Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
He was standing by the American edge of the Niagara Falls ready to take a plunge. Goat Island separated him from the Horseshoe end of the fall. He saw a troupe of monkeys on a tree nearby urging him on. “It would be fun.” One of them explained. He looked down but he couldn’t quite see the bottom. Still he guessed it would be fun. He turned to the monkeys to explain that he had to pee first and proceeded to relieve himself in union with the overwhelming flow of water sweeping down the fall. The monkeys picked him up before he finished and threw him over the edge. He turned to wave at them and they smiled back jumping up and down in excitement as he flapped his hands on his descent. Applause resounded around him as eager tourists gathered dangerously close to the falls’ edge watching him tumble down in a mix of water and pee. This was fun….
The slap woke him from his reverie. He had wet his pants. He was slowly piecing together the nightmare he was grudgingly waking into again. His narrowed eyes were trying hard to adjust to the bright light shining straight into his eyes and he wished for his dreams. He didn’t want to stop falling. He still had some remnants of a smile from his dream. The second slap wiped it all way and this time its sting lingered as it left a burning sensation in its wake. He was wide awake and his mouth still had the after taste of the drug they had given him. He was naked but for his boxer shorts and he was cuffed to a chair. He looked around him but all he saw were shadows.
The voice came from behind the light and he shuddered as he recollected the stern orders that had broken him and brought him to his knees; made him beg and whimper like a child. “Where is Angela?” it asked. He saw the hand reach for his face again but there was nothing he could do to stop it. His hands strained on the cuffs and he clenched his teeth as another blow hit his face. Oh God, if you get me out of this I’ll serve you forever. Angela… oh Angela.
Angela was his wife and they had gotten married in the year 2001. They had met during their postgraduate studies at the University of Warwick. She was undertaking her Masters in International Commercial Law while he was in for Education Management. He was Nigerian, she was American. He wanted to live a new life, he wanted to forget his past and she had offered newness with open hands.
New York was a great city to work in and he enjoyed the hustle and bustle. ‘Life is a hunt’ was the New Yorker’s creed and it became his too. He knew he was meant for this game and went for the kill; after all he was a “Lagos boy”. Their fourteenth floor apartment on Manhattan Island gave him a perfect view of the famous Empire State building and he also enjoyed extraordinary visits to the New York City Opera Company, the Metropolitan Opera Association, the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, American Ballet Theatre, and the New York City Ballet. Angela was a ballet dancer and he was always awed by the idea of her standing, jumping or spinning on her toes. The spinning was a constant delight and the wide smile that spread across her pretty white face was enchanting. Life was good.
‘Where is she?’ the voice screamed at him. He expected another slap but it didn’t come. Instead silence and the sound of the door closing shut. Was that wood or iron? He couldn’t tell. The door opened again and he heard the sounds of wheels. A big fat man came into his vision dragging a box-like contraption behind him. The man showed him a brown set of teeth before hitting him with the butt of a gun.
Angela was smiling at him. It was their first night. She had kept herself till her wedding night and he was amazed. He also felt shame because they had argued on several occasions on the possibility of a girl older than 18 remaining virgin in the 20th century without dating any guy and here he was marrying a girl who had never been with a man before. The irony kept gnawing at him so much he couldn’t do it the first night. In his shame he told her he was tired. She kept smiling at him until he passed into fitful sleep. He woke up promising himself he’d never cheat on her. She deserved it. She was completely amazing… amazingly gentle, amazingly kind, amazingly beautiful, amazingly intelligent, she was like all the things he never thought he could have. Oh Angela.
The creepy contraption sitting on a trolley consisted of a giant battery with several wires connected to it. It had several tiny grips at the end of the wires and it scared him a lot. He had heard of torture but this was madness. The fat man was whistling “Two Face” Idibia’s “Implication” and really enjoying attaching the tiny grips to his nipples, ears and thumbs. He turned back to the voice and said ‘Oga make I start am?’ The voice grunted and asked him to get water first. The water was muddy and smelled of piss. It was dumped all over him and he choked on the smell. Fatman gave him a couple of slaps before the voice asked him to stop. He heard a chair scrap the bare floor and someone walk into the light. He was wearing a green khaki and the lone eagle on his shoulders meant the man was a Major with the Nigeria Army. His red beret made the prisoner’s eyes pop; Military intelligence? What was going on here? The name tag read “Okonkwo”. His swagger stick shone of money well spent and he demanded full attention. ‘Mr. Adekunle, listen carefully”, he addressed the prisoner. This machine will send high level voltage right to your brain and will knock you out; possibly paralyze you if you don’t talk. I may not have any truth serum or any of those advanced chemicals you know about but you will find out that this works quite fine. Tell me where your wife is and I will let you go.’ Adekunle looked at him with round pleading eyes ‘I don’t kno……………………………………………w!’ He had never felt this way before and even Nikki Laoye wouldn’t understand this either. This wasn’t pain or any particular hurt. It was fear personified that gripped him as jolts of electricity coursed his body and he began to involuntarily countdown to his death. It stopped. He was alive.
‘I will ask you one more time. Where is your wife?’ Major Okonkwo stared into his eyes for a few seconds then nodded his head. This time he didn’t survive it.
