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It was twenty five minutes to the bomb blast.
Almost every student in the Department of English and Literature had left the building.
Caleb could now see Kelvin. He wanted to talk to him. He was walking towards him when he remembered the lecturers.
He remembered there were lecturers in their offices here at the Department. Excuses could be forged to get students evacuated on time; but that wouldn’t be the case for lecturers.
He decided to go through the Departmental offices and make every effort to get even the lecturers and the non-academic staff to leave the building in no time.
Monday was one of the busiest days of the week. Caleb knew there would be many lecturers occupied with work in their offices on a day like this.
He began going from door to door, starting from the first floor where he’d set out at the lobby inlet.
He mounted the stairs of the tall building of the Department of English and Literature; his breathing pace racing as fast as that of a marathon runner. And his brow was damp with beads of perspiration.
He juggled himself to a lecturer’s office. It was Dr Bello’s.
Caleb gave a quick knock on the door. He didn’t hear a response but he was really sure the lecturer was in his office.
He knew he didn’t have the luxury of time to keep waiting for an answer; so he banged on the door a few times. There still was no response from within.
Caleb was frustrated at the silence and he stamped his feet on the floor.
It was just about then that Caleb noticed there’d been a couple of students behind him. He could hear one of them laugh.
‘What makes you think he’ll open the door for you while he hasn’t answered us since morning?’ The student, a young man in his early twenties, scoffed and went on in a bit.
‘We gently knocked with all politeness and he didn’t answer us. And here you are banging the door on him. You are really funny!’
Dr Bello had given an eight o’ clock appointment to the final year students whose degree long essay he was supervising. He’d told them to come with the introductory chapter of their long essay.
The students turned up as instructed, only for Dr Bello to keep them waiting since eight in the morning.
Bello was known for this habit. He enjoyed keeping students waiting for him. He would check his doorstep at the given time of appointment to see if they were punctual at all.
But then, like caged birds were frequently checked on, Dr Bello would do a follow up check at every hour to ensure the students were still waiting for him.
Earlier that year, he’d kept a pregnant postgraduate student waiting for him for about five hours. And the long, rigorous wait led to a threatened abortion for the poor woman.
Caleb didn’t respond to the student; he was in no mood for jokes. He turned to address all of them.
His tone of voice was both urgent and earnest.
‘There’s going to be a bomb blast in this building by twelve noon. So, in God’s name, quietly leave the Department now and don’t use the lobby route unless you want to get us all killed before twelve.’
He finished his words with stern look in his face. ‘Or why would I dare to bang on a lecturer’s door when I’m neither drunk nor mad!’
Caleb didn’t wait to see their reaction or hear their response. He left the students as well as Dr Bello, and went for the next office.
◙ ◙ ◙
Kelvin could feel the lobby empty as he faced the press board. He wondered how Caleb got everyone evacuated.
He only told his friend there was a bomb inside his body and so he should keep off. But now Caleb had done more than just keeping off.
He wondered how he thought of helping him to evacuate everyone while he himself was incapacitated.
‘God must have really heard my prayer. That I don’t want to die a murderer,’ he mused, staunching a tear in a corner of his eye.
He took a quick glance at his wristwatch and began to be tensed again.
He wasn’t going to die a murderer but he was going to die nevertheless.
He silently cried with a desperate hope. ‘Ah God Almighty! Please save me!’
◙ ◙ ◙
Jordan arrived at the Humanities Car Park behind the Department of English building.
He gave a quick glance at his wristwatch, and it was twenty minutes to twelve.
His brow glistened with beads of sweat. He felt like a lost child in the middle of a jungle. His pulse raced at the speed of a bullet shot.
He knew he was at the end of a road barricaded by a stone wall. He knew the sky high wall facing him wouldn’t crumble down.
He was at the end of himself altogether. He felt suffocated, and exhausted.
But then, right at the moment, he didn’t want to concede to his weakness or give up his desperate grip on hope.
He dearly wished for something impossible to pave a way through the stone wall. He wished for a path in the jungle. He dearly wished for something incredible. He wished for a miracle.
Frustrated already, he threw his hands up and screamed out loud.
‘Oh my God!! What should I do?!’
Well, it wasn’t a question for Jordan. It was a total exhale. It was an expression of a frustrated heart.
But what he didn’t know was that the statement didn’t change its form to God who he cried out to.
It was a question to a caring God, a question that begot an instant answer.
And here was the answer for Jordan. The way paved out through a stone wall; the path Jordan could thread out of the jungle.
◙ ◙ ◙
Within minutes, while going from door to door, Caleb was able to get almost all the academic and non-academic staff members in the Department to leave the building quietly.
When they heard of the looming bombing of the Department as well as the fact that there was only a little time left, they obeyed every instruction he gave them.
Some lecturers, however, didn’t allow him into their offices or give an audience to the third year undergraduate student.
They were about the only few staff members that remained on the bomb scared building.
Among the few lecturers who didn’t give a listening ear was Professor Eze.
Eze was known for his notorious adulterous habit. Students nicknamed him Glutton, owing to his hungry sexual appetite for female students. Eze would threaten female students with failing them, just so he could sleep with them.
And today, too, Professor Eze was with an intended prey in his office. And so, he refused to open the bolted door for Caleb.
Jennifer was the girl. She was in her final year and had been failing Professor Eze’s course since she was in her second year.
Eze had told her what she’d simply got to do to pass his course. But Jenifer was a devoted Christian and wouldn’t bulge an inch.
She knew reporting the Casanova professor to the authorities would boomerang because she’d come to learn that the system itself could not be trusted.
