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The circling vultures were in the centre of a gaiety. Some famished ones, with manky beaks had already pounced on the naked and half naked bodies of young women, children, and the old – mostly innocents of the cataclysm. Others, assumedly experienced, were hovering patiently, perhaps to get a lion share of the meal. Clouds were gathered in the sky, not because of a potential rain, but the gloom that covered the sky.

Here is Pa Greenwhite Airegin, an independent observer. He is pondering the cataclysm Pa Greenwhite Airegin was a man in his late 50s with a strong British accent. He was a Gardner, with many once-beautiful-but-now-dying flowers in his garden. His ultimate hope is that they will someday bloom, again.

“How triviality snowballs into a thing of magnitude!” He thought.

It had all started when Okoli Joshua, a resident of the north accidentally threw an object that hit the forehead of a man named Haruna Jamilu. Joshua pleaded that he aimed something else. He ceased pleading when Jamilu insisted his act was deliberate and malicious. To him, Jamilu was trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Jamilu blurted, “You bloody infidel! How dare you smear the forehead I prostrate to my Lord with? You and your folks will surely pay for this!”

To Joshua, this was an empty threat; after all, the forehead wasn’t pierced or swollen. He wondered what accusation he would levy against him. The district head, who had strong communal and religious ties with Jamilu intervened. It pained him that Jamilu hinged such infinitesimal matter to religion and tribe, and could not exercise patience as the bringer of their religion taught them.

The district head’s judgement never went down well with Jamilu. He employed the “service” of some young boys who begged for alms with their plates, ‘barru battu’*, to help him teach ‘Joshua’ the lesson of his life. These were boys who were left unkempt, right from the outset of their reasonable lives; no parents, no homes, no family ties, no shelter, no one to love, no one to be loved. How would a person losing the physique of love know what it costs to lose a loved one? They discharged Jamilu’s assignment smoothly, after he had cajoled them with a token. They bashed ‘Joshua’s’ forehead, and afterwards decapitated him. The atmosphere was tensed, and a vicious backlash was looming in the horizon. ‘Joshua’s’ kinsmen, to avenge, made an error of judgement; they descended on the district head and his family, poor souls. This stirred a frightening pandemonium no man could contain.

The local people dignified their leaders beyond imagination, and whoever laid a finger on them would not be allowed to go scot-free. So the attack by Joshua’s kinsmen left the whole land soaked in the blood of war. The war raged in the north and the south, for some northerners in the south had also become victims of the massive fracas.

Pa Greenwhite Airegin halted the flow of his subconscious world, and was soon buried in the thought of his children, especially the three that had come of age; Bayajida, Nri and Oduduwa. They too had gotten lost in war-torn land. He couldn’t tell their state… could they have they perished too? Could scavengers be feasting upon their remains?

“Good God! Help me preserve their bodies, if these ruins of war have claimed them already,” He muttered to himself.

“If that crazy British man had not woken one morning after taking his miserable tea to forcefully stitch those different silks together, and maintaining the status quo, these crises could have been averted.Now, Abdul may always hearken to the call of the custodian of the minaret and still leave his fellows looking for their shoes while Jeremiah may forever dwell in the sanctuary, swinging his head from one end to the other, lip-syncing words of prayers, and still confiscate the grandfather clock of the temple afterwards.”

Pa Greenwhite sighed heavily. While listening to his transistor radio, he suddenly transported to another world where he had a mass of grey hair and an owlish look. There, he saw his flowers bloomed.

He met three men. The first was Adamu who boasted he had lots of groundnuts as he munched happily. Okezie, the second also vaunted about his garri. The third man, Ajayi, spoke about his sack of sugar. Pa Greenwhite, who himself had some water, admonished them to dilute what they had with his water for all of them to eat. They declined initially, but obliged after much persuasion.

“It tastes good together”! All three of them chorused.

Pa Greenwhite gave a wide grin, then woke up to discover he had been dreaming. It suddenly dawned on him that the faces of the men in his dream were those of his missing sons

“Ah, I should have begged them to come back home,” he thought.

He looked at his garden through his dusty louvers, hoping to see them in bloom, but discovered they were still rotting. His heart sank.

“Will my dream remain a dream, or is a time to rejoice near?”

He muttered in an extremely melancholic tone as he carried the pains and scars of his heart about.

*some francophone African countries tag it to mean ‘little boys who beg for alms with plates’

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