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BN Prose: Mustapha’s Story by Mitchell Aghatise

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My first brush with authority was when I was in JSS3. We were preparing for the JSCE examinations- and as was the norm, everyone was sourcing for ‘dubs’. I can point to this moment as when I realised the endemic nature of the corruption in Nigeria. I could not bring myself to use any of these dubs, as I could not justify it. It is always a slippery slope, first it starts with dubs, then next thing you know, you are stealing public funds meant for community development.

It was the day of my mathematics exam, I had gotten to my classroom and was told that the supervisor was in on the deal today, but the catch was that we all were to pay her 500 Naira. This was the last straw. My dad had always taught me to be respectful to elders. I approached the supervisor that day, and the discussion soon escalated to something less than cordial. I was reprimanded and was prevented from writing the exams.

This was all for speaking the truth.
I see Nigeria as a place that is riddled with so many problems because those who know what is good are unwilling to stand up for the truth they believe in. This is not me. I took the matter all the way to the commissioner of education in the state- a meeting I could only arrange after trailing his motorcade daily for three weeks. Long story short, on this occasion- truth prevailed; I was allowed to write my examinations at another date, the supervisor was suspended and afterwards found guilty of fraud and sent to jail.
I passed with 9 distinctions. I don’t say this to be smug, but to highlight what one can achieve even without bending the rules.

After this experience, a lot of people often joked by calling me the next president. Although I never let it cloud my judgment, I could always see the seriousness in their eyes as they told me this. I am not an assuming individual. My mantra in life as evident from the incident above was not really because I had any political points to score, but I believe as a person and as a member of a community and of a country- it is not enough to sit around and complain or analyse the problems that exist, but we must be willing to stand firm for the right principles and ideals when they do materialise.
All this is easier said than is done, but indeed- the path my dad threaded is the compass for my daily walk.

My father, Alhaji Mustafa Abubakar was one of the few men to have undertaken the white man’s education when he was a young boy. At the time, it was considered laziness to hole yourself up in a classroom, while your mates strengthened their arms rearing the cattle- growing into strong men, the pride and pearl of the village. Not my dad, he instead was satisfied to pore over countless books at a far flung corner of the class.
When papa grew older, he snubbed several lucrative civil service jobs- why? It had always been his motto that education was the best legacy to any person, to any village, to any people. And for this reason, he had stayed back in the village; first as a primary school teacher, now the headmaster of the community secondary school I attended. So you see why it was important that I excelled.

July 2011
There had been talk. First there were whispers, hardly decipherable from the winds that moved the savannah brush in the evening. These whispers had grown louder and louder, the impact as of a herd of cattle stampeding without a master. But today it came to a head. We heard a loud bang- well several loud bangs. Mothers cradled their little ones into the confines of fragile huts while the older sons who never shied from adventure were immediately docile today.

You see, I paid it no mind, seeing that the frequency of Boko Haram bombs had been ubiquitous of late, this was one of those things we had now come to live by. As a people, it is important not to condone terror for so long and so well that one becomes insensate to the anguish that others will feel at the result of such terror. As the sounds dissipated and we were sure the worst was over, I and my friends prepared to resume our game of football on the dusty patch of sand in front of father’s house.

Suddenly, an ‘okada-man’ that father had taught donkey-years ago sped into the compound. On the passenger seat sat my father- the distinguished Alhaji Mustafa Abubakar- for so long my pillar of support and of all things indestructible. He lay there lifeless. Life snuffed out from him not only by the bombs, but by the failure of the Nigerian state to protect him.

Today the Boko Haram targeted his school, in a bid to ensure that the young kids ran out safe, he sacrificed his life. I was told he fought to the death.

He will be buried. A tombstone to mark his final resting place, but there will be no national honours- no there will not be, for that is reserved for more deserving heroes such as General Sani Abacha. There will be no commemorations nor will dignitaries be at his burial ceremony- no they will be absent, for all who should give him honour are busy purloining the government coffers. The people who committed the dastardly act will not be brought to book- no they will not, for the government of the day will rather politicise the issues and point fingers at the other party.

Here papa lies, a hero, but forgotten.

