Party members of Freedom Party, journalists and the general press gathered at the party’s head office in the secretariat, for the outcome of the primaries. This came after a brief meeting at the Apex house concerning the bomb blast that killed thirty nine government officials and citizens, injuring sixty-seven others. The meeting was attended by security experts, several government officials and security Chiefs. After its closure, the press surrounded the incoming persons with questions about the outcome which they declined. The primaries was a contest between the President, Mr Ajuwa Williams and his vice, Bello Salaudeen, who recently had a fallout with the former on how things were to be run. Mr Bello was one of those that no longer believed Ajuwa Williams presidential ambitions and resolved to take up the mantle by contesting in the primaries, which was against the ideas and party principles of its members. The Members and party chairman himself tried talking Mr Bello out of his “insanity”, in order to prevent chaos and scandalous rumours which was beginning to spread like wildfire among the populace, that the party was unstable, as fiddle as a feather, lacked the audacity and capabilities to deal with the pending problems lingering. Mr Bello refuted, had a firm resolution and opposed whatever his party members said about adopting Mr Ajuwa Williams as the consensus candidate, though, gradually, he began to have certain individuals in support of his motion. This was the catastrophic mastermind of Alhaji Saheed which was beginning to take a shape.
“It has come to our notice that the winner of the party’s primaries is out, undisputedly, Ajuwa Williams has been declared the eventual winner of the contested primaries”, came the voice of the party’s secretary, Mrs Virginia, who announced to the crowd.
“That’s impossible and ridiculous. How can a man who has solely disappointed the people, betrayed his own party and rubbished the party’s manifestos and campaign promises win? It’s absurd and this, has been rigged just to favour him”, Mr Bello rose in an uproar in his black kaftan.
“Don’t talk gibberish here, his mandate was clear and therefore, deserved to emerge victorious”, the party’s chairman rose to Ajuwa’s defense.
“It’s nonsense, we are failing, the party is failing, don’t you hear what the people are saying? We can’t lose the next election and we will if we adopt Ajuwa Williams as party candidate”, another member stated.
“What the people are saying is only heard by you because you all have been bribed into thinking so, the people still on believe in Ajuwa’s administration to continue to deliver”.
“What? Is that how you insult your party’s fellows? By thinking what is not? How sure are you, you all haven’t been bribed by the president himself “, accused, Mr Ogwu, a top official in the board of trustees.
“I take exception for that blatant rude remarks, do you think am as dirty as you? I have a clean record of nabbing corrupt officials and that will include any one in this room if found guilty “,argued Ajuwa Williams, still obsessed by the impudent comments. Members of the board of trustees were thrown into bewilderment about the outcome, members took sides and finally, an important resolved decision was reached, Ajuwa became the presidential aspirant, Mr Bello left with his supporters in rage and threatened to join the opposition party, which he did when the decision went against him. Mr Bello immediately, placed a call to Alhaji Saheed to inform him everything went according to plan. He had given the FPN, reason to defect.
Campus was tranquil, perhaps, the cool morning, devoid of harsh sun rays had its effect on it. The day looked promising, even more for Tafa who will partake in the upcoming semester exams, after paying up his outstanding fees, the money he apparently took from Rogers. The news about the death that clouded his family was all behind him for good, inexplicable happenings that threw him off balance was all gone. The thoughts of living as an orphan, his depleted world, his sorrow being made him realize that nature, had no regard for anyone in particular, the rich and the poor, good and evil are all affected in one way or the other but the latter, seemed to get the better of it. He stood under a deciduous tree, observing the scenery when certain questions about nature, it’s pure existence and It’s Ruler revolved in his mind, does the Supreme Being, the Creator existed? And if it was, does He still exist? Does he acknowledge the suffering of His ardent followers or are they mere fantasies to delude people into believing nature was brought into being by The Supreme Being and thus, controls it? They were all rhetorical questions or perhaps, questions he chose not to answer in his occupied mind but carefully wandered in them. His life was an example, a fact and answer to all his questions, the suffering of man has no bounds, it could only get more worse. Nature is bad to the good and good to the bad. What he wanted now was to live a new life of enjoyment, no pain. After his resolution and conviction, he left for his room.
