“Your freedom is brought to you courtesy of the outstanding Men and Women who serve and have served this country with honor, dedication, pride and sacrifice” – Nishan Panwar
“Salute the ones who died, the ones that give their lives so we don’t have to sacrifice all the things we love” – Random Quotes
“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death” – Sun Tzu
“We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men. We are crude and sorrowful, and superficial – I believe we are lost” – Erich Maria Remarque
“Our God and soldiers we alike adore ev’n at the brink of danger…not before. After deliverance, both alike requited; our God’s forgotten and our soldiers slighted” – Francis Quarles
As far back as I could remember, I’ve always wanted to be a tough guy. Yeah, a tough guy! You know…Gangster, Soldier, Man-O-War, Agbero and stuffs like that. Blame it on the TV shows and the numerous Action Movies I saw while growing up and you wouldn’t be wrong. I would be all ripped up, a machine gun or some other deadly weapon in hand, shooting up the whole place and causing havoc at will. Boy, I wish I had such a destiny. But the Lord Almighty wouldn’t have none of that. Instead, he made sure I had a career that would involve me wearing clean and neatly ironed shirts, a tie and a pair of trousers that barely touched the ground, probably bespectacled looking like a freaking nerd. So much for destiny though!
Well, since I couldn’t have a ‘tough guy’ destiny, I had to resort to feelings of admiration and reverential esteem whenever I came across tough guys. For example, I’d be walking towards a bus at a car park and suddenly behold an agbero hustling. So what do I do to show my admiration? I’d drop a few bucks in his hand to purchase weed, SK or something else, and tell him not to give up in his ‘tough guy’ struggle. A ghost of a smile would play around his lips and I’d walk away as fast as I could before the ‘thank yous’ start gushing out. On other occasions, I’d be driving along the highway and suddenly behold soldiers flagging me down. So what do I do to show my reverential esteem? I’d tell ‘em to keep up the good work and drop a few bucks in one of the soldiers hand to purchase weed, SK or something else.
My kind gestures toward ‘tough guys’ earned me a lotta street cred and protection, and ultimately made me feel good. I persisted in this way of life and it brought me good luck and fortune. So sometime last year, I went to a local joint to chill with some friends. Shawty was ill so she had to take a nap after having some medications. She didn’t go with me. One of the guys came back from Austria with an mgbada, so he was hosting us to a lavish get-together. Now pardon my indigenous lingo: when I say mgbada…what I simply mean is that he came back with an oyinbo woman. OK? Alright, fair enough! At the joint, everyone had the freedom to drink as much as he/she wanted to and eat to his/her fill. It was assumed that since we had an mgbada in our midst, there was nothing to fear. In a worst case scenario, we’d talk her into parting with some foreign currency, which when changed to our local currency would be able to foot our bills. So boys weren’t smiling at all!
On the west end of the bar, some young men were gathered together and discussing about the upcoming Champions League quarter-final matches. A burly lady in their midst was puffing aggressively on the cancer stick she was holding. Once in a short while, she would stand up and dance to the beat of the song playing on the stereo. It was Chief Osita Osadebe’s classic Oso Ndi Owendi. Everyone was in high spirits and happy. We could literally term the beer parlour The Feel Good Boulevard.
I noticed that one of the guys at the west end had a camouflage shirt on. On his head sat a camouflage face cap too and he wore a pair of black jeans. He was also smoking a cancer stick.
As we all were rooting for our favorite teams to qualify for the next rounds of the Champions League, he kept quiet and was staring into the distance. I took a quick notice to this and decided to also look into the distance myself. He could be an assassin waiting for the members of his crew to walk in and shoot the whole place up, I thought. When I saw no one coming from the distance, the voice in my head quickly told me to inquire from him what it was all about.
“Bro, hafa? No vex o…all man wey dey here just dey yarn about football. But you just dey look outside. You dey expect person?” I asked, hoping not to get punched on the face.
“Bros, no be so. Na my nature to dey do like this o. For where I from come, na so we dey do once we dey for beer parlour or place wey be like this. Because person no know when the enemy go show up”, he said while smiling.
“OK, I say make I dey sure o. Because me don dey fear whether you wan call police for us. But no vex, which area be dat where you from come”, I inquired further.
“Na Maiduguri o. Na where dem post me make we dey fight Boko Haram na. O boy, e no easy o. Those guys no be am. Na so dem dey kill person anyhow”, he replied and took another puff.