So, she’d resolved to praying and studying harder.
She was only a few weeks close to writing the year’s papers and she was worried about failing yet again.
Jennifer went to plead with the hardened professor like she’d been doing before. But then, Eze warmed up to her that morning and didn’t threaten her like he’d been doing in the past years.
This time around, a now desperate Professor Eze implored the young girl of twenty three to give in to his demand of many years.
‘You see, Jennifer,’ he cooed, ‘I know you’re a Christian just like I am. I also understand your fear that if you give in to my demands, you’ll feel guilty that you’ve sinned to God, uh?’
He searched Jennifer’s face as the nervous girl clamped her visibly shaken hands below her sweat moistened chin.
The fifty six year old man went on. ‘So, I had a rethink. I’m an understanding person, so I won’t make you go against your faith in God. But just since we’re here already, let’s do it this simple way.’
Jennifer was eager to hear what Eze would say. She wiped the tears in her eyes with the back of her hands.
The professor went on. ‘You see, you don’t have to sleep with me anymore…’
Jennifer couldn’t wait for Professor Eze to end his words. The poor little girl wouldn’t even know there was something else to end those words with.
‘Ah thank you, sir! Thank you so much, sir!’ Jennifer was rubbing her hands back and forth, genuflecting at the same time.
Professor Eze wore a deliberate smile and went on in a bit.
‘Well, like I said, you don’t have to sleep with me anymore. But then, you have to undress yourself for me here and now. The door’s bolted as you can see.
‘You see, it won’t be too fair if I let just you go based on how you feel. I haven’t spared anyone regardless of how many tears they cry in front of me.
‘Hey, you know I’m soft on just you. I’m not asking to take you to bed before I pass you on every course I’m taking you. I just want to take a look at what I’m unable to have a taste of. Just simply that!’
A stream of tears rolled down Jennifer’s eyes.
The sex hungry man ignored Jenifer’s tears and went on persuading the young undergraduate in a softer, sweeter voice.
‘My dear, it’s a very simple thing; you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. At least, your doctor gets to see this thing when taking your delivery sooner or later. It’s less of a big deal, really.
‘You see, I won’t sleep with you or even touch your body. You don’t have to feel so guilty about it; after all, it’s only what you need to do to graduate with your classmates.
‘Look here, I’m being soft right now; so just be a modern girl for once and play along, uh?’
Professor Eze was determined to break Jennifer that morning. And the young girl was getting swayed by the moment.
‘Jesus Christ,’ she muttered to herself, ‘please, help me. Is this really not a sin? Can’t I comprise for once and go back to God again. Please help me, God.’
She looked down, held her hand to her chest and slowly turned out her shirt’s first button.
There was a rushed bang on the door.
And it was Caleb.
Jennifer was the shocked one of the two people behind the bolted door. Professor Eze was angry right into his bones. Here he was, about to have his way; and there was this rude bang on his door by who on earth knows.
In a moment, Jennifer became aware of the step she was about to take. A feeling of shame and embarrassment enveloped her.
She wished to simply disappear from where she stood. She couldn’t imagine she was about to unclad herself and stand naked in Professor Eze’s office.
She thought of how much she’d fallen and how she could have sunk lower but for God’s mercy.
She hurriedly buttoned up her shirt, picked up her handbag, bolted the door open and ran out of the professor’s office.
Jennifer was too embarrassed to look at Caleb at the door.
Caleb had a quick grasp of what had been going on and ignored the drama.
He turned to the girl. ‘Please, leave the environment immediately and use the other way—and not the lobby,’ he said.
Caleb was pointing to the direction of the second stairway leading to the car park. And Jennifer took the route Caleb pointed at.
Caleb continued to knock on Prof Eze’s door. But the man didn’t respond.
Eze felt very bitter and embarrassed with the way everything played out. He decided to busy himself with a two hour porn film on his laptop in his office.
Remembering there was really no time to waste, Caleb instantly moved on to other offices.
◙ ◙ ◙
Professor Oni had left his office following Caleb’s words.
As a politician and an academic, Prof Oni has become so open minded that he didn’t doubt a burn fire on the ocean or a heavy downpour in December in Nigeria.
He’d come to open his mind to odd possibilities. When Caleb told him there was going to be a bomb blast by twelve noon, Oni knew it wasn’t a lie based on Caleb’s demeanour.
Oni only went ahead to ask the boy where the bomb was planted and Caleb had quickly explained to him.
‘Kelvin Babalola, sir. The bomb is inside his body. I think he is being monitored by those who planted the bomb in him sir. The only way he informed me was through an acrostic poem.’
After Oni had left the building, he first canceled his appointment with the Vice Chancellor, and also put a quick message through to other staff of the Department.
Based on Caleb’s message, Oni knew Kelvin was in a deep sea of trouble. He wondered who could do this to a young boy.
He knew the conspiracy was larger than he could possibly imagine. But of all his worries, he felt it was an insult to burn down his territory before his eyes.
He decided to do everything possible to stop the bombing.
He put a call through to the school chief security officer who happened to be a nephew. He passed the information to him and told him to tighten up security to ensure catching up with the culprit.
Professor Oni wouldn’t rest still; he wanted to do even more.
What he really wanted was to prevent the bombing. He felt it would be a slap on his face if his very own Department was razed down. And by all means, he was going to save his Department.
He put another call through to the University chief security officer.
He asked him to call for aid from the bomb squad at the army barracks there in Ankara City.
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Copyright © 2019 by Kayode Olla