Rogers was now fully awake, he hadn’t slept in the previous night because of the meeting he had with his friends, thereafter, he left for an all night party with them.
“Wow, finally, you are awake, was thinking you were never going to”
“What says the time? ”
“it’s 12 noon.”
“Oh my world, I just missed something”
“What is that? ”
“Oh never mind .it’s nothing to worry about”, he leapt to a sitting position on his bed.
“So, you have been on that position for how long?, “referring to Tafa’s beckoning on the door.
“Not quite long, I just came inside when I saw you were already up”
“Oh, nice”. Rogers still had a squeamish look on his face, got up to wash his face in the bathroom, after, he examined it and returned to a sitting position on his bed. Tafa looked serious and also sat on his bed.
“I was thinking of when am going to meet your friends, I mean become a full member.”
“Oh yes, we talked about it yesterday, you will be present in our regular Saturday initiation ritual meeting today, you will become a full member this night”
“Oh, that’s alright. I will be ready then. Why are you smiling? ” Tafa noticed Rogers smiling at him.
“Am happy you have realized that life it’s too short to lavish. You have a purpose ”
“I want to live my life now, a carefree life. My belief diminished the moment I saw the last members of my family traded under a building. I was stupid and unreasonable then and now, I want to make it up to myself, live a worthy life”
“You made the right choice. I see the hunger to succeed, to excel in you, you couldn’t have achieved those without you being released from the thralldom of your obsolete beliefs”. Tafa smiled at him and left. Rogers wandered in his thoughts, destiny had brought Tafa to his call, the killing of his siblings in the blast, the death of his siblings was no mistake after all, he has been released from the imprisonment of his obsolete beliefs just like what Ruff had told them, it was all, but a trigger that will lure him to them. It was what they ever wanted, with Tafa joining them, Al-hida group will be stronger, more ruthless operations will be carried out, perfection will be achieved. It was one happy day for both of them and regretted scolding his friends the other day for the blast.
Tafa never went through the rigorous process of initiation like the others passed through during their time. Why and wherefore was only known to Ruff and therefore, Tafa bypassed the norms of the practice. After the initial round, which was drinking of an animal’s blood, he was handed over, a handmade silver necklace to wear as a sign of membership, next was a crest and then, he took an oath of belonging only to them,
“We live together, we die together, perfection in unison, no flinty feelings, love is only for the weak, non-existent among the strong, we are gods among others, one family, we live for each other, die for each other, we believe in ourselves, in what we do, may we be protected by our own faith, until death, Al-hida Al-hida”.
Ruff gave a brief speech and closed with a remainder of the consequences of betrayal amongst them, death was the price to be paid. Tafa was ready for this and showed no form of trembling whatsoever, he conceited to this, this was his new family, to live with and to think of. That was his new self discovery, he would hold onto for a long time.
The new day broke, Tafa woke up in seventh heaven, his previous night was an indelible moment. Unsurprisingly, the brotherhood took care of his financial needs and provided new set of clothes that laid on the empty sofa, his name printed on the card boldly. It consisted of a customised blazer jacket, Italian suits, chinos and numerous shirts. He hadn’t realised this till he made sure he wasn’t dreaming, he was in complete awe of what he saw. Rogers had gone out already as he normally does especially on Mondays, he sprang to his feet to have his bath and shave, after he remembered he had a class meeting to attend.
His amazing new appearance bewildered most campus students walking at different paces to their respective destinations, many reasons were given for that, with some concluding that he was no longer a believer, that he was the “new boy ” of the supposed cultist group. Tafa was fully aware of the straying eyes but continued to walk briskly, till he stumbled on Rita, chatting up with her friends who looked unrecognizable to her like the rest at first. Her friends were equally amazed and exchanged greetings with Tafa, before he faced Rita.
“Hello Rita, how are you?” Tafa first greeted, that was the first time he spoke to her since the funeral.
