The issue is not about living; it is about serving until it is time to die for the country
It was 1 hour, 16 minutes for the bomb to explode when Sade stopped the car at a small depleted police station in Takwa. She shot out of the car and ran up the steps into the police hall. A police corporal sat over the counter, bored with sleepy eyes.
‘There is an urgent security problem,’ Sade called.
The man lifted his brow slowly, unaffected by Sade’s urgent note and her face designed with dry blood.
‘It is an issue of national security.’ Sade banged the table. ‘I need a phone to contact the SS.’
‘Who are you?’
‘I am Sade, I just came out from terrorists camp. I am carrying bomb in my boot. I need to contact the SS now!’
‘Bomb?’ You would think the man had never heard of the word before.
‘Bomb, I need a phone!’
The man regarded Sade with cold, inefficient eyes.
‘Just call the Secret Service and tell them it is Sade, they will understand!’
‘If this is some prank I am going to have your hide,’ the man warned.
‘I don’t have enough credit, even.’ The policeman hissed.
Sade wanted to tear off her hair. ‘Ask them to call you back!’
The man gave her a stern sidelong glance then lifted the phone to his ear. ‘This is Corporal Sani from Takwa Police Post. A lady who calls herself Sade is here. She—’
Two gunshots sounded and Corporal Sani stopped dead, the phone dropped from his hand then he crashed on the floor. A sergeant emerged from the inner office and pointed the gun at Sade. ‘Your hands on your head.’
Sade obeyed. The man came forward, picked up Sani’s phone and switched it off. Then he walked to Sade and rammed the barrel of his pistol on Sade’s side. ‘Move!’
‘You can’t do this to your country. This is treason—’
The man led her to a tiny cell. He dropped the cell key on the floor. ‘Unlock it and get in.’
‘You betray your country for naira?’
‘Unlock the cell!’
Sade unlocked the door and got into the cell of excreta, urine and body rot. The sergeant locked the cell. He brought out his phone and dialled rapidly. Then he placed the phone to his ear. ‘Hello, Shaka? This is Sergeant Bula. Sade is here.’
Sade shut her eyes.
Someone was caressing her bottom. Sade opened her eyes. She turned. A thin man, naked except for a piece of ragged boxers was grinning as he pinched her bottom.
The man laughed, revealing broken incisors and canines. ‘Let’s fuck.’
‘Do you know who I am?’
‘You are a fine girl now na, huhuhu.’
Sade shook her head. ‘It’s the way of life. When some people look at me they see a pretty girl they want to lay. Some look at me and see an agent they want to use for their dirty business. But when I look at myself I see a dangerous mad woman that should be left alone. Man, do you want to die?’
‘I want to fuck,’ and he pinched Sade’s breast.
Sade grabbed him on the neck, moved swiftly and rammed his head on the wall. The man spread out on the floor. ‘I am a mad woman, and you are blind.’ She returned to the cell poles.
She brought out Dozie’s crumbled photo from her pocket. ‘I will join you in few moments’ time.’ But she felt that the fire in her eyes would burn longer. There could be allowance to beat them at their game. She would just watch out for the slip…
Sade heard footfalls and quickly put the photo away. The sergeant led same two human guerillas who had captured her in Takwa forest to the door of her cell. ‘Bring her out.’ Hissed the first guerilla.
The sergeant quickly unlocked the cell and the second beast dragged her out. ‘You think you are wise?’
Sade spat on his face. The beast rammed metallic knee-cap on Sade’s abdomen and followed it with his fist on her face. ‘Not yet man. Shaka says she should die by bombing.’ The man began to drag Sade away.
‘Any message for me from Shaka?’ asked the sergeant, expectant.
Of course, nodded the chief beast. He pointed his gun on the sergeant’s belly. ‘This is your reward from Shaka.’ Crack! Crack! ‘Banza!’
They are going to tie me inside the car to be bombed, Sade thought. She looked at her wrist watch. Nineteen minutes for the bomb to explode. No! She rammed her elbow on her captor and seconded it with her fist. But the other rammed his knee on her spine. She crashed to the ground and they were on her. She fought them with all her might. They were stronger but the resolve not to die in a bomb gave her wild energy. They should shoot her if they wanted her death but never—
Crack! Better, Sade thought. Another gunshot sounded. Better. It is good to die fighting. She shut her eyes, waiting for death. It was so painless. Someone tapped her on her side. That must be death knocking. But does it take this long for one to die? She opened her eyes and saw a tall, lean frame standing before her. Angel of death? Shoe tapped her side again.
‘Who are you?’
‘Mark, Assistant Field Director, Kaduna Secret Service.’
Sade sat up. The two animals were lying death beside them. ‘You shot them.’
He shrugged. ‘Just checking on Corporal Sani’s call.’
