| Innisfree Poetry
| Enskyment Journal
Scams | Stars & Squadrons |
By Steve Ogah
Author Notes; I am voicesnet (USA) Poet of the Month,
February ,2002; and i am published in the poetry anthology, Blood on our Ivory
Tower, future press calabar,2002. As a poet, i am at home on stage as a result i
was a performance poet at SEF Foundation Scholarship ceremony in 2004.I have
also appeared as a guest poet on CRBC TV's Breakfast with the Mirage.In my spare
time ,i team up with Campus Quest Magazine as a private Adviser. Beyond poetry,
i also write Prose and Drama. Regardless of my responsibilities as voicesnet
(USA) international poetry ambassador, i do find time to write for the world's
magazine, www.g21.net as an
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At last! Fear from persecution
ends, and freedom arrives like the sun back from an evening's quest?
This was the poser Adeh Kobari was unable to respond to as he sat in a sullen
disposition at the edge of the Kabba river. He rubbed his knuckles over his
rheum-filled eyes and yawned; fatigued from the night's uneasy sleep. He hadn't
slept well since his escape from Malabo university.
The persistent fear in his mind made him feel a tinge of regret. And he wondered
if he had taken the right action when the minister of internal affairs colonel
Abu Attah visited General Kaja, sole administrator of his institution.
"When shall this trouble cease?" He asked himself, his hands spread out like one
in supplication. "This numbing fear of arrest, torture, and perhaps death in a
dingy cell; shall it go away? Oh Lord, shall I hope for arrest, torture, then
freedom? Or is this morning time?" Adeh asked, tears lurking in his eyes. He
found it hard to believe that in this 90s the Nigerian military government would
still appoint a General to govern a university campus. But it was real. He began
to sob. He soon dried his eyes, and in his mind, he turned back the hands of
time, his vision tearing through the still water of the Kabba river.
xxx xxx xxx
Adeh sat quietly in his hostel room.
Just then, a rap registered on the wooden door. He listened. "Knock! Knock!" A
voice said behind the door.
"Come in, It's unlocked,"
Henry, one of the students living on the west wing of Hogan Bassey hall who had
developed a close relationship with the union president walked in. He was full
"You are just on time for the news," Adeh said.
"Yeah. I had been waiting for you to return from classes. So how was it today?"
"It was okay and Henshaw was at his garrulous best."
"You mean that Professor hasn't stopped dreaming of a political revolution?"
"Dreaming?" Adeh asked with discernible surprise.
"Yes. Is he not aware that they are no glory seeking heroes of his books here?"
"There you are. You call those who ask for change dreamers. Should dictators
rule Universities campus? Tyrants? Eeh, give an answer to my question?"
"It's not like that, but sometimes you are an idealist".
"Okay. You want a change but you don't know how to go about it" Adeh said with a
note of finality.
"Let's not argue over this. The news is about to come on". The evening news was
heralded by the sound of drums, horns and pictures that had become a familiar
montage on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA). The face of a female
newscaster, elaborately dressed in bogus African prints appeared on the screen,
forcing a mechanical smile that was a failure in courtesy. She started with the
headlines; stating government's reception of delegations from friendly foreign
countries. Then, she mentioned the internal affairs minister's intention to
visit the newly refurbished Calabar prisons.
Adeh motioned with a start. "Yes, that is what we have been waiting for!" His
eyes glowed with unhidden joy.
"What?" Henry asked, adjusting on the soft blue foam they slumped into
"Hold on. Let's get the full details," he prayed Henry.
They sat anxiously, waiting for the details of the impending visit of the
minister. Henry watched the screen with a monk's devotion, as though he was
going to be examined on the contents of the news. Adeh just stared and blinked
rarely, for the saw beyond the face of the ebullient newscaster.
He was hearing voices. Chants, chants, everywhere. And in the dust filled air,
he saw large colourful placards filled with strong words. People sweating in the
hot sun carry these cards, yet they are spurred by a passion that gives action
to a will. The crowd is led on. Singing, dancing and unrelenting. And as it
passes new routes, new converts swell it, Swept off by the ecstasy and energy of
a forward looking throng. Adeh's heart gladdened. And he invented a soft silky
smile on the left corner of his full lips. The newscaster broke his smile. "The
minister for internal affairs is to commission the refurbished prisons in
Calabar in a forth night. According to a release from his press secretary, the
campus of Malabo University is also on the minister's itinerary. He shall visit
the campus on the last day of the week long visit."
