Things were looking particularly bleak that Sunday afternoon as a gentle breeze rustled the grass around where the three of us sat. The sickly sweet smell of grass pervaded the air as I brooded, sat between Garfield and Junes. It was convocation day, and we were in Babcock University, from where Garfield and I, exactly one year before had celebrated our convocation. We had shared a tent, with our folks mingling and happy sounds drifting towards us from the nearby tents, as each tent had at least one graduating student. Today, however a year later, it was Junes’ turn and the three musketeers were back together for the first time in about a year. It was not a happy meeting though, don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic my closest pal was finally getting out of the clutches of the self-serving Babcock University, but I had been out of the university for more than a year and had no job. Garfield too was jobless. So, while Junes was delighted he was finally a graduate, his joy was tinged with the fear of the unknown as we lived in a country that was in a state of chaos. Don’t be fooled by the smiles and laughter around you, my country Nigeria was in a terrible state.
So, we sat there, in front of the University’s recreational park looking gloomily around. I was broke. I was relying on my parents for money, this I found revolting because I loved freedom, and freedom to me meant earning money to fend for my basic needs. Monsieur Garfield on the other hand was less concerned about where the dough came from, as long as it was in plentiful supply and constant, he was content. Junes wanted to live the good life, drive a Range Rover and watch movies at the cinema every other day. Simple as that.
I snapped out of my reverie as a middle-aged man walked past the table the three of us were huddled around, with a stunning, chocolate-skinned beauty clutching his right arm. His left arm, however was grasping an ipad and he kept muttering to himself, while he tapped the screen of the ipad with the fingers of the arm the lady was clutching. With his attention fully focused on the ipad, he trod on Junes’ foot, stumbled, and tore his eyes momentarily from the device- revealing a face that would make most babies scream for their mama – sneered at Junes without a word and carried on as if nothing had happened. Junes was beyond livid; the man with the ugly face however just kept tapping on the screen of his ipad, maybe he was messaging his friends on uglyface.com.
I put a hand on Junes’ shoulder and pulled him back to his seat from where he had just risen in anger.
“Cool down Junes, it’s your day. Don’t let Mr ugly face make you angry.” I said in a soothing voice, Junes shrugged and sat down.
“He just stepped on me without a backward glance, would that have happened if I was ringed with bodyguards?”
“Hahahaha, Garfield chuckled, you have started again, you and money”.
Changing tack at the speed of light, Garfield continued. “Abeg Junes, what’s up with the food, I’m hungry”
My stomach growled in response to Garfield, promptly reminding me of the fact that it was almost 4pm and I had not eaten a morsel of food that day. I had forgotten about food, as gloom settled as seductively and comfortably as Eva Longoria on us. The three of us as one turned out gazes towards the cooler of food just beside Junes, my stomach growled even more audibly this time.
Rising, and picking up one handle of the cooler, Junes beckoned to me. “Tim help me with it, let’s move to the hall.” Nodding my assent, I hastened to pick up the cooler and we started the short walk to our hall of residence.
Thirty minutes later, during which the silence in our room was broken only by sounds of chewing and bones being broken, we had demolished the food Junes’ folks had brought for him. Now that my hunger was sated, I heaved a sigh of relief, and my brain that was previously on vacation, ground back into action.
“Money, money, money”, I mused, how could a brother like me lay hands on such an elusive commodity? I had grandiose plans to be honest. I wanted to retire when I was 30 and travel the world but at 23, I had just 500 naira to my name. That was of course the amount of money contained collectively in my three bank accounts.
I sighed in frustration, and at that moment Junes spoke up, “Ha! The US government just announced a reward of $7million for the capture of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Sekau.”
“What?” I sat up abruptly, my mind instantly doing the calculations involved. “But… but, that is …………..”
“1.1 billion Naira” Garfield spoke up beating me to it and looking so chill in the process. I got instantly pissed. I just couldn’t imagine how, just how in the name of everything good and honest will you speak of 1.1billion Naira without a look of awe on your face?
Honestly, that dude, Garfield was as sharp as Einstein whenever a situation involved money. Ask him anything that was not remotely money related and I swear he was dumber than Scooby-doo.
I sighed again and leaned back against the wall but I swear the lunch I just ate must have had magic mushrooms in it, because as Junes continued flipping through the newspaper he was reading and Garfield took to trolling on the internet with his I-phone, a fantastic idea started to grow in my brain.
The next day, we split camp and headed for our respective homes. As Junes was still involved in the NYSC scheme, he headed to his place of primary assignment in Ibadan, the largest city in West Africa. Garfield took a bus to Abeokuta, where he would resume his irresponsible ways of skirt-chasing and alcohol quaffing.
