Inyamiri, as everybody all called him except me. I find pronouncing his name so hard.
“Heekehmehphuna,” I always stutter.
Overtime I’ve learnt to pronounce it correctly, Ikemefuna, as he will always whisper in my ear. He told me a story of how his mother moved from one dibia to another, how they made sacrifices to ‘Ogwugwu’, the goddess of fertility before she was able to conceive and give birth to him. His huge sense of humour and jocular nature made me want to be with him always. A young man in his mid-twenties, so tall and mildly fair. He has come to Kano to serve his oga, which after he will be settled after eight years. As he once told me.
We always sit at the branch of the oak tree with canopies that serve as shade against the hot sun. I always sneak out purdah to go see him, knowing what the result would be if I an imam’s daughter was seen with a man, an Inyamiri for that matter.
“You look exceptionally beautiful my world,” as he would always say with his index finger running through my zygomatic arch down to my chin. Early this morning I saw men standing in clusters close to the newspaper stand. I heard one of them talk about the murder of Balewa and Bello.
“Walahi Inyamiri!” That was all my ear was able to capture, but all I knew was that things were not well. There was tension in the air. I saw ferocious young men gather together at the order of elders, each of them with either daggers, cutlasses, or some other weapons I don’t even know their names. I knew that all was not well. I’ve been waiting for Father to leave so that I can catch up with my appointment with Ikemefuna and also tell him to be more careful that the atmosphere was too dangerous for persons like him.
I was still staring at the wall when I heard a sound outside. I dared not move out of purdah because father was around. A mild wind laced the blue curtains against the wooden stool, I was able to catch a glimpse of what was happening outside. I saw Mama Bomboy’s shop being battered by ferocious looking young men who looked blood thirsty.
“Inyamiri (Igbos) must go!” one of them echoed as they forced there way into the compound next to ours. The cry of women and children filled the air. I made my way out of the house. I needed to save my Ike, I can’t allow him to get a cut from this ferocious looking men.
“Halima! Halima!” my mother yelled at me, “come back here at once!” For the first time in my life, I felt like I was possessed by a strong spirit. I took to my heels and headed to Sabon gari at once. I saw bodies lying lifelessly on the roadside, with men chanting war songs. I was able to catch up with my Ike with his luggage fully packed.
“I’ll go with you, Ike, you can’t leave me here.”
“Go back Halima, go back to your people,” he said with tears running down his cheeks. He walked so fast, my long hijab made it was nearly impossible to catch up with him. He told me to go back but I kept up with his pace.
We got to close to the train station heading to the East.” Ike, don’t leave without me,” I said with tears in my eyes. He held me close to his bossom and for the first time hugged and kissed me in the forehead. I was so lost as I wrapped my face on his chest. If tears could form a river, we cried enough.
As he took a step back to make way for the train, the local young men came out from nowhere and lashed on any person their cutlasses could get to. Before I could turn to discern what the situation is, I saw the young man roll out his cutlass against Ike. Before I could get close, I saw his head roll down like a ball. I saw him fall never to rise whole.
“Ikeee!” I screamed.