By Ayo Onikoyi
With almost 700 thousand followers on Instagram, an endorsement under her belt, and a couple of good films to show for her years in Nollywood, stunning actress and model, Felicia Fred is definitely on her way to the top of the ladder in the industry. As promising as she is, the actress opened up to Potpourri in a chat that she would have died long ago if God had not saved her from her assailants, during the Jos religious crisis of 2001.
Recounting the tragedy, that saw her best friend taking a bullet for her, the Anambra State-born actress was filled with anguish, with tears brimming her eyes.
“On the 7th of September 2001, in Jos, I woke up early in the morning from a noise in the kitchen and saw my mum baking cake; I was so happy because I knew the cake was to celebrate my birthday. I went to school and my classmates poured water and sand on me as a way of celebrating my birthday; they gave me gifts and sang for me,” she began her tale of sorrow and close shave with death
“During break, I was with my best friend, she asked me to see her off to the rest room and then we heard screams and gunshots. They shot at me but she was the one that took the bullet meant for me. I dragged her and screamed but she said “Felicia…run”, and she died.
“I was soaked in her blood but I ran away and they chased me but I kept running. All I could feel was anger and confusion but I was determined not to die. I saw a flowing river and I dived into it; I stayed under the water for about five minutes. When I heard no sound again, I ran out and headed for the hills.
“I knew that area very well and I kept running till I got to a mountain where I was sure I could hide from anyone. It was a place where my friends and I used to play during the weekends. I pinched myself to see if it was all a dream but it wasn’t.
When the place became dark I saw fire and flames from distant areas, immediately, I knew those monsters had destroyed properties and killed people. I thought of my family, I was worried about them and how worried they would be for me. Then I cried. I remembered my best friend, I wished I had given up my life for her, she must have meant it when she once told me I was her soul sister.
Then I looked up and asked God why me, how could I survive this experience? I felt strong all of a sudden and decided I would live my life the way I want to. I realized my purpose on earth and I knew that as long as I’m at peace with God, I can trust no one but me. I didn’t know whether I would see my parents or not but I knew I would never stop believing in myself.
“I slept for two hours, when I woke up I heard screams again. I began to run, then I sighted the monsters killing people who lived in a small village; they tore the belly of a pregnant woman, killed the baby and slit her throat. I realized they didn’t care about the gender, all they wanted was blood. I was so young and I didn’t know the reason behind the killings but I just knew there were monsters in the world.
“I kept running, then I saw a barracks and I sneaked in and discovered it was a refuge for Christians who were homeless and injured. I didn’t want to stay there; I wanted to be with my parents so I asked questions on how to get to my house. A man described a mountain that would lead to my area but he told me I was taking a big risk. I told him I wanted to know once and for all if my family survived this ordeal. So I left and ran, I followed his directions, then I saw some huge men with weapons; one had half of his face burnt, some had only one hand, another had his ear cut off.
“I tried to turn back but I realized I was surrounded, and then I fainted. When I woke up I was in a hut, a woman was about to feed me, then I asked her where I was and she told me the area. Then I realized I was closer to my house from there, but I was hungry so I had to eat. I asked her who those men were, and she told me they were indigenes of Plateau State who faced the Muslims and protected the area. I asked her why all this was happening she told me but I was too young to understand, I only realized it was a war between Christians and Muslims.
“I saw bottles of soft drinks that contained concrete mixed with fuel and they were covered. I asked her what they were and she said they were local bombs. After eating I told her I had to go, she asked me to stay but I said I had to be with my family. She gave me directions and said something that gladdened my heart “nothing happened in that area”. I was happy but on my way home it occurred to me that a member of my family could be at the wrong place like I was that faithful day and could be dead.
“I found my inner strength and ran. I got to my area and saw armed men but from their positions it was obvious they were military men. I walked up to them with my hands up, they asked me who I was and as I was just about to say my name my mother and brother ran out and said “Chichi”, they hugged me with tears of joy. I saw everyone and I was so happy. They all wore black clothes and my picture was in the living room, they thought I had died because almost everyone in my school was gunned down. They wanted to know what happened to me, I told them my story and I realized they were all praying for me. They fasted and prayed that I returned home, and I did. God saved me, thank you Lord,” she narrated.