written by our super talented guest writer Ohibenemma
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the Author…
He dreamt about it, he had the resources to pursue it, he found the right platform…at the right time – a time when the people’s cry for a NEW DIRECTION was rampant. His fate was in their hands; how did it turn out?
Introducing A New Direction….
Come aboard, let’s do this together.
Chief Mike looked through the car window as his chauffeur drove him home from the office. The road, constructed over twelve years back, was no longer in good condition. Many complained about this, but those were the poor or average ones who couldn’t afford a Sports Utility Vehicle. He could afford it and therefore didn’t complain. He hardly felt the effect of the many potholes as his powerful SUV glided through the road. He also couldn’t feel the impact of the hot sun, not inside the air-conditioned car with tinted windows. They went past Mama Ijeoma, the roadside food seller, attending to many customers at the same time, all by herself. He wondered why the woman wouldn’t at least employ an assistant; he was sure she could afford it, especially considering the mass of customers always around her. She was about his wife’s size, massively fleshy all around. However, unlike his wife, she appeared to move her frame with enviable ease, hopping from bench to bench and back to her coolers of different sizes containing different foods. They went past the sachet water seller, a little girl whose gaze was constantly on Mama Ijeoma’s foodstand, probably expecting to be beckoned by one of the eating customers. Chief Mike wondered why Mama Ijeoma would be in the business of food sales yet not include water provision. Some meters away from her was the ice-cream seller, whose cooler-carrying bicycle was parked in front of the Three Tigers Supermarket. The supermarket, formerly owned by a Lebanese family, had retained its former name even after the departure of its previous owners. The painting of the front walls had considerably peeled off; it hadn’t been repainted since its purchase by Chief Ijele sixteen years back.
Chief Mike watched as the car made the bend into the road leading to the Government Reservation Area. This time, the road was smooth, black and marked. There were drainages on both sides of the road and these were properly covered with concrete slabs. It was a one-way track with street lights demarcating both. Chief Mike smiled; this was the road leading to the area he lived, some blocks away from the Governor’s House, these were the kind of roads he used to love to wheel or drive on, the type of roads he loved to be driven on.
They soon drove past the Governor’s House, an imposing and large white mansion, surrounded by a very tall green painted fence with sentry posts every few metres. Chief Mike had been within the mansion only twice, and both occasions had left him with a feeling of longing. His own mansion was beautiful, but nothing in comparison with the Governor’s House. He loved the fact that the house was on an elevated piece of land, making it overlook every other in the area; he loved the fact that there was a mandatory buffer zone of two hundred metres between its fence and any other property. He loved the fact that every entrant into the house had to be severally cleared by security operatives before they could gain access. He had felt degraded his first time there but had managed a smile when the Governor, probably sensing the reason behind his foul mood, had made a joke about the stringent security measures associated with the Governor’s House. The checks were much relaxed his second time there as he was accompanied by the Chief Media Aide to the Governor.
They arrived at the gate to his house and the gatekeeper quickly pushed open the gate after only a glance at the car. He made a stiff salute as they drove in, before going about shutting the gate. Chief Mike wasn’t pleased, it wasn’t so in the Governor’s House; the gatekeeper should have at least seen the car occupants before granting them access. He was going to dismiss the man soon; he would cite his sloppiness as the reason. It had been same case with his predecessors; they hardly spent a complete year on the job before being dismissed. Chief Mike soon forgot about the gatekeeper as the driver brought the car to a halt just before the hedge of flowers leading to the verandah. It was this that next caught his attention as he got off the car, some of the flowers had overgrown the others – a sign that they hadn’t been trimmed for some days.
‘Alamu!’ He called out to the gatekeeper.
‘Sah?’ The man replied from within the gatehouse.
‘Come here,’ Chief Mike growled, the frown on his face more intense with every passing second it took the gatekeeper to get to him.
‘Yessah?’ Alamu said when he was before Chief Mike.
‘Was Jide here today?’ Olajide was the gardener’s name.
‘Was he here yesterday?’
‘You mean he’s not been here for some days now?’
‘Nossah, no, yessah.’
‘Are you okay, Alamu?’
‘Yessah. What I mean be say he’s not here for three days now.’
‘Hmmm, three whole days,’ Chief Mike pronounced slowly before dismissing his driver with a wave of his hand.
‘His wife, she sick, sah.’
‘And so? How does that explain three days off work?’ He had been informed by his wife about Mrs Olajide’s illness about three days back, but had forgotten about it soon afterwards.
‘She worse, sah, her condition worse…’
‘Will you get off my sight?’ Chief Mike shot out in a fit of anger. Had the gatekeeper turned an advocate too? He wondered who would be his own advocate when he received his dismissal.
‘I sorry, sah,’ said Alamu before scampering off.
The driver, who had parked the SUV in the garage, returned with Chief Mike’s briefcase. Without a word, the chief grabbed it from him and proceeded to the entrance door.
To be Kontinyud.
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Chief Mike gently removed the arm of his wife from his chest and sat up. She was already asleep, barely five minutes after they hit the bed. He was still wide awake. It was always so with him whenever he had something serious to ponder upon. Sleep would elude him until he had arrived at a satisfactory conclusion.