‘Bastard,’ Sade said for thanks. Mark helped her to her feet. Sade looked at her wrist. ‘Oh my God, eight minutes for the bomb to explode.’
‘In the car boot. Run for your life!’
‘I can defuse it,’ Mark said. He ran to his car and came back with his work bag.
‘In five minutes!’
The bomb was placed among a mass of newspapers in a hold-all. Mark brought it out. ‘This is a crude amateur work.’
‘Then throw it away, four minutes to go.’
‘I may defuse it,’ Mark said.
Mark had his lip in his teeth as he worked.
Ninety seconds for the bomb to explode. Sade was sweating.
‘Throw the thing away and let’s get out.’
‘I have never failed to defuse a bomb before.’
‘You will never defuse another bomb if you don’t run now.’
He said nothing.
Sixty seconds to explosion.
Sade picked up Mark’s pistol by his side and pointed it on his head. ‘Throw the damn thing away and run for your life or I will shoot.’
‘Shoot if you may,’ Mark said. ‘But I will suggest you run for your life.’
‘You are a fool, Mark.’
‘Whatever you say, I can’t let this bomb go off. It will bring unnecessary attention to our operation and scuttle everything.’
Thirty seconds for the bomb to explode.
So I will die in a bomb blast after all. Aloud, ‘You are a bastard boy, Mark.’
‘You should be saying your last prayer instead of cursing me.’ Mark was now sweating on the explosive device.
Twenty-five seconds to go.
‘I think I am making headway,’ Mark announced.
‘You are a fool.’
Twenty seconds to go.
Leave the fool and run for your life, Sade! This was the sensible thing to do, but Sade couldn’t bring herself to run. She felt responsible for this. But he was a fool, playing hero for nothing. She ought to run, she had warned him!
Ten seconds to go.
Nine seconds to go.
Run, Sade, run!
Eight seconds to go.
We have seven seconds to go! We can still survive if you throw this away NOW!’
Five seconds to go.
Sade, you are a bigger fool.
Four seconds to go.
Sade the biggest fool on earth!
Three seconds to go.
Sade reached for Dozie’s photo.
Two seconds to go.
‘I have defused it!’ Mark cheered.
Sade collapsed on her knees. She had been so close to death countless times before; but not so close to being ripped into pieces, limb by limb by bomb. She had seen brave men before, men who served Nigeria bravely and died for her, happily, but not Mark who would die sadly thinking he could have done more for his country.
‘That was so close and foolhardy,’ Sade said.
‘I have always been a sucker for defusing bombs.’ He rose to his feet and helped Sade to hers. ‘We found Adamu’s body.’
‘Yeah, the terrorists killed him and took me away.’
Mark nodded. ‘When we didn’t see you we thought as much. The NSA said if you were in their camp, we have them where we wanted them. He expected you to break out.’
‘And you people didn’t do anything!’
‘We had a plan B.’
‘Good luck.’ Sade began to walk away.
‘Where are the girls?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You have to go back to the forest.’
Sade stopped walking. ‘I have been captured twice in the last three hours and you talk about going back.’
‘Yes. We have to see this through, don’t you think so?’
Sade turned and walked back to Mark. ‘I never wanted to do this. I was drawn into it and I can only be relieved that I survived. If it is so important that someone get back there, you do!’
Mark was cool. ‘You have the feel of the place better than I and the NSA won’t trust anyone in there except you. Sade, you have to go back to the forest and get the girls’ position for us. I will get the NSA to get the Air Force and the Army ready for the rescue; I will lead the field assault on standby. All you need do is make one phone call and we will invade Takwa forest.’
‘It takes fifteen second to make the shortest phone call. Tell me how fast a bullet travels. I will be shot thirty times before I make one phone call!’
‘You have evaded bullets for fifteen years. We need you to hold on for just fifteen seconds.’
Sade shook her head. ‘You don’t get it. I got one of the terrorist captive and tortured him but he refused to say a word; I cut off his ear but I didn’t break him. Mark, those people are inhuman, you can’t break them.’
‘Nobody is beyond breaking. Sade you can break anybody you want to break. But there are other means of finding where the girls are.’
‘I don’t know of other means!’
‘There are other means,’ Mark said quietly.
‘What are they?’
‘You will find out for us Sade.’ She made to talk but he placed a firm hand on her shoulder. ‘Say no more. You have every right to refuse. If we argue, you will carry the day. What we ask you to do isn’t logical. But so also the terrorists. We match illogicality with illogicality; we match Shaka with Sade.’ And he winked. Sade nearly smiled.
Mark made to his car boot and opened it. Sade stood with hands folded across defiant breasts. Mark brought out a bullet proof jacket and threw it at her feet. He brought out a police special pistol and threw it on the jacket; he brought out an SS circuit pistol, rounds of magazines and a blade knife; he threw them all before Sade. Then he brought out a lethal capsule.
