The next morning, I had a lecture appointment. It was a course; coded Pos 102, and titled, Nigerian Politics 2.
I hate school. I always wanted to be a soldier; I remember having a fight with my father when forced to resume college, then in America. And even though now, my admission into the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka is a temporal arrangement, I never-the-less feel sick about the whole idea.
Mallam had called to tell me that Al-saif has promised to pay me 15 million naira; if the mission turns out successful. And once I get the money; I don’t need to remind myself, that I am kissing the school-idea, bye for life.
The lecture was on “Crisis in Nigeria”. The lecturer started by stating that, all the crisis recorded in Nigeria, had political undertones. He cited instances; from the Jos crisis to the Boko-Haram insurgencies. But someone objected. It was Simon Okorie, who currently is at the top of the class in GP ranking.
He said the whole problem would have been political, if Islam; the religion of most northerners; is not part of the dynamics. He claimed, Islam is a volatile religion; like its adherents; and is the sole reason behind the social in-tolerances going on. He spoke more. He concluded that even though the political factor can’t be disputed; most of the problem, however, can be attributed to the nature of the religion of these northerners.
“And about the militants?”, I asked, a bit irritated.
“Niger-Delta? Are you comparing the Niger-delta crisis to Boko-Haram? What you need to understand, is that, unlike Boko-haram, the Niger-Delta militants were fighting for their rights. Do you compare that to religious fanaticism?”, he asked in conclusion.
Why should he speak of Islam as such? I was boiling, I was not sure if I had succeeded in concealing that. But I am sure; if not for the relevance of the ‘fakeness’; these people wouldn’t have contained the fuss I would have put-up, defending my identity. The mask was itching; I felt like tearing it off, and show the jihadist in me. But I was still John Okafor; at least, till when I am to strike.
Dr Josiah Okeke, the lecturer, had given us an assignment; to write a 10 page, on “The Causes of Conflicts in Nigeria”.
As the class came to an end, the debate circle that always formed outside the lecture hall, under the mango tree, began to grow. I heard someone, as I strolled by, in Paul’s company, narrating stories of how the Igbos have been massacred in Hausa land.
As we walked by, Paul related his own story. He recounted how he had been forced out of school in his final year at the University of Maidugiri, due to the random crisis.
I had been observing him throughout the day, wanting to know if he still entertained any suspicion from his last visit; but so far I didn’t record a hint. And as I looked at him while he spoke, I wished I could just put the question straight. I wanted to ask him, the impression he had of me, after discovering that an Hausa man is squating with me. Also the fact that it looked; judging from the way things turned out during his last visit at my place; like I had skulls in my cupboard. But he looked blank. I called Mallam Jibril.
“He smells no’ing; na’even a hint. You still wan’him dead?”. I spoke in my American accent; while also praying that my expectation turns out otherwise.
Mallam Jibril didn’t speak for a while, before he finally asked; “is he going to be there, at the crusade?”. I responded in the negative. He cut the call. I began to sweat.
“Who was that?”. I startled.
I forgot, Paul was still with me. He had gone to order food; for the both of us; from the canteen vendor. I was not sure, at what point in my dialogue he had come. He took his seat, directly opposite me, in the restaurant.
“You say?”, I managed to ask; but he just sat, searching my face.
“What?”, I followed. If he had told me that I behaved strange, I would have sighed. But he just said, “nothing”. I shrunk, under my fears. Now, I was sure he really needs to be killed.
“Tomorrow is political economy”, he said as we parted ways. Like I said before, I hated school, the idea just sucked.
“Whatever”, I said, inside.
I had wanted to join the marine force, particularly in the US army; but my father would not accede. That is why the military aspect of the course I took, before fully becoming part of Al-saif, is the most exciting part of the whole experience.
I was trained, a sniper. It was during the course, I first saw Bash. He had been a guest instructor during the exercises. The chief of military operations had introduced him, as our guide instructor in sniping studies.
In one of the classes, he boasted before all of us, to have killed many non-muslims and muslims alike; home and abroad; all in a one-shot snipe, each. I was not clear about his killing ‘muslims alike’. But I was later cleared that those muslims who betrayed the course of the holy war, were as good as Kafeerins.
I noticed, Bash quickly switched-off his laptop, the moment I came into the room. I knew he had many secrets locked up there. And whatever the secrets were, I also knew their sacrosanctity, was more so to me than its to every other person; because Mallam Jibril had accessed it, the day he came.
“How was my father killed?”. The question took him aback.
“Why didn’t you ask your uncle before now?”, he also asked, trying to hide his anxiety.
“I don’t know. May be I never cared till now”, I replied.
“Well, according to what I heard, your father was sniped by the American CIA. His death was never investigated; and the reason why the CIA is suspected. They are the only ones capable of such trace-less murder. Moreover, your father worked for them, who knows he might have trespassed in some way. That’s why you have to do this, to have your revenge”. With his last words, he was already sounding like my uncle.
“What’s about this system? All the files just seem to be locked”. I had switched-on the laptop; but, though it was not centrally protected, almost all the files were individually locked.
“Most of the files are factual samples of our tactics. They are mainly facts from previous successful missions, and we still learn and plan from them. So, they are highly confidential”, he explained. ‘Confidential’, I noted. ‘Even to me’, I also observed.
“The crusade is next tomorrow. You have tomorrow to tell us your friend’s where-about on the deal day. And as you already know, his death must be simultaneous to the bomb blast. If not, its either his death provokes a security consciousness that might hamper the bomb, or the bomb blast might attract investigations, and your friend might relate his suspicions. Either way you know, is not good”.
I wondered why he had to repeat the procedure. Even though a lot of money is now involved, the idea of assassinating Paul didn’t digest well. He had been a good friend. That night, I sat up thinking about the assassination. I tried to put Paul in my shoes; if he was the one, would he kill me, especially under the same circumstance?
Tomorrow I was going to ask him; I decided. I was going to tell him, I am a muslim, and know if he would hate. If he does, I will just have to kill and bury him; even before the main mission.