The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Senegal Galago - Issue Eleven
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The Senegal Galago, photo from Christian ArtusoThe Senegal Galago, or the lesser bush baby, is a small (130mm and 95-300 grams) nocturnal primate. They are agile leapers, and live in dry woodland regions and savannah regions of Africa south of the Sahara. They have woolly thick fur that ranges from silvery grey to dark brown. They have large eyes, strong hind limbs, and long tails, which help them balance. Their ears are made up of four segments that can bend back individually, to aid their hearing when hunting insects at night. Their omnivorous diet is a mixture of other small animals, including birds and insects, fruit, seeds, flowers, eggs, nuts, and tree gums. They are polygynous, and the females raise their young in nests made from leaves. They have 1-2 babies per litter, with gestation period being 110–120 days. Bush babies are born with half-closed eyes, unable to move about independently. After a few days, the mother carries the infant in her mouth, and leaves it on convenient branches while feeding. At the end of the night, group members use a special rallying call and gather to sleep in a nest made of leaves, in a group of branches, or in a hole in a tree. Their potential predators include mongooses, genets, jackals, domestic cats and dogs, raptors (especially owls), and snakes. In addition, several primates, including humans, Grey-cheeked mangabeys, blue monkeys, and chimpanzees, who have constructed spears, sometimes prey on bushbabies.


Guest of the SSS


Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

"You are not co-operating sir"

"What else do you want me to do, cut out my brain and give to you so that you can confirm that I am saying the truth? I have already told you all that I know."

"We are convinced that you are still withholding very vital information from us"

"You have a right to think what you like but as I have said before, I am not saying one more word until I speak to my lawyer. For Christ's sake, you arrested and kept me here all night. You have denied me all the rights the constitution provides me and you talk about not co-operating, what sort of arrangement is this?"

For close to a minute, his eyes full of fury rested on me. I stared back, partly expecting a slap and partly thinking up my next line of argument. The slap graciously did not come, neither was I able to do any reasonable thinking. We just sat there, savouring as it were, the discomforting silence that had come over the room.

"Be careful about what you say Mr. Diala" He finally broke the silence. "No one has said you are under arrest. We are just having a chat here. Simple."

Those were exactly what the two agents who knocked on my door the night before had said. It was Sunday. I had just returned from Lagos where I had spent the weekend when I heard the knock. I answered the door to find two men who didn't look pleased with the particular errand they were running. One of the two was shivering slightly from the cold. It had been drizzling. The other who was lucky to have brought along a thick coat looked like he could do with some sleep. Whoever they were, it was obvious they had been lurking around all day waiting for me to return. I could tell by the relief on their faces upon seeing me.

"Are you Mr. Chuks Diala?" The shivering one had asked.

"Yes, can I help you?" I replied, sizing up my strange visitors. My senses were on full alert.

"SSS" they both chorused fiddling with their breast pockets to produce their plastic I.D cards. The cards were flashed at my face and withdrawn before I could read a line. I was impressed with their near perfect mimicking of their western contemporaries, who are popular in movies shown on cable television.

"We have been directed to invite you down to our office, Sir." The shivering agent who obviously was the greater talker of the two added quite respectfully.

For a brief moment, my thought rested on the word invite. When did the vocabulary change from arrest to invite? I wondered. I was aware the State Secret Service had been trying to re-orient her agents since the return of democracy to be more civil in their dealings with civilians. I never knew that included attempting to manipulate the English language to suit their purpose. This was clearly an arrest, for the two agents didn't make it sound as if I had an option to accept or reject the invitation. Nonetheless, I decided to drag on a bit. I needed to force a little more information out of them.

"For what by this time?" I asked trying to feign being taken aback and irritated by their unwelcomed invitation.

"Just for a brief chat, it shouldn't take long," the shivering one spoke again.

"Can't it wait until tomorrow morning? I mean, I just returned home, am tired and hungry. I have to prepare for the week. I have …… why don't we leave it for tomorrow, gentlemen?"

"We have orders to escort you safely to our office the very moment you are sighted, Sir." The agent with the thick coat finally spoke. The tone of his statement clearly showed he was fast running out of patience.

"Escort me safely?" I chuckled, "Is my life in danger?"

"That, we cannot determine for now, but we have our orders" It was the shivering guy again. This time he sounded more like the SSS.

