It was one of those days that bear no remarkability. The sun rose at the proper time, the day’s noises had started at 6:00am and First Bank Choba opened for business at exactly 8 O’clock. It was a typical Tuesday much like any other. Workers had settled into the rhythm of the week’s activities and students of the University of Port-harcourt were finally ready for the week’s round of lectures.
The dark-tinted Peugeot 405 slowed down as it approached the entrance of the bank. Here are several things to note. The First Bank Choba, located at the junction of the Ikwerre and East-West roads, is recessed 50m behind a high gate and a bank of ATMs. It is bordered by high fences with the FCMB on the right and a cobbler’s stall on the left. Usually, the ATMs are crowded with workers and students all vying to withdraw a few hundreds from their savings accounts.
That day, being a normal day, had the usual crowd of would-be ‘withdrawers’ and the front of the bank had the look of a cinema theatre on opening day. Such it was that, Agnes Okoroahu, shifting her weight from one foot to the other out of impatience, happened to glance at an angle into the slowly approaching 405, and saw within, a thickset man with a black bandanna across his face, slam a cartridge into an M-16. Of course, she didn’t know it was an M-16, but the sight of a rifle was shocking and recognisable, and the 34-year old mother of four girls and one two-year old son, let out a shriek that was heard within the Choba campus of Uniport.
“Armed robbers!” She screamed.
As is to be expected, hell broke loose.
The robbers, for they were truly, jumped out of the vehicle and began shooting into the air immediately. The ATM crowd dispersed quickly as the screaming people fell over each other in their haste to escape. Agnes herself, abandoning all decency to self-preservation, fled at top speed, her scarf falling off her head to reveal the badly burnt hairdo that had failed to retouch properly on her last visit to the hairdresser. A visit she had spent arguing with the hairdresser about which actress was more stately, between Eucharia Anuobi and Liz Benson, an argument which might have accounted for the badly charred nature of her hair, and refusal to pay the hairdresser. Events which propelled her to order for a length of artificial human hair, and occasioned her arrival at the ATM this morning to withdraw.
Rushing into the bank complex, the robbers climbed the stairs and through the open security doors into the bank hall. Their entrance, properly facilitated by the presence of a daredevil ‘inside man’ disguised as a customer, placed within the bank, who had physically subdued the badly trained security into opening the doors.
“Open your safe!” the robber growled, his eyes angry above the bandanna covering his face.
From all indications, the robbery was moving according to plan. The robbers had however failed to calculate for all eventualities. Which is not surprising, considering, it is impossible to calculate for all eventualities.
Forty kilometres to the left and thirty minutes ago, down the East-West road, in the direction facing Warri and Benin, Group Captain Isaac Boniface, had been going through a bit of a dilemma. The Group Captain had credentials which labelled him as an Officer of the Navy in charge of a fleet consisting three Gun-class ships and a tug-boat, none of which however existed. Captain Boniface, if anything, was a spy in the Nigerian Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and in his possession was a secret document which needed to be hand-delivered by secure courier to the Director, Office of Strategic Manuevers, located in a nondescript building on Evo road in GRA.
There was only one problem. For reasons unknown to Boniface, his vehicle, a late-model Toyota Tundra, had broken down just before the village of Emuoha. And with his transportation disabled, the Captain was a sitting duck. An incorrect euphemism, considering he didn’t know how to swim despite his credentials, and he was pacing.
Calling ‘Support’, he requested a replacement vehicle to be delivered to his position as soon as possible. Unknown to him, the same Support Officer who had delivered the Tundra he had just scuttled half-way into the bushes at the side of the road, who was supposed to have detailed another officer to tail the Captain at a respectable distance, to provide support, should assistance be necessary, and who was now supposed to organise a new vehicle for him, was still in bed, head throbbing from a terrible hangover occasioned by the copious amounts of alcohol and weed consumed the night before. Alcohol and weed which had of course, caused the Support Officer to make the mistake of detailing a vehicle scheduled for maintenance to the Captain the evening before. As it was, the Officer was in no state to think clearly, and so, when he received the text message of instructions, he simply dialled a contact at the Emuoha Police Station and succintly requested an escort of two Hilux trucks to ferry the Captain to his secret meeting.
When the escort arrived at the Tundra, sirens blaring, Captain Boniface thought to himself, what could be worse?
If only he knew that, at the moment, he shared like thoughts with Alex Greene, a Kalabari student of the University of Port-harcourt whose Toyota Corolla had immediately after quenching on the road, been rammed from behind by an irate bus-driver in a Mitsubishi.
The accident had occurred at a particularly bad spot on the East-West road. Suffice to say, both drivers, Alex and Emeka, who was the bus driver, instantly jumped out of their vehicles and began to trade insults at the top of their voices. Soon, a queue began to form as cars manuevered the potholes, trying to navigate their way around the two vehicles parked at the only good spot on that particular stretch of East-West road, at a place called Alakahia, not far from the University of Port-harcourt Teaching Hospital.
Soon there would be a gridlock.
But for Bayo, robber extraordinaire and protegé of Anini the Legendary, the day was moving smoothly.