Adeh was excited. "Yes. This is the chance we have been waiting for", he shouted
and his voice overcame the one coming form the television. "Yes this is it. It
has come at last ", he enthused.
"What chance?" Henry asked, stunned.
"The chance to air our views", Adeh said, slamming Henry's wrist to hit home his
"What views? What positions?"
"I have always dreamt about this moment. And I did just now dream about it."
"What excites you?"
"This is the rostrum from which we shall speak about our rejection of military
rule, of dictatorial tendencies, of tyranny, of despots, of General Kaja?"
"Enough of that", Henry interrupted. "You are beginning to sound like Professor
Henshaw", he said.
"No, I am sounding like me. The light. Adeh. This is I. This is the time for
change. Shall it pass us by?"
"You see, there can be no better sensation than the feeling for change". Henry
was silent. He made to speak but Adeh wouldn't let him. Adeh held his hand. And
held his words too.
"I ask you again: shall this golden moment pass us by?" Henry was silent. Adeh
switched off the television which was by now irrelevant. He reached for his
black kangol hat, which was hung on a nail buried in the wall directly over his
head. He felt confident in it. He reached for his trademark black diary. And
fixing a strong gaze into Henry's cold face, he said, "I got work to do".
They both left the room, Henry in silence. Adeh, in muteness filled with
convictions as his short legs carried his stout frame forward.
xxx xxx xxx
Malabo square was filled to capacity. Adeh stood at the solidarity point
shouting himself hoarse; other student leaders around him.
"Grreat Nigerian students!" At which the mass of students standing in the hot
sun responded with deafening shouts of Great!
"Great Malabites and Malabresses!" he prompted.
The students responded. Reasonable Action! But Adeh was not satisfied. "That was
not loud enough", he said. "I want you to shake the foundation of the grounds,
if you are truly great Nigerian students and indeed great Malabites and
Malabresses", he asked.
The crowd responded to his whims for threatening shouts. Action! Action! Action!
Seized the air. And after that, most of the students started to breathe heavily.
Adeh felt elated and said, "That was fair".
Now give me the three fundamental "gbosa" for the way things are run on this
campus. The students did as he said. "Now I need one fundamental "gbosa" for
silence to descend on this noble gathering".
A thunderous "gbosa!" filled the air after which there was profound silence.
Everyone waited patiently and fixed their eyes on Adeh's lips. He began: "I was
very sad on the first day of our hostel storming to find students lazing on beds
with their girlfriends, when they ought to have been up preparing against the
visit of despots to revered grounds of academic excellence."
Most of the students began to grumble and it became as though balls of thunder
were rolling under the grounds they stood upon. Adeh noticed.
"Okay, okay, that is understandable. You people have just told me how in high
esteem you hold your babes. So, I shall not speak bad of them lest I slight
great Students that you are."
They were darts of Correct! Correct! Talk! Vibrate!. Adeh beckoned to Henry who
was standing at his right side. He motioned him to where he stood in the middle
and acted as though the crowd hadn't seen him. "Henry here, has been of great
support to this struggle, but I expect that you all will show an even greater
support to our cause to terminate military rule on our campus", he said.
There were numerous shouts of Action! Action! Action! "Yes, there shall be
action on our side. For the past two weeks since I heard the announcement of the
minister's visit to our city, I have hardly slept. I have been mobilising
students against his visit?"
He was again interrupted by shouts of Na you we know! Na you biko! Our light!
"But let us ask ourselves: what is the nature of the minister's visit?
"Someone has just screamed baseless! And he may not be far from the truth but
for those who do not know, he comes to commission a prison!"
There were screams of No! Objection! Total black out!" And for a considerable
period, Adeh was unable to continue for the students filled the air with chants
and songs of disapproval.
"Yes. That is how bad the case is. Instead of hospital they would build
mortuaries, and to them; prisons are better than classrooms. The question is:
who do they build the prisons for?"
Indescribable voices filled the air and Adeh waited for the noise to die for he
could barely hear them out. "If we do no t rise up now, they would one day turn
our campus into a government reserved prison." They were screams of No! God
"We shall act fast," he said. At the instance, the crowd had a surge of rage run
through them as they began to scream War! War! War!
"No we do not have to do that yet. I am sure that is not a reasonable action to
take. Rather, we shall embrace the non-violent methodology by coming out en
masse on a peaceful protest when the minister set's foot on campus. We shall be
like newly baptised kids marching through a crowded church aisle-all in white.
