Ehm..first of all, lemme say it has been a while since I wrote here. Been uber-busy, started a strategic solutions company this year and with Masters and stuff there’s hardly ever any time.
But I have some stuff for us. Right Teleola?
So just be ehm..expectant. In this story, I revive and bring in proximity two of my favourite characters: Mrs Adebowale and the enigmatic Codename: Ali. So ehm..I want you to do me a favour, while dropping your comments, do mention any of mine or Teleola’s more popular characters you would like to see again. Fastest finger or most mentioned character gets it.
Deal? Correct. Oya enjoy…
CODENAME: STRIKE BACK! [A MRS ADEBOWALE STORY]
Mama Dotun didn’t look like what anyone would call motherly. Her surly mouth with its downward corners and the constantly disapproving glint to her eye, marred at the edges by the scarred lines of native BIni tribal marks gave her instead a look that bordered on gargoyle. But when the well-dressed young man apparently on his way to work that morning stopped to help her carry one of her coolers into the taxi, she almost smiled; an expression which took her wizened face to full gargoyle.
They shared the taxi, she and the young man, and he helped her bring down her coolers when they got to her stop; hopping out of the vehicle and over to the boot before she could lift her 123kg bulk out of the taxi. Out they were, and neatly arranged in a row, five coolers and she could even smell a whiff of the beef stew she had prepared coming from one of them. Before she could turn around to thank him, the young man had disappeared. So she simply mumbled a small prayer for him, wishing him success his endeavours and a pretty wife who would be obedient and bear good, respectful children.
“That boy just now, na your pikin?” asked one of the soldiers breaking into her thoughts.
Mama Dotun looked at him, the force of her baleful glare at full beam. “Ehen na! I have children everywhere. You no go do go marry, Sule,” she replied without missing a beat. “Make you for get your own pikin.”
The other soldiers guffawed at how neatly Mama Dotun had slammed Sule.
“Haaay! Sule see how Mama Dotun just finish you. No levo! Go marry oh!”
Sule for his own part just grinned. “Oya Mama Dotun, give me rice and stew with plenty beans and kpomo oh!”
“AH! I no dey sell kpomo again oh! You no know say government talk say make dem no dey sell kpomo?” she replied with her gargoyle smile.
“Na lie!” the soldiers chorused in their early morning ritual as Mama Dotun opened one of the coolers to reveal a steaming bowl of kpomo, glistening in red stew. The same cooler Sule could swear he saw Mama Dotun’s son open earlier. But it was her son, so no problem.
“Na me ask first oh!” he grunted, setting his rifle down and moving forward.
Across the road, the tattered umbrella above his matted bushy head throwing a shadow across his dirty face, a beggar sat on the walkway pavement, in the shadow between a small hedge and the abutment of the wall behind him. Clutched tightly among his rags was a dirty Ghana-must-go bag, his black gnarled fingers curled around it in a powerful grip. His only possessions, he would die if any tried to take it away. The soldiers ignored him and so he watched the drama in front of him, keen, intelligent eyes missing nothing.
He had been sitting in front of the building for two weeks now and the routine rarely varied. And he didn’t miss anything. He had seen the young man slip some droplets of an odourless, tasteless liquid into the stew. But he had made no sign.
The plan did not call for it.
Mrs Adebowale drifted.
The Rav-4 slid around the bus and into the Ring road. She had been thinking about work again. These blasted people would not kill her. The Managing Director had goofed again, but rather than admit it, he had called her phone and told her the payment she had authorized at the Bank that morning had to be rescinded. He had just discovered the Senate committee was coming to review the projects on Monday and the project had not been completed. If the contractor got the money, the backlash would come to them. So could she rush back to the Bank before end of work so the payment could be stopped before it was approved, and be a dear about it. Thank you. Like he probably hadn’t collected a bribe from the contractor to approve the payment and was only now trying to cover his ass.
She had been thinking about what words she would need to convince the accountants at the Bank to stop the transaction or to rescind it if it had already occurred when the bus in front of her had stopped abruptly, close to the junction. Without thinking, she had yanked her steering to the left and then all the way to the right while slamming on her brakes and somehow the SUV slid to the left and away from collision with mere inches to spare.
Mrs Adebowale kept driving without sparing a word for the driver. Maniac! Only immature people exchanged retorts on the road anyway. She had more important things at stake. She wondered if the man had ever seen five hundred million naira before, even in words. Nonsense! That one no just be person.
She kept driving, rolling into the Akpakpava road just after Sakponba and the first gate there. She horned before the soldiers came to open the gate, which was odd. They were usually so alert. Well, look at that sun. Who can blame anyone? She drove in.
Ring road, Benin city
Situated at the centre of the modern Benin city, the ring road has always been there since 1472 and the advent of the Portuguese who first called Benin a city. A massive roundabout, the biggest in Africa, it was connected in a radial pattern to the major roads which ran like arteries through the city, serving abutments as streets and minor roads. Behind the ring was the palace of the Oba, royal and spiritual leader of all Benin, giving life to the saying that all life flowed from the Oba who was the centre and all life flowed to the Oba who was centre. Aerial views of the city showed cars scurrying back and forth and around the ring in their hundreds and thousands like cells in the vessels of the huge organism that was Benin City.
One of such cells came to an abrupt stop on its passage around the ring, right in front of the Prince Aruaran statue that dominated the Sakponba road junction. The Toyota Tundra with closed-bed truck, emitted a groan and a sputter and belched out enough smoke to rival your average Asian volcano, then shuddered to a still. Two men exited the vehicle, their stocky, well-muscled physiques and loose-fitted t-shirts making them almost identical. They began waving their arms and arguing indistinctly obviously trying to blame each other for the car’s mechanical failure. One of them proceeded to open the bonnet while the other protested in alarm. In an instant, the air was filled with the steam which issued from the bonnet in a whoosh engulfing the vehicle. Other commuters negotiating the ring quickly gave their distance from the vehicle which looked like it wanted to explode any moment.
“Okay, that might have been a little too much,” one of the men muttered under his breath, his hands still gesticulating wildly.
But it was almost time anyway.
The well-dressed young man strolled down the road at a steady pace. Above the sun beat mercilessly upon the pavement. Benin city at the end of the rains was always the worst. The heat threatened to drive one mad as it heat up body, soul and mind. This afternoon, the streets were almost empty as most hid themselves in the cooler indoors beneath barely stirring fans and air conditioning units, the only commuters; students and parents just done with school run and scheming excuses not to go back to the office. Artisans and traders crouched deep in their stalls enjoying their quiet lunch while prepping for the evening rush when the sun had gone down in the horizon.
The young man kept walking, his left hand holding his backpack to his side, striding past the Total fuel station, with its frontage of empty yellow and red taxis and buses, passengers preferring to wait under the shade of the fuel station or the umbrellas of the women selling Bole, than to swelter in the burning hot metal boxes. With mere seconds to the top of the hour, he walked past the UBA bank with its front of Bole sellers haggling with customers on the prices of the dry roasted plantain and groundnuts. He walked up to the food stall where he had left Mama Dotun earlier in the morning, her stall now long since locked up as she sold all her food and went to the market to buy more ahead of the next day. He rounded the armoured tank parked beside the stall on his left side, his mind doing a mental count down now.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, Benin city branch loomed in front of him, the magnetic gates manned by a quintet of guards all in various stages of dozing. To a side, under a shade in front of the main building which the young man knew housed the banking hall, he could see two other guards.
Sule looked up from the shade in which he sat through bleary eyes. His eyelids felt so heavy and he was so tired. He couldn’t explain it. He had slept early yesterday, so why was he so drowsy this afternoon. Curse this stupid Benin sun! was that Mama Dotun’s son? What was he doing here?
“Hey you!” yelled one of the soldiers at the gate, his voice rough and cracked with sleep. “You can’t walk here. Go back and cross the road”
Mama Dotun’s son simply reached into his bag and retrieving an already cocked Uzi, shot the man in the chest.
Then everything broke loose.
Odion was driving his father’s car for the first time. Since passing his driving test on Monday, there had been little else on his mind. He had been waiting since he was six for a chance to drive the Mercedes AMG, and now the government had finally agreed that he could. The problem was, the Mercedes was his father’s pride and joy, and possible heir. Odion and his sister often debated quite seriously who would get the last third of their father’s wealth after two-thirds had been willed to the Mercedes. So it was surprising when his father summoned him to the office that afternoon, handed him the keys and after buckling up in the front passenger seat, pointed the way to Ring road. It was a test, Odion knew.
As he negotiated the ring, his head and shoulders hunched forward, his eyes peeled and darting about in careful glances – rearview, side mirror, left, right, forward, repeat, he noticed on his right a man standing beside an obviously faulty truck, smoke or steam issuing from the bonnet. As Odion gave a wide berth, he noticed the man suddenly check his watch, give a sort of signal to his companion across the car from him and both of jump into the car. The truck started up immediately. If that wasn’t odd enough, the men drove off immediately without waiting to put down the bonnet.
What the hell? “Dad, did you just see that?”
“What?” asked his father, absent-mindedly.
Odion watched the truck as it swung into Akpakpava road, pedestrians on the Ring road screaming and jumping out of the way. Crazy people, he thought as he turned his focus back to the road. Then, he heard the gunshots.
Sule watched in astonishment as the sergeant dropped to the ground, blood issuing in bubbles from his chest. Mama Dotun’s son? No he couldn’t be Mama Dotun’s son, continued to shoot the ill-prepared soldiers, the Uzi fast against his hip as he made his way into the premises. No, this man was a thief! He was an armed robber! The soldier beside Sule who had recovered, tried to pick up his rife and was instantly felled by a fusillade from a truck that swung out of the Ring into the road. A man was hanging out of the passenger side window and firing an AK-47. One of the bullets took Sule in his side, slamming into his flesh and tearing out the other side into the intricate brickwork of the building behind him. Sule moved then. His body responding slowly to his commands, he grabbed his rifle and tried to run into the building. His body protested as he moved, bits of flesh and gouges of blood splattering to the tarmac. He fell. He didn’t even bother to try and turn and aim and shoot. There was no point.
The well dressed young man sprinted down the ramp towards the main building, as he ran he slung his backpack across his back. On the ground, he could see a soldier trying to crawl towards the building, the well dressed man drilled three holes in the back of the soldier’s head without breaking stride. He needed to get to that door fast. It had taken fifteen seconds since the first shot and all seven soldiers at the gate were dead. He could see a guard through the bulletproof glass racing towards the door to shut it.
They got to the door at the same time.
The well dressed man pulled the door open before the unarmed guard could get purchase, causing the latter to stumble out the doorway and into his waiting knee. The powerful knee slammed into the guard’s gut, knocking the wind out of him and causing him to grunt, the man crashed the Uzi against the guard’s head at the same instant. The guard went cold. The well dressed gunman ran into the banking hall.
Mrs Adebowale was with Thomas Ossai, the Assistant Director Operations, in his office when the first shot rang out.
That was a gunshot!
“Was that a gunshot?” asked the director.
“I don’t know,” she replied. Please find that transaction fast let me leave this place.
The Director’s hand strayed unconsciously towards a spot on his desk obscured from her view by the picture of two smiling girls at a matriculation or convocation in some foreign school. She could see a lot of white people in the background and foreign looking trees. Maybe it was her unconcerned mien as she focused on the picture, but as she glanced up, the director was focused again on his laptop. Then the other shots came in quick succession.
At that moment, the Assistant Director of the CBN made a move which doomed the day. In retrospect, what he should have done seems like something common sense would dictate, but hindsight is always 20/20 and he hadn’t gotten to that position without caring in some respect for his staff.
So it was that Tom Ossai stepped out of his office to the balcony overlooking the banking hall and yelled, “Na here the gunshot dey come from?”
At that moment, the gunman from the Tundra shot the fusillade that crippled Sule, some of the bullets slamming into the bulletproof glass front of the building, and he had his answer. Then, he made his second mistake.
A button on his desk activated security protocols which shut down the entire complex, locking all doors – rest rooms, vaults and offices, for 24 hours, enough time for the authorities to arrive and establish control and uploaded all vital documents to the central database while scrubbing the computers at the branch. He should have run for that button, shut the doors; all the doors.
But sometimes, human reflex is a foolish instinct. “Get away from the windows, take cover under your desks and call or message your friends to inform the police!” he yelled, his hands on the balcony, his neck extended over the edge, his mouth open in a huge bellow. At that moment, the guard who was trying to manually lock the door fell through it and was replaced instantly in the doorway with the well dressed robber. The metal detector squealed.
The Bank officials and customers started screaming.
The gate of the premises opened and the Tundra drove in, as men appeared from the passenger windows and put bullets into everything that moved. As they drove down the tarmac to the rear of the complex they met with half a dozen soldiers near the Vault building that put up a withering counterattack from behind a sandbag blockade. The bullets slammed into the Tundra, hitting the bonnet and pockmarking it. Instantly the driver swung the big truck around, opening the bed at the same time. A man hidden in the bed suddenly rose a six-round M32 grenade launcher shaped like a revolver in his hands. He fired once. The grenade tore apart the blockade, the sand and stones inside having long solidified over years of rains and hard sunshine, peppering the soldiers behind with shrapnel bits of sand and large boulders. The soldiers cried. Quickly before the sand settled, the three other gunmen had disembarked and made short work of the survivors. The Vault was theirs. It had taken ninety-three seconds.
Mrs Adebowale grabbed the stunned Tom Ossai and pulled him backwards into the office as the gunman sprinted up the stairs to the side, heading for them. Heading for them. Mrs Adebowale began to feel the all too familiar stirrings of panic. Slamming the door shut behind her, she whispered frantically, “Do you have a number to call in time of emergency or a panic button?”
Realization dawned in Ossai’s eyes and he pushed her to the side of the door as he turned to round his desk. Bullets suddenly tore through the door, the automatic firepower shredding the door and the desk behind. Ossai jumped to the side, smacking his head against the wall in the process, the hit left a bloody smear. Mrs Adebowale shrieked, curling her legs under her and screaming as the splinters fell. The door banged open and the robber strode in.
“Who is the Assistant Director?” he asked.
Tom Ossai looked up from where he had fallen, his eyes still groggy. The robber just shot him pointblank, the sound of the single bullet echoing even in the noise. He walked to the laptop on the desk. He set his submachine gun down beside the laptop, the barrel pointing uncomfortably in Mrs Adebowale’s direction and within easy reach of the killer. The man’s fingers flew over the laptop at amazing speed typing in specific keystrokes. Then he straightened up and retrieving a flash drive from his backpack, inserted it into the laptop, before checking his wristwatch and smiling. All these he had done in a matter of seconds without even glancing in her direction.
“You bastard,” Mrs Adebowale whispered, adjusting her position among the wood fibres. “you could have just told him to shut up and done what you needed to do. You didn’t have to kill him”
The man finished his work and glanced at her, his face expressionless. Then he grabbed his Uzi.
The Vault entrance slid open, revealing a long corridor with shelves of boxes on both sides of the aisle. One of the men from the Tundra, shoved his Kalashnikov to his side and strode purposefully into the corridor. He knew exactly which shipment he was after, which box to look for. The job was done.
It had been less than three hundred and sixty seconds since the operation started and Ring road and indeed the whole of Benin city was in chaos. The area in front of the CBN from the Ring road junction to the PHCN and Forestry road axis was a graveyard. Nothing moved. In the distance, he could hear sirens, but he knew they would get there late. The sheer destructiveness that the robbers had employed had left abandoned cars on the Ring and on the other side of Akpakpava road. He didn’t know how they planned to escape, but he bet on motorcyles. They probably had some stashed close by. Enough to get them far away from here. They were after the shipment. Pity. Everybody was always after the shipment. The Beggar got up and stretched. The sun was still shining, but the road was so empty. He had heard gunshots a few seconds ago, but there was silence now. Probably started loading the merchandise. He retrieved a black handgun from his Ghana-must-go bag. It was a Glock P29, the dark green polymer grip belying the fastidiousness of the owner. He checked the magazine. It was full. In his pockets were two other magazines. It was usually enough.
Ali walked across the road as the shooting began again.
The robber whipped her across the face with the Uzi. The force of the blow snapped her head back so fast, she felt her neck creak. Dragging her by her hair, he tossed her into the glass partition of the balcony. The glass broke as she crashed into it, the shards ripping into her skin and falling down to the now empty banking floor below. All the officials had taken cover, hiding in the smaller offices and restrooms.