April 14 2014
A few years have gone by and the beast that is Boko Haram has spread wildly around the north east region in which I live. They have sent in the military, but day by day, the killings get worse. I had only missed school sick the other day- I was particularly unhappy that I missed school, as a few of my friends and I had formed a small group to discuss how best to move beyond the boko haram and as the young ones, to contribute our quota to the solution of this problem- for indeed war and conflict does not discriminate between young and old.

You must then understand the shock when I learned that the boko haram had come and levelled my whole school that day. I had lost my closest friends- the proverbial leaders of tomorrow, all gone.
That should have been me.

Mother has said that Boko Haram will not cause me to forsake my education- it was my father’s last wish that I became a lawyer. The region is too unstable, hence, Uncle Ibrahim has now suggested that we go and start afresh with him in Abuja. He will pay my jamb fees and I may yet build something of my life. I have no motivation left, all I know as normal is gone. But still, I cannot lose motivation as I daily remember the meetings I had with my friends prior to forming the group- I can see the vision we have for a post boko-haram world, I realise that sitting around will not solve the problem unless I am willing to stand and resist- just as I did with the supervisor during my JSCE exams.

The rickety bus ambled on; it had been a daunting journey. Between faulty engines, fuel scarcity on the way and constant bribes at police checkpoints, we had finally made it to Abuja. But first a detour at the Nyanya bus park. As the driver parked the car, I stumbled out in search of some food, I was famished. I did not hear the scream to run. The next sound I heard was deafening. My eardrums popped from the sound and the burning fire from the bomb came at me- I was right in the centre.

Silence.

**Writer’s note: Mustafa represents all the secondary school students who have been killed in constant attacks by the Boko Haram. Mustafa is the nursing mother who is beheaded because she reads lullabies to her kids. Mustafa is the emergency worker who is killed because he was too fast to the scene when Boko Haram were still present. Mustafa represents 200 girls kidnapped from the Chibok Secondary School. Mustafa is all of us. President Jonathan, are you listening?

Photo Credit: wfanyw.com

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Mitchell Aghatise is passionate about politics and people advancement especially in his home country of Nigeria. He is presently in the final year of his degree at the University of Leicester.

Mitchell Aghatise is passionate about politics and people advancement especially in his home country of Nigeria. He is presently in the final year of his degree at the University of Leicester.

32 Comments

  1. ojie

    April 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Let me be the first to comment on this. Congrats my dear!!!

  2. 1 + The One

    April 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Well-written, emotive piece.. Thank you for telling this story Mitchell.. May God save Nigeria.. We are slowly killing the hope of our future but God forbid..

  3. Ojie

    April 22, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Let me be the first to comment. Congrats my man! There’s tons tons more to come!

  4. Ojie

    April 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Very good read! More to come!

  5. Nne

    April 22, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Ohhh Lord!!! #speechless…

  6. Ruby

    April 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Absolutely heart-throbbing! Moving and captivating for lack of better words… God have mercy!

  7. Ojie

    April 22, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Incredible writing. More to come I hope.

  8. monique

    April 22, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Great story. I hope president Jonathan is listening

  9. Lala

    April 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Amazing piece!!! It is high time someone told the story of boko haram victims! Every Nigerian should read this, especially Mr. President and those in government. Hope to see more from you Mitchell.

  10. Tenny

    April 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    A well written article that hits home. Wasn’t expecting any less tho. Well done, Mitch

  11. mamamo

    April 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Well done Mitch…nice piece…proud of you

  12. Tenny

    April 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    A well written story that hits home. Wasn’t expecting any less tho. Well done Mitch!

  13. Frederick

    April 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    After all you have done, you really deserved better…

    Nothing makes sense in this world

    It’s all a big pile of crazy…

    And the kings are all fools!

    Where is the honor,

    When a solemn promise is just a pretty lie?

    And the mighty mock the courage of the humble!

    Although he’s just an ordinary penguin…

    My daddy taught me, you don’t need to be colossal…

    To be a great heart…

    You don’t need to fly…

    To be awesome!

    My hero…My father

  14. greenb

    April 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Wow. This was a really moving piece that makes you stop and feel.

  15. Mz Socially Awkward...

    April 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Well written piece, thank you for giving this perspective to the actual casualties of Boko Haram attacks. It’s insanity and I can’t believe this has become the new legacy of too many innocents in Nigeria.