‘I want to meet your family.’ The question he had dreaded all these years had finally come. Why? Why now? After all these years of peaceful co-existence she wanted to remind me of everything he had run away from. Nigeria again? He never thought he would have to come back to this land of inadequacies. But Angela insisted and he had to oblige. He remembered her asking what he was running from. The list was endless: family wahala, people who won’t stop poking their noses in another’s business, irresponsible Government, lack of freedom, money, good life… He just wanted a quiet life alone and now even that was being denied him by his wife. Angela had informed him that she would love to watch the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at Abuja National Stadium and they had booked online tickets. He would have preferred Lagos but she insisted with a kiss firmly planted on his forehead.
Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos looked a lot different than he remembered; better. ‘Wait till you see MM2’ he heard people saying. Well if they couldn’t watch the matches in Lagos they could at least sigh-see before heading to Abuja. The taxi drive to Oriental Hotel, Lekki was fascinating. Lagos had changed. A certain Raji Fashola was the reason why Eko o ni baje* and the Oshodi spectacle was a particular delight. He couldn’t believe his eyes as the taxi driver explained the exorcising of the Agbero boys* from their boot camp. Angela giggled all the way.
They couldn’t continue their torture at the moment because the current was low. NEPA was his side saviour for once. He couldn’t resist the urge to let a smile sneak upon his face. Fatman wiped it out as quickly as it came. The flood light had been put off and dim chandeliers shone across the room. For the first time he had a look at his surroundings. The room was scanty and dirty. There were only two tables in the room and one had his clothes on it. The other had a tray with tea cups and a jug of water on it. ‘Water’ he muttered and the major turned away from the window by his right to nod at fatman who went to get him water. His throat was parched and the water felt like acid but it was bliss. The wall directly across him had several photographs and he thought he caught glimpses of Angela and himself at the airport in New York and Lagos. What the hell was going on?
Major Okonkwo turned around and looked at him. ‘You know you might die in here except you tell me where your wife is?’
‘No he won’t.’ a voice come from outside the room and the young pretty woman who walked in looked as out of place as her voice. She walked smartly to Major Okonknwo and Adekunle thought he heard the words “Federal” and “Investigation” as she whispered in his ears her perfume a complete contrast to the foul smell in the room. They both glanced at him and walked out of the room. Fatman followed them but not before turning off the lights. Darkness again.
He was in the Bathroom trying to wash away the lag. Angela said she’d go down to the bar to get a drink. He never was a drinker and he’d always wondered what she found interesting in alcohol. He suggested she called room service but she declined. Ok. When he got out of the bathroom she wasn’t back. He shook his head. One drink she had said… drinkers never keep their promises. He put on his boxer shorts and climbed the double sized bed; he wanted a long nap before lunch. The loud banging on the door woke him up. He smiled as he rolled off the bed. Angela had obviously had one too many as usual and he was completely expecting her Boston drawl to be in full control. He was wrong.
The door scraped the ground as it opened again. The major walked in followed by the pretty lady; Of course fatman was in their tow. The young lady walked behind the prisoner and tried to un-cuff him. She didn’t have the keys. She looked up at the Major who nodded at fatman. Fatman moved behind the prisoner and uncuffed his hands. His wrists felt sore. ‘Bature get him water.’ The Major barked at fatman and he hurried to the table to pour Adekunle a glass of water. He drank it with pain. Pretty girls dragged a sit close to Adekunle. ‘Look, I’m really sorry about everything that’s happened to you. It seems there’s been some misunderstanding. Military Intelligence guys can be a bit impatient.’ She searched his face for any reaction. ‘Water’ He said again. She turned to look at fatman and he brought more water. She bit her nails as Adekunle drained the mug. He massaged his wrists as he shook his head slowly and muttered ‘Misunderstanding’ to no one in particular. She looked up at the Major; he shrugged and continued turned towards the window again.
‘Look my name is Monica Sandfield and I’m with the FBI’s Lagos Desk.’ She searched his face for a reaction. ‘Mr Adekunle, nod your head if you are following me.’ He nodded his head. ‘I am really sorry for all you’ve been through. I didn’t expect it to be this way. Please believe me. You were supposed to be questioned not tortured.’ She shot a look at the Major. He shrugged.
‘I want to ask you a few questions. Do you know this lady?’ Monica showed him a picture of a woman wearing a blue Hijab. He could just pick out the face; amazing eyes, amazing mouth… ‘Angela!’
‘Yes she calls herself Angela. She is your wife, yes?’ He nodded visibly shaking. ‘We have known her for a while now as Safiya Khalid and she is what we call a copycat. She creates shadows for Terrorist organizations around the world so that they can move in and out of persons that are believed to exist but actually do not. I have been profiling her for some time now and we were led to believe you were in on it. We believe she is trying to create new access into Nigeria as terrorist activities within the country might heighten following the ‘Underpants Bomber’s chutzpah. She marries, gets admitted to schools, and takes on new jobs amongst other things just to create new identities every time. Do you want more water?’ Adekunle was sweating profusely. He didn’t move his head this time. He had fainted.
He was at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport and it looked just the way he had always known it to be. Members of his family were behind him waving him good bye. Angela was climbing into a KLM airliner. She turned back towards him and mouthed ‘are you coming?’ he looked at his family; mother and siblings, turned back towards Angela and shook his head. He dropped his luggage and ran into his family’s embrace.