The rifle clattered and spat, almost threatening to tear itself from his arms. Now on full automatic fire, chaos was guaranteed. The government troops, poorly equipped and outnumbered, fell in their dozens from concentrated and disciplined gunfire. A short while later the fight was over. They took no prisoner and each surrendering soldier was mowed down by a hail of bullets. His mouth was dry from the fear that churned in his guts but he knew better than show it. The rifle now hung heavy in his arms, its hot barrel smoking. He retched and vomited silently as he and his comrades walked among the dead and dying, finishing off the latter. His name was Killer Bee, owing to his rotund figure and his dark complexion.
“For the revolution ehh!!” hailed Lieutenant Scud.
“E yo yo yole! E yo yo!!” They screamed back.
The victory songs they sang after every battle started and they danced frenzily, releasing random gunshots into the air. They had been victorious as usual and indeed they danced, their glistening bodies twisting and turning to the wild tunes. Thereafter, they buried their dead. Even as he and other younger comrades covered the graves, he couldn’t but wonder why the bulletproof charm hadn’t worked for these ones, despite being guaranteed by Dibia Nwokolo. All around him, the carnage sickened him. Just a few months ago, he had never seen a dead body. But now all around him, he was so knee-deep in them that they threatened to overwhelm him with a nauseous mixture of blood, brains and innards.
The government troops had been cornered in the outskirts of Warri town as they fled from the rebel forces who had just taken the town. They had been continuously shelled from all side as they fled, the bodies piling higher. Funded by the French and Germans, the rebels could boast of having better weapons both in small arms and heavy artillery. The enemy had gone on a suicide mission to try to capture the town and creeks. These were strategic points which were vital to both parties and the victors got to keep all.
Miles away were the continuous cacophony of scattered battles about to end. The rebels had fought long and hard for months, the hope of the new nation in their hands. The rebel leader and generalissimo fed up with years of marginalisation and oppression of his people, went on national television and announced their indendence. This caused jitters in Aso Rock and all the seats of power nationwide. A hasty crack force was assembled and sent to a more-or-less suicide mission. What was expected to be a quick capture and command mission was dealt a heavy blow. The Nigerian army, well equipped and led, had sent their newly acquired Russian MiG fulcrum 29s into the Niger-Deltan airspace to dive-bomb and wreck havoc on every military installment and training camp discovered. One by one, they had been shot down by shoulder-fired Surface-to-Air Stinger missiles, an action least expected by the army. The entire nation was enfolded in shocked silence. The president went on air and declared full scale war upon the Deltan rebels. Every move made was twarted by the rebels, bent on breaking away from a corrupt and oppressive government. The fact that the entire world supported and even funded them gave the Nigerian leadership a big cause to be concerned. The economy had begun to dry up due to sole dependence on crude oil which had now been blockaded. Every available citizen of Delta Republic was needed to defend the state, hence massive recruitment of underage kids were carried out. Tosan aka Killer Bee came from a small itshekiri village north of the Ethiope river. In the past, father had told him, their land had seen a number of tribal clashes with the Ijaw who were land usurpers and sought to reduce their number. But with this new government in place, they had been promised that their land will be a place of plenty and prosperity; they wouldn’t experience and hunger or suffering. Spurred by these promises, every single person capable of hefting a weapon was speedily recruited and trained.
Night had now fallen and it was time to get some rest. In the abandoned village that now served as a makeshift camp, they built little fires and ate, awaiting next orders from Lieutenant Scud. The night was now still, signalling a cease-fire for the night. He stood guard in 4hours time.
“I better get some sleep”, he silently said.
Placing his weapon beside him, he stared into the starry skies, thinking about home. His parents and little sister had bade him farewell with tears in their eyes, but pride in their hearts. Would they be asleep by now? Would they be having dinner and talking about him? Were they still alive? With these thoughts, hope laying heavily upon his mind, sleep took him in its welcoming arms.
The ambush had to be carefully carried out. During the night, the Nigerian forces, desperate to record a single victory had sneaked a battalion across their lines, using the heavy vegetation on the border town as cover. A night patrol team has stumbled upon a scout and captured him. Their sleep had been cut short when the prisoner had been dragged into the camp. He had been promptly executed, but not before he had divulged useful information about their positions.
