The night breeze blows with a bit hotness as Bremah and I approach Ella’s place. On getting closer to her place, an ash colour Range Rover SUV is waiting in front of the house. The SUV brake light on, likewise the engine. The shimmering from Driller Energy gives a faint outline of the SUV.
Within my reach to the frontage, I see Ella climb into the SUV. “E-L-L-A! Where do you think you are going?”
The door of the SUV slams shut and the SUV disappears up the road.
“I told you. Now you have seen it yourself,” Bremah paces the place emphasizing his statement.
I stand there looking into space, for how long? I can not say.
“I am going to sack Driller out of Kongah right now,” I turn abruptly like a thunderbolt, running back home. Bremah trailing behind my heels. I open the door to the room that serves as my grandfather’s resting place on getting home, and pick up his rifle.
My grandfather’s rifle has a pronounced sound. When fired, it sounds more like a cannon than a mere rifle. It is a special rifle renowned for its unique sound.
I load the rifle while Bremah stands, panting as he stares at me. I leave the house like a charged tiger for Driller’s Quarters. Bremah walks besides like a comrade in arm. My steps doubled.
At the gate of Driller’s Quarters, two security men chattering a few distance away from their armoury are caught unawares as I fire the rifle into the air. Boom! Being away from their armoury, they take cover beside the bush. Bremah rushes towards their armoury and take possesion of it. I release another shot. Boom! The two security men disappear into the bush. I bang at the gate, it opens as it was not bolted. We move in, bolting the gate. The sight and light that catch our attention almost sweep us off our feet; it is a different world.
“Where is this?” Bremah whistles.
I fire the rifle into the air to announce our presence. Boom!
“This is Kongah Igoma. A.K.A. Scorpion, I have taken over Driller’s Quarters. And I have taken you all hostage. No movement to avoid you being shot. Wherever you are, put your hands on your head and remain in that position. If you are caught moving about, you are finished. I repeat, you have been taken hostage. And don’t try anything funny.” I see Bremah move away from me as he fines the AK 47 into the air. Pow-Pow-Pow-Pow-Pow-Pow-Pow! I wonder where he learnt to shoot so perfectly. We hear people screaming from the apartments nearby. Driller’s Quarters is well lit such that mere pin could be picked from the interlocked floor. We walk along the corridor and look through the windows as we encounter few people standing with hands on their heads. We move from one apartment to another dragging them out in to the air-conditioned class-room as we made them clear the desks. By the time we have gone round, we have handful of them – fifty in number. Both male and female lying on their belly face down.
They appear nervous, likewise Bremah and I. I order: “Remain on your belly faced down.”
I leave Bremah standing guard. I walk back into one of the tastefully furnished apartment. The plasma tv set still on as the owner was watching CNB channel when we struck. I leave the sitting room and move towards the refrigerator. I open it and scan the contents. My eyes dart from the canned drinks to the canned food, then the few bottled water. The news on the tv draws my attention: “… Breaking news, a group of armed men have taken hostage the residential homes know as Driller’s Quarters operated by Driller Energy in Kongah community at the tail end of the river Niger. We are yet to get more information on that as the armed men have not made their demands known. Driller Energy is…”
I cringe how fast the new development has flown. I slam the refrigerator’s door. It has been less than one hour we struck and the news has got to the world. Mr Moore comes to mind and he is no where to be found. He has driven to the town with Ella, perhaps. Who must have informed the rest of the world? I wonder. I rush out of the sitting room to the air-conditioned class-room.
“Who among you made a call out of Driller’s Quarters?” I demand, “someone made a call here. Who?”
Silence fills the class room. No one utters a word.
“No one wants to talk, right?” I drag up one of the hostages, “whoever that informed that we are here, you will complete it. Go on. I want you to call them and they will know what our demands are.”
I drag him out of the air- conditioned class-room to the sitting room, “Call your superiors!”
He dials the telephone and a voice comes alive on the other side. “Hello, hello.”
He hands over the telephone receiver to me: “This is Kongah Igoma, A.K.A. Scorpion. Who am I speaking with if I may ask?”
“I am the Chairman of Driller Energy. How may I help you?”
“Good. Now listen. We have taken hostage Driller’s Quarters’ occupants and I hope you know what that means? Now, these are our demands: One, a model, fully equiped primary and secondary schools be established in Kongah Community. Two, a standard health centre be established with health personnel always available two-four-seven. Three, every household in Kongah should have access to electricity. Four, Kongah community should have access to portable drinking water. Five, that Kongah community be compensated for damages done to their crops and aquatic lives. Six, the youths of kongah be given equall opportunity in Driller Energy. Seven, the flaring be reduced to a bearable minimum. Anything short of the above mentioned issues, shall have us take a drastic measure.” I drop the receiver.
In less than twenty minutes I spoke with Driller Energy’s chairman, I hear CNN breaking news playing back the telephone conversation I had with the chairman, reading out our demands. Local radio stations are now breaking news in that regard when I tune on a radio set in the sitting-room; my voice rending the air with our demands. The chairman must have recorded our conversation or the line bugged. The whole world is aware. Anyway, despite the mixed feeling I have, I am glad the world is awakened to our plight.
