I am a member of a popular Islamic sect. Our leader, a man with very long beards that you think they may touch his tommy in the nearest future if they remain unshaven; had said we are not terrorists. “We are holy warriors”, he had chanted.
I had no much choice, apart from the option, to join Al-saif. Mallam Jibril is my only surviving family, if there are others, I don’t know. He is a top member of Al-saif. He had told me about Al-saif the day we last left America for Nigeria. He promised that Al-saif can provide me the means of revenging my father’s death. He said Al-saif is an enemy of America, and there is no other way of fighting America, if I remained the American that I am. So one of the first proceedings of my initiation rites, was to denounce America.
I had finished a course with the Al-saif before my final acceptance into the sect. After the course, I hated America, and everything that is associated to it, from Christianity to Christians and leadership by Christians. Sometimes, I even wondered if we are a religious movement, or just a set of people after the political sovereignty of Islam and her people. And in our meetings, even, there is no much of talking about America, instead its always about the way the muslim north have lost power, and how we are to make sure the south don’t succeed. So I wonder if they can really help me in my quest for vengeance against America, or am I just going to be transferring the aggression on Nigeria.
Exactly a week after my first day in school, I finally packed into my new apartment. Mallam gave me rules. He began with, “make sure no friend from school escorts you here”. He also adds, “but if they insist they want to follow you home, don’t attract concerns by resisting, give in, but frantically don’t allow them spend time here enough to start discovering things”.
The discovering things aspect of the instruction was not clear until a week later, that I started receiving things to save inside my ceiling. Some times I will be called to a maisuya joint to collect some parcels kept with the vendor, and take it back to my room to keep. Sometimes Bash visits me, disguising.
Bash is almost as young as I am. The age gap is 3, he is 23 and I am 20. He is an Islamic scholar already, though he does not keep beards for some official reasons. He is fair, and like me can easily be passed for a southerner and even a christian, in his countenance. Only you can suspect him, like you would do me, seeing, what he calls, the stamp of Islam on his forehead; resulting from devoted worship. One other way, you will notice he is Hausa, is his tongue. That is why on this day, Paul paid us a surprise visit, he didn’t speak a word-to conceal his identity.
“How come you know I live here”, I finally asked, not knowing how else to put the question.
“So you never wanted your friend to know where you stay”, he said, already going through my things, specifically my belongings on the table.
Bash gave me a look. Soon something fell from the top of my wardrobe stand. It was the carton that had contained my television set. It was an empty pack till yesterday’s night when Bash had put some ‘confidentials’ in it, out of his cheer laziness to climb the ceiling.
“Have you complained to your landlord about this hole in your ceiling? Criminals can creep in from there. Moreover, who knows if its criminals that have lived here before. It may be where they hide their stuffs”, he said jerking up to touch the board with which we had blocked the hole.
I was still trying to arrange the carton in its rightful place, when I saw he was pushing the board inside, and also trying to peep in.
“Paul!”, I shouted. Shocked, he dropped to his height. “What are you trying to do”. Bash looked already furious. He went outside, then signaled me to join him.
“What is this”, he said directing his reference to the room with a wave of hand. “Who showed him here?”, he asked in Hausa, hushing. I understand bits of Hausa, those that my father had squeezed time out of his leisure to teach me. But I didn’t speak fluently.
“He might have followed me from the market. Because I saw the fucker, but I thought I dodged”. Bash was restless, not knowing what else to say again, he told me to rush inside before the ‘Arne’ digs up a skull. He told me he was going out to smoke cigarette, and I should make sure my friend doesn’t stay longer than is supposed.
That night, mallam Jibril had flown in from Kano. It is the first time am involved in one of the meetings that had been going on in Enugu, in the anticipation of Al-saif’s first strike in southern Nigeria. All of Al-saif’s adherents converged in mallam Jibril’s hotel apartment. He is the said commander of the operation.
Most of the Al-saif advocates in Enugu are mainly Hausa traders based in the coal city. Some are ‘maisuyas’, some, fish sellers and others, trailer drivers, bringing in onions from Kano and other northern cities. One or two are Igbo.
The hotel is a poorly patronized one owned by an anonymous identity, predicted to be a northerner, and located in a secluded area. The attendees were disguised in local Igbo attires, so that any looker on, by any chance, would think its one of those, once in a year social meetings that are hosted in the hotel. Though the meetings, in the past few weeks had grown more consistent.
“That boy must be killed”, Bash was speaking.
He was talking about Paul. He said Paul had seen him prior to the visit, at a petty market occupied mostly by the Hausa community in Enugu. According to him, Paul had seen him speaking Hausa. He even said Paul had recognized him, because he had greeted him, sanu, that they he came. He claimed Paul had seen the chemicals used for explosives, that was kept in the carton that fell from the wardrobe.
It was therefore agreed that Paul should be assassinated, to prevent a more disastrous visit. May be this time, by the police.
“He must be killed very soon, before he start talking”, mallam Jibril concluded.
It was also considered that the two operations; the assassination and the bombing; should be simultaneously executed. Alhaji Musa, a popular fish seller in Enugu hinted that one of the executions coming before the other, might attract concerns that may hamper the successful implementation of the other. If for example, he said, if the traitor is shot before the bomb blast, people will grow security conscious. Also, the other way round, Paul will relate his suspicion to the police, if he lives. Either way is not healthy.
So, while the suicide bomber moves to the crusade ground for the main mission, another group makes for Paul. That is if Paul won’t be present at the crusade-a fact that is left for me to discover.
That night before I returned to my one room apartment, Uncle Jibril called me to his room. He played me a VCD tape. Its a documentary in Arabic, showing how America and Israel had dealt with fellow muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. It had many violence scenes of mutilation, of humiliation and inhumanity. I felt for those muslims.
The documentary called for Muslims to take up arms and fight the Jihad, to fight the American-Semitic political dominance. It said Allah loves those who fight the Jihad, and automatically accepts the soul of everyone who dies in the cause, with mercy on all his sins. He said these without citing a surah.
Uncle recounted how he has killed Christians in Kano, during the holy wars. He said it was different from ordinary killings. He said it came with no guilty conscience, to show its a special killing. He asked me, if I think God will accept the soul of inactive muslims who have done nothing for him, in preference to him, who had laid his life all this years for him?
Before he allowed me to go, he told me that he would be giving me the privileged to kill my friend Paul. An opportunity for me to revenge.
That night I left, with my heart beating faster than it had, while I was coming. I have never killed before, and I will be starting with my first friend in many years. I was thinking if this vengeance is against America or against Nigeria?