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USAfrica Exclusive: Chiebuka, from long nights in Biafra to Boko Haram’s Cattle Cake. By Success Akpojotor

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Chiebuka, from long nights in Biafra to Boko Haram Cattle Cake

By Success Akpojotor, contributor of short stories and features to USAfrica magazine and USAfricaonline.com

It was a grim cockcrow on Ash Wednesday of February 11, 1970. The geopolitical space of defunct Biafra smelled like musty mortal blood. Its wasteland earth was blanketed with gore and the vestiges of bangs and cannonballs.

“Nothing is civil about a civil war,” Chiebuka remarked, rested her head on her husband’s bosom as her eyes ousted brackish drops.

Shrieking swishes bolted from the chafing of the bus’ tyres which burnished the blood-tarnished roads. Cadavers instead of shrubs made an apparent movement. 

Obi managed to suppress his tears as he palmed his wife’s left shoulder and effaced the ash stains that her forehead had rubbed off on the lapel of his long-sleeved white shirt.

“The Blessed Virgin Mary will see us through,” Obi muttered.

The swarm of rubbernecked passengers, whose foreheads had the cross insignia engraved on them with ash, overlooked their own pain and goggled at the scraggy couple who, notwithstanding their frailty, demonstrated vigor.

An aging woman with concealed gray hair who sat across the aisle attempted to bolster her. “We’ve all lost loved ones in this civil war and–”

“With all due respect,” Chiebuka butted in, “there’s nothing civil about a civil war and none on earth can be more bereaved than me.”

Chiebuka’s husband stroked her shoulder again.

Obi’s touch was the elixir that was needed to quieten her. His touch transmitted an enigmatic strength which wafted through her nerves like a drop of cold water on a skin in a hellhole.

The scruffy, flea-infested seats coupled with diesel smell did not get to the commuters. All that stayed on their minds was arriving Maiduguri, the capital city of the North-Eastern State of Nigeria, in one piece.

For Chiebuka and Obi, who feared and ran for their lives from Maiduguri during the pogroms of 1966, an ocean had run through their forest.

Chiebuka and her husband, both medics in the North-Eastern State, could not bring themselves to the truth that all they had laboured for in the pre-war years had varnished like burning charcoal in harmattan. They had lost their two beautiful daughters to hunger and malnutrition during the war. No wonder the scene where they lowered their daughters beneath earth’s covering and buried flowers over them in an Enugu burial ground continued to bother her.

*

On the third day of their journey, they had reached Maiduguri.

Pangs of wistfulness cloaked Chiebuka. Tepid tears cascaded down her cheekbone. Her nostrils slobbered colourless rheum. She wished for a return of the days when she would wake her two daughters from sleep, bathe, prepare and take them to school.

Her husband was her foil. He held a bemused countenance though his eyes seemed lifeless and teary. One could not discern that he had gone through uncountable rounds of angst.

However, Chiebuka and her husband whispered silent prayers for their property to still be intact. They had worked their fingers to the bone in order to be successful. If God still loved them he would answer their prayers. Her name ‘Chiebuka’ reinforced her faith in the Supreme Being.

God is greater!

*

Dusk saw the couple at the entrance of their residence which was sophisticated than Lord Frederick Lugard’s apartment near the Confluence in Lokoja. The gatekeeper would not allow them in. In a moment the new occupant of the house joined them.

“I hear noises for inside, thats is why I am here na. Who you are?” said the new occupant.

“I built this edifice,” Obi said looking at his property that had been turned into a cowshed. “It cost me a whooping sum…you can’t turn it into a barn of cows.”

The new resident laughed, “You speakings grammars. This house is abandons frofati.”

“I did not abandon my property.” Obi declared as he forced his way in, only to be halted by a rifle which sniped bullets in the air.

You fifu runs leavings houses and gofmet say abandons frofati.” The new occupant was furious.

“Can I take my car?” Obi said, pointing at the directional headlights of a blue Citroën DS Pallas parked in the compound, and cattle gallivanted around it.

Abadon frofati,” The livid Northern Nigerian chap echoed, “gets aways prom hia.”

Chiebuka took her husband’s left arm. This was a signal. She had passed a message across to him to drop it. They walked away, resentful.

*

Like a snail, the earth crawled away from the sun into darkness. The parched gale walloped the greenery in their twigs. Crickets shrieked. Snakes hissed. Owls hooted. White dwarfs struggled to shine.

The couple settled in a dilapidated bus park which was the abode of a pinched face man whose hairs were daubed gold brown with dust from years of irrationality. He was stark-naked and gnawed food which he had gathered from gibberish.

Chiebuka bickered her husband’s decision that they share the almost small cubicle with a madman. Obi made her au fait with the fact that they had walked for hours hoping to find a shade with no success except for the madman’s home. After exhibiting reluctance, she agreed that they pass the night with the crackbrained.

For the whole hours of obscurity, Chiebuka’s eyes were never shut. She stayed awake and kept watch over her husband who, without any care in the world, got out like a light.

*

It was sunup. The yellow sun burgled through the hazy tissues. Obi and his wife prayed the rosary as they walked to the bank.

