‘Love is really a powerful driving force’ I tell myself as I stand over the grave of my late friend. The inscription on the tombstone reads: Sgt. Mustapha Aliyu (1982 – 2013) A soldier who served his country through thick and thin, relentlessly upholding the tenets of the law.
Tear drops gather at the corners of my eyes as I remember that he died in active service, right in my front.
Several years ago, my brother and I were conscripted into the army. We served in the same battalion most times. It was a thing of joy serving my fatherland with my brother at my side. We were dogged in carrying our duties and both got promoted simultaneously. Everything seemed to be a bed of roses until things fell apart when insurgency increased in the North- West region of Nigeria.
Before then, during one of my official assignments in Niger state, I was chanced to meet with the most beautiful lady created by Allah in a restaurant. Till now, I relive the experience of euphoria that filled my veins when she told me that she was a graduate of medicine from Ahmadu Bello University and that her father always wanted to have a soldier as his in-law.
‘My name is Farouq Ahmed’ I said, smiling as I paid for the plate of Tuwo Shinkafa I bought.
She counted the money and made to return the balance “Here, sir. You overpaid for your food”.
I politely declined “Don’t worry. You can keep the balance for yourself. Once in a while, one needs to be grateful to Allah for creating such an embodiment of beauty. Don’t you think so?”
She blushed uncontrollably ” Sir. I am highly honored. May Allah be praised. Thank you for your kind gesture. I would however use this money to assist Ibrahim and Sa’id, two Muslim blind beggars in my neighbourhood. After all, the Holy Qur’an teaches us to be charitable to our neighbours”. She said, prostrating to thank me.
‘What is your name?’ I asked, quite intrigued by her method of greeting.
“My name is Omolola Kimberly Dara. I am from Osun state, sir”.
I was beyond amazed. Prior to that time, I had never seen someone who was neither Hausa nor Fulani so accustomed with the Islamic faith. Moreover, she showed so much respect for elders and it spoke well of the parental upbringing she had.
“Take my phone number and dial me later” I said handing her a piece of paper.
Things accelerated from there and we started seeing each other often. I fell in love with her quickly. She meant everything to me and I was more than willing to do anything to make her the happiest woman on earth and most importantly, to make her my wife.
Then one day, she visited me in the military quarters. That was the first time she did so but it was certainly never the last. I returned from a very busy day’s activity to meet the biggest surprise of my life.
Omolola was in my room waiting for me.
However, she was not alone. My roommate, Mustapha, kept her company throughout the hour she waited for me. According to her, I had the funniest soldier in the world as a roommate. He told her several stories of our military exploits, trainings and even some awkward moments we shared.
That day, I didn’t read meaning to her casual visit. I was glad that she decided to surprise me and even prepared a very sumptuous meal, exclusively for me.
Some weeks after, I was despatched to Sambissa forest region where insurgency was at its peak. Due to the nature of the work, I wasn’t chanced to visit my hometown except once annually. I stayed for thirty-seven months without going home. It was during this time that the worst happened.
Written by ARINZE DANIEL UDOYE, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, NIGERIA.