“Mama.” She looked at me, her eyes were red and weary. “Why are we running away from home?”
“Because they are fighting.”
“Who is fighting?”
“Our people and others.”
I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to ask more, but it seemed mother wasn’t really in a mood to answer questions right now.
I looked up again, she was talking with Mama Uchenna. They were whispering. Mama Uchenna broke down in tears, I think I heard: “… They’ve killed him oo!”
“Mama.” She looked at me again.
“He will soon join us. He is serving his Fatherland.”
Mother dragged me along as she ran. A big ‘bird’ was flying above us. We used to call it ‘aeroplane’, as we learnt from school. It used to be a wonderful sight. Each time it passed by, we would convene on the ground screaming, “Aeroplane, tụdalum akpa ego!” (Aeroplane, throw down a bag of money for me). We would run after it until it disappeared into the sky.
This time it was a different thing altogether. The sight of anything that flies brought terror. Once there was any sound in the air, mother would hold my hand and off we went. This would be followed by blasts across the fields. During each blast, some people would fall. Mother said they were sleeping.
The white lady came again today. She was a reverend sister. Her appearance each time meant that there was food. I ran to Mother and collected my plate, then rushed back and joined the queue.
She dished out something on our plate. I didn’t know what that was but we would eat it anyway. There hasn’t been anything to eat for some days now.
Oh… it was my turn. I stretched forth my plate and she smiled. I smiled too. Then carried the food to where mother was seated. I saw the big ones watching us hungrily. They would only eat after we had eaten. Sometimes, it would not enough for everyone.
“Don’t worry, son. I’m not hungry yet,” Mother said as I gave her my food. I knew she was lying. None of us had eaten for days now. They said soldiers didn’t let them bring food. Papa Emeka said so when he came to see his family in the camp. He was a soldier too. I wanted to ask him why his people would stop the food from getting to us. I didn’t. Mum taught me not to talk when elders were talking.
“Yes, my son?”
Wow, she answered me this time!
“You said they’ve stopped fighting?”
“Yes, they have stopped.”
“So when is Papa coming back and when are we going back home?” She was silent. “Mama?”
“Papa will be back home soon. We just have to wait a bit more.”
It’s been more than fifty years now. Papa is not back yet. I am now the Papa. I won’t go anywhere. I would stay with my children and make sure they have a nice life.
We survived it many years ago. We will always survive anything that stands before us.
May God have mercy on the lost souls.
Happy Biafra Day!