Confusion as Hunter sites Lucy in militants’ camp

Confusion as Hunter sites Lucy in militants’ camp

For the next three days, a service team of young men appeared at Hunter’s tent to give him his breakfast and dinner on a tray with timely precision and in silence . Breakfast was oats and milk or tea and dinner was rice and stew all the time. In a small partitioned corner at the back of the tent, there was a bathroom of sorts – a small toilet and a wash basin.

Hunter never bothered about the quality of the food . He was more interested in his hosts. Hunter felt they were the youngest and the least-experienced of the militants, which was why they were tasked with such minor-league assignments. They had to pay their dues and earn their stripes before being assigned more vital missions. They had obviously been given very strict orders and they were not willing to veer from them in the slightest.


During one of these deliveries Hunter tried to engage the young man who’d brought his dinner in minimal conversation.

“Good afternoon, sir ,” he said as the man stepped inside his tent.


The words seemed to startle the young man. His eyes connected with Hunter’s for a split second before he quickly darted them away.

“Are you new to the Movement?” Hunter asked in a friendly tone. “Is your family here as well?”

The young man worked hard to maintain his professional composure and stay focused on the chore that he was assigned to do. He turned his back toward Hunter as he set down the tray with the food and then bolted out of the tent.


“It was very nice chatting with you,” Hunter called as he sat alone.

Later that evening, a more mature soldier appeared at Hunter’s tent.

“Good evening, sir,” Hunter said to him, hoping this attempt at conversation might be more successful than the previous one.

It wasn’t.


The militant merely held open the flap of the tent and motioned for Hunter to come outside.

Hunter suddenly felt a sense of purpose. He was not afraid. He assumed that if the militants had wanted to kill him, they would have done so by now. He hoped he was finally going to speak to a high-ranking representative of the DNDR. He followed the man outside and found two other men waiting for him.

The three of them guided Hunter to the creek, leaving him feeling more confused. Two of the men disrobed and jumped into the creek to bathe. The third motioned for Hunter to join them.

Not a single word was spoken.


Hunter was disappointed that his first exit from his tent in forty-eight hours did not involve anything more than a splash in the water, but he had to admit, he was due for a nice clean-up. He enjoyed feeling the thick layer of sweat stripped from his body and the cool water cleansing his pores.

On the morning of the third day, Hunter was surprised to see that his breakfast—an appetising display of scrambled eggs and tea—was not delivered by one of the fresh-faced teenage boys, but instead by an attractive young woman. She did not look directly toward him, but the profile of her face and the outline of her body made his heart skip a beat. The bath in the creek the night before had soothed his muscles, his injuries were well on their way to being healed and he had enjoyed a very sound sleep. He blinked a few times to clear his vision as well as his mind. He watched the young woman closely, and suddenly his thoughts came into focus.


The woman darted out of the tent before he could blurt out the entire name. Lucy! Had it actually been her? If so, why didn’t she speak to him? If she had been specifically instructed not to speak to him, why hadn’t she given him some kind of sign—a nod or gesture—to let him know she recognized him? What was she doing among the militants anyway? This did not seem like something she would choose to do.


Perhaps the woman had not been Lucy after all. Perhaps Hunter had misidentified her in his sleepy state. He wanted to find out for certain, but he wasn’t sure how to do it. If she did not return to his tent, he would not be given a chance to search her out. Even if he was allowed to walk about the area, it would be nearly impossible for him to locate her in the well-guarded camp.

As Hunter ate his breakfast, the tent flap flipped open and a tall young man stepped inside. He was quite athletic-looking, in his late twenties, with rippling muscles that were well-defined by his tight red T-shirt. He kicked up some dust with his combat boots as he scuffed the ground. His eyes were small, almost like slits. Hunter couldn’t be sure if they were always that way or if they were narrowed to affect a stern look.

“John Hunter?,” he said.

Hunter nodded.

“What are you investigating?”

Hunter drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I have come to interview members of the DNDR,” he said in a professional tone. “I have yet to be given that opportunity. Have you kept me here simply to break my spirit?”

