Don’t Die For Them
“Don’t die for them. Yes, don’t die for them. You are not Jesus”.
Jide woke up with a start. It was his late uncle again. Always coming into his dreams to give him advice. His late uncle who was the father he never had, and treated him like the son he never had.
“Don’t die for them…?” he mulled over the words. How? Who? Where? When? These thoughts went through his mind as he went through his pre-work morning routine. He smiled. Work was going to be fun tonight. He was coordinating a team of people whose job was to remove all the PDP posters from Lagos state and deface all the banners. They were also tasked with flagging every billboard with Goodluck Jonathan on it and ensuring the advertising agency took them down or faced sanctions.
Tonight he was king. His team, drones and the security men guarding him were his sentinels.
“…Obinna, listen to your mother,” Aunt Nene chided. “Don’t die for them. Come back home. You know how the North was in 2011. We cannot risk having you …”
“Aunty, I will be fine…”
“Obinna nwam! You see, you are just like your father – bald and stubborn-headed. Do you want you mother to have High BP while thinking of how you are? Why not just come back home so we’ll know for sure that you are fine…?”
“Aunty’m ooo …I even thought you were going to make mama understand that where I am is not the violent part of the North and nothing will happen to me. I have been serving for 8 months and everywhere has been calm. I should have known you sisters will team up against me …”
Aunt Nene chuckled. “I am a mother too, and I understand her fear. If the decision was totally mine, you won’t even have gone there. Yes my NYSC was in the North too, but that was then, when the place was peaceful. It is not anymore.” She paused and sighed. “Nna’m, just come back home inugo? Just come back. I know you are supposed to supervise a polling unit for INEC but Instead of being the target there, come and cast your vote here nnu?”
“Okorobia’m …” she cajoled, “whatever INEC is supposed to pay you, I will pay you nnu? Just come back.”
“Hahaha …” Obinna burst into laughter. Typical aunty Nene trying to cajole and ‘bribe’ him into doing what his mom wanted. “It’s not about the money aunty’m. I wanted to try and make a difference here. But, nsogbu adighi. I will come back on Thursday.”
“Chineke idinma o Idinma …” Aunt Nene characteristically broke into an Igbo song, leaving Obinna laughing raucously. “On Friday, I will prepare Ji Nmini Oku with Isi Ewu for you. Make sure you come and eat it o…?”
“Aunty anugo’m”, he replied, still laughing …
Aisha kissed her husband, for the fifth time that morning. Captain Musa Namadi smiled, kissed her forehead and went to the cot where Idris, his 3-month-old son was sleeping peacefully. He kissed his forehead, stared at the beautiful baby for a while, kissed him again, then stood up to leave. When he got to the door, he turned to look at Aisha. She was crying, silently. They’d been married for more than a year, and every time he had to leave for a while, she cried. But this was different. He was going to Adamawa to head one of the units tasked with ensuring the Boko Haram insurgents did not disrupt the elections there. This was his toughest mission ever, but he was a soldier. And soldiers never shied away from tough missions.
“Don’t die for them”, Aisha whispered to him as he drew her close and cradled her. “Don’t die for them …”
“I won’t my punta. I’ll be back …”
He kissed her one more time, opened the door and without looking back, he walked to one of the Humvees waiting for him outside.
“Senator Yahuza Tenimu”, he muttered to himself as he dressed up in front of the mirror. It had a very nice ring to it too he thought, smiling at his reflection. He pinned the APC lapel pin to his kaftan, gave himself one last look of admiration and stepped out of the room.
Engr. Yahuza Tenimu had always wanted to be a senator. He had been passionate about legislature since he first served as a member of the University of Ibadan’s SUG parliament, and his sole desire was to advocate the passage of bills that would see Nigeria become a respected country.
Despite the fact that this was his first foray into politics at this level, he was well known and well loved by his people. He also had the backing of some very influential Igala men, so he basically was coasting to victory. But there was a problem. He was a gentleman and played his politics civilly, while his opponent, the incumbent PDP Senator was ready to do anything to retain his seat. Yahuza had received countless death threats since he made his intention to run for senate known. His campaign rally had been disrupted twice and his convoy had been attacked once. But he was not going to retaliate, or be intimidated. That wasn’t what he stood for. When he eventually won, things will change for the better. Then people will know that ‘politics no be fight’ …
These thoughts were going through his mind when his phone rang. It was his daughter, Ruby. He smiled as her ever-bubbly voice greeted him from thousands of miles away.
“O’roka daddy …”
“Ruby, O’roka dear. Sho’lafia?”
“Lafia daddy. I’m at Heathrow now. We’ll be boarding in one hour …”
He sighed. He didn’t want her to come back to Nigeria. It wasn’t safe, but she had insisted she was going to take a 2-week break from school and come home. In her words, ‘since you refused to listen when I begged you not to join politics, we might as well do it as a team. Besides, who knows? My one vote might make all the difference and I want to be there to celebrate with you when we win’. Her mind was made up and nothing could dissuade her.
