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by Henry Okelue

Part 1 – The Delivery

The matron raised her face to look at the old clock hanging from the wall of the barely lit health center. It was just a few minutes before 2 am. It had been a trying early morning.

The last of the motley crowd had just left. It had been crazy, but everyone left cheering and exchanging fist bumps. The delivery of the triplets was successful.

At one point it looked as if both mother and unborn children would be lost. At another it looked as if the mother was not going to make it. She was indeed strong. She pushed and pushed. One time she passed out and had to be resuscitated. The midwife said she had never experienced a delivery like this. Through it all, the community waited, patiently, for news, any kind of news.

They had brought her to the only health facility in the community after she was found lying beside the road. It was obvious she was on her way to the health center, bleeding and in peril, with a tummy so big people concluded she had ten babies in there.

The village people said she lost her husband nine months ago. That he died from a keke accident just two weeks after he married his young wife.

At about the same time the matron was walking away from the room that had the new mother and her three beautiful infants – two boys and a girl, in the staff room, a nurse was on the phone to someone. She sounded really agitated as she whispered into the phone. It seemed like a negotiation. When the call was done, she deleted the call log, and put the phone back in her uniform pocket and walked out of the hospital.

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Part 2 – The Visitors

After a week had gone by since the delivery, the Doctor decided the mother and her triplets were well enough to go home. The community had contributed to pay the medical bills and was in celebratory mood for what was going to be the naming ceremony. The families had already made elaborate arrangements. Even the chief of the community was billed to be in attendance.

The infants were bathed by the nurses and dressed in clothes that the Good Women Choir of the village church had donated to them. They had grown so big in just a week. The mother had also recovered much of her strength, but she was still struggling to move freely. But she was set and happy to leave for home. The smell of disinfectant in the hospital was making her feel uneasy.

“You can come now” said the nurse from the other night into her phone again

“This is the best time. Please make sure it goes according to plan, I have given my assurances” she concluded and cut the call. She again deleted the call log.

Ten minutes after the call, there was commotion outside. The matron, who, as fate would have it, was also on duty today, peeped through her window and saw people running away from the hospital.

“What is happening?” she thought to herself as she got up to get out of the office to see for herself.

She was scarcely at the door when men burst into her office. She jumped back. They were 3 of them, armed with shotguns, without masks. The one in front, who probably was their leader, barked a question at her;

“Where are the Triplets?!”

“Who are you?” The matron asked

She got her response in the form of a heavy slap which sent her head slamming into the cabinet by the wall. The slap felt as if someone had hit her with a hammer. She started bleeding from her mouth and nostril.

“They a..are in th…the maternity..room” she answered, disoriented and feeling a throb at the back of her head.

“Take us there now!” her assailant barked again, dragging her up from the ground, her white uniform soiled with blood.

She led them out, and towards the maternity room just at the end of the short corridor. The health center was deserted, everyone had run away. All she could hear was the cry of the children. She was scared of what might happen to them.

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Part 3 – Defiance

As they got into the room, the mother of the infants had used her body to form a protective shield over her crying babies.

“Get off woman and hand me the babies!” The leader of the gunmen barked

“Over my dead body” she responded. The matron who was held at gunpoint in the corner was shivering, in fear of what might happen next.

“Get off now! Last time I will ask!” as he corked his gun

“You will have to go through me to get to them” the woman responded defiantly, her eyes fiery.

“Drag her off!” He screamed at one of his accomplices, who reacted immediately and grabbed the woman by the shoulder.

The assailant underestimated how determined the mother was to protect her babies. She poked her long, slender right index finger right into his left eye.

The assailant screamed in a mixture of pain and surprise. He lashed out at her with his left hand, and missed widely and crashed into the side table. The mother stood her ground.

The assailant with the damaged eye became enraged, cocked his gun and took aim at the mother.

The matron could not take it anymore. She rushed at the gunman and a struggle ensued. The gun went off, and a scream followed. The man fell backwards, with blood oozing from his chest.

“Bitch!” screamed the leader of the gang at the matron. He fired two shots in her direction. One hit her in the shoulder, the other in the chest. She dropped to the ground.

There was blood everywhere.

“Hand me the babies!” He turned and barked at the mother again. The woman was silent. She did not budge. Her eyes still balls of fire.

“I will teach you a lesson you will not live to remember” he said as he started punching her.

