Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
The cold carpet refused to soak up the trickle of blood from my hands as I tried desperately to stop its flow from my stomach. My grip was weak on the colt in my hand, its warm feel a poor reassurance of my waning life. I knew I would die and I was afraid. Not of death, but of the many hounds I had sent ahead who now await my entrance into the great beyond; who couldn’t wait to get their hands on me. Let me try to explain.
My name is Yemi Jules-Rimet Atanda and I am 58 years old. I was born on the 6th day of May 1952, 4 years before the original Jules Rimet passed away. My father loved football and named me after the world cup. I am single never been in love, never known a woman and have been employed for the same reason for the past 30 years; to kill. I was born in Ondo State Nigeria and spent my childhood in Ibadan the center of western Nigeria. My early years witnessed the dying of the colonial regime and the forging of nationalization. During these years I learnt right and wrong, justice and truth and I had an unholy crush on the great leader Awolowo during whose Premiership I was born.
Sunday morning was church and my mum always took us to the cathedral. She believed in God’s son Jesus, his ultimate and immutable design and worshipped Him for it because it was good, acceptable and perfect. These three words I never forgot. Daddy was too busy joining the struggle. He believed fortune favored the brave and the church wasn’t brave. He aligned with his mentor whom he fondly called Karl in attesting that religion only lent energy to the less privileged and was an escape route from responsibility. I loved my parents and ate their words. My mother fed me with the scriptures and faith while I ate my meals. My father filled my head with politics economics philosophy sociology history and class struggle as we inspected his cocoa fields. Jesus and Karl should sit at a conference I concluded, as their followers would never agree.
Primary education consisted of three phase: I would trudge along with my peers on the road to school and sit, as we learnt to write with ink and read off badly painted chalk boards, my mind constantly darting between Jesus and Karl. I never wanted to play football like my peers, as I would run all the way home to eat my mother’s food and her words. She would tell me stories and conjure up images of the great walls of Jericho falling down, the sun standing still, and Samson killing a lion with his bare hands. My favorite was ‘David and Goliath’ and my mother would make me finish my meal before telling me this story. I would jump on my stool and swing my hands like I imagined David would, aiming at the imaginary Goliath and shooting my sling.
After my afternoon rest, I would go to my father’s study and sit under his table as he held Trade Union meetings with his friends. Back and forth my young eyes would dart, from one corner to the other, as I tried hard to keep pace with the discussions. I always left with the same set of words; ‘it’s not fair’, ‘that’s not right’, ‘we need to stand together’ and finally, ‘life more abundant’ they’d chorused as they dispersed.
If I did not mention it earlier then pardon me; my father was a civil servant and he worked for the Western Region. He was also a farmer and had large cocoa fields, which he inherited from ‘our fathers’. On various weekends, I would accompany him to inspect his fields and on such journeys, he would fill the car with the words of Karl and his Marxist cronies and I could almost see Karl smoking his pipe, legs crossed at the back seat of my father’s Volkswagen Passat nodding his head in agreement. Sometimes, I wished Jesus would also appear to me for the voices in my head were too many to choose from.
Secondary Education took me to Igboora for the first time. I had heard a lot about the land of twins and I knew the legends of how every house had a set of twins and sometimes more; Methodist High School was right at its center. The food there was another delight and it was while I schooled there, that I met Paul. He was a year older and had a striking resemblance to me. He was extremely smart, funny, easy going, honest and non-partisan. He helped me decide between Jesus and Karl, but I never listened to him.
Paul loved Jesus and Karl and believed they could both be friends, ‘if only Karl called Jesus Lord’. It sounded ridiculous; Jesus and Karl? Seriously? But I loved Paul and I never disagreed with him. We competed for everything, even though we had different backgrounds; we played football, studied together and wrestled now and then. Paul always claimed I had the advantage because I had more food to eat and was bigger and stronger but he always believed his feet and brain were much faster than mine.
