Sunday, 2 July 2017

Whistleblower, Are You A Referee? (Final Part)


Click Here for Part 3

In an instant, Musa’s sleep-fogged brain cleared. That was the spot he had placed his laptop bag. What was Dare foraging through his things for? But he remained still and continued watching, not wanting to jump into the wrong conclusion.

As he watched, Dare brought something out of the laptop bag. He shone the light of the torch on it momentarily as though to confirm it was what he wanted and Musa saw clearly that it was his external hard drive. What did Dare want with his external hard drive? He was paralyzed to the spot, unable to make sense out of the situation. At that moment, Dare waved the light of the torch in his direction, as though to make certain he was till sleeping and Musa quickly shut his eyes. When the light swung away, he opened them again in time to see Dare tucking the hard drive under his sofa, the one he had been sleeping on.

At that instant, Musa jumped at him. A squabble ensued. The phone fell out of Dare’s hand and clanged with a light tinkle to the tiled floor before splitting open and vomiting its battery and SIM card. The struggle between both men did not last long. Small-bodied Dare was no match for Musa, never had been. In a brief while, Musa had his diminutive fried pinned beneath him in a stranglehold.

“What are you up to? What do you want with my hard drive?” he interrogated him in a whisper, not wanting to wake up Safiyah and the kids.

“Up to what? I heard a rat moving about your bag and was searching for it,” Dare lied, his voice muffled by Musa’s grip. But Musa was having none of those lies.

“I saw you very clearly. I saw you search through my laptop bag, bring out my hard disk and hide it under that sofa. I repeat, what are you up to? Tell me now, or I will kill you. I don’t care if you are my friend, because you clearly mean me harm with your actions.”

Of course he had no intention of killing him, but he was going to do whatever it took to ensure he spilled the beans on what his motive was for this shady act. He tightened his hold till Dare’s hands flailed erratically, then released it just enough for him to squeak out some sounds.

“They asked me to do it,” Dare confessed.

“Who asked you to do it.”

“The same people that sent those guys to you this morning… I guess. I don’t know how they found me or knew you were with me. Maybe they traced the call you had made to me earlier. They said if I can get my hands on the hard drive and send it to them, they will let you live. They will stop hunting you. I did it to save your life, I swear.”

“Indeed! What were they going to give you? Tell me the whole truth,” Musa scoffed.

“They were also going to give me five million naira. But I didn’t do it because of the money, Ore, even though God knows I need it. I did it because I FELT it would get them off your back once and for all.”

Musa was weak. Five million naira? His good old friend was going to sell him out because of five million naira?

He released Dare and pushed him away from him contemptuously, then he set about searching for the phone that had dropped earlier. He found it and the battery but not the SIM card. He fixed the battery back in and switched on the phone, then when the light came on, he used it to retrieve his hard drive from underneath the sofa.

“Tomorrow morning, my family and I will leave your house and you will never hear from me again.”

As early as 6.30am the next morning as he had promised, Musa packed his bags and left Dare’s humble home with his family.

He had not been able to sleep a wink the whole of the night and had kept watch on Dare even when the betrayer snoozed off, not sure if the man that had tried to steal his hard drive and sell to his persecutors would not still do something to harm him before morning. He also kept wondering what those people could not do to ensure they silenced him forever. To have gone as far as reach out to Dare and try to get him to snitch on him, to have even been able to do it, showed how ruthless and formidable they were. How indeed had they managed to trace his call? Did they have people in telecoms working for them too? More importantly, who exactly was he up against? Was it the politician or his bank or a combination of both? If they had been able to find out he was with Dare so easily, there was no doubt that they knew the location of his house and might be on their way to do what they had asked Dare to do themselves, and even more. He had to get away as fast as possible.

As they walked away from Dare’s house, trying to locate a bus stop or at least a taxi, Musa could hear Safiyah’s unasked questions in the worried looks she kept shooting at him. He knew she did not know the details of what the issue was between Dare and him but knew something was not right. Yet, she asked no questions, trusting that at the right time, he would open up to her fully on everything.

It proved to be a long walk, so much so that Musa had to carry their son and luggage while Safiyah carried their daughter, because the kids were tired. They finally found a taxi. That was lucky for who knew how further ahead the bus stop was? Musa told the driver to take them to a good hotel on the mainland, negotiated the fare and they were soon on their way. He had chosen the mainland because he wanted to be as far as possible from the Island and Dare in case the people after him tried to trace his whereabouts.

Once they were settled in the hotel room, Musa told Safiyah he needed to go in search of an apartment as they could not stay in a hotel for long.

“Apartment?” she questioned. “Does that mean we are not going back to Kaduna?”

“No, we are not any time soon. We need to start a new life in Lagos now.

“But…”

“Don’t worry, Safiyah, I will explain everything to you soon.”