The young man’s tone softened. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. “I was out of town and my boss wanted me to speak to you directly. We can talk now.”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a thumb-sized recording device and handed it to Hunter. “This is yours,” he said.

He then raised his hand and snapped his fingers loudly. On cue, a heavily armed man who appeared to be even twice the size of the DNDR representative rushed into the tent carrying a plastic chair. He carefully positioned it so the man in the red T-shirt could sit opposite Hunter and then quickly disappeared.

Hunter pushed his tray aside. He checked to see that the recording device was on. “You know my name,” he said. “May I please know yours? Who is your boss?”

The young man was deliberately evasive. “We are all DNDR,” he said. “The organisation is run using a collegiate system. I am the leader of this particular group.”

“Okay,” Hunter said, “Who, exactly, are you fighting?”

A small smile crossed the man’s face, yet his tone remained serious. “That’s a good question, sir ,” he said. “They are many entities that have exploited our land and our people. This includes all levels of government—federal, state, local— as well as the oil companies, whose footprints are synonymous with environmental degradation; our political leaders, who lie for our votes and then conspire with the oil magnates; and even some of our traditional rulers, who have succumbed to threats and bribery.”

Hunter nodded. “Now tell me this. Who exactly is ‘us’?”

The leader folded his arms across his chest and jutted out his jaw. “The common people of the Niger Delta,” he said. “They are the people from whom we have emerged.”

Hunter had no desire to be confrontational, but he was willing to press some points . “With all due respect, sir,” he said, “you don’t strike me as a commoner.”

The leader lowered his hands and drew in a deep breath, as if he had been expecting that particular response. “Everything I have is part of the struggle,” he said. “All levels of intelligence are necessary. The struggle cannot be left to those who are too poor, weak, or illiterate to fight. Those deficiencies allowed the culprits to take advantage of them in the first place. The people involved in the struggle need strength and intelligence to put up a fight and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. For example, we must use cyberspace to match the oppressors in modern communication.”

The young man knew his business. “Who writes those beautiful press releases?” Hunter asked . “The prose is quite assertive and engaging.”

The man’s face became more businesslike. “We work as a team.”

Hunter nodded again. He was hoping he’d get to meet more members of this team, but he was happy to take what he could get at the moment.

The leader leaned back in his chair and stretched his long legs out before him. “I realize you are an experienced journalist,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to waste time jawing about issues that are already in the public domain or posted directly on our website. At this point, I’m sure you understand the main reasons why we are involved in this struggle.”

“I appreciate your kind words,” Hunter said.

“Good,” the leader said. “We have some issues we wish you to investigate to further convince yourself about the struggle.”

Hunter sat forward and looked down at the recorder in his hand. He hoped it was picking up every word.

“Number one,” the leader began, “when God put the Arab on the hot, sandy desert, He gave him crude oil.”

Hunter didn’t understand the connection, but he remained attentive, curious as to where this train of thought would lead.

“There is a reason God gave the Niger Delta crude oil and gas,” the leader said. “Look at how oil has improved living conditions for the Arabs. They live in some of the richest countries in the world—and they are in control of their own destiny. But what has it done for us? All we have is environmental degradation, poverty, violence, and death. Yet the agitation of my people makes the rest of the nation jittery. You have noticed that, haven’t you, Mr Hunter ?”

“I have indeed, sir,” Hunter said.

“The entire economy is dependent on oil,” he said. “At the end of the month, all the states queue up for their share of the oil revenue, and yet we never seem to see a penny. They don’t care about us. They take what our land and people have to offer and use it to line their own pockets. Then when we complain, people in other states shout at us. They are incensed by our determination to receive our fair share. They cannot believe we would question the tactics of the government and the international businessmen.”

He shook his head in disgust. “Perhaps many do not understand. They think we are doing well and that we are simply being greedy. They accuse us of trying to hold the rest of the country hostage. It doesn’t have to be this way, Mr Hunter. There is plenty of revenue to go around. Everyone should be able to live well.”

Hunter nodded. There was plenty of revenue to be made from the oil—and everyone could profit. Greed is an amazing thing. It has the power to make the world’s smartest men behave like insolent fools.

