Hi, my name is Kyau, which means beautiful although I don’t think that I’m pretty; I have a very big nose. I think my mom just used that name to console herself when I came out of her on the 7th of March, 1999. Yesterday, a white missionary woman came to visit, and she gave you to me as a reward for answering a question on the meaning of wars or something. Though I did appreciate it, I almost felt insulted. Most of the children here had only been out of school for a year or two. Her approach made it seem like we were stack illiterates. Really though, who asks, “Can someone tell me what a war is?” and gives them a big journal and a fancy pen for it?
I think I’ll name you Aboki. I sure need a friend around these days. It’s been 57 days and counting since those armed men came to take over our town.
I can remember the night like it was yesterday. They came with big vans and chanted “Allahuakbar.” Having lived in Borno state, the chanting was not nearly misplaced, but, when gunshots followed, we knew something was off. They had been troubling us for a year or so, closing down schools, bombing marketplaces, but that day was the peak of it all. A tall man with his face covered wearing tattered green clothes and slippers burst the door of our house open, and my dad began to challenge the incoming terrorists.
“Bar gida na, menene kake so, bar gidan na (Leave my home, what do you want, leave my house).” He said. However, they wouldn’t listen, and they pointed guns at us and told us to face down. It seemed like a robbery scene in some trashy home video. Unfortunately, it was real. Very real! One of the men dragged my elder sister Nafisah close to him, and he used his gun to open her legs as the other men teased around, calling her mai kyau mai kyau (good good). Dad struggled and pleaded with them even as three other men held him down. Mum cried silently with her head bowed down. I did the same, except that I peeped every once in a while. However, my eyes were wide open when Nafisah screamed. She kept on screaming; she kept on begging. At first, I was jealous since every man that came to visit always preferred Nafisah to me. She was gorgeous, plump in all the right places, and had the perfect amount of melanin. I wondered why Nafisah was so scared though. She had told me that she had given her virginity to Hassan. I know it’s wrong to think like that, and it happened in front of me so violently, so heartlessly. I thought the night couldn’t get worse until I heard shots—followed by blood. It was almost the worst moment of my life, seeing my sister and mother wail and throw tantrums.
My hands shake in terror as I relive those horrid moments. They shot and killed my dad that day. They also shot my mum on the leg before letting us run—to nowhere. But, eventually, we found the Ngala camp, where there were dozens of people with stories like ours.
I have to go now. The site is getting really rowdy. I think the weekly meal has arrived. It’s past noon and I haven’t even tasted water. I hope Nafisah reserves space for me on the queue. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
I’m sorry I that I didn’t keep my promise to talk to earlier. I made a new friend on Day 58. His name is Fuad, and he shared some of his rice and beans with me when the food was finished. He’s very funny, but he’s much younger than me though. He’s 14 while I’m 19, but he’s just like the younger brother I never had. We talked a lot about his dream to become a soldier and one day kill the evil armed men. His story was devastating. His entire family had not survived the attack in Makurdi. They all died in a bomb blast while he was having extra lessons at school.
Aboki – Friend (in Hausa)