On the table lie a packet of a foreign cigarette and a metallic gold lighter, I pick them up and walk back to the refrigerator, fetching two bottled water. I drag the man back to the air-conditioned class-room. I offer Bremah one of the bottled water. He removes the lid, and gulps the water like one lost in the desert for days. I uncork mine and drink as the chilled water hit my throat with a slight ache. I tear off the transparent foil on the packet of the cigarette and pick a stick and offer the rest to Bremah. I light the cigarette as I take a deep drag at it, puffing away in one go. A song from afar catches my attention as the youths singing the song draw near the gate. The youths of Kongah community singing and stamping their feet, urging us that they are behind us.
“Can you hear that?” I inquire from Bremah.
He nodes his head, “Kongah youths.”
I step out closer to the gate with the cigarette stick still in my hand. They are dancing in a circular form. I contemplate opening the gate. I decide not to, for they might jeopardize the situation. Just then, a helicopter hovers in to view. I take cover. A voice from a megaphone announces to the crowd of youth to leave with immediate effect: “Leave the gate now! After the count of three you are still at the gate, you will not live to tell the story. One. Two. Three…” the voice shouts at the crowd of youths.
The youths are unperturbed, they keep singing and stamping their feet to the earth. The helicopter hovers closer and nearer and fires gunshot. Gow-Gow-Gow-Gow-Gow! The youths run helter-skelter, fleeing the scene.
The cigarette falls off my hand. The compound well lit. The occupants of the helicopter can see my outline. The voice comes alive again through the megaphone: “For your interest both of you in there, you can walk away now and no one gets hurt. I repeat you can walk away now. We are offering you the opportunity to walk away now a free man and unhurt.”
I wonder how they got to know we are two, Bremah and I. Someone must have fed them we are two here. I move swiftly such that the gun nearly falls off my hand to the air-conditioned class-room; panting as I lie flat like the rest.
Bremah has taken cover. The helicopter hovers a bit and disappears from sight as the eugine is faintly heard from the distance.
I drag the fellow back to the sitting-room and urge him to call his superiors again. He dials the telephone’s numbers, he hands the receiver over to me.
“Driller’s Quarters. Kongah Igoma. A.K.A. Scorpion on line. Is that the chairman?”
“Yes, yes…” responds the voice from the other side.
“Time is ticking away, and we are not patient enough. The time right now is 10.15 PM. We are giving you and your partners in progress two hours to start carrying out our demands or else we shall have no other option than to start taking drastic measures. The time is ticking away.”
“But the time is late, we are triying to…”
I drop the receiver, and discover the telephone is wireless. I order the hostage to bring the telephone along as I drag him back to the air-conditioned class-room. He places the telephone set on the teacher’s table. I ask him to search the tv in the class-room to a news channel. A channel pops up with a live interview. He searches further until CNN pops up. A minute by minute update being relayed on the tv. My heart jump to my mouth at the news; I see the youths taking to their heels. I see the tiny red light target on me as I rush to safety line into the air-conditioned class-room. Perhaps, the security personnel on board the helicopter must have refrained from firing, because that would have endangered the lives of the hostages, for Bremah would have taken a drastic measure. According the news; effort is being geared up to secure the safe release of the hostages. I check the time, it is ticking away towards the two hours deadline.
At exactly 12.05 AM, telephone rings. The sound startles me initialy. At a second thouggt I reach for the telephone picking up the receiver, the voice comes up: “We are about implementing your demands…”
“Look, Mr chairman, we do not have the time and your time is counting away. There are fifty hostages here crammed up in the room. It’s high time you knew how serious we are.” I roar into the mouthpiece. Just then, Bremah fires the AK 47 towards the ceiling ripping off a section of the ceiling. A shrill scream by the hostages fills the air.
“Hello… Hello… We are here with the Otuma II, his council men and your father. We are about carrying out your demands…”
“You are about?!”
“Igoma. It’s me the Otuma II… My son, they are here to put head together with us so everything will be in place as you have demanded. Please don’t do anything that will jeopardize the lives of the people and Konga community. Your father wants to speak with you.”
“My son,” that is my father speaking. Mere hearing him talk almost weakens we as though, my legs are without bones with thought running through my head such that I would have walked out of the Quarters with my grandfather’s rifle to the gate calling it quits. Then I remember that I never quit any assignment I have embarked on. “My son,” my father continues, “you must walk out of there now a freeman and all your demands will be looked into. We the elders will make such everything is taken care of.”
“Father, I have never disrespected you before. You have to come in here to see that the demands are nothing compared to what Driller Energy can afford. Presently, as I speak with you, the two hours has elapsed by one minute, and we have no option than to let them know how serious our demands and situations are.
“You do not endanger our community. The number five demand has been met. They are here with money for the whole of Kongah for damages done to their crops and waters, so my son, you must pull out now.”
“Father, I must get done with this assignment before I leave here, I am sorry.”