I still remembered how it all started. It was the year 2000; the day started like every other day for I and my siblings. I woke up very early as usual (because I always bed wet). In order to avoid the early morning insult that would be meted out on me by mummy (my uncle’s wife), I quickly took my camp bed and spread it outside as it awaits the fury of the hot Kaduna sun. We lived in the northern part of the state; said to be dominated by Hausa’s. Despite this, the Christian living in Agwan Raafi have been able to live comfortably among the Hausa’s.
This particular day was a Friday, (my favorite day of the week) the only day I get to go home on time and have the ownership of the TV remote to myself, while my cousins make a mess of their room playing hid and seek. This same day, we all get to eat Suya and Kunu Geyda when daddy (my Uncle) comes home. This was a family tradition my uncle likes to keep up with; a day we all get to enjoy ourselves as a family; we laugh, joke and correct. Mummy always drops us off at school while she goes her own way to the market.
After the morning assembly, we all marched to our various classes as we settled down for our lessons. Immediately after the 4th period, we all heard the school bell. It was still 40 minutes before break time and we all wondered what the bell was for. “Pick up your bags and gently march to the assembly ground” the Headmistress announced. When we heard those words, the whole school was already in panic. Those words means only one thing CRISIS! That was when I remembered have not gone to the toilet that morning, my stomach became a battle ground. I could feel the worms in my stomach turning and churning as if they were making amala. I was the oldest, I was suppose to take charge of how I was going to take my sibling home and here I am holding the lower part of my tummy. “Akintunde! What are you doing there!” My class teacher shouted at me. I ran out of the class without my back-pack and headed for Ope and Olamide’s class.
Some parents were already at the school to pick up their wards. We wondered who was coming for us. After waiting for what seems like an eternity, mummy ran into the school compound. She backed Ope, held Olamide on her left hand and I on her right hand and the race started. Before we got home, the weather had already changed. Daddy was not yet home. There was no telephone to call him with, so we waited. Mummy paced from one end of the room to the other tying and untying her wrapper. “Dem don reach here o! make una run o!”. When I heard those words, it was as if my heart was ripped from my chest. I could not breathe, and I could hear the pounding of my heart in my ears. Mummy dragged us out of the room as she struggled to back Ope. We ran with other people as we ran the race for life. Mummy kept muttering her husband’s name. I could hear people shouting and crying as they ran for safety.
All of a sudden it started raining heavily. We were almost at the burial ground that separated our area from the police barrack when someone shouted that we should stop running. We could not turn back; neither could we move forward because the broken bridge was already flooded and the river was deep. There was no way for us to pass without being carried off by the flood. Even if the grownups should struggle and pass, how about the children? So we waited. This was death for certain. I have always wondered what it was like to stare at death face to face and now I could sell its terrible stench. We could still hear the gun shot moving closer and closer towards us. The rain became heavier. Mummy was on the ground crying. Everyone was helpless. All we could do was pray. And so we prayed like never before. For the first time after the death of my sister, I prayed with all the strength and will I had left in me.