Sharrap! Followed by incessant cursing and a cry for help in a language that sounded like Hausa, was what woke Lola up at 2am one morning. Fear gripped her as she quickly got out of bed to find out what the racquet was all about. Her first thought was to call someone but the question was who? The Police??There really wasn’t any point. The Nigerian police is still a major work in progress. Her parents? They lived on the other side of town and it didn’t seem fair to get them worked up at 2am. Deji? Her boyfriend of six months was too unpredictable especially when she was concerned and she was safer without him in the picture. So that left her alone. She moved to the front window and got the shocker of her life. There was a rapidly increasing mob gathering just in front of her house. She had to consciously breathe in and out. To make matters worse, she suddenly realized her gate was left ajar. Thoughts started racing within her head. Anyone could walk right through, break down her door and attack her in minutes.
She stilled her mind and started recapping the events of the previous night. Deji had come over for some drinks and their ‘quality time’ as he liked to say. He finally left by 10:30pm. She had escorted him to his car, kissed him goodnight and had locked her gate herself when attempts to find Ali, the security man proved futile. Knowing Ali, she just assumed he was somewhere at the back of the house, cooking or chasing a rat which was his most recent passion. She had then entered her apartment and locked her doors before retiring to bed, with no signs of mayhem in the atmosphere.
So why were they beating up a young man in front of her house and why were people gathering to watch without putting a stop to it. She spotted a few familiar faces and then she wasn’t so scared anymore. The man in the flat at the back, Simeon was there, now she understood why her gate was open. Even Laide her neighbor was present. On a closer look, she realized her whole neighborhood had gathered because of the racket. Knowing her personal strengths and limitations of which public confrontations wasn’t one of them. She took one more glance and assessed the scenario in front of her. She had to be at work by 7:00am so she needed at least an additional hour of sleep before running out in order to beat Lagos traffic.
Exactly an hour later, Lola was again forced to wake up but his time someone tapped her. She looked at him and was so sure she was dreaming that she put covers back up again and attempted to go back to sleep. The intruder gave her a slap across the face that ascertain all her doubts and drove every iota of sleep from her mind and eyes. This was real and he wasn’t alone, there were six of them she realized and they weren’t smiling. At first, she didn’t understand what he was saying because of his strong Hausa accent. It was weird how he was supposedly speaking English but all she could hear was Hausa. One of the other guys brought out a knife and started shouting that she should bring out the flash drive. A startled Lola attempted explaining to the man that she had no idea of what he was talking about but it fell on deaf ears, as the others started ransacking her house. What surprised her even more was their disinterest in her phones, jewelry and other valuables. The search was very disturbing and sickening for Lola especially since her underwear closet wasn’t spared. After an hour of searching and still nothing, the man who appeared to be the boss turned to her and said “Tell that your black man friend that if he loves his life, he should destroy that flash with no leakage.” As the men turned to leave, one of them knocked off her picture frame with a recent picture of Deji and her at the beach. The man turned to her and said tell this your friend that he is playing with fire o! You are a good woman that’s why we no go touch you but warn am o!” after saying this they left.
Unknown to her that night was just the beginning. So a seriously frazzled Lola who was too scared to even process her thoughts started tidying up her house or at least restore a bit of sanity to the chaos. Oh boy! She was glad to find her laptop untouched exactly where she had left it on her desk. She was grateful to God for that cause her work and life was her system.
Lola being the only child of two professors was given to process and analyze data before making any assertions. So at work that day, everyone kept wondering why she was so quiet and reserved. She just buried herself in her work and plastered a smile when approached. A lingering thought in her mind was what was could be on that flash drive? And what was Deji’s involvement in the whole mess. Her initial thought was to go to his house and demand for answers but on a second thought she drove down to the University of Lagos. On seeing her daughter, Prof. Ireti Ade knew something was wrong. She quickly got up and locked the door before embracing her. Just like a child, a weeping Lola broke down and began to recount that morning’s ordeal. Her mother would hear none of it, Lola was to go to her apartment, pack her bags and come home with her. Prof. had never understood this independence young people of nowadays craved and made much noise about. If it had been entirely up to her, Lola would never have left home in the first place.
After a week of staying at her parents’ home, Lola came back to her apartment to get some documents, and start cleaning up in preparation for her homecoming. She had every intention of moving back by the weekend but she knew her mother wouldn’t approve and her father would be worried so she was still plotting her coup secretly. She had already gotten a welder to install burglary proof bar around the apartment. Her talks with Deji had suddenly become infrequent and always left her more confused than before. He kept asking when she was moving back to her apartment and that he won’t be able to visit till then. So here she was back at her apartment, trying to dust her furniture, who knew that six days was enough to gather a dust pile? It was harmattan season so it was understandable. In an attempt to properly clean the center table in the living room, she removed the fancy bowl of marbles and was about to drop it when she tripped on the rug and fell down. As the marbles tumbled in different directions, she noticed a queer looking object on the floor. On close examination she realized it was a flash drive. Now a few things were starting to make sense to her, so the Hausa guys were right in looking for it here? But how did it get here? Oh no! Deji, she thought. She remembered the night before the break in; he had kept fiddling with the marbles so he must have dropped the flash then. For lack of anywhere better or safer, Lola kept the funny looking flash in her shoes. It was in the process of bending that she noticed that someone had recently attempted forcing her door open with a crow bar.