“Oil money has done so much to develop Abuja and other cities,” the leader continued . “Why has that money not been used in the Niger Delta? Why on earth is a country’s military using guns against its own nationals?”

Hunter watched the man’s eyes. He was clearly full of anger, yet there was a sense that at any moment, he might burst into tears.

“I’ll tell you why, Mr Hunter ,” he said. “They will do whatever it takes to keep us quiet—even raping and killing us—so they can rob Peter to pay Paul.”

The leader wiped his arm across his face. Hunter couldn’t be sure if he was wiping away the sweat on his brow or the tears from his eyes. Probably both. Then again, it didn’t matter.

“Number two,” the man said with a new sense of purpose, “why would the government unleash soldiers on us in the name of a Task Force?”

He stared at Hunter as if he could offer the definitive answer.

“You should acquire the names of some of the soldiers they have recruited,” the leader said. “I’m sure you will discover their deep involvement in crude oil theft, which is the very crime of which we are so often accused. If they say they don’t see the big barges stealing crude oil in the creeks, it’s only because they are the ones driving them.”

Hunter bit his lip. This kind of hypocrisy was typical in law enforcement all over the world. The people who were supposed to prevent certain crimes actually committed them following the logic that committing the crimes themselves helped them prevent criminals from breaking the law. Hunter had heard these explanations given in every country in every conceivable language. He didn’t know how law-enforcement agents could say such things with straight faces. He wondered if these criminals in law enforcement had repeated the refrain so many times that they actually managed to convince themselves that their arguments had merit.

“Number three,” the leader said, “look at the people who are actually benefiting from this crisis. The oil companies are constantly complaining, but because of the high oil prices partly caused by the struggle, companies have raked in historic profits. Look into the conditions under which their expatriates are kept in Nigeria during this crisis.”

At that point, Hunter couldn’t stop himself from cutting in. “Kidnapping has also become a money spinner, has it not?”

The leader paused, wary of the accusation, but willing to confront it. “Yes,” he said, “many people are diluting the struggle for money.” He then stuck out his chin and regained his composure. “Even so, our fundamental objectives have been made clear to everybody who is willing to listen constructively. So, let us continue the count.”

Hunter was not interested in going off on tangents. He could have argued the validity of illicit sources of income, but he was more interested in hearing what the leader had to say about every aspect of the struggle.

“Number four,” the leader said, “you must investigate the oil companies carefully. In addition to the harm they cause with these dismal handouts that they call ‘community projects,’ their operation is specially structured to favour the whites. When an expat comes in, he is given residence in the best part of town. He also receives a brand new car, a personal driver, and an enormous salary that allows him to bank enough savings to last for years. Most of these men leave our country so rich they buy houses—usually more than one—in the most affluent and prestigious areas of Europe and North America. I am also told that those who return only a few years later enjoy multiple promotions, and they are placed so high on the corporate ladder that they return to boss the Nigerians who once served as their bosses when they first entered the company.”

He flashed a smile, not a happy one, but one that suggested a twisted sense of admiration. As much as he detested the tactics of his enemies, he couldn’t help but envy their audacity. Hunter understood the feeling. He, too, had often felt a bizarre fascination with people who lacked conscience. They always had a way of justifying their behaviour without a second thought. Hunter assumed they never lost sleep over anything.

“They are so smart,” the leader said. “They know how to promote black-on-black crisis among the Nigerians. The Nigerians destroy each other and have no time to challenge their white masters. Divide and rule. It is an age-long strategy, but these white oil guys execute it with skill and mastery. If all of the Nigerians involved would just take one step back and watch them operate, they would see how they are being played for fools.”

Hunter understood.

“Number five,” the leader went on, “there is an oil terminal around here they call Terminal Ace. You should investigate the massive corruption going on there with the involvement of a large party, including some Koreans, Mr Hunter . Even you will be shocked.”

Hunter had heard of Terminal Ace, but he had yet to research the business of the facility in depth.

“Number six,” the leader quickly added, “you should try to track the oil revenue for a particular year and see how the government spend it. The money never manages to arrive at its announced destination.”

