Tunde Leye: Behind The Headlines

Cora Pam clutched her phone in a tight grip, as if it would also up and go away from her. She fought the tears, and chastised herself for thinking the thoughts that ran riot through mind. But try as she did, she could not help it. Her husband, Yakubu, had been away for over a year in Borno State, fighting Boko Haram. Initially, she had been strong. They spoke daily over the phone and she did not miss him so. But after the telecommunications blackout on Borno was announced, the calls had become few and far between. Each time her phone rang and it was her husband’s number, she felt a mix of joy and trepidation. He risked his life for each of those calls. But he said he had to make them; they made his hardship bearable. And, even if she would not like to admit it, it filled a gnawing ache in her. “Mama, they are here,” a male voice that had just discarded the last vestiges of puberty announced. She smiled at her last child. He had his father’s eyes and easy smile. She gathered herself together to go and meet her soon-to-be in-laws, alone again. Forget the needs of the Nigerian state, Cora needed her husband more.


One Month Later

Major Yakubu Pam was unable to sleep. His first daughter would be getting married in a week and his boss was yet to approve his leave of absence.

“Yak,” Colonel Adamu “Sherman” Shelleng had responded when he put what was is third request, “you are a senior member of this team. You know we need you now more than ever, for the morale of the men.” If Shelleng meant that to be jocular, it sounded hollow to Yakubu.

“Yes, but my family also needs me. This is my first daughter’s wedding, and I should be the one giving her away. When I’m not dead, how can someone else be giving my daughter away?”

The Colonel changed his tone. “Chief, you are an officer and you know what you signed up for. I will bring this up with the commander, but I know what his response will be already”

“Thank you sir,” Yakubu had responded and then left, seething. How could he be asking for something that was his right and be treated like this? He stood up and began to do pushups. The physical activity always calmed him down.


Two days later, the response Yakubu had been waiting for came. “Why did you let yourself hope, foolish Yakubu!” he said to himself angrily. But as if to add insult to his injury, he had been ordered to go and perform a mop-up operation in the border town of Bama after news filtered that Boko Haram had struck in the area, killing at least 200 villagers. It irked him that they always seemed to get “intelligence” of Boko Haram attacks after the fact, whereas Boko Haram had ambushed them severally, pointing to the insurgents having prior knowledge of the army movements. It also irked him that whilst they did not have network connection to make phone calls, the Boko Haram leader was able to find enough to upload his videos on the internet. The more he thought about it, the angrier he became.

“At least you can phone them at the border today,” his deputy tried to comfort him as they moved out.


News Headlines The Next Day

  1. Boko Haram Insurgents Ambush Troops In Bama, Borno State, Killing 50.
  2. Mutiny! Soldiers in Maimilari Barracks, Angered After Seeing The Bodies Of Their Comrades Returned, Shoot At Their Commander
  3. Bomb blast kills 30 Muslims in Kaduna North

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