It was the evening of what had been a dull and rainy day. Chinedu was waiting in a room with two other men; he had been asked to 'report for duty', as an operation was scheduled for this night. He was nervous, because unlike the past few operations, he had not been given any details. While he waited, he tried to pry information from the other two men. Serubawon, tough and surly, ignored him altogether; Chancer, quiet and tense, told him to wait for their leader, Dabaru, to come - he would tell him everything. Chinedu was edgy because the people he was more familiar with, Gbenro and a few others, were not there.
About an hour later, the door opened, and Dabaru entered, followed by Okey, another member of the gang. Dabaru was a tall, rangy man who had the air of someone scenting for danger around him. He had been involved in armed robbery for over five years; more than once, his sharp instincts had helped him evade capture. He called them all to gather round so that he could explain the night's operation.
"We are going to this address in Lekki tonight. I hear that someone there is keeping some money there this night." He stared fiercely at one of the other boys, "Okey, you know the place, right? The place I showed you when we were driving in the area the other day."
Chinedu was puzzled. "Is Okey driving tonight?" he asked.
Dabaru turned to him and smiled. "Yes, Okey is driving instead of you. I think it's time that you took part in a actual operation." He turned back to the others and continued explaining details of the operation, but Chinedu's mind was elsewhere. He knew that this day would come one day, but he hadn't thought that it would come so soon. His heart beat faster as he thought of what would happen. He had gone on shooting practice sessions with the gang before, but practice was one thing; real life was something else.
Eventually, Dabaru finished with the explanations and told them all to get into the car waiting outside; the guns they needed were already in the boot. As Chinedu passed him, he put his hand on his shoulder and said "We will make six million naira from this operation; I know you will not disappoint. Just be strong like you were in the last operation." Then he followed them out and entered the car, which promptly revved and sped off towards Lekki.
Chinedu shook his head as he recalled how horribly wrong the operation had gone. His role had been to climb over the wall of the compound at the address, then threaten to shoot the compound guard if he did not open the gate for the rest of his colleagues. Unfortunately, the guard had panicked and run towards the house, raising the alarm. Chinedu had him in his sights; but he found that he could not bring himself to pull the trigger. He stood there, sweating and trembling, as the rest of the gang shouted at him to let them in. Suddenly, there was a gunshot, and he felt a sharp pain in his leg. The robbers heard the shot, and that was their cue to flee. Chinedu collapsed and as he lay on the ground, blood seeping through his jeans, he heard the wail of sirens in the distance growing louder.
He woke up the next day at Apongbon. Five days later, the police doctor had bandaged the flesh wound on his leg inflicted by the house owner's pistol but the pain in his heart went deeper. While his answers to the interrogations had saved him some beating, he had been charged for armed robbery. His mother had visited once but there was nothing she or anyone could do. He was not up for bail and the police were were almost ready to transfer him to Kirikiri. He was sitting quietly while the other inmates raved and ranted, when a couple of prison guards approached his cell and unlocked it.
The prisoners began to chant at the guards, but they glared fiercely back and pointed to Chinedu.
“You... come with us. Oga wants to see you.”
Which oga, and why does he want to see me? Chinedu wondered, as they walked down the dark corridors that led to the prison’s chief superintendent’s office.
The guards knocked and entered. Two men were sitting at the table; one was dressed in uniform - Chinedu guessed that he was the superintendent - and the other was tall, dark and wore an expensive babanriga.
“Is that the boy?” the tall man asked, pointing at Chinedu.
“Yes, sah,” one of the guards replied.
“Hmm...” The man stroked his chin for a while, and then he spoke. “You... you were brought in from an armed robbery, right?”
Chinedu, staring in astonishment could only nod his head.
“I am Alhaji Galadima,” the man continued. “I am here to talk about the gang that you were part of...”
It turned out that the Alhaji, who was a police officer, was looking for information that would help him end the operations of Chinedu’s former gang, who were still active in the area. On inquiring, he learnt of Chinedu who had been part of the gang, but was now in custody. Galadima realised after talking at length with Chinedu that he had no great loyalty to the gang members, as they had abandoned him the moment he had been caught, and had not contacted or been to see him since. Chinedu said he would co-operate with the police in supplying information. Galadima also saw from the conversation that Chinedu was quite an intelligent person, and soon teased out the circumstances that led to him joining the gang.
His co-operation led to two members of the gang, Serubawon and Okey, being caught. It also meant that the Alhaji was able to arrange for him to be released sooner, and in addition, he volunteered to fund Chinedu’s education to university level “because it would be a shame for such a fine young mind to go to waste.” Chinedu’s eyes misted over as he remembered the Alhaji’s benevolence, but he quickly wiped the wetness away, as he slowed down his car to park at his office.
So that's it folks, vote on the left for the next person you want to hear from.