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Excerpt from Greater Love by Faith Ijiga:
This story is dedicated to all the Nigerian soldiers who had lost their lives for our freedom.
Today was going to be a peculiar day in the life of Second lieutenant Victory Chinonso Ike and he knew it. There was no sign, just instinct.
But believing that it was one of the apprehensions that permeated the heart of any soldier going for the kind of operation he and his colleagues were currently going for, he shrugged it off as nothing more than the usual.
The soldiers had been sent to the community of Achi, Enugu state after receiving an Intel of an imminent attack by armed terrorists. Their mission was to go there and prevent the attack from happening at all costs.
Victory heard his name and tilted his head to see his best friend, 2nd lieutenant Emmanuel Chidindu Akunna calling him. The duo had met each other from their days in the Nigerian defense academy and bonded when they discovered that they were the only ones from their local government. They loved each other like Brothers and their friends and colleagues often called them twins because of their closeness.
The duo had a lot of similarities in most areas of their lives but: they couldn't have been more different in their spiritual and religious beliefs. Victory was an agnostic while Emmanuel was one of the most serious Christian Victory had ever seen.
The soldiers promptly arrived at their place of assignment and started alighting from the armored vehicles.
The moment everyone's feet touched the ground, the first gunshot rang out from a close range, followed by another, and the third hit one of the drivers and almost ripped out his face from his body. The driver was dead before he hit the ground.
The sight of their fallen comrade explained the harsh and unpleasant reality that the soldiers had unfortunately dropped into.
Instantly alert, the soldiers snapped into action.
But the terrorists had anticipated their actions and planned accordingly because without warning, a barrage of gunfire erupted from different angle, instantly killing two more soldiers.
And as clear as the night is from the day, they knew that they were ambushed.
A torrent of expletives flew out of the soldiers’ mouths as they took cover and began to return sporadic gunshots into the enemy lines.
Within minutes, the casualty on both sides were enormous and still, more soldiers and terrorists continued to give up the ghost or join the badly injured comrades who were writhing and screeching in pains.
As they continued fighting, the soldiers realized that they had two problems. The first was that they were outnumbered,second was the fact that they couldn't retreat and backup wouldn't come before all this would be over.
Soldiers emptied their bullets, took cover, and ejected their spent magazines, popped in new ones and joined their fellow soldiers to eliminate their enemies. RPGs flew to and fro the enemy lines, bullets ricocheted.
By the time they finished killing the two sets of terrorists who attacked them in their hundreds, they had lost their commander and the soldiers were down to only five men who were left with just one round of ammunition in their kalashnikov to fight off the third set of terrorist who were fastly approaching.
With a look of resignation, the soldiers waited for the end to come.
Emmanuel offered a quick prayer for help on behalf of him and his friends. Knowing the fate that was about to befall them, he contemplated if he should ask them to say the prayer of salvation but with the distraught look on their faces, he knew it would be fatal.
An idea dropped in his mind and he welcomed it. Not waiting to confirm if it was the Holy Spirit or not, he gave thanks and ran off with the idea.
No words could explain the astonish expressions of the other soldiers when Emmanuel shared his idea.
Emmanuel watched as Victory's facial expression changed from shock to anger. "You dey craz oo! Hope you no say na kolo dey worry you? Guy, you don mad finish!" Victory let out a stream of diatribe at Emmanuel in Pidgin English.
Not having enough time to argue his sanity, Emmanuel began explaining to the soldiers why he should carry on with his idea.
Just when the other soldiers were beginning to understand him, Victory stood up and gave him a resounding slap.
"Stop this nonsense now!" Victory bellowed, wagging his right index finger. "I swear, I won't allow your plans to succeed, you hear me?"
Not having time to cuddle Victory's hysterics, he ordered the other soldiers to overpower and disarm him.. They complied and with a few punches and hard kicks, victory was subdued and pinned to the ground.
Emmanuel addressed the soldiers. "It is obvious that we received the wrong Intel and staying here together will make us sitting ducks. There is no way we can out run these cold blooded Killers who are fast approaching and this is more of the reasons we should carry on with my plans. I can't seem to find any other way out of this. I beg you guys not to allow them to succeed by accomplishing their goal of killing us all, go back and give the report."
By the time he was finished with his remark, victory had lost the willpower to fight, looked dazed at his friend as if intent on memorizing the outlines of his features, and sat down stoically as Emmanuel ordered the soldiers to set him up for what they called operation Samson.
Emmanuel went down quietly on his knees on the grass and prayed Samson's prayer from the book of Judges 16:28 & 30. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
When they finished setting off explosives and arranging four helmets to lead the terrorists away from the soldiers escape route, Emmanuel immediately sent them on their way.
"God bless you." They said with lumps in their throats and began leading Victory away. "God bless you too, and god bless the federal Republic of Nigeria." He replied solemnly.
Victory and the other soldiers barely got into one of their armored vehicles when they heard the deafening explosion that violently shook the ground, they immediately drove away from the raging inferno that it ignited.
As they drove back to their command base. The enormity of what Emmanuel had just done came up on Victory like a gigantic Rock.
Unable to hold back the dam of emotions, he slumped forward, buried his face in his palms and his shoulders shook violently as he wept unabashedly. The other soldiers gave him a much-needed space as they watched him with pain and sadness in their eyes.
On the day 2nd lieutenant Emmanuel Chidindu Akunna and the other fallen soldiers were to be buried in one of the military cemeteries, victory and a few other soldiers preceded the whipping family and friends who had come to bury their dead.
Victory had never gotten over the events that took the lives of his colleagues and his best Friend. Could he ever forget it? He didn't think so. The pain of that event still throbbed like a fresh jagged wound.
For several days and nights, when he thought no one was watching him, he often whispered to himself.
"He died for me, he died for me!" On and on he chanted it like a mantra, wishing it wasn't true, wheeling the event to go away.
But the ongoing funeral was a harsh reminder of the horrific event.