“Go!” he screamed. I couldn’t see his face in the dark but the urgency in his voice was unmistakable.
I clung to him sobbing. “I don’t want to go without you. I will stay with you.”
“I will find you, I will join you in safety, I promise.” His voice is soft and soothing now, the urgency of the previous moment gone.
“We have to go now, they are getter closer,” the driver cries impatiently, his voice laced with fear and panic.
Chinedu untangled himself from my embrace and planted a kiss on my forehead and gently urged me into the open back of the already overfilled lorry. I stumble across bodies and my hand lost contact with his.
“I will find you Aisha, I promise…” the rest of his words are drowned out by the noise of the rickety lorry coughing to life as the driver turned the key in the ignition.
“I love you Chinedu,” I cry as the lorry begins to move, slowly picking up speed and taking me away from him. The wind whips my face mercilessly and my tears sting my eyes but I don’t care, I am more concerned with the fate of my lover who is about to face the wrath of Islamist extremists by himself.
How could I have known that the dreaded Boko Haram sect would decide to attack during Chinedu’s visit? Gidan Kwano had always been a serene town and there had never been any attack on Minna in the past before even though other states in the northern part of Nigeria had been victims of Boko Haram’s nefarious activities.
The lorry has gathered enough momentum now and is speeding across the long stretch of road, putting more and more distance between my lover and I. I allow myself to stare gloomily around me. It is barely dawn and the time must have been just a little around past five a.m. The scared faces of some other students from Federal University of Technology, Minna stared back at me. Like me, most of them are in varying degrees of undress, there had been no time to pick clothing when the alarm that there was a Boko Haram invasion and it was getting close to where most of we students reside a little distance from the university.
Chinedu and I had been wrapped in each other’s arms when Bolanle, my next door neighbor rapped on the door vigorously and alerted us of the impending doom. I had wanted to pick some few things but the sounds of gunshots had Chinedu forcibly dragging me out of the apartment and we joined the others as we rushed to the bus stop looking for a quick means of transport to carry us to safety. We were fortunate when the lorry stopped but it was already filled with many others running for dear life and they were willing to take on just one more passenger. Chinedu didn’t think twice before he ordered I get on board the lorry.
I clung to him refusing to leave.
“Be a good girl now Aisha, this isn’t some Romeo and Julie type of love. I won’t die. I promise I would find safety and meet up with you. You have to be safe. If you don’t want to do this, do it for the baby,” he implored.
How could I leave him? He had come all the way from Lagos to be with me while I write my final examinations. We had had plans of going to Abuja to celebrate as soon as I wrote my final papers when I told him I was pregnant from his visit of two months ago. For two lovers who had to suffer the agony of a long distance relationship, every precious memory counted and even though I had tried to dissuade him from coming, he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“You are about to graduate now, it is time we told your parents about us and with the baby on the way plans for our marriage need to be made.”
Sitting in the lorry, I wish he had postponed that trip. Tears fall out of my eyes as it dawns on me Chinedu is unfamiliar with the terrains of Minna. His sojourn to the north has always been because of me having lived in Lagos all his life. During previous visits, he had always had me as a guide and without people after his life. How was he going to escape from the deadly sect?
“Stop the lorry, I need to get down,” I shout.
The scared faces turn to look at me in surprise but the driver doesn’t slow down. How could he when he there is the danger of bloodthirsty maniacs ambushing us should he stop the lorry?
“Please I need to go back, my fiancé is back there!” I scream but my words are carried away by the wind. Nobody pays any attention to me, they are mostly in shock or too scared for their own lives to care about a distraught girl crying for her lover.
The lorry suddenly veers off the road as a loud explosion rocks the ground. I gasp as a ball of fire and smoke light up the skies from the place where we had just left.
“Nedu!!!” I scream and pass out as another explosion goes off followed by gunshots. The second explosion is louder than the first and the driver who was still trying to get control of the rickety lorry from the first explosion steers sharply. The tired lorry tilts dangerously, throwing most of sideways. My head hits one of the bars of the lorry and the sharp pain in my head and the billowing smoke is all I remember as I pass out.
When I come to, mother is seated beside me and at first I feel disoriented as my gaze flickers around the room. Where am I? The sterile white wall of the room is confusing? The last thing I remember had been visions of billowing smoke, fire and sounds of gunshots? Was I dead? Is this paradise? Is mom an angel?
My feeble attempt to move must have alerted mom because she rushes from the chair and is beside me. “Thank Allah you are safe Aisha. We were so scared about you? The doctor said you suffered a concussion and you were in shock. You kept on repeating the name Chinedu. Is he a course mate of yours?”
The mention of Chinedu’s name brings back the horror and I jerk up.
“Chinedu! Where is Chinedu? Mom I have to find Chinedu, you have to find Chinedu…” my voice is frantic with worry.
Mom looks at me from underneath her veil anxiously but is spared from answering as a doctor walks in with dad in tow. Dad is a top Imam at the central mosque and he is so much of a disciplinarian that his mere entrance quietens me. One look at his stern face hidden in the mass of flowing beard and turban on his head and I can tell he is far from worried.
“You are pregnant Aisha? Abomination!” he yells at me with venom in his voice. He advances towards me menacingly but the doctor restrains him.
The shock on mom’s face must have mirrored mine because dad hisses malevolently and continues, “You don’t even know you are pregnant? How would you know when you have been whoring around on campus?”
“Chinedu is the father of my baby and he is dead. He gave his life to save mine.” My voice is quite and drained.
“Well I hope he burns in hell,” dad fires back at me with fire in his eyes as he takes another step towards me.
“I don’t want to go to paradise if he is going to hell, I would rather burn with him.” It is like my voice has suddenly developed its own freewill. How could my father be so callous? I stare at him defiantly.
“Doctor, if you would excuse us for a minute, I would like to talk to my daughter in private.” Dad says with calmness.
“Sir, I am afraid I cannot do that. Your daughter is still in shock and you are not in control of yourself right now.”
“Do you know who I am? I would have your job and get this hospital closed down if you do not step out now. Are you implying I would harm my daughter?”
The doctor seems to wither under dad’s voice and mumbling something about checking on other patients, he steps out of the room.
Dad moves closer and pushes mom aside impatiently, “You are disgrace and you do not deserve to be called my daughter. I don’t ever want to see you again, you decide to get pregnant and you get pregnant for some Christian boy? May your soul and his burn in the eternal flames of hell.”
“Let me die already so I may burn with him, he gave up his life for me and our baby. I don’t want to go to paradise if he is going to hell, I will burn with him with all pleasure and should the angels call me a fool for giving up my grace for him, I won’t look back because I would be comforted by his love.”
Dad gives me a hard look and taking his wife by the hand walks out of the room. That is the last I ever saw him and his wife. Looking at my little son now, a replica of his father, I know I made the right decision to burn with Nedu.