Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 9

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This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Enemy Circles - Season One

Jomo, a young nomadic man betrothed to a fellow clan’s girl Bonajo and they were to be married during the merriment of reuniting at the designated reunion camp in mountains of central Africa. Unfortunately, a huge war campaign was to prevent that simple thing from happening until after more than three years.

THE HARD WAY, THE ONLY WAY

Agadez city was another wonder of a city Jomo had not seen before. The buildings were not very different from those he saw in Kano – made with mud brick and decorated with different colours; however one can always find uniqueness with the Tamashek style. The colours were brighter and the sand and abundant date palm trees gave Agadez its own signature. The people were fairer and less harsh looking. They conduct all their affairs with seriousness.

Captain Hamani however, their training commander, was a remarkable young man Jomo came to like. He was brave and friendly. He made Jomo feel comfortable with the arduous desert, which from now on was supposed to be his friend as well as captain, Hamani would always say.

The moment they put Takedda behind, Jomo decided that it has begun. Everything he would do is going to be towards achieving just one aim eventually – saving other members of his clan.

“What is between you and the commander? He seemed to always make sure you come first in all our training exercises.” Mandano asked, as they one evening sat under a shanty stick-legged tent.

Jomo shrugged. “I don’t know. We once had a talk. He told me he was marrying the princess, I told him I was betrothed too. Then, we swapped some personal stories. May be that was the connection.”

“You seem to have no shyness these days, talking freely about your betrothal.” Mandano’s words didn’t sound like a tease; they came out as an old habit that dies hard.

“By the way, where is Shagaro?”

“I don’t know. He could be anywhere. Maybe he is with that Takeddan friend of his”

Mandano sighed heavily, focusing his sight at the farthest sand dune.

Enemy Circles on Memorila
Enemy Circles on Memorila

“Have you noticed that these mountains of sand do shift?”

“What do you mean shift? How could something this huge shift?”

“Ok, what I want you to do is mark that very one there, tomorrow at the same time come back here and it won’t be there, I promise.”

Jomo squinted his eyes as sand blew past his narrow turban. “That’s ridiculous?”

“Here you are.” Captain Hamani said in as simple a vernacular Arabic as he could manage.

“Why are you not resting? You know that in another two hours we will be back in the desert for the evening session.”

The two stood up and greeted the young lieutenant.

“We were carried away with some conversation we didn’t even notice the time.” Jomo explained.

Hamani smiled. “I hope it is not about home.”

“No, it is not.” Jomo answered. “My brother here was telling me these huge sand mountains kind of shift about all by themselves.”

Hamani laughed wholeheartedly. “And what do you believe?”

“I believed that he was crazy.” Jomo playfully hit Mandano on the shoulders. “He is an expert liar, how could he say such a thing?”

Hamani cleared his throat.

“It wasn’t a lie. You see, it is the wind that does the job grain by grain over the night. You may go to bed leaving an empty space and wake up with a large sand dune instead. That is why we don’t sleep in the open; else you will wake up and find yourself buried.”

The two Fulani lads stared at their trainer in disbelief.

 

***

“I would love to talk to him.”

Hamani wasn’t overly shocked. With Galah, surprise was the order of everyday. He wondered why she would want to talk to Jomo and he asked her so.

Galah’s confidence didn’t flicker.

“I thought you said he is nice and you even like him.” When Hamani said nothing, she continued. “Come on, it is going to be just one talk. Haven’t we a lot of questions about the Hausas? Is this not a good chance to find out as much as we can? This man was in Kano as he told you. He would provide us with first-hand information.”

“What do you want to ask him, precisely, if I may ask?”

“If you know me well you shouldn’t ask this question. Of course, I would want to know everything he can recall during his stay in Kano, and on their road up to here, but particularly in Kano.”

“I don’t think he would know much about the alliance terms with the Songhai.”

Galah was becoming impatient.

“Since when do I need a straight answer to figure out what is going on? It pains me that my future husband doesn’t understand me at all, let alone somebody else.”

“No, it is not like that.” The last thing Hamani wanted was to make his beloved sad.

“You can talk to him and find out as much as you want, it is only that I don’t know what the king would think of me if he finds out that I allowed you to talk to him.”

Galah flashed her perfectly white teeth in a smile that Hamani didn’t see quite often, and the few he was lucky to see left his heart melted. “Don’t you worry about that, he would never find out.”