As for me I headed home to my city, Lagos. All the way home, the idea that had started developing in my head, the previous day at the mention of the fantastic sum of 1.1 billion naira was fully developed. The same night, while the snores of Garfield punctuated the silence, I had pulled up any and all information available on the terrorist organization that was self-styled Boko Haram via google. I was determined to win the reward money, and whether they knew it or not, Garfield and Junes were gonna help.
The trio of us had had our adventures while we were in school together, and I knew each of us pretty well. I knew Garfield was the linguist. He could speak French, English, Yoruba Igbo and Hausa fluently. Junes on the other hand was a walking encyclopedia. His knowledge of history and current affairs would come in handy. Lastly, me, well I hate to play my own piano, but I was a master planner. Plus I had other gifts that I didn’t know of……. yet (can’t think of anything else). Anyways I came up with this bright idea didn’t I? So I was team leader by default.
In case you’re wondering what I was talking about, that’s if my hint about collecting the 1.1billion naira reward money didn’t provide enough clue what my plan was. I was gonna storm the Boko Haram headquarters in Borno State with my two friends in tow and kidnap the leader. The bus, that was heading to Lagos with me and a dozen other passengers in it disappeared and in my mind’s eye I saw myself in the media spotlight, cameras flashing all around, draped in glory, the FBI handing me a cheque of $7million dollars and CNN’s breaking news banner flashing, ” Daring hero, Timmy Ajayi and his two friends break the terrorist ring in Nigeria in a brave and selfless……..”
A revolting smell brought me back to earth without remorse. Someone had just released a fart that, by the way it stank must have had the hydrogen bomb styled after it. I held my nose in disgust and peered accusingly at the boy that was sitting next to me. He smiled knowingly in my direction, confirming my suspicion that he and he alone was responsible for that life-threatening fart. The rest of the trip was uneventful, thankfully, but I breathed through my handkerchief just in case any other person decided to become Tony Stank.
An hour later, I was home. Home was a bungalow in the suburbs of Ikeja in the city of Lagos. There was no one at home so I let myself in with my copy of the keys to the gate and front door. There was a note waiting for me on the sofa in the lobby, just before the sitting room. I recognized my mom’s writing from a distance. I sighed and rolled my eyes, mama had a blackberry phone, just like mine. It would have cost her about 5 seconds to “ping” me and tell me whatever she wanted to say, instead she writes a note, the old-fashioned way, typical.
I picked up the note, it said:
Timmy, I’m out of town for a few days for a work-related meeting. Take care of the house; there is food in the fridge…………….”
As soon as I got to the part where she said that she was out for a few days, I immediately lost interest in the rest of the note. YES! I thought in elation, I had the house to myself for the next one week at least, I could do whatever.
I was literally up in the clouds in anticipation of the thrills that awaited me. The entire house plus the spare car all to my lonesome. “Sweet, now where do I go first?” I thought to myself. A multitude of places flashed through my mind. Ozone? Galleria? Salewa’s? or Vanessa’s?
“Ah, but won’t you Sir, need some money for all these impressive plans of yours?” A small voice in my brain asked in an amused tone. It suddenly occurred to me that I would indeed need cash. I felt robbed. But, things could still be salvaged if the car had enough fuel to get me around. At least that way I could visit one or two or three of the Salewas and Vanessas I had acquired over the years. I raced to the garage and checked the fuel guage. Shoot, the indicator was sitting on empty. I felt like the balloon of happiness inside of me had been pricked by a pin for a second time.
So for the first couple of days, I brooded, slept on the sofa, ate frozen and hastily microwaved meals, didn’t take any baths, and waited for the return of my mom.
After the fuel in the generating set was exhausted by the third night, I was in a state of complete misery that I couldn’t even bring myself to get off the couch in the sitting room to switch on the telly when the power was restored. Finally about an hour later I got up to switch on the telly, at least I could see if there was anything interesting on there, like a football match. The note written to me, by my ma fell from the sofa, where I had tossed it, and for the first time since coming home I noticed a part of the note that in my haste and excitement I didn’t bother reading.
……….. also on the fridge is fifty thousand naira for your upkeep. Enjoy
PS: You will gimme an account of how you spent the money when I get back.
I had brain freeze instantly. All the places I could have gone, all the things I could have done, crap. Just because I was too impatient to finish reading the bloody note. Well, better late than never I thought. In a flash I was in the shower, I had even forgotten to remove my wristwatch before the jet of cold water hit me. Never mind, it was water resistant, I washed away the grime of three days as quickly as I could and toweled furiously. Exactly one minute and 10 seconds after I read that illuminating part of the note, I was fully dressed and ready to rumble. I drove aimlessly for the next hour, fully enjoying the ride with Three Days Grace’s One X album blaring from the speakers. I stopped at a roadside cafe and bought ice-cream. By 10 pm however I was tired, so I headed back home.
