“As I said earlier, the SSS Adamawa State Director was amiable, quite polite, even when he made subtle threats as he questioned me. He informed me that that particular encounter with the Service could tell badly on my future endeavours, notably in the political sphere. I countered that the Nigerian public sector does not have a reputation for maintaining records. I also told him that I would wear this encounter with the SSS like a badge of honour since it was not for any unsavoury deed, but because of the execution of my professional brief. I couldn’t resist telling the intelligence chief that if the SSS had truly kept faith with running background security checks on persons and groups, including those seeking or already holding political offices, the Nigerian political firmament, particularly the National Assembly would not be riddled with fraudsters and others of ill-repute. I told my interrgator that if the SSS and other security agencies had done their work(s) indivually and collectively, the then House of Representative will not contend with the spectacle of a certain well-known fraudster getting into the lower House and being appointed the Chairman of the Committee on the Internal Security.
“My family background came under particular focus, and the Director could not hide his curiousity that yours truly, who is truly proudly Igbo, had a biological mother from Garko, Kano State. His wonderment evaporated as I posited that I belonged to a rare breed of Nigerians who mean so well for the Nigeria project, because our filial linkages to the various tribes make schemes for crises, including break-up of the country anathema to us. For added measure, I told him that, as I had heard the story told, my maternal grandmother fondly called Umma, even in Kano, far removed from the killing fields of the fracticidal Nigerian Civil War, had been a casualty. The beloved matrianch of the Sule family went to an early grave because her loving heart was broken, as angst filled her in her round-the-clock prayers for the health and the lives of her relatives caught in the then Biafran enclave.
“I narrated the heartbreaking story my cousin, Mohammed Sule, had told me about Umma’sdeath. A novelist, script writer and film maker, he is a true racounter who endows his tales with great life. And this particular story, starring our grandmother was no different. Mohammed told me he could recollect Umma frequently admonishing all and sundry not to celebrate the war; that to her there could not be any victor since her blood were involved in the war as Nigerians and Biafrans. Her concerns and prayers were mostly for the members of the Biafran side of the family, bearing in mind that the conflict tilted heavily in favour of the Nigerian side. I really did not get to know Umma, but I knew my paternal grandmother, Mama Nnukwu. AndMama Nnukwu was a mother in a million. I experienced this first-hand before she passed on some nine years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, which, thankfully, did not claim her, even though she had a number of close calls. The fond memories of Mama Nnukwu, which I treasure so much, makes having no memories of Umma ever so painful. But I am consoled and quite proud of the fact that in me and their other descendants, the duo are. I pray for the repose of their souls; the dead eating other thing than prayers.
“The SSS Adamawa State Director had obviously concluded that I was just a journalist merely executing his professional brief when he told me that I was free to leave. He asked if I wanted the seized copies of Shipping World back, and when I told him with all pleasure, he replied with a smile that I was too likeable for him to let anyone mess me up over the publication. Therefore my trip to the SSS office ended on the happy note that I was free to leave, with a handshake from the State Director. On his part, Sombre Suit could not resist counseling one to be more ‘circumspect’ in my journalistic pursuits. A staff car and driver was provided to convey me to my desired location. The driver was bewildered when after a short drive I told him to stop and let me out so I could pop into a restaurant which I had decided was my destination. A allayed his fears of possible sanctions back at the office, for not serving me properly as instructed.
“The Customs top brass played a big role in securing my release from the clutches of the SSS, but the Customs chief’s Yola Conference had lost its appeal in my eyes and that of Asu Beks. In spite of an entertaining night put up by the Service later that day, which we heartily relished, the Editor-in-Chief of Shipping World and I cleared out of the state the next day and returned to our Lagos base, where the news of my arrest had been hugging the headlines of the maritime press. Asu Beks had seen to this through the press releases he had dispatched from Adamawa while I chatted with the security operatives.
“Since these two incidents with security operatives, I have not experienced another till date. I have never been reckless in executing my journalistic brief, I will also certainly not cringe from practicing my profession effectively, no matter whatever, such as the haunting spectre of intolerant sources and overbearing security operatives. What about you?
I looked at my friend enquiringly. “What about what?”
“Have you ever had a chat with security operatives over any story or stories you did? Of course, I know you have. But will you still be willing to take that same risk if you got hints for a really good story?”
A smile played on my lips, as Bob Dylan’s song Blowin’ in the Wind skittered around my brain.
Indeed, I have had hints for quite a time about what could be a really good story, staring the NPA and Vice President Namadi Sambo. NPA and another Vice President? No! Let this cup pass over me. There is no story.
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