And speaking through placards and banners, our rejection of a system that breeds
terror. We shall be dancing, singing and be overwhelmed in passion unmatched by
any living throng. This is our strategy. It shall be a success."
The ground was enlivened with praises for Adeh and all sorts of chants. This set
the students laughing wildly with one another and nodding their heads in
acceptance of the plan. Adeh prompted three fundamental "gbosa" for silence to
reign, but the excited crowd was too steeped in their reverie to listen. He then
motioned with his two outstretched hands for silence.
"Great Malabites!" he screamed. And there was a deafening response of Action! He
started a song, carried by the crowd.
People wey wan kill us,
Water carry them go,
People wey dey beat us,
Water carry them go,
People wey dey spoil campus,
Water carry them go,
And soldiers don fall for gutter,
Match am, match am.
The last two lines of the song were sung with so much gusto that it seemed the
fields were going to burst with the heavy stamping of passionate feet as the
song came to an abrupt end. They were shouts of More! More! Rewind! Playback!
"Do you want more?" he asked. The response was positive. He cleared his voice
Victory is coming our way
Victory is coming to stay
So let the trumpets sounds
The drums be ever loud
And let your fists dance in the air
"After tomorrow's protest, Generla Kaja, the sole administrator of our campus
shall never see us in the same light again", Adeh said after the song died.
Water carry am go! Someone in the crowd shouted.
"Yes, he has to leave our campus. This is not a war college that he is posted
here. You see, they are afraid that a politically conscious University as ours
will always rise against their dictatorial policies that is why that Junta in
Aso Rock has replaced our Vice Chancellor with a General. But let them know this
Yes! Tell them! Someone shouted.
"They shall never break our will!" There were shouts of great support flying
over the gathering. While Adeh conferred with three senior members of his union.
The shouts died to grumbles. The grumbles died at one end. Rose at another.
Died. Died at another end. Then it was pristine silence again. Adeh spoke: "Here
we have three senior comrades in the struggle for the removal of terror from our
school." The crowd cheered as they beheld the faces they were used to. "This is
comrade Okon Okon. He shall co-ordinate activities from the female hostels. He
is very at home there", Adeh announced. The students found that humorous and
sent out shouts of Lover boy! Lover boy! Lover boy!
"Comrade Tuka Umeh shall co-ordinate from the three hostels of the west wing.
And I shall bear the light from Hogan Bassey hall. Correct! Correct! flew from
"You great Nigerian students have been most supportive thus far, but tomorrow is
the day that shall determine how successful our campaign shall be. Let us now
retire and prepare for tomorrow, but not before our song," Adeh said. Most of
the students stood at attention reciting the school song with their clenched
fists raised in mock dramatic gestures. The crowd dispersed in chatter. And at
the solidarity point, members of the union government were pasting sweaty
embraces on one another. "Victory is ours tomorrow", Adeh said and disappeared
into a room behind him, his black kangol and diary clutched in his left hand.
Then it was silence all over the fields after everyone had gone. The fields
found peace again. Was it going to stay after the protest?
xxx xxx xxx
The planned protest by Adeh and his comrades had been a failure. Somehow, the
information leaked to General Kaja. A Judas in the students went to Kaja and
received some pieces of silver. This was a possibility. Kaja had sent one of the
numerous aides in his office to gather intelligence during the rally at Malabo
square. This was also possible. Or Kaja acted because of what he thought the
students would do in view of their opposition to military rule. However, it was,
Kaja foiled the planned protest before it took shape. He sent ruthless soldiers
to barricade the road leading to the senate building.
This was the terror Adeh and his other martyrs in wait were to dare with
placards, chants and passion. And dare, they did!.
For as the passionate crowd appeared from the bend that led into Akpan Edem
drive led by Adeh - the light, the gusto with which they sang their Aluta songs
assumed a frightening dimension. They sang:
How many students soldiers go kill
How many students go die
Yee, dem go kill us tire
Yee, yee, yee dem go kill us tire
How many students go die
They edged close to the assemblage of terror. And perhaps the soldiers were
ready to kill. "This demonstration", the wand bearing soldier said. He tapped
the wand on his palm. And as if forced to words, he yelled: "Illegal! I repeat
Adeh and his throng were deaf to this. They kept humming, chanting and dared
endlessly. Placards jostled in the air. The atmosphere was hazy with dust. All
the soldiers kept still.
