slogan is: UNITY AND FAITH, PEACE AND PROGRESS. 


(The Past)

Yesterday, my internet colleague; Mrs. Johnson told me that the word PROGRESS, should be changed to REGRESS because she believed that the county wasn’t moving forward. I laughed at her hilarious joke, even though at some point, I paused to reflect on it. One thing with Nigerians; since I was born till now, is that they’d always find a way to make fun of everything no matter how terrible the situation in the country was.


(The Present)

“Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!” A neighbor shouts. I move straight to the window; there’s no need going outside because it is a directive from the government. Well, I work from home, make my money from home; Infact, my small sized duplex is my comfort zone. 


From the window upstairs, I can see uniformed men, probably sent by the order of the federal government. I watch as they evade and bundle individuals out of the house, and into their vehicle. Though a sorry sight, I’m already used to seeing things like this. I know the reason for the military men coming; they’re trying to enforce a ban on ethnicity as directed by the federal government since the beginning of the year. One of the military officers slaps an old man who is trying to resist their pushes and shoves; the old man tries to fight back but receives a blow on his chest, which calms him down and then he is pushed into the vehicle.


I can see the members of the PRESS; standing with their cameras, recording the scene and getting ready to present it on the news that evening. I shake my head in more disappointment as the military men go ahead to demolish the building. In few minutes times, I can only see heaps of stones. I hiss, and then I shut the window, still wondering why the liberty of Nigerians diminishes day after day. I sit back on my bed; with nothing to do for the day, I try to recall how I’m here today.


(The Past)

I am 25. I was 17yrs old when I lost my parents; it was on the fateful day when the military took over from the civilian government that it all happened. That day, there was sporadic shooting here and there as people ran to take cover. Unfortunately my parents who had gone to visit a family friend were hit by the stray bullets. Since then I learnt to survive on my own. That was the same period when the nation-wide SIT-AT-HOME exercise was enforced; it was the first law enforced by the military regime. We could only leave the house twice a week, and due to this, people had to leave their physical jobs and resort to learning soft skills in order to survive. I was so lucky that I read computer science in the university and by the time I was done with school, I could create websites for people and get paid. 


(The present)

I come back to consciousness when the power supply comes on. The Television which hangs on the wall at one side of my room, comes on automatically. Surprisingly, the newscaster presents the little scene which has just taken place outside my house. I watch as the old man is given a blow again; the members of the press must have taken delight in recording such a scene. Then I drift into thoughts again;


(The Past)

The ban on ethnicity came into place at the beginning of the year, when the federal government noticed that people were misusing their ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Well, it was normal for the Military government to put a ban on a lot of things, but this particular one on ETHNICITY surprised everyone. That fateful day on the news, the head of state sounded it as a note of warning; “DO AWAY WITH YOUR BELIEFS AND  CULTURES! THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IGBO, HAUSA, YORUBA, WE ARE ONE NIGERIA!” He said.  My internet colleague Mrs. Johnson had told me that as far back as 2020, one group of south easterners where strongly pushing for an independent nation called BIAFRA, and the civilian government by then had decided to arrest their leader; one Mr. Nnamdi Kanu to calm their nerves down. Due to such action by the government, there was so much protest and insecurity in the south eastern states, especially on the Mondays of every week. Asides that, up till the day ethnicity was banned, people had been showing favoritism or scorn on some other people due to tribal differences. I was rejected by three different universities because of my ethnic background; so sad. 



Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

https://unsplash.com/photos/man-in-red-and-white-long-sleeve-shirt-holding-red-and-white-flag-eMS-5qTY58Q


(The present)

Since I have nothing to do for the day, I decide to make myself tea and some toasted slices of bread. From the kitchen, I go back to the bedroom and pick up my iPhone; I put on my mobile data so that I can connect to the internet. I just have that vibes to read about the history of something; maybe that of my country will be okay. I search for major events that have shaken Nigeria during the past century. A lot of them pop up on my screen; EBOLA VIRUS, COVID-19, #END-SARS, 2023 GENERAL ELECTION. I settle down for the COVID-19 story; I smile and wonder how they must have controlled such a terrible pandemic especially in a country like Nigeria. Then I decide to read on the 2023 elections, where I see pictures of certain political aspirants of their time. I can see the then president of Nigeria; President Mohammed Buhari. I begin to wonder how he would have ruled the country. Then I see the news on the general elections of February 2023, where a certain old man; Bola Ahmed Tinubu crushes his opponents; Obi Peter and Abubakar Atiku and others. 