“What a surprise? Barely recognized you. You are looking ok, good to see you have let bygones be bygones”
“Yes, I had to let the pain of yesterday go, start up well today to ensure a brighter tomorrow. ”
“Good to hear that. I didn’t see you in church yesterday, and in the midweek service, what’s happening?”
“It’s nothing, just that I have found a new faith, and discovered a new self”
“What new faith? There is none except the one in God”
“There is and I was made to discover it. I still believe in God, but a different one entirely. I believe in the god in me, in myself”
“That is blasphemy Tafa. What has really come over you? Or have you lost what you have believed in since you were little? Or have you? ”
“Have you joined them Tafa? Have you joined those unbelievers, those ruthless Savage beings on campus? ”
“And of what good is it if I don’t join them? Your God has failed me, I wasn’t prospering but now I am, I was miserable but not anymore. Like I said, I believe in a new god, I will be late for my meeting, please excuse me.”
Tafa kept walking without looking back on her, the way he talked to her when he looked in her eyes were gone. Rita knew his faith had been tampered, that was what led him to join a group he preaches against all the time, now she could do nothing to stop him, but at least to try one more, she wouldn’t lose Tafa, a big asset in God’s Vineyard to those unbelievers, whom she greatly despise. The sect had a strong record of not letting members pullout, which of course, is an act punishable by death. She excused from her friends and went to the restroom, poured her heart out and prayed for Tafa to unite with his former faith.
Once, the President ordered more deployment of a platoon of army officers in all school and varsity in order to detect and prevent any foreseeable attack from the insurgents and also, shoot at them at foresight if they couldn’t be caught. Each of them patrolled on campus, day and night. Tafa was ignorant of this as he was on his way back to his room, he soon got a call from Rogers, demanding him to get to their usual meeting crib, they had a complicated mission to deal with.
“I will be there in a jiffy with no hassle”, just then he noticed he was been followed by one of those soldiers directly behind him while he was flanked by two others and when he asked Rogers what he needed to do, Tafa was advised to retain his composure and act cool, which he didn’t like because he hated been followed like a suspect unnoticed, moreover, he was followed by people he disliked, the sight of military officials disgust him. He imagined the reason for his being followed, could it be someone had given him up? He increased his pace whenever the soldiers kept coming closer to him. The worse happened at a time when he looked back, the soldiers aimed their guns at him, Tafa perspired and breathed so much that he was hyperpyrexia, and scared of being dead, he had no choice than to run on his heels, the armed men pulled the trigger quadrupled times but Tafa, smart as he was went in between the bushes and was lost out of sight.
“Some soldiers are after Tafa. I told him to move with composure, not sure it was the right thing to say to him”
“Of course it was, if he had trembled, he would be forced to say things, so it’s a good advice Rogers. ”
“Am not sure he will be safe”, Binani said.
“He will. He’s a smart dude and highly intellectual. He will make it definitely. ”
A knock was heard on the door, the fear it might be the soldiers scared them, moreover, they don’t have and keep weapons anywhere on campus, they could have defended themselves warily, except for few knives at their back pockets. Ruff leapt forward, towards the door and opened, a hale and hearty Tafa was on the door with a quiver entered almost immediately;
“I knew you were going to escape ”
“I almost died there, they fired shots at me when I ran, couldn’t stand their aiming at me.”
“They are crazy, why will they fire shots at a civilian? I hate this Government”
“They think they will ever discover us, it’s impossible and now, I hate them more”
“Hey, we all dislike them, let’s get down to a more important business, there will be a health conference in the capital in two days time, ministers, foreign health experts and the President, will likely be in attendance. We are to disrupt it with a bomb. ”
“We know it’s a gargantuan conference and would be highly secured”
“So, what’s the plan? ”
“We will leave in two separate vehicles, one will drive a van, which will be stuffed with our weapons and cement bags to cover it up to make it look as if, we are delivering a shipment and the other, in a bus which will contain the remainder of us”, explained in details by Ruff.
