Nation of Dead Patriots
As the man walked toward the young men, he was closely followed behind by Momodu. The presence of Momodu put the two young men more at ease. They were almost beginning to feel that the fêting was too lavish to be for real. The middle-aged man smiled broadly as he approached Pius and Wale and extended a handshake to each of them. Each of the two visitors secretly wished that they could manufacture extra stomachs or that there was a way that they could be allowed to take some of the food home. They were already so full that they could not eat much more despite the rich aroma and the welcome smiles.
As the two visitors tried to force some of the rich food in, Chief, as Pius and Wale soon got to know that the godfather was addressed, opened up a conversation:
“Young men, you are welcome to our empire. Momodu has already told me about each of you. You perfectly match our requirements. You are the sort of men we are looking for. You are extremely lucky to be introduced to me. You are both on the path to becoming millionaires. Your exploits will determine how soon either of you will become a millionaire. It may be soon after your one-month initiation training. It may take two months or three. But certainly each of you will be a millionaire. I want each of you to repeat after me, even if you have food in your mouth, ‘I will certainly be a millionaire!’”
Wale and Pius, immediately chorused, even without further prompting, “I will certainly be a millionaire!”
“Yes!” Chief shouted,
“Will is way, each of you will certainly be a millionaire.”
Then looking in the direction of one of the reflective doors that was almost imperceptible, Chief pressed at a remote control button from a device that he pulled from his pocket.
“Look!” he told the boys as the door to a room swung open.
“Your millions are already stacked in there. It is up to you to claim them.”
The two young men looked in the direction of the opened glass door, and there stacked from floor to roof and filling the entire room except for some narrow space in between the rows of stacked piles were neatly stacked wrapped bundles of dollar bills that must be running into hundreds of millions of dollars!
Wale almost fainted.
Pius was probably saved from collapsing by his continuous repetition of “My God! My God!”
Chief then continued, “We run a commonwealth here. Everyone that passes through those gates is a potential millionaire. All those billions of dollars that you see in that room belong jointly to all of us, including both of you after your initiation in the next couple of hours. As I told you earlier, you fit into our requirements, educated, young, dynamic, intelligent, but jobless and poor. But you are both potentially rich. Indeed with Momodu’s recommendation you are both already rich, and you will remain forever grateful to Momodu for this day that will turn the best day in your lives for good.”
As Chief got up to go, he said,
“You may not see much of me after today. But I will remotely monitor your progress. I monitor every member’s progress. Momodu will, from here, lead you on to your handlers. Each of you will receive one thousand dollars pocket money before you leave this Empire building today. But remember, there are strong strings attached. As you will learn later today, our motto is ‘LORS’, which as you will learn later stands for loyalty, obedience, ruthlessness, and secrecy. Your handlers will put you through the rest. Once again, I wish you a successful millionaire life in our Empire.”
Chief then took his leave. As he left, Momodu raised his clenched fist and held it in front of his face. Pius and Wale were later to learn that that was the salutation sign for Chief, the owner and chairman of the Empire.
Momodu who had not spoken throughout the encounter then approached Pius and Wale and said, “Each of you will be one thousand dollars richer today, less my 10 percent commission and a few other deductibles. I hope you both still remember.”
He then took his two friends to the back of the big house to another smaller but still architecturally marvelous house with many metal drawers lining the corridors. Inside one of the rooms to which Momodu directed his recruits, sat a bulky man sporting a moustache.
As Momodu entered the room, he greeted, “Good afternoon, Controller!”
The man sitting busily behind the large office table replied without looking up, “Afternoon Momodu!
‘Chief radio me say you bring some recruits. Are they ex’s or are they green grass?’”
“They are both green grass, Controller, but I can vouch for them they are not afraid of blood,” Momodu replied.
“Chief does not always like these green grasses, you know. Some of them take too long to train and a lot of them flee at the first sight of hot blood. But Chief says they are both graduates. Maybe that is the sole compensation. They will learn fast. You may need to take them along on a quick trial mission to see how they react before ever they get the one thousand dollar pocket money. You never can tell, they may decide to opt out. But let them know first that the secrecy rule binds them for life once they go on the initiation test whether they continue or they opt out. And let them know that we follow them for life to ensure compliance even after they have opted out. Also—”
Controller did not quite complete the sentence when Momodu interrupted,
“Controller, sir, Chief already endorses these men. I spoke at length with him before the introductory lunch”
“OK, Momodu, I trust you. If you can vouch for them, take them to cashier for their PM.
But remember my cut for the express service.”
Controller then pulled two pieces of paper from the drawers and signed across them and handed the papers to Momodu.
He then said, “Young men, you are welcome to the Empire. Follow Momodu and collect your one thousand dollars pocket money for each of you. It is a wonderful Empire. It is heaven on earth, lots of fun, lots of women, and lots of money.” Then in a whisper, he bent over Momodu’s ear and said in a whisper but to the hearing of Pius and Wale,
“Also lots of blood!”
Pius looked at Wale who did not fully comprehend the addendum from Controller. The latter then got up and opened the door for the three visitors as if in a quick desire that they should leave quickly for him to continue his paperwork.
Momodu took his friends to the next room. There at the center of a room lined on all four sides with metal drawers, sat a giant of a man. Momodu handed over the two pieces of paper from Controller to the man who must be well over six and a half feet tall. The man did not ask any questions but quickly collected the papers and opened one of the drawers and counted out two thousand dollars in hundred-dollar and fifty-dollar bills and handed over to Momodu. The latter pulled out two hundred dollar pieces from the pack and handed back to the man and added, “Your cut, sir.”
