It was a beautiful day; a beautiful day indeed. Fortune had finally smiled on Edwin Asekame. He had been tired of being assigned dull and non-lucrative postings. Especially now; January was always the worst month of the year for him…in fact, for everybody. The lavish splurge that usually occurred during the festive season at the end of each year was beginning to tell so bad that he had had to conjure up a bullshit story to tell his elder brother with whom he shared a one bedroom apartment to part with N1000 to transport him to work for the week.
It worked and on getting to work, he was informed by his CO that he had been assigned for escort duties; his first ever assignment in that regard. He was so overjoyed at the news that he nearly prostrated before his CO who ignored his joyful exuberance and dismissed him.
It was a common thing among members of the NPF to get assigned on escort duties to “oyinbo expatriates”, politicians or “big men” and if the assignee was lucky, they got assigned to a ‘generous’ man and if they proved their worth, the assignment became a lucrative one. Edwin’s prayer now was to get assigned to a generous man.
He was given munitions for his rifle and the patrol van dropped him off at the rendezvous with his ward; a little private chalet in the highbrow part of town. To his surprise, he was introduced to a Mr. Anwar Ibrahimi, a Pakistani National – not like he knew the difference anyway; a white man was a white man and that meant hard currency. All he had to do now was prove himself.
Mr. Ibrahimi was a short rotund fellow with jowls that would make a fat pig envious. His thinning hairline did not prevent him from keeping his shiny, silky black hair in a ponytail which matched perfectly with his clean goatee. He had a handsome face that became more obvious when his eyes twinkled and laughing came quite easy to him.
“Good morning sa!” Edwin greeted, standing ramrod straight in in salute fashion.
‘Morny, morny my friend. How you today?” Ibrahimi asked in a heavy accented voice, through lips that held a half-gone cigarette with the ash dangling quite carelessly. He handed a hefty brown envelope to Edwin’s chaperone, who smiled and shook hands with him and departed as quietly as he came. Edwin could only imagine what the contents of the envelope was but responded as quickly as he could.
“Fine sa!” He was quite sure that today was going to be a good day.
Ibrahimi was clad in a long gold coloured bathrobe and invited Edwin to the little shade with a circle of four chairs around a small circular table just before the entrance to the chalet. The table had a half full bottle of Hennessey, two empty cans of Coca Cola, three glasses, three packs of Camels of which two were empty and the other nearly half gone.
“Sit, sit, my friend.” Ibrahimi said as he lowered his bulk into one of the chairs and lit another cigarette. He motioned to the chair on the other side to which Edwin gratefully sat as carefully as possible.
“You like drink? Drink up. We have many place to go today. You will protect me with your gun, ok?” He said after a bout of heavy coughing to which Edwin mumbled an apology.
“I’m not supposed to drink while I’m on duty sa.” Edwin said cautiously even though he couldn’t believe that he had just been invited to drink Hennessey with oyinbo man.
“Oh, don’t be shy. Your oga not here. For the next three days, I am your oga and I am very good oga” He said with a grin. He pronounced ‘oga’ as ogre and laughed in a way that made Edwin feel at ease instantly.
“I go shower now. We go out in thirty minutes.” With that, Ibrahimi got up and sauntered into the little chalet. When he opened the door which was just opposite where he just been sitting with his back to the door, Edwin caught a glance of two light-skinned ladies inside the surprisingly spacious and well-furnished sitting room tying towels watching TV. The door was shut quickly before he could see more.
Edwin was struck with awe. Was this the life rich people lived? He pondered on his life for a second but dismissed it to the call of the bottle of expensive bottle of alcohol on the table. He picked up the bottle and examined at the label.
“Hennessey…” He read softly. “I am drinking Hennessey.” With that, the onslaught began.
The trip began two hours later with him riding shot gun. The driver had come shortly after Edwin had emptied the Hennessey bottle of its contents. He had come down from a clean, white, oversized pick-up truck; the biggest Edwin had ever seen. It was a Dodge caravan. The driver had to introduce himself to gain access as Edwin was already in character. The driver – Amayo didn’t seem too impressed with this but was friendly enough. Before the journey began, Edwin had already downloaded sufficient information about his ward.