“I have one, due to the pending stop and search among major checkpoints, aren’t we likely to be searched? I mean the van”, asked Kamal.
“Trust me, we wouldn’t. Nobody will spend hours searching a van with hundreds of bags of cements when they are over thousands of other vehicles on the road”, Ruff entailed.
“How do we get the bag of cements? ”
“We would have bought them ourselves, but we smuggle them instead and keep our cash. Tafa and I will smuggle them, it will be a wonderful experience for him”, Ruff smiled and Tafa, returned the gesture. Tafa’s mind was pretty occupied by the job they were given. He realised this group wasn’t just a cult but something much more. They were made to all have the impression at first that they were cultists but as it progressed perhaps he thought, he realised they were more than mere cultists or reverenced in campus and that’s the reason for their staying in an expensive hostel in campus, to not be suspected of carrying out jobs as high as this. He questioned himself if it were these men that caused the bombing of the square, the residential building where his siblings lived. He could be working for people that killed his siblings. He ruminated for long that his self wasn’t present. Ruff knew what he was thinking of and asked again.
“Are you okay Tafa? “
“Yes, I am”, he lied.
“I know this must be hard, the bombings at cupala square wasn’t ours but a rival group that wants to suppress and eradicate us. They would be taken care off as a punishment for your siblings death”, Ruff promised. He was happy to see a glimmer of smile on Tafa. He was convinced he believed his story. Tafa knew his siblings killers and was happy they would be dealt with to the point he wouldn’t have to lift a finger. He was offered a cigarette by Ruff but coughed loudly. It was his first time of smoking but subsequent trials, he became comfortable and smoked like them.
“So, how do we go about planting it”, one of them brought back the initial question.
“There are three places where we can plant it, the drive way, the conference room itself and the hallway. Our exit is through the power station room behind that serves as the alternative exit”, everyone all this while, thought it was Ruff talking but it wasn’t, Tafa had been doing the talking, his robust knowledge awed everyone but at the same time, each of them present were angry about his talking, no one talks when Ruff, their leader talks but he was pardoned, he was a new entrant and wasn’t familiar with the rules yet.
“Am sorry for speaking, I am very well familiar with the venue, I went there with my father when I was fourteen.”
“It’s okay, that’s why we have you here after all. You are very much forgiven. You have just given us insight, thank you”. Tafa was very much pleased, still his fellow members were still in awe.
“We are going with this plan, we we’ll go through the back with our bags, we go in two’s first as journalists and then, trailed by the rest of us as cleaners, ensuring the conference room is clean. We stay only fifteen minutes and get out. We live this night, when the patrol is less”, concluded Ruff. Tafa now knew why these men wouldn’t leave the sect and why they enjoyed it, the pay is exuberant for them to quit. He needed to be prepared mentally physically if he was going to be in their league. It was his very first mission to impress and not disappoint.
five hours later, around 1.am, the bus and a van came to a halt in front of a nearly completed bungalow structure, surrounded by thick bushes and trees. It wasn’t modernly built but spacious enough to shelter humans. It used to be one of their regulars until recently, it was abandoned. They usually act that way to prevent prying eyes on them. It was chosen this time because, their next operation wasn’t in Baigari State, they needed a place to rest before embarking on their journey. Tafa and Ruff about thirty minutes prior to their stop, had smuggled one hundred and fifty bags of cement from a cement factory store into the van, killing four of the security guards on duty. After the halt, each and every one of them helped on load explosives, rolled in the rollers from the rat infested house into a space, prepared for them in the van, then the cement bags were placed on them and arranged in piles, so as to appeal it was all cement bags that was stuffed. They all entered inside after on loading, the house was fill of cobwebs, a fact that it had been abandoned for a long time, they were used to it, except Tafa who regularly removed the cobwebs as he advanced with a short broom he spotted when he entered. He had to get used to it if he was to be fully recognised and accepted by them and have a good impression, after all, they barely needed three hours to embark on their mission. It was almost 2.am,and were to leave for Abuja by 4.am.
