Philipps was in the control tower of the airport. He was wan and drawn. Its glass cupola afforded a tremendous vista of the land around. He admired the vareigated greens and puffy clouds floating through the azure sky but told himself to snap out of it. This was no time to muse on natural beauty. He had mean patrolling the perimeter. One man had seen an enemy soldier hiding in a subsidence near the airport creeping towards the fence and had to shoot him. Others had reported seeing enemy on the heights two miles away. They had shot in the general direction of the enemy but probably did not hit anyone. Just frighten the foe in case they tried to breach the perimeter. If the enemy got some snipers up on the escarpments it would not look good for the coupsters – he thought.
Sani seemed to have aged a decade in a single night. He looked at his watch. ”Ten o ‘clock” he observed nervously. ”I say we wait till noon. If they have not thrown the towel in by noon then we get out of here.” Could they really make it? He racked his brains.
”I think you are right. If they have not surrendered by then that means they are calling our bluff. They might have an offer of outside support. ”, said Philipps. Some of the planes had been hit. He wanted to tear out his hair.
”Well at least we are in the right place if we need to high tail it out of here.”, said Sani.
”And we have some goodies for our men.” Philipps gestured at rucksacks chock full of US dollars on the floor. Philipps remembered rule number one of being a mercenary – do not fall into enemy hands. Better to get killed in a shoot out.” said Phillips.
”Speaking of which we had better get Kona’s money out of Switzerland.”, said Sani.
”Oh yeah – shit. I forgot that order. All right. They still have his wife and daughter at the radio station. I will contact them. Get them to transfer it to us. Yes?”, said Philipps.
”That is damn right. Trouble is although Kona is dead we may need a death certificate. ”,, said Sani.
”Radio announcements that he is dead won’t do? By tomorrow the foreign press will have picked it up and there will be obituaries in every newspaper in Africa. ”, said Philipps
”Not for these Swiss – they are very pernickety. If there is a profit in it for them in not releasing the money they wull have their eye on that.”, said Sani.
”Hard lines. We can but try today. If not then we better take the women with us if we have to make a sharp exit.”
”Good idea.”, said concurred.
”Almost forgot to say – Gark got shot twice in the thigh. He was near the perimeter and there was an enemy hiding in the gully. The other boys hosed him down though so he did not get away. Anyway Murphy says Gark is not too badly wounded consdering.”
”You know that Shooter got shot in the chest? But he is going to make it.”
”No, I had not heard that.”, said Philipps.
”How is Alexander doing?”
”Well Murphy said that bullet he took in the stomach – basically he is done for. Bullet wounds do not kill quickly but they are usually mortal”
”Oh fuck” said Sani turning deathly pale.
”There goes out APC expert and best sergeant major I ever met” Philipps lamented.
Just then the telephone rang.
Philipps picked it up.
”Airport commander” said Philipps.
”Good morning commander”, said a West African voice.
”Good morning sir” said Philipps perkily.
”Sir, I understand a change of government has taken place.”, there was benignity in his tone.
”Yes, it has. You have been listening to the radio. ” Philipps pressed the loudspeaker button. Suddenly he was not feeling so woebegone.
”Yes, sir I have. I heard that President Kona is deceased. I did not believe it at first. I have been to the general Hospital and seen his body in the morgue myself. That is Kona all right. He had a good innings. So there is a new dispensation. We have had enough fighting. You have rinsed enough blood. Time to draw stumps.”
”Yes, indeed there is. May I ask your name sir? ”
”Yes, I am Major-General Wilberforce Ngarta . ”
”Major-General Ngarta, so do you recognise President Sani as the new interim head of state.”
”I would be willing to swear allegiance in return for a small consideration.”
”This can certainly be arranged. You know that each soldier and police officer will be paid 100 dollars in cash if he turns up here in uniform and swears allegiance. His name will be announced on the radio.”
”Yes, I heard but a man of my rank surely deserves a higher gratuity. ”
”Yes, you do especially if you can deliver your men.”
”I most certainly can. They obey my commands. My men shall hearken! You have rid us of that tyrant Kona who defiled our sacred land. Down with the tyrant. May that vampire be consigned to the demons of the inferno! Unfortunately almost 100 of them were killed earlier today. You messed up the Socialist Guard before dawn as well but I do not mind about Kona’s goons. They were a pestilence. So may I ask would 10 000 dollars be out of order for a man or my rank?”
”I need to consult with President Sani.”
Philipps covered the mouthpiece. ”What do you think? I reckon we should pay. 10 000 Dollars – well worth it.”
”You are right. Pay this 10 000 and the country is ours.”
”Quite right. A small price to pay. The air strike clearly worked. ”
”Ok – agree. Agree right now. Have him come here in person.”
