(Tale of a Survivor).
My younger ones,
My Darling fiancé Genea; I am very sure they don’t know my present predicament. I thought serving my father’s land was the best thing that could happen to a grown up man, but alas… it was actually the reverse.
We had barely finished singing, when some military policemen came to hurry us to enter back and get prepared to head to the tribunal.
“Cowards!” The tall and huge military man shouted as he raised his staff towards our direction and we dispersed.
“Your mates will fight to death, and you people will fight and run away” He said with his dis-jointed English grammar. We ran and took up our cloths, just the trousers and wore white T-shirts for those who couldn’t see theirs again. After preparations, we were ushered to a room where we were placed on handcuffs before we entered into the waiting black-Maria. Dark and quiet was how the inside of the Black-Maria could be described. We reached an already set tribunal as we were greeted by camera flashes from journalists who had gathered already and was taking every single possible shot. We walked inside and went straight to where was prepared for us.
It was a small trial room and about roughly 70 of us were seated right there on the chair with handcuffs on our hands as we waited for the prosecuting counsel. I remember that it was a captain at our training camp in Bama that came as the prosecuting counsel. I knew exactly what prosecution is all about, that he was there to send us to the stakes to get fired at.
We were seated and didn’t bother exchanging discussions among ourselves because you don’t know what might happen next. It wasn’t long before the jury appeared. We stood up and greeted as every other person did. Just like I was in a dream, they arranged for a screen, and the repeat of the slaughter of our soldiers was shown again.
Few days before this time, we heard that Commander Banji was facing trials for absconding with us into the bush, but this time around; we were changed for impunity (Disobedience against superior orders).
“What!” I shouted within me
“Jesus!” one of the guys close to my seat yelled. The charges were read for us.
“That you all on a certain date decided to go against your superior orders and ran into the bush after claiming the terrorist overpowered you”
“That you all rebelled against your commandant and committed an offence of impunity which is punishable by death if found guilty”. They had barely finished the charges, and I lost interest in listening to all the charges being read against us.
“Guilty or not Guilty?” Was the question thrown at us. We introduced ourselves one after the order and responded individually. As usual, I shouted “Not guilty”. We were then brought forward for personal defense. We always thought that soldiers would always be brothers to each other, no after what happened to us inside the trial room.
Just like a movie, Commander Banji came forward and testified how he asked us to hold position, but we disobeyed his orders because we complained of not getting enough weapons and good treatment. In his words
“After we finished training that day, I told the boys at the camp that we would be moving out and advancing towards the location of the terrorist, so that we could stop them from advancing towards our camp. Along the line, some old soldiers together with the new recruits claimed that they had not been adequately trained, meaning they wouldn’t risk their lives at the fore front. Some also gave the excuse of poor treatment and shortage of weapons. I tried encouraging them, but they almost beat me up till I had to apply wisdom to the situation and the enemies caught up with us at night.”
I felt like standing up from my seat and giving him a hot punch on the spinal cord, but I was handicapped in that situation. Even the handcuff on our hand was enough pain already, and I wouldn’t want to add more to my pains already.
Right there in our front, we were seeing someone who wouldn’t lead the fore front, because of the fear of death lying that we rebelled against him. Everywhere was a quiet as a grave yard and people were shocked. If only we thought someone would save us, we were banking on commander Banji to help us with that. But unfortunately, he became our own nightmare.
Some of the soldiers were already shedding silent tears at the clear denial by our able commandant. I wouldn’t blame him; he was scared of his own life and position, and had to trade us like pawns that we were.
The first day went by, and we were transported back to our cells. I have seen a quiet environment before, but this one was just more than quiet. I guess we had seen the worst that could happen to able-bodied men, and the reaction was obvious. It wasn’t quite long, before someone lifted up our mood once again. Bright with his melodious voice raised up his favorite song once more.
“We shall overcome someday…2x
We shall overcome…2x
We shall overcome someday
Oh deep in my heart
I do believe
I shall overcome someday”
Believe, that was what we needed to lift the spirit high. We weren’t concerned about the mosquitoes again in the room; I guess they had already become our friends. We sang the song together, and those who couldn’t sing hummed along. We sang till tears started running down our cheeks, and it became a sorrowful song.
“I no fit cry for that man” One of the guys in the room shouted.
“Instead, make I die! My mama and papa don die already, so na to go meet them for heaven”
He kept on shouting mildly to himself and shook his head vigorously. It wasn’t long again, before the wardens came to our doors to disturb. It was time for the afternoon punishment, and we had to go return to our duty.
We hadn’t eaten, we hadn’t taken any water, and here we were being given a lot of digging materials to continue digging from where we stopped.
“What would you think would be our punishment” Bright came close to ask me as he was already sweating so much.
I immediately sat down with my bare body and was ready to entertain his question, just then I…
To Be Continued…
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