The health conference was to fully commence by 10 am at the Mariam Aliyusi Conference center, the guests had not started arriving as of 7.30 am when Ruff and his team had arrived in a white and yellow stripped vehicle of pie reporters, the reporting media had an exclusive rights to cover the health conference as well as two others. Tafa, who had been very close to Ruff ever since he became a member, observed the scenery from where he stood with Ruff, in the parking lot. The center was enormous with glass frames, the green white green flag flew high up on the Cadre, plethora of security personnel flooded the entrance and the drive way, thoroughly searching anyone who passes through the door. Ruff and Tafa walked to the entrance, with a microphone, flashed their I.Ds to them ;
“Henry Richmond and Chris Eze from pie reporters “. They were allowed a pass into the building reception, where the other reporters from other media houses stood. Some of the guests started arriving in their convoys, some in private cars, the foreign health experts were the first to arrive and be interviewed, Tafa and Ruff split, while Tafa remained to interview more guests, Ruff went to the restroom and dialed Kamal;
“Where are you? ”
“Am at the back door, Binani is setting the explosives in the park now”
“Ok, I will be there by and by”, Ruff headed for the door, behind him on the passage was security official trailing him, he came from behind the door of the alternative entrance and gave him a darting left-handed punch on his forehead, pulling his body to the back where Kamal was, Ruff quickly exchanged the uniform with his clothes, took few explosives from Kamal and headed for the left wing of the building and then, back to the driveway, the last place he would place the bomb.
The influx of government officials had increased, Tafa continued his pretense, he waited for Ruff for some explosives to be planted in the populated room, it arrived in an envelop, Tafa detached the detonator on the main door, in every corner of the room and left for the back door, with Ruff and Kamal and vanished to where Rogers was waiting in their bus, about half a mile away.
“Got in time you all”, Rogers welcomed.
Their reaching there astonished them, they were incomplete, they wondered what had kept Binani from reaching there.
“Where the hell is Binani? He is supposed to have been here already”
Just then, he was sighted, running towards the bus, the sight relieved them of anxiety in their bosom.
“Ahh”, Rogers exclaimed, “you almost elapsed the time”
“It’s okay, am fine let’s get out of here” Binani assured them.
“So what do we do with the hostages at the back? ”
“We should drop them faraway from here. They will wake up and not remember any of this happened”
The real pie reporters were kidnapped along a highway in the same vehicle that conveyed them to the conference, the reporters were sedated, that accounted for their sleeping. A big sound of explosion was heard as they drove off, thick smoke covered the clouds like a fog, there was a wide spread commotion as two blasts sounded simultaneously, seconds after the first. The President, Ajuwa Williams survived along side others but majority of the foreign experts were dead. Another blast sounded in the alternative exit, Ajuwa Williams managed to escape but his bodyguards behind were dead.
The announcement of the death of some ministers and the foreign health experts put everyone in shock, in the country and in the diaspora, the country had presented themselves with a negative image and calls were being made for the President to resign amidst unresolved disposition. The President himself had declared that day and the next as a holiday to mourn the departed souls. His closed door meeting with his security Chiefs ended and he was left in his depressed state and deep thinking. His several hours of segregation made him reach his final deductions, firstly, a rich political figure whether in his government or not is inconsequential, financed the deadly group to rob him of his second term, tarnish his image and distract him of his campaign. The group knew everything virtually happening in his home and so, he suspected a mole was in his home, and so, were information wise and planned ahead, that was his second deduction, though, they lacked substantial clues, he was sure he was right.
Investigations were carried out, no evidence pointed out to anyone in particular that was the culprit except for few footages that captured Binani putting something that they envisioned as box under a car in the parking lot, a security official running with a cleaner, all was blurry, efforts to get the imaging vivid was abortive, that was a lead they had wanted, they wished they got.
“Did you see they all ran before the time of the explosion? That is to say they knew that it was going to explode, that accounted for their take off. They did it”, stated the new National Intelligence Unit boss, Victor Okafor. He was appointed by the President himself to replace the former, he considered incapable and fiddle. He was addressing a co-worker in the office, who was watching the tape with him in the control room.