For the first time in the twosome’s life, they regretted their return to Nigeria from the Diaspora. They bemoaned the end of the civil war. They knew the civil war was brutal, gory, gruesome, sordid and unimaginable but the aftermath. The upshot was dreadful because the victory of the Nigerian forces over the Biafran enclave left a carnage, pestilence and abject poverty in its wake, for the Biafrans in particular.

While they wailed, Obi reminded Chiebuka of their last hope–their money in the bank. While Chiebuka had saved sixty-four thousand pounds sterling, Obi her husband had saved a hundred and seventy-one thousand pounds sterling in the period leading to when Colonel Odumegwu-Ojukwu announced the independence of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.

At the bank, they joined the countless number of fellow Igbos who had a similar predicament and irrespective of the amount they had kept in trust with the bank before the civil war, each Igbo was given twenty pounds sterling.

They shouted. They cursed. They protested

“This is a deliberate ploy by the government to hold back the Igbo middle class.” Obi protested.

A fair complexioned woman trader declared “First, they bequeath our houses to cows, now they are leaving us with little resources to expand our business interest.”

A corpulent man followed. “They forget that we the Igbos are headstrong. We are like iron that cannot be bent. Yes, they have won the battle but we have won the war. In three years we proved to the world that we could be independent and attain development in all ramifications, within the shortest of time and without external help. Indeed, there was a country the world will never forget.”

Another sinewy woman contributed. “We are not a defeated people because we refuse to accept defeat. Chukwu has endowed the Igbos and in no time we will dominate this country’s economy. With this twenty pounds, we shall establish businesses, send our children to the best schools in the world, build mansions and do many exploits.”

They all said “Amen”.

Chiebuka and Obi walked away. Despair. Disbelief.

*

Chiebuka and Obi had lost all hope. Hope eluded them the more when fellow Igbos who were ‘fit’ ambushed them and collected their forty pounds sterling.

“How the mighty falls!” Chiebuka remarked with anguish in her throat.

Obi patted her shoulders. 

As they perambulated, they noticed a signpost which publicized a vacancy. They followed the direction of the marker which led them to a building almost like an estate. After they knocked on the entrance gate, an army officer emerged. He wielded a Sterling L2A3 (Mark 4) submachine gun, or SMG.

“Good day.” The couple stuttered with concurrence.

What we want?” Asked the army officer.

Obi guzzled spittle at the horrible sight and terrifying voice of the officer. “We saw the vacancy.”

Come my way,” he gestured at the couple to enter after he had rummaged them.

With all the fear in the world inside Chiebuka and Obi, they entered and met an Alhaja and a bevy of other women who sat in the garden and husked melon seeds.

Asalamu Alaykum.” The Alhaja said to them as she beckoned on the army officer and the other women to leave.

“We’re here because of the vacancy.” They sputtered with simultaneity.

“Yes I know,” the Alhaja smiled. “Allah is great. Isn’t He?” She said with her beautiful Hausa accent.

The couple’s answer was a dumbfounded look.

Alhaja smiled. “We were in dire need of two teachers who would teach the English Language. A male to teach my sons, and a female to teach my mates, daughters, and sisters, and Allah brought the needed vessels. Isn’t He great?” She sniggered.

“Yes.” The couple gave a weak nod.

Insha Allah, I shall pay two hundred pounds every week.”

“When are we to start?” The couple faltered.

“Tomorrow,” the Alhaja replied, “one more thing,” she hesitated “both of you have to stay with us. For security reasons we can’t let you smell the outside of these walls until the termination of your appointment.”

To the couple, this was a blessing because they had no roof over their heads.

Then the Alhaja added, “I know you’re not Muslims. Before you would be allowed to commence, you must submit to Allah.”

“But ma” Chiebuka interrupted with vehemence “we’re–”

The Alhaja smiled as she countered. “You have from now until tomorrow morning to think about it and make a decision.” She beckoned on the army officer who hurried to her “Take them to the place where they would be until morning while they make up their minds. Make them welcome. Treat them as inhabitants.”

The army officer put them in separate apartments.

Chiebuka protested, “I want to be with my husband.”

Husband kwo!” the army officer retorted.

“Yes, she is my wife.” Obi stretched forth his left arm for the army officer to see the ring on his fourth finger.

The army officer did not understand. “Alhaja will be made decide.” 

He went into the main house to inquire.

Chiebuka went back into nostalgia. Obi patted her on the back as she buried her face in his bosom stained with the ash.

Minutes later, the army officer returned and granted their request, “Alhaja is made decide. You can sleeps in one places.”

They were acquainted with the apartment by the army officer. After doing his duty, he let them their privacy.

Chiebuka and Obi had their baths and were served tuwo shinkafa and kundirimo. This was their first special treat after thirty months of eating leaves, grasses, paper, and imbibing their urine.

*

Night had crept into the earth but sleep eluded Chiebuka and Obi.

“I can’t imagine myself becoming a Muslim. Betraying my Marian faith because of employment?” Chiebuka whispered, fearing that the walls may have ears.