I knew that that was the most I could push the discussion. I knew better than to engage two impatient looking agents in an argument. Democracy or no democracy, their actions were unpredictable. So, horridly, I threw back on the shirt I had just taken off over my singlet. I made a quick call to Deji Phillips, my boss at the Daily Star. Then I joined the men. They did not only insist I ride with them in their jeep; they made sure I was safely sandwiched between them at the back seat. I had been arrested so many times, but I have never been a guest of the SSS. I was still wondering what the difference was.

"You called this an invitation which presupposes that I reserved the right to chose to come or not to come and equally to leave when it pleases me to, right?" I asked the detective who was still staring at me like you would at a car that had just splashed a puddle of water on you.

"You owe a duty to this country to tell us all that we need to know."

"You've not answered my question." I said. "If this truly is an invitation as you said, then I can leave when I chose to. I mean, I never heard of a guest who was tied down to an occasion by his host."

Silence followed, during which he must have been reconsidering his approach. I knew I was infuriating him. It was intentional. Experience had taught me that it was the best way of getting them to say what they would rather not say. That could turn out to be my joker. I watched his anger grow and watched him control it. When he spoke again he was calm. Calm but hard.

"Mr. Diala, I alone ask the questions here."

"Not when I am your guest."

"And who told you ….." His voice rose sharply. He got hold of his temper. Getting up, he ran his right palm through his rough hair, and sat back. "You owe this country a duty to tell us what we need to know." He returned to his old, obviously well-rehearsed lines.

"And this country likewise owes me a duty of protecting my rights. I reserve the right to speak or not and to walk right out if indeed you say I am not under arrest."

"I am afraid you will not leave until …."

"I beg your pardon."

"You are in possession of some information that is vital to the security of this nation and this visit shall not end until you have furnished us with all of that information."

"I want to speak to my lawyer."

The detective whose name tag read A.B Mustapha looked on at me for some time again before speaking. The frustration creeping into his large ugly face was now visible. He too, much like the two who had escorted me to the undisclosed interrogation house didn't seem to be enjoying his job, at least not at the moment. The mean look on his face could easily give him away as the commander of a terrorist cell somewhere deep in the Middle East. He was clearly a chip of the old bloc, one of the remnants of the old era who were now grappling with the troubles of operating in a democracy. The military reign had been seemingly endless. In those days, I wouldn't have been making the clearly inordinate - by Nigerian standards - demands for a lawyer.

I took a good look at his face, like a landlord would an offending tenant, daring him. His lips were a deeper shade of black, a testimony to the countless cigarettes they must have liberated all these years. When he spoke, the stench of dry gin filled the air. It was 6.00 am and this guy had already had one or two shots - wow, I wondered. Probably he needed it to help him keep awake doing this very boring job. Beyond those bloodshot eyes lay so much hate and misery and the more he had his eyes on me, the more I began to feel less of resentment and more of pity for him.

"You obviously do not appreciate the fact that I am doing my best to treat you like a gentleman. I am at liberty to employ whatever means I chose to get out the information I want, like we do to any other stubborn criminal."

The threat was well delivered. I understood what the statement meant. Whipping on bare back. Hanging from the ceiling until you almost lose the use of both hands. Sticking a broomstick up your genitals…. name it. The S.S.S. could do anything to a human being in their desperation to make up for their inadequacies in intelligence gathering. But if that threat was meant to get me scared, then clearly A.B Mustapha wasn't very familiar with me. For someone who had endured five whole days in death row during the reign of the popular dark goggled C-in-C, it was stupid using such petty threats and hoping I would bulge.

"Thank you for your kindness agent …."

"The name is A.B Mustapha."

"Of course, agent Mustapha," I continued, a smile playing on my lips. "I was saying, thank you for your kindness. Its good to know the SSS has some sane men left. But if you however decide to do otherwise as you just threatened, well, I don't need to remind you that I know my rights and that this is a democracy. Before you also go using me to rehearse your torture tactics, you might as well be gracious enough to mention to me the criminal offence I have committed."

"You are withholding information that is crucial to the arrest of an enemy of the State. You should be aware that it is a grave offence against the laws of the Federal Republic. It is treason. That is what it is, treason. We are also aware of your plans to use the students to create an atmosphere that would allow your friends in the army to stage a coup."