In 1974 we both earned western region scholarships to study abroad and our paths went different ways thereafter. Paul went to study Medical Statistics and I went to study Law.
They approached me in my second term in the prestigious Cambridge University. I met Peter during one of my practice sessions at the Shooters’ Club. You see I never stopped slinging and transferred my love for shooting to guns. During my first shooting championship, I earned an amazing 18/20 bull’s eye and earned the nickname “Spikey”. Peter could shoot too but not half as good. He was from Calabar and claimed to be a member Free Nigeria Group who wanted to rid Nigeria of corruption and ensure that equality reign. He believed I had all the qualities to make membership and that his employers would be delighted to have a prestigious son of Nigeria as a member.
My Father died in 1978. He was 58 years old. He died during a rally of Civil servants at Abuja over the Federal Government’s proposal to move the Federal Ministries to Abuja. The soldiers had opened fire randomly in the heat of the protest. I returned to Nigeria for the burial and Paul was there. It was good to see him again. He had returned to Nigeria to join the Nigeria Air Force; he was married and had a beautiful daughter Tokunbo. I was very happy for him. We laughed over old rivalries and he told me he had a head start on me because he knew I would give birth to twins at my first try.
During the burial the Nigeria Army approached me. They had heard of my exploits in the shooting championship and had been recommended by “a friend” for a very unique and Special Training, if I agreed to join. I didn’t want to return to England so I joined the Army. I met Peter during my training and he told me we were part of “Operation Karl” a secret Socialist plan to protect and rid Nigeria from the hands of Capitalism. I laughed my heart out. Karl was still alive? It was impossible. Even my father would not have seen any reason to follow Marxism any longer. I was wrong.
At this time, I had learnt almost every trick in military espionage, shooting, unarmed combat, martial arts, deep sea diving, demolitions, heavy vehicle driving and my specialty, high Caliber Rifle training. I was a captain and I was happy. I met Brigadier Shehu for the first time. He was smart and very likeable. He took me under his wings and we spent a lot of time together, talking and sharing ideas. He loved talking about Marxism and I listened out of courtesy. He reminded me of my father and before long I was seeing images of Karl again, only this time there was no Jesus.
Brigadier Shehu wanted me to “take care of things” for the Free Nigeria Group. I was a little confused so I went to look for Paul. I needed someone to talk to. Paul was being transferred to Makurdi. He had three kids now; two girls and a son. I met him at the Officer’s Mess of the Nigeria Air Force Base, Ikeja, with his friend Garrus. I told Paul everything; I didn’t know Jesus anymore and Karl’s theories worried me. Paul talked to me in his usual calm, “Jesus is close to you. Just talk to him and he would answer”. I left with his words still ringing in my head “only Jesus can save you from Marxism Jules”.
A job is a job they told me and I believed. It was for the good of all and I believed that too. Thirty years later and I regret all those whose lives I have taken; politicians, soldiers, activists and party leaders, all for what? So that I could fulfill someone else’s greed and desire to remain in control. I was protecting the real enemy; the cabal who was buying up every asset in Nigeria, while silently getting rid of every voice and opposition. It had to stop.
In March 27 2010, I received the package and I immediately knew it was trouble. I knew it was my last mission and I desperately needed someone to talk to. Paul had passed away on the 13th February 2009. He was 58. He was hit by a car in Abuja. I cried like a child but I couldn’t attend the burial. I was in China trailing a Minister who was negotiating with Chinese investors to build and operate Electric Train in Nigeria. I wasn’t supposed to kill him. Not yet atleast, “…only if he made too much progress”. My employers couldn’t afford letting the electric train reduce their oil income. Bastards! My Mum had followed my father almost immediately. I looked at the Package again and shook my head. The target was huge and I was given a partner for the first time in thirty years. A left-handed partner; I don’t trust southpaws. I didn’t trust him too.
My employers never explained the missions and I never asked. My partner would only shrug every time I voiced my concern and I grew worried. Karl still showed up and he sometimes had a smile like he knew he had me in his grasps. I’d close my eyes each time I saw him.
