The Day We Lost Hope

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It was a humid day in August 1985 . Ginika had laid on her bed for what was supposed to be a quick nap, but ended up sleeping for a couple of hours. She woke up and stood at the window, looking out with a smile. They hadn’t had this much sun in months, it rained almost everyday, and when it wasn’t raining, the weather looked gloomy, pale. How they had waited for August break. 

As she stretched her neck to the road, she notices something was off, the streets were empty. That was unusual. The streets were always bustling. Even on rainy days, people went about their activities with an umbrella above their heads. They had prayed for the sun, but now there was not a single soul on the roads. 

As she keeps staring, she hears sounds coming from the parlour, they were quaking sounds, sounds of someone in a deep unrest. It was her mother’s voice. Her mother wasn’t one to give in to panic. She was often calm and rational, and brought Ginika up that way. “Breathe in, Ginika” she always said. Something was wrong, and Ginika had started to panic. As she turns to leave, she hears the same disturbing sounds coming from the neighbours house, only this time, it was louder, scarier.

She scampers into the parlour to find her mothers head dropped down, one hand was placed on her head, the other carried her six months old brother. Her father trailed from one end of the parlour to the other, his right hand tightened into a fist, gently striking the other in an obvious trembling. Her two other brothers; the twins, watched both parents in melancholy, subtle confusion. 

The TV was on and a slightly frightened reporter was speaking, but Ginika paid no attention to her, she ran to her mother urging her to speak. “There has been a coup” her mother replied. “The president and vice president have been murdered. Balogun Adepoju is currently been sworn in”. Ginika shut her eyes, taking deep breaths to calm herself.  She turns to her father, who looked like the blood had drained from his face, he looked pale, sick.

Her father served as Minister for Environment in the recently overthrown government. They called him “one of the few good ones” and he was. He always had the people in mind, but she saw him struggle daily because “the people above” often interfered. She was scared, negative thoughts ran through her mind. Adepoju was not a merciful man. People often referred to him as “the politicians politician” but that only meant he played wicked politics, he took out anyone he thought was remotely an obstruction.

Her body had become cold, her teeth chattered. She turned to her mother, speaking under her breath “what if…nevermind” she shook her head. She turned to her again, desperately looking for an affirmation “All they will have to do is fire the ministers right?” But her mothers face reflected the fears she tried so hard to block out. She could barely utter a word to Ginika, she only stared.

Just then, her fathers phone started to beep. One of the twin boys, Chukwuemeka, ran to it. “Hello sister”. That was Aunty Ada, her fathers only sister. They all looked anxiously at him. 

With every word she spoke, his expression degenerated. Soon, he covered his face with quivering hands, his phone slipped out of his hands to the floor. Her mother dropped the baby on the chair and rushed to him, prodding him to speak.

Ginika stood there, listless. She felt as though her limbs had been obliterated, as if the blood in her body had been flushed out. 

“They just murdered both the Minister for education and the petroleum Minister”. He rushed to the remote. “The announcement is been made on NTA news”. All the while, Ginika looked at his hands, she had never seen him show this much fear. It made her fears feel valid in ways she didn’t want it to. Now, NTA reported three dead ministers.

Her mother lay on the floor screaming, the twin boys held their fathers hands. They couldn’t perfectly understand what was happening, but whatever it was, they knew it wasn’t good. Ginika sat down with her mouth open, she had lost the strength to display any emotion, it all felt like a dream. A few years ago, they came together and made merry on her fathers appointment, today the story had changed and without warning.

Her mother jerked up, as though a force had pulled her up “Chief, you need to hide. Go, go hide in the labyrinth”.

“Are you thinking? They will kill you all, and then find me”. 

“Fine. We will all hide” she doesn’t say this with confidence, she knows none of it makes sense, the soldiers will go to any extent to look for them, but there isn’t a part of her that is willing to accept that today is the day her family falls apart, the day the man she had known and loved all these years dies.

As they go back and forth, the violent push of the gate is heard, tone deaf sounds of gunshots follow suit, with it are the rabid screams of the policemen that stand on guard. The ground feels as though it might split in two. 

This was it, this was happening. Ginika runs to where they stand, bringing the family in a tight embrace. They bawl, soaking each other with tears that tell of an end to something special. 

As the loud stamping of feet draws nearer, their wails grow louder. With every stamp, the image of splattered blood consumes their imagination. 

The place goes quiet, they all turn to the door with their hands in their mouths, gasping for air. The only thing heard is the ticking of the clock. 

Ginika feels hot liquid beneath her feet, soon they all feel it, as they look down, they see Chief Bekee’s trembling legs.

Suddenly, the loud bang of the door, pulls it down, with a vibration that shakes the house. The baby’s deafening screams echo, as four mean-faced  military men barge in. Ginika and her mother stand in the way, shielding the minister. 

Her mother places her head on the feet of the man who comes forward, staining them with tears, pleading for her husband’s life to be spared. The twin boys stand behind their father holding him tightly, wailing. Now it becomes clearer, the mean-faced men were here to kill their father.

The minister pleads alongside his family, but with a violent brush of the soldier’s hand, they all fall to the ground, leaving the minister face-to-face with the gun. As they make to stand up, another soldier pulls them down, threatening them with a gun above their heads.  

The soldier studies the minister with a smirk on his face, he places the tip of the gun on his forehead

“It’s the dawn of a new government, minister. Goodbye” he fires loud shots. They all laugh in a ridiculously harmonious way, and then turn to leave. 

It does feel like the world ends for this family, they run to kneel beside the dead body, crying their hearts out. The baby’s yells grow even louder. Ginika watches her mother run after the soldiers. In the heat of the pain that she feels, she crawls to stop her, begging for her to get back, but before she reaches the door, she hears the thunderous sound of gunshots, followed by her mothers yells.

The last thing she hears her mother say is “Ginika”.

That day, something died in her. How does a person heal from calamity so grave? 

If Ginika had any hopes of a new Nigeria, it ended that day.

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