The man collected the two hundred dollars and thrust it into his pocket and said, “Thanks, Momodu.” The latter then beckoned on Pius and Wale and counted out another two hundred dollars and said, “This one is for Controller.” He then counted out another two hundred dollars and thrust it into his pocket and said, “This is Momodu’s 10 percent.”
He then counted out six hundred dollars and handed over to Pius, and then he gave the same amount to Wale.
Then holding up the remaining two hundred dollars, he said, “One hundred is for the gate men, and one hundred covers your transport fare to this place and the pepper soup both of you took at the joint in the town this morning.” He then raised his voice and shouted,
Pius and Wale who had watched as their promised one thousand dollars apiece dwindled could not but concur,
At least they were each holding in their hands an amount that neither of them had ever in their lives called their own before, during, and after graduation from college.
THE MAKING OF THE CRIMINAL
Pius and Wale were quite excited. Within a couple of hours they had transited from penniless jobless graduates to people who could dine on a luxurious chandelier-lit dining room and be served by immaculate white-clad chefs and stewards. They were able to mix with “big men” who could collect two hundred dollars apiece just by handing over pieces of paper or dispensing cash that belonged to someone else. Above all, they have been able to shake hands with, and be addressed and assured by a big man that they would be millionaires. They have been able to see the equivalent of a central bank located inside a private residence, and they have been assured that even without contributing to the accumulation of the funds that they were part-owners of the hundreds of millions of dollars. It did not matter what they would be required to do to belong to this elite organization. They would do it and do it fast. They would do it with precision and with diligence. To each of them it did not mater what they would be asked to do to belong and continue to be able to enter that kingdom and perhaps introduce other people and collect two hundred dollars simply by directing other people. At least whatever they spent in the process, they would recuperate it by subtracting it upfront before disbursing the fund, just as Momodu had done.
But for every dollar that is disbursed from the Empire there is some demand on the recipient. And there is no going back! Even the Chief with all his apparent benevolence had made it clear that the largesse that was being showered on the young men were not without strong strings attached.
“But remember, there are strong strings attached”, Chief had unequivocally declared.
Momodu took Pius and Wale to the fourth room in the row of rooms. The door of the room had a human skull and cross bones painted on it. It was the only marked room in the row of rooms.
Unlike in the other rooms where they had entered, the door was shut. Momodu pressed the doorbell and someone spoke from inside the room and asked for identification. Momodu quoted an identification number, and he was asked to enter his password. He punched this on the door phone and the door swung open, letting in Momodu and his two recruits. These two having collected their “pocket money”, or what remained of it, had hoped they would now be on their way home. But it was not to be. As soon as they entered the heavily air-conditioned room, the door swung shut after them. A very fat bare-bodied man with very large almost pendulous breasts was sitting on a chair behind a table made from trunks of palm trees that were nailed together. The man did not look up as the three young men entered. He merely muttered the words, “Momodu, you may take your leave.” Momodu took a bow and said in a low tone, “Okpani ga ebi mgbe ebighi ebi” (May Okpani live forever). It was chilly cold inside the room, and the man behind the tree-trunk table did not appear to mind.
As Momodu was about to leave the room, Pius was worried and pleaded, “Please stay, Momodu. We want you to stay.” He was truly afraid for the first time since entering the kingdom. Wale was shaking with fright. But Momodu would not stay and did not utter a word. He was not part of the oath taking. He had had his own initiation.
The initiation ceremony was very brief. As soon as Momodu left the room, the bare-bodied fat man with pendulous breasts looked up for the first time and smiled wryly to Wale and Pius. He was almost edentulous, with only both upper canines still remaining in his jaws, giving him the look of a Dracula. His smile appeared mocking to the two young men who stood trembling in front of him. He must have been in his mid sixties. He looked well fed and nursed a short beard. He had almost clean-shaved head but left a crop of completely white patch of hairs at the center of his head. Initially, the young men had mistaken the hair at the center of the man’s head to be a skull cap.
Looking up at Pius and Wale the man said, “Relax, young men, we don’t kill ourselves here. Indeed, we rarely kill outside except when there is resistance or when there is danger of detection. This is clean business, but it requires wits and careful planning. That is why we now prefer young university graduates like you who can do good calculation and act fast. Many of the old agbulu touts whom we used in the past were not always intelligent enough. They easily spilled blood at the slightest provocation and sometimes even without provocation just for the fun of it. Unnecessary spillage of blood turns the public against us, and Chief does not like it. You are young, you are educated, and you will be rich. Indeed, from this evening you are already rich. You will soon find that many of the respectable men in this society belong to this Empire. We have also started sponsoring our men into big political positions. In another eight years, I can assure you that our men will control the government of this country at the highest level. And even for those who are not direct members of our Empire, we make sure that nobody, and I emphasize, nobody gets into governance in this country without paying allegiance to us or without our positive nod and satisfying of our conditions. You are therefore on your ways to stardom. Indeed Momodu has already made you stars. Always remember the guiding principles of this empire, L-O-R-S, and you will never go wrong.”
As the man, who Pius and Wale later got to know was called Okpani, spoke, he gathered a few bowls from a drawer by the side of a water closet that was very conspicuous at the far end of the room. Wale kept wondering why the water closet was right there inside the room. He was soon to find out. After Okpani had gathered four bowls from the drawers, he looked up to Wale and Pius and with a sudden change of voice he bellowed,
“Young men, remove all you have on your bodies!”
It was a complete transformation from the once-benevolent man that appeared so fatherly not quite a minute previously.
Okpani then moved sharply to one side of the room and switched off the light, and as the bright light from the fluorescent tubes went off, the room was spontaneously lit with a single red light from the far end of the room.