“Okay love,” he said. “I’m going for the APC rally at Okene. It’s starting in 30 …”
“Okene…?” she cut in. “The last time you were there…”
“I know. The rally was scattered. But this time we have extra security. It’ll be alright…”
“Daddy …hmm…daddy! I’m scared. These people you want to lead, is it really worth risking your life for?
“We’ve talked about this before love. Changing how government works is a must. If good people refuse to run for office because of the violence and all, only bad people will remain in government …”
She sighed. “Okay daddy, but please, don’t die for them. Please …”
“Don’t die for them.”
Ibelema raised her eyebrows. “You know I hate it when you say things like this. I am not going to die for anybody. I am only going to ensure my vote counts, and nobody is disenfranchised in my Polling Unit.”
Obomaye smiled and shook his head. He knew her better than anyone else and all she just said did nothing to pacify or convince him that she was going to NOT make trouble at her polling unit. She was a due-process person and that trait had put her in trouble too many times. While most of the people in her ward at Rumuokoro were APC and Amaechi supporters, she was going to vote Goodluck Jonathan simply because she didn’t think Buhari was offering a better alternative. He made up his mind there and then. He wouldn’t vote. He would follow her to her polling unit and ensure she didn’t get into any sort of trouble. Things we do for love. Besides he had only one vote, what difference could he make? Even if he planned to vote Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan was going to win anyway …
Jide checked the time – 1:09am. They had spent 37 minutes on 3rd Mainland Bridge … 3 more minutes and they should be on their way to Oshodi. So far, the operation had been successful. From Adeniji to Iyana-Oworo, all the Jimi Agbaje boards at the center of the bridge had been defaced, while the President’s banners hanging on the road-lamps had been ripped to pieces. He looked at the time again. 1:11am. He gave the ‘let’s move’ sign – a low but shrill whistle – and his boys started returning to the buses. That was when it happened.
The gunshot was loud and ear splitting: one single shot accompanied by an agonized scream and the sound of a man falling to his death. Then silence…for a few seconds, before another shot shattered it, and the windscreen of the bus in front of Jide’s own. He immediately ducked as Dotun, the driver of that bus shrieked, and died.
“Ambush”, he muttered as he heard his boys running helter-skelter. Even his security team couldn’t do anything as the bullets started flying in all directions. His boys were dropping like flies, and nobody knew where the shots were coming from.
He brought out his phone and started making a call when a shot shattered his window. The phone dropped and he didn’t dare move to pick it. He remembered his dream and his late uncle’s words: “Don’t die for them …”
Obinna was reading ‘There Was a Country’ by Chinua Achebe as the Chisco Bus ate up the roads between Taraba and Abia state. Thanks to the beautiful songs on his Samsung S5 and his Aba-made Beats by Dede headphones, he had successfully shut out the arguments between the pro-Buhari and pro-GEJ people in the bus. He was tired of politics and the state of the nation, and he was actually glad he was going home. No doubt his mom worried too much and usually blew things out of proportion, but this time, she did have a point. As evidenced by the amount of soldiers he’d seen in every town they’d passed, nowhere was really safe.
His phone rang, cutting Kiss Daniel’s Woju halfway. The caller was his mom, her third call that day. He sighed as he took it. “Mama I’m fine, I have eaten and I took the Flagyl, so I’m not pres …ehn? Riot? Where…?”
That’s when it happened.
Captain Musa Namadi and his escorts heard the gunshots as they approached Okene, Kogi State. Their convoy of 3 Humvees stopped and as the most senior officer on that trip, everyone waited for him to decide their next move.
Soldiers are trained to be quick and alert, but officers are trained to take instantaneous decisions. His decision at that moment was, ‘ahead ahead’: one Humvee will go ahead of the convoy, reconnoitring, while the others will follow from a distance. As they neared Okene, the gunshots became louder, but still the source had not been seen.
And then it happened.
“…don’t die for them. Please…” Ruby was saying when a missile hit the lead vehicle of Engr. Yahuza Tenimu’s convoy. “Daddy…? Baba mi…?” she called into the phone.
For a moment, the APC senatorial candidate was shocked. When he found his tongue, he whispered into the phone, “We are under attack Ruby. Please call your uncle and tell him to send help. We’re at Okehi junction …” another missile hit another car in the convoy, sending it up in a ball of flames. Yahuza’s driver immediately hit the brakes and started reversing. Other vehicles in the convoy did same, and they went back in the direction they were coming from.
Then the attackers emerged in trucks, wielding automatics and shooting at Yahuza’s convoy. The Engineer’s remaining security team could do nothing. The missiles had already taken out two trucks full of personnel, so the only thing they could do was run away or die trying. They ran, and ran, while the attackers chased and shot at them. They ran till they turned a bend and almost ran into an accident …
The explosion took the bus a few centimeters off the ground. Before it landed, most of the passengers had called the name of Jesus at least 4 times. Obinna’s Beat by Dede headphone was no longer on his ear. From wherever it was, he could hear his mother’s voice calling his name. When the second explosion hit, the driver knew shit was real, so he took the vehicle off the road and parked as the shouts of Jesus’ name increased.