Mr. Anwar Ibrahimi was a contractor who had been in Nigeria for the past six months and this was his final week. He had separated from his colleagues, determined to enjoy his last few days by seeing as much as he could before he left. Something about the less urban country side appealed to him, much so that he had wished there was something to keep him back. And he was loaded of course!
Their first stop was a Chinese Restaurant. Edwin had never had seen the inside of a Chinese Restaurant, much less of having ever eaten in one. He was stopped at the entrance; he couldn’t go in with his rifle, he was told. When he tried to argue, Ibrahimi who was in the company of the two light-skinned ladies Edwin had earlier glimpsed back at the chalet told him to wait outside. Amayo followed quietly without an expression on his face. Edwin seethed with rage as he realized that the alcohol had actually made matters for his stomach worse and now he was very hungry. He found a place to sit outside and waited.
About an hour later they all came out of the restaurant looking well fed. The light-skinned ladies carried more nylon bags filled with take-away packs. Edwin noticed the glow on their faces with envy but his face lit up with a sudden smile when Amayo handed him one of such nylon bags which he took gratefully.
The rest of the journey was none like Edwin had ever experienced before; that was after they had dropped the light-skinned ladies off. He got to discover that Mr. Ibrahimi was a real chatty fellow. He liked to laugh, talk about women, his fleet of cars, his companies and his cousin who was a big man in government and of course, the bad roads in Nigeria that made driving a nightmare. Only in passing did he mention that he had a wife and two daughters.
It would appear that he never went anywhere without that liquid friend of his. In no time, he pulled out a fresh bottle of Hennessey with two plastic cups one of which he handed over to Edwin who did not argue this time. They talked and laughed as the poor bottle passed hands from front to back and back to front as their voices got louder. Amayo seemed oblivious of them as his focus remained on the road. Only once were they stopped by the police and as soon as they saw Edwin sitting in front with his service rifle, they were waved them on without question. Edwin’s head soared as the bottle’s contents reduced drastically. He could not believe this was what his colleagues who were always on escort duties always enjoyed. He had been missing out.
In about less than an hour, they had arrived at the next town where they happened upon a beautiful shopping mall that seemed like a complete shining anomaly where it stood because it was the most beautiful thing Ibrahimi had seen since he arrived Nigeria’s southern part. Of course, things like this were common place in her western part but then, those places were much more urbanized and industrialized. Ibrahimi began to skip like an excited child. Amayo was instructed to find a way to get inside the mall which he did.
The structure was magnificent, the landscaping was excellent, and the flowerbeds were lovingly manicured. It was like stepping into a different country just a street away; everything was so neat.
“This place cannot be up to a month old.” Amayo said after they stepped out of the car.
“Why you no tell me you have place like this here?” Ibrahimi asked almost accusingly.
“Oga, me sef no know say them don build am finish,” Amayo said, truly astonished at the structure.
“Na for news I hear say them dey build Shoprite for here but that was two years ago.” Edwin chipped in.
“We go inside.” Ibrahimi said authoritatively with a smile. “I buy things for you.”
And it was when Ibrahimi said this that the mall security frisked himself and Amayo but told Edwin to stay outside.
“Why?” Edwin asked aggressively.
“Arms are not allowed into the mall.” The tall uniformed security man said politely.
“Abeg, comot for my road!” He said, pushing at the security man who stood firm and denied him entrance into the mall.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ibrahimi and Amayo turn around and leave him behind. It was then he lost it and cocked his gun and released three shots into the air. It was pandemonium after that. Shoppers who awaited their turn to be frisked for them to enter the mall dove for cover. So did the security men on duty around the area. One of them nearby reached for his walkie talkie and radioed for back-up.
Seeing the panic he caused, he realized he could no longer enter the mall after attracting undue attention. He swaggered away towards the car pack to disguise his fear knowing he had made a great mistake. Why did he fire his rifle? Why did he let the devil use him so? As he strode back to the car, he saw three uniformed officers come towards him, all armed with identical rifles.
They called out to him and he responded. Out of the corner came two naval officers, equally armed. He was still fielding questions from his colleague at arms when one of the naval officers got close and without a word, dispossessed him of his rifle in two swift movements.
It was then it became too damn obvious that he was in deep shit!