It was becoming intolerable for Majeed as the white guy repeatedly kissed his girlfriend in his presence while he must not frown or complain or else he puts the success of their little charade at risk. The previous two nights, Olawunmi had lied that she had to do a night shift at the clinic where she worked and would not be able to sleep with him as the white guy had demanded, but she couldn’t run forever, could she?
When Majeed was using Olawunmi’s pictures to deceive the man on the internet, giving him the false impression that he was chatting with a pretty Nigerian girl, he wasn’t doing it without Olawunmi’s consent. They had been in it together from the beginning and Olawunmi had had tête-à-têtes with the white guy anytime he video-called. Majeed wouldn’t answer a video call if Olawunmi was not around. And this white man had been sending money to them, a lot of money from which Majeed had rented the apartment they had been occupying together for fifteen months now. He bought a Camry and lived big with Olawunmi at Friends Colony Estate in Lekki, none of them ever considering that the man could want to come to Nigeria to see what he had been investing in.
Olawunmi worked at the clinic for a disguise; the money she and her boyfriend were getting from this white man was enough to sustain their lives. Whenever she was home, they would smoke skunkweed, drink vodka, dance to afro hip-hop, have sex and fall asleep, nothing else mattered. The neighbours waged war against their public disturbance with their home theatre once but later withdrew into tolerating them when they discovered the duo were always either high or drunk and drunken men didn’t seem to be the right persons to engage in reasonable arguments, so they just let them be.
When Mr. Michael Livingstone announced that he was coming to visit his two-year-old internet girlfriend, chill swept through both Majeed and Olawunmi like electric currents. They tried to discourage him, Olawunmi dressing sick for the webcam, saying she wouldn’t be strong enough to entertain him as she had planned and that he should wait a bit longer, but Mr. Michael Livingstone refused to continue on his waiting, he wanted to come anyway. And both had gone to receive him at the airport, normal body built, handsome as already known, black hair and bright smile. His black hair was neatly cut off his face, and his green eyes looked most dashingly invigorating.
He was handsome, fairly handsome and of course, rich for a guy of his age. He saw Olawunmi before they saw him, and when he stood before them, his bag drawn after him, full of smiles, all Majeed could do was just look anxiously, and Michael had hugged Olawunmi tightly then, giving her an everlasting kiss on the lips.
For good two minutes they held onto each other before Majeed finally interrupted their maddening romance and introduced himself as Olawunmi’s friend.
“I’m Majeed Akintola, Olawunmi’s friend. You can call me Majeed.”
“Michael,” Michael had said, shaking his hand.
Olawunmi’s friend! A friend, whom Michael did not know was the bearer of the fingers keying all chats to him; the G-guy who had been behind the monitor, casting nets with his own girlfriend as bait.
It was the third day then, and they were in Majeed’s house; Majeed had moved his things to a friend’s when it became certain there was no stopping Mr. Livingstone’s coming. His apartment was now Olawunmi’s for as long as the white guy would stay. They used to call him “the biggest client” but since he was around then, they called him by his name. And there Majeed was, a remote control in his hand, but with the corner of his distressed eyes, he watched the white guy smooched his girlfriend. He was hurt, miserable, angry and helpless but this was his business and this was one of the prices to pay. If that wasn’t happening, he probably wouldn’t have known he loved Olawunmi that much.
“Excuse me,” he said. “If we don’t want the Lagos traffic to hold us prisoners till next year, we have to go now. I’ll drive.”
“Huh,” Michael let go of Olawunmi. “Sorry man, the place we wanna go eh? My silly ass, I nearly forgot! Okay, let’s go then, shall we? Olawunmi, here…” he held out his hand for her to grab and he pulled her on her feet after she did.
His pronunciation of Olawunmi would’ve made Majeed laugh if the guy hadn’t been outrageously annoying since he arrived, canoodling his girlfriend, case-wrapping her. Only if they had thought it through, they would’ve known a man wouldn’t be topping his oversea girlfriend’s bank account for two years and finally travel to meet her just for tea and not want to have some basic intimacies with her. How did he not see it coming?
