A good hearty laugh was never amiss whenever we gathered to drink to our dead comrades and brood cheerfully over our gradually depleting numbers. We were about 400 brothers posted to the 47Th Battalion but we totalled about 256 as at when we last took count. We were brothers in arms, we had one soul and one mission..clear every semblance of threat to national security and this we did gleefully, often the affair becomes messy as a threat finds his way on foot to our trenches and then we were forced to engage in a hand to hand combat that mostly ends with the joyous and brutal slow decapitation of the “BASTARD” as we often called them.
This particular night I sat still some seats away from my brothers as they chattered away about Political matters and which governor deserved which treatment..Someone shouted to another drunk soldier “you no fit cheat death once come do am again”.
I took another gulp from my bottle of local gin and grinned as Ibrahim our newest addition to the battalion boomed and boasted about how beautiful his wife was, this took my thoughts back momentarily to my family but this wasn’t the right time.
I nudged myself back to reality just in time to join our pre-war toast ritual..Hussein Danladi our Platoon commander poured the gin on the sand and one by one every soldier touched the wet sand and made a mark on there forehead whilst muttering a prayer in whatever faith they believed in.
I joined in and prayed that we be successful and return safely after tomorrows Land assault on Patigi.
The night before every attack was always a moody one for me as I knew that some of my brothers who laughed and merried tonight may very well be merry for the last time.
I retreated to my mattress in the trench for that was were we slept , rested, ate and drank, I lay back thinking of Halima and my son I hadn’t met yet as the cold northern breeze lulled me to my usual appointment with my nightmares.
Gbim! Gboom! The air lit up with Loud Deafening sounds as we crawled through the bush parts leading into the clearing formerly occupied by the insurgents…we retreated for a while as we awaited orders to move in..our mission being to clear every semblance to insurgency and push them further into the bush where our fellow comrades would ambush the remainder of our kills and clear them.
We lay low in our different spots and awaited the signal from the commander, something made a rustling sound on my chest I looked and picked up my wife’s picture from where I pinned it..smiled and muttered a prayer under my breadth…
“Zan kasance a mayar da alherin Allah”..
As the RPGs calmed down….we got the order to move in..my heart thumped wildly in my chest for I was a brave soldier and a lucky one at that but I knew it was better to blow up myself with my hand grenade than allow the “BASTARDS” capture me. We gradually crawled into the clearing, I quickly noticed it was same clearing they used in the videos of there executions. My blood burned with anger and vengeance and my resolve to kill as many of this “Bastards” tightened.
We finally were in the clearing and we opened fire on the makeshift houses surrounding the clearing when….
The ground shook, dust danced in twirls till we were blinded, I laid flat on the ground and tried to listen for orders , my ears rang like a school bell announcing lunch break.. I licked my lips and tasted blood and I knew we had been hit, just how bad I didn’t know. Gradually the dust settled and right in front of me was Ibrahims head torn from his body which lay some yards away, his face bore a deathly half smile I reached out and closed his open eyes…muttered a short prayer under my breadth and picked my GUN as the orders came..”FORWARD!
I touched my wife’s picture and resumed shooting…
I AM A SOLDIER! I AM NIGERIA! these thoughts kept dancing in my head.
Kenneth Collins Ajagu
Kenneth is a 500 level student of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos.