He decided to check on Wale instead of going straight for where Nene was waiting for him. he needed something good to tell her in order to put her mind to rest even though he knew Wale living would mean he losing her to him forever but he felt it was better he lost her to a good man than for her to perish with him. He peeped into the glass window of the ICU and saw a nurse standing over him, adjusting his drip and smiling at him at the same time. At that moment, he knew he was out of danger zone and walked back to the corridor where he had left Nene only to find out she had disappeared. He ran outside searching frantically with his eyes but she was nowhere around the hospital. Every other things was in place, the people he left there were still there, the old man on wheel chair, the little girl with her mum and few others. Nothing seemed out of place except for the fact that Nene was nowhere to be found.
As he ran towards the old man to ask him if he had seen her, his phone vibrated furiously in his pocket matching the turmoil he was feeling in his mind. He checked the caller and was surprised it was Nabila, he picked it at the second ring…
Najim: “Hello… what do you want?” he asked with a note of impatience in his voice.
Nabila: “You moron!” she shrieked into the phone and he held it way from his ears for some seconds before returning it.
Najim: “What is that for?” he asked as his feet started turning cold even in the hot weather.
Nabila: “How dare you betray me like that? So you dare go in search of Nene leaving me here after all my warnings to you? I warned you and now because of you, I will make sure I kill her in the most gruesome way possible and there is nothing you will be able to do about it” she squealed into the phone.
Najim: “Nabila wait, it’s not what you think please calm down so we can talk this over. Infact, I am coming home right away so we can talk things over okay?” he pleaded trying to sound as calm as possible.
Nabila: “I took pity on you Najim despite how weak and cowardly you are, I still decided to marry you, to love you and cover up your cowardice and shame but this is how you have decided to me back? I forgave you on several occasions but you still want to keep it up right? I have Nene right now and you are never going to see her again. I called to tell you that”
Najim: “What? Please don’t do anything to her. I promise never to see her again in my life. Think of old times, you were both very good friends remember?” he paced up and down nervously.
Nabila: “Her life is in your hands yet again Najim. Leave that vicinity right away so my men can finish Wale up”
Najim: “No I can’t do that” he said defiantly.
Nabila: “You can’t? Then I will have to kill Nene. I will not ask you again. Leave that place or I’d kill her. I am giving you just thirty minutes to decide on what to do. Save the love of your life or help an innocent man?” she said and hung up the phone.
He started pacing around even harder after she had hung up the call. He looked at Wale’s phone in his left hand and a thought struck him. He quickly flipped the screen open and luckily for him, the phone was not locked. He checked his call history and dialed the contact that Wale had called the most in the last few days and the man picked it immediately. He narrated everything happening to him and requested for his help in saving Wale who was in danger if he as much as took one single step away from that hospital. The man after listening with rapt attention promised to send people to take charge of the situation on ground in the hospital and he ended the call.
A car pulled into the compound five minutes after he was done speaking with the man. Two thugs stepped out of the car and headed towards the entrance of the hospital where Najim was still pacing around. He stopped in his track when he saw them walk towards him, quivering and praying for God’s intervention. One of them looked at him with disdain while the other one ordered him to leave immediately or be killed. At that moment, a bus filled with Almajiris and two Imams drove into the hospital. The children who were in their late teens jumped out of the bus and hurriedly walked to the entrance of the hospital effectively barring the thugs from entering into the hospital. People around wondered what was going on and when the security guards went forward to shoo the children away, the Imam stopped them and explained they were there to protect one of the patients.
The imams entered the hospital lobby and walked quickly, their Jalabia swishing as they moved fast through the throng of curious onlookers. The presence of the children at the hospital entranced had attracted everyone; from the hospital staff to the patients and their visiting relatives.
As the men moved, their eyes roved round, looking for Najim. They soon saw a man standing by himself, disinterested with the noise going outside. They walked towards him
First Imam: “Salama – Alaikum. Are you Najim?” he asked slowly. His eyes looking around warily.
Najim: “Wa – laikum Salam. Yes I am. You are the one I spoke with on the phone?” he asked, eying the men suspiciously.
Second Imam: actually, it was me. Where is Wale?” he asked.
Najim: “you are Hausa and Muslims, how can I trust you?” he asked.
First Imam: “even you, a Hausa believes the myth that every Hausa wants to destroy the Ibos. Don’t you find that ironical? He asked, one eyebrow raised in derision.
Najim looked them over and sighed. He was not good with all this cloak and dagger stuff. He motioned them to follow him and they entered the hospital room where Wale was placed. Wale opened his eyes as soon as they entered. The men laughed on seeing him and they were soon mocking him in Yoruba. Najim stood by the side quietly watching the three men crack jokes.
Najim: “while you guys are reuniting, Nene’s life is hanging in a balance. Please what can we do to get her out of the clutches of my wife, Nabila.” He asked, angrily.
First Imam: “so she is your wife? She must really love to fight a lot. How do you stand such a woman in your bed?” he asked, jocularly.
Wale: “enough, Ibrahim. He is right. We need to get Nene out of danger.” he whispered, his voice weak with the loss of blood.
First Imam: “from the very beginning of this whole drama, this Nabila and her people have been on the offensive. The closest to a retaliation has been Nene’s Facebook group. We need to change the scenario. Let’s take the war to them.” he replied, his eyes far way.
Najim: “how do we do that? We do not even know who we are fighting.” he replied, a worried frown on his face.
Wale: “according to Nene, the conspiracy is a combination of certain elements from both the Hausa and Ibos. Some group of people want a war. The first question we have to ask is who benefits if another civil war occurs in Nigeria?” he said slowly, gears turning in his head.
Second Imam: “you are right. Who benefits from a war in this country? It is definitely not the masses or the people screaming secession now. Those ones are fodder. They shall die in their millions.” he replied, his hand on his chin.
Najim: “the people who import weapons. The people bringing food, medicine. The politicians who will take over after the dust settles, envious countries who want to see Nigeria disintegrate…”he mused.
First imam: “you have something there, my brother. Who has been importing weapons into the country? Is there a way to find out?” he asked.
Wale: “I know someone in the military who will have an idea. Give me my phone.” he said.
Najim handed his phone over to him and he scrolled through with his good hand and dialed a number. The phone rang then the person on the other hand picked
Major: “Wale you infidel, what are you doing calling my line at a time like this. I am very busy.” the gruff voice rang loudly in the tiny hospital room.
Najim walked to the window and stared out into the veranda. He saw that several women had joined the Almajiris and the hospital entrance was totally blockaded. He turned back as Wale ended the call and dropped the phone on the bed.
Wale: “it is top secret according to him. The major importers of weapons in Nigeria are involved in this. In fact it is cooperative of several big business men. The cooperative is called Mistletoe International. Its ownership is hidden in the maze of corporation, partnerships and boards but the name mistletoe is suggestive.” he said, staring at Najim intently.
Najim: “that name again. Nabila uses it as her alias on Facebook, I know that. God! I always knew that this was beyond the girl’s abilities but I didn’t know it was this big.” He replied, his eyes wide with disbelief. Then he sighed, “all this is good and fine but this does not save Nene.” He continued as he phone started to ring. He stopped talking and looked at the caller id. It was Nabila. He showed to the men in the room and everybody held their breath as he picked the call
Najim: “hello Nabila.” he said slowly.
Nabila: “you are enjoying this, right? Making me angry… I warned you to stay away from Nene but you have refused to take advice. Her death is you.” she said, her voice sounding angry over the phone.
Najim: “Nabila please. Please do not hurt her. I will do anything you want. Please.” he pleaded, nearly hysterical with fear.
Nabila: “you are very good at making promises when you are in a tight spot, Najim. You are so weak but you are mine. Mine! If you want the stupid Ibo fool to see another sun, you better get your sorry self, back here and play your role as my husband and an integral part of the crusade to wipe this stain on our national history off the face of the earth.” she replied.
Najim: “okay. I am on my way. Please do not hurt her, please.” he replied. The call ended even as he pleaded.
He looked sadly at the three men staring at him.
Najim: “I have to go. I am sorry. I have to go to save Nene’s life. I do hope you guys are able to win this fight.” he said, turning to walk out of the room.
Wale: “you will lose her respect with this your attitude Najim. Your country is in crisis and your beloved is in the center of the storm but you are yet to prove your worth. You run when you are threatened. Begging your parents, begging Nabila, apologizing to Nene…what is wrong with you? Man up! You country is on the verge of imploding! What will posterity say of you when the history books are written about this period? Will you be a footnote tethered to the apron strings of your bloodthirsty wife or the warrior that dared his world for the salvation of his country and the life of the woman he loves? Which will you be Najim; the husband or the lover?” wale said emphatically.
The men looked at him wondering where he got the strength to speak so strongly. Najim stared at his feet in embarrassment.
Najim: “my hands are tied. I am not like you. I am trying to save her the best way I can. She has been safe since. It was when you came into the picture that she was caught. It was because of you that Nene is now in Nabila’s clutches.” He replied, suddenly angry.
Wale: “because of me Nene was able to see her father and get vital information. Because of me she was able to get Nabila to…never mind. I am tired. Go…run to your wife and plead on your knees.” He said, leaning back on the pillow and closing his eyes, weary and dizzy with weakness.
The room was quite for some minutes. Then the first imam sighed.
First imam: “we have to leave soon. The children and women have done their best. Some of my people will be here soon and they will stand guard on this room until we can get you to somewhere safe.” he said, staring outside.
Najim: “what if my return to Nabila is used as an opportunity to kidnap Nabila? Then we can get her people to return Nene for Nabila’s safety.” He said, his voice stronger.
Wale turned to look at him for some minutes then he smiled.
Wale: “I knew there was a spine hiding somewhere within that weak chin.” he said and everyone laughed. The men settled to plot the kidnap and then they left quickly.
Some few minutes later, some burly men came into the room and wheeled Wale out of there into a van and drove away. By this time, the sun was throwing its last rays on the quiet hospital lawn; the women and children long gone. The earth was quiet; the quiet before a storm.
Dike paced around in the room, tossing his phone around in this fingers. He stopped all of a sudden, switched on his phone and dialed Uwadiegwu’s number.
Dike: “Hello long-time friend” he said unsure of himself, if his request would be granted or not.
Uwadiegwu: “Ha Dike! You remembered this prodigal son today? Even from here I can perceive the edge on your voice. Hope there is no problem? I have been following the struggle and it is sad to see how things have deteriorated” he said in one breath.
Dike: “My friend that is the main reason I called you. I need your help over something very crucial in this fight.”
Uwadiegwu: “Okay?” he said into the receiver urging him on.
Dike: “I need your help in getting out information to the public on the sufferings of the Igbos still left in the North. You are a journalist and I know you can do this if you want to. Please help me” he pleaded.
Uwadiegwu: “I am more than happy to be of help. I will see what I can do about it and get back to you”
Dike: “Thank you” he said and ended the call. He prayed silently in his heart that it will all work out the way he had planned. He couldn’t stand by and watch his people suffer the way they were doing.
Uwadiegwu on ending the call with Dike, immediately called Vivian Montero, who working for a foreign news agency in Nigeria. There was one of their reporters whom he knew personally on one of his tours. She was hungry for fame and could do just anything to be heard. Since she came to Nigeria to cover the ongoing crisis, she had been fed propaganda stories. She never really got the real people involved to talk to her. She agreed to come down to Kano to conduct an interview with Dike deep inside his hideout in the heart of Kano.
Uwadiegwu informed Dike of her coming and he in turn informed Nene’s mother who was excited at the opportunity been presented to her to not only air her views but also save her family. Vivian with the help of Dike’s contacts in Kano was taken to Dike’s hideout. Dike took her to Nene’s mum.
Nene’s mother shared her experiences with Vivian and also showed her the Facebook group page of Nene, her daughter. She told her about Nma’s death as well as her husband’s arrest and implication with tears in her eyes. She begged Vivian to let the world know that her husband was innocent as well as her daughter too. After the interview, Vivian took photographs of the people living with Dike and decided to spend the night with them.
Nabila’s father visited Kuje prison and requested to see Nene’s father. When he was brought in, he took out his phone from his pocket without even uttering one word to him and showed him a video of Nene in the hands of his boys.
Nabila’s father: “Hope you can still see? That is your daughter in the hands of my boys. Now you are going to do what I want or I will order her to be killed” he said in a menacing tone.
Nene’s father: “What do you want?” his calm voice made Nabila’s father want to punch him in the face.
Nabila’s father: “Your reaction is not what I expected of a man whose daughter is in danger of death. Well what else can be expected of a murderer? I want you to sign a confession that you masterminded the coup that killed the president” he said looking at him intently so he doesn’t miss his reaction.
Nene’s father stared at the video of Nene, tied and bundled up uncomfortably in a dark room. He could see the fear in her eyes. “It is over. She has failed. What more is there to live for? I might as well give in, so i can go find my wife. We can always start again, can’t we?” he thought to himself. He looked at Nabila’s father and nodded his head
The man snapped his finger and the Prison Warden came in with a piece of paper and a pen. He was followed by two warders who came with a camera and a microphone. They arranged the camera in front of the table and placed the microphone in front of Mazi Okeke. He stared at the arrangement and shook his head sadly.
Mazi Okeke: “what do you intend to gain from all this?” he suddenly asked.
Nabila’s father: “that does not concern you but if you must know, we intend to make the Nigeria army one of the best outfitted military in the world.”
Mazi Okeke: “all this, so you can sell guns?” he asked, shocked.
Nabila”s father: “medicine, food, petroleum, you name it. War is a time when the brave can become anything. We are poised at making not just money but also improving the Nigerian military as well as getting rid of a torn on our flesh, Ibos.” He replied, spitting the word out like spoilt meat.
Mazi Okeke: “is there no other way of doing this without turning the country upside down?” he asked, sadly.
Nabila’s father: “sign the document.” He said quietly.
At that moment, a warder ran into the room, excited. He saluted as the Prison Warden turned to him angrily.
Prison Warden: “what is it?” he asked.
Warder: “sir there has been a coup o. The senate president, the vice president and several other government people are dead o. The military are in power again.”
Nabila’s father cursed and ran out of the room, his phone already in his ears. Mazi Okeke sighed and stared at the camera lens that stared back at him. “When you beat a drum in the market in the middle of the night, do not be surprised when spirits come out to dance.” He thought to himself and smiled.
Najim heard the news as he drove with speed towards Nabila. The new head of state, a lowly Major in the Nigerian Army had dissolved all the ministries, the legislative houses and placed the country in a state of emergency. Every vigilante group had been asked to go back home or face severe sanctions. The Nigerian border was also shut down; no inbound ship or plane was let in neither was anyone let out. “Yes, we will all stay here and burn together. We will all burn together” he thought to himself, his lips set in a grim line.
He slowed down as he saw flashlights waving at him. It was a barricade. He slowed to a stop and put on the car’s interior light. A man walked to the car and looked at him. He said his name and the man nodded and waved for him to pass. He drove on and met two other checkpoints before he got a building brilliantly lit with fluorescent lights. He stopped his car as the gate opened and he drove inside. As the gate man locked the gate, Nabila strolled out from the front door, a cruel smile on her lips.
Nabila: “i knew you will come running as soon as you heard Nene. You are so weak! Kai! Come with me.” She said briskly and turned back into the house.
As soon as Najim closed the door behind him, the boot of his car creaked open and two smallish men came out. They moved silently, like cats. The first one went to the gate man and strangled him with a rope. When he was done, he nodded and the other went around the house slowly. He caught the shadow of a man smoking quietly under a Dongoyaro tree. He crept near him, easing a wicked looking blade from his boot. He slit the knife across the man’s throat; the man’s throat making a sucking sound as blood spluttered out.
The two shadows crept to a side entrance and entered the house. Within minutes, the men scattered all over the house were dying or dead. The two men quietly pulled off their hoods and sauntered into the sitting room where Nabila sat holding court.
Nabila’s face showed surprise on seeing them. The two men with her; one a white man with a big stomach and the other an Ibo man dressed in his native attire stood up fast on seeing the two men. Najim stood between two bodyguards, his hands and mouth tied. The two men acted fast. Their arms swung and the two bodyguards were down with knives standing out of their foreheads. As they threw the knives, they threw their bodies into the path of the white man who was bringing out a gun. The Ibo man ran for the door, but Najim tackled him to the floor and the fight was over.
Najim helped the men tie the men and Nabila with torn bed sheets and curtains. The men were professionals; they soon got the Ibo man confessing his role in the whole debacle. He was the Ibo connection in Mistletoe International while the white man whom they simply know as Mr Edwards was their European contact. Nabila’s father was the Hausa connection. He also informed them that their Yoruba connection and the head of the organization, was out of the country.
Nabila was prepared separately and the men went to work on her. They broke her nails and pulled her tooth one after the other. She quickly gave them the location of Nene as well as other Ibo women who were being held and used by the men as much as they liked. Najim felt like throwing up as he heard the things Nabila had done and the kind of people she had mingled with.
Nabila: “it was for you Najim…all for you. I wanted our life to be peaceful, our children to grow in a world free of infidels and thieves. I love you Najim… i did this for you!” she screamed through her broken lips as Najim, disgusted by her, walked out of the room.
On getting out of the smell of Nabila’s waste that she had spilled in the room during the torture, he quickly dialed Nabila’s father’s number.
Najim: “we have your daughter and she has been singing. We also have Chief Ikenne and one Mr Edwards. The game is up.” He said and ended the call.
Vivian sent her interview via the Internet to her offices in Los Angeles. The news hit the international scene with a loud bang, coupled with the coup. Everybody wanted to know what was going on in Nigeria. Messages started coming in from different countries asking that the Igbos still left in the north be given asylum or given free safe passage back to the east. The vigilantes could not rouse themselves as fierce faced soldiers were scattered all over the country ready to shot any miscreant on sight. An uneasy peace settled on the country.
Nene’s facebook page was full with people asking for the group’s admin. Nene was missing and thought dead by some. Mazi Okeke heard all these from a warder who was sympathetic. He prayed and hoped that it wasn’t true.
Nene stared in surprise as Najim appeared at the door to her room, followed by several Hausa men. She burst into tears as he loosened her bounds and held her close.
Nene: “i thought i will never get out alive. How did you find me?”She asked, holding him tight.
Najim told her the story from when she as picked up to the storming of Nabila’s hideout.
Nene: “where is she now?” she asked, wiping her tears.
Najim: “oh…you will see her soon. Don’t worry.” He said.
He hugged her again and they kissed.
Immediately after her freedom, Nene went on her Facebook wall to tell her story and Najim’s. Nabila’s father’s role as well as Nabila’s was told with evidence from the testimony of Nabila and the two men caught with her. Vivian was allowed to interview Mazi Okeke, who also threw more light on the motivations behind the crisis as told to him by Nabila’s father.
When soldiers got to the Nabila’s family residence, her mother, sick with shame and grief informed them that he had committed suicide rather than face the law. Nabila and her accomplices were taken to Kuje Prison and Mazi Okeke release.
Mrs Okeke, Nene’s mother, met with her husband and daughter after months of grief. Their meeting was a media event. With cameras flashes and microphone being thrust into their noses for comments.
Nene finally married Najim. She was awarded the Grand Order of the Niger, for her contribution in saving the country from chaos. Wale and Najim were each awarded the Order of the Niger, for their contributions. Mazi Okeke and his wife never left Kano and they are there to this day; building back their world one piece at a time.
Nabila was sentenced to life imprisonment, a broken woman. Vivian Montero’s story on the crisis got her nominated for a Pulitzer Prize but she didn’t win.
Nigeria is a country filled with diverse voices, diverse thoughts and diverse vision. We, despite our differences in religious beliefs, culture, language and traditions, can join hands in making Nigeria a country for everyone no matter the tongue or religion. Let us no allow warmongers push us to a battle that will cause more pain that what we have never experienced. He who has ears let him hear. One Nigeria!!
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