This was hardly a surprise to Hunter . Lying about budgets and skimming profits was an international practice. Money is like food. It could sustain people and provide good health, but if not protected, it attracts vermin.

The leader sat up straight and again snapped his fingers. An aide rushed into the tent carrying two bottles of Coke. The leader smiled as he accepted one and offered the other to Hunter , who was grateful for a cold drink.

The leader took a long gulp from his bottle and set it aside. “Now,” he said, “I assume you have questions, Mr Hunter.”

“Indeed, I do.”

“You may begin.”

“If you don’t mind, I would like to revisit my first question,” he said. “What is your name?”

The leader smiled. “Boyd,” he said. “That is what they call me here.”

“Don’t you think the people of the Niger Delta share in the blame for the current situation?” asked Hunter. . “I ask this because much of the arms and militancy is traced to the political crisis in Warri South-West, where rival gangs fought over the location of local council headquarters.” Boyd shook his head.

“Our elders didn’t know their rights,” he said. “They were taken advantage of and misled. They saw the handouts of community development and cash gifts from oil companies as favours. They were also naïve. They expected our political leaders to work in their best interest. The truth is that our politicians are no different from the corrupt leaders throughout the country and the rest of the world. They are greedy and selfish.”

“I guess my observation about the Warri crisis is correct? Hunter asked. “Now, you are fighting for the release of a man who was arrested on the allegations of corruption. There are special agencies for the development of this area, and your states are given a special fund for development. So why don’t you hold your leaders responsible?”

Boyd held his ground. “There were some very suspicious circumstances surrounding this politician’s arrest,” he said. “Until he is found guilty, he is innocent. And you talk about money; government gives government money, where is it supposed to go?”

“I am sorry, that is not convincing,” Hunter said. “What are you doing about your non-performing governors, who have nothing to show for the huge money allocated to the states from the Federation Account?”

Boyd smiled. “See, there was a long reign of the military, then democracy dawned and everybody was in a hurry. There wasn’t much time, or do I say the system was not matured yet to produce the best leaders. But I can assure you we will deal with the situation in good time by ourselves.”

Hunter nodded and shelved the next question.

“I have travelled a great deal, and I attended university,” Boyd said.

“So, how did your life come to this?”

Boyd took another swig from his Coke bottle. “Before now, I lived in the city,” he said. “When I saw the government’s marginalisation of the people of the Niger Delta, I could not look away and do nothing. When people are pushed up against a wall, they have no option but to fight back or perish. Our people are suffering, which is why I joined the struggle.

“We are fighting against the government. I am not a criminal. I have never lived outside the law of the land, yet people tag our movement as a collection of thugs and thieves. I have done my oil business peacefully. You see, Mr Hunter , when Hausa or Yoruba people lift oil from the Niger Delta, they call it business, but when the Niger Delta people lift oil from their own land, they call it illegal bunkering. Bunkering, sir. They actually made up a word for it so they could insist that it was illegal. They seized people’s vessels, frustrated them, threatened them, and pushed them to the breaking point. The best way to stop the government from lifting the oil is for us to lift it ourselves.”

Hunter noted that the warped justification logic went both ways. “Are you saying that you joined the struggle because you were prohibited from stealing crude oil?”

“That is a weak question,” Boyd snapped. . “Asking it makes you look stupid.”

Hunter admired Boyd’s ability to manipulate the conversation. “You have not answered my question, sir .”

“I joined the struggle to stop the marginalisation of our people,” Boyd said again. “You must notice the grinding poverty in which our people live. Now cross the creek into the residential areas, where the oil companies house their workers, and it looks like paradise. Our people play host to these expats, and yet we live in abject poverty with no healthy drinking water, no electricity, and no basic amenities. The deprivation goes way beyond the haves and the have-nots. It makes our girls sell their bodies to the staff members of the oil companies so they can make enough money to cater for themselves and their families.” He paused to swallow.

“Can you imagine that kind of thing, Mr Hunter ? That is outright slavery. There is no way one can condone it. We must fight back. I believe we must fight for our freedom and be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. Bloodshed is not a choice—it is a necessity. I do not believe what we are doing is bad. Even the first President of the United States said that rebellion against tyranny is obedience to God.”

