Hunted – The diary of the corper across the Benue River | Episode 8

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Hunted

Last Updated on June 16, 2018 by Memorila

When Bashir, a corper serving in Benue state, employed tricks to ensnare a female colleague, Khadija, he ended up being the one that was trapped. Hunted has lessons to be learnt and anecdotes to be connected with. The story shows Gwa Doohemba at his best: suspense


December, 13.

It was the words of my mother that dragged my lazy bones out of my bed this morning. I always look forward to weekends and this weekend was no exception. Weekend continually means laziness, long sleep and doing nothing to me.

But immediately I remembered the promise I made to my mother when she said I must find a place of interest and visit, I knew I had to get out of bed especially now that my service year was drawing to an end. I decided to go for a view of the Benue River since I live across it.

I stood at the northern banks of the river from where I had a view of the bridge that was constructed wide in a way that had the road for motorists and pavement for pedestrians. It looked so solid. I walked up to an old man mending his fishing net and asked him about the construction of the bridge. He looked as one who was alive during its construction.

“You are a corper.” He said more of a statement than a question.

The only thing I had on that singled me out as a corper was a face cap; the corper’s face cap.

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“Yes sir, I am a corper. I am from Kano state and read agronomy in Kano State University of Science and Technology,” I answered giving him more information than he had asked if that was a question. Maybe I wanted him to like me, ‘cause I don’t know the reason why I did that.

“Hmmm,” he murmured. “Lucky you, not everyone get to put those, the khaki I mean. Putting on the khaki to serve your nation is a great pride but the greatest of it all is to do it outside your comfort zone. This can award you the opportunity to know the ways of other people. Travelling is in itself part of education.”

“Yes, it is,” I agreed nodding my head.

“But are you not proud to be serving your father land as a corper?”

“Why not? I am,” I answered convincingly.

“Then why are you not putting on the khaki?”

“I …” I couldn’t find my voice to tell this old man that I didn’t want to be singled out as a corper; being singled out as a corper would point to the fact that somehow I am not an indigene… I couldn’t explain the strange feeling that makes me want to be associated with this people that live across the Benue River.

“Putting on that khaki was my son’s greatest desire. He told me that when he receives the khaki, he would put it on everywhere he goes. I wanted that for him as well. It was this river that provided me with the fish I sold to pay for his fees… but he didn’t get to achieve that dream… not anymore; he passed away when he was in his final year.”

There was no way I could miss the sadness in his voice that went all brittle.

“Oh, I am so sorry to hear of your loss,” I sympathized with him.

“Never mind. Now back to your question before I fill you with my sympathetic stories. Come with me.”

I followed.

We went over to a canoe. I was scared to board it but he promised me safety. I sat in it as the old man paddled us into the river. Other people were in canoes with different designs. Some of the canoes were paddled by boys and others by women and that gave me confidence. I shivered as the thought of the canoe capsizing crossed my mind. Others were fetching sand with their canoe and were mostly dressed in shorts.

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“They sell the sand which is used in construction,” he explained when he noticed my concentration.

“This place used to be vast and empty with this river stretching without end before the white men came. I was a young boy then but what I remember is that I wasn’t close to the age of putting on any clothing yet.In those days, a Tiv boy only puts on clothes when he begins to grow hair in his pubic regions.

“We lived away from the river and I have been fishing here all my life. When the white man begun construction of the bridge, it took them more than the duration they estimated. Any erection made a day before would be gone the next day. That was not all, labourers were dying too. Cementing was tripled to make it stronger but there wasn’t any change… that was when the white man walked up the river to our people to make enquiries, I don’t know who gave him the idea.

“The elders, commune with the water goddess and on the third day they gave the proclamation from her that she do not want anything to be erected above the water. The white man went along and so did the death rate increased until he asked to find out what he could trade in order to get the work completed. That man was a courageous man who never gives up easily and it was only when I came of age that I labelled his doggedness to succeed in constructing the bridge not only for the benefit of others but he wanted to make the grand breaking record as the person who supervised its construction.There were others before him but they gave up owing to the same challenge.

“The goddess finally agreed but on the condition that he would offer his life in return for its final completion. Those who remember say there was no hesitation on his part. And that was when the construction went on smoothly to its final completion. Once the bridge was completed, nobody heard of the white man or what became of him to this day. It was rumoured that once the construction was over, he walked straight into the river and was never seen again to this day. Others argue that he went into his room and wasn’t seen the next day… I don’t know which to believe but what I can vouch for is that he laid his life for the erection of this bridge… a white man who left a family behind and never returned to… Why? He did so, so that we that reside around the Benue River and beyond would benefit from it. If a stranger to this land could be this selfless and show such heroic actions, how much more of us who is our state and you… part of your country…?You too are away from your land and when your service year comes to an end would you live something to be remembered for?

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“This bridge has stood the taste of time and in all these years, there had been no maintenance or renovations,” he ended in a nostalgic voice.

I watched as his frail hands gripped the paddle firmly with his veins shooting provokingly. The sound around us was lost to my ears that the only sound audible to my hearings was the sound of the Benue River as it flows… it felt so peaceful.

I was contemplating on the old man’s last note in his voice; I couldn’t tell if the time he spoke of was a time he would love to return to or he was just strained after speaking about what took place a long time ago.

Listening to him, for a moment I was lost for he succeeded in taking me back to a time I had no thought of its existence…

When I bade him goodbye, I engaged my mind in search of something to do in order to be remembered for by the people across the Benue River when I finally left its shores.

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Gwa Doohemba

Doohemba Gwa is a young writer. He writes mostly novels and short stories and once in a while dives into poetry. His work has been published in 'Telling our Stories', an anthology of new Nigerian short stories published by ANA Kano. He was also published in Daily Stream newspaper as poet of the week on Friday, November 20, 2015 issue.

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