`Don’t kill me! Please, please don’t kill me. I’ll do anything you want. Please. My wife! My children!’ I sat up suddenly, breathing heavily. It was the most horrible nightmare I ever had. I was covered in sweat. My wife, Blessing, was holding me, looking frightened. She said, `Ugoo, what kind of horrible dream was that?’
I stared at her for a while wishing it was only a dream. Then I got up, went into the bathroom, removed my singlet, and used the towel to dry the sweat from my face and my body. Then I put on another singlet and went into our small parlour and sat down staring into space, thinking.
I am a struggling civil servant working in one of the government ministries in Awka. Oh, sorry, I should not offend The Almighty by calling myself a struggling civil servant. I read economics in the university and because I was adjudged by the powers that be to have been an exemplary youth-corper I was given automatic employment five years ago. I have already been promoted once to a higher grade. I ought to be grateful to God. After all, there are some people who have doctorate degrees and have been job seeking for years. Yet millions of others are unemployed in this our society that they say has slid into recession. No, I am not struggling. It is just that the pay hardly suffices for my wife and two young children and our daily expenses. And that is why I am thankful that my home town is not far from the capital, Awka. By living in our family home in my village I do not have to pay rent to anybody. Every morning I drive the few miles to my work place. We have some family land left behind by my late parents and I have been thinking how to earn extra income by installing a palm nut cracker with possible oil press on my land in the village. 

I had driven my old car to PRODA, Enugu, to see if they manufacture such equipment at reasonable price. I had been impressed by what I saw at PRODA. I had learnt that PRODA had been established during the Nigerian Civil War and that it had been Biafra’s workshop for inventing their ogbunigwe, a sort of scatter bomb that took care of many enemies, and their petroleum oil refineries.
I had been meandering through the death trap called the federal expressway back from Enugu when at a point near Udi Abia my car suddenly packed up. Nothing I or the ubiquitous roadside mechanic that suddenly surfaced did could wake it up. We pushed it to the nearest petrol station where in the end it was found that there was a major fault that would cost me fifteen thousand naira to repair. Of course I did not have that sort of money on me. I had to abandon the car there promising to come back tomorrow. It was already late in the day and the thought of waiting for a bus for the slow journey back to Awka did not appeal to me. That journey could easily take two hours to Awka,
I hailed an okada, a commercial motorcycle, intending to take the longer but slightly more motorable way to Awka. By the time we reached Ududo it was already dusk and the okada man would go no further. So I found another okada man. He agreed to take me only to Omihe. He would have nothing to do with the terrible stretch of road passing through Obienu. At Omihe I got lucky after waiting and fretting for thirty minutes. An okadawas just dropping somebody and was going back through Obienu to Iluno which happened to be a town next to my home town, Udenta. By the time we passed through the muddy and slimy three kilometre stretch that passed through Obienu it was already dark. I was anxious to get home away from the lonely and deserted highway.
It must have been past eight when we ran into a road block with several lights flashing and waving us to a stop. I could not make out the people that were flashing the lights. Not far into the bush to the right there was what I thought was a bonfire. I could see several people lit up by the bright light. A harsh voice from the road block said, `Who goes there? Stop!’
The okada driver replied, `I am Onovo, nwa carpenter (son of the carpenter).’
The voice said, `I don’t know any carpenter. Get down from that machine.’ To his colleagues he said, `get them!’
And they surrounded us and dragged us towards the bonfire. The okada man was insisting, `I am from this town. I am nwa carpenter. Why do you treat me like this?’
Our captor said harshly, `Shut up!’
As they dragged us towards the raging fire I could see several men clearly each holding a machete. And there was a heap of something that instantly made me faint. Suddenly my legs refused to carry me and my captors began dragging me along. I saw human legs, human arms, torso and human heads one of which a man was picking up. It had a mohawk hairstyle and eyes staring like those of the goat we had killed last Christmas. He tossed it into the fire. Another man tossed an old tyre into the fire which crackled.
One of the men with a machete turned to us and shouted, `Stop there!’ He was dressed in jeans trousers and black tee shirt. Blood shone red on his machete. He took a step nearer and glared at me. Then he turned to the okada man. He shouted, `nwa carpenter, what is happening?’ Turning to the leader of the road block people he yelled, `Marcel, why are you dragging nwa carpenter here? Don’t you know him? What has he done?’
The chastened man replied apologetically, `Supa (supervisor). He did not explain himself properly. Sorry.’
The okada man snarled at Marcel and angrily replied, `Supa, how else could I explain myself? I told him my name. I also told him I am nwa carpenter. Everybody in our town knows me as nwa carpenter. And my father the old carpenter is well known here. But he just decided to rough handle us and drag us here.’
At that the supervisor turned his nasty glare to me. He asked harshly, `and who is this?’
The okada man replied, `He is from Udenta. His car had broken down somewhere and he was stranded in Omihe where I had dropped somebody and I agreed to take him home.’
As the supervisor’s eyes blazed at me I pleaded, `don’t kill me! Please, please don’t kill me. I’ll do anything you want. Please. My wife! My children!’
`Shut up!’ he yelled. `Leave him alone,’ he told my captors. To me he said, `we are not murderers, you know?’ He nodded towards the heap of pieces of humanity. `Those are robbers, drug addicts, kidnappers, murderers, the scum of the society. And we don’t kill strangers, especially a stranger from a neighbouring town with whom we are friendly. But, my friend, you have put yourself in a tight spot. You are not supposed to see all this,’ and he nodded towards the bonfire. He beckoned two of his colleagues and they stepped aside and huddled together. Soon he came back. He said to me, `identify yourself.’
I reached into my pocket and gave him my identity card, gave him as requested my home address, the names of my wife and children and the names of my closest relatives.
He stood staring at me for a while. Then he said, “Mr Ugochukwu Okafor, you can go. But you never saw anything. And you never heard anything. Do you hear me? If by accident or design we hear a word about this you can consider yourself dead. Not just you, but your wife and children.’
`Yes, sir. I won’t talk.’
`Nwa carpenter, take him home!’
All the way home I kept saying, `Blood of Jesus! Thank you Lord!’ And the okada man kept reassuring me, `oga, don’t worry. You are safe as long as you don’t talk.’
And I kept thinking, this is happening only a few miles to the state capital with all the state headquarters of all the security agencies present. And I know that they have a divisional police office there in Iluno. I wondered, do the police there know what is happening? No wonder the town has a reputation of being so free of crime and their vigilante being so well armed and active. Now I begin to understand! The Bakassi Boys of yester years are alive, well and active. They are no longer able to play judge, jury and executioner, dispense instant justice in the village square in the presence of parents, relatives and the village elders in broad daylight. This time they do it in the nearby bush at night.


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