“I will kill you with my bare hands” he swore as he continued to pummel her, incensed at how the operation had gone. By the time his temper subsided, she had stopped moving. All that was left was a pile of body and bones, with face bloodied and disfigured like meat beaten with a hammer.

“Pick the children and let’s get out of here!” He commanded.

The other assailant, the youngest, who was holding the matron before she broke loose, was in shock at what he had just seen. Nobody told him it was going to go awry this way. He had just witnessed a double murder in the most gruesome manner. Suddenly he was very scared of Ejola. He did not think he had it in him to kill like he just witnessed him do.

He moved forward, pushed away the dead mother and picked two of the infants, while Ejola picked the third. Strangely, none of them cried. This was the first time he was abducting triplets.

They would have to leave their dead comrade’s body there. He had come from out of town to be part of this. Nobody would miss him and dead men can’t be interrogated by Police.

They stepped out into the empty hall and disappeared into the bush behind the health center.

Everything lasted all of ten minutes.

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Part 4 – Happiness Merchants

“We have the goods, please ask the customers to come pickup and pay us” said a thickset man to be an unknown voice, who most likely was his “marketer”, at the end of his phone. He had led the gang of “happiness merchants” as he and his gang of child abductors refers to themselves.

For the last three years, Ejola had made a lot of money abducting infants from clinics around rural communities and selling them to rich families in the city who for one reason or the other could not have their own.

He goes the extra mile to make sure he does not sell those children to ritualists. He used that to calm his conscience. He tells himself he is doing a righteous task taking children from an almost certain life of peasantry to a life of plenty. He tells himself the infants owe him gratitude.

Today he was going to sell each of this set of triplets to different customers. He believes it will make his profit margin higher.

The kids were crying heavily, while the woman who works as his nanny while the abducted kids were in transit was doing her best to calm them down. They had been running a temperature for the past two days. She was afraid they might die and their job forbade bringing a doctor. They had lost about seven babies in the last three months this way.

The abductor looked at the triplets from where he was and muttered to himself:

“Don’t be bad market, just hang on, I shall soon send you on your way. You have caused me too many problems already”

Little did he know he had already set in motion a series of events that were going to have serious consequences.

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Part 5 – The Politician

Mukaila Adigun, was a well known grassroots politician. His political tentacles had spread so fast. He had recently become the candidate to beat and it was inevitable that he was going to be governor of Idigsal state. His supporters were in frenzy. They were all gaily dressed and ready to storm the polling centers on Election Day and vote him in a landslide.

Alhaji Adigun, as he was also known as, could already sense that it was just a matter of days before he got voted into the State House, so he had started compiling names of possible candidates for different offices in his cabinet. The last few days had been frenetic, with different so called political kingmakers paying him courtesy calls and dropping names. They all were insisting he owed them a favour.

The other political party had to hold an emergency primary election to select another aspirant. Their very popular candidate, Adeolu Ibukun, had died in the most mysterious manner a week before. He was traveling from his base in the city to campaign in one of the towns when out of nowhere a keke appeared in his path. In an attempt to avoid the small vehicle, his car somersaulted three times and landed on its back. He died instantly. He was traveling at top speed. The rider of the keke was never found. Eyewitness accounts from his traveling band of supporters swore they never saw a rider in the Keke before impact. Police investigations were still ongoing.

Before Dr. Ibukun’s demise, Mukaila Adigun was a distant second according to the polls. This made some people sense foul play, but Adigun was one of the first to go visit Dr. Ibukun’s wife to pay his condolence. He even shed tears that got captured on the evening news.

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Part 6 – The Envelope

The elections held and as expected, Mukaila Adigun won majority of the votes and was declared winner by the electoral commission of the state. All of his dreams had now come true. He was not only rich, but he had now become powerful.

As he sat in his palatial home, he began to think about what to do with his new status.

At that point, one of his thugs walked in.

Alhaji Agba, we found this outside the gate” the thug said, holding a large brown manila envelop in his huge hands

Mukaila looked up, puzzled, and suddenly alert

“Who told you it is my own? You idiot!” he barked at the thug

“It is addressed to you alaye mi, it even says in bold red letters that it is for your eyes only” the thug explained

Abi ogun fe pa iya e ni?” the visibly pissed governor-elect cursed at the thug

“Go and scan that envelop now with a metal detector and bring it back to me” he instructed

“What if it is a letter bomb? Abi you have never heard of Dele Giwa ni?” Mukaila continued, still angry

The thug left immediately to carry out his instruction.

