By Rafiq Raji
“Quiet lion approaching airport, confirm all clear over”
“All clear, alpha team. Quiet lion is safe to proceed”
Colonel Umar had a slight smile on his face as he listened to his CSO check in on advance teams stationed at various points en route the Aminu Kano International Airport. Umar thought to himself: “Quiet lion? Which one of them morons thought of that epithet?” Like his fellow brethren in the public service, he spent his weekends in his home city, Kano nadabo. He also liked performing the Jumat service at the Masalacin Sarki; you have to keep in touch with these two-ear bastards you see. That was one of the perks of serving a Christian president. Because the former president was a Muslim, they all had to wait till he attended the service at the National Mosque in Abuja before heading out of the capital city. And he would have had to wait till the president was safe in Sokoto before boarding one of the jets in the presidential fleet to Kano. The security protocol was still the same though. They stopped all traffic one hour before the presidential motorcade was due to pass and snipers stationed at various points en route had a standing order to shoot to kill any living being in sight who was not in a designated area. No point trying to find out why someone was fixing his flat tyre just around the time the president was due to pass. Simply take them out. No one in sight until the president’s motorcade and at least three decoys had passed at other routes, those were the orders!
As chief of the Secret Service, his security arrangement had to be less overt whenever he was outside the green zone. Usually, what his security detail did when he was returning to Abuja, was to send ahead a three-car convoy with covered plates to the airport to give the impression he had left. Thereafter, a nondescript car, bullet-proof of course, took him for what was really an uncomfortable ride to the airport. No sirens blaring, no flag waving, nothing. They even stopped in traffic! Quiet lion? Yeah right. The boys did their jobs though. There were agents stationed as normal people at strategic points on the route. The cover of the last group stationed just a few kilometres from the airport was that of youngsters playing football carelessly on a field of sand. Their backup were dressed as mobile policemen doing routine checks at a checkpoint close by, a daily fact of life in any typical Nigerian city. Once at the airport though, all protocols had to be observed. The presidential wing was a green zone.
He’d always wondered about all the fuss though. Well, not really. He understood why it needed to be done. It just bothered him that he had to be so cautious in the city of his many firsts. He got to know women felt pain and pleasure the first time in the dark alleys of Yakasai. And all that blood, Gosh! Of course, it was no matter subsequently. You only saw red the first time. And even then, it was only afterwards. He would go with his boys to Sabon Gari to drink beer with the Inyamiris. On other days, they would go to the mammy market in the army barracks. Those were the two places you could buy alcohol in Kano. It used to surprise him then how many do-gooders they ran into at these water holes. Not anymore. There are just too many hypocrites in the world. His job enabled him peer into the inner recesses of peoples’ lives. After twenty years at the SS, he had simply lost the will to believe that people were capable of any good. Well, not all people. Politicians were the ones he disdained the most, including his principal. But he swore an oath. So even though the president was an inyamiri, even though the president was a Christian, even though the president was set on running for a second term at the expense of the ambition of his mentor, it was his duty to protect him. And Colonel Umar was very good at his job.
“The National Executive Committee decided today to nominate President Okpara as the consensus presidential candidate of our great party, the All Nigerian Salvation Party (ANSP). The president has accepted” said the ANSP Chairman with great cheer to a packed hall of reporters and government functionaries.
Just as Colonel Umar and his boys were beginning to feel some relief that the press conference was going exactly as planned. A reporter asked the question they had all been dreading.
“Mr Chairman, how did you get Governor Sanusi to drop his ambition?”
“You can ask the Governor himself” said the Chairman.
“Your Excellency, what made you decide to drop your ambition?” Amina asked the usually boisterous governor who was strangely subdued at the press conference.
“I realized it was inappropriate for me to contest the primaries when in fact the president was desirous of a second term. As is his right, of course” the governor replied.
“So it was not because of the corruption case pending against you and your son?” Amina wasn’t going to be brushed aside easily.
“Of course not!” The governor retorted.
No more, end the press conference. The Chairman was given the signal.
“That should do for one day, this press conference is now over. Thank you, everyone.”
Colonel Umar was about to leave quickly when Amina called him by his nickname. “Yaro na gari!” She meant that the other way round. It was more like “stop or I will call you dan iska!” Which was certainly not a compliment.
Putting on his widest smile, the Colonel played along. “How are you, Amina? Was that really necessary? Putting the Governor on the spot like that?”
“I knew you’d say that” Amina replied with a suggestive smile. The other guy moved. This woman was simply mischief. “What now?” he managed to say. “Well, you could stand there or simply take a walk with me” She knew he couldn’t do that. But then that was not what she meant as she slowly walked away. By this time, the other guy was in a sprint.
“The governor and his son are off the hook, aren’t they?” Amina always kept her head. Those curves were not the only reason he found her irresistible. She could at least try to put some clothes over those curves now that they were spent. One last glimpse, an image to trigger the next tryst.
“Umar?” Amina knew she had his attention now.
“The judge will probably look very closely at the case” Umar quickly managed to say. “You know how serious the president is with his anti-corruption campaign.” The ever-careful spy didn’t want to risk going on record even though the love of his life was the most discreet person he knew. She got the message. Now for the real ask.
“Your boys took my third-cousin into custody yesterday. He is not a member of Karatu Aha, Umar. He is not” How does she do it? Umar wondered. Change subjects like that.
“If he is in custody, it must be because they have evidence of his involvement” Colonel Umar coolly replied.
“Don’t give me that bullshit, Umar!” Amina was raising her voice now. “You are letting a governor whose son was caught with millions of dollars at the airport go scot-free. But in the case of my brother, you remember all of a sudden that you are a professional”
“That boy must not stay a single night in detention! You hear me?” She had him in her mouth now. Amina was a weakness.
There were still other stones remaining in the president’s shoes. One in particular. The guy simply wont’ let go. Because he was very publicly and vociferously opposed to the president, eliminating him was not a feasible option. The blowback on the president would simply be too much to handle were that to occur. As he was also a very highly respected public figure, making him disappear was also not an option. What to do? Colonel Umar was still mulling this when his phone rang.
It was the red line. Something was up. Just then there was a news flash on the TV screen.
“Bomb blast hit convoy of prominent opposition politician”. He did not need to answer the call. He’d been summoned.
The president was furious.
“My instructions were very clear. There were to be no targeted assassinations. We are no longer in the military era”. Ever the professional, Colonel Umar let the president let off steam before clearing his throat.
“Mr President, it was not us. We didn’t order the attack. He seemed surprised. That was understandable for a civilian in any case. Otherwise, he would know that fighting men kept their word.
“So, who did?” asked the still ruffled leader.
“I have a theory”. Colonel Umar prepared himself for another embarrassing show of naivete by the relatively inexperienced head of state.
“I think he did.”
“Who is he?” he retorted.
“I think General Soho organized the attack on himself”
“You know it has been problematic for him politically. The increased spate of attacks just after he lost the last elections”
“That is the most ridiculous stuff I’ve heard in a while, Umar. How could he order an attack on himself when he could have been killed? It is irrational.” The furrowed brow of the man suggested the spy’s theory struck a chord though.
“He survived, didn’t he? Well, it is probably ridiculous as you say.” Colonel Umar wasn’t just a spy.
“One thing is for sure though, you have your work cut out for you in the upcoming elections.” The baKano didn’t say that of course. He was more politically astute than that. But then spies do their masters’ bidding. So yes, he also had his work cut out for him in the upcoming elections!
*”Tazare” means “To proceed” in the Hausa language. It is used colloquially in Northern Nigerian political circles when referring to a political office-holder’s self-succession or second-term plans.
*”Tazarce” is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.