“What if they didn’t? Maybe they saw the bomb and was to scared to alert bomb public so, they fled for their lives”
“It doesn’t seem to appear so, look at it again, they all knew themselves, the other two ran in the same direction. The security official was with a walkie-talkie, why didn’t he communicate with the rest, we got them there. So bad we couldn’t see their faces “.
“Sir, should I get the report forwarded to the defence Ministry and other security agencies?”
“Yes, please, that is what we were able to get at the moment, check for more available footages to see if we can get a more vivid imaging”, He instructed and left for his office. NIU was a subsection under the ministry of defence that over sees the CCTV, every movement on the road and premises within the city, right from their office base. They worked hand in hand in relating information to other security agencies, especially in matters that has no root cause or definite findings like the one they were dealing with in which the person or group of persons carrying out the bombings are yet to be discovered. The President’s order on deployment of military in those states that has been severely affected was only a temporary result to combat the crisis, as state of emergency has already been declared. The severity of the matter will determine which security agency is solely responsible for the operation, whether it’s a terrorist group or mere political thugs.
“Excuse me sir, we have some vivid pictures about them, they are in Baigari state and are students, “one of the operators presented a file to Mr Okafor in his office.
“Good, we will have to contact everyone now”.
Tafa’s first mission was very successful, he was gladden at the back of his mind and had been in his dreams till he woke up from his heavy slumber, it was a sunny morning, the rays focused on his eyes and he immediately, jerked to a sitting position. The rays wasn’t the only reason, the hard knocks he heard on the door disturbed his sleep. Rogers was out again, he wasn’t sure if he slept at all before leaving. The journey was longer than usual, they needed to take another route back to the state. That night was a long one for all of them. Tafa pulled his sleeveless on and headed for the door, Rita stood with Pastor Simon, Tafa reluctantly exchanged greetings with them and led to his room.
“To what do I owe this visit? I never expected any of you”, Pastor Simon cleared his obstructed throat before commencing to speak.
“We came to see you, to see how you are doing”
“I can see you came to see me and luckily, am doing very great and superfluous”
“Tafa, your life is extremely important to God, He still loves you and ready to take you back more than ever. Your pain, burdened heart, he will take care of those only if you… ”
“Only if what”, he cuts in, “ if I go back to Him in what? And who will He take care of? I don’t need to be taken care of by anyone, so don’t blab in front of me with your teachings. I was once devoted to Him and my devotion is unparalleled, you know that, she knows that and God Himself knows that. Where was His power when I lost everything that was me, my family? I went from pain to pain, prayed and yet, afflictions caught the righteous more than once, more than twice. You keep deceiving people He still exists while He doesn’t”
“Brother Tafa, don’t speak like that, in time of tribulations, He is always there to help, even when you give up on natural happenings, the extraordinary happens. Disaster is inevitable in one’s life and only Him knows why such things happen. Sometimes, you lose the most important people in your life, you just have to move on”
“That’s just what I have done, moved on with my life, I believe in myself, not some sort of a non-existent Being. I am a god myself ”
“Don’t become the person that you aren’t, you are still a tool in His Vineyard”
“Am not anyone’s tool”, Tafa screamed at the top of his voice, “I care about nothing, not even the God you worship. I have chosen a path I believe, that is worth believing. I can be anything I want to be. Why do you still bother about me when you disappointed me the time I needed you and the church, I would have saved my father who was at the top of the list of patients for a new heart, probably saved my siblings. You all saved your money because of greed, you are not to be forgiven and you will definitely pay one day”
“I wasn’t in the position to help you, I am just an assistant pastor, nothing more”
“But you could still have done something, I waited for an answer from you until the last day when my father had another arrest and was about to breathe his last. If you had told me earlier, I would have sought for an alternative but you didn’t. No, you could have done something. ”
