The day is for honest men,

The night for thieves.

Iphigenia in Tauris- Euripides

Can you see everything? Mani asks speaking into the headset. He punches in numbers on the keypad in front of the ATM in the lobby. In a room on the next floor, Ugo studies the video feed.

I got a shot of the card, as you slotted home. With zoom and freeze, we’ll get everything on top. I also got you inputting the pin. The skimmer ensures we get the cvv.

The night before, a drunken group arrived to distract the receptionist and bell boys. OJ and Ugo placed a skimmer over the card slot and made sure it fitted like a glove. Ugo wedged a battery powered camera with wireless feed in the lamp holder. Its snout pointed towards the keypad and card slot area.

We don’t need video since we’ve got the skimmer.

The camera gives us info the skimmer cant.

Over the weekend, OJ, Mani and Ugo sit watching the video feed of wristwatches. The information is matched against the skimmer feed of bank cards. This information is loaded on a laptop in an excel spreadsheet.

Audemar Piguet Royal Oaks, Urwerk King Cobras, Patek Phillipe Sky moons, Lange & Sohne Tourbographs, and Girard Perregaux Operas get 5 stars.

Hublot Tourbillon, Daniel Roth, Parmigiani kalpa, Chopard and Chris Aire get 4 stars. All the others get 3 stars. 20 magas, is all we need.

Perfecto Mani says. We’ve got twelve five stars and eight four stars.

Only here in ABJ can you see 400 thousand dollar watches. Where do they get the money?

Same way we do. They steal it. Only the law says their way is legal.

By Monday evening, Ugo has embossed 20 cards with holders name, card number and expiry date complete with the hologram. Real holograms are embedded in the card while the fake is surface only. Indistinguishable by the ATM, but in case of a security search.

The two of you take seven cards each, I’ll take 6. You’ll individually hit 14 machines, the first round from 11:30 – 45, the second from 12:00am. Ugo, cover Wuse to Utako area, Mani you take Central area on to Maitama. I’ll oversee the Asokoro axis. Make transfers only to cash cards whose numbers are coded on your phones. Some of the cards will have savings and current accounts. If it does, make a deposit from the savings to the current before making a transfer. Don’t spend more than three minutes on a transaction. Your phones have the last four digits of each card and the pin numbers. They are the last seven dialled numbers with a preceding 080. The total take will be 70 million. In case anyone wants to run, dis one na tithe compared to the next job.

OJ, Mani and Ugo transfer 70 million, 5 hundred thousand because Ugo gets greedy. To celebrate, they head for the club. It seems the whole capital territory is here as Mani, Ugo and OJ get into the lift and are hit by strains of Davido’s Baba olowo. The doors open to let in two males and a group of females. One of the males dressed as a female complete with different colored sneakers is gesticulating and evokes a wink from Mani winks.

As woman sweet reach?

They find seats and order a Jack Daniels whisky. On the next table are four females. Four moet bottles lay empty with a fifth unopened in an ice bucket. Two have drinks in their glasses and are trying to carry on a conversation over the din. The other two are poring over blackberries. On the other side two grey- haired men of Middle Eastern origin with a bottle of Hennessey constantly scan the crowd. OJ’s perusal is broken by the microphone.

Ladies and gentlemen, King Baddo, Olamide has stepped in. It promises to be a chill night. The crowd quadruples after this announcement. Sirens go off signaling buckets of champagne making their way to consumers. The blackberry ladies are on the dance floor gyrating to Korede Bello’s Godwin. They start whispering when a guy approaches. He says a few words and is promptly rebuffed.
Women, you can’t understand them. When you think you can score, they deflate you like a balloon. What are married women doing in a club? Why do they have single friends?
Globalization is what it’s called. I believe married women should stay home or come with husbands. Forget about the ladies night out story.

A blackberry lady decides to head for the loo on wobbling heels. Before anyone can say Jack Robinson, she slumps and is retching.