Philipps got back on the phone. ”Major General – Yes, President Sani agrees. He is happy to pay this 10 000 dollars for your meritorious service. Would you be good to come here unarmed in just one car to swear allegiance and receive your payment in cash.”
”Very good sir. When will be convenient?”
”In half an hour. Will that do? ”
”Yes, certainly. You will tell your sentries won’t you so they do not shoot my car. ”
”Certainly. I shall tell the men.”
”Good day to you sir. I look forward to meeting President Sani in due course.”
Philipps put down the phone.
”That’s it. A done deal.”
”Provided we can trust him.”
”No reason to lie. We are going to announce it on the radio once he is here. I have got to go and tell the men not to shoot when a staff car approaches.”
Half an hour later a staff car slowly approached the gate to the airport. Two sentries stood there. They anxiously eyed the staff car. Maj Gen Ngarta was in a crisp ceremonial uniform and holding a baton. He saluted the men as he passed and they returned his salute
The car cruised up to the front of the terminal building. Two more soldiers stood to attention.
The driver got out and opened the door for Ngarta. Ngarta’s uniform was impeccable. He wore knee high black leather riding boots and carried a brown leather briefcase as well as his batton. The gold braid on his uniform gleamed/
Philipps stepped out and gave him a quivering salute. Ngarta returned his salute. Out stepped Sani.
”Major General Ngarta I am delighted to meet you at last.”
”President Sani, It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” They shook hands. Sani was obviously unsure of himself.
”Major General – my first act as president shall be to promote you field marshall.”
”I shall eagerly accept. ”
They walked into a VIP lounge.
They sat at a table and there was a document and a pen on it.
”Would you mind signing this?” asked Sani.
”All right” said Ngarta scribbling his signature without bothering to read it.
”Oath of loyalty to me.”
”All right then.”
”If you would be so good as to read it on the radio later. ”
”Certainly” said Ngarta smiling.
”That is very decent of you. Now down to brass tacks.” Sani got out a brown paper envelope. He spread the bundles of greenbacks on the table.
”Please – count it.”
”Yes, I shall do” said Ngarta. He took his time – carefully counting the payment.
”Yes all seems to be in order” said Ngarta. He opened his briefcase and scooped the money in.
”Wonderful. So if you would not mind going to the radio station now?”
”By the way what about Kona’s praetorians?”
”Oh after you shot them up some of them headed for the hills. The rest of them I had placed under arrest an hour ago.”
”How about a parade this afternoon to introduce you to the army”
Sani was not keen on the idea. A Kona fanatical loyalist might take a pop at him.
”Not so sure that is a good idea. Please send me the men first. Just one at a time – send some senior officers first. They will get their payment and they can then go back and order the others to come. ”
”Will do. Do they get handsome pay offs too?”
”I do not think so. Let me see. We cannot be overly generous. You are an exception. By the way I want all the politicals out of prison.”
”All you have to do is ask. I shall have them out within the hour. You may want to get some of Kona’s party on side. Those boys know where the keys are – to everything. These political people – they will serve anyone.” He was oblivious to the irony.
Ngarta stood up.
”That takes care of that then. ”
Ngarta drew himself up to his full height and puffed out his chest. He put on an arrogant expression and banged up a saluted.
”Mr President it is a pleasure to serve you. You are a lot better than that crazy bastard Kona. You have done us a favour in getting rid of him. I was never sure when he was going to shoot me.”
”You don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
”To the radio station now” – he marched off for three paces and then walked normally.
Ngarta went to his car and drove straight to the radio station. He broadcast his oath and ordered his men to swear allegiance to Sani.
Officers came first and grudgingly received 100 dollars each.
Then men came and received 100 dollars with which they were delighted. The recalcitrants were placed in the stockade. The navy’s one brig also came over to Sani.
The political prisoners were set free. Sani gave them uniforms and arms taken from slain enemies.
Sani held his first cabinet meeting that evening. After that he went to the US Embassy for champagne.
A death certificate was issued for Cornelius Kona. His wife Winnifred was able to wire the bank in Switzerland for his estate. The money was then put into state coffers. Winnifred was set free.
A week later most of the mercenaries flew out with their bounty. Philipps was among them.
After a month a particularly unpopular cabinet minister was retired on a decent pension. He was replaced with a man loyal to Sani.
A month later another unpopular minister was sacked.
So it carried on till two-thirds of the ministers were men appointed by Sani. After three months Sani held elections. Sani’s National Liberal Party took 58% of the vote. Sani was elected President.
The impoverished people of Borno soon found they had more money coming in. Bornoese men served in Vietnam as American allies and were handsomely remunerated. Money also went to the national exchequer.