SONG OF THE BANDIT
2: The Return
He was flying back “home” for the first time in his life.
At thirty-six, he felt that he had waited a little too long.
But better late than never: this is the moment he had been waiting for all his life.
He peeped out through the window of the aircraft as it descended toward their landing, with the building, vehicles and roads becoming bigger and bigger as the plane drew nearer the landing ground.
He did not pull down the window screen as the flight attendant asked him. He wanted to see the approach to Lagos from the air.
Gradually, he saw the city of Lagos, a little blurry at first, and then more clearly he watched the scenery spreading out below him.
This was not quite what I was expecting, he said to himself, softly. The view from the aircraft gave him only a partial view of Lagos, he was sure, but what a terrific view.
But already he liked what he was seeing.
Certainly, what he saw below him was not a scene from the movie Black Panther.
“Remember, LPD,” his mom, Jade Lapade, told him repeatedly, “this isn’t Black Panther. It’s not a movie. This is Nigeria.”
“I know mom,” he said, “you already told….”
“No, you don’t know nothing, LPD,” Jade Lapade insisted.
“Nigeria is the largest Black country in the world. Can you imagine that? The capital of all the Black people in the whole entire wide world.”
“I can imagine it,” LPD told his mother. “Going in there to see for myself. I have no expectations. Sure, it would be cool if it looked like Black Panther. But it’s better that it doesn’t look like a Marvel comic.“
“Far from it,” his mom said. “You have seen all the movies and read all the books on Nigeria already, so you have an idea what it really looks like.”
“I’ve not covered every single item on Nigeria,” LPD replied. “Every single history book of any significance, yes. And I watched all the Nollywood films ever made.”
“I hate those,” Jade Lapade grimaced. She was trying really hard to forget Nigeria. And here was her son trying hard to return to Nigeria. ”They should invest more money in the productions. Sometimes the characters….”
“You don’t get it,” LPD said. “the idea is not to produce a Hollywood thriller. It’s the language that I really love.”
“I understand,” Jade responded, looking more relaxed. “You do language training with the video.”
“Exactly,” LPD agreed.
“None but me could tell you speak with an accent,” Jade said. “Because I knew the moment you started speaking and where you stand right now.”
“That’s cheating, mom,” LPD replied. “Everybody says my Yoruba is perfect.”
“Yes,” your Yoruba is impressive,” Jade said, “but you have to work on the proverbs so you could speak it perfectly….”
“Like my father did,” LPD completed the thought for her. He didn’t know he actually spoke the four words, but he could see the reaction of his mother.
She immediately got up and hurriedly said she was going to bed.
He watched her leave abruptly for her room, leaning forward, her steps unsteady, almost as if she was in a trance.
He knew he should not have mentioned his father on such an eventful night, on the eve of his return to Nigeria.
Sometimes, the mention of his father’s name brought joyous responses.
But that night, the response from Jade was a total replay of the episode in her head.
Jade Lapade gently closed the door behind her and sunk into the bed.
The room was dark and cool, the central air conditioner humming in the background.
The moment her head hit the pillow, she felt and relived the explosion again.
It was not so much a feeling, as it was becoming a vivid flashback.
She became the same with the explosion which lifted her up the air, and threw her across the room, only for her to land with a thud in the soft sofa.
She felt dazed.
Her head sank into the soft sides of the sofa.
There was no sound in the entire world. But the silence had a deafening depth.
She gradually realized that her hearing was blasted out with the explosion.
What she heard was an echoing bell that reverberated endlessly down a tunnel inside her brain.
The room was spinning round and round and she could still remember Lapade’s final words, repeated like a terse dictation, syllable by syllable. The words were hypnotic.
“Take the bag and leave immediately for Abeokuta,” Lapade said urgently, the moment she entered the sitting room. He looked like he was preparing to go somewhere. “I’m going to Lagos now. The security officers want to have a chat with me.”
“Again?” Jade asked him. “Didn’t they invite you for a chat two weeks ago?”
“They know I have some information that they don’t have,” Lapade said. “They didn’t believe me the last time. This time they will take it up a notch, I’m afraid. The order is not from the Ibadan office here. No, it’s beyond Inspector Audu Karimu. The order is straight from Lagos. I doubt Audu even knows about this one.”
“How would Audu not know?” Jade asked. “Audu heads all the cops in the whole of Oyo State.”
“This is why I’m asking you to grab this bag and run with it now,” Lapade said. “It contains documents that could incriminate many top military officers and their dealings in hard drugs from the Far East. This may get as high as Maradonna himself, from what I see here. Hard evidence.”
“They are dealing in hard drugs?” Jade couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“When you get to Abeokuta tonight, look for Amos Akinola. You will find his address in this envelop. There’s enough money for your travels in the envelope. Once you get to Abeokuta, Amos will arrange your trip to New York, once you give him this bag.”