Hahahaha. Her friend and a bouncer scurry her out of her centre of attraction position while the cleaners mop the floor. Hearing strains of Durosoke, Ugo looks up. Olamide is dressed in black t-shirt over black jeans coupled with Giuseppe Zanotti lace ups. Olamide beckons on a female in the crowd, the lights beam out as every neck cranes to see a fair, plumpy mulatto make her way to the stage. She starts dancing in a salsa kind of way as OJ takes a trip to the gents. Neat rows of boxed-in urinals, one can see the next man’s shoes. Mani and Ugo are with 3 girls by the time OJ returns. During introductions a waiter appears with a Gold bottle Ace of spades from Gula. It is pre planned but they have no idea. To OJ the wages of sin are sheer delight, so he turns to the nearest red head. He expects to find her boring, and hopes she reciprocates. Alas, she seems to find OJ fascinating over the frenzied Skelemba din. The mulatto is spotted at the far end of the stage doing the Shoki dance. The jerky exhibitionist dancing which seems to be de rigueur.

©Ndi Charles 2015

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At 5am almost everyone is out and about. A long queue is evident of otondos returning allocated mattresses. Tunde and Oke pass this queue heading for the taps where a heated argument is in full swing. A male apparently jumps the line, the Alhaja at the head politely tells him to wait till she is done. He claims the water is for military personnel and is grudgingly allowed. Tunde and Oke immediately head for the frontlines and claim to be on an errand for the Red Cross chairperson. Oke stashes his bags in the Platoon officer’s residence before heading to the field for the closing ceremony. Suddenly there are buses driving into the expansive compound. Activities including a tug of war between heavily built males and females, native wrestling among males, a parade/salute to the camp commandant commence. Camp is declared closed and everyone heads to the hall to collect posting letters.  Oke goes to get his bag thinking his number is far off. Getting to the hall, his number has been called. Posting letters have been divided into units, Oke’s group began at 800. Oke alerts the official to his presence. After rifling through, he says it has been collected. WHAT? A guy approaches saying he got their numbers mixed up, and hands Oke’s letter over. Feelings of anger double, staring at Oke in black and white is ST CATHERINE INTERNATIONAL PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOL, AMAPU NTIGHA, ISIALA NGWA NORTH. 

WHAT? Oh boy you must accept this letter. Oke turns and observes he has vanished into thin air. The dreaded Local government everyone has been talking about? Oh no, this can’t be possible, not after we offered kolanut to the Platoon officer.

Oke calls Tunde. Tunde is mad about` getting an Anglican school in Aba North. Tunde isn’t feeling too sad when Oke catches up with him and Habiba. Tunde has been informed it is an hour from Port Harcourt.  Walking amidst buses bearing PPA (Primary Places of Assignment) tags, Oke calls Bola. She redeployed to Lagos but got Ondo. Bola gets in the bus with Oke. She wants to see what Isiala Ngwa looks like. She proceeds to postpone her arik flight via the ipad app. The next 1hr 40 minutes is spent listening to 22 songs on shared earphones while Oke and Bola skim through the Abiakopa booklet. The bus turns off the main expressway, and after a few minutes, the council signpost comes into view. The bus passengers strain necks driving through the gates. The driver heads straight in, past buildings, on towards grass tracks surrounded by bushes for approximately 4 minutes by which time most hearts are in mouths.  A few females blink back tears on sighting red cloth tied in front of a hut. The bus turns left into a compound with an uninviting central bungalow. Double paned doors greet the contents of the four buses, there are ragged shouts of corper wee. Skeptical of accommodation coming from 3 weeks of hell, Oke asks Bola to wait inside the bus. Provided accommodation is the dull red rug. OJ calls telling Oke to go back to Umuahia. Bola and Oke have dinner at Hoeffers on bank road after Government House, then take a stroll to Pat Toria Hotel. Bola notices all three floors are occupied by Corps members.

Do you love me?