16th April 2010. We laid in ambush at the Abuja Airport waiting watching our attack had been spun like a web and the butterfly was going to walk right into it. The Prey had just returned from his trip to the USA on a courtesy visit to Barack Obama among other things. His ever present hat was an easy target. If only he knew. I was shaking, my adrenaline pumping at a frantic pace. I looked through the high-powered scope. Not yet. All the while I wondered why. My partner sat beside me looking through the glass expressionless. He couldn’t see the entourage below. He had two passports and a duffel bag ready for our escape. My employers had handled the security and we were right in one of the rooms of the control tower. Something wasn’t right and I knew it. Karl was smiling at me but I wasn’t assured. Why? What is so wrong about this man succeeding his predecessor who had not been seen or heard from since that suspicious radio transmission? Business interest was the only answer I could think of. I steadied my scope again and looked. His hat was right in the middle. I checked the wind and adjusted the distance controlled my breadth and started my silent countdown. Squeeze the trigger Karl urged me. It is for the common good he cajoled. I looked closer at the hat my index finger caressing the trigger but at that moment he looked up and smiled at me shook his head and continued talking. I turned my hand violently as I scuffed my shot wide of my target. I couldn’t shoot this man. Instinctively I rolled to my side as the muffled sounds of two shots came from behind me. My partner was the clean-up man. My time was up. I kept rolling until I hit the desk and jumped to my feet. My colt was still holstered and the room was small. I was helpless. I charged at the clean-up man as he tried to angle his hand towards me and I felt pain as I hit the gun out of his hands. I grabbed his right hand with my right hand did a quick twist backed into him and smashed my elbow into his stomach. My head connected with his nose as I took a small step forward and flung him over my shoulder still holding his right hand. I broke it. He screamed in pain and I kept twisting it till he passed out. I had deflected his head shot to my stomach and it was bleeding. I searched him found two passports belonging to him. None for me. I opened the duffel bag and used one of the shirts to stop the blood. I felt dizzy as I walked out of office. The car was exactly as we had left it when we came. I never thought I would need it again.
It took them two weeks and five days to find me, but they did. I knew my luck would run out soon. They had taken all my money. I couldn’t leave Abuja, I couldn’t go to the hospitals, I couldn’t go to the police and my wound had gotten worse. I looked out of my motel window and I knew I was out numbered; six bullets against so many. I got up from the cold carpet and sat on the bed. Put on the radio. It was 11 pm and there were some reports of news around the world. A world I would soon depart from.
The Radio screeched BREAKING NEWS: PRESIDENT UMARU YAR’ADUA HAS BEEN CONFIRMED DEAD! HE DIED AT THE PRESIDENTIAL VILLA ABUJA. HE WAS 58 YEARS OLD. ACTING PRESIDENT JONATHAN GOODLUCK IS TO BE SWORN IN TOMORROW…
I let a wry smile play across my face as I pictured the man in his hat. I laid the colt on the bedside table; I was tired of running. They can take me if they want to. I felt someone at the door and I tensed my hand grabbing for the colt but I let go of it. Nothing it can do for me now. I took another dose of the cheap painkiller in the drawer but it did nothing to help. I noticed a small blue book inside the drawer and picked it up as the sounds increased in front of my door. New Testament Bible it read. Not for Sale. I opened its pages “for God so Loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I laughed. Now? Seriously? Karl Scuffed. I thought of Paul “if only Karl calls him Lord” he’d have said. “Lord” I said quietly. Karl looked shocked. “Lord” I said louder. “Lord!” I screamed as the door burst open. I felt no pain as the bullets tore into me. I was lifted up by their numbers and landed holding onto the only thing that ever made sense to me. “Lord” I said faintly as my fingers let go of the small blue book and I heard his voice for the first time… he said ‘I love you’.
The clock chimed 12 midnight as they carried my lifeless body outside; I was 58 years old.