By: Frances Ogamba
If you live in the South East Western Poles of this large Black Country, you must watch out for when light clouds cloak the sun, or when the night wears the clearest skies, for it must be in such hours that the horrors will rain down on your Poles. These men, the headsmen, will no longer infiltrate your villages and towns through the forests trying to wreck the insides first before taking on the shells. They will ram into your lives through the highways, flag down taxis and winnow the women from the men. They will laugh into your faces and tell you to call Jesus names. If you do not, the universe and your faith will fail you.
If you live in the South East Western Poles, it is important to defend government decisions: LUGA, the importation ban on milk, proscribing the Shi’a. Do these on your timeline and in your tweets. The headsman sees. The headsman remembers. And on the last day for the people of your Poles, on the day preceding the night you will last drink beer at late nights on the streets of your town, the headsmen will throw you a glance and smirk in recognition and whisper; this one may be from the South East Western Poles, but he defends our cause. It will not matter that you are Ola or Ibiso, you will be safe.
If you live on these red and white sands of the South East Western Poles, your church may be targeted on the birth and the death memorials of Christ the Saviour. Bullets will be planted in the church’s walls, and bodies filled with holes will litter the grasses. Women will scream and scream until someone with a voice of steel will demand for stillness. This has happened in Ayer-Mbalom of Gwer East, in Guma and Gwer West, in Ebete of Agatu, in Nimbo of Uzo-Uwani. It thrives now on the highways in your Poles. It draws nigh.
At first, it will trend on twitter and sit within the confines of hashtags, then the tweets will fizzle out and the country people will move on to newer things, to #AFCON19, to the news of fresh death tolls, to #BBNaija, to the news of kidnaps from the South East Western Poles, to feminism and homophobia, until the dead start getting a pitiful shake of the head and shrugs as last respects. There will be massive protests on Facebook, and brilliant posts will be shared, transcending e-walls and e-borders. The eyewitnesses will report seventy fallen, and the media will report thirty casualties, and the police will report twelve dead. Names of the dead will be mashed into numbers: sixty, forty, twenty, sixteen, and then downplayed to eleven, six, two, and none.
We are not aware of any attacks on the South East Western Poles. The Delta is largely a safe place. The militants are responsible for sacking the villages, the Police will say.
We have captured and executed three hundred terrorists from the bush, the Army will say.
The people of the South East Western Poles must learn to accommodate these people. Nigeria belongs to everyone, the Federal Government will say.
There will be protests in Canada and America and Germany, in cities where the metro functions, in lands where the constant electricity and water and internet and medical care exceeds its demand and the comfort inspires in many cases, boredom. Citizens of the South East Western Poles (and sometimes, the North) with skins bleached caramel by the weather will converge in pleasure parks in the company of penguins and lament the events back home in the Poles. They will use rapid English to describe the hurt and shame they feel, and then fill their speeches with pinches of Nupe or Gwari and Kalabari or Izon and Igbo or Esan, dialects long neutralized by the many years of living away from the Poles. They will go home right after the protest and turn on heaters and shut out the gusts of snowy wind and say “it’s fourrrrr, not five” to their toddlers and snuggle to their wives, grateful for their safety, relieved that the din of the chaos drums thousands of miles away at the Poles.
Aljazeera will film displaced children and singing women and it will seem like a war, like the Biafran years, only it is not. This time, it is the headsman, the khaki wearing militia who has been on his feet for long, moving and conquering borders until he marches into the soft targets.
The years will be for God and Amen and back to sender and God forbid. There will be tithe paying to remain safe at first, and then there will no longer be because many jobs will be shut down, hence no salaries. There will be prayers as will always be, the torrent of pouring out our hearts to God will never cease.
But now, this is where it begins ― the residents of the South East Western Poles are unaware that the big politics players of the South East Western Poles will support the foreign milk ban; that the cows will serve milk to all the Poles; that LUGA will bring the milk closer by bringing the cows closer by bringing the cow headers closer to the South East Western Poles. The residents of the South East Western Poles are ignorant of the armed militia multiplying on their shores, erecting camps in their forests. The residents of the South East Western Poles are rather content to go on twitter and ask sco pa tu manaa? And chant Brown skin girl with Blue Ivy.
Frances Ogamba explores varying themes in her writing. Her short story is forthcoming in the New Weather for MEDIA anthology. She won a joint first place for the 2019 Syncity Ng Anniversary Anthology. She is on the shortlists of the Writivism Short Story Prize, the Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Non Fiction, and the 2019 longlists of OWT short story prize and the K&L Prize for African Literature. Her stories appear on Enkare Review, Munyori Literary Journal, and Arts and Africa. Few of her stories are interspersed in Afridiaspora and Writivism prize 2016 anthologies, Dwartonline and Ynaija websites. She is a workshop alumnus of Writivism 2016, Ake fiction 2016, Winter Tangerine 2016, and YELF 2018. She works as a content developer from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.