Executive Response (Excerpts)

PROLOGUE

JOS, PLATEAU STATE

 

Sometime in June 2011

It was a humid Sunday morning in the central Nigerian city of Jos. The weather was warm but not too sunny. Far in the horizon, the sun was screened off by semi-thick and weirdly shaped cumulus clouds. To an imaginative mind, the clouds were shaped in the likeness of every conceivable being and object the human mind could think of.

On a quiet dusty road, a car several decades old was parked near an area covered with trees and small bushes. The paintwork of the car was faded in many places with the affected areas consisting of different levels of lighter shades. The areas around the fenders and chassis also showed signs of rust.

Isa sat in the driver’s seat of the 1980s Toyota saloon car listening to the birds which had built nests on the nearby trees as they chirped and hopped from one tree branch to the other and from one tree to another, oblivious of the car below them, and the quietness around them.

The car had been stolen over a week ago from an unsuspecting taxi driver as he made his way home late in the night. They had then spent the last six days preparing the car for today. They had deprived a fellow believer of his possession and for that Isa had his regrets. He had decided it was Allah’s will weeks ago.

He believed every good Muslim is supposed to play a part in the fight against the agents of the Great Satan: The West and their allies. The use of this taxi driver’s car was his own contribution to the fight against the devil and its agents of immorality which is being spread all over the country through western education. His car would be used for a good cause and Allah shall reward him for it.

He gripped the steering wheel hard. His palms were sweating and little beads of sweat had formed on his forehead. Focused, he brushed the sweat away with the back of his hand. To prevent his mind from running into distractions that might derail him from his goal which was scoring a point for Islam and a small victory towards the complete Islamization of the Northern region of Nigeria, he ruminated on the teachings of The Teacher and recited verses from the Holy Book.

He wondered what Ahmadu, his friend and fellow member of the Islamic People’s Liberation, The IPL was doing at that moment. At that very moment, he too was somewhere else in a religiously divided city preparing to give his life for the faith too. They had been living together, training together, learning together and sleeping together in the same room for almost a year.

It hadn’t occurred to him before, but now that it did, he wondered why he and his friend were chosen to carry out twin attacks at the same time on two different targets. Well, he decided after a minute, The Teacher knew best. It was his responsibility to decide who did what, when, where and how.

The foremost thing on his mind was the job at hand. There was also the teacher’s promise and assurance that he and his friend were going to meet in a beautiful garden in paradise where they would have seventy-seven virgins each and live in eternal bliss. That’s what he was looking forward to.

It had been so quiet that the sudden ringing of his phone made him jump and sent his heartbeat racing. He picked up the phone and remembered it was the alarm he had set. His heart rate began to accelerate. The ringing meant it was five minutes to the time when he’s to attack his target.

He got the car’s engine running and moved towards his target. He was not supposed to have his phone with him because The Teacher had warned them never to take any personal property with them when they go on a mission. To justify his disobedience, he had told himself he needed it to time his attack to perfection.

One of the reasons the great teacher had banned the taking of phones to an attack location was first, the temptation to call family members which is banned for a week before an attack because it might make them change their minds and, second, the chances of them leaving evidence behind was very high.

He had broken both of those rules because first, he had brought his phone. And second, even though he was yet to call his family that day – he wasn’t going to call them to say goodbye. He had already drafted a text message as best as he could and sent it the day before.

In the letter, he apologised to his mother and sister telling them they were not going to see him on earth anymore. He told them he had gone to buy them all a place in paradise where they would all meet again. His mother and sister could not read, but he was sure they would get someone to read it for them and if not, then it wouldn’t really matter.

His target was located in a street which was a Close. You can only enter and exit the street through one end. When he got to the junction from which the street branched off, he turned into it. In front of him, in the distance he could see the steeple of the church rising towards the sky like a beacon as it reflected the light from the sun which had managed to sneak out from behind the clouds.

He’d been calm up to that point but now, emotions he couldn’t explain surged out of nowhere taking him by surprise. Feeling unwell all of a sudden, he parked the car by the side of the road as he struggled within himself. He tried to pray for strength for the last time as he had been taught, but he couldn’t concentrate, no matter how hard he tried.

The Teacher had warned them about such emotions. He told them they would come up when it was time for them to do what was right, to sacrifice themselves for Allah. He told them they would have to fight their emotions like warriors are expected to do.

Just as unexpected, the emotions had come. He also began to shiver as the fear of dying crept into the inner labyrinths of his mind. He had been cocksure of himself since the day before when he had been told he was going to carry out the attack. Not once did he think it was going to be this hard. But now, minutes before he was going to die and take others along with him he found it impossible.

He was sweating profusely and his hands had become clammy. He looked at the time on his phone. It was two minutes to the time. Two minutes to him at that point felt like two seconds as he waited in the car which had all of a sudden become very uncomfortable. He felt like he was suffocating. He stopped for a moment to manually wound down all the windows of the 80s saloon car to allow for more air circulation before continuing on hid mission.

Everywhere around him he could see worshippers as they made their way to the church which was some hundred and twenty metres away. Some were arriving with their families in their own cars. Others were arriving on taxis while some others were arriving on commercial motorcycles. Some had whole families balanced on a single motorcycle. But most were arriving on foot. Whole families on foot, everyone with their Bibles: children, teenagers and adults.

For a moment he felt like changing his mind and turning the car around. But he fought hard within himself not to do so. He knew if he did, there would be a backlash from The Teacher and the IPL. Even if he managed to escape, and they couldn’t get him, they will get to his family because he wouldn’t be able to run away with them.

But the most important thing is, the money they promised him they would give to his mother if he carried out the attack wouldn’t get to her. He had to do this, he decided. Since he couldn’t help his mother and sister in another way he had to do this to provide for them. It was also an opportunity to do the will of Allah. He decided it was a win-win situation.

Now determined, he looked at the time again, the time was right. He started the engine and took a deep breath. He engaged the gear to drive and drove towards the gates of the church in the distance. As he approached the church, he changed the gear levels of the manual transmission every ten metres until he reached the maximum speed the car could reach at that distance. He had changed the gears without any thought like he was a robot programmed to execute a command.

People jumped out of the way, while a few tried to get away from the area sensing what was about to happen, but most of them were too late. He was going to take them with him, and he knew it. One brave soul tried to shut the gates to prevent him from entering into the church compound, but he crashed into it at the same moment he pressed the switch by the side of the steering to detonate the bomb. The last thing he felt was a bright, burning flash engulfing him.