He was always eyeing the girls all the way from the school, there was no way I was going to let him keep guard over them. Evil was always close to Salim's mind. Instead I chose Obeyi. He was new in the group, new guys always want to prove themselves out here, I could at least trust him on those grounds. I have been in Borno long enough to tell the joyriders from those who would die for the cause, plus everything in between. Naturally Salim was outraged at my decision and took off in a huff.
Slightly over two hours of trekking and konduga was now far behind us but we still had to make it to Kolofata before day break. I did not want to risk a confrontation with the army. The four of us couldn't possibly take on any company and still keep the girls. Obeyi is a rookie and Salim is acting up again. I hate it that Abubakar always pushes him into my team. Perhaps he too was fed up trying to control the schlemiel . I bet if he were not his half brother he would have long killed him.
"Odek, make them walk faster, we haven't got all night we still have to go through Sambisa." I ordered the man who had all twenty-five girls chained one to another. He walked in front of the line one hand clutching the chain's end and tagged them all along. I liked Odek, he always followed orders without question. A giant of a man, his face seemed sculpted and made further torpid by his disproportionately big eyes. People called us extremists but in him I saw a soldier, for some reason the maker saw it right to put him on the wrong side of life. He was an honest man, capable of empathy. The mighty one always used him as a voice of reason whenever Abubakar was becoming ludicrous.
I have experienced the almighty allow many more sad things to happen but I have long learned not to question him. That is why I am still serving him in this war. I will continue working for him wherever he sends me until he gives me rest and glory in martyrdom.
"Sir, they can't take it any more. We are men of war, they are just little girls!" Odek' s whisper startled me from deep thought. I answered him with a stern look of disapproval. Surprisingly, the beast stood his ground. I did not know how to react to his new found boldness. I felt anger rise in my chest and my first instinct was to shoot him down but I couldn't risk increasing our workload or further scaring the girls. My mind was fast racing on how to honorably deal with the insubordination and assert my authority over the two and the girls.
The offender came to my rescue himself."Sir, with all due respect, I humbly request you to allow them an hours rest then we can move on." Odek implored in an even lower tone. "What are you crazy? " I almost shouted, barely restraining myself. " You do realize in that thick skull of yours that word has already gotten out by now back in Konduga." If the army catches up with us, we will be sitting ducks if we do not get to the forest. I also don't want our sisters in the crossfire. Besides word has it that two girls in Shekau ' s group have died because of snake bites. I can't risk that. " Sir please give me ten minutes and I will find a safe place for them to rest." Odek answered. "Okay then, but i'm giving you just five, no more than that." I gave in to his request, as he immediately took off. I never minced my words around them so that no one would try to push their luck on me. If the five minutes elapsed with no sign of him, I would personally drive the girls through Sambisa forest and out of the country.
Deep inside I hated that we had to push our sisters so hard. I tried to convince myself that it was the price of doing the lord's work but a part of me really wished they were infidels. Four and a half minutes passed and I desperately wished Odek would show up. The girls' feet were terribly swollen, we had boots they had sandals. We abducted them during their evening prep time. It's sad that yet another life was so brazenly snuffed out. Salim had needlessly short the watchman by the gate. We could have just tied him up, but Salim has always been trigger happy. His wife is still probably expecting the head of the house to come to them in the morning.
Suddenly the stillness of the night was broken by the crackling of dried leaves. I quickly rolled into the shadows, glad that the girls were further behind with the rookie. I would take care of the interloper without raising noise. A silhouette started rising along a clearing that opened to the other side of the slope. I could tell it was a man, as he drew closer I realized that he had an AK 47 strapped around his chest. This was bigger fish than I expected in these parts at this time. I quickly drew my Glock and steadied my breathing.