And he had hurried off into the streets of Lagos. He was able to locate a couple of estate agents and checked out a couple of apartments but did not find anything that fitted into what he had in mind. He then went to a cyber café to search online and contacted a few more estate agents and set up appointments with them. Then he searched for jobs and sent his CV off to a couple of companies that had put out relevant vacancies. By the time he was through, it was 2pm. He headed back to the hotel.

Right from the moment he entered the reception and was told he could pick up his key at the counter, he knew something was wrong.

“My key? But my family are in the room, so the room key can’t be here,” he told them.

“Madam has gone out with the kids. She dropped the key on her way out,” he was informed.

Safiyah had not told him she would be going anywhere, in fact she knew nowhere in Lagos, so where could she have gone off to?

With a growing sense of foreboding, he collected the key and strode as fast as he could without running up the hotel stairs to the room. He opened the door and met an empty room. Safiyah and the kids were gone and so were their luggage. His spare shirt that had been in it had been left on the bed for him.

Face contorted with panic and confusion, he rushed down back to the hotel reception.

“But where did my wife say she was going?”

“She did not tell us sir, just asked that we help her call a taxi, which we did. Maybe you should call her sir.”
But he had no means to, having broken his SIM card last night after the episode with Dare, to prevent anymore tracing of his calls. “Can I use your desk phone?”

“Yes you can, sir, but at extra charges…”

He did not wait for the receptionist to complete the sentence before picking up the phone receiver and dialing Safiyah’s number. It took him re-dialing 3 times before she finally picked.

“Safiyah! Where are you and the children? Where have you people gone to?”

Silence met his frenzied query.

“Safiyah!”

“We are on our way to the airport. I don’t care how much I have to pay for flight tickets but my children and I leaving you and all this madness today.”

“What do you mean?”

“I gave them the hard drive. You haven’t noticed it is gone yet? Dare called me this afternoon and told me everything… that these people are very dangerous and the only way they can stop hunting you is if they get the hard drive. He came over to pick it up for them and they sent five million naira into my account in return. But I didn’t do it for the money, they said that is the only way my family can be safe. I don’t believe them completely though, and that is why I am leaving right away with the kids. We are going back to the States, thank God our visas are still valid and the kids are citizens.”

“What…?” Musa’s brain found it difficult to accept what he was hearing.

“How could you, Musa? How could you endanger our lives like this? You think I am so dumb as not to know what has been going on? I have picked up bits and pieces of your conversations here and there. I know what you have done, the hot mess you have gotten yourself, and also me and the kids, into. Yet I kept quiet. But today when Dare called me I really understood the magnitude and how dire the situation is. And I have to save my children, Musa, they come first. So I have to get them out fast. At first, after I gave them the disk and they paid the money, I was going to wait for you so we can all leave the country together but I saw on the News that you are a wanted man. Do you know that? They have declared you wanted. That was when I realized that you cannot leave Nigeria with us, they will be looking out for you at the airport. So we have to leave without you. Please do not try to stop us if you truly love us. The people looking for you might follow you and harm us too. Please.”

After telling him all these in very rapid Hausa, Safiyah cut off the line.

Musa rushed back up to his hotel room and went straight to his laptop bag, truly the hard drive was gone. He evaluated the situation quickly. His first instinct was to go after Safiyah and the kids, but she was right that would mean endangering their lives. His second instinct was to go after Dare and wring his neck. How dare he still go after his wife and convince her to help him get what he had failed to get? But that would also worsen his situation; he needed to disappear as quickly as possible. Safiyah said they had declared him wanted and they would also know where his location was from Dare by now. His priority now was not getting caught.

He picked up the laptop back, hurriedly settled his hotel bills and rushed off into the busy Lagos streets, a man stripped of all he had, confused and at a loss on what to do next. He had lost his security, stability and now his wife and kids? He would never be able to see them until he cleared his name and become a free man again.

There was only one thing left to do. They felt they had rid him of all evidences to protect himself, leaving him bare to the unjust hands of the law? But he still had an ace up his sleeves.
He took a cab back to the cyber café he had been at earlier and connected his laptop to the Wi-Fi. After the incident with Dare last night he had backed up the contents of the hard drive on his laptop, knowing that that hard drive could go missing at any moment now that there were people desperately trying to get their hands on it. And he had been right, only he hadn’t expected it to come from Safiyah.

Even if he could not defend himself in court, he would defend himself in the cyberspace. He would send the information he had, the truth about the false data surrounding the hundred plus false accounts that shrouded the politician’s embezzled funds, the fake addresses, phone numbers, passport photographs and fingerprints to as many newspapers and bloggers as he could. They would be his voice while he remains in hiding till his name is cleared.

He typed out his message, signed it ‘Embattled Whistleblower’ and attached the evidence to it, then sent to all the online newspapers and news bloggers he could think of.

Afterwards, he exited the cyber café and disappeared into the crowded streets of Lagos, not sure of what to do with himself next, but hopeful that his name would be cleared and his life would be returned to the state it had been before he decided to become a whistleblower.

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