I remember the night the fires started..Some called it “The Night of The Long Knives”..The Natives called it ” Ashare” an hausa word meaning ‘Sweep them’ “We didn’t have a name for it.. maybe because we couldn’t find the words.. Horror is hard to describe.. For those who have experienced it firsthand.. Its a nameless thing..We were so unprepared for it..
Kaduna had always been a peaceful town.. A few moments of tension every now and then.. but nothing serious.. We had heard about the Zaria riots in the 80s but always referred to it as a far removed event.. Except for the Zango-Kataf Riots..That was an eye-opener.. All that carnage and bloodshed made us resolve to prevent a re-occurrence..Kaduna people were peace-loving..or so we thought
So the night they came.. We were all tucked into the sheets.. fast asleep.. They came with the name of God on their lips and murder in their hearts.. The sound of feet on our rooftops and banging on our doors interrupted our dreams and jarred us awake. The screams of terror that rent the midnight air drove away the last shreds of sleep that clung to our eyelids and had us scrambling for safety.. anywhere we could find it..
Some of us were fortunate.. We found secret places to hide.. In toilets..inside ceilings..nearby bushes..inside wells..yes..anywhere we could disappear into.. but many of us died that night.. Slaughtered in our beds like animals.. Shut up in our houses as they razed them to the ground.. Daughters and mothers raped and dehumanized.. Father’s and sons cut down by machetes, arrows, sickles and other weapons.. All in the name of God
The rampage continued till the early hours of the morning then they left..we crawled out of hiding and having gathered a few essentials from our belongings.. We made a beeline for the nearest army barrack.. Corpses littered the streets everywhere we turned.. As we walked we swapped horror stories and gaped at the ghastly scenes of havoc before our very eyes.. The attacks had been co-ordinated and carried out simultaneously in different parts of the city.. Terror had visited Kaduna and left sorrow, tears and blood in its wake..
To be honest, there were reprisal attacks from the other side..”Vengeance is mine” Says The Lord, but Man is always quick to shed blood on God’s behalf.. Violence only begets more violence..That night sparked off a vicious circle of violence that almost broke the spirit of the city of my childhood.I’m glad we survived..Our city is in recovery..peace is gradually returning to Kaduna..but some of us still carry the scars..on our shoulders.. backs..minds.. souls.. We have nightmares..flashbacks.. panic attacks..and a truckload of bitterness.
Like JP Clarke put it in his poem “The casualties are not only those who have died or await death by instalments.. We are all casualties..” Terror is no respecter of region, tribe, country or race. From Borno to Paris, from Yola to Mali, Terror is everywhere. Any man is capable of terror if he embraces the darkness that constantly seeks to creep into his soul. Fear is the New Black and Good is the New Bad..but we must not bow to terror. We must smile in the face of fear..We must choose to live.. And We must love in the Name of God..