When we were alerted of the coup, I was undertaking a commander’s course in Bauchi where I was ousted amongst others from our apartments, stripped of any form of metal and rounded up by privates, non-commissioned officers; mere officers who had attained less or no ranks at all. At such moments there was no unit, no commander, no friends. Every face became suspicious, because one wouldn’t decipher who was with or against the coup plotters. As time passed, I would come to understand that an armoured officer had taken charge of the Armoured Corps at Dodan Barracks. For me to survive, I laid low, I failed to be combatant as it was obvious I had no arms on me. So did other rounded officers. I was elated when I heard the General had escaped by a back route in a Peugeot 504. Despite the fact that my colleagues complained of his indiscipline, ineptitude and recklessness in running the affairs of the state, I didn’t want him to die. Not yet! Maybe not soon!
The FRCN radio station was turned high for all of us rounded soldiers to hear the voice of our supposedly new head of state echo through the waves, one of the larger minds that had orchestrated the actions that thumbed our hearts and quivered our hands. There it was, that voice, authoritative, loud enough, for us to hear it for ourselves that the general had lost his sit of power and we have been ousted.
“Fellow Nigerian Citizens, on behalf of the patriotic and well-meaning peoples of the Middle Belt and the southern parts of this country, I , Major Orkar, wish to happily inform you of the successful ousting of the dictatorial, corrupt, drug baronish, evil man, deceitful, homosexually-centered, prodigalistic, Un-patriotic administration of General Ibrahim…“
I didn’t like the vocabularies the voice over the radio used in describing my general. I didn’t think they quite described him. Later in the day when the coup was foiled, I with others rounded were relieved when a swoop of troops ran into us and surrounded the officers. What a relief it was! All through the period, the thoughts of Deborah were what occupied my mind. As the guns pointed toward me, I kept thinking. Was it how it was going to end for me? Was I not going to see Deborah again? Feel her straightened brown hair falling on my bare chest as we lay on the cushion of the sitting room in my quarters, my arms draped around her listening to FRCN radio station? These thoughts kept roaming in my mind even when I was arrested at Bauchi headed for Lagos. Everyone had become a suspect, but most were more suspected than others. I happened to be one of those more suspected and freed after the first Tribunal that had close to four dozens of officers executed.
Some said that our execution was an affront for the general to get rid of those he perceived as a threat to his government. Even if this were true, I am no hater of him neither am I a plotter of his downfall. Some others said he was being tribalistic. Despite the fact that not all his decisions resonated with me but my mind was too made up in him being my general to ever conceiving a plot to overthrowing his government. I wished he could only look into my mind to absorb my utter reverence for him, probably that could change his mind against me and save me from this self-serving act of his that will vanquish my soul and render my lover, my Debby hopeless for a while.
I know that she will find someone new, someone who will taste the blueberry on her cherry lips, feel the smooth texture of her lip, hold her moist palm when she is tensed from the midnight dreams she always had. The dreams where she screamed out loud in wake, and I, startled beside her comforting her as she cried in my embrace. Then, she would tell me, after her tear drops would have dried and made traces on her cheeks in the dead of the night that she saw soldier ants attacking us while we slept. She would wake in her dream to see thousands of ants upon enveloping me and I would either be dead asleep or was dead. She would be helpless and couldn’t reach out to me as the ants would be all over the place. That wasn’t the first time she would quake in her dreams and cry in the dead end of the night. That wouldn’t also be her last. I would always tell her that nothing was going to happen to me. Even as I told her that, I could see the disbelief in her eyes, the doubt, the fear that she would hate to be right someday – the rightness of seeing her dream come true. Maybe this was what the goddess was trying to reveal to her. Was she overtaken by the goddess of the forest or by agadinwanyi.
It is now, behind bars, behind these chains, surrounded by thick walls of concrete or thicker bricks that were built unbreakable, the pillars wider in length and almost as thick as the Great Wall of China that I have come to fear that her dreams may be coming true. I had never quite read about it – the Great Wall of China, but in passing, Mr Ekwe, my class five teacher used to say that it was so large that people walked on it. I only likened this pillar to this wall because I had never seen a pillar this large. Of course, it was built to be formidable. I remembered we all did not respect Mr Ekwe but feared him, not for his age or size, in fact his size belittled the aura that went before him, he was forty-nine years old and four feet three in height and lanky. He would have likewise been mistaken for oneof us – his students, if he wore our uniforms.
We feared him for his Bulala. His cane we all called “Bulala” because he told us to. His Bulala seemed to possess invisible springs that gave it the formidable ability to bend and twist all over a body without breaking. Now, behind bars, I have no other reason to persuade, besiege or abate Deborah’s fears of the general. Nothing in here was comforting, hopeful and surreal than when I used to be in her arms, in her embrace, with her arms draped around me and mine around her. The light might never shine on me again; my beacon of hope at the end of the tunnel may have been turned down by the general’s invasive, unsolicited, deepest and darkest grip on power…
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Categories: Short stories