“Hello!” Buchi exclaimed, standing at a bus stop situated in one of the notorious localities in Lagos State, Oshodi to be precise. The dark skin-coloured young man was clad in blue jeans, green T-shirt, and a pair of black shoes. “Who am I seeing?” Ikem shouted at the top of his voice on sighting Buchi as he was about entering a commercial bus that was headed for Festac town. The fair-skinned dude was putting on black three-quarter jeans, multiple coloured polo, and brown leather slippers coupled with a brownish face cap. He then ignored the bus.
“Buchi na you be this?” He further exclaimed in vernacular, walked closer to him. They hugged each other passionately. The two were old time friends who attended the same secondary school in Enugu State many years back, and happened to hail from same state. Both buddies were in their early thirties. “So you are in this state?” Buchi inquired.
“Yes,” quoth Ikem. “Since I finished my degree course.” Both of them lost contact after their secondary education days due to lack of mobile communication system as at then. “Are you serious?” Buchi amazingly exclaimed. “So, which university did you attend?” He added hesitantly. “UNN,” Ikem replied, meaning University of Nigeria Nsukka.
“But I did my youth service in Niger state.” “Interesting.” Buchi said, nodding. “And you?” “Well, I studied in Uniport.” “University of Port-Harcourt?” Ikem verified. “Yes,” Buchi answered. “But I served in Ekiti State” “So, how long have you been in Lagos?” Ikem hurriedly asked. “About three years now.” “Wow..
!” Ikem exclaimed, amazed. “Same here.” “You mean, you have been here for three years too?” Buchi asked, surprised. “Of course.’ “Where do you stay?” Buchi enquired. “Festac town,” Ikem responded. “With one of my uncles who works in a bank.” “Wow, what a coincidence” Buchi said excitedly.
“I reside at Maza-Maza” Maza-Maza is situated in the same district with Festac. “That makes it more interesting.” Ikem said, smiling. “Yes ooh!” concurred Buchi. “You can say that again.” “Are you alone?” “No.” replied Buchi. “I am with my married sister.” “Any job yet?” Ikem anxiously enquired.
“For where..?” Buchi replied in vernacular. “Where did you see job in Nigeria?” “Na wow oh!” Ikem exclaimed disappointedly. “Only God would save us in this Naija.” He added. “So which bank does your uncle work with?” Buchi hesitantly tendered. “Platonic.”
“That’s a nice bank.” Buchi applauded. “So you haven’t gotten a job too?” “Hmm,” Ikem sighed. “My brother, leave matter for Matthias.” “So what’s your plan now?” Buchi curiously inquired. “Well, there’s a friend of mine who asked me to see him tomorrow at Ikeja.” Ikem replied. “He’s into business.”
“What kind of business?” “I don’t know yet, but he often travels abroad.” Ikem said. “And he is densely loaded.” “Okay.” Buchi dished out in a low tone, paused “Please, I would like to go with you oh. Man don suffer.” He requested submissively. “No wahala,” Ikem agreed.
“What are friends for?” “Thanks a lot buddy.” After some minutes, they boarded a bus that was headed for their respective destinations. They exchanged contacts while in the vehicle. * * * * * * Buchi and Ikem agreed on a meeting point on phone. The following day, they met at the stipulated venue and took off from there to their anticipated destination. Ikem had already informed his proposed host via phone that he would be coming with his friend, and the man in question approved the request. When they got to the place, surprisingly the man who invited them seemed to be an armed robber.
The guests needed not a prophet to interpret the scene to them because all various kinds of weapon and ammunition were displayed right before the gangsters. The chief host who was seated amidst his partners in crime didn’t hesitate to disclose the nitty-gritty of the show to them. After the necessary introduction, Ikem and Buchi whom were gripped by fathomless panic were left with no other choice than to join the deadly chorus. The gang had earlier planned to rob a bank the following day being 24th February 1999, and the affected firm was Moonlight Bank; one of the most respected banks in the country.
The new intakes were meant to be part of the adventurous outing. On the D-day, they successfully arrived at the bank and were about to commence operation as usual until something tragic transpired. Unfortunately Ikem’s uncle, Mr. Cyprian Okoro – the one he lived with – happened to be present at the said bank.
He was scheduled to meet with the bank manager on that fateful day for a proposed business transaction. Ikem sighted his uncle the moment he walked into the manager’s office as he was instructed. Mr. Okoro stood up immediately on catching the sight of his nephew, profoundly shocked.
He couldn’t believe his eyes.“Could this be my own Ikem?” He thought, stood still. Both relatives were steadily and astonishing looking at each other, which led the bank manager into a more confused state. Ikem who was well armed, quickly and nervously gushed out tears as he was left with no options than to pull his virgin trigger on a man he had always seen as not just a father but source of his inspirations. It was indeed a horrific and bloody encounter for the first-time robber. He felt like the world had finally come to an end as he thought over the poignant state of dilemma.
Immediately, Mr. Cyprian Okoro was shot dead alongside his senior colleague by Ikem. The tiled floor was instantly covered with pool of blood. It was no doubt the most dreaded experience in the life of Ikem who instantly flew with his accomplices without beholding their prime target, which ten billion naira, let alone making away with it. The rest is history, please.
• Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri
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