"Return to your hostels. This is your chance to be alive," the General said. The
crowd kept chanting.
"I warn you. I am licensed to kill". The crowd kept dancing.
"I give you an order. Go away. Now!"
The crowd began to hum. Were they sensing danger?
The General signalled the soldiers atop the armoured tanks. They raised their
rifles into the air. The hum was fading. Slowly, Slowly. Then, a fleeting second
of golden silence. The shots from the rifles broke the stillness. And there was
Later that day, Henry arrived Adeh's room. He was obviously tensed and filled
with fear. As he ran up the stairs that led up to Adeh's room and made it on the
landing, he bumped into the room without courtesy. Adeh turned form his chest of
drawers, fear in his eyes, perspiration on his face.
"By God, you scared me", he said.
"Sorry, I didn't knock. And I don't think the soldiers will knock either when
they come for you", The fear on Adeh's face deepened. "What did you just say?"
he managed to ask.
"It is dangerous that you are here. News is everywhere that Comrades Okon Okon
and Tuka Umeh were arrested during the protest. And there is an order from
General Kaja for your arrest".
Adeh buckled at his knees. He sat on the ground, his hands clasping his head.
"God, they could not escape!" He exclaimed.
Henry held him up. "This is no time for sobs and regret. You have to leave now.
Get some necessary things, and leave Malabo for good, perhaps", he said. Adeh
set about that. And as he did, car tyres screeched outside. Henry hurried to the
window and froze in his vision for a while. There were three vehicles on the
wide parking lots of Hogan Bassey hall. A military van with its tiny rectangular
widow crossed with vertical bars; remained in the middle of two Peugeot
504-saloon cars. An orderly in military gears stepped out of the car in front
and opened the back door. A black goggled soldier stepped out. They orderly
saluted him. Then he said, "Bring her out".
They orderly fumbled with his pockets and soon produced a bunch of keys. He went
over to the van and opened it. "Jump out," he ordered the person inside.
Handcuffed hands stretched out slowly. "Jump out" That was the orderly again.
And wavering in her strides, Violet hopped out.
"The soldiers are here already. And they have your girlfriend in cuffs. They are
using her as a leverage", Henry said, still at the window. Adeh moved over and
took a quick look. He turned to Henry: "If you get to speak with her, inform her
that I shall be in my mother's village at the outskirts of the city."
"Alright," Henry said, holding his arms. "They are heading upstairs. Hurry out.
It seems you knew this day would come."
"I will have to use the emergency exit in the ceiling," Adeh said and drew the
table to the far corner of the ceiling where he concealed an opening. As he
disappeared into the hole. Henry heard him say: "Tell Violet I love her."
Henry dashed out of the room. Just then, the soldiers appeared on the landing
and chased Henry down the corridor.
"Stop there or I fire. Stop! You coward," a soldier yelled, his rifle aimed at
Henry's spinal cord. Henry kept running.
xxx xxx xxx
Now that Adeh was at the edge of the river that separated him from his mother's
village, his mind was not separated from Violet and his other colleagues.
This was Henry's experience, perhaps: He dashed down the corridor and descended
a flight of stairs and was on the second floor. He disappeared into his room and
also disappeared through an exit neatly concealed in the ceiling, away from his
pursuers. The soldiers fired into the air. And he was too afraid to keep
running. He is arrested and they discover his is not Adeh. And just perhaps he
tells Violet his message. These were all possibilities. But for Violet and his
other colleagues, Adeh was lost as to how they fared. But he still hoped Violet
would come to meet him. And together, they would escape across the river, never
to be seen again.
xxx xxx xxx
Violet and the two captured comrades were taken to the newly refurbished Calabar
prisons on the orders of General Kaja.
"These are the enemies." He said when Tuka and Okon were brought before him.
They were both in chains. And when Violet was violently shoved in, he gave a
wicked smile, and said:
"What a heart you have to have started the war!"
"Sir, she is only the girlfriend to the leader of the rebels" the soldier who
brought her in said.
Kaja stood up from his revolving chair: "So you people have girlfriends.
Boyfriends. On campus. Good." He spoke as though reflecting after a few words.
He moved around Violet. "Look at you. Rebel. Trouble maker. But you are not too
bad," he said, his eyes feasting on Violet's elegant facial features and
delicate feminine curves. He authored a pale smile. He went over to Tuka.
