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Friday, August 23, 2013

Karu Riot

My Sister and i boarded a taxi headed towards Area One on 4th of August 2013. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon,we were supposed to book an hotel for our father who was already on his way from Ajaokuta,Kogi State for a medical examination. We alighted from the taxi under the popular Apo bridge. Few minutes later we boarded one of the BRT buses headed towards Nyanya,we came out of the bus before Nyanya bridge and got two okadas (motorcycle) to take us to Karu Village,as we needed to book an hotel room close to Primus Hospital. While on the Okada,i noticed that the road was somewhat rowdy,i assumed it was because lots of people were returning from church. We hadn't gone far when we encountered an angry mob who had mounted a roadblock and burnt tires on the high way. They were shouting at the bike riders to drop my sister and i,they were holding sticks and their faces flamed in anger. By this time,i was already afraid and wondering what my sister and i had run into. We dropped off the bikes and watched out to see what happened next,because we were already in their midst. Luckily for us,we weren't attacked,but we did not wait long to find out,we walked quickly away trying to find our way out of that place.  TSuddenly all the memories i had tried for years to blot out came rushing back like a violent wind.                                           

I remembered September 7th 2001 like it was just yesterday. I was an 100 level student of Political Science,University of Jos,Plateau State. It was a friday afternoon and i was done with lectures for the week and was trying to take a nap when i heard loud noises and saw people running up and down in confusion. Next thing i heard was that a religious war was going on around Bauchi road and lots of students had been killed,infact the killers were on their way to Abuja Hostel.  fortunately for my sister she had travelled then. Lots of girls were crying already. You could feel the fear in the atmosphere. No one could sleep,who would even dare sleep? We kept hearing loud gunshots.

I saw wounded  students who managed to escape death running to the hostel. We hoped to get protection from the government but we didn't get any. Towards evening,electricity was cut off and it compounded our fears. How do we know when we were attacked in darkness? Any little sound we heard,we thought it was our attackers. No one dare go to the bathroom,even i who usually baths twice a day could not go for my second bath. The loud gunshots didn't stop. Some of my friends who lived off campus around Ungwan Rogo came to stay with me,though i shared the room with about six other girls. We kept vigil because sleep eluded us. The next day we heard more stories,death toll rose up,houses burnt down and vehicles destroyed. Some villagers from Naraguta sort refuge at Abuja hostel.
Our boys decided to defend us after the address of the SUG President. We all became united. We contributed food stuffs to be prepared for the boys keeping watch. The number of casualties increased,hospitals were filled up. We were running out of food,since we had no way of going to buy them. In two days all the shops in Abuja hostel ran out of stock because it was all bought. We had to make pancakes with palm oil. The military and Police littered the streets,still silent killing went on.

Dusk to dawn curfew was imposed,then later a 6am to 2pm curfew was imposed to allow people trapped in a place get to safe places. I was desperate to get out of Jos. My family was worried,i could not reach them because i didn't have a mobile phone then.

As people came to get their loved ones out,i and a close friend Serah hoped to get a ride. I didn't bother to save anything as my life was more important. I only locked up my wardrobe,didn't bother about shoes,who had time for fashion? I put on a bathroom slippers,lol. Then carried money in my pocket.

A good Samaritan who came to pick his wife offered Sarah and i a ride to Mararaba Jamar where we would easily get vehicle to Abuja. We were grateful to get out of Jos and be home with our loved ones. On our way out,i could see lots of slain people. Dead bodies littered the streets of Jos. Many of whom were harmless,innocent. Their lives sacrificed and blood spilt at the altar of politics and religion. It was a gory sight, there were burnt bodies,beheaded bodies,sliced bodies,lifeless pregnant women whose protuding bellies were slit open. Some drowned in the pool of their blood. My eyes almost popped out of its socket,my mind almost exploded at what i was seeing.      Oh  God! What do i do? I closed my eyes,but these images won't go away,it stuck to my mind and kept replaying. We got to Mararaba Jamar and didn't get any vehicle,it was almost 2pm,curfew time,Serah and i started to worry.
Luckily for us,that was when Yohanna, Pius(Uncle P) and Patrick (architectural students) were on their way to Abuja and they gave us a lift to Abuja.I am still grateful to them.
My sister's voice helped to snap me out of that sad memory that haunted me for years. A memory i thought i obliterated from my mind. I was mistaken. It held on like a leech somewhere in my mind. Fortunately we were able to get into Karu through Abacha  road,situation handled by the Military before  my father got there.

The Karu agitation was caused by a misunderstanding between Okada riders and the Police force. It was rumored that the Police shot an Okada rider because he crossed a barricade they built.It led to a Catholic church been held hostage by the Okada riders. It almost escalated to a religious crisis if not for the timely intervention of the uniformed people. Some unlucky motorists got their windscreens broken.

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