Once on my bed that night, I noted that the novelty of driving around, visiting “friends” and watching movies was rapidly wearing out. I needed a new distraction. I decided to step up my plan, hatched in the depths of my depression, back at Babcock University up a notch. It was time to get serious; suddenly it was as if I had taken a gulp of Felix Felicis. That magic potion that makes the drinker lucky. No, not Felix Felicis, but the pill in the movie “Limitless”, that makes a person access full potential of the brain. Suddenly I knew what to do. With that happy thought I drifted off to sleep.
I was up the next morning by 6am and went straight to the shower, fixed myself a piece of toast and watched the Bourne Triology while eating. This was not for entertainment purposes mind you, it was strictly work related. After seeing the movies I drove straight to Walmart where I bought nine sets of black pants, waterproof vests, boots, warm socks and gloves.
The chick at the register gave me a bewildered look. “Is it the end of the world already, sir?”
“Hahaha”, I chuckled, I’m just eccentric ma’am. I winked. She gave me a flirtatious smile. My loins tightened in response, “Ah no ma, I don’t mix business with pleasure” I thought. I got her phone number before exiting though, I had a good feeling.
I felt a little like James Bond as I walked out of the store, I drove straight to Ibadan, part of the piano notes I forgot to play is that I drive pretty well. If that can be considered a skill, I could make cars do things stunt drivers would be proud of.
I had called ahead, so Junes was waiting for me just in front of his apartment. He got in the car and I drove off. We stopped at a fast food and I bought Junes a truckload of doughnuts, his one weakness I exploit without remorse. I didn’t dilly-dally but went straight to the point. “So, erm Junes, I want us that is Garfield, you and I to go after Abubakar Sekau. There is a $7Million reward money waiting to be made.”
Junes spluttered and choked on the doughnut he was inhaling. He turned blue in the face and started to choke. I was up in a flash and performed the Heimlich maneuver. His breathing eased and he stopped choking, though his eyes were still streaming with tears. “Are you mental?” He managed to get out. “Wait have you been taking some magic mushrooms?” He peered at me suspiciously, as if he could determine the state of my sanity through the color of my eyeballs.
Impatiently, I brushed aside his hand that he had put on my forehead to check my temperature. “I’m fine and I’m not high. Look, we don’t need to be superheroes or whatever.” Junes smiled wryly at me and said “That’s precisely what it sounds like to me. He reached for another doughnut, but I grabbed the plate before his greedy paws could reach it. “No more doughnuts for you until you hear me out. They are messing with your brain” Junes gave me a pained look “You’re the devil!”
“Yeah, yeah and you’re my bitch.” I shot back. “Look we are just gonna take a road trip that’s all and try digging around. Whatever we find out we will turn over to the authorities. That’s all.”
I could see Junes dithering and the money was hard to resist for him just as it was a magnetic pull for me. I also knew that once he was committed to a cause he could be an overwhelming force, sweeping away all doubts and opposition. I badly needed him to agree with my half-baked plan as he would reassure me in my times of doubt.
“Alright, but how do we get to Bornu? What’s the mode of transport? Where do we sleep?” Junes asked
I smiled. We were good. I returned the plate of doughnuts to striking distance of his jaws and he duly obliged.
An hour later, a few of his things packed we were half way to Abeokuta.
The third musketeer was about to join the party. It wasn’t as hard as it was to convince Garfield as it had been with Junes. For one reason he was inebriated when we got to his crib. A half finished bottle of smirnoff Vodka sat on a stool just in front of his king-sized bed. I screwed on the cap of the vodka and threw a few of his things into an overnight bag while Junes roused Garfield up from his slumber and bullied him into the bathroom where he splashed -from Garfield’s howl of rage and the sound – what must have been 20 gallons of water.
He emerged from the bathroom, spluttering and in a towering rage; Junes had neglected to remove his shirt before his baptism. “Why una go just enter my room pour water untop my head?” He raged at no one in particular, shaking water from his head as he attempted to focus.
About ten minutes later, however he was in the back seat of my Corolla grinning from ear to ear as I drove towards Lagos. That my friends, was exactly the reason I wanted Junes in on the mission before anyone else. His forceful and dynamic personality was infectious. Though I must say convincing a half-drunk Garfield was not that impressive.
The team was complete. The three musketeers were ready to take on the mighty Boko Haram. Most importantly though, share the $7Million, yes boss!
Watch this space…………………..