“Me neither,” Obi muttered.

“So you agree with me that we tell the so called power lordess to go to hell.” She declared.

“Pardon!” Obi pretended.

She sat upright, “We are not taking this job. First thing tomorrow morning we’re leaving this place for Enugu. We should never have come here. I told you so.”

He replied, “Yes, and I’m sorry. I did not know that the government’s policy of declaring our belongings abandoned property wasn’t a rumour.”

“We should never have returned from England. We were a king and a queen in the city. Now in the jungle where cows are preferred, we are subhumans.” She sobbed.

Obi patted her left shoulder. “And even going back now would be difficult.”

“So what do we do? Becoming a Muslim is no option.” Chiebuka was vexed.

Obi cuddled her, “When the desired is not available, the available becomes the desired.”

Chiebuka retrieved herself from Obi’s embrace, “Don’t tell me you’re accepting defeat.” She retorted.

“No.” Obi held her arms, “We are creative and improvising.”

Chiebuka removed herself from Obi’s reach. “Creative? By selling our souls? To those people who have turned us to cattle cake?”

“We’re not selling our souls.”

“Then what are we doing?”

“God will understand,” Obi explained, “we would each earn two hundred pounds on a weekly basis. If we work with them for two months, we would save three thousand and two hundred pounds. With that, we can travel back to Enugu and start anew, start a business and–“ 

“Our faith is more important,” Chiebuka belabored. “God won’t find it funny–”

“Who knows if this is God’s way of re-establishing us?” Obi sneezed. “He works in mysterious ways.”

“There’s nothing mysterious about you not knowing that you’re breaking the first commandment and–”

“Listen to me,” Obi raised his voice “I’m the man and your duty is to be submissive. That was the vow you took before the priest.”

“Not when it soils my relationship with God,” Chiebuka replied. “I can’t be a Muslim. I won’t be caught dead in a hijab.”

“I’m sorry,” Obi mellowed as he held Chiebuka’s arms again. “I’m sorry. All I’m saying is that we become Muslims for two months, save enough money; and then return to Enugu where we’d join our fellow Biafrans and –”

Chiebuka removed herself from Obi’s grip again. “Shall we continue in sin because grace abounds? Shall we throw things in God’s face because He’s merciful? You forget He also is a consuming fire. Sins are mistakes. An intentional wrong is not sin. God forgives sins, not intentional wrongs.”

Obi sighed. “Chi–”

“I’ll not be a party to that. Not in my back yard. Tomorrow we’re telling that veiled autocratess to save her two hundred pounds. Good night!” She climbed the bed adorned with blue sheets, covered herself in the ash blanket while Obi stood, bewildered.

*

It was the crack of dawn.

The Athan woke Chiebuka. Her eyes, in their deep sockets, opened; as her mouth expelled carbon dioxide. Her heart missed a beat when she saw the blurry image of a man by the table on which sat the black transistor, the antenna looking to the roof.

“Good morning,” Obi said with a teary tone.

A minute went by before Chiebuka could process in her head that Obi had been standing there all night.

“You didn’t sleep,” she said almost a question.

“Why should I sleep?” Tears rolled down his jawline. “Why should I sleep when we will be sent out this morning?”

Chiebuka jumped from the bed and wiped her husband’s tears. “If you cry, what do you expect of me?” She embraced him. “I hate to see men cry.”

“Then do what is necessary.” Tears kept gushing out of his eyes and wet Chiebuka’s shoulder.

Chiebuka felt the warmth of Obi’s tears. “By becoming a Muslim!” She mouthed.

“Becoming Muslims on our sleeves and Christians at heart,” Obi replied with a sob.

“Alright!” Chiebuka said, empathetic. “Will you stop crying now?”

“Thank you!” Obi said with a sigh of relief as he squeezed his wife’s body against his.

*

The sun glowed in all her glory.

Chiebuka and her husband had their baths. For the first time after the war and bloodbath, it dawned on them that the civil war had taken a lot from them. They became aware of how gaunt they were. In fact, they were bags of bones. Their eyes deepened in their sockets. The holes around their scapulae could hold more than a handful of water. Their hairs were off-black.

In spite of the fact that things were bleak, they believed in a silver lining. They considered themselves partakers of the experiences of the Biblical Job.

They were served Kunun-Gyada with Kundirimo for breakfast.

*

Alhaja and her husband, Mohammed, met with the couple in their apartment.

“Good morning,” said the couple.

Barka ka dai,” replied Alhaja and her husband.

Chiebuka and her husband gave a staggered look.

“It means ‘good morning'” Alhaja told them.

“We speak Ibo and English,” Chiebuka announced.

“I know” Alhaja smiled, “Are you ready to revert?”

“No,” Chiebuka paused and sighed. “We have made the decision to be Muslims.”

Subhan Allah.” The Alhaja smiled as she hugged Chiebuka while Mohammed shook hands with Obi.

“Now you must know,” The Alhaja sighed. “Islam is not a new religion.”

“Mmmmm.” Chiebuka interrupted.