What is the content of this strange envelop that the sender insists its content is for his eyes only, Mukaila pondered. Could it be somebody sneaking him secrets about his political opponents? Now he was anxious to see.

The thug came back.

“I have scanned the envelop sah” he announced

“Are you sure?” asked Mukaila, looking up at him, brows arched

Mo sure baje baba mi” he responded

Mukaila stretched his hand, collected the envelop, and dropped it by his side. The thugs stepped out. As soon as he was alone, Mukaila picked the envelop and retired upstairs into his room. He needed some privacy before he opens this strange envelop.

As soon as he got inside, he locked his door. He examined the package carefully. It had no distinctive markings, no logo, no forwarding address, nothing. Just his name on the front, and behind it was written:

FOR THE EYES OF MUKAILA ADIGUN ONLY.

He raised the envelop under the light above him, maybe to see if a silhouette would give him a peek into the mystery lurking within the envelop. He saw nothing. He shrugged and began to tear open the envelop.

Inside was a folded white paper. He unfolded it. Written in block letters, on a single line, with very nice handwriting were the words:

1992 IBETA ILADO VILLAGE I SAW WHAT YOU DID

His face contorted in horror, as he remembered his days as Ejola. He understood the message very clearly.

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Part 7 – The Witness

The election tribunal was starting that morning. The major political parties had paid top money to retain the biggest superstar lawyers in the land. SANs and their retinue of junior lawyers had arrived at the court premises as early as 7:30am. Outside, paid protesters were carrying placards proclaiming their support for their various interests. This case was a big deal. The stakes were very high.

“Court!!!” Bellowed the court bailiff

The ruckus within the courtroom stopped abruptly and everybody straightened up or went back to their seats as his Lordship walked into the room and made his way to the bench.

“The case before the tribunal today is case number AC/1976GE, Citizens Democratic Coalition versus INEC in the matter of the 2017 governorship election” read out the registrar as she started off the court rituals to commence the day’s proceedings.

The CDC lead counsel told the tribunal that he has evidence to show that Mukaila Adigun was not fit to be governor. He was going to start by calling his first witness. The CDC was the party of the aspirant who came second.

Governor-elect Mukaila Adigun was sitting, surrounded by his party’s officials and supporters. He smiled. They owned this land, he had assurances from everywhere. This was going to be a mere formality.

The court was packed. There where journalists everywhere. TV and photo cameras were all over the place. Camera flashlights were going off and threatening to blind everyone. This matter was very high profile. Mukaila had so much on his mind. The content of the letter he got the other day still disturbed him. He has not been able to find who sent it. But he kept a smile on his face, for the cameras. He did not want to appear on the news later in the evening looking like a he had been tickled by a ghost.

“Counsel to the CDC will now call its first witness to the witness box” announced the registrar.

That jolted Mukaila out of his reverie. He turned to flash his supporters and party members a victory sign, mainly to calm his own nerves, and partly to assure them that he was on top of things and there was no shaking. At this time, the witness was taking his oath.

Mukaila turned to see who the witness was. The face he saw made his heart almost stop. He froze in horror as goose bumps covered his whole body. The hair on his neck stood. This could not be so.

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Part 8 – Ireti

Sitting in the witness box was a familiar face. Mukaila remembered her very well from one of his operations in the olden days of hustle. He could not remember which of the operations though, but he knew whatever happened then wasn’t something that should be heard in a place like this. How come she is a witness? What was she up to?

“My name is Ireti” announced the elderly woman in the witness box. She could be anywhere between sixty and sixty-five years old. The governor-elect still could not place where he had met this woman before.

“I am here to as a witness for the CDC, because as a popular saying goes, when good people stay silent, evil will take over the land” she said looking at the judge

Mukaila Adigun’s mind was racing. He began to have flash backs. His lawyer, one of the big SANs, took notice of his unease. Who is this witness? He thought. The prosecution had given his team the names of all the CDC witnesses, and none of them had been found to be a potential problem for the defense. So why is his client suddenly apprehensive?

“It happened in 1992 in a community called Ilado” she said, starting her testimony.

It was at this point that it clicked in Mukaila’s head! How was this possible? Could she have been the one who sent that envelope? He had to find a way to put a stop to this now. He turned, gave a sign to his lawyer, who quickly jumped up.

“Objection my Lord!” Screamed the SAN

“This witness is not on the list the CDC legal team submitted to us, she cannot continue” he demanded

“May both counsels approach the bench” announced the tribunal chairman.

Both lawyers went forward and held a brief meeting with the judge for like two minutes.