Pastor Simon felt terribly guilty and with that, Tafa dismissed them. They knew almost immediately that Tafa wasn’t the same anymore, he had metamorphosed into something fierce, powerless to be changed, like some kind of spell was cast on him. The circumstances that surrounded him changed him for worse. He wasn’t going back to the same faith that blinded him and obstructed his sense of reasoning over time, that failed to make him realised that he was going down the drain till he found a new faith that he called, “the light”. Tafa’s new self was unimaginably bitter to Rita, who didn’t utter a word all through. Her presence was barely recognised by Tafa except once. When she looked back at him and he didn’t reciprocate, she realised that she had lost him. It wasn’t her Tafa and in as much she wanted to profess her feelings yet again, she still couldn’t. To her, it was late to do that. She was scared and lacked the audacity to talk to him normally like the old times. It was gone, another being had been unleashed from his within, so uncontrollable. He was no longer the immaculate Tafa, the one she loved so much that she couldn’t profess her feelings to him. She got his attention by calling out his name for the last time wished him, “Good luck ” and closed the door behind her. Tafa reached for his packet of cigarettes and spirit in the cupboard and combined the two in what he called, a warmup. He didn’t mind abandoning his pursuit of a career in school , none of his friends attended classes after all, they used the University as one of their hideouts since they would be least suspected. He was happy with the way he has become, who he had translated into.
With subsequent missions, Tafa turned into a world class act and he was sung like a song by Ruff. His intelligence earned him a higher rank and drew jealousy from other members, though, it wasn’t apparent but Tafa knew it. He was able to handle guns effectively and efficiently, detonate and deactivate bombs. Three days later, the group was out on a mission to do some burglary for fun. They were to spy on the three streets to monitor situation and get reports, one was where the mall was located, where Tafa and Rogers headed, the other two were opposite, where Ruff and the rest had taken routes, making sure no one was readily available. They moved in two’s as usual. The streets was unusually cold, scary and at the same time, looked like something was amiss, but was undecipherable. Maybe the insecurity in the state had made everyone stay indoors. The mall was the biggest in the city and previously, were open till 10.pm,but like the deserted street, they opened on selected days and closed before 5.pm. From their surveys, no one was detected around and as they got closer to the entrance, gun shots were fired at them from no particular position. Unexpectedly, they ran behind the electric poles as cover, some ran behind the mall, still, it was as if, the shots were coming from close range. Few weapons were with them, they didn’t expect to run into their trap. It was by no mistake that they had been ambushed. Soon, Ruff noticed one of the shooters, a little from afar and shot at the from where he hid, the rest shot sporadically. Tafa hid behind old blocks, got a sight of another shooter and shot at him. Ruff’s men continually ran out of bullets, Ruff told them to run without looking back which they did but then, one of them Al-Amin was shot twice and was hemorrhaging. Ruff couldn’t help it, seeing one of his members dying at the forefront. Bullets were flying in the air and Al-Amin hemorrhaged profusely, Ruff dived and crawled but Tafa was closer, he had long reacted before Ruff did and so, Al-Amin was saved, on the run to safety, one of the soldiers aimed at Tafa, Ruff calculated it was Tafa and after it had been fired, he took the bullet, Tafa looked back and saw Ruff was down but he was safe with Al-Amin, he cut out some parts of his vest and arrested the bleeding. They all knew Ruff wasn’t going to make it after sustaining three shots. Two of them had lost their lives, the new entrees on their first mission to burgle. They watched from their hideout that the shooters withdrew, probably they saw no one to shoot at, they took five of their men that died during the shootout and left. Only Rogers and Tafa came out of their hiding, they suspected the shooters had not gone very far. They wanted to avoid more men dying. Ruff was still breathing, they hurriedly took him to where the rest were hiding, each tore a piece of their clothes and wrapped it against the parts that bled;
“You are not going to die, you will live “, were Tafa’s words of encouragement, even if it seemed not too encouraging. Ruff was in a pretty bad shape, the thoughts of him living was very slim, he had gotten deep wounds.
“Hhhooowww is he?”, he managed to speak. He was concerned about the health of Al-Amin.