Hamani nodded nervously.

 

 

 

***

Jomo was not comfortable meeting the princess at all, but his commander, her fiancé, asked him to do that, so he assumed no harm would come out of it. While Mandano and Shagaro persistently talked about the beautiful damsels in Agadez they occasionally glimpsed, those were the least of his concerns. When he told Mandano what Hamani asked of him, his friend wouldn’t believe him. He didn’t tell his friend when it was time to meet the girl.

“Greetings to my lady…” Jomo said, courteously; something he specifically requested Hamani to teach him. The meeting point was an oasis not far away from the palace. Two trusted guards of Hamani’s were placed to keep everyone else off

“And to you too dear friend, please be comfortable, I won’t take much of your time.”

Jomo sat on the stump of a palm tree, feeling anything but comfortable. Bright water sparkled from the intense evening light, it was a lovely spot perfect for lovers, he thought.

“I heard you were captured and imprisoned in Kano. Would you mind telling me what happened?”

Jomo wasn’t expecting this at all, but at least it was a comfortable enough subject to discuss with the princess, so he narrated his ordeal after a brief hesitation of uncertainty about where to start.

“They are feeding the military camp with prisoners not their fighters, is that right?” Galah said thoughtfully, as Jomo reached the end of his story. She also could sense that telling the story has rekindled the anguish in his mind.

“It seems so my lady. I also gathered while I was in the prison that villages bordering the Kano kingdom with other kingdoms were raided to catch people and take away food stuffs and cattle. During our transfer to the camp we were transported with a large supply of food.”

“It makes sense.” Galah said suddenly. “They promised to supply the empire with fighters and food and they are being clever not to exhaust themselves doing that. They must have asked for a great deal of demand for their service.”

“Like what?” Jomo was not used to the intricacy of government and politics. He was confused enough by the girl’s curiosity about these unlikely issues.

“There could be only one thing I can think of. It has to be total independence from the empire; otherwise they would never go to the length of doing what you have explained is happening in Kano. And also by not exhausting themselves it could be that they are planning to build their own army, to make use of in the future – very near future, from the looks of it.”

Jomo got even more confused. “I don’t understand. If they are under the empire they are expected to comply with its needs without putting demands.”

Galah’s gaze was trained on the sparkling water. “You are right, except we are all not under the empire per se. Both the Hausa kingdoms and our kingdom as well fought with the empire at different times sometime in the past. The empire defeated us, but the size of the empire is making it difficult to consolidate their powers in the conquered lands. It is not possible for them to rule us directly. So they allow us to rule ourselves, but we pay tribute and tax to the emperor and in return, he stays away from invading us. If you move around this city for example, you will find thousands of Songhai citizens relocated here as a result of that truce, and in an effort to, I believe, slowly conquer us naturally by birth.”

“That was smart, I guess.” Jomo was fascinated.

“Yes, it was for them, except that it still remains a nuisance to us to know that we are still tied to some foreigners’ apron strings. If I feel so I am sure the Hausa people feel the same too.”

“If you are helping the empire by training us, you can make similar demands.”

“But we didn’t.” Galah said with enough dose of defeat. “We should have, but we didn’t.”

Jomo felt bad for this princess with political concerns.

“At least you are honest with your bargain. That is something good.”

Galah smiled. Hamani was not wrong, the young man was nice.

“Thank you. But the games of power are not played with utter honesty. We could be put at disadvantage now that we are perhaps the only kingdom to answer to Songhai. With the empire weakened by the war, with Hausa lands and their bloodthirsty kings very close to us, with their military capacity in preparation and God knows what was happening out there that we don’t know of yet. We will be in a danger of invasion soon. The Hausa tribe is a warrior tribe, they believe in military might, they are constantly fighting with one another. They will not hesitate to venture up to here.”

The Hausa will definitely do that. Jomo testified to himself in admiration of the insightfulness of this princess.

“What do you do then?”…Was all he could ask.

“We have to be prepared before they start thinking of it, or if they started, before a surprise is dropped on us.” And right there and then she knew what she needed to do.

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Series Navigation<< Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 8Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 10 >>

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Bashir Kabir

Born, raised and studied in Kano State, Bashir Kabir has a degree in Physics and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Physics, all in Bayero University, Kano. He is married with a kid and currently works at Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Kano.

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