Emeka felt guilty as he watched the conscription officers drag away the man who lived in the house next to his. He had wanted to invite him to join his hideout since he came but he was scared. More crowds meant more danger. He knew he couldn’t make any movement that would attract the soldier’s attention.
A tempestuous wave swept through the forest and Emeka took the opportunity to duck under the mounds of leaves he had made. The officers soon passed away and Emeka felt hunger anew. The scene had taken over his mind. He tiptoed to see if it was Oluchi already bringing his food. He sees a woman, a baby strapped to her back, she reminds him of his sister. The last time they had met at Enugu, she had a baby at her back too, her sixth child. How he had nagged her about not curtailing herself and how she had laughed. That was the last time before she left for her husband’s people’s place. Where she was now was unknown, just as his brothers but he was more worried by his father. There was no need bothering about Mama, she had been shot while they were trying to escape from Enugu.
He hears a ruffle and bobs quickly. He begins to feel at ease, it sounds like his daughter’s footsteps. When he hears an ululation, he stands up. There she was, in a mismatched blouse and lapa and an headgear that housed his food. He collects the food and is surprised,
“You were able to get rice?”
. “Yes,” she replied with a proud smile, “it took a lot of struggles and one man helped me”
“What man?” Emeka was serious about this matter but he didn’t lift his eyes off the food- half of it was gone already. She doesn’t answer.
“Oluchi, I said what man?”
“The man at the center, he is an Oga there” her voice was stuttering.
“I warn you, Oluchi, I warn you, keep yourself” then he smiled at her while he gave her the plates,
“Oluchi, only good girls will survive this war, the broken good one is also a casualty, Oluchi, survive!”
Hunger now removed, he has time to think about his radio. The screeching stopped only when he tuned to Radio Biafra.
That was how it was when some days later; he heard that Ojukwu had run away, that Effiong had no choice and that Biafra had surrendered. He couldn’t believe his ear. It was a Nigerian radio station- he thought it was war propaganda, so he switched to Radio Biafra. No matter how much he wandered into the forest, the wave still screeched. Emeka jumped for joy and it was only in the history books did any able bodied man walk into town the way he did. Everyone was happy too, they had heard the news. Before Emeka could finish his dance of joy to his family, they had packed the litter that was left of their belongings to follow the way Emeka guessed would lead to Nnewi, his ancestral home.
As he hoped, one of his brothers was there and before long, Papa appeared- he said he had been in the custody of some federal soldiers. The war ended to save his life, he was repeating repeatedly. After they had taken back their village house from some soldiers who used it as a hideout, they had access to the telephone. They called various radio stations to help contact the rest of the family. Soon, everyone that was left had gathered and everyone was counting their losses.
The family meeting was long awaited. Everyone smiled when Emeka told them of the money Gowon was giving everyone. They were laughing when Papa produced original documents of the house in Enugu. He gave them to Emeka, the most educated of them. He used to work with NIPOST in Ibadan before the trouble began, then he got a transfer to Enugu until they all scattered among the numberless Ibo villages searching for safety.
Emeka was unanimously given the responsibility of taking back the house and the meeting ended with good hope. Their hearts finally paved way for the smiles the war had locked up.
The journey took a longer time than necessary. The various checkpoints were enough to account for the whole normal journey and finally, he landed in Enugu. He smiled at the city as he remembered how they had scampered along this way. He adjusted his jacket as he felt the déjà vu. It was already evening, between 5 and 6.
He knew the street by mind; he only had to recheck the number when he saw the gates flung open. He saw a woman in the house, he indicated his mission and he could read the uneasiness in her face. She offered him the seat by the stairs, Papa’s favorite. Soon, a man was stomping the stairs, he was clearly nervous too but he spoke boldly. They conversed in a quite friendly manner.
“Come, let me take you to the person who sold it to me.” Emeka hadn’t seen the 505 outside. He couldn’t believe some people had already settled down to this level and he hoped that after today, his life would be better. If he could go back to his job, if his children could go back to school, if Fred could restart his tailoring stuff. These thoughts reeled round his head as he stepped into the car. The man picked up some guys he had heard him call, “ the agents”
No one knew what happened next but that was the last time anyone saw Emeka Odogwu.