“Yes, it is a belief system which Allah revealed to Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, and the Prophet Mohammed long ago. Islam is all about believing that Allah is the one and only God and that the Prophet Mohammed is the last messenger of God.”

The couple sighed relief.

 “I will come in now,” said Mohammed, “repeat after me.” He said and swallowed spittle “Ash-hadu alla ilaha ill Allah-wa.”

Ash-hadu alla ilaha ill Allah-wa.” the couple recited.

Alhaja smiled.

Ash-hadu anna Mohammedan.” Mohammed paused.

Ash-hadu anna Mohammedan.” The couple repeated.

Abduhu wa Rasulullah.” Mohammed said.

The couple echoed. “Abduhu wa Rasulullah.”

“You are Muslims now and your names are Aminu and Amina,” Mohammed said “You just testified that there is no other God besides Allah, and that Mohammed is His messenger. Now you must purify yourselves. Washing yourselves is a symbolic act of washing away your pasts and being purified. You both have been created afresh. Go wash yourselves.”

“You mean we should take our baths again?”

“No,” Mohammed smiled, “You’re purifying yourselves. It is a spiritual bath to wash away your pasts, and after which you become slaves of Allah.”

 “We will be back to present you your Koran and by two o’ clock this afternoon you shall offer your first prayer to Allah,” Mohammed said and left with his wife, the Alhaja.

Obi shut the door and returned to his wife and hugged her, “We are still Christians no matter what. God still loves us. Jesus died for our sins, including the ones we are yet to commit.”

She removed herself from her husband’s embrace. “Let’s go purify ourselves,” she said as tears glided down her maxillae.

*

Two P.M.

The couple joined them, though they did not blend in, and looked like lambs among sheep.

After the prayer, masa and kuli-kuli were served for lunch. 

After lunch, they were introduced to everyone in the ‘estate’. Then it came to their knowing that Mohammed had married Alhaja and three other women.

Chiebuka was given an abaya and three hijabs while Obi, a Koran, and two jellabas.

*

The first week went by and the couple was paid. Alhaja was pleased because her mates, sisters and the children were learning so fast.

Chiebuka and Obi became so lovable.

Though they had found a new life, Chiebuka, now Amina, still wished for the good old days when her two daughters were alive. Alhaja had noticed the burden in her eyes and they talked about it over a plate of kundirimo. She was touched and moved by Chiebuka’s story.

“They died innocent children. They are with Allah in heaven.” Alhaja had consoled her.

Obi, now Aminu, and the army officer became more than acquaintances. They had shared few evenings together. He expressed sincere sympathy over Obi’s loss. He confided in Obi that he regretted fighting in the Nigerian Civil War. He apologized on behalf of the Nigerian army for the millions of Igbos that had kicked the bucket.

We soldiers is understanding only wars. Peaces is confuses us.” He said to Obi in his defense. He promised to make it up to Obi someday if the need arose.

*

Tonight was a nox horribilis for Obi. He was thrown into shock by his wife’s brashness.

Before their purification on the day they became Muslims, they promised each other they were going to pray the rosary every night before sleep. They had agreed upon this so as to soothe their consciences, a self-imposed penance to their Christian God.

“I don’t think I‘ll ever pray the rosary again,” she declared.

Shocked, Obi moved closer to her, “Are you sleepwalking?”

“I’m in my right senses.” 

“So what do you mean by you’ll never pray the rosary?”

“Because I’m now really a Muslim. I’ve reverted to my natural, original self that Allah wishes me to.”

Obi fixed the back of his palm against his wife’s neck to check her body temperature, “Chi–”

“I’m alright,” she cut in, “You think I’m having a fever? No, I’m not.”

“Then tell me it’s a joke.”

“It’s not,” she moved closer to her husband “Allah works in mysterious manners.”

“Allah?!” Obi whispered, flabbergasted.

“Yes. Allah,” she reiterated “Allah brought us to embrace Islam the true religion.

“Islam is, on the whole, about prayer and being close to Allah the one and only true God.”

Obi hit Chiebuka. “You’re bewitched.”

“Allah will touch you soon,” she replied.

“Goodness knows what only four weeks in this place have done to you. First thing tomorrow we’re leaving.”

“I’m not leaving with you.” She blubbered “This place has given me a peaceful and satisfying way to worship God. Islam made me know that I never fit into Christianity. Each time I received the communion wafer I never felt God because–”

“It is not communion wafer but the body of Christ.” Obi cut in. “Chiebuka what is come over you?”

“I’m Amina, “Chiebuka snapped, “and you’re Aminu. Very soon you’d come to accept the truth that Chiebuka and Obi are gone. You’re Aminu and I’m Amina.” she belabored.

“You’ve been bewitched.”

“I’ve not been bewitched,” she wiped her tears, “Islam has brought me a feeling of love, warmth, and gratitude that I had never felt since my born days.”

“It’s all my fault,” Obi remarked “I should have listened to you that fateful night. We should have told Alhaja to shove it.”

