During the Biafra war of 1967, Uwa and I were both caught up amid the fire. We were both from the Eastern part of Nigeria and were soon to be Biafrans.
When General Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu announced the Biafra war, and the fight for freedom, Uwa and I were still in the north where the slaughtering of the Igbo elites was in a massive operation.
We could no longer move to the east for safety, due to the unsafe roads. So we decided to hide somewhere safe in the thick bushes, where no one will see us.
We stayed there for six months, feeding on fruits, termites, and other little animals we could kill, like snakes, rats, bush pigs, and squirrels.
By the seventh month, Uwa and I both looked like madmen. Our clothes were torn and worn out. We hadn’t had our baths in over six months, since the declaration of Biafra.
Our hair was long overgrown, and our beards looked like the hair gotten from the anus of a sixty-year-old gorilla. We both looked like forest prophets of the old. Our armpits had not felt the sharp blade of a razor. It had now become home to lice, spiders, and small termites.
Uwa and I preferred to stay hidden in the bushes until things calmed down, and we were able to return to the city. If things refused to resolve, we were prepared to die in the bush, than to be shot on the streets like criminals.
While in the bush, we heard rumors from travelers who chose to take bush paths to travel. They talked about the silent killings going on. Other tribes like the northern tribe were silently hunting down the Igbo elites and killing them in bushes. Especially the ones who sought refuge in the thick bushes and caves. Our bush was not exempted. Every day, we saw new faces of men clad in a turban and carrying weapons.
We became scared.
We knew the best and safest option was to move to the eastern part of Nigeria since the northern elites had now taken to the bushes to hunt down the Igbo’s.
We began to think and plan on how we were safely going to begin our journey to the eastern part of Nigeria.
One very day, while Uwa and I went hunting in the deep forest, we sighted some of the hoodlums who stopped travelers on the road and collected their money and food. They shot the travelers even when they begged for their life.
One of the men amongst the travelers was a mad man. We watched with rapt attention, waiting to see if they would shoot the mad man. But one of the hoodlums clad in a white turban simply looked at the mad man and turned away.
“Bullets are rare Usman. This mad man is not worth wasting our bullets on.” He said.
Uwa kept tapping me on my back as we watched the killers disappear into the bushes.
That was the Idea – the Idea we were searching for. We already were looking like madmen. What we needed now was to add a little madness to our already mad selves.
We would disguise as madmen, travel through bushes, pass through the northern cities to the east, and then be safe. Since no one wants to waste bullets on mad people, we were going to survive.
The next day we set off on our journey. We prayed as we walked that we do not find killers who will have enough bullets to waste on madmen like us.
“O Lord, even if they have enough bullet, make the bullet finish after they have shot Praises.” Uwa prayed.
I turned to look at Uwa. I clenched my fist and felt like landing him a thundering blow on the mouth he used in saying that prayer.
“Uwa which kind prayer be that na? Instead of you praying for us to reach the east safely, you are praying for bullet to finish on my head. So that they won’t kill you.”
“Bro Praises na Joke I dey na. Can’t I joke with you?”
We were still arguing, not knowing that some of the killers were in the bush listening to us. We heard the footsteps of the killers approaching, and we started acting up like madmen.
Uwa and I sat down on the floor and started talking rubbish.
“I killed Ojukwu, Lord Lugard, angels of heaven, my mother, my father, eight people, but the cult people still want to kill me. Who have I not killed for their sake? Money I no make. Woman I no chop. Nothing I do.” Uwa started chanting.
By the time Uwa finished talking, the killers had already surrounded us with guns.
I started scratching my buttocks and smelling my hand. I decided not to say anything. I pretended to be slapping mosquitoes in the air and catching flies. Then I started counting spirits in the air.
“Waste these madmen. They are a nuisance to us.” One of the killers who appeared to be their leader shouted.
My heart pounded “boom!”
My brain formated.
Catarrh started dripping down from my nose.
Urine started dropping in my trousers in tiny rivulets.
That was when Uwa turned to the criminals.
“You think I will die again. Do you think you can kill me? Okay, kill me. Shoot and see. I and my fellow mad man have died before. Shoot us. I said shoot us.” Uwa started dancing.
I looked at Uwa with one eye and continued counting my spirits in silence
Everyone brought down their guns and started looking at Uwa.
“I said shoot me or are you people scared?” Uwa started removing his cloth.
Me that was pretending to be mad before, forgot I was even mad and joined the killers to open mouth when Uwa started removing his trousers. I became scared that the real madness was setting in on my friend, Uwa.
Uwa was acting this whole drama of a madman perfectly until he began to gather saliva in his mouth little by little. Uwa gathered enough and spat on one of the killer’s face.
That was when the angry killers lifted up their double-barrel and corked it.
I didn’t wait for them to finish corking gun, I took off like a Jet. I ran like a warhorse through the thick bushes. When I turned, I saw Uwa running behind me in a zig-zag pattern.
“Praises why are you running like a normal human being? What happened.” Uwa asked.
“Where are the killers?” I gasped and kept panting.
“They ran too. Immediately you recovered from your madness, fear gripped them, they ran too. The speed you used in taking off. They said in their life they have never seen such speed. Even me, I thought you have mad the original mad.”
My name is Praises Chidera Obiora and I am the best at what I do.