The thought of the two having sex crossed his mind for a split second but he fought it off, hoping Olawunmi would have found a way to evade it. But, could Olawunmi ever do that? Avoid sex? She liked sex more than anything in her life! Holy hell, what could he do? Well, there was nothing he could do; it was business and he had to face it as a businessman.
Just at that point in time, he and Olawunmi shared accusing and defensive looks briefly, unspoken enquiries meeting unvoiced explanations, but there was no going back, they had been spending the money together, they had to go through the ordeal with open mind and spirit of… camaraderie? What other choice was there? It was business.
* * *
In the Situation Room at Aso Rock, Abuja, the face of a man beamed on the large screen at which five men gazed; President David Imoukhuede, the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces; Mr. Bolarinwa Olabode, Chief of Staff to the president; Mr. Bankole Ayotomide, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director; Lt. General Abubakr Ali, the Chief of Defense Staff; and the man whose presence in the country had brought them to the situation room, Mr. John Penn, Director of Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA) from the United States of America.
Director Bankole Ayotomide and Director John Penn had appeared at Aso Rock that morning, demanding to meet with the president but protocol demanded that they met with the Chief of Staff to the President first. So he, Mr. Olabode, sensing that the top boss of CIA wouldn’t have come personally if something was not spilling over the edge, had called the president’s chambers to report that the NIA and CIA bosses were at Aso Rock, demanding to see him. President David Imoukhuede knew it must be about something very important, most assuredly of military nature, so he instructed Mr. Olabode to summon Lt. General Abubakr Ali to the presidential villa.
The president trusted Ali’s military counsel more than he could ever trust the Minister of Defense’s. His regime was a delicate one, being the first time the I-PROMO political party would have a president and people were eager to see what rabbits they were going to pull out from their hats. The politics at hand, however, was beyond a matter of comparisons of political parties. World War III was being drawn by a great discord growing among the nations of the world and countries were picking sides.
President David Imoukhuede was among the few eloquently preaching against the war and struggling to quell dissents in the ranks, saying a world war would only crash all technological and architectural achievements the century had recorded, but did the stakeholders truly want peace? President David Imoukhuede would later indirectly declare support for the East against the West; a resolve surprisingly conflicting with the popular knowledge that the president’s sister who was Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States was an admired supporter of the West.
Director John Penn sent a picture to the Wifi-enabled screen and stood to address the men.
“This man you’re looking at here,” he said, glancing briefly over his shoulder at the screen behind him, “is looking perfectly simple and civilian in his humble smile, but this is no ordinary person, this is Francis Whyte, wanted by sixteen countries for cases of assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, robberies, piracy, drug trafficking and gun running… mostly assassinations. His country of birth is unknown but most people believe he’s American. His country of residence is equally unknown, age, late thirties. He’s ubiquitously known as Francis Whyte but nobody could be sure that’s his real name. He is known to be very good at disguising but he was wounded on many encounters and we have confirmed his blood samples to be the same. His DNA has matched with nobody’s on any country’s database. Categorically, he’s the most dangerous man in the world today, legendarily. And Your Excellency sir, it is confirmed that he is in Nigeria as we speak.”
When President Imoukhuede saw the rest of them looking at him, he knew it was his turn to remark.
“So… this criminal, Francis… Whyte?”
“Yes sir, Francis Whyte.”
“And you said he’s in Nigeria?”
“He entered Nigeria from Gambia three days ago sir.” He tapped on the pad in his hand and a picture of the man dragging his box at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos displayed on the screen. He looked too simple to be what he was described to be but President Imoukhuede knew better than to fall for appearances; he got a doctorate in Psychology of Human Behaviour at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
“These pictures are three days old sir,” John reported.
“That’s so long ago,” muttered Lt. General Abubakr Ali, “why have you waited this long to inform us?”