“Allah used you to keep me so I’d find the truth–”

“We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”

“No Aminu,” Chiebuka knelt before her husband “I’m not leaving. I like it here. I’ve found the true p–”

*

Obi made his way to the gate but the army officer refused to let him through because Alhaja had made it clear to him that nobody should be allowed outside the walls behind her back. He sucked in air, deeply. His heart beat so fast that he could feel it in his neck, and the army officer smelled a rat but could not place his fingers on it. Obi knelt and blackmailed the army officer. He reminded him of his promise to make it up to him any day the need arose.

The blackmail pulled through and Obi was let out.

The army officer was going to tell a lie: Obi had hit him on the head with a stick. And the Alhaja was going to believe because he had never lied to her before. At least none that she had detected!

*

Obi’s journey back to his Enugu home town suffered five days. He was not himself. He wished for the ground to open in two and swallow him.

He was overwhelmed by the emptiness and loneliness of his family home. He feared he was going to lose his mind if his wife’s shade should show up.

He settled and did some clearing to weed the bushes that had formed a small forest in the surroundings.

In the evening, he received guest–the village youths and some elders who had asked after his wife. He told them he had put her away because she changed religion. They praised him and assured him of their support.

“Abomination!” One of the village elders spat on the ground.

Tufia!” Another followed. “How can a Biafran embrace Islam?”

They promised Obi that Chiebuka had no place in their community anymore unless she re-converted.

They guzzled fresh palm wine and expressed their regrets over the capitulation of the Republic of Biafra.

Prayers were said. Libations were poured. They wanted God to re–empower Ikemba or send another.

Darkness visited this part of the earth before they bade one another “Good night!”

*

A woman silhouetted against the moon chased after Obi with a pestle.

He jumped off the spring bed. His conscience was still nagging him. He was convinced that Chiebuka’s ghost was haunting him.

*

Obi needed to purge himself and clear his conscience at first light.

He trekked to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church and made his way to the confessional where a pinched woman just rounded off her confession and took leave.

He entered the wooden cubicle where a green curtain demarcated the priest and penitent and knelt.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Father Benedict, an American missionary, on the other side of the demarcation stopped fingering his violet stole which hung over his shoulders. He sensed fear, grief, terror, and torture in the confessant’s voice. “Yes, child of God,” he said, “speak on.”

“It’s been donkey years since my last confession.”

“Donkey?”

“Yes, before the Nigeria-Biafra war.”

“Go on, child of God!”

“These are my sins.

“I stopped praying the rosary during the civil war. Yesterday I joined my kinsmen in pouring libations. For all I have said and have forgotten to say, I beg pardon from God and you.”

“Is that all?”

The confessant’s answer was silence.

“Be reminded that it’s a sin against the Holy Spirit to willfully conceal anything at confession.”

“Yes, father.”

“Then, go on, child of God.” Father Benedict insisted.

Obi became lost in thoughts for almost two minutes.

“Are you there, child of God?”

“Yes.”

“Anymore?”

“I. Hit. Her. Twice.” Obi said.

“Her?”

“My wife,” Obi swallowed spittle. “We denounced Christianity for Islam almost three weeks ago,” Obi whispered.

“We?”

“I and my wife,”

“Why did you denounce Christianity?”

“It was part of our employer’s terms and condition.”

“Did you enjoy Islam?”

“No,” Obi’s tone now teary “but my wife did and affirmed it her path to God.”

“Where is she now?”

She didn’t want to return with me. She–” Obi paused.

“She what?” Father Benedict investigated.

“I suffocated her. She died and I ran for my life and freedom.” Obi confessed and cried.

The confessor paused, sighed and went mum for a minute.

“Father, are you there?”

“Yes.” He cleared his throat. “You understand that pouring libations and denouncing your faith breaks the first commandment.” He said almost a question.

“Yes, Father.”

“Killing your wife flouted the fifth commandment. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Yes, Father.”

“For your penance say the Our Father, twenty-five times, Hail Mary, twenty times, and the Apostles Creed, thrice.”

“Yes, Father.”

“And as regards your wife’s murder, you must go report yourself to the police.”

“Police?” Obi said.

“Yes, fear not them who can imprison your body in a confinement forged by mortar. Rather fear He who can imprison both body and soul in an extraordinary fiery furnace.

“Say the Act of Contrition.”

*

Chiebuka at the behest of Alhaja had journeyed from Maiduguri to her husband’s family home, only to be greeted by gloom.

She found her husband’s kinsmen and kinswomen in mourning.

They expressed their disappointment at her decision of changing religion. They drove home their points about why she should not have embraced Islam.

They gave her the opportunity to renege her decision.

She declined!

Her kinswomen sat her on the ground, removed her hijab and scraped every hair strand from her head.

“What have I done? Why are you doing this to me?” Chiebuka cried. “Is it because I’m a Muslim?”

“No,” a kinswoman volunteered. “Your husband has gone to the great beyond. You put otapiapia in his food. That was why you did not return with him. Witch!”

None knew what had killed Obi. He had slumped right in the confessional after reciting the Act of Contrition. If a post mortem was carried out on his corpse, it would have come to their knowledge that he had suffered and died from high blood pressure. He could not imagine turning himself in for the supposed murder of his wife.