Surprisingly, almost everyone forgot about the football discussion at the mention of Boko Haram and instead focused on the smoking soldier as he told tales of the war against the insurgents. He was on a two week leave and came to visit his family before going back. His wife just gave birth to their second son and he came back to be with them. In the enemy’s territory, no one was sure about his future, he said. They lived everyday like it was their last. But he always had a picture of his family in his breast pocket and this gave him the strength to keep fighting to live another day. He had lost close comrades in many battles and he had come close to getting killed a couple of times.
Personally, I think life has many simple pleasures that can greatly enrich our existence and events that actually change our perception about life. Such events include the time spent with loved ones and family, and doing something to put a smile on the face of a terminally ill person, just to mention two. Also, spending a moment with a total stranger and listening to the tales of survival they tell is one of such simple pleasures. Through the words of the smoking soldier, I experienced what it was like to live one’s life unsure of what tomorrow held.
Amidst the horrific tales he told, we felt pity for the smoking soldier and bought him more chilled bottles of his favorite brand of beer. This simple gesture made him happy and he thanked us. I mean, C’mon…that’s the least we could do. Some hours later, he received a call…it was his wife. She was worried that he wasn’t home yet. So he told us it was time to go and stood up to leave. He thanked us once again and hoped to see us when next he visited the town. We all said our goodbyes. So what did I do to show my admiration for this ‘tough guy’? I dropped a few bucks in his hand. This time around, it wasn’t to purchase weed, SK or something else. Rather, it was for him to buy a gift for his wife and kids. It wasn’t right to go home empty handed, I told him.
Fast forward to many months later and I came to the joint again. This time around, there were neither friends nor any mgbada with me. I just wanted to have some me time. When I walked in, a voice called my attention and greeted me. But I found it difficult to recognize the stranger that was dishing out pleasantries. After a couple of minutes, I realized she was the burly lady that smoked a cigarette with the smoking soldier and his friends at the west end of the bar. I pretended I was happy to see her. I asked after the others, including the smoking soldier. She gave me a tragic answer quickly without flinching or showing any emotions.
“The guy don die o”.
She then proceeded to narrate how he was shot and killed in a battle to recapture a town from the Jihadists. He was buried a few weeks ago in his father’s compound…in the land where his ancestors threaded upon and fought against invaders. Phuckery! I imagined what he must have gone through; the anguish he felt before the Grim Reaper snuffed his life away. I asked the burly lady whether she knew where the smoking soldier’s family resided. She answered in the affirmative by nodding her head ‘yes’. We left the joint and headed towards the house.
When we walked into the compound, I recognized her quickly amongst the other women in the compound. She wore a black buba, her young son straddled on her back. I was surprised she didn’t reside at the barracks and yet, I didn’t care to know why. I told her I was her husband’s old friend and had come to pay my last respects to the brave soldier. As I spoke further, I saw a tear drop from her right eye. The other was red and she kept nodding her head as I talked. Her first son ran towards her and told his mother the other kids didn’t want to give him his ball. He looked just like his father. No matter how much I tried to console her, I knew her life would no longer be the same; a young widow about to fend for two lovely kids all by herself, all through her life. TRAGIC!
Before I left with the burly lady, we all said a quick prayer for his soul and those of the other brave ones that were no more. I gave her the token I came with, said my goodbyes and walked towards the car. I drove away into the distance, hoping the fortune of the nation would change for good very soon.
Over the past decade or so, we’ve never witnessed [as a nation] what we are witnessing now with respect to terrorism. It is obvious that this modern warfare has taken a new dimension and we are gradually realizing that freedom isn’t free after all. For us to be free, we have to fight for our freedom and earn it. Gone are the days when we would simply fold our hands and wish the evil away. Yet in the face of this adversity, there are thousands of young men and women that are willing to lay down their lives and pay the ultimate price to preserve this freedom. They are willing to give their lives so that we can live ours. These soldiers die and we rarely hear or read about it. We’d simply move on with our lives like nothing happened. These men and women have lost a lot in this sacrifice; body parts, mind, dignity and decorum. Some succumb to post-traumatic stress disorder. Some seldom choose to talk about the horrors they had faced while others don’t even live to tell the tales. It is important to keep these brave ones in our prayers and show them support in any form. Such acts would go a long in motivating them and help keep whatever is left of their hope alive. Capisce!
Now Playing: The Ghost of You by My Chemical Romance
Word to Mutha: This work is STRICTLY the opinion of the writer. No Love Lost; No Love Found…It is what it is!