Hmmm? What can I say?

Answer me.

I do not know if what I feel for you is love. I like you a lot and want to get to know you better.

Don’t beat around the bush, Do you Love me?

Yes, I Love you.



What you have which you consider useless may be the solution you need.
Enoch Adeboye.

Conversations 4 Change: the national anthem plays out. Once upon a time…. Time Time. In the land of animals, there was a great famine. One eke market day, the animals convened a meeting to find a solution. They all gathered at the market square. The red junglefowl (chickens grandpa) was however seen going in the opposite direction. Red Junglefowl was headed towards the road. His relation, the peacock called him back. Grandpa chicken said he had to scavenge food for his family. He went on to hastily pledge support for any conclusion reached. The meeting ended with an emissary to the oracles. The oracles as usual demanded a blood offering. The emissaries returned,informing the animals on the outcome. At this meeting, again the Red Junglefowl was absent. All the animals gave reasons. Some were superfluous, (fela: mama de for house. i just build new house). All self-serving on how their families couldn’t be sacrifices. Grandpa chicken couldnt argue, he wasn’t there. When they saw him, guess what happened? That’s why the chicken is the first offering among animals.

Moral of the story- Register. Vote. Participate in the civic life of your immediate environment. #votenotfight



Francess lies in a sea of pillows, the sheets in disarray as OJ pulls on a pair of shorts. It is the moment after. OJ wonders if she wishes she can walk away from him, or if she can love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying.
I need money to buy hair.
Okay. I want you to stake out one Alhaji, he’s vital to my operations.
Okay, my Oga! I will send Warebi. Don’t forget my % sha.
You know the drill. Have I ever let you down?
No. You’re my knight in shining armor.
Flattery will get you nowhere.

Outside bar of the hotel, I lay out plans to Mani.
Good good. How we wan do d springboard?
One step at a time.
I nor go screw you. I came all this way na?
You came on my Naira.
We be partners. I nor go tell anybody
Mani nor bother, you de lie.

An announcement comes on. The Freedom hall initiative is starting. Anyone interested in presenting a drama, song, or poem can take the microphone. OJ and Mani find three quarters of the terrace tables are taken. It is a mixture of office clothes, idle sprinkling of jeans and jerseys. A petite lady cautiously approaches the microphone avoiding cables strewn across the floor. She coughs, then introduces her and her art studio location. She claims responsibility for hand painting the art adorning the walls. More pieces are available in an observation room across. Next up, a dreadlocked heavyset male launches into a diatribe on the continuous rape of the oil industry. His take on a Christine Amanpour interview leaves revelers reeling. He is quiet for a few seconds.

O’ my God, it could have been me
O’ humanity, it could have been you
Sleeping on a bed cursed by death
Slaughtered like rams in an abattoir

Those children said their prayers
Some recited spiritual mantras
Before giving sleep it’s right
Oh! O’ sleep, why allow death kidnap them from you?
You’re a weakling to give them away as preys
To demonic vampires, whose consciences
Are seared by brutality…..fostered by cruelty

O’ nation, behold your future
O’ future, behold your nation
Has it any right to one?
Was your throat not slit while you soundly slept?

40 children, 43 children, 59 children
Ah! See the death figures above
Statistics are confused men
Blame them not
Those are lives in their prime
Cut off before their time.

O’ People, rise up and confront the woes
That shred your tomorrow like papers
Hear me, You, who wear a fedora,
Proffer solutions to terrorism and stop misplacing priorities

O’ Fathers
Behold your children gruesomely murdered
O’ Mothers
Behold your children violently butchered
O’ Brothers
Behold your sisters badly burnt
O Sisters
Behold your brothers gunned down
O’ Mr President
Behold your citizens bereaved
O’ God
Behold your gods utterly destroyed

Invite fury if positivity is it’s motive
Tell commiseration to shut up
Order solution to speak up
Call out the lion in every sheep

This pen desires to write no more
It is not as indifferent as man
It weeps uncontrollably
But just before it faints
Heart it’s blatant truth:

He abruptly dropped the microphone. It is picked by a female who proceeds to read a script. A trip in history shows Yugoslavia broke up into five countries in the 90’s. Many had called for a conference or a peaceful breakup along ethnic lines, but Col. Tito, silenced them. Every one of the five major ethnic groups except for Bosnians began to stock arms caches.