He had died from a guilty conscience. He took Chiebuka for dead because her body seemed lifeless seconds after he let go of her throat.

She survived, unknown to him, and Chiebuka termed it Allah’s miracle.

*

Next in line was for the now bald Chiebuka to drink the bath water of her deceased husband. There was no way on earth she would acquiesce. She grabbed her hijab and ran, escaping through thick bushes.

Her kinswomen organized the village youth to hunt her.

That witch must prove to us that she did not kill our brother.

She gave him slow poison!

*

It was a damned morning on Easter Sundayof March 29, 1970.

It did not look like Jesus Christ had risen from the dead on this Easter as it marked the third day Chiebuka had been missing.

She was found by a hunter. Found dead in a hijab. Perhaps, the evil spirits of the forest or a wild animal had snuffed her out.

Mayhap, the hunter sniped his arrow after he mistook her for bush meat.


Success Akpojotor, contributor to USAfricaonline.com, born in Benin City, writes poetry, prose and theatre. A graduate of the University of Benin’s Department of History and International Studies, his works have appeared in Saraba Magazine, Kalahari Review, African Writer, The Nigerian Observer, Poets Reading The News, Heavy Feather Review, among others. He can be contacted on Twitter @sadavidia

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AFRICA

Military coup in Gabon collapses overnight….

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Military coup in Gabon collapses overnight....

Special to USAfrica [Houston\]

Gabon’s presidency said in a statement that soldiers burst into a state radio station at dawn on Monday and called for an uprising against President Ali Bongo, who was recovering in Morocco from a stroke.

Security forces stormed the building, arrested the coup leader and killed two of his soldiers, according to the presidency.

“The secretary-General has always stood against unconstitutional changes of power, especially by force, and in that light, he condemns the attempted coup that took place this morning in Gabon,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Guterres added that calm appears to have returned in Libreville and calls “on all actors to follow constitutional means”, added Dujarric.

The UN envoy for Central Africa, Francois Lounceny Fall, who is based in Libreville was closely monitoring the situation and is ready to offer assistance if needed, said the spokesman.

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AFRICA

#FLASHPOINT: DRC Congo on knife’s edge as presidential election result is postponed

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Special to USAfrica [Houston] and USAfricaonline.com

The Democratic Republic of Congo officials on Saturday delayed the announcement of preliminary results from a crucial presidential election, amid growing pressure from world powers and the influential Catholic church to respect voters’ wishes.

“It is not possible to publish the results on Sunday. We are making progress, but we do not have everything yet,” Corneille Nangaa said, without announcing a new date.

The country’s powerful National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which represents the country’s Catholic bishops, warned popular anger could result in the event the final result were not “true to the verdict of the ballot box.”

DR Congo’s powerful Catholic Church, which provided more than 40,000 election observers, had said Thursday it knew who had won the vote, but did not name him.

In a letter to Nangaa on Saturday, CENCO president Mgr Marcel Utembi said that, given the delay, “if there is a popular uprising it would be the responsibility of the CENI.”

The December 30 vote saw 21 candidates run to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the vast, conflict-ridden country for almost 18 years.

Among the frontrunners were Kabila’s handpicked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and two opposition candidates: veteran heavyweight Felix Tshisekedi and newcomer Martin Fayulu.

At stake is the political stewardship of a mineral-rich country that has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Kabila had been due to step down two years ago, but clung on to power, sparking widespread protests which were brutally repressed, killing dozens.

The election, preceded by repeated delays, was carried out in a relatively peaceful manner. But tensions have built over the lengthy counting process, amid fears the results could be manipulated to install Kabila-backed Shadary in power.

The electoral commission had promised to announce preliminary results on Sunday, followed by a definitive count on January 15.

But Nangaa told AFP just under half of ballots had been counted by Saturday afternoon, adding: “Next week, we will announce.”

The further delay could stoke tension in the unstable central African nation of 80 million.

Nangaa has blamed the slow count on massive logistical problems in a country the size of Western Europe with poor infrastructure. Since the vote, the authorities have cut internet access and blocked broadcasts by Radio France Internationale, causing widespread frustration.

With international concerns growing over the transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation, Western powers have upped the pressure.

The United States and European Union urged Kinshasa to ensure a peaceful change of power.

Donald Trump announced Friday that the United States was sending about 80 troops to Gabon to deploy in the event of election-related unrest in nearby DR Congo.

The African Union, which had sent an 80-member team to monitor the vote, insisted that respecting voters’ wishes was “crucial”.

And Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the DR Congo’s western neighbour, the Republic of Congo, urged restraint in uncertain times to “safeguard peace and stability in this brother country”.

Nangaa wrote to CENCO head Utembi on Friday accusing the episcopal conference of putting out partial result “trends” designed to “intoxicate the population in preparing an uprising,” an accusation the latter turned on its head with Saturday’s letter in response.

In his letter Nangaa warned CENCO would “alone be responsible” for unrest after disseminating “insignificant and partial data.”