Soon I hear a knock on my door; it is a distressed one, the owner seems to be knocking without breaking. "It's me Hilda! Please open up!" The voice says from outside the door. I recognize the voice as that of my old time friend Hilda. I begin to wonder what she’s doing outside her house by such a time, amidst the strict military policy of no movement.

“Dad wants to put everyone in trouble!” She says, sobbing.

“What’s the problem dear?” I ask her, showing concern. 

“He still went ahead to boldly draw ethnic inscriptions, on the gate, now the military officers are after us.” She says crying so loudly.

“Really?”

“Yes, he even made a public statement yesterday that nothing can make him leave his traditional title  as a chief!” She sobs even louder.

“Everything will be fine okay?” I say, trying to pull her up.

“Everything won’t be fine!” She sobs the more. Then she falls to the floor;

“They’re gong to kill my dad!” She says in a painful tune. 

“What of your mum?” I ask.

“We both escaped through the kitchen door, and I’ve not seen her after then”

“And your dad”

“They’ve taken him captive, What kind of country is this?!” she asks, weeping loudly.


Few minutes later, she sleeps off on my shoulders. I place her on one of the pink sofas which beautify my sitting room and then I walk straight to the window to have a view. The streets are almost empty; another effect of the military enforcement of staying at home for five days in a week, letting the citizens to move about with the remaining two days; so unreasonable. The cars which parade the street occasionally are those of the military. No social gathering, no talking to anyone. That’s the kind of country I’m living in; our country is now being dragged on social media, on one of the great Elon musk’s application called threads. The fact that the national borders are closed, makes it hard for external intervention in the country. 


Soon I hear a knock on my door; it is the Nigerian army…I become so scared, I know why they are here; it must be because of Hilda, who is still asleep on my pink sofa. I quickly wake her up and hide her in the attic. 

“Did a young woman run into this house?” They ask with all boldness and no smile on their faces. I shake my head as a way of saying no. Well i know that I’m not good at lying and I can also conclude that they’re suspecting me. One of them corks his gun at me in a bid to shoot; “if we find her here, we’ll end you” they say and they begin to search. My legs wobble in fear; maybe I didn’t shut the attic very well, maybe she must have come down from the attic and surrendered herself in fear by now. I try to remain calm; as one of the hefty looking soldiers still points his riffle to my head. Soon the search is over and they leave; I heave a sigh of relieve to myself. 


Hilda comes out some seconds later after I’ve shut the door. We both smile and hug each other. “I’m glad you’re safe” I say, but then I notice tears dripping from her face. I know why she’s crying; her father is going to be killed. I really wish I can help, but at that moment, I know I can’t. 


By evening we are sitted in the sitting room, we want to be kept abreast on the recent happenings in such an unsafe country as Nigeria. Hilda leans on my shoulder sadly, still buried in thoughts. The news shows the faces of disobedient Nigerians who still practice their cultures against the order of the federal government. Soon, we both see Hilda’s father and some other individuals on the screen. They are being tied up and condemned to death by hanging. I hold her tightly as she sobs; “Dad!” She cries out, holding me firmly. I press the power button on the remote control and the flat screen television goes off. She cries for some minutes and when she becomes tired, she falls asleep. I gently take her into an empty room opposite mine; I lie her on the bed and cover her with the Wrapper available. 


I go back to the parlor with a heavy heart. Not knowing what to do next, I turn on the television just in time to see a coverage of protesters on the streets with placards written on them REVIVE OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE; DONT PUT THEM INTO EXTINCTION; the news caster explains that the protesters are not happy with the federal government policies of no ethnicity. 

“Are you people crazy?” I ask myself, wondering why people will want to risk their lives protesting, in such a heartless military regime. 

Well, another shock comes. Right there on the spot, the military surrounds them and in few seconds, they are all gunned down. I sorrowfully put off the television. It’s only God that can help my country; Nigeria. I quietly move to my room. 


As I lie on the bed, I begin to wonder why God has placed me in such a country; maybe the people who lived here before me must have enjoyed a lot of privileges which I’m not enjoying now; like free movement, and Civilian government. My thoughts drift to Hilda; I shake my head sadly and sigh. Soon I drift to sleep.




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