Victims – Episode 36
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
It was the longest four minutes of his life, as he sat in confusion not knowing anything to do, he had run out ideas,
“Lieutenant get out of there right now…” The chief of Army staff shouted at him over the phone
“There is a woman and a child here sir…” he had responded
“Grab the woman and get out now!”
“The child sir!”
“It is an Order lieutenant! Goddamn it, get out!”
He cut the call; he didn’t want to walk away like he did many years ago when his twin brother died in Somalia. They were on a peace-keeping mission, it was uncommon to choose brothers for the same mission, their father kicked against it, their mother pleaded for one of them to stay back, but they were young and adventurous, he had wanted to go and see what real war was like, and had convinced his brother it would be fun.
That day was like every other day in a country taken hostage by rebels, they had dodged bullets and grenades, they had heard sounds of shelling bullets, voices of men falling, gro-ning of the wounded and scre-ming of frightened children and women. They were on the side of the government, their job was to weaken the rebels and make them surrender. They were in the bush he couldn’t remember the name, with guns positioned to shoot, eyes so alert with fears and excitements, their steps précised and calculated, his brother was behind him, he felt his breath and smelt his sweat, he even counted his steps to keep his own mind busy; then it all stopped, he sensed his brother not moving, when he turned, his brother was standing on a metal object and couldn’t move, he read fear of death in his eyes and his shoulders rocked with silent sobs,
“Comon man, move it!” the commander ordered
“I can’t!” his brother had shouted back, directing them all to see what he was standing on, that was when it dawned on them. The group ran, leaving only himself and his brother.
“Get out of there sergeant!” the commander ordered him, how could he leave his only brother? The beloved of the family? What would he tell his parents?
“Move away from there sergeant! It’s an order!” both him and his brother were sweating profusely
“Ibrahim! Ta Fito daga can ! (come out)” he scre-med at his brother
“I ba zai iya, shi zai busa (I can’t it will blow!)”
His brother shook his head and cried, there he was, looking at his brother in all his vulnerability, crying for fear of death
The Bomb had exploded few minutes after he was dragged out of there by an Israeli guy who remained his friend.
“Sir…sir… Chief wants to speak to you” one of his men gave him another phone, Abdul had switched his off.
“Get me Elia on the phone again” he replied
“But sir…the chief…”
“Tell the chief I can’t Answer now, get me Elia…this is my last order to you before I either die or be dismissed from the force”
The sergeant looked at him in confusion, cut the call, dialed a number and handed the phone to him,
“I da hamsin hudu seconds Elia , you cannot get here now…tell me what to do (I have fifty-four seconds Elia…)”
“You cannot save the day Man, get yourself out of there”
“I will try, please say something to me now!”
“Okay, why don’t try to unstrap the bomb from the boy?”
“And you think I have not tried that? The damn thing is not going off, and besides we have limited time now…”
“Take my advice man, get out from there…”
“I have a boy with a bomb round him, and a woman who wouldn’t let go of her son, and you are telling me to get out?”
He angrily brought down the phone, he was ready to pull any wire on that thing, and Believe Allah to be merciful on them, then he heard his name;
“Sir…sir…the red light is off” his sergeant observed
“what! How?” he knelt before the sobbing boy and looked at the bomb strapped round the boy
“The beeping has stopped” sergeant said with excitement
“Allah hu Akbar!” Muttered Abdul. He roughly held the boy in his embrace and wept to the amazement of the boy’s mother.
“Sir…Elia is here…”
“You are an old dog man; you never give up. Let’s get this thing off our little lucky boy before whoever did this changes his mind” Elia said with a smile.
“What is happening?” Ukwuoma asked
“Your boy is safe now”
Ukwuoma wept, while Lieutenant Abdul sat on the church floor, puffing chains of cigarette. He doesn’t smoke often, but a situation like the one he just came out from called for a stick or two.
“You would have gotten my men killed out there, senator!” Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ukachukwu said in Anger. he was with the senator in his office the next day.
“relax Chief, they didn’t die, did they?” Kazeem said with a smile
“What a you talking about? You deceived us all, you sent my men on a wild goose chase, you planted a bomb on a boy and you set the men of the armed forces up to be killed. I could get you arrested and tried”
“you don’t want to do that trust me…anyways…” the senator was on his feet, “You arrested Imam Husayn, that is a major plus to the military…” Senator Kazeem said
“Why are you here senator?” The chief asked
“Where are you keeping him?”
“That shouldn’t bother you at all senator, we are responsible for where ever he would be kept, it shouldn’t be your concern…”
“Of course… Of course…” the senator said. Flipping through the Vangard newspaper on top of the Chief’s table “You know chief, this wh0le thing is a game of interest, you do your work and allow us play the game for the interest of all…”
“I don’t understand what you are talking about” said the chief
“What I am saying is this, you have done your part, we still have unfinished business with this Imam, do not stand on our way…”
“Are you threatening me senator?”
“Am I? well… going by how easy it is for one to be sacked in this country, I should be careful if I were you”
With that he left the office with a smirk on his face. CAS Kachukwu stood behind his desk, drumming with his fingers while wondering the games these men were playing, who else was involved in it.
“I think he should be eliminated for our best interest, as long as he stays alive, he wields so much power which is detriment to all of us” Honorable Lamido, the opposition party chairman insisted
“I am the president here don’t forget that, I make the final decision on who dies and who stays alive…” Danladi was blowing hot. These men should not use him to clean up their mess and it was high time he proved that to them.
“I understand that Mr. President, but consider the country, the security, you have no idea what this man is capable of doing even while he is incapacitated” it was a mistake they made and would not allow it, Husaym would have been killed like the other jihadists, the military would have covered it up perfectly, but Mr President wanted something to show the masses, he wanted a face on the tabloids.
“Locking him up is already causing uproar and protests, his followers are threatening our security, they want him alive and released, have you thought of what would happen if he is killed?”
“They will agitate for a while and forget about it, once the media gives them something else to talk about”
“I think I am done with you Lamido, I will advise you to concentrate on something else, allow the judiciary to do its job” Mr President dismissed him.
Lamido opened his mouth to say something but closed it, he knew how stubborn Danladi could be, but he was ready to bring up the topic again. To Danladi, it was about power, he wanted to prove his ability to accept or reject their manipulations.
Mr President watched Lamido leave his office, before he picked the telephone receiver on his desk.
“Make arrangement for me to meet with this Imam Husayn Under your custody” he said. He must admit that the pedigree that followed the cleric fascinated him, and could suit in his own personal interest. He would not make the same mistake Lamido and his men made.
“You want to come over or should we bring him to the villa sir?” a voice asked
“We should avoid the press as much as we can, I will come at my convenient”
That night, five days after he was arrested, a warder aided the Imam to deliver a letter to an unknown man who was leaning on an entrance door of a provision store. Three days after, same warder slipped a letter to the Imam while serving him dinner, he left without both of them saying a word to each other.
Imam husayn waited until he was sure no one would walk pass his cell for some time before he opened the letter and smiled.
Major Usman has been murdered.
To be continued
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