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Opinions of Friday, 24 April 2020

Columnist: MyNigeria

A close shave with death

June 26, 2018, is a day I will never forget. It was getting to midnight, say 10 pm in Jos. Prosper would remember this story. Nigeria just lost to Argentina in the World Cup. Rojo was the devil that brought hell later that night.

The lights went out and our Jos neighbours came to the windows screaming: "Get out!"

They were armed to the teeth with all sorts of scary farm equipment. They told us to stay up and watch the night with them. Apparently, the battle between the Christians and Muslims was building up at the entrance of our street. The only army they had to defend with was the Youth corp members. Because mostly old people resided in our area.

A wave of shock swept over me. This was surely the end of me, I thought. Like my doom. Everybody changed to something light enough for a run or self-defence. Kingsley was reeling the alternatives. Run to Airforce base and seek for help, stay and watch, and probably die.

What do we do?

Walking to Airforce base was 45 minutes cap. Outrunning the people who were watching us from the mountain just behind the family house was not possible, considering that we had ladies amongst us and this was not the story we told our parents or their parents.

So I suggested a peace talk while we considered and deliberated alternatives. Guys were packing their certificates. It was getting real and my heart was thumping. It is not easy to be a man in the midst of war.

They agreed to do peace talks. By now, we were approaching midnight. We huddled the ladies into one room and promised to protect them- We were the men after all. We would die fighting.

They served us weapons to choose from. That was where I realised that I could not hold a cutlass. I couldn't imagine fighting a fellow human and killing them in cold blood. The movies make taking a life so easy. In the real sense of it, no human can ever dare.

I went for a stick instead. Emmanuel came for me right up.

"You think this would defend you," he smirked.

"How can you kill someone?" I asked.

"No one will tell you when you are faced with danger. Human basic nature is self-preservation. You will kill someone and you wouldn't even know it. Arm yourself," he said.

We resolved to pass the night outside. We couldn't sleep till 2 am. The peace talks kept ongoing, no side wanted to budge. The Christians were begging us to attack but I begged for more talks instead. We sat on a rock in front of the house, ready for attack.

"I will overcome this fear," I said to myself.

At 4 am, a group in black slowly approached. I signalled to the boys to wake. I thought I was finally going to die eventually. Until they said they were part of us. Alas, the Nigerian match that we lost was the only fragile unity holding us together.

The loss of the match had aroused insecurity all over the state and the children of the night capitalised on that. They drew nearer and scanned our faces. "We are from Namua," they said and they kept on patrolling.

This was the exact story I told my mum when my Dad suggested I go out to watch with other guys and vigilantes in our street. I told her they were risks but terrible casualties in a jungle justice. The worst of it all is losing your innocence after killing someone. You wouldn't know until the war is won.

This is why I don't like to engage in some arguments regarding jungle justice. In reality, it's not so good. But when you are left no choice. A pregnant wife and a child along the way with a helpless granny in the back of your house and less money to spend from a not so friendly pandemic, plus a Lexus jeep to lose, you would go outside.

Even if you do not have anything to lose. You risk your loved ones being molested and raped by street urchins who are barely younger than your siblings but reinforced by gin and a power rifle.

Things would not go back to normal if you are scarred by the death of a loved one to robbers.

On the other side is an unmotivated police who are either enablers of insecurity, fueled by bribery or an unresponsive squad unequipped for an all-out affront. For a Government that has truly failed its people- this is the worst condition to be in.

No food. no money, and no security. It's a sad reality of a failed society that cannot cater for itself. If we die in this war, let it be known we were not absolved of this process as citizens- we let the blind rule us and that's why we are where we are.

Now, I wish Ighalo scored when it was 1-1. But it's all in the past now.

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