What Should We Be Afraid Of?

It was October 1998. Me, my bff and a male friend were walking home from our local joint around midnight. We went there every night after work to drink beer and shoot pool with the boys.

It was a short walk but we had to pass the Nigerian Security Minting and Printing office opposite NTA to get there.  In Abacha’s days they were always guarded by military and police.  Sometimes they would come out on the road and shake down passersby.

In the military days we always got stopped and asked for ID, I never gave anyone mine. I knew my rights, you know what I mean.  and I was loud and vocal in asserting them especially with the boys in uniform. Its a surprise I didn’t get shot. Or maybe it was the fact that I was a woman, and a yellow woman at that. More prudent friends restrained me if we neared a check point.

Anyway this night the boys in khaki stop us and ask for our ID. Our man friend flashes his, I question they’re right to ask for mine. My bff, wise and cautious, stands aside quietly observing. Eventually I win the shouting match and they disdainfully tell me ‘Go abeg, craze woman’.

So I shove off still cussing and still raking. Our male friend had disappeared. As we’re walking away my bff who had been standing near a couple of girls sitting on a rock by the road at the checkpoint tells me the girls told her they had been there for hours. And basically how lucky we were to be on our way. I don’t know what it was but I had this certainty that the khaki scum were planning to rape those girls or at least coerce them into sex as soon as they were alone.   I turned back.

The zombies at the check point were surprised to see me coming back. I walked right up to them and shouted at them that I came back for the two girls.  It all went from bad to worse rather quickly. One of the soldiers cocks his rifle and points it at me. I don’t skip a beat. I turn to my wise bff standing well away and looking rather shell shocked by now.

“Maya, if they shoot me tonight make sure you tell my father exactly what happened.”

Of course they didn’t shoot and my bff and I walked those two girls home. The girls told me the zombies had been trying to coerce them to go into their security hut and have sex.  They thanked us profusely. Couple weeks later we walked into the restaurant where they worked as waitresses. They didn’t let us pay for a thing.

Reckless? Fearless? Brave? I’m none of those. I’m just someone that stands up for myself and for others that need standing up for. I didn’t think of death, I was certain I was going to die. Someday, somehow. I just didn’t want to die like a chicken or like something cowering and afraid in a corner. When death comes I wanted to be ready to stare him in the eye and defy him. Dare him to make me scared. Because somewhere somehow I learnt never show to fear. Never to be afraid.



Ihioma, Nigeria 1978