The ruling FCC coalition accused CENCO of “seriously breaching” the constitution and electoral law by “illegally declaring voting trends” in favour of a given candidate.

The last two elections in 2006 and 2011, both won by Kabila, were marred by bloodshed, and many feared a repeat if the results this time round were placed in doubt.

In 2006, Kabila defeated former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba in a violence-tainted poll.

Five years later, he was re-elected in another vote blighted by bloodshed, chaotic organisation and alleged irregularities.

The opposition rejected the results.

Between 1996 and 2003, DR Congo lived through two fully-fledged wars that claimed millions of lives through fighting, starvation, and disease. ref: AFP

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USAfrica: Petition to rename street opposite Trump Tower the Barack Obama Avenue inches to target

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Evidently, “the thorny, combative paths of incumbent President Donald Trump and those of his immediate predecessor Barack Obama will not only cross but may, soon, permanently face each other”, writes USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu, a few minutes ago Saturday January 5, 2019.

This is as thousands of people continue to sign a new petition to rename part of New York City’s Fifth Avenue after former President Obama.

MLKmandelaachebe.com 

The coordinators of the popular online petition, which has more than 12,414 signatures (as at this Saturday morning), states “We need 15,000” for the renaming of the block between 56th and 57th Streets in Manhattan “President Barack H. Obama Avenue.”

They referenced a recent renaming of a stretch of highway in downtown Los Angeles after Obama, the 44th U.S. president.

“We request the New York City Mayor and City Council do the same by renaming a block of Fifth Avenue after the former president who saved our nation from the Great Recession, achieved too many other accomplishments to list, and whose two terms in office were completely scandal free.”

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Violence, tension in DRC Congo election; Kabila orders internet access shut down

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AFP: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday began counting ballots from a presidential election marked by delays and fears of violence and vote-rigging, straining hopes for its first-ever peaceful transfer of power.

After a relatively bloodless vote, election officials embarked on the marathon task of counting and collating, their work scrutinised by opposition parties for any sign of fraud.

Sunday’s elections went ahead after two years of delays and sporadic clashes in the notoriously unstable country.

But the influential Catholic church, through its national conference of bishops, declared the vote had been “relatively calm”.

Reported incidents included harassment of some election monitors and a clash in the restive eastern province of South Kivu that left four dead.

Two telecoms operators, Global and Vodacom, said the government had ordered them to cut access to the Internet on Monday — a move that opposition supporters said aimed at blocking social-media activism.

The DRC has never had a peaceful transition of leader since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Worries of a new spiral into violence deepened in 2016 after President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, refused to quit when his two-term limit expired.

Tension and suspicion were further stoked by repeated delays, a bloody crackdown on anti-Kabila protests and accusations that electronic voting machines would help to rig the result.

But Kabila late Sunday congratulated the public for voting “in peace and dignity”.

Provisional results are due to be announced on January 6, with final results expected on January 15. The new president is set to be sworn in on January 18.

From Kinshasa to Goma, 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) further east, polling stations already put up first results on Monday morning.

In Kisangani, the country’s third-largest city, observers hired by the political parties slept on the floor or on desks at a polling station to keep their eye on the vote count, an AFP reporter said.

A monitoring mission set up by the Catholic church said some of its observers had been “molested and violated.”

On Sunday evening, violence erupted at a polling station in the Walungu area of South Kivu province after an electoral official was accused of trying to rig the vote in favour of Kabila’s preferred successor, according to an opposition figure.

The electoral official was killed along with a policeman and two civilians, said Vital Kamerhe, who has been campaigning for Felix Tshisekedi.

Kabila’s champion Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and Tshisekedi, head of a veteran opposition party, UDPS, separately claimed victory.

But the scant opinion polls that have been conducted made Martin Fayulu — until recently a little-known legislator and former oil executive — clear favourite.

He garnered around 44 percent of voting intentions, followed by Tshisekedi with 24 percent and Shadary with 18 percent, said Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group, based at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

Roughly half of survey respondents, he added, said they would reject the result if Shadary — a hardline former interior minister facing EU sanctions for a crackdown on protesters — was declared winner.

The vote for a new president took place alongside legislative and municipal polls.

While turnout failed to reach 50 percent at some polling stations, many voters said they were exhilarated at taking part in the first elections after the nearly 18-year Kabila era.

But there was also much evidence of organisational problems, including with the contested voting machines.

The Catholic monitoring mission said that, as of early Monday, its observers had checked overall tallies of the vote in 4,161 polling stations.

In 3,626 stations, the number of paper ballot sheets tallied with totals kept by electronic voting machines, the observer mission said — a figure that by extrapolation suggests possible discrepancies in 535 bureaux.

DRC’s paradox

A country almost the size of continental western Europe which straddles central Africa, the DRC is rich in gold, uranium, copper, cobalt and other minerals.

Little of that wealth trickles down to the poor. Poverty, corruption and government inertia are etched into the country’s history, along with a reputation for violence.

In the last 22 years, it has twice been a battleground for wars drawing in armies from central and southern Africa.