    President Jonathan, are you listening?

  16. FunkyW

    April 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Well done Mitchell! I often wonder what the true life experience of Northern citizens is like, its very saddening.

  17. Dr. N

    April 22, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    They are people not statistics. I celebrate the silent heroes. drnsmusings.wordpress.com

  18. www.graciemama.com

    April 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Well done Mitch…..When will book haram be a thing left for the history books

  19. Tunrie

    April 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    So well written! from start to finish! ..one of the best perspectives i’ve seen on the current Boko haram problem in Nigeria. There are so many people out there that need to be heard; so many people that don’t have a voice. So many ‘forgotten heroes’ I really hope the Government starts listening. And the point about the youth taking matters into their hands at the school, by discussing ways to form a solution, made me feel like there is so much we the youth can do as well . So brilliant! Hope to see more of your work!

  20. Dami O

    April 22, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Thank you so much for this lovely piece Mitch! Its really great to look at things from the perspectives of those that are actually involved in the killings…I mean those that died had dreams, they held potential and definitely their voices should be heard…its as if its the young, defenseless and innocent ones that are the target here. I don’t know if its till when ‘someone they think is important to them’ dies before the government realize they should put an end to these killings!

  21. love

    April 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    boko haram if u people r strong go and bomb aso rock and stop attacking innocent souls. God bless Nigeria

  22. FunkyW

    April 23, 2014 at 9:21 am

    @love, that’s a very wrong perspective, the people at Aso rock are human beings too, more evil does not bring peace.

  23. Ada Nnewi

    April 23, 2014 at 10:37 am

    WOW!!! This makes it so real…#now sharing on all media platforms I can reach#

  24. Aisha A.Y

    April 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    beautiful piece, thanks for voicing the pain of the oppressed

  25. bukky

    April 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    The end just stopped me, felt so bad. This terrorists has to be stopped completely, Mr President Sir, do something ooo. May God help us all

  26. jeremiah

    April 23, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I just want to say, I know mitch personally lol. A very good one, let’s hope this ignites a change. More to come

  27. Purpleicious Babe

    April 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    An excellent write up.
    Very captivating.Thanks for giving a voice to the silent heroes.
    Will anything be done about BH? Time will tell.
    Will I do anything? I very much doubt it, will the average Nigerian do anything Nope.
    We have a govt for reasons such as these to represent the people but yet no representation…
    Why have Govt then?

    Failed system………………..

  28. Coco svelte

    April 23, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    speechless………just speechless

  29. Kiks

    April 24, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    I have only heard the trees whistle the destruction caused by the Boko Haram. My nigerian friend tells me about the fear in which people live and the recent abduction of the girls in the North. I am not quick to say it is juju but honestly speaking, the spirituality behind it is great. After watching an interview by a member of the taliban, i am certain that they pray to Allah for all the might to undertake these atrocities, mind you, no sane person would kill and be killed in the process.
    Instead of finding the real roots of this matter, everything is politicized and that is why we can never solve any problem in Africa. Leave politics alone and be thoughtful enough to derive solutions. From all the articles i have read here, humanity is sane but if the other percentage which is not would not read these, may be art must come in.
    To all those who have lost their lives and would lose them in the future, all i can say is REST IN PEACE.
    To Mustapha, i express my condolences

  30. Mr. Mitch

    April 26, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you all for the comments! I really appreciate that you all felt the emotions reading it that I had while writing it. Now let’s get our leaders to see the faces behind the statistics.

    Mitchell Aghatise.

  31. Love

    April 28, 2014 at 11:36 am

    this is my first time commenting after reading bellanaija for years…Nice work Mitchell. yesterday I sat on my bed and i wondered, Where are the heroes? We hear stories of how men of old matched to the jungle, endured hardship to rescue loved ones who had been captured by enemies… Men who would match, who would lead, who would say no to Boko Haram! Sadly, all we do now is just talk, no action. We weep but we don’t decide to stop them…. We depend on other people… yes, maybe we are waiting for that hero who would rise and lead and we would follow… I wish i had it in me to be such a person but i’m not. So I ask, are heroes no more on earth?

  32. Tomi

    April 29, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Its time we change our thought pattern &invest in knowledge.
    Awesome write up. The message is vivid.

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