Archive for aba

Chapter 18: Deliverance

Posted in Extracts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 14/12/2008 by Kenneth C. Ryeland


Author (third right) Kaduna Rugby Club, 1970

Extract from The Up-Country Man

[…]The roadblock into Aba was very badly situated immediately after a sharp bend in the road. The curve was so tight that when all our vehicles had finally halted, those of us who were at the front could not see the cars at the end of the convoy. I had to alight from my vehicle and cross to the right hand side of the road before it was possible to see the DHC’s car at the head of the convoy. I was soon joined by many of the people from the vehicles in the immediate vicinity of my Land-Rover, most of whom stood silently watching as the DHC negotiated with some incredibly scruffy-looking volunteers at the barrier.
Without warning, several of the CDVs broke away from the general confusion of the main group and headed in our direction. As they approached, I noted with some dismay that they were armed with shotguns, home-made rifles and hunting guns. As they trudged up the slight incline the armed group began to shout and scream at the people who were still sitting in their cars, ordering them to get out and stand at the side of the road with their hands up.
My words were whispered to myself.
“Bloody hell, what are these bastards up to now?”
It was not really necessary to ask myself the question. The answer was obvious as far as I was concerned. They were probably going to rob us of our personal possessions, steal the cars and leave us stranded with no possible way of reaching Port Harcourt.
The CDVs moved from car to car and screamed abuse at those who were slow to react to their orders. As they came closer, it became clear that they had been sleeping rough for some considerable time. Their clothes were dishevelled, they were dirty, and their hair was matted and covered in laterite dust. Most disturbing of all was the glazed look and the excessively bloodshot eyes, a sure sign that they were all drunk, or drugged, or both. As the men continued to stagger towards us shouting and bellowing at everyone in sight, they carried their weapons at the port ready for instant use. I decided not to play games with these people. They would certainly be dangerous if provoked.
“Hand up, white man. Hand up. Hand up.” They were screaming at everyone, even those of us who had anticipated their requirements and obliged by raising our hands above our heads. Every twenty yards or so, one of the vigilantes would drop out of the group to guard that particular section of the convoy. By the time they had finished walking the whole line of vehicles, all our people were standing at the side of the road with their hands in the air.
From where I was standing on the bend in the road, it was possible to see at least four armed vigilantes in front of me and about a dozen of them behind. I could also see that the DHC was deep in conversation with a couple of nasty-looking characters at the roadblock, approximately a hundred yards away. The Rhodesian, who had been two cars behind me and had already joined our little group on the bend, addressed me in a whisper.
“What do you think, Ken? Are these bastards going to shoot us, or what?”
The shock of his words made me turn my head quickly and snap, “Don’t be bloody stupid, with the DHC here? They would not bloody dare. Would they?”
David shook his head and gave me one of his funny looks.
“I know these buggers from old, man,” he said. “If they get something into their bloody thick heads they will do it all right, make no mistake. No matter who is around. Man, they will even kill the DHC if they have a mind to.”
How could I have been so stupid? It had not even occurred to me that they would actually shoot us. The gist of my reply to David indicated that there were too many of us for them to handle all at once, and anyway the DHC was with us. They would not dare harm a representative of the British Government. Furthermore, most of us were British and they would not dare to shoot British people.
Further reasons and excuses for not shooting us rushed through my mind. I was desperately trying to convince myself that all would be well. However, my hopes were dashed when David pointed to where the DHC had been negotiating with the CDVs. He too was now standing up against his car with his hands high in the air. Clearly this was the point at which news commentators would have announced that, “Negotiations had broken down.”
One of the scruffy individuals with whom the DHC had been talking, left the roadblock and was now walking towards our little group with a menacing-looking double-barrelled shot-gun tucked neatly under his arm. He growled orders to our guards as he passed by and from their reaction it was clear that he was the undisputed leader of this gang of thugs. He suddenly began to shout at us in very poor English and pointing to the side of the road where our vehicles were parked.
“All dissy British somebody go for dissy side. All British go, go, go. One-time.”
We British glanced at each other and quickly crossed the road to stand against our vehicles as instructed. Quite naturally, David and all the other non-British stayed put, but this did not please the senior vigilante who must have thought that all white men were British. He began to shout abuse as he waved them all towards us with the business end of his shotgun. Moments later he began pushing David with the stock. David resisted for a moment before turning to speak to him.
“Listen, man, stop pushing. I’m not a Brit, I come from….”
David stopped in mid-sentence, and much to my relief quickly walked across the road to join us.
As he stepped into line beside me I said in a whisper, “Bloody good job you bit your tongue, you twerp. If he thought for one moment that you were from Rhodesia, he would have shot you on the spot.”[…]