“Court adjourned for thirty minutes for both lawyers to iron things out” he said before banging the gavel.

“Court!!!!!!” Screamed the potbellied bailiff

Mukaila’s criminal instinct took over. Ejola came out of retirement at that instant. He reached for his phone and made a call. This had to be brought to an end before it got out of hand.

His chief thug put down his phone and gave the boys instructions. They moved very swiftly and caught the policemen on guard unawares. Their mission was to abduct the witness. They broke into the courtroom as everyone ran helter-skelter at the sight of thugs brandishing all kinds of dangerous weapons.

But Ireti had simply disappeared. She was nowhere to be found.

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Part 9 – The Revelation

The kerfuffle that ensued in the courtroom ended just as suddenly as it started. The police were able to recover from the shock very quickly and chased the thugs away. They made some arrests.

The court got called back to order.

The tribunal chairman had ruled in favour of the CDC legal team during their short meeting in his chamber.

“May we have the witness back in the box” said the judge to the CDC lawyer.

“Yes my Lord” responded the lead counsel

“Court bailiff, kindly bring back Madam Ireti from the secure room” said the counsel

“About in 1992, my life almost ended” she said, wiping tears from her face, as she settled to continue her testimony.

“One fateful afternoon…..” she started as her thought went back to that day at Ilado health center. She could remember everything vividly.

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Not long after the abductors had left with the triplets, the police arrived at the health center. It was a scene of a bloodbath. Three bodies lay in different parts of the maternity room. There was a woman, face bashed in and bloodied, as if she has been hit repeatedly with a blunt object. She was dead. A man with a wide hole in his chest, where he appeared to have been shot, laid ice cold with his eyes wide open. And then there was a second woman, dressed in a nurse’s uniform. She lay in a pool of blood.

She was still breathing.

The Inspector called the rest of his team in, and she was transported to the General Hospital immediately.

She survived. Her name was Ireti. She refused to talk to the police after she got discharged, two months after, because she was afraid for her life….

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“For a long time I lived in hiding, afraid I would be found out” she said after snapping out of her flashback.

“What happened on that day? Can you tell the court?” the CDC lawyer asked Ireti

“Three men came in, armed but not wearing masks, and made me take them to the maternity room. We had just delivered a woman of triplets” she said

“And?” asked the lawyer

“They asked the woman to hand over her babies, she refused. She was defiant. Her stance gave me courage to act”

“What then happened?” continued the lawyer, pressing her for more information

“I started struggling with one of the criminals, in the process his gun went off and I felt blood, warm, splash on my face. He fell face down” Ireti said, now crying profusely

“What happened next?” the lawyer asked again

“The man, who obviously was the leader shot at me” Ireti responded

Everybody began to talk at the same time, some clapping, some screamed “Jesu!”

“Order!” and the court became quietened again.

“Who shot you that day” asked the counsel

The court remained quiet.

“Can you identify the person in this court?” Pressed the lawyer

“Yes” replied Ireti, her voice rising in defiance

“Alhaji Mukaila Adigun, our state’s governor-elect. He shot me, twice!” said Ireti, facing Mukaila for the first time and pointing in his direction.

“Objection! Objection my Lord!” Mukaila’s lawyer jumped up, waving books in both hands, as almost everyone in the court started talking at the same time again. It was a scene of disbelief.

“Order! Order!” screamed the judge, banging his gavel repeatedly on his table….

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Part 10 – Karma

Ireti came out of the court, flanked by lawyers and a retinue of policemen. Two police officers were holding Mukaila Adigun, who had now been handcuffed, waiting for a police van to pull over and take him away. She walked up to him, and looked him straight in the eyes.

Ori awon Ibeta lo mu e, those children were never going to let you get away with this” she told him and spat in his face.

“I sent you that message, so that you know your game was up” she said to him, without looking back, as she walked away.

Mukaila just looked ahead, blank.

The door to the police van slammed shut, with the disgraced governor-elect inside. Some of his arrested thugs were also herded into another van. The vans left the court premises under heavy police escort.

Later that evening on the news:

Fresh information has reached the police that has implicated Alhaji Mukaila Adigun in the death of Dr. Adeolu Ibukun, the late governorship candidate of the People’s Alliance Party. The police are now investigating Alhaji Adigun for a double murder, kidnap and child trafficking.

Ireti turned off her TV, closed her eyes and eased a sigh of relief. Ori awon ibeta will now give her rest.

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