This wasn’t the time to ask why but time to figure a way out. She no longer trusted Deji so going to meet him wasn’t an option. As she left her apartment with her documents and important belongings in tow, her next door neighbor called her name. She wasn’t really in the mood for pleasantries but obliged him. He seemed genuinely concerned about her welfare and being a very good tale bearer he updated her on all the latest happenings. From his conversation, she gleaned that Deji had been there twice during the week and some Hausa men too but no one had visited after the burglary proof bars had been installed. He also told her the reason why the neighborhood gathered to beat up that man the night before the break in. The man had been caught trying to jump over the fence. They had to flog and threaten to kill him before he made a confession; he had been sent to simply survey the house and report back. Being an illiterate the man could provide elaborate details on the people that sent him but he was now under police custody.
On getting to her parents house, Lola practically ran to the computer in the living room, she had to know what was on the flash drive. What she found left her speechless. It was a ledger of some sorts. It held all the details of various drug deals which included money running into millions, various bank accounts and names. No wonder securing the flash was a big deal. Now she needed a plan! After weighing the risks and consequences, she decided not to involve her family. Thank God her parents weren’t home yet, that gave her ample time to scan through the files. She immediately printed out a duplicate of everything which was a lot of pages, almost like one of her university law texts. She was about putting it in a manila envelope when something caught her eye. It was a name, not just any name it was Deji’s. Now she was utterly confused. Prior to this, she had secretly painted a picture where Deji was the good guy who had gotten the flash from as an undercover agent in order to report to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) so that justice will be served. Her heart had prayed it to be true but what she was holding told her otherwise.
What she did next was stupid but her heart was stubborn and desperately wanted Deji to tell her otherwise. One thing she knew about love it kept on believing. So she called him one last time. As the conversation went on she knew it was over between them. When she told him she had found the flash. He became sad. He told her it hadn’t gone according to plan. This was the big break he had been talking about for weeks. He had planned on using the flash to blackmail the god fathers behind the drug deals to pay for his silence. He had had big plans for them. They would have travelled out to start a new life after the cash in. They wouldn’t have lacked anything. He then told her to be careful because they won’t agree to go down without a fight.
On second thought she needed back up. She quickly put a copy of the files with a short letter explaining everything under her father’s pillow. The second copy in an envelope addressed to the NDLEA boss marked URGENT!! Because it was a matter of extreme delicacy due to the high profile individuals involved, she had to tread carefully. She scanned through the documents and selected the vital but less messy details and emailed it to the press. She then went ahead to post some anonymously on the web. Her greatest fear wasn’t her safety but the possibility of this crime being buried just like so many high profile Nigerian crimes.
Oh No! She had forgotten her address book in the office. Most of her friends thought it odd that she still bothered to write and keep a hard bound book with the invention of smart phones and PCs. They kept reminding her that it was the 21st century where everything was in e-form. For her it was a personal choice and she would rather not be at the mercy of any virus scare or theft. She got into her car and started heading to her office to retrieve it. As she approached the third mainland bridge she looked at her rearview mirror and noticed that two black cars were following her. She had noticed them earlier and had taken a detour in an attempt to lose them and hadn’t seen them since and had applauded herself for successfully losing them. But now they had reappeared and that only meant TROUBLE! One of tried overtaking her but she had outwitted him by diverting into the other lane and stepping on the accelerator. They kept racing and chasing till they got to the end of the bridge. She was still thinking of how she was going to maneuver them when all of a sudden a black van just swerved and came to a halt just in front of her SUV making it impossible for her to go forward.
She immediately locked her doors and called her father. She quickly narrated what had happened and attempted describing where she was presently. Just then some men approached her car. They started hitting the car and commanding her to open the door because she was outnumbered. When they realized she wasn’t budging they brought out their guns and began shooting at the rear windshield. Lola was scared to her teeth. She kept wondering if this was how she was going to end her life. The next thing she heard was a loud gunshot and she passed out.
She was awoken by the rotten stench of dead rats. She was in a somewhat abandoned car warehouse surrounded by a lot of men. Angry men she observed. Immediately one came forward, she recognized him from the papers; he was Chief Adetola, a prominent man in the oil and gas sector. He started talking to her; at first she couldn’t hear a thing because of her throbbing headache. He was asking her to tell him what she had done with the documents on the flash drive and that he wasn’t in the mood to play games. So she told him excluding some details like the one she left for her father. She recognized a few more high profile figures amidst the crowd. After she finished talking, he heaved a deep sigh and beckoned for some men to take her away. As they carried her she heard him tell the other men that this was a calamity and they had to act fast.
The next three days, went by in a blur. She had only been maltreated on the first night. Since then it seem as if they were awaiting their fate before deciding hers. She hadn’t left the room in the three days. There was a bucket at the corner for her necessities. She sat, slept and lived on the floor. Apart from once when another Chief had come to ask her the name of the specific media houses she had sent the documents too, her only visitor was a little boy, Dauda, who came to give her Agege bread, water and empty her “potty” daily. Since all she had to do was to stare at the boring ceiling, she slept a lot instead. She imagined it to be her much needed vacation but instead of Staten Island it was a more ‘modest’ Island of Nowhere.
She was woken up that afternoon by voices. Suddenly the door was opened and police men marched in symbolizing her freedom. She was going home, they said. Apparently her father had taken the documents himself to NDLEA and then the police. A search party had been sent to look for her. He had come to her rescue. She had always known he would because that’s what fathers do best; they save their little girls no matter what.