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OLD SOLDIER: CHAPTER THREE

The thick smoke of the marijuana they were smoking hung thick above them like a celestial body. The two men sat across from each other, red eyed, pinching the blunt between their fingers.
“So when is the operation?” Kunle asked.
“We dey wait info but I expect it to be soon.”
“Wetin e entail, you know say me no dey for too much gba-gba?

Martins chuckled. “Na simple smash and grab, same thing we have been doing for the last couple of months.”
Kunle had a feeling that Martins was holding information back but did not want to sound too skeptic, Martins hated being second guessed. The operation, whatever it was, Martins had promised would fetch enough dough for them to retire, so Kunle decided not to fret.
“Make una hurry, body dey scratch me for real money, I am tired of these peanut jobs.” Kunle exhaled a cloud of smoke.
Textiles of varying colors lined the huge room from ceiling to floor, whoever had arranged them had aesthetics in mind, as it was an orgasmic arrangement of colors. The air conditioned room was a beehive of activities as people customers and employees alike moved around ant-like doing their business not really minding the next person but aware of their presence.
Mallam Shehu sat in his little office, peering at the various monitors sitting on his polished table, his eyes following every activity in his establishment. He was not technologically savvy but his son had convinced him to install CCTV cameras in the shop to help keep him off his feet after he was hospitalized for exhaustion. It had taken time to get a hang of the machines and now knew his way around it but he still wasn’t won over by technology; they were intrusive little things. The youngest of his children; Aisha, always had her face buried in her phone and laptop and had him wondering how she ever made good grades. He had tried taking away her gadgets but his beautiful wife Salima had warned him against it. He did not understand the fixation with staring at screens while life happened all around you, it seemed to be the way of the world now.
He noticed Anas slip out of the shop, probably to go smoke, that boy smoked more than a chimney! But he was his best salesman, only last week he made a sale of more than a hundred thousand to a couple who were preparing for their wedding.
Ever since the recession, business had been slow and he had not being able to travel abroad to get his supplies and had instead opted to go to Lagos to get them but for more than he could have gotten them in China or Dubai and with a much lesser profit. But this had been a good month and he had already bought his ticket and was slated to fly out of the country in two days. At the end of business tomorrow, he was sure that he would have enough to buy textiles fill his warehouse. No more Lagos.
Mallam Shehu shifted to the monitor showing activities behind his shop and saw Anas talking animatedly on the phone, probably a customer or something private. He sighed and returned his gaze to the other monitors. His mobile phone rang and he looked at the LCD screen, it was his wife. He looked at his wrist watch, it was 1 PM already, he had been so engrossed in his work that he did not known when time got away from him. He got up and headed towards the door to go meet his wife for lunch.
On his way out he ran into Anas, who was now returning to his duty post.
“Anas, ya ya? Is everything okay?” Mallam Shehu asked concerned.
Anas chuckled and replied. “No problem oga na, just some family issues.” He said averting his eyes.
“Tor, you know you can talk to me if there is anything?”
“Haba Alhaji, I know that. There is no problem.” Anas said reassuring his boss.
“Okay then, I am going to meet Hajiya for lunch, take care of the shop when I am gone.”
“Okay sir.”

Mr. Okafor flipped through the newspaper and each page seemed to infuriate him the more, no one reads the newspaper for good news, each page was a proclamation of how badly the country was run. Nothing seemed to be working anymore, there wasn’t any sector that even gave the faintest hope that something good was about to happen. The leaders got worse with each election, it seemed they were in a perpetual fight to outdo themselves in incompetence and ineptitude. And the citizens seemed to be tripping on an overdose of Prozac, unwilling to fight for their rights and well-being, strength of heroes past faded into abject docility. What happened to a once proud and strong willed people, that they allowed a bunch of corrupt, recycled aristocrats to enrich themselves at the detriment of the country and its citizens. His wandering mind traveled to a time when the voice of the people was stronger than that of their leaders, as Student Union Government President, he had been at the heart of many peaceful protest in defense of the civil rights of the Nigerian people under the brutal force of the military rule.
The highlight of his SUG reign was some time before the war in 1967, when a couple of students had been unlawfully imprisoned for the theft of the vehicle of the school’s VC; a Peugeot 404. He will never forget that car, it was in the news for days, later two boys were arrested on suspicion that they knew the whereabouts of the car, simply because they had been seen in the vicinity of the VC during the time line of the theft.
Despite their plea of innocence and accounts of credible witnesses, a shoddy court process had found them guilty and had them thrown in jail. Jackson Okafor, better known as Iron Jack, had led a protest, asking the VC to drop the case, when that didn’t work, he turned on the police, earning himself several night in a cell but that did not deter him as he focused his protest at the government house. He had fellow protesters; made up of mainly students, set up camp in front of the Governor’s lodge, refusing to leave until he persuaded the Judge to re-open the case and get the police to find other suspects.
Weeks later the boys were released after the police found the car in a neighboring state at the scene of an armed robbery. Iron Jackson with that incidence, wrote his name into the folklore of the University of Lagos.
The war broke soon after and without a second thought, he had volunteered to fight on the side of the Biafran army, he had fought for the rights of people he had little or nothing in common with, bled and suffered for them. Nothing would have given him greater joy, to pick up arms and fight on the side of his people. The war was brutal but he would fight and fight again if the same choice was offered him.
The war was fought by what was considered these days as little kids, teenagers and people in their early 20s but today kids of the same age brackets were considered too immature to make life changing decisions and have been relegated to the shadows of everyday life. They walk around with their pants half hanging from their buttocks, their faces forever buried in their mobile phones. No respect!! They talked to you as if they were in the same bracket as you, looking you in the eye, their caps hanging from the corner of their heads.
Iron Jackson had on more than one occasion smacked what he felt was an erring child up side the head or scolded a half dressed child for wearing something so revealing. He knew the kids dreaded him but he did not care. Someone had to speak up, these were supposedly the futures of the country! He shivered at the thought of trouser sagging leaders and their mini skirt wearing counterparts, what type of country would this be?!
His thought was broken by the sound of his grand daughter sobbing and so he called out for her brother.
“Chijioke, ngwa Bia ebe’a!! (Chijioke, come here!!)” He reached for his cane. His son had spoilt his children, raised them on words instead of the strokes of the cane. As long as they were under his roof, that would change.
Just as Chijioke came into the room, a knock came at the door, Mr. Okafor ignored it but it continued. He went to answer it and found the chief security standing at the door, sweat beads riddling his forehead, a letter in his hand.
“What is it, Mr. Yinka?” He asked impatiently.
“Good afternoon sir, take a look at this.” He said handing the paper to the old man which he took.
“What is this?!” The old man asked, his eyes bright with surprise.
“Na so I see am sir. It just arrived at the gate now.”
 To be Continued…

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