“Idiot,” she muttered just loud enough for him to hear, as she tried to scurry away. The robber grabbed her from behind, his arms encircling her waist as he pulled her to her feet. Bent over, Mrs Adebowale pushed backwards to the right to try and pull out of his grip. But he held on. Then she pushed to the left to do the same. The robber grunted, his grip tighter now, feet placed forward to steady himself as he tried to lift the woman and toss her over the balcony. At that moment, Mrs Adebowale remembered a technique from the self-defence class her daughter had started her on since her ordeal last year. Twisting around, she reached down and grabbed the feet of the man and lifting him, slammed him into the ground in one quick motion. As they fell, the man held on, his finger twitching on the Uzi’s trigger released a burst of gunfire before she fell on him, her head crashing into his and driving it into the tile floor. The Brazillian weavon absorbed most of the shock for her. The cracked tile beneath the unconscious head of the robber told a different story for him.
Mrs Adebowale fled.
The men from the Tundra had finished loading the truck when the gunfire started again. Which was surprising, but not alarming. The plan called for each of them to finish their parts without bothering about the other. It was the only way they could be in and out in less than ten minutes. He was probably wiping off a bit of resistance. He would be waiting at the gate, and if not, he knew where the rendezvous was. Piling into the truck, they started on their way out, the bonnet down this time. The job was done.
Mrs Adebowale stumbled out of the main building, her dark suit in bloody tatters, her hair frazzled and her face bruised. She didn’t want to stop to think, to wonder. To ask if she had killed him. She just needed to get out. Then she heard the engine of the Tundra start up. Ducking behind a pillar, right in front of where Sule’s body lay, the blood now beginning to congeal, she watched, her heart beating again, the tears welling up in her eyes. Oh God, let it just stop!
The Tundra reached the gate, pausing briefly, as one of the occupants stretched out his head and glanced in her direction. Me! Oh God, they’ve seen me! They know what I did! Then her mind told her, they were probably looking for their gangmate. Pity, he won’t be joining you, she thought with an odd sort of satisfaction. For a second, she wondered if they would come in to find him. In which case, she was sure they would kill everyone. But the man put his head back in as the truck drove out the gate.
The armoured tank slammed into the truck without warning. Pushing into the side of the Tundra and crashing it into the side of the fence. One of the tires exploded with a bang. Without giving them time to orient, Ali leapt out of the tank and climbing onto the bonnet of the Tundra, aimed his Glock very carefully. Once, twice, five times. Two shots for the driver who tried to escape through a window and got one in the bottom for his trouble. The others had messy holes in their heads, chests and necks. One of them was already dead where the right-hand back-door jamb had plunged into his neck as the tank hit the truck. Jumping down, he walked around to the side started pulling the boxes out.
Mrs Adebowale just kept watching in disbelief as the sirens started to get louder.
The Police showed up a few minutes later. But by then, the boxes and the Beggar were gone. A deep blue Hilux truck had appeared just before the Police and picked him up. A uniformed Naval officer had helped the beggar pile the boxes into the back seat of the Hilux. The well dressed robber did not die, which was fortunate as he had uploaded a virus into the mainframe that deleted the entire video log for the past year which would have made it otherwise impossible to identify him. He had started to regain consciousness but was not able to get to his Uzi before being arrested by the Police. He wouldn’t have found it anyway. Mrs Adebowale had subconsciously grabbed the weapon as she fled. The National Intelligence Agency took over investigations of the robbery, though they reported nothing had been stolen. A situation which baffled Mrs Adebowale greatly, especially given her testimony about the Beggar, until she was advised by her friend in the Department of State Security to desist from questioning things she should rather not know. Mrs Adebowale was offered a job with the State Security service again. She declined again. However she was placed on a list and invited to take a course at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Kure, She did not decline that.
The beggar never sat in front of the CBN again, even after they reopened in a month. All mention of the beggar have been removed from public records. Mama Dotun now sells at Ibiwe junction in front of the Bob Izua park.
Mrs Adebowale shall return.
* This is a work of fiction oh!!!! Products of this writer’s very free don’t-want-to-go-jail imagination. Abeg. .na joke I dey..abeg
I have been in the CBN. Not for mission abeg. Abeg. .
*Ignore the above disclaimer. WordPress for Android won’t let someone be very great
*The actions and tinz depicted in this lengthy tale are obviously near impossible and were carried out by highly paid stunt men hidden in the writer’s mind. Forget how close it may seem to real life scenarios, you cannot do it
*This writer disavows himself of any nefarious use the contents of this post may be utilized for
GOD bless Nigeria.