“Oya load the boot make we dey roll,” he yelled to his cronies, making his voice heard above the sound of sporadic gunshots.
So far, they had spent only ten minutes since entry. Soon they would be off. No way the police could get here this quickly. All his dreams were finally going to be realised. You see, Bayo was a student once. A student of Uniport even. For years, he had struggled part-time against the Academic system, from one menial job to the next, struggling to pay his school fees and fend for himself. Then one day, he had hit on a brilliant idea. There was a motor park right there at Choba and for all he knew, nobody supplied the drivers with cheap, adulterated ‘Black market’ petrol and oil, while they did their jobs in a state that supplied the country expensive and well-refined petrol and oil. So he had scrounged a few thousands and set up a stand to sell just that, Petrol and oil. Soon, the money was pouring in. Not exactly Caeser’s court, but he had become more comfortable, so that he was even able to employ a sales girl and attend more Political Science classes. Then one day, the Bank people came. After building right beside his stall in less than three months, they refused him a loan, and got the Police to not only evict his “nonsense dirty shop” from their entrance area, but also to fine him N120,000.
Oh, revenge is a sweet cold dish, he thought to himself, remembering a quote from ‘Marx’.
“Make we dey move!”
Jumping into the car, they zoomed out the bank to the East-West road, junction. Then they heard the sirens.
Captain Boniface sat up in his chair at the back seat of the lead Hilux. “Is that gunfire?”
The Nigerian police is divided into many departments. Some of which overlap. Of all the departments, the Traffic Police, the CID and the Mobile Police (MOPOL) are the most popular. Of these three, the MOPOL wear the crown. Armed with CAR-15s, semi-formal training and careless bravado, they insist on asserting their importance to Nigerians, their worth to the Military, and their difference from the average police. An assignment to guard a Naval Captain tested these assumptions.
“If that is gunfire, we’ll have to turn back,” warned the Captain, his thoughts on preserving his package, rather than heroics.
“No Oga, we don accept mission to carry you go GRA. And we go carry you,” said the Police officer in the front passenger seat, with a grim face.
“Yes sah! Na true” concured the driver, a foolish grin on his face. Already, he could hear the story he’ll tell his friends at the Officer’s mess. How the Captain was scared, but he gunned his vehicle as he faced the enemy.
Stepping hard on the accelerator, Private Osunde, the driver, gunned the powerful Hilux and switched on the siren as the truck climbed the Choba bridge. The grin on his face, the death-head grin of Kamikaze pilots as they flew to their deaths humming “Battle cry”.
Once again, hell broke loose. Well, looser than before.
Bayo ordered his boys to shoot through the windows. “Drive the police back! Dem no get levo!” As they sped down the East-West road heading towards Alakahia and Rumuokoro.
The first shot to hit the police escort, tore through the windscreen of the lead vehicle to punch a hole in Osunde’s grinning mouth and slam into the head rest where the Captain’s head would have been had he not ducked at the first sign of danger. The lead Hilux instantly swerved out of control, it’s driver dead and dripping blood like a leaky pipe. Grabbing the steering wheel in his left hand, a daring move reminiscent of a dozen action movies, his CAR-15 belching bullets out the open window in his second hand, the Police officer in the passenger seat managed to get the truck to a standstill and kill 15 innocent bystanders in the process. The Hilux behind, instantly provided professional, better aimed, cover fire, chasing the Peugeot down the road at breakneck speed.
Alex and Emeka the driver of buses, all the mediators who had stopped to settle the arguments, the TIMARIV officials, who are always quick to sense such disputes, all the owners of the different cars on the queue behind and in front of the accident, and just about everybody in that environment had all disappeared. Scampered and run off, leaving their cars, as the sounds of gunshots had drawn closer. So it was that Bayo and his crew, operating in fear now, adrenaline haven burnt out all the marijuana and Alomo and bravado from their system came up against the log-jam of vehicles across the road. There was no time to even brake.
The Peugeot 405 bounced as it hit the first pothole, living up to it’s legend of being a car built for Nigerian roads. However, it was not a car for accidents because as soon as it hit the first vehicle, the Peugeot exploded in a huge fireball that caught onto the vehicles in closest vicinity, resulting in an explosion that showered glass and metal in all directions.
The Police in the pursuing vehicle, skid to a stop at a safe distance, their guns almost empty, as they stared at the explosion in the middle of the road, their minds on one topic: the promotion which would definitely come of this, and how best to exaggerate the story to blame the robbers for damages and place the heroics squarely, humbly, on their shoulders.
Captain Boniface placed another call to ‘Support’.
I don’t like Fir.. I have nothing against First bank nor any of it’s branches oh!
- This is a supreme work of fiction and bears no resemblance to any living or dead individuals, except they be subjects in an alternate universe in which this Writer is regarded as God and ruler and Ultimate Being.
- I know I should have gotten a better title for this.
- The East-west road really is in a state of ruin, and presents quite the harzard for fleeing robbers.
- Any typo is regretted, and blamed on the persistent pings and phone calls from my adoring fans.
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