Hunter sensed the young man’s altruistic passion, but he was concerned about his thirst for violence.

“We hear that some of your people are being bribed out of the struggle,” the journalist said. “Money is being piped in from governments, oil companies, and other wealthy parties with stakeholder interest.”

Boyd let out a deep sigh. “Many odd militant groups have sprung up,” he said. “I do not speak on their behalf. They have their own agenda. I, however, do not believe in dropping arms; no amount of money will buy my principles. The way I see it, they are actually bribing people with their own property because that money is theirs to begin with.”

Hunter was forced to acknowledge Boyd’s logic.

“It’s really quite amazing, Mr Hunter ,” he said. “They are bribing people with property that is already rightfully theirs to convince them to betray their own people—and some people are doing it! If you ask me, that amounts to extortion. We cannot sit still and watch people be manipulated in this manner. The gods of the land must surely fight back and see that the true criminals face deserved consequences.” He took another sip from his Coke bottle. “I hate government,” he said in a disgusted tone. “No one involved in politics in our part of the world has ever been honest or straightforward. They are merely criminals, fraudulent people; they dress up nice and say all the right things to get people to vote for them, but they only possess one interest and that is to make money.”

Hunter sat back and scratched his temple. “So, you don’t give peace a chance?” he asked.

Boyd adjusted his position in his chair. “As a matter of fact, our boss asked us to lay down arms for a while to see what the government will do. Its tenure is ending, so it might have good reason to negotiate with us. It doesn’t matter, though. This is a fraudulent government. The concept of peace, at least the way the Nigerian government sees it, is nothing more than a delay tactic to buy some extra time. Then they will attack us, of this I am sure. As an individual, I understand their logic, so while they are buying time, I am preparing for a major battle. We only carry out minor attacks now to show we are still a force to be feared.”

Hunter understood Boyd’s distrust, but his preparation for war made him nervous. Surely, Boyd was not the only one getting ready for battle. People in the government were probably preparing as well. This moment of peace could turn out to be the calm before the storm.

Hunter decided to continue his questioning. “Who is Klen Uka, the evasive man who is reported to be your leader?” he asked.

“Find out,” Boyd replied blankly.

“When can I leave this camp?”

“My boss will decide.”

“Is Klen your boss? I thought you said that in the collegiate system, you are the boss here.”

“My boss will decide.”

This wasn’t getting anywhere, so Hunter changed his approach. “You people are very audacious,” he said. “You don’t merely threaten attacks. You always carry them out.”

A sly smile took over Boyd’s face. “We are efficient,” he said. “We have announced an attack on Gippy oil facility—and I assure you, Mr Hunter , it is a small operation but it will happen…soon.”

“That is one thing they tell me in the oil industry. When you serve notice of an attack, it never fails,” Hunter said in an attempt to hold Boyd for a few more questions.

“Yea!” he agreed. .

“Now, tell me, Boyd, are you one of the Commanders of the DNDR?”

“We don’t discuss our leaders,” he said.

“You worked closely with Asari before they took him away.”

“I like that term, ‘they took him away’. That fearless warrior and strategist.”

“You were proud to be one of his lieutenants…”

“Yea,” he said. “But I didn’t work directly under him.”

“We hear that this is how DNDR was formed.”

“You tell me,” he said.

“The Cawthorne Channel attack by the Immortals was so successful it demonstrated that all activities be co-ordinated for greater impact.”

“Yes,” Boyd said.

“At a meeting of all the groups at Okerenkoko, a plan was hatched to press for the release of Asari. Cynthia Whyte was there. And a name was chosen for the coalition. Responsibility for coordination and integrity was given to one man.”

“I give you a ‘B’ for that attempt.”

“I also know that you are your own boss, one of the Commanders.”

“Hunteer! ” he said. “I have told you we don’t discuss bosses. Even your release is not one man’s decision.”

“Huh! ” Hunter said, disappointed.

“Yes!” He rose to leave the tent. He didn’t look back.

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