Was I hearing well? Was I just being accused of coup plotting? The agent had just upped his stake. I knew those interrogation tactics. I had read about them in a book. The old Roman authorities employed it in coaxing confessions from criminals they suspected were lying. The idea was to attack on two fronts; assert something you want confessed, and then allege something far graver. The trick here was to present the criminal with two options; the truth and the other. Any reasonable person chose the lesser of the two evils.

"Did you just accuse me of coup plotting?" I sounded irritated.

"Intelligence information at our disposal shows that you are working in concert with some unidentified persons to cause chaos in the polity. I need not remind you how serious this is. You are dancing to the rhythm of a drum being beaten by anti-democracy forces. You still have a chance to save yourself."

The bait was well thrown, but I wasn't biting.

"I want to believe I know what the law says about these accusations." I sounded calm, not perturbed by the coup allegation. I needed to deflate him

"Mr. Diala, Coup plotting is a criminal offence. That's the law."

"And that same law says it is illegal for you to deny me my fundamental rights to freedom, communication and an attorney." I tried not to shout, not wanting to push my luck too far. I needed to buy more time. I hoped Deji Phillips would be able to locate where I was being held and make the necessary moves to get me out. The years of battle with various occupationist military governments had helped us make some very good friends right inside the Secret Service. In this business, you needed the help of the enemy to defeat him.

A.B Mustapha hesitated, cocking his head at an angle as though in deep thought. I felt he must then be considering the torture option. My heart skipped a beat. He got up, walked to the window and raised the blinds to let in the rays of the morning sun which instantly lit up the room. I was momentarily blind. Satisfied with his job, he resumed his seat and the interrogation continued, his next line of questioning well thought out.

"May I remind you sir, that the very moment the Federal Government disbanded NAS, it became illegal and a criminal offence for any one, under whatever guise to associate with them individually or as a body."

I noticed he was still addressing me as 'sir'. I wondered if it was out of respect or simply a conscious effort on his part to continue to make this sound like a discussion, not an interrogation. Something else, he seemed to have dropped the coup approach.

"What has that got to do with me?" I asked, though the answer was obvious.

"Mr. Diala, you were in close contact with comrade Seun Dada who has been declared wanted by the Government within the last 48 hours. Close enough for him to have granted you this interview." He pulled out a copy of the Daily Star from a file on the table and threw it across to me. The paper had the picture of the President of the National Association of Student NAS on its cover. It was my story - an exclusive - the type any journalist would be proud of. As I looked at the paper, I indeed felt some pride build up in me.

"We believe you can give us a clue as to where he is right now or how to trace him. We also have reasons to believe that he might have divulged much more information than you were generous enough to publish there and we need this information. Look …" he was now almost whispering "…You can even have prize money for helping us, why are you just making things difficult?"

I recalled, the Government had announced a five hundred thousand Naira ransom on Comrade Peters to be given to anybody who could provide relevant information that could lead to his arrest. The day I heard that announcement, I had imagined what good that amount of money could do for Nigerians, many of whom went to bed on an empty stomach.

"Like I told you earlier, it would be against professional ethics and best practice. I have a duty to protect my source and his confidentiality and this includes his whereabouts. In any case officer, I maintain that I simply do not know where the NAS President is right now."

"Don't bother about where he is right now. All I need to know is where and when that interview took place"

"I don't think I am in a position to supply such information" I made it sound like I knew. Indeed I couldn't really boast about knowing where the interview held. After weeks of efforts to reach the NAS President, an anonymous caller one afternoon had simply directed me to board a taxi to Ring Road Intersection. That was the much I knew. After standing there at the east end of the intersection as I had been directed for over ten minutes during which I almost changed my mind about the whole idea, a fellow who given the pile of newspapers he was carrying was supposed to be a vendor approached me. He identified himself simply as Samuel and led me to board a yellow cab that I had earlier mistaken to be spoilt and abandoned. Still part of an elaborate security arrangement to prevent them from being liquidated by the rampaging security agencies of government, the student had proceeded to drive me round and round Lagos Island before stopping under the cover of darkness at an obscure one room apartment. The room turned out to be the temporary NAS National Secretariat. At that time, I couldn't honestly tell if I was still on the island or somewhere in Ogun State. After the interview, which lasted just over an hour, I had been whisked away in like manner and dropped off where I could trace my way home.

"You are wasting my time, Mr. Diala and I am fast losing patience."

"I wonder who should be losing patience here," I tried to sound sarcastic, even amused.

