My friend Udene is a great man. Back in our secondary school
days he had never dreamt of being a soldier, but situation had
turned a one time feeble Udene to a brave Den. ‘Den’ was what he
was fondly called by his fellow soldiers owing to how effective he
always was in the frontline of attack. In his den, even the lions take
When the news came that he had been deployed to Borno, it was
like his obituary was announced. His family members were thrown
into total unrest. By the way, by ‘family members’, I meant just his
mother and sick father.
“C’mon Den, you are the only child of your poor parents. How do
you expect them to live in the perpetual fear of losing you?”, I said
to him after his mum had called me to pour out her grief on the
recent happening. After a long conversation, he finally said to me,
“There are only two defining forces that have offered to die for you
– Jesus Christ and the Soldier. One dies for your soul, and the other
for your freedom”.
It was then clear to me that my efforts to convince him against
going to Borno was like pouring water on stones.
Almost five years later, the story changed. Den was seen as one of
the respected big boys in the town. It was never a dull moment
whenever he came back every Christmas, and I’d always pride in
walking alongside him wherever he went to. The most interesting
part was that Den was then married with a beautiful set of twins!
All these just within five years? wow! And I was still battling with
my lecturers to pass their courses. At a point I was forced to have
this natural envy of regrets why I didn’t join the army with him.
“That was such a careless thought though”, I thought.
The following year, while going back to his base in Borno where he
was to complete the remaining three months before before he gets
redeployed to a ‘safer haven’ somewhere in the east; his wife said
to him, “My heart, please be very careful with the remaining days
you’d be there. You know you’re my only hope for living and I’d
also be giving birth to our third child in five months’ time. So
“You’ve continued with your daily sermon”, he cut in, “Do you think
that the God that has kept me for the past four years will now
forsake me on just these three months left? Besides, you can’t ask
me to avoid war; it’s tantamount to committing suicide for fear of
She later gave him a picture of the both of them and their kids,
kissed him goodbye, and repeated the same “Please be careful” as
he drove off her sight. Few minutes after he had left, she sent him
a text message –
My heart, please be extremely careful and pray always. Safe
journey my gallant husband. Remember, behind every gallant
soldier, there is always an emotional woman
The sound came like a gale of hurricane force. The roof tiles came
hurtling down, and the quarters was reduced to shambles – it was
the Boko Haram set! The troop of a number of one hundred and
twenty boys and five armoured tanks. It happened that just a
month back, the military had gone to their camp and leveled every
living thing there into nothingness. So they were back to avenge
the death at a military base of about thirty soldiers, that had
nothing to do with the massacre.
“Over! Over!”, a voice came ringing on the walking talking.
“No awal, no casualty. Present six, strength six. Reporting green”,
one of them replied.
Den had already sprung up as he looked at his watch which ticked
twenty three zero nine hours. The soldiers were already on the
alert as they rushed for their riffles. Den slid out his AK-74w riffle,
and wore the bullet belt over his neck. He swiftly brought out his
pistols from his both side pockets and cocked them to ensure
there were bullets. He then wore his helmet, and as he was about
to dash out of the room alongside other soldiers, his phone rang.
He quickly went back and it was “My Gallantry”, the name he saved
his wife with on his phone.
“Let me call you back…”, immediately, a bomb came exploding the
room. Den spontaneously dived as he broke through the window
and fell outside. He instantly got up, and as he was about to run,
he saw the picture his wife gave him. He picked it up and put into
his red bag and ran towards a rocky area where he could attack
He had already shot down four men when a bullet his his helmet
and threw him backwards. He regained himself and then
restrategized as he lay to spot more targets. Meanwhile, seven of
the Soldiers were then shot dead, while fifteen blown up to
unidentifiable pieces. One of the men who attempted throwing a
grenade from behind to where Den lay, was spotted and gunned
down by Nacho – Den’s closest friend. As another rushed towards
him, Den hit him gravely to the ground with his gun butt. He then
lifted his head and smashed his skull to the rock. To another who
almost stabbed him, he lodged a bullet into his forehead.
It was such a turgid night. Every second seemed to count in hours.
It was a goring sight as the putrid smell of blood mixed with smoke
from the burning buildings embraced the air. The good news was
that the enemies were all cleared, although a total of twenty-seven
lives of the Soldiers had to pay for that. The other two were terribly
injured, including Nacho. Den had a deadly hit on his right arm, but
he had tied his jacket around it and managed through. He lifted an
almost lifeless Nacho on his shoulders and trudged away for
“Help! Help!”, a voice cried along the bush path. Den abruptly
stopped and looked around to know where the voice came from.
He put Nacho down as the distressed voice continued, and made
for the direction. As he saw the lady who lay helplessly on the
grasses with blood all over her hijab, his phone rang again, and it
was “My Gallantry”. Bending to know what was wrong with her,
she stuck a long blunt knife into the left side of his stomach. She
held on to the knife, squeezed it till she was sure it caused enough
damage, and then ran. Den who gradually reached his pistol, was
quick to shoot her down. He then managed to bring out his phone.
My Gallantry, I came, I saw, I conquered; but I may not live to
tell the story. You are my story, and our kids shall tell of us. What
can’t kill us will only make us stronger –
Your heart, reporting dead
Before he could send it, he dropped dead.
The devastating news of his death hit me while I was on my NYSC
camp, and as I looked at the Nigerian flag that was blowing just
adjacent the parade ground, I remembered what Den told me – “Our
flag does not fly because the wind moves it, it flies with the last
breath of each Soldier who died protecting it”.
At this point, I have to rephrase my very first statement – Indeed,
“My friend Udene was a great man!”.