Letter to General Rambo
I must say I woke up on the right side of my bed that day. I knew that the day was going to be different. It was the twelfth of August, the day earmarked for launching the Campaign for Justice, a human rights group. The launch was billed to take place at the main auditorium of the country’s premier university.
A group of young academics like me were the brains behind the group. ‘Enough is enough!’ we told ourselves. We must not embrace passivity and mute indifference. General Rambo’s tanks, bayonets and sub-machine guns cannot stifle the voice of reason. Neither will they make us cower under oppression.
I had vowed that I would be an indefatigable fighter for freedom and equality and respect for the rule of law.
I left my house, whistling under my breath, my hands buried in my pockets, and strolled leisurely to the launch venue, which was walking distance from the university’s staff quarters. Some metres away from the auditorium, I noticed a crowd gathered around one corner and stern-looking policemen and soldiers in combat gear manning the main entrance of the auditorium. I sighted one of my colleagues and walked up to him to find out what was going on. He told me that an order had been issued to stop the launch.
“Where did the order come from?” I asked.
“From above of course,” he answered.
I was livid with rage. How dare he, the Monster, infringe on our fundamental human rights. Wasn’t it spelt out in the country’s constitution that we have the right to freedom of association?
“Power to the people!” I screamed.
“Yes! That’s him – that is the leader of the group,” a voice said behind me.
A hand quickly grabbed me. Before I knew what was happening, several other hands held on to me. Within a twinkle of an eye, I was down on the ground. I didn’t know that some security agents had mingled with the crowd, apparently to fish out the ringleaders of the group. They gave me the usual treatment: blows rained down on me. A baton landed on my forehead. Blood began to gush out from the gash on my head. Pandemonium broke out. The cops shot tear gas into the air to disperse the crowd. I was dragged into a waiting police van. And they drove off at high speed. Their mission was accomplished. I was a prize catch.
They took me straight to their office, where I was handcuffed and shown into a room reserved for ‘VIPs’ – that is, ‘Very Important Prisoners.’
The room was small and windowless. A table and a chair were the only furniture. This was placed in the middle of the room; a small bulb hung from the ceiling. Two corporals stood guard to keep an eye on me. One of them was a well-built, middle-aged man of medium height. He had a round face that sat on his thick, heavy neck. He was dark in complexion and wore a permanent scowl on his face. The other guard was tall. His face had a hard, metallic look. His muscles bulged under his uniform. He looked fierce and menacing. I sat down on the only chair in the room. Suddenly, the door was flung open, and a very tall man walked in. He was dressed in an army uniform and wore the rank of major. He had the big round eyes of an owl. He was light in complexion and clean-shaven.
The two guards stiffened to attention. “Morn Sir!” they saluted. He nodded his head to acknowledge their salute and walked up to me.
“Sorry, Dr Ifeka, I can see you’ve not been treated well by my boys,” he said in a deep baritone voice. He sat on the edge of the table. “I read your articles in the papers. I must say that you write very well. I wonder why you have chosen to use your pen to fight instead of to support the government of the day?”
I kept mute. If he wanted an answer, I wasn’t going to give him one.
“You should work with us,” he continued. “How much are you paid in the university? You’re a young man. You should enjoy the good things of life. If you join the government press, we will pay you a fabulous salary and in fact we will make you the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Voice.”
I remained calm. I wanted to tell him he was wasting his breath. Dangling carrots before me would get him nowhere because I would not sell my conscience to dine with the devil of tyranny.
“Well, Dr Ifeka, I can see that you’ve decided to play dumb with me. I guess I’ll have to leave now. When you’re ready to talk, tell the boys to call me.”
He stood up and walked to the door. He stopped to talk to one of the guards. After the door was closed behind him, the two guards walked up to me. They began to give me the works.
Excerpt from the collection of short stories: Once Upon a Monday on Amazon