Everyone in his Mushin neighbourhood called him ‘Chairman’ even his wife. He was charismatic, knew how to get his way with people and had the bold generous nature of a natural leader. He hadn’t finished high school but neither had most of the people in his neighbourhood School had never been their priority growing up. Real life was urgently demanding their attention. There were mouths to feed.
The ‘boys’ in the neighbourhood knew he would buy them a beer or a meal when they needed it and that he would lend them money for an abortion or a wedding or a funeral. The ‘men’ or ‘big boys’ in Mushin trusted him to fix broken contracts, collect overdue loans or avenge a slight to their ego and they paid him well for his services. When they needed a local militia he naturally emerged its local leader.
He took his role very seriously and worked hard to be a role model to his boys and keep morale high. When they went on operations they knew that he would take care of their families if they were killed or arrested. In the field he was always in the front line, he wasn’t one of those leaders that hid behind his boys in fear of death. He led by example. He had taken more than one bullet with his boys, they admired his fearless courage. Soon he was a national leader.
But he wasn’t really fearless, he was just damned if he was going to let anyone see his fear and vulnerability and he was more than a little reckless. After he married his wife and had children he realized that he needed to be more careful with is life. Things weren’t like they were before he had these responsibilities. He knew if anything happened to him his family would suffer. It was what happened in the jungle, like it had happened to him when his father died.
The bullet proof vest became an obsession for him. He had heard all the myths and folklore about the warriors of the ancient kingdoms and the bullet proof vests that had protected them during the numerous tribal wars they fought. Warriors were greatly admired and respected. He had heard of the white man’s amour. He laughed; white people always thought they knew it all. He trusted the African man’s armor.
When he returned from the forest if people noticed the strange gleam in his eye they said nothing. He drove straight to his gangs den in one of the back alleys of Mushin where his boys gathered daily to drink, eat and to wait for his instructions. They were there when he arrived. They were happy to see him. No one knew where he had gone; secrecy was a way of life. Men didn’t discuss their intentions, they acted.