"Now tell me. Were your rebels confrontational with my men? Respond. Now!" He
Tuka gave Okon a quick look. And rather than fear, he was emboldened. His knees
didn't buckle. His hands didn't tremble and his heart didn't skip a beat. But
there was fire in his eyes, because a force that was strong led him on. A force
brought about by a conviction in the freedom of the human spirit.
Tuka cleared his throat. "We are no rebels", he said into Kaja's face.
"What!" Kaja yelled.
"We are Student Union leaders with a firm believe in the existence of the mind
free from fear, and persecution for upholding a just cause." Okon said.
The rage in Kaja's face grew and at once his eyes were bloodshot. He went over
to his desk and hit a button. A bell rang in the front office of his orderlies.
Two armed soldiers hurried in and gave their compliments. General Kaja fixed a
wicked gaze on the innocent students. He could see their faces but he couldn't
tell their minds. He said:
"Take them away. All of them. Calabar prisons," he said with a harsh finality.
Violet stuttered. "But? But?" The soldiers shoved them violently out of the
room. Their chains clanking in the corridor as they walked away. Then it was
heard no more. There was silence. Kaja walked over and closed the door, his face
hard with rage. Had he closed the door on their lives?
xxx xxx xxx
At the refurbished Calabar prisons, Okon and Tuka were thrown into a cramped
dingy cell. They were to make their new homes with hardened criminals. The cell
was squalid and the air inside was foul, for it was a tiny room barely twenty
paces in length, with two very small windows high up, yet cramped with heads,
exceeding the capacity.
Inmates called this the transit hell because those here were awaiting their
permanent cells. The female section was the room next to this. And Violet was
confined in that also.
There was a gang in the male section of the prison that separated itself form
the rest of the inmates. They huddled up like coup plotters and discussed. "Get
away from here, you gutless boy", one of them shouted at Tuka when he tried to
get close to them.
Tuka knew they were up to mischief as he could hear their hushed tones, and see
the frowns of determination on their faces.
"So this prison was refurbished for us," Okon said as Tuka went over to him,
curled in the crowd of sordid inmates.
"No. I don't think so," Tuka responded. Just then a sentinel approached. He
walked the corridor with a ruthless baton in his hand. The gang heard his foot
falls. They scattered among the crowd.
And he stopped and looked through the crossed iron bars, into the cell. There
was silence. He was pleased. He walked away.
The gang gathered again and one of them pulled out a string from the innermost
part of his lower jaw. He went up to the bars and looked both ways down the
He began to fondle with the lock. A few turns and he began to perspire. The
inmates watched in a silent expectancy. The man at the lock was beginning to
fidget; his hands unsteady. Then, some more turns and the lock clicked into
opening. He let out a deep sigh of relief.
The cell was not given much security by the prison authorities for it was only a
transit cell into the main maximum-security rooms. These criminals knew this.
And they were poised to take advantage of the lapses. They trooped out and Tuka
went over and collected the string from one of them. As they rushed down the
corridor, he stopped at the female section and set the lock loose. And the girls
joined the fleeing throng, Violet holding the rear.
xxx xxx xxx
As Adeh sat at the edge of the river waiting for a returning canoe that could
take him across to the waiting embrace of his mother, he heard the footfalls of
running men from behind. Then he heard the cocking of rifles. Had Henry being
tortured to confession? Had Violet sold out? He barely had time to decide for
there was a rapid burst of gunfire that broke his thoughts.
Death trailed him from behind. The huge currents of the Kabba river stared him
in the face; a canoe in the distance. He took a desperate plunge into the river,
in spite of bullets that whizzed pass his ears. The soldiers pumped few shots
into the river. They waited. The floating body of Adeh did not appear on the
surface. Frustrated, they hissed and walked away.
After the soldiers are gone, the canoe man paddles to the point just where
Adeh's hands appear out of the river. He helps him into the canoe. And they
paddle to safety. Then Adeh nestling in the hut of his mother, Violet appears
like a sweet dream in the middle of a peaceful slumber, her bosom wide open for
a full embrace. And they begin their running battle from arrest until things get
back to the old order at Malabo University, moving from hut to hut, till they
walk the bush paths into the neighbouring country of Cameroon. This remains a
suggestion, if Adeh did swim out of the river and Violet did make it out of the
transit hell alive. Perhaps, it ended like this. Just perhaps, it did.