The Bosnians were accommodating and tolerant of Serbs, Croats, kosovars and Montenegrins. Onetime, Serbs claimed parts of Bosnia were Serb territory because Serbs moved there and contributed to its development. Tito died and the civil war broke out. The Bosnians were slaughtered and could not procure arms due to an embargo.

She flipped pages. I have a personal request to make to our leaders, if any of their relations are here. Majority laugh, a few smile.
Our Anthem reads thus: The labor of our heroes past shall not be in vain. The last visit of Zik, the founding father of nationalism to Zungeru his place of birth was on Nov 16, 1991. It was after a ceremony to mark his 89th birthday and raise funds to build Zik center which he promised during the 83’ second republic campaign as presidential candidate of NPP to promote education and tourism. Eight years later, the dream ALMOST came to fruition with a fundraiser at the Bako Kontagora memorial stadium under the chairmanship of Maradona. From the fundraising venue, guests drove to the site for the foundation laying ceremony.
There Zik said, my wish and joy is to witness the commissioning of the center.

Alas it was his corpse which was brought to the uncompleted building 5 years later on Nov 12, 96’ as part of funeral activities, 24 years after the center remains uncompleted.
Silence envelopes all, then a clap followed by a smattering of applause. By this time, OJ and Mani think they are in a political gathering of some sorts. The next minute brings relief with an expert rendition of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 on the piano as an usher drops invitations to a concert cum drama presentation: For Love of Country.

A lady reads out Christopher Okigbo’s Elegy for Alto as Mani wanders to the bar to get more drinks. The breeze is getting chillier as OJ puts his hands in hisjacket pockets. He fingers a piece of paper. OJ smiles, peering at the small note.

My prince: Pat Utomi’s 4 C’s- competence, commitment, character and compassion will take you everywhere. Frances must have stuck it in my pocket, she wore this Chelsea jacket the other night.

The next morning Oj and Mani cruise along Herbert Macaulay way in a taxi. Mani repeatedly eyes the mannequins displaying shoes.

How you take hear about dis guy?
Usual sources, na street to d core. The taxi pulls into a plaza, and OJ points to a store.
Na there inspector gadget de kpai people.
Mani and I enter the boutique and are greeted by a bespectacled male, dressed in expensive clothes.
Oga you’re here?
Yes oooo. I de supervise my boys.
The customers thin out as OJ and Mani inspect different shoes. Prices start from 70k. As the last one leaves, OJ turns the OPEN sign on the front door. Mani approaches the counter with a Zara Moccasin. He hands over his bank card to be used on the Pos machine. It slips out of the clerk’s hand, he stoops to retrieve it. When he straightens up, he finds OJ right next to him.
What happened? OJ asks, eyeing the tiny machine the clerk has run the card through.
Sir, you are not allowed behind the counter.
Where did you buy it?
It’s an antifraud machine, the clerk says firmly. It checks valid cards. With all these wayo boys, our Oga said we should be using it to confirm. I hope you understand. Their Oga approaches.
Oh yes I do. I reach out, take the machine, pull out the connecting wires and say to Mani and their Oga. This was used to clone your card details, either he sells the details or he charges your card in other locations.
Are you policemen?
No Ugo, we are people like you. We lead him to the opposite end of the store. Oj is recruiting Ugo for the intro operation. Oke and Tunde will also join for the springboard. Tunde will apply for a prospecting license. Funding from the springboard op should guarantee access to living their dreams.

(NB: It could have been you – Kolawole Freedom Olanrewaju)