About The Author.
He writes under the alias HANNIBAL, was born in Lagos, Nigeria; a boisterous city that reflects the dashing picturesque in his iconoclastic stories. He holds a Bachelor degree from the prestigious OAU,Ile-Ife. He is a member of the legendary Orita Ritas. Among his numerous works, mostly unpublished, are his motley poems on Ifepoetryportal.
Straddled is a story about the ongoing crises in the North-East of Nigeria but beyond the periphery, it reaches deep into the hypocritical stance of leadership and dearth of courage to question the unchecked propagation of calumny.
Safu is a young adolescent girl that was abducted amongst the many other girls and taken to a camp in the purported Sambisa forest that seems locked to rescue troops. Here, all the girls do is to recite the Quran and learn Arabic from the Sheikh. They girls watched as new recruits were brought into the camp and how young men and girls were brainwashed to the point of offering themselves as explosive rats all in the bid that they are fighting a religious course that frowns at Western education. Safu, a very intelligent and brave girl stood up to ask the Sheikh that was teaching her and other girls the Quran why he is enjoying the benefits of Western education if he is against Western education.
Among these girls was Safu, thirteen years of age, who had blossomed beyond her age, with Arabic beauty, unrefined as ore in its purest form and an exceptional knack for inquisitiveness. As she recites by rote the ‘Alif’, her eyes settle on the man before her, Sheik, the name he introduced himself by that first day of contact with them, and her mind took a dashing stroll to her world before her present predicament, only allowing her lips to perform the ritual of recitation intuitively. The sonorous sounds of the verses and its words, though not new to her, hold no meaning to her sensibility at the moment. She had been raised a moderate Muslim, with no particular emphasis on hatred or intolerance for others’ views on religion. She had heard quite number of times that the commando type raids conducted by the insurgents were mainly influenced pervasively but subtly by a bias, aimed at forcefully bringing converts to the mode of extreme Islam they practice. It first started like a rumour, orphaned with no concrete validity, then it grew with no restriction, that the Jihadists conquered one town after the other, slaughtering its inhabitants and forcefully abducting its youths for propagation of its evil intention. Christians and other religions were prime target, of course, but Muslims who share none of their putrid beliefs were not spared all the same…
The camp, sprawling makeshift Bedouin tents dotting the face of the Sambissa forest, was a quickly and shabbily assembled tentative empire in its wake. The supposed statehouse where the leader of the band of marauding Jihadists inhabits was not quite different in form or shape, but the distinction was only marked out by the Armoured Personnel Car, one of the numerous armoury looted from the Nigerian Army in their numerous guerrilla raids, parked right at the front ,and also, by the gun wielding Mujahideens who keep sentinel at this particular tent. Since, the arrival of the girls, Abubakar Sekau, has never taken the onus of seeing them. He had delegated Sheik Ibn Haruna, the Mallam, to facilitate their intensive grooming and had made all the Mujahideens aware that based on commitment, they would be entitled to have these girls whom he believed to be mostly virgins, as a reward for waging war against the Kafirs. Abubakar himself was relatively anonymous, his rise to prominence came after the death of the prime leader cum founder of the sect, Mohammed. The sect which was initially founded as a conscious pressure group, had spoken out, during most of its ‘Wasii’ conducted in various villages and towns in Borno, vociferously against bad governance and corrupt leaders. It was then enjoying the patronages of the power brokers, business moguls and politicians, who envisaged that it could ride on its public empathy to perpetuate themselves at the corridors of power. After the death of Mohammed, Abubakar, a reticent but radical Jihadist who was Mohammed’s lieutenant took the reins and assumed the role of a more De-facto leader of the sect. …
‘Howa you my yanriya? Aisalam ai-lekun. I hope you all take your lessons on the Hadith. If you do well and know that we fight for what is good in the eyes of Allah, and help us to fight, you make Al-Janat.’ he said in his gruffly voice laced with unrefined intonation as he prances up and down the length of the tent.
‘Book is a Haram! Do not go to school. Walahi! Yarinya, book teach you not to respect Allah. Book make you wear clothes that show your body’, with a grin on his face, he mischievously lifts the veil off the face of the girl by his side.
‘This’, he said while running his grumpy hands down the face of the trepid girl, ‘is very good for you to dress, my yarinya’.”Allah like it”, he continued,
” Television is no good for you. You see wicked, very wicked things of America. Internet not good for you, phone no good for you. Take your Arabic studies, fight for Boko Haram, fight for Islam”, he ranted for a while and suddenly stopped…
” Al-salam ailekun, my sisters, I come to you all in the name of Allah, the merciful, the benevolent. Islam, our religion is never a religion of violence but of peace. If these people are truly Muslims, how come they visit so much hardship on our people?”. She paused to look around. The girls countenances gave her the impetus.
She continued, “How come they slaughter the elderly and the children alike? Well, if Islam is truly a religion of liberation, how come we are in shackles, you all would ask?”. Without relenting she asks further.
“How come they forcefully took us from our loved ones, exposed us to such trauma and left an indelible feeling of seething hatred in our hearts?”.
” Now, I must tell you, daughters of my mother, is the time for us to seek our freedom. But we must first start with our minds. We must first liberate our minds, because the deadliest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. As for me, I will never allow anyone to break me down. I will stay strong till the day I gain my freedom”.
As Safu finished her rallying speech she went round to lift the spirit of the girls. Some of them were too weak to be that gregarious but they managed a wry smile to reassure her she had their support….
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