“Driver make we dey go back,” one of the passengers squealed. “Boko Haram people don come, make we dey go back!” Other passengers concurred via grunts, nods and squeals, but what eventually made the driver’s mind up was the multiple gunshots that followed.
He swung the bus back into the road and started reversing. With every shift of the gear stick, the gunshots became louder and when he finally got it on course, they could hear the sound of the bullets hitting the cars it was chasing. He sped away and because he was looking at his rear-view mirror, he did not see the oncoming Military Humvee. They rammed into each other and both drivers and a few passengers died immediately.
In the split seconds that all these happened, Obinna remembered his aunt Nene’s voice saying, “Don’t die for them.” I should’ve taken my chances with them he thought, as his vertebral column snapped, and life left him.
“Obinna…OBINNA…” his mother’s voice kept calling from the Beats by Dede headphone …
Captain Namadi’s eyes almost popped out of his head when a bus rammed into the lead Humvee. He didn’t have to remember his Physics lessons to know that most of the occupants of both vehicles were probably dead. But, he gave the orders. They were going to rescue the survivors. One problem though: the gunshots were unrelenting, and getting even closer.
They approached the accident scene, weapons ready, and as they got close, one car emerged from the bend and almost ran into the accidented vehicles. The driver managed to control it just as another entered the bend and drove straight into the wreckage. The third car successfully maneuvered its way round the bend without hitting any of the wrecked vehicles.
Now, not knowing who had been doing the shooting they’d been hearing, one of Captain Namadi’s men lost his cool and began shooting at the two vehicles. Others joined in, thinking the Captain had given the order.
“CEASE FIRE!!!” he screamed, but the men couldn’t hear him over the sound of the gunfire. “Stop Shooting!!!” he screamed again. Still, nobody heard him, and thankfully too, because at that moment, a truck with masked and heavily armed men turned the bend. They immediately opened fire on the soldiers with their more sophisticated weapons. Captain Namadi had decapitated two of them when a bullet ripped his trachea. His life didn’t flash before his eyes. He didn’t recall his wife’s last words to him. He died before he reached the ground.
“…Daddy …daddy …” Ruby cried as she heard the gunshots, loud and clear.
“Ruby…” he finally responded, his voice weak and barely perceptible. Two bullets were currently doing things to his internal organs, and he was steady losing the battle to stay awake
“Baba mi …” she sobbed, “Are you okay…?”
A shot hit his driver, and he lost control of the vehicle. “Don’t …don’t come back Ruby… don’t …” The vehicle hit a PHCN pole and all was silent as he fell into a never-ending abyss…
“Don’t die for them…” Jide muttered as he heard footsteps approaching the bus. “Don’t die for them.” He started crawling out the door when the first shot hit him on the shoulder. He didn’t feel any pain. “Don’t di…” …the second shot was the last thing he ever heard…
“Baby, can we go home now?” Obomaye asked?
If looks could kill, Ibelema’s stare would have sent her lover six feet below the ground. But he was used to it. And he returned the stare squarely, with that smile that almost never left his face when he was talking to her. “But I told you I’ll stay till the results are counted. I plan to.”
“This place is not safe IB. Please, let’s go home,” he pled.
She shook her head, like he knew she would. This polling unit was an APC stronghold and some mago-mago was most likely going to happen. Yes, the card-readers were used, but this is Nigeria and one cannot trust such things. She wanted to be there and scream blue-murder when the irregularities started happening. And, as if it was planned, one started happening. Someone she knew had already voted before was about to be given another ballot paper. She immediately raised an alarm, ignoring Obomaye totally.
“Bros, you don vote before,” she accused him.
“Which kain nonsense talk be that?” he challenged? “When you see me vote? Where ink for my hand?”
“Na lie, you don vote!” she insisted, alerting the policeman. “I know you, and I see you when you vote!”
The policeman came, and together with the APO1, they checked and confirmed that indeed the guy had voted before. As the policeman started retrieving his handcuff to arrest him, the guy took off, but not before giving Ibelema the chilliest stare ever.
Later that evening, after all the votes had been counted and a winner had been announced, Ibelema and Obomaye were walking home when 4 guys, including the guy she called out at the polling unit, attacked them.
“Run Ibelema!” Obomaye ordered as he tried to fight them off. “Run!”
For the first time that day, she obeyed him. She ran, and returned with her ‘men’ about 20 minutes later. She should have just come with an ambulance because Obomaye was dead. He had been stabbed in many places. But that smile on his face still remained …
I wanted to write something about this election, something short, something advisory, but this is what came out. It was supposed to be just for this election, but then I became greedy. I really don’t have time to write for my blog anymore so I wanted something people will enjoy reading even after the elections. And this is it.
Anyways, the message remains simple: NOBODY is worth your blood. NOBODY. Don’t die for anybody because of politics. If you die for a politician, the absolute best he/she can do is shed a few tears, attend your burial and give your family ‘something’. Then his/her life will go on. And you will rot in your grave.
We’re hoping the whole process is violence-free, but, be very careful. If you feel the area you’re in is not safe, relocate. Life no get duplicate.
So as Nigeria Decides, Don’t Die For Them.
Thank you. Chidi @Chydee Okereke.