"I am a man running against time. Those boys issued a two day ultimatum and before we knew what was happening; they had almost set this country on fire. While we were still trying to figure out what exactly happened, they come up with this exclusive interview as if to tell us to our very faces that they are invincible. This nonsense has lasted too long and I think it was about time it ended and that is why you need to co-operate. No one can predict what they would come up with next and with every passing second, they are perfecting their plans."

I needed no better admittance of desperation, fear and failure. Now, I felt genuinely sorry for him. He sounded more desperate to keep his job. The Presidency had been breathing down the neck of all security agencies since NAS declared war. Just the other day, the Inspector General of Police was suspended. A.B Mustapha needed answers, his superior officers were waiting. But I didn't have the answers, nor would I have helped him if I did. It felt good to see an S.S.S agent in such a pitiable state. Usually it was the other way round. So I decided to enjoy every moment of this extreme privilege by getting my interrogator infuriated and steering our discussion far away once more from the whereabouts of the NAS President. I sat up and in a tone which suggested some kind of seriousness, I asked him if he had seen the movie "Some Time In April."

A.B Mustapha froze, then shook his head in the negative.

"Oh, I was just wondering. There is this striking resemblance between you and the leader of the Hutu machete wielding forces. Just wondering," I ended with a chuckle.

A.B Mustapha flared up, his facial muscles contracting, his breath coming in pronounced heaves.

"Is that supposed to be a joke?"

"Whatever you make of it. I just made an observation."

"You think I am here for a joke?"

"Well, I don't seem to know what else we are here for. I have exhausted all that I know and you still wouldn't let this visit end. You've accused me of everything, from treason to coup plotting and now you are begging me to tell you about the NAS president. I guess it is now all a joke. I mean doesn't a guest get the chance to joke with their hosts?"

"Now, I see that my decision to handle this matter rationally has been mistaken for cowardice …." I was glad he admitted that much of what they do was irrational. "You seem not to understand the gravity of the situation. So many of my colleagues and superior officers would not handle it this way at all. So many people are eager to see you go to jail . . ."

He goofed. The joke had paid off. I now knew this was more than just my having conducted an exclusive interview with comrade Peters, No! it was part of a larger conspiracy, to put me away for good. Mr. President's loathing for journalists and dogs was celebrated and I knew I had become quite a pain in the ass. I wasn't surprised. I had been expecting this, but I could have never imagined that it would come this way.

"…..You've made many people angry with your articles. You've caused the government untold embarrassment. You have made it your hobby to sit before foreign media and insult the leaders of this country and now you are openly fraternizing with this bunch of trouble makers. You are …." He stammered, then continued, "….You are obstructing justice. Withholding vital information. Aiding the criminal activities of an outlawed organization and now insulting an officer. These are enough reasons for you to go to jail."

"Then go ahead and charge me, why keep me here going round and round this issue. I now know that it is a government policy to frame me up for the purpose of sealing my mouth up for good. You should as well get this show along and stop wasting everybody's time." I deliberately raised my own voice to match his outburst. It was a game of wits and I knew just how to play it. I knew he needed whatever information he believed I had so much as to attempt anything stupid, and now that I knew that there was a bigger picture to my arrest, I could afford to shout and be as annoying as possible. It only helped my case.

"No one has said the Government plans to seal you up or whatever." I watched him gradually recline into his old self, my outburst obviously subduing his.

"I hope so" I said then added, "can I go now?"

"That you would be staying here longer than expected is entirely of your own making and we are prepared to continue to keep you here until you begin to show positive signs of cooperation." He stood up. "I will leave now and be back in four hours. I hope that is enough time for you to make up you mind. But I would also assure you that if after that period you still come around cracking jokes, I would be forced to employ other more potent tactics. Then, all my respect and friendliness would have disappeared.

He walked to the door, opened it and stepped out then as if remembering something poked his head back into the room and added "I will see to it that breakfast and may be some toiletries are brought over. I wonder why you've decided to put everybody through this trouble."

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo prides himself as being a core Nigerian. He hails from the east, grew up in the north and now lives in the west. He is an award winning fiction writer and essayist and has written widely on Nigerian Socio-political issues both online and in the print media. Nze, as he would prefer to be called, is a graduate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and uses every spare moment to blog or tweet. His book The Funeral Did Not End will be released in 2011 by DADA Books Nigeria.
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