Al-Ameen, every bit of treasure any woman could desire in a man. He was beautiful both within and without. Perhaps honesty wasn’t his watchword, honesty was the blood that flew through his thick veins. His heart was as tender as nascent ornament, yet very strong. He bared the calmest spirit, one of the few occasions he succumbed to anger was the day I re-uttered Zaria to his hearings after he had begged me never to. I knew he wasn’t himself that day, but God forbid if the city of Zaria was supposed to hunt him forever, for no reason he gave to me… or could it be that Zaria was his nemesis? Astaghfirullah!
I remember Binta’s advice when I told her about Ameen’s reaction to consulting a Gynaecologist in Zaria,
‘Our men would always hide one or two secrets from us, if Maigida doesn’t want to hear about Zaria, so be it. May you not try to ruin this little happiness you have in your marriage now by upsetting him.’
Binta was the only close friend I made through our time in Kaduna. We met at the K.S.T.A park, she said she had stayed in Kaduna all her life and could easily help me and my husband settle fast. We got closer and Ameen surprisingly approved our friendship from day one. She never advised ill of Al-Ameen, even when it was obvious Al-Ameen was wrong to have, prevented us from celebrating Salah in places where other happy families do, or avoided taking me out for shopping on my birthday. Sometimes I did wonder if they two knew themselves before we moved to Kaduna.
Saturday. 18th November, 2000.
It was fourteen days already since Ameen travelled to Azare on ‘official duty’—official duty was what he called it and I did believe him. He said he can’t tell how long he would be staying in Bauchi but promised he would be back with me before Ramadan fasting. Since he left, I had spent most nights at Binta’s apartment, other nights, Binta had also come to sleep over in our apartment. I remember we were going to check out some new embroideries at her friend’s shop, so we decided to stop a taxi. A male passenger had just alighted from the back of the same taxi while another was still seated inside, this one was a woman with complete grey nikarf. It wasn’t whole lot strange because we were all women at the back while there was just a man seated in front with the driver on the front passenger’s seat.
Not long after, we bumped into a heavy traffic jam, that was when the taxi driver picked up another passenger, this time he was a young man, well dressed in brown suit, had a suitcase in his hand like an office man. By the time the traffic eased out, Binta discovered we had left behind the junction to our destination, and she reminded the driver. Instead of making a U-turn at the next major roundabout, the driver accelerated straight unto the flyover that adjoined Kaduna-Kano highway. I remember, before blacking out, the man in suit winding his hand tightly around me and stuffing my face with a small towel. I noticed Binta was also struggling with the woman in the Nikarf.
We were already outside the city of Kaduna when I woke up. I felt intact within me, I thought I would have perceived it if I was touched but I noticed Binta was gone
‘What did you do to my friend?’
I was too weak to scream. I was seated on a plastic chair inside a dilapidated office-like room while everyone else stood and watched me, their helpless captive.
‘Your friend is safe in our custody in Kaduna.’
A new face answered. The woman that held Binta in the taxi was also gone. On seeing the same grey nikarf on the floor, I knew he was the woman, well, dressed like the woman.
‘Custody? What custody? What do you people want from us?’ I asked in absolute confusion.
‘You can’t trust that woman, Hajia.’ The man that sat in the front passenger seat responded.
I was going to stand to protest when the driver held me back on the chair. The man spoke again, ‘you have nothing to fear. Forget about that woman for now. I repeat you can’t trust her. Kin gaani?’
I knew I was a hostage to four possibly armed men but still didn’t know who they were, what they wanted or where the whole event was heading to.
Soon as I was thinking about how I can ever be rescued by the police in that isolated building, the same man took out his I.D card and gave it to me, as if he knew I was thinking about the police. His last name was Attahiru, his initials didn’t last that minute in my memory. His identification card showed he was a member of the Counter Terrorism Unit of the Force Criminal Investigative Department of the Nigeria Police.
‘What do all of these have to do with me or my friend?’ I returned his I.D card.
‘I’m sorry Hajia, this is not about you, this is about your husband, Mr Al-Ameen Danladi.’
Almost immediately I felt my breath become so heavy like I had just inhaled a noxious gas. Cool chills sluggishly drooled down my spine until I was bathed in sweat.
‘Dan Allah Yaya na, what happened to my Ameen? Is he alive?’ ‘Can I see him, please?’
I didn’t even know if those were the right questions to have asked those men. I was so confused. Was Ameen in danger? Did he commit any crime? If he did, did those policemen have to kidnap me before carrying out their investigations? I stared at everyone of them with my two eyeballs full of suspicion. I was expecting something, perhaps something not less than the reality that my sweet love was in trouble or danger already. Then a phone rang, the man in suit’s. Instantly everyone else turned his gaze to him, including me. He didn’t say a word, he only listened for about 5seconds and the call was over.
‘Dan iskanchi!’ he exclaimed, staring angrily at me.
‘We have to move now, no one should leave a trace.’ Attahiru commanded, then the man in suit leapt over me and sponged my face with the same towel. Before I could struggle, I had passed out that evening.
Special appreciation to Seun James Taiwo Photography, Favour Roberts and Tope Akerele.
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