“He is fine for now at least, till we take him to a more comfortable place for proper wound dressing”. Ruff was happy about the assurance, it was read all over his face as he smiled. He was happy to trade his life for his. He kept coughing profusely, emitting blood from his mouth. It was apparent, he wouldn’t survive in the next minute. He took out a symbol, in the form of necklace from his pocket , held it in his hands. Others waited to see who he would give it to, it was a necklace of authority and power, every subsequent leader will wear. Rogers was the obvious person as he was a rank behind Ruff but that wasn’t the case, he held it towards Tafa, who was quizzical. To him, he was just a newbie, others deserved it better than he does. Others frowned at the decision especially Rogers who considered it biased.
“Your heroic deeds today was marvelous and totally deserved to be the recipient of this. Don’t forget your beliefs, don’t live in the thralldom of anyone, continue to be the new self you have discovered, who you are now is who you actually are, implies to all of you. Take this”, he handed it over to Tafa, who wore it almost immediately.
“Rule like the leader I never was”. The rest held out his hand and he gave up the ghost. It was a black day for them.
“We promise you, we will”, Tafa wrapped his body and with the aid of others, they took him to bury in one of their cribs, outside the school.
“We got them sir, three of them went down but the rest fled”, one of the soldiers spoke through his walkie-talkie. He was communicating with the defense quarters about their operation. The soldiers drove back to their camp in tankers.
“Do you confirm Baigari state as their location”
“Yes, but we are not too sure if they are terrorists or armed robbers for they headed the mall to steal”
“You are saying is still unconfirmed ”
“Not good. Good job. Continue the good work”
“Thank you sir”, the soldier ended.
The news circulated in all the media in the morning about the shootout with unknown armed men, they assumed were a terrorist group in Baigari State. Discovering their niche and the shootout raised a satisfactory remarks about the military maneuver from the citizens. The news was sent by Public Relation Officer who ensured proper editing before releasing the statement. Of course, to get a vote of confidence and maximize the president’s chances of winning the Election. Many considered the president’s deployment as a good implementation, widely applauded. The truth behind it was nobody knew actually the body of the news, whether it was a terrorist group or armed robbers was inconsequential, they needed to make the people believe they had actually hit something, that they working at optimum level.
The burial had taken place, in far away Zani, a city in the outskirts of the state. Tafa was ultimately, the new leader in a quiet ceremony, the same night Ruff was buried. Tafa had declared that day and the day after as days of bereavement. He couldn’t stop crying. He took it upon himself to avenge his death. He summoned the rest after the bereavement, his presence became more fierce, evil and terrified everyone.
“Ruff is dead, may his soul rest in perfect peace”, he started.
“This is a new era, a new beginning with new set of rules with. We are one family, you have no other. You have only one life and that is here, with us. No going out alone, everyone should have a soul mate, a confidant and should be responsible for you anytime. There is a price for every violation of our rules, you all know that is death. We are going full blown, we will be known and be famous, our names shall reign high. We will burn down churches, government buildings but first thing is first, our niche has been discovered, the government is at our neck, we are getting out of this place, out of campus and never come back except when necessary, no more schooling or whatsoever. And we will hit them for our dead brothers, for Ruff. And one more thing, no one should say nothing while leaving. All of you should call me Bin-Ahmed, and not the cool headed Tafa. We kill in the name of Al-hida. Any questions? ”
When he saw no one endeavored to ask, he dismissed them. He got a call immediately on Ruff’s phone after their departure and received.
“Tafa, it’s Alhaji Saheed”
“How did you know my name”
“I know everything. My eyes are everywhere. You are their leader now and only answerable to me. Imbibe his qualities and be absolutely loyal to me. It’s time to get the real jobs done. Your pay with the rest will be doubled. You know what do next right?”
“Yes, I do. It’s been planned”
“Good, will be glad to work with you. Impress me, more than your predecessor ”
“Yes sir”, he hung up.
He knew what he wanted to do, he had already told his subordinates but they will be launching the attack on the military base of the state the next day in day time, before they sign-off the from the state.