No sooner had Ekene alighted from the sweltering heat of the Marcopolo bus he had boarded from Onitsha to Maiduguri sixteen hours ago than meet a crowd dorning ankle-length sutans, jalabias, khaftans and jumpers. They trooped towards them shouting and whistling in Hausa. While most had wares to sell, others were taxi-drivers and motor-cyclists hustling for passengers.
Few of them tried to engage him, but he ignored them and walked away.
Then came the flies: in thick buzzing swarms, settling on his jet-black hair, back and even face. Ekene wore a beautiful perfume, so it seemed like some of the flies on scenting him went to invite others. Such a horde trailed him, but he walked along unperturbed.
In Maiduguri, like other parts of North-eastern Nigeria, flies abounded and the inhabitants became used to it.
“Any attempt to swat the flies or drive them away will sell you out as a totally new visitor to the city”, the Igbo bus-driver had warned as they approached the bus terminal. Ekene had a deathly mission and didn’t want to be sold out before he executed his plans, so he walked on, silently listening to the song of the horde flying behind him.
At some point, he could swear he heard what their buzz was- a terrible gossip like those emanating from market women. Those flies were chattering away, behind him as if he didn’t exist.
One was singing about how he would be perched on his corpse by late evening. Another said he was very concerned about the his deep southern blood. He wanted to get there immediately after he was butchered, before his thick red flowed into the gutters and congealed away.
“His blood will smell of the Atlantic and fishy too”, another quipped. The others hummed their chorus of agreement. Fish was in Ekene’s blood.
“Let’s watch what our Boko boy’s will do to him, for soon he will be lying at the open street; very dead”, buzzed another.
One bold fly even took his feathery wings to his ear and screamed: “You are already dead, Sir!”, then flew away.
Ekene smiled. Patience! Patience is the ultimate virtue, he heard himself mutter. Though his blood was as hot as a gorilla’s and his anger was burning in his veins, he let it fly away. The fly was entitled to its view, he thought.
He walked on, he could see a Fulani boy of about fifteen stalking him. In his mind’s eye, he could see the boy’s feet soaked in blood, treading lightly behind him. The blood was that of the thousands of easterners martyred by Boko Haram.
“I have to purge these streets”, he reasoned.
“By evening, bodies will be lying -very dead- on these open streets of Maiduguri, those flies will hover and feast on them; but with certainty, such bodies will not be mine”.
“I didn’t travel hundreds of miles across the Niger and Benue, over thick forests and across rivers to the savanna of northern Nigeria to die on the open streets”, he soliloquized.
“That must have been Ikenna- my late elder brother’s fate, when he was brutally butchered by Boko Haram blades two weeks ago”, he muttered on.
Ikenna lay dead for days on the open streets. The flies perched, buzzed and gossiped. But nobody took the ill-news across the Niger and Benue to his people at home. The news eventually came last week and Ekene was sent to retrieve the cadaver from the morgue it was dumped in and transport it home. But Ekene had another mission- a secret one: to avenge his brother’s death, before he brought him home.
Seven carcasses will lie on these streets this night, their bloods will gush and flow, their heads will be cut-off, the buzzing flies will hover and feast over them; and afterwards, by morning tomorrow, he shall collect his brothers’ from the morgue and proceed home.
“Ikenna was destined to die in their hands; I was destined to avenge his death and I will not sleep, not until I accomplish my destiny”, Ekene boasted to himself.
They Northerners will taste Vengeance!
The sun came out early as usual. By six-fifteen in the morning, it’s rays were already beaming strong. Yet, it failed to wake up the usual bustle around the central part of The city. There was a fight at night near the Zological Gardens along Shehu Laminu Way. It is rumoured that an Igbo-man, a christian started the fight and butchered a Hausa man. He killed two more, both Hausa- Moslems, before he too was killed. The locals had fled the area over the night.
©Poet Razon-Anny Justin