“New York?” Jade asked, flabbergasted. “You mention New York City in the United States, just like that?”
“Yes,” Lapade said quickly. “This one is serious. We won’t be safe in Nigeria until they flush out these top dealers. Don’t worry. I will join you, say in two weeks. I just have to take care of some urgent business here. Amos will make sure you are fine and arrange your flight out of the country.”
There were two bags on the table. They looked identical. He carried one of them with both hands, and extended the bag to Jade, saying, “Go now. Don’t wait for anything. Give the bag to nobody but Amos. You know Amos very well. He came here several times. The one you called The Vulture because of his bald head and crooked nose.”
Jade smiled, and Lapade laughed heartily.
As Jade extended her hand to receive the bag, the baby inside her stomach kicked, and she gave an audible gasp.
“What was that?” Lapade asked her, concerned.
“Our baby,” Jade replied.
“Take good care of him. I’ll see you in about two weeks. Three at the maximum. In New York.”
Lapade reached up and patted her on the stomach.
“How do you know it’s a boy,” Jade asked. She seized his hand and rubbed it on her stomach a few more times before letting go.
“I have a feeling it’s a boy,” he said, smiling.
She took the bag from him and turned for the door.
Lapade sank back into his seat.
Then he grabbed the bag that looked identical to the one he gave Jade.
He ripped off the masking tape across the pocket of the bag.
That was when the loud bang sounded.
And then this noisy silence followed.
For how long she was unconscious she didn’t know.
When she came to, she found herself in the seat into which the explosion threw her, clutching the bag Lapade gave her.
She immediately got up and looked where Lapade’s seat was located. The entire thing was blown into smithereens. Lapade’s body was in pieces.
In shock, she realized that she had only moments before people came to find her there.
She would have a lot of explaining to do to the authorities, to convince them that she knew nothing about the important bag she carried in her hands.
She knew there was nothing she could do for Lapade, who was clearly lifeless.
Her only hope was to find Amos Akinola.
She somehow dragged herself up. Her baby kicked again as she walked out of the room, not looking back, determined to get away, to save her baby.
She instinctively checked her wristwatch as she rose from the table. Her head made sense of the time and exact date.
It was 11:54, January 16, 1985, in the late morning.
LPD looked down at Lagos.
He took a shot with his phone. The time was 5:34 on the evening of January 16, 2022.
He was the baby inside Jade, his mother, that fateful morning in Ibadan, thirty-six years ago.
He was born that same day as the aircraft landed in New York’s JFK Airport on January 16, 1985.
And he was returning to Nigeria for the first time.
A flight attendant was walking down the aisle checking to ensure that the passengers were all belted up.
She stopped next to LPD’s seat and smiled, revealing her flashing white, even teeth.
LPD smiled back at her.
“Retuning home?” she asked him.
“Looks like you’ve been away for long, the way you are staring through the window.”
“Never been to Nigeria,” LPD replied.
“Really?” She sounded quite interested in him now. “Let me get you today’s newspapers.”
She turned abruptly and walked to the back of the plane where the cabin crew sat.
He watched her as she strolled down, studying her with curiosity. She was attractive.
A moment later, she was back, clutching a bunch of newspapers.
She handed them to him, saying, “There, sir. Enjoy.”
He took the papers from her, and glanced at the headlines.
All the three newspapers had the same headline news with slight variations.
NIGERIAN OLYMPIAN KIDNAPPED
ADEWALE, NIGERIAN SPRINTER ABDUCTED
CELEBRITY SNATCHED ON LAGOS-IBADAN HIGHWAY
APD could not believe his eyes.
He was furious. Jacob Adewale? How could that happen? Would they be able to find him? Was anyone even looking for him?
The state security was already overwhelmed. Only a week ago, he read that the sixty-eight female students kidnapped from their dormitory in Benin City were yet to be found.
And a day before then, the newspapers reported that the body of one of the thirty passengers snatched by bandits on the train from Abuja to Kaduna was found.
The bandits wanted One hundred million naira, otherwise all the other victims would be killed.
The police appeared unable to cope.
From the stories that his mother told him about his father’s life, LPD knew that if his father was alive, his father would have done something about it.
At least his father would have tracked down and nabbed some of these outlaws.
He shook his head.
Then a voice came into his head. “My son,” said the voice, “you are the child of your father. Step into his shoes.”
LPD folded the newspaper, sat up, and began to think of what he would once he landed in Nigeria, to step into his father’s shoes.
Then he remembered a proverb that his mother taught him: a fellow who does not have the sword firmly held in his hand cannot avenge the death of his father; otherwise that fellow would die of the same death that killed his father.
LPD pondered the proverb for a moment.
Then the announcement came: “Prepare for landing, everyone. Fasten your seatbelts….”