That legacy endures in eastern DRC, where militias control swathes of territory and battle over resources, wantonly killing civilians.

Insecurity and an ongoing Ebola epidemic in part of North Kivu province, and communal violence in Yumbi, in the southwest, prompted the authorities to postpone the elections there until March.

Around 1.25 million people in a national electoral roll of around 40 million voters are affected. Despite this, elections in the rest of the country went ahead.

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Nigeria’s ex-President Shagari, overthrown by Buhari, is dead at 93

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Nigeria’s former president of Nigeria (1979-1983), Alhaji Shehu Shagari, has died at the the age of 93, his grandson Bello Shagari confirmed on Twitter, today Friday December 28, 2018:

“I regret announcing the death of my grandfather, H.E Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who died right now after brief illness at the National hospital, Abuja.”

Shagari, elected sixth president under the banner of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was overthrown in a military coup which imposed incumbent/current leader of Nigeria, then Brigadier-General Muhammadu Buhari, as a draconian dictator. By Chido Nwangwu @Chido247

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USAfrica: Developing jaw-dropping settlement, MTN South Africa to pay Nigeria only US$53.2-million (R777-million) of $8.1-billion (R118-billion) CBN fines, refunds

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Special to USAfrica [Houston] @usafricalive USAfricaonline.com

Christmas [came] early for MTN Group [of South Africa]. The telecommunications operator’s shares are likely to soar when markets reopen on Thursday in Johannesburg after it announced late on Monday that it has settled a multibillion-dollar dispute in Nigeria.

It will pay just US$53.2-million (about R777-million) in a settlement with Nigeria’s central bank, a tiny fraction of the $8.1-billion (R118-billion) the Bank had sought from the group’s subsidiary in the West African country.

MTN Group shares plunged 22% on 30 August when it emerged that the Nigerian central bank had ordered four banks to refund the $8.1-billion it claimed was illegally expatriated by the telecoms provider between 2007 and 2015. Its shares, which trade on the JSE, have failed to recover significant ground since then on investor fears.At these meetings, MTN Nigeria provided additional material documentation which satisfactorily clarified its remittances

A second allegation by Nigerian authorities that MTN owes $2-billion in back taxes remains the subject of dispute, however. That matter is due to be heard by a Nigerian court in February next year.

The settlement amount with the central bank — less than 0.7% of the sum originally demanded — is likely to be seen as a significant victory for group CEO Rob Shuter, who took the reins at MTN last year from Phuthuma Nhleko. Shuter joined MTN from Vodafone Group.

In a statement late on Monday, MTN said a series of meetings were held in Lagos with central bank officials in November.

“At these meetings, MTN Nigeria provided additional material documentation which satisfactorily clarified its remittances,” it said. Upon review of this documentation, the central bank “concluded that MTN Nigeria is no longer required to reverse the historical dividend payments made to MTN Nigeria shareholders”.

“However, the central bank maintains that the proceeds from the preference shares in MTN Nigeria’s private placement remittances of 2008 of circa $1-billion were irregular, having been based on CCIs (certificates of capital importation) that only had an approval-in-principle, but not final regulatory approval of the central bank.

“The central bank instructed MTN Nigeria to implement a notional reversal of the 2008 private placement of shares in MTN Nigeria at a net cost of circa 19.2-billion naira — equivalent to $52.6-million. This is on the basis that certain CCIs utilised in the private placement were not properly issued.”

MTN Nigeria and the central bank have agreed that they will resolve the matter on the basis that the operator will pay the notional reversal amount without admission of liability, the group said.

“In terms of the resolution agreement, the central bank will regularise all the CCIs issued on the investment by shareholders of MTN Nigeria of circa $402.6-million without regard to any historical disputes relating to those CCIs, thereby bringing to a final resolution all incidental disputes arising from this matter.”

MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter


It said MTN Nigeria relied on “certain commercial banks to ensure all approvals had been obtained prior to the CCIs being issued and to ensure the CCIs were properly utilised in the private placement”.

“MTN Nigeria will be engaging with the banks in relation to the issues dealt with in the resolution agreement,” the group said. Presumably, this means MTN is going to try to recover at least some of the $53.2-million from the banks involved.

The original $8.1-billion demanded by the central bank followed just three years after the Nigerian Communications Commission imposed a $5.2-billion fine on MTN for failing to disconnect unregistered Sim cards. That fine was later reduced to about $1-billion.MTN Nigeria continues to maintain that its tax matters are up to date and no additional payment … is due

MTN Group said it remains involved in legal action with Nigeria’s attorney-general over the $2-billion in back taxes the AG claims are owed. The case came up for “initial mention” before the federal high court in Lagos on 8 November 2018 and has been adjourned to 7 February 2019.

“MTN Nigeria continues to maintain that its tax matters are up to date and no additional payment … is due,” the group said, adding that no provisions or contingent liabilities have been raised in the accounts of MTN Nigeria for the claim.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest and most profitable market. It has more than 64 million customers in the country and it enjoys high profit margins. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in the third quarter represented 43% of revenue.  ref — © 2018 NewsCentral Media

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