My mother will always share this story with her friends.
So I remembered and decided to share.
On the day the Jos Crisis of 2001 started, my mother and I were both walking to the shop. This was around 9 in the morning.
Somewhere around Kugiya junction, she met this beggar on the road who pleaded for arms from her.
My mother walked to the beggar and said to him.
“I do not give money to beggars on the road because of the things happening now. You can give money to a beggar and he will disappear or use it to do something else. But I will give it to you. Use it well to feed yourself. And through this, God will bless you and replenish your pocket in Jesus name.”
She pulled out two hundred naira and gave it to him. By then I think that money had the value of our two thousand naira.
The Mallam was thankful. He smiled happily. The warm smile and the humble manner he collected the money, touched my mother. And so she asked him, have you eaten?
He shook his head. He said he hasn’t and that he just came out.
My mother saw someone selling bread and pure water and bought it for him. The man was excited. She said to him.
“Eat Mallam. Eat.”
He tore the nylon of the bread and began to eat. She bought him oranges and fruits and gave them to him before we left.
Mallam was very happy.
While we walked further, gunshots began to sound from all directions. People started running towards us. We confirmed from those approaching. They told us to turn back that some unknown men were shooting from that direction.
“Madam carry your son and turn back.” A man shouted and drew my mother’s hand along.
My mother was panicking. She held my hands and we turned back and ran together. We were hoping to go back home. But while we ran, we noticed people were also running towards us.
Gunshots were everywhere. We didn’t know who was shooting and where was a safe zone. My mother who was still a newbie in Jos stood with me on the road. We were looking from left to right watching to see the safest place.
Just then a little girl ran to us and beckoned on us to come. My mother looked at her. The girl held my hands and was dragging me. She was pointing to her mother at a distance.
A Muslim woman, who was also asking us to come.
My mother had no choice. Hence we were already trapped and had no place to run to, she ran to the woman and they led us into their house.
It was when my mother had entered the house and had settled down, that she realized we were not even safe.
They were Muslims.
And from what we heard, it was a religious war and Muslims and Christians were killing each other.
My mother became scared. She told the woman she was going and will find her way by herself. But the woman insisted that we waited.
Just then, a man with a hunch back walked in with his stick and plate. We realized it was the beggar my mother had fed earlier.
My mother was surprised.
She said to him.
“Mallam is you?”
Mallam said yes.
“Madam is me.”
He introduced us to his wife and three children. He said he had seen us running up and down and he didn’t want us to get hurt. He assured us that we were safe and that the people around, were his people – Muslims.
“They no harm you, madam. Stay. You and your pikin. You can sleep for here. When everything have calm, you can go. I can not allow good people to die in battle. You help me, you will help somebody tomorrow too. Bad people should die in battle. But good woman like you, should live and not die.”
Mallam hid us in his house that night and that was where we slept. I shivered and shuddered when I heard gunshots from outside. It felt like they were coming for us.
Mallam stood outside all night watching over his family and making sure no one neared the house.
The next day, we managed to find a group of soldier men who led us out of the house and area safely.
That was when I saw the most terrible sight ever.
Piles of dead bodies, littered like flies on the street.
My mother recognized one particular dead body.
It was the man who specifically shouted at us.
“Madam carry your son and turn back.”
His body laid lifeless at the center of the road.
But we were preserved.
God did it by using one man whom she had reached out to.
I never understood why she shared this story with everyone she came across.
But today I do.
My name is Praises Chidera Obiora and I am the best at what I do.