“Killer Bee! Fall out!”
The order had been barked out by Scud. He separated himself from the squad who had taken their positions. The scout now lay on the ground,a woebegone look shrouding his face; he knew his fate.
“Sir, Killer bee here sir!”, his heavy rifle slapping against his right thigh.
Scud then gave him the order he had been dreading but must be carried out.
“Execute the prisoner. Make it quick and clean.”
On hearing this, the condemned man had tried to make a break for it but a clout to his head with a rifle butt had cut him down. Dragging the man to his feet with a show of false bravado, Killer Bee had stood him against a broken wall. Drawing his side arm, he pointed it at the man’s temple. The scout had started pleading for his life, tears streaming from his bloodshot eyes. Disliking what he was about to do but not daring to disobey, he cocked the pistol with shaking hand. Trying his hardest not to look at the man’s eyes, he pulled the trigger. The gun bucked with a loud bang, the impact creating a bloody hole inbetween the man’s eyes and throwing him against the wall. As the dawn air echoed with the gunshot, chants rose behind him. Feeling sick again, Killer Bee swallowed his bile and a walked slowly back to his team. The Lieutenant raised a sinewy arm and all fell silent. Walking forward, he said,
“congrats Killer Bee. In these few months you have proven yourself beyond all doubt, showing bravery and dedication. Now I promote you to Sargeant. You will now lead in my absence and lead this squad to victory”.
He punctuated his last word with a fist raised and punching the air.
“Haaaaayyyyy!!”they all screamed in unison.
Barely 13 years old, Tosan now had the sole responsibilty of leading half of the party into the bush to lay in ambush the hidden troops.
Now laying low, they waited with guns drawn watching for any movement. The enemy had travelled through the bush and backtracked, ready to catch them unawares when they set to match at dawn. Now as the dawn broke, they would see what stuff the Deltan forces were made of. Scud and the rest of the boys had moved out and flanked the assumed position of the troops, waiting to drive them into the gun-sights of Sargeant Killer Bee and his merry men. The wait didn’t last long and the ambush team, camoflaged in jungle gear and battle ready, sensed movement through the bushes. They didn’t fire yet but waited, still lying low. The Ak-47 rifle trembled and sweat dropped into his eyes but he still lay still. Next to him was his second in command Atom ant (owing to his small stature but notorious for his mad battle antics. Atom ant had once fragged an enemy soldier with a well aimed RPG launcher) smiling wildly. He was a good soldier. Maybe a little too good but he always obeyed orders and never showed fear or weakness. He had been promoted to corporal, his insignia worn proud on this oversized blouse. A sudden hail of bullets were released slightly right and ahead of their present position. The lieutenant had gone to work. With a waving palm, Killer Bee ordered his troops to hold their fire. Ahead of their position, the confused soldiers startled by the sudden shots, scampered away in frightened disarray and towards the predicted position of their doom. Atom ant’s trigger finger itched with anticipation as the soldiers approached their sights. The heavy machine gun dwarfed him but he was quite capable of handling it and the smile on his face grew wider and crazier. When it felt as if the scuttling men were close enough, Killer Bee gave the command,
“Fire!! Kill all the bastards! Fire at will!”
They let them have it and and they indeed fired at will. Bodies twisted and fell, riddled with hot lead. A couple of grenades went of amongst them increasing the carnage. For a few minutes dozens of men dropped to the moist undergrowth, many not knowing why before they died, twitching in their death throes. Then all was still again.
The procedure of finishing off the dead began. Atom ant with his wild eyed look, released round after round of his side arm into dying and pleading men, relishing every moment of the kill. Killer Bee, his stomach merciful on him this time did not lurch as he and the rest walked over the dead troops to report and receive new mission briefings from the Lieutenant.
The sun now out in all its fury, settled upon the band of youngsters armed to the teeth on a slow march, with hearts swelled with patriotism for the new nation, hope in every step they took.
Freedom wasn’t too far now.