‘No,’ Sade shook her head.
‘It is essential you…’
‘I will never commit suicide,’ Sade said.
Mark nodded. ‘Just put it in your mouth. It will make you feel safer.’ He made to put it in Sade’s mouth but she held his wrist.
‘Forget it, Mark.’
He gave in. ‘Please begin dressing. You have to hit them before they miss these two.’ He pointed to the lifeless rebels.
As Sade bent to pick up the jacket she asked, ‘How do you feel when you send people to their deaths?’
Mark was in the blink of tears; Sade was not deceived. He turned his back at her so she could dress. ‘Answer me.’
‘We never send people to their deaths. We only send people on assignments. And when we do, we don’t see the people we send. We only see the millions of Nigerians that would be saved by what we do.’
Sade was not listening, she was looking at a Fulani woman, well-hijabed passing with a mighty calabash and nunu on her head. ‘Mark, look at that woman.’
Mark understood and ran towards the woman.
Sade was squat with her back on a tree her pistol cupped with an efficient silencer on the ready. She had evaded the terrorist guards in the last hour. But she was wasting time, every second brought the girls closer to their death. Sade was sweating. The hijab gave her an excessive sweater in this heat. It had been years since she wore a hijab last. The last one was in Rabat where she went to question a Moroccan woman who worked for the Nigerian Embassy, who had become a Spy, divulging information to Iran. As soon as the woman saw Sade on the hijab she let out a roof-exploding scream…
Twag. Sade became deadlier in her alert. A twig had been broken by a heel and someone was nearly. Twag, another twig broke. Someone was around alright, but alone? Twag, twag, twag, the person was alone. Alone and inexperienced. These terrorists were so untrained and crude, how on earth did they evade destruction in five years? The footfalls were getting closer, closer, closer…
Sade jumped to her feet and a girl of thirteen screamed. Sade quickly let free the trigger and she hit the girl with her body, her palm over the girl’s mouth. The two fell on the bush.
‘Hey, listen to me,’ Sade whispered, ‘I am a Federal agent… I-I am a police woman and I am here to rescue you girls…’
The girls eyes was shining with terror. Sade uncovered her mouth. ‘Talk to me, can you hear me?’ Sade felt some dampness on her legs. She checked. The girl had wet herself, poor girl. Sade looked up and the girl’s eyes were shut. She had fainted.
‘Oh my God.’ Sade felt some presence around her. She rose to her feet and took cover on the tree. Then she thought. Why kill these terrorists for nothing when she could easily feign a kidnapped girl. She was on hijab, she could act it through. It was dangerous but it could be done. Quickly Sade replaced her jacket brought out her two-way radio and spoke to Mark. ‘Be on the ready, Mark, I am in.’ When she replaced the radio, she shut her eyes face with her hands and began to scream ‘Wayo! Wayo’ in a lass’ voice. She heard boot-falls around her. Someone grabbed her on the hijab and began to drag her forward. Sade shifted her palm and saw that she had been joined by two other girls, and being led back into hostage. I am really in, Sade thought.
Sade and the three recaptured girls were pushed in the midst of over a hundred other girls were seated on the field, surrounded by gun-wielding touts. They all faced a team of three men working on a tripod for a video camera. The girls all carried a resigned look of dejection, running nose and tears-barked chins. They hadn’t had bath in days Sade thought from the grim stink on the air… And now they were going to put these girls on Youtube. She needed to do something now, this could cause a stink if the girls hit the internet. This was something the government wouldn’t want to see: more girls kidnapped even while the others hadn’t been rescued! She needed to act now!
There were the three video people, unarmed, about eight guards with guns. Sade has two pistols, she could kill all of these people before a bullet hit her. And that wouldn’t kill her if it hit her belly or back as she wore bullet-proof vest. But Shaka and his close aides weren’t here which meant more terrorists could come at the fight. She could be outnumbered. And she didn’t know where they would be coming from, the field were surrounded with huts, they would be trooping in from every angle like ants…
Sade brought out her two-way radio. ‘Hey Mark, I want to start a war now. Send your men in… I start in five minutes…’
Fifteen metres behind Sade, a senior terrorist saw Sade talking to something in her mouth. He turned to a lower ranked terrorist. ‘Abu, see that girl in egg-water coloured hijab, I suspect she is doing something foul. Go bring her here.’
Abu had equally noticed Sade’s peculiarity amongst the girls. This woman in egg-water coloured hijab was no girl, she was a woman! They didn’t bring any woman here. Who was she and what did she want here? Abu would find out now. He aimed the barrel of his gun on Sade’s back as he approached, dangerously…
Tweets to @Oke4chukwu