He walked casually towards where I lay hidden and I was going to wait until he was at point blank range. I removed the safety, and felt my index curl around the trigger. "C 'mon. mate." I whispered to myself as I took aim. A gust of wind blew when I was just about to open up the man's brains. The trees just in front of him swayed ever so slightly allowing the moonlight to illuminate his face. It was that imbecile Salim. The belligerent fool had finally decided to come back. I immediately jumped up and grabbed him. "what in the lord's name are you doing? I almost killed you, where is your jacket? " I asked the dumb founded man who couldn't believe his own ineptness being caught so unawares.
"I forgot it, where I had gone to pray.." He dismissed me as he headed on to where he had correctly guessed the girls and Obeyi were. Odek immediately appeared behind me panting and out of breath. "Sir, I have found a safe place." He gasped. " Okay then, take them there." I told him twice relieved and too unconcerned to ask any more questions or follow any further due diligence.
Odek had found a well hidden cave, yet big enough for all of us. What impressed me the most was its strategic position. Raised high we could see any signs of hostiles well in advance. Good for fighting but also had a nice escape route behind it. I lay my head on a piece of rock as Odek came and rested his huge frame on the adjacent wall. The petrified girls clustered in the furthest corner as Salim and Obeyi kept watch.
"Abdul from Shekau' s group just called. " Odek informed me. I did not look at him, but he knew he had my full attention. I was dying to know what had transpired in Chibok. " They have taken over two hundred girls from Chibok girls boarding." He continued. I was shoked by the number the boss had taken as slaves. But ever since Shekau had so daringly orchestrated an attack on army barracks, I never put anything beyond him. " I have heard that he has started marrying them off to the men for 2000 Naira. " I couldn't. believe my ears, that was not Boko stood for, had he gone crazy? We. were servants of the lord, not some immoral pimps. I felt so much anger, I immediately stood up, took the phone from Odek. and called Abdul myself.
"Abdul my brother what is this shenanigans I hear is going on over there? I queried him, hoping that he would contradict Odek. He did not. instead he said, "sir, I believe our brother has now completely lost it." "What's the matter?" I barked out, my anger getting the better of me. " I think we have bitten off more than we can chew this time. " A meek voice came through my earpiece. "You coward, tell me exactly what has happened down there right now!" " Well, our act has attracted the world's attention which is good, but Shekau blew it all away by discrediting us. He declared that he will sell the girls across the border. The video is already on the internet. We have now been split into four groups and we are headed across the border. Word has it that the government may accept help from outside in the . . ."Before he could finish, I heard screams coming from the girl's quarters. I dropped the phone and rushed to the other side of the cave, Odek in tow.
I found Salim had grabbed one of the girls. "what in the Lord's name is happening here Salim? " I shouted at him, my mind still processing the enormity of the information Abdallah had just given me. Salim just gazed at me sheepishly and the rookie stayed rooted to his spot, terror well evident all over his face. His palms got so wet, his rifle slid from his grasp. I watched in dismay as he clumsily tried to pick it up. "Well someone had better tell me what the Jehanam is going on here before heads start rolling in this mother."
The girl shook herself free and scurried. to where the rest were. They were all sobbing by now and all that noise just worked to cloud my judgment. I took my gun and stuck it in Obeyi's ribs. " I'm going to ask one more time, my patience is running out here and I need it for other things you useless piece of rubbish. " Obeyi caved "sir, Salim tried to force himself on that girl, I tried to stop him but. . ." I did not want to hear the rest. I fired everything in my belt. The two men turned their faces away, the girls screamed endlessly as blood splattered everywhere. It lasted around half a minute and pieces of Salim's. flesh lay strewn around where he first fell.
I wiped blood off my face, the girls stopped screaming, the boys avoided eye contact and I went back to my piece of rock. I bet someone out there must have heard the gunfire. The local police should arrive any minute but I did not care. Obeyi and Oduk could desert for all I cared, but I was tired of the hypocrisy. I had lived by the gun since I was twelve, and I never doubted even once that it was my sole ticket out of this world. I regret though that my legacy may not be as honorable as I had envisaged when I ditched western education to join the rebels