Emeka Chibuikem V.
Enugu State, Nigeria
Have You a Red Cross Service Flag? Poster art by Jessie Willcox Smith. 1918. Library Company of Philadelphia.
Who is this Red Cross Boy? This is the question to which I could find no answer until this day.
I am Alex, from the Igbo tribe in the South-East of Nigeria, and I was born out of wedlock in 1991 to a single mother who died in 1998, while waiting for her lover, my father, to return back the love she gave him. The lover never returned, he did not even attend her funeral. I was alone, crying amidst unknown relatives. In 2000, the lover returned to take me, because I am a boy. Then my father died in 2005 and I was alone again, crying beside his grave amidst unknown relatives. Now, I am still alone, but I no longer cry, perhaps because there are no more tears to cry or because there are no more surprises of pain left to witness. Life conditioned me not to believe in anything positive, not even miracles. I only believed in things I see, and then I witnessed a miracle.
In 2017, after my graduation from the University, I went on a compulsory one-year National Youth Service in Sokoto State in the Northern region of the country. This is a place the average Igbo man would not even attempt to go because of the bad history between the two tribes. In this North, there are peaceful people and also terrorists, the Boko Haram, along with their partners in crime, the Fulani herdsmen and road bandits. Now I was in Sokoto state, enjoying myself but always alert. In time I came to like the place and became familiar and friendly with the people. That is when I met Hakeem, who later became my best friend against all odds. Hakeem is Fulani and Muslim; I am Igbo and Christian; but this did not interfere with our friendship.
Knowing Hakeem gave me enough confidence to tour around the state and other nearby northern states without fear, because I love travelling. With Hakeem, there was no language barrier, because I believed strongly that he would not be dishonest with me, and never was. I knew that he would always translate the right words to me, because he was like a brother. Actually, I looked exactly like those people; if I did not talk, they would never know that I was a stranger. I always let Hakeem do all the talking and transactions. I just tagged along with my wallet and a smiling face, but always alert for the unexpected.
I became so close to Hakeem that I agreed to follow him home to their house in Jos for the Salah celebration with his family. I anxiously waited for the day of the travel to Jos for that celebration, because I so much wanted to add this experience to my good memories.
On that long-awaited day for our travelling, we went to the park and boarded a bus set to Jos. The travel began smoothly; it was quite a long journey from Sokoto state. We were moving slowly and steadily amidst the fun and expectation of more fun with the Salah celebration the next day.
For most of the journey, our eyes constantly shifted on and off the time, as if we were the driver’s timekeepers. With time, we relaxed and forgot how much of the journey remained. But this did not last for long; for there were bandits waiting for us on the road.
The vehicles ahead of us stopped abruptly, the drivers and passengers running for their lives amidst the non-stop gun shots. We joined the race for survival, jumping out of our vehicle, running in scattered directions, with no particular direction in mind. I could not even remember that I was travelling with someone. It seemed like my mind had lost its direction too.
After ten minutes I turned to look for Hakeem but could not find him. I was exhausted, confused, and afraid; and there was nothing I could do. Before I could process my thoughts, my phone rang, and it was Hakeem’s number but not Hakeem’s voice. The voice said, “Your friend said that we should call you. He is down with a bullet wound, bleeding badly. Please come back to the bus now, the bandits are gone.” I could barely hear myself muttering, “Okay, I’m coming.” With that, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me back to the bus.
On arriving to the scene, I saw lots of people walking aimlessly and lamenting. Men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad were there too. That is when I saw Hakeem being lifted from a pool of blood into the emergency vehicle. Without hesitation, I followed them to the nearby hospital.
As the treatment was going on, a nurse came with an emergency announcement saying, “We have someone that’s in urgent need of blood. He is O negative. Please, if you can help out, come forward.” Nobody uttered a word or made any movement, except a Fulani boy about sixteen, wearing a white top inscribed with “International Red Cross Crescent Movement” coupled with an insignia of the Nigerian Red Cross society pinned to the left side of his chest. He said he was O negative. That was all that was needed, not even his age; although he was so young to donate blood, we urgently needed that blood, and would not hesitate to take it wherever it came from. The Red Cross Boy, as I would want to call him, left with them to help the dying Hakeem. Amidst the stress while praying and hoping for news of Hakeem’s recovery, I fell asleep on the floor.
The next day, I was awakened by the loud megaphone of the imam leading the morning prayer. At first, I thought I was in the Islamic heaven. I could not help but join in the prayer on behalf of Hakeem, although I am a Christian. When the prayer finished, as I was about to inquire about Hakeem, a nurse signaled me to come, that my friend wanted to see me in the emergency room. With joy and no words, I rushed to see the recovering Hakeem.
While I was thanking God for saving Hakeem’s life, the doctor asked me the whereabouts of the Red Cross Boy, because he wanted to thank him in a special way for his selfless benevolence. I told him that I had slept, and did not know the whereabouts of the boy; I could barely recognize his face. In fact, I could not remember anything about him except the Red Cross shirt he was wearing that night. Together, with the help of others, we searched the entire hospital premises and its surroundings looking for the Red Cross Boy, but he was nowhere to be seen.
On the evening of the Salah, amidst constant calls from his worried parents and relations, Hakeem had recovered enough that he could talk. We had already forgotten that we were embarked on a journey. The news of his recovery was enough celebration, more than the Salah celebration. He told me that he heard that a young boy donated blood for him and wanted to thank him specially; he even intended to give the boy lots of money. Hakeem is from a wealthy Islamic family.
Out of words and explanations, I told him that the Red Cross Boy was an angel sent to save him, there is nothing else I could say. What happened was neither a coincidence nor the illusion of coincidence; it was a miracle to us all.
EMEKA CHIBUIKEM V, a Nigerian Writer, Poet, Political Scientist, Research Analyst, Lyricist, Actor and Human Rights Advocate. He is the former Corresponding Editor of Lumen Magazine, St. John-Cross Seminary Nsukka (2007-2008), Editor-in-Chief of Political Science Press and Critique Board, Political Science Department, University of Nigeria Nsukka (2015-2016). His Awards includes Best Writer (2009) from St. John-Cross Seminary Nsukka, Outstanding Writer (2016) Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka. Best Legislator (2016) Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria Nsukka. Emeka is the writer of “The Secret Thoughts of a Prodigal Mind” (Revolutionised Twenty-first Century Poetry).