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Eid-el-Kabir — the fear that pierced our hearts

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Finally, the D-day arrived and it was greeted with both happiness and a dash of trepidation by Muslims and Christians on the streets of Suleja, Niger State. The few that walked the streets kept throwing glances at everybody and nobody — none could be trusted!

In the wee hours of the morning — as early as 4.00am — residents set out on their journey into the Abuja city centre for their daily activities, but it appeared nobody was in the mood for converting their private vehicles into taxis as is usually the case. None of the drivers seemed willing to pick up passengers — not for the normal fare of between N200 and N250, or for any price at all. And when any car dared stop, the driver vehemently refused to take in women wearing long hijabs.

Zainab tried to jump on to what appeared to be the last bus heading towards Berger before the road would be locked for the Eid prayers, but shouts of “ba zan jeba” (I’m not going) rented the air as the conductor refused to allow her, and as a result anybody, from gaining entrance into the moving bus.

The face-tight bus conductor wouldn’t listen to the plea of other passengers for the hijab-wearing lady and her baby to be allowed to enter the bus; he kept fending everybody off.

The road was deserted save for few children who ran up and down the road as the Mallams selling the much-needed Sallah rams called out to them to look out for traffic.

The visibly-enraged passengers called out the conductor for preventing the women from entering the vehicle on the excuse that they could be suicide bombers. “Wicked man”, one of them blurted out, “na you be Boko Haram, leave am make she enter na, if na your mama you go push am?”

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But the children appeared oblivious of what was going on around them, as they were seen running about gaily in their newly-sown clothes.

One of the residents in the Kwamba quarters of Suleja expressed hope that the Eid prayers would not encounter any hiccup. “Allah is faithful and the day’s festivity will go on fine inshallah,” he quipped with enthusiasm.

The apprehension of the people about a possible Boko Haram attack during the Sallah celebrations was not misplaced. There had been a number of bomb blasts in Abuja, all occurring in outskirt towns, such as the 2011 Christmas Day bombing at St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, very close to Suleja, and the Nyanya bombing in 2014.

More than 120 lives were lost in both incidents; and although years have since passed, the scars remain fresh in the hearts of the people.

The much-awaited Sallah has come and gone, but the painful experience that crept from the past and the fear of the unknown still shackles the people.

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