When he was nearly thirteen and some armpit hair had begun to sprout from my brother Ahmed’s underarm, tragedy struck. We lived in the remote village of Baga which is located at the Eastern border of Nigeria; Life wasn’t easy I heard my mother complain to fellow female gossipers but as kids, to us, life was perfect. Well, that was until the rebels came.
We had been hearing of terror attacks in smaller villages (yeah, hard to believe, there were actually villages smaller than ours), but as Baga was known for our fiery hunters and fighters, we felt safe- our mistake.
One windy morning as I and Ahmed were trotting down the sandy narrow pathways back from school, talking heartily about how much we loved the harmattan weather, we heard it. At first it sounded far off amidst our chatter, but as we got closer to the main village, we could hear it loud and clear. First there was screaming, and then crying and in-between, some loud male voices speaking in our local dialect but clearly their accent was poor.
I clutched Ahmed’s arm, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, tears started streaming down my cheeks. We just stood there, at the same spot, hearing the cries mainly comprised of women and children’s. I was shivering, my knees were clicking together like dancing plates. Ahmed who was way taller than me, over four feet, held me close to him and kissed my ruffled head. I remember him whispering to me, “maybe it’s just a drama”, something we both knew was absurd. But I guess we both needed the re-assurances, because I replied amidst the tears, ‘maybe’.
We dragged on a few more feet, and this time, we could make out what was being said. Immediately, Ahmed grabbed me by the arm and we ran into a nearby high bush, it was more like he pulled me. I was never more glad to be short, the high bushes shielded us perfectly.