When I eventually returned home in December 29, 2012, I was faced with the greatest shock of my life: Omolola was engaged to Mustapha and were set to get married by February. Honestly, I was short of words.
To my greatest surprise, Mustapha approached me and began to break his _good news_ to me. He narrated how he and Omolola started dating about a year before I returned. He expected me to be invigorated with the excitement of getting married to the love of _his_ life; and I actually did.
When Omolola saw me, she was frightened. She told me that rumours were spread of my death. She told me that a mass burial had even been conducted for soldiers who lost their lives in active service. I tried to explain to her that due to lack of access to adequate communication, it was easy for people to assume that I died in war; but she retained her stance, she was already engaged and set to get married soonest!
The following weeks were the worst in my life. I had to live with the pain of losing the love of my life to my best friend. He wasn’t to blame after all. Everybody assumed me to be dead. He only filled the void he sensed I created in Omolola’s heart. Instead, I blamed the government for not providing adequate telecommunication equipment for soldiers in the war fronts. I blamed the postal service for never delivering the many letters I addressed to Omolola. I blamed myself for being a soldier, because I would had had more time to cement my relationship with Omolola if I was a bloody civilian.
Three days later, I was called to resume my service. The insurgents were more dogged in their attacks in the North- West region. They made it a duty to attack every other day and as such, the number of soldiers posted to the war fronts were little compared to the insurgents who attacked everyday.
When the attacks got too severe, a request of assistance was made by our squadron nationwide.
It happened that Mustapha was among the soldiers who were despatched to assist us in the fight against insurgency in North- West region.
He told me that he was called to service a week before his proposed marriage to Omolola so the marriage had to be postponed till he returned from work.
On January 22, 2013, the insurgents intensified their attacks and almost wiped out our battalion. That day, there were constant missiles flying from both sides of the battle arena. That day, for the first time in my life, I was afraid to die. While our overhead tank was firing missiles, a counter missile flew in our direction. The combat driver had to manoeuvre the steering wheel to avoid getting hit by an incoming missile. In doing so, the tanker did a somersault and had a terrible accident. All but two soldiers present died instantly as Mustapha and I sustained various degrees of injuries in our hands, sides and legs.
We cried for help but no one came. The enemy had stopped shooting in our direction because it was believed that there were no survivors. Soon, Mustapha tried to summon strength totake us to safety. He pulled me to his side as we leapt to a shade. He struggled with his severe condition to get the attention of anyone who could be of help to us. As he leapt towards the road, he blanked out.
“Where am I?”, he cried, panicking, while being tied with a rope to a tree and bleeding from one side of his head. He wondered who would had attacked him and_____ Me?
” Farouq?” He asked frightened. “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Are we not supposed to be_____”
He stopped talking. He was struggling to talk. His strength had been severely drained. He had suffered several wound injuries and was bleeding profusely. He needed urgent medical attention.
Like him, I was also crying. I too had sustained several injuries.
“It is not my fault. I am only doing what is best for the both of us”.
He was drained of energy to talk but I watched his eyes shift from my face to my hands. A rifle was pointed to his head.
He begged for his life with his eyes, his gesture, his mind, soul and spirit. I couldn’t control the tears that welled in my eyes. I cried bitterly.
“You took my girl” I managed to say between tears ” and now, I am going to take your life”.
In few seconds, the trigger was released.
I am still crying. Seven years have passed since we last saw each other. I brought handpicked flowers for you today, Mustapha. I want you to always know that you are and always will be loved. You are a good friend. I would have loved to stay longer, but I need to attend to an important function with your girl. Sorry, my wife, Omolola.
My dear friend, when we eventually meet in the afterlife, do not be angry with me for the decision I made. I had no other choice. You cannot blame me afterall, it is rightly said “All is fair in love and war”.
Written by ARINZE DANIEL UDOYE, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, NIGERIA.