Held in the Creeks is a mystery, thriller, detective novel written by Nigerian author and songwriter Biyi Dawordsmith. It tells the story of kidnapped CNN reporter Anita Campbell and her abductors as they explore the creeks of the oil rich Niger Delta.
On arrival in Nigeria for a documentary, CNN reporter Anita Campbell is kidnapped by freedom fighters of the Niger Delta.
Afterward, Anita’s abductors discover she has a pointer which later leads them to the custodian of certain coveted treasures. As Anita and her captors sort through requisite grotesque puzzles, Anita is shocked to find a path that draws attention to the years of the Atlantic slave trade, and a trail that justifies the struggles for emancipation in many places around the world.
Unless Anita uses her expertise to help her abductors unearth the treasures, she might never return to the States alive.
(2012, US Trade Paperback, 458 pages)
Miedide gazed at the waters as the engine boat he had boarded at Eku bobbled with speed. Soon, he knew, he would be at Ojikwa, around Sapele, and he couldn't imagine what he would meet there. Rehearsing the lines he had memorised once more, he grinned, happy their payday was coming. In front of him was a couple deep in a discussion, unaware that their two little boys kept looking ...back, staring at him.
‘Papa, see, rat remove his teeth,’ the darker of the boys teased, tapping his father and pointing at Miedide.
Immediately, the parents looked back. Miedide saw panic in their eyes.
‘No yawa,’ Miedide said, shrugging. Someday, Miedide knew, he would replace the missing teeth.
‘No vex abeg,’ the father apologised. The mother smacked the two children, saying, ‘Better face front, little rats.’
Amused that the woman called her children little rats, Miedide giggled. ‘Na them remove the teeth.’
The couple and the boat driver exploded in laughter. The two children also laughed as if they understood the joke.
Looking away, Miedide recalled he had experienced such scenes of humiliation in the past. Not once, not twice, but many times he couldn't reckon...far worse circumstances that changed his outlook of life. Staring at the dark waters of the river, sad memories he had tried hard to put behind came flooding back.
Suffering and smiling, he thought. Until the day when luck shined on him, when he did a favour that was returned, when he helped fellow brothers because he understood their hustle, he had been suffering, smiling, and surviving instead of relishing every minute of his existence.
As a child, Miedide had witnessed how his paternal uncles forcibly took control of the properties his late grandfather bequeathed to his father. Assets that weren’t expensive, but that he was sure would have made life much easier for his nuclear family. Visualising the two canoes, a small oil palm plantation and a large hut from which his uncles evicted them, he felt a familiar sensation pass through his body...an awareness that made him doubt his own continued existence, bearing in mind that he had helped his parents bury his younger ones, as they died one after the other.
Left alone with his parents, he had promised he would make them proud one day, so they would worry no more. However, fate changed his path and the winds of destiny altered his course. Life for him became a ladder of thorns, one that made his limbs bleed with so much hurt.
After writing the last paper of his final exams at the secondary school stage, he rushed home hungry, that windy evening, anxious to eat abanga and celebrate the completion of his secondary education with his parents. His mother, however, didn’t prepare abanga. He met her preparing a white cloth, to wrap his father’s corpse. The man had fallen down from a palm tree, practising his vocation, struggling to put food on their table. As if the tragedies weren't enough, five months later, his mother died from a serious illness.
As the breeze whooshed against his ear now, Miedide bit his lower lip, remembering his mother’s death. The driver made a sharp turn, making the dirty water splash on their bodies. Miedide didn’t care. Staring up, he convinced himself as always that he could have saved her life. Five thousand naira. Less than fifty dollars. The doctor in the hospital had asked for that, but they couldn't afford it. Yet, just behind their house, an oil company made millions of dollars every day.
Helpless after his mother’s death, he went to the oil company for a menial job, a job they didn’t give. Adding to his predicament, a violent rain blew off the thatched roof of their small hut. A week later, while he was still trying to get the roof repaired, another turbulent downpour destroyed what was left of the small dwelling.
With no food and no shelter, Miedide took to the streets, mixed with different kinds of people, and realized his story was not as pathetic as those of some others were. When he opened his mouth to speak, people made jest of him. Then, only two teeth were gone, though.
Determined to survive no matter what, he began to do different things for survival. He sold nylon water- pure water, but the trade was highly competitive. Consequently, his gains were paltry. Gathering all he had, he started selling musical discs, a trade hampered by the Censors Board Monitoring Group because the discs were pirated goods. Subsequently, he began selling weed.
One harmattan morning, he landed in police cell when police officers caught him with a large quantity of Indian hemp he had gone to buy for retail. For three weeks, the Regular section of the cell was his home because he couldn't afford the money the cell lord, a criminal who had been there for five months, charged to put him in the Suite or Executive section of the lockup. There, in the overcrowded Regular section, they ate, chatted, sang, urinated, and defecated.
After his release, made possible by a senior police officer who pitied him for reasons he never would know, Miedide found a home under an overhead bridge. The dirty area below that overpass was home to dozens of people; young and aged, the strong and the sick, deaf husbands and their crippled wives whose moans were perceptible while making love at nights.
Feeding was a challenge then. Often, they ate leftover rice gathered from parties by the little ones among them. After eating, they dried whatever remained in the sun and re-cooked this when hunger arrived. One evening, Miedide got involved in a fight with a stranger who wanted to take over his sleeping place. That day, he lost the third teeth.
Months later, one Sunday morning when Miedide went to buy roasted plantain, adjacent a church, five masked men ran out of the church with a white man and drove off immediately in a waiting vehicle. Minutes later as he walked away reflecting on what he just experienced, a police officer came out from a police van that stopped by his side.
‘Which way did the militants go?’ the officer asked.
Miedide wanted to point in the direction they went but changed his mind, remembering that his own mother died because the money from the oil never flowed into their hands. He misdirected them and watched as they drove away on a wild goose chase.
At the same spot, a week after, when Miedide went to buy roasted plantain again, one of the militants, Damiete, who had been on furtive surveillance after the kidnap accosted him, telling him he saw how he led the police astray a week ago. Subsequently, Damiete told him his Chairman, Filatei was grateful and would love to meet him. Someway, somehow, that meeting changed his fortune.