“I sincerely apologize, but… we have to—we had to be sure. We had to be sure it’s him.”
“And how come it’s your… agency? That has this intel and nobody else when… how many countries did you say want him, sixteen? How could only you be aware he’s here? Not even our own NIA?”
“We had no reason to be aware General,” defended Mr. Ayotomide. “He was never a threat to us.”
“As I’ve said, Your Excellency,” continued John Penn, “he’s one of the most wanted criminals in the world, twenty million dollars placed on his head. He is Ayman al-Zawahiri, James Whitey Bulger, Joseph Kony, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, Matteo Messina Denaro, Dawood Ibrahim and Joaquín Guzmán in one man. The NIA didn’t know about him because he has not caused any damage here before, and in fact, I must warn you sirs, we have all reasons to believe we’re not the only ones that have flown down here because of him. We couldn’t have been the only ones to have spotted him, so, we have to take quick action to apprehend him and bring him in, once and for all.”
“What do you want us to do?” asked the president forthrightly.
“I have drawn a plan with Mr. Ayotomide and we have worked out a way to employ some of his best field operatives in making it happen.”
“But, I wonder though,” mumbled the Chief of Staff to the President, “what could he be doing here at all?”
“Judging by his pattern of operation,” responded the CIA boss, “he could be here to… assassinate someone.”
Silence… the threat lingered on everybody’s face.
“Someone important enough,” continued John Penn, “powerful enough, needed dead enough to go through the stress of employing someone as deadly as Francis Whyte to assassinate him.”
“Him?” surmised the Chief of Staff.
“Or her, how can I be certain?” shrugged John Penn.
His audience shared wary looks. If the described stress would be gone through by anyone to assassinate someone in Nigeria, President David Imoukhuede would be the guess anyone would wager on, and the United States would as well be the prime suspect.
“What’s your theory, Mr. Penn?” asked the Chief of Defense Staff.
“As I’ve said sirs, I cannot be sure, but one thing I can say as an advice is, Your Excellency sir, your windows are too open here. You have to tighten your security. A man like Francis Whyte, when he shoots, he doesn’t miss. And a hundred men wouldn’t be enough to hold him if he’s through with his… task. He was caught once, taken to the most protected prison in the world, he escaped under the timeframe of fifteen minutes. Three years ago, we killed him or so we thought we did but… here he is again. Just give us the required permit sir. With the help of the NIA, we will grab hold of him before he does anything dire.”
“So, where is he now?” asked Mr. Olabode distrustfully.
“We’re not sure of that yet,” answered the NIA boss. “He must either be in Lagos or in Abuja. We’re looking both places.”
“And you said others might have spotted him too. If they had, why haven’t they come to warn us?” asked the president.
“Not everyone respects territorial protocols like the United States sir. We don’t shoot on foreign land without its government’s consent. But I reckon they might intend to take him out quietly.”
David looked at Lt. General Ali and he smiled back. They did that because they didn’t agree with what the CIA boss had just said. He was purely patronizing them.
“You have our consent then, and… whatever you need, tell the CDS. He’ll directly oversee the whole operation. Abubakr, a minute?”
The president stood and so everybody else did as was the protocol. He left the Situation Room with the Chief of Defense Staff. When they got to the president’s office, President Imoukhuede faced Abubakr and told him frankly, “I don’t trust him. You know my stand in the current world politics and here’s America in my country, claiming to be after a man who may be after my life. How does that sound to you? But if this story of Francis Whyte is true and he’s truly here, I want to know why. I want to know when and why anybody on that operation coughs or shit. Do you understand?”
“Perfectly, Your Excellency.”
“Good. Now go back to them, and be careful. I can never work with the CIA with my shields down.”
“I understand sir. It’s wise to be wary of them especially when they know you’re not in support of their anti-East campaign.”
“Yes, that. You can return there and see what plan they have.”
Lt. General Abubakr Ali saluted and left the president’s office.
…continues EVERY SUNDAY!
-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)