“Target in sight, roll in!” A voice whispered harshly in the dark. Soon a motor boat appeared on the river bank. Three men jumped into the knee length water and waded to dry ground. They dragged a rope and a ‘tiger’ generator with them. With the boat secured, one of them activated the ‘tiger’ generator. The low hum it sang however, suggested something different from a mobile electricity generating device.
Circuit channels of all Base Transceiver Stations within 2 Km radius became occupied. Outgoing calls were met with the annoying “beep beep beep” that was common to all GSM operators in the country. The device known as the Universal Revolutionary Companion, URC for short, had the capability of breaking locks, influencing the decisions of victims etc, the body unit, an electronic bracelet, was a remote bullet-proof device, deflecting bullets from the vicinity of the wearer. The URC could also be programmed to cause blackouts, but that night it was unnecessary, PHCN had already taken care of such duties.
“We are ready” someone said.
“Let’s do this” the harsh whisper came again through the head set of the three men.
The policemen were rudely awakened from their slumber by five rapid explosions. Shrapnel from the grenades exacted screams from suddenly conscious policemen. The faded yellow paint quickly turned brown like the rusty roof of their dilapidated station as the building caught fire. Automatic gunfire split the night air as the few policemen who survived the initial blast fought back, but their aimless shooting at moving shadows yielded no results. More of the half asleep officers crumbled into permanent slumber under the unrelenting hail of the marauders bullets. Overpowered by the sophistication and formlessness of their foes, the remaining officers escaped into the night alongside their former detainees.
Having removed the policemen from the security equation, five armed men marched unhindered towards Sunshine Estate.
With brutality and bloodshed, they dispossessed several residents of cash and other valuables, torched a couple of houses and several automobiles. An hour later, eight men piled into the motor boat and melted into the Woji river.
The death toll exceeded forty, and it included women, children and policemen. Such previously unknown wanton destruction of lives and property left Sunshine Estate in the fierce grip of indescribable terror.
Kenneth Amadi rarely attended Residents Association Meetings, he felt it was the exclusive preserve of dishonest landlords, but this one was an emergency. Although his house was not among the homes raided by the robbers, he was seriously affected by the events of the previous night. The vulnerability of their once peaceful enclave having been so ruthlessly exposed, he was afraid the robbers might strike again.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we convene this meeting, may the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace” Chief Bernard Chikelu, Chairman of Sunshine Estate Residents Association said in his opening remarks.
“It appears we are not as safe as we thought we were. This attack on innocent people is despicable and we shall do our best to ensure it does not happen again”.
Not a master of elocution, Chief Bernard always had a way of alienating his audience. His next statements enhanced that reputation.
He stated that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad shall be conducting regular patrols around the estate and that the proposed Sunshine Estate Carnival shall take place as scheduled. He further mentioned that he possessed reliable information that some Sunshine Estate Residents were conspirators in the attack. He declined to explain further. Despite his efforts, Chief Bernard Chikelu sounded unconcerned, probably due to the high level of security in his private residence. Kenneth, like those residents who do not fancy snoring in public, quietly walked away.
The invaders did not return. Apart from the irritating police patrols, some normalcy had returned to the area within a couple of weeks. A month after the robbery incident, the Estate Carnival took place. Wizkid (from the large speakers) urged the kids to dance Azonto, D’Banj also encouraged them to ‘shakey bum bum’. Other artistes who took advantage of the speakers also introduced their own dance steps. Everybody was entertained and satisfied. A recent visitor would have had no choice but to conclude that Sunshine Estate was the happiest place on earth.
Children particularly enjoyed the merriment, there was enough music, food, drinks, souvenirs and clowns in the open air of the Sunshine Estate Elementary School playground. Adults were not left out despite the air of suspicion that swirled around their head like an african woman’s stiff head gear. The presence of mobile policemen added a foul smell to the atmosphere, it was perceived by many but acknowledged by few.
Kenneth Amadi spotted her in the distance and whispered to his friend Bassey. He could not hear what was said due to the din of the speakers, but he nodded his head anyway. She was in the company of Dr. H. D. Attah, the vice chairman of Sunshine Estate Residents Association. When she saw him, Ndidi left a group that included her uncle Dr. H.D. Attah, his wife and two unidentified youngmen and approached Kenneth. Tall and attractive, her platforms accentuated her height and perfect curves, held together by sky blue stretch jeans. She turned heads as she smiled brilliantly and gracefully floated towards Kenneth and Bassey.
“Kenny! It’s so good to see you!”
She exclaimed and shook his hand. Kenneth briefly wondered at the absence of a proper hug, the handshake with his girlfriend was very awkward. Even her smile appeared forced.
“N.D. what’s going on? U’ve been scarce” he queried.
“Since the robbery, Doctor insisted that everyone must go out with a chaperone, I can’t come to your house with bodyguards”
Your uncle is paranoid!” Kenneth laughed.
“I knooow! But try arguing with the doctor”
“Is it those 2 guys?”
“No oh! That’s my cousin B.K. and his friend Hassan”
“I’ll see U tomorrow evening, babe” she said hurriedly and left.
Kenneth looked up and saw that B.K. And Hassan had been heading in their direction. He looked at Bassey, who just gave a shrug and looked away.
Ndidi met her cousin halfway and together they walked towards a clown in a Mickey Mouse outfit. The clown seemed to nod and posture in front of the trio, B.K. mockingly shot him with his fingers and he staggered back. They later high-fived like old friends. Ndidi and Hassan laughed heartily at BK and ‘Mickey Mouse’s antics.
Kenneth had met Ndidi at last year’s carnival. She was in charge of the Doctor’s three kids, who were busy having fun. She had appeared to have her hands full with the youngsters, so he assisted in getting them under control by telling them he was a police officer. He smiled at the memory, she had looked so pretty and flustered, he loved a damsel in distress. Chatting her up was so easy. She became his girlfriend soon after, their relationship had been going strong until recently.
Kenneth and Bassey felt they’d seen enough ‘carnivalisation’ so they left the playground. EPL and beers were a suitable therapy. Newcastle was giving Sir Alex Ferguson palpitations at Old Trafford when they heard the gunshots. Could it be firecrackers or fireworks from the carnival? After 15 minutes, they realised something was wrong. The carnival was about half a mile away, but they could hear noises and vehicles roaring past. A peep out of the windows revealed cars driving by at top speed and a few people running on foot. They all looked scared. The commotion was unreal. Football immediately forgotten, Kenneth said,
“Let’s go out and see what’s happening”
“Dude! Are U maaaad, those were gunshots! People are running for their lives, we had better stay here” Bassey cautioned. Kenneth had called Ndidi to ascertain her safety and that of her family members, she did not answer.
(to be continued)