Long John and the Longest Ride
He was a strapping young man in his early twenties, full of life and promise, who was about to embark on the longest ride of his life—one he would never forget. It came at the end of the Nigerian Civil War, so it was a fitting way to forget the horrors of the past few years.
As he rolled through the countryside on his faithful Long John, the evidence of trauma was clear. He was forced to remember another journey he undertook not long ago, one he tried so hard to forget.
While the war raged, he camped a nearby village, while his parents and younger sister fled to another one where his older sister lived with her family. Food was in short supply, so they parted ways to maximize their chances of survival.
He received news that his father and younger sister needed urgent medical attention, and he’d have to return to town and take them to the hospital. Before the war, they would have made the journey in one of those old rickety vans. Or, his father’s Long John would have come to the rescue. Those strong, iron steeds were prized possessions back in the day.
But the war surged, and soldiers were everywhere. So, the trio had to make their way through bush paths, deserted villages, and overgrown farms until they made it to town.
Back home, his mum heard rumors that a bomb had exploded near where she assumed her husband and kids were. Fearing the worst, her already-weary heart couldn’t take it, and she didn’t make it through that night.
The young man never had a chance to say goodbye. Instead, he only returned to see a fresh mound of red earth, holding the remains of his beloved mother. She had become yet another victim of the war that claimed over one million lives. But unlike the others, who were either taken by the soldiers’ weapons or extreme hunger, she had died of sheer heartbreak.
She had sacrificed a lot to ensure he received a good education, back when formal education in rural Nigeria’s hinterlands wasn’t popular.
His mother’s sacrifices were a huge part of what pushed him to undertake this 200km bicycle journey, once the war’s dust settled.
It took most of the day for him to ride from his hometown to the Teacher Training College. Thankfully, he wasn’t alone, as a friend seeking admission to the same school rode along with him.
By the third day, after they concluded their business with the school, they were back on the road. They occasionally stopped to take bites of their snacks and enjoy a refreshing drink. Then, they continued riding along. Rickety trucks drove past them, blowing dust as they rumbled on their way.
After a tiring but satisfying three days, the young man made it back home. The war and its woes behind him, it was time to get ready for the next phase of his life.