Only the previous day had he intended sacking his gatekeeper and gardener; that same day had he seen, on television, the Governor going about commissioning some projects to mark his third year in office. He was actually two months into his fourth year, but had delayed the celebrations because of the inability of the contractors to deliver on schedule. Chief Mike’s wife, with whom he had earlier argued on the sacking of their gardener, had sniggered when the Governor said he was dedicating the his third year in office to the poor masses on the streets, the gatekeepers and taxi drivers, the artisans and the gardeners, the elderly… He had asked why she laughed, while irritated by the Governor’s sheer hypocrisy. The Governor Paul Igbobia he had met on two occasions wasn’t a man who cared about the masses; on that he was sure.
‘That’s a man!’ Florence, his wife had replied. ‘That’s a man who cares about the poor, unlike some others!’
He suppressed the urge to slap back the words into her puffy cheeks, he suppressed the urge to sternly rebuke her; instead he said gently:
‘His actions are what matter, his words on television don’t matter a bit…’
‘They matter, my lord, they do,’ she insisted. He knew when she was being sarcastic, referring to him as my lord. How he wished she meant it.
‘You are being deceived, my dear,’ he said, ‘that man is only playing to the gallery.’
‘Then play to the gallery yourself!’ She snapped. ‘How many gatekeepers have you dismissed? How many gardeners have you shown the way out in the past six years?’
‘Because I said I would dismiss a man who is absent from work for three days?’
‘Because you have a special knack for disrupting the lives of your workers.’ He had wanted to say something before she added, ‘what would you do if you were the governor?’
The question had stunned him into silence. If he was the governor? And it was a possibility! Yes, he could be the governor. He could become the next governor of the state.
He had dismissed the thought before falling asleep, but had ended up dreaming about it. In his dream, he had seen himself addressing a crowd of teachers, promising not to sack them for laying siege on the Government House in their demand for better pay. It had appeared so real and vivid as the teachers cheered him, only for their cheers to dissolve into the hum of their bedroom air conditioner. He had opened his eyes to meet Florence smiling at him.
‘That dream must have been very interesting,’ she had whispered, ‘considering the wide smile on your lips a while ago.’ That must have been when he was being cheered by the teachers.
‘Oh, so you’ve been watching me?’
‘Is it now a crime for one to watch her husband?’
‘Is that your good morning?’
‘I’m so sorry; good morning my lord.’
‘Good morning, my dear.’
‘So what was the lovely dream, my lord?’
He didn’t tell her; there was no need, at least not yet. She would likely make a mockery of it. He would tell her later, when he was very sure of his course of action.
‘I saw myself back in the Primary School, playing soccer on the school playground.’
Florence didn’t believe him, but chose not to push it. She adjusted her nightgown to cover her fat thighs and rolled off the bed to kneel on the floor beside it. She clasped her two palms in front of her in a sign of penitence, shut her eyes and commenced her every morning ritual of reciting Our Lord’s prayer. Afterwards, she would read her bible for five minutes before embarking on any home tasks. Chief Mike had smiled and shook his head, he didn’t see the need for the rite, he had never believed it had any effect. It was the same with the church; he occasionally attended it just to please his wife, and by extension, their children. Florence’s eyes were still shut when he arose and made for the bathroom.
As if in confirmation of his dream, his first visitor at the office that morning had been none else but the chairman of Congress for Advancement, the main opposition party in the state, Sir Babagana Maigida. The man had come for business, but their discussions had soon delved into the political realm and soon the big question was thrown at him.
‘I didn’t hear you well, sir,’ he had said, taking off his cap as if it impeded his hearing ability.
‘I said we need people like you in the frontline, aspiring for political positions.’
‘That’s serious, sir, really serious.’
‘Why is it so serious?’
‘I’ve never really been involved in politics all my life.’
The chairman had laughed out, long and loud.
‘You are mistaken… greatly so, Chief,’ he finally said when the laughter had subsided. ‘From birth, every man is involved in politics. Those times your wants are different from your brother’s and you try to ensure your parents look your way before theirs, you are already practicing politics. Those times you have an argument with someone and go all the way to ensure your opinion is accepted, even when you might have realized along the way that it’s inferior, you are practicing politics. You see, we are all involved in politics.’
‘That’s true,’ Chief Mike had said, nodding slowly. It was same thing when he did all within his means to secure a contract. It didn’t matter the tactics employed, all that usually mattered was the end result. ‘That’s true,’ he said again.
‘I’m happy you’ve realized that. We are all businessmen, but politics will only make our businesses better if we play our cards well.’
‘But don’t you think it’s too late? Elections are barely ten months away.’
‘It’s never too late. With your clout and our strategic plans, we should be winning the next elections in the state.’
‘Hmmm,’ Chief Mike could feel his head spinning. Was this his chance?
The ruling party, Democratic Alliance, had been very popular during the last elections; but that had changed over time. The opposition parties had been so quick to make public their errors and so steadfast at this task that many ordinary people had gradually come to develop a new perception of the government. There was also the fact that the incumbent, who was in his second term, was ineligible for reelection, thereby removing the advantage of incumbency. And the Congress for Advancement had been the biggest beneficiary from the widespread discontent with the government of the state. These thoughts ran through Chief Mike’s mind in split seconds.
‘Yea,’ continued Sir Maigida, ‘the signs are becoming more obvious everyday that the C.A will claim power. All that remains are for persons like you to be involved.’
‘But how can we be involved?’ He wanted to get the man cornered; he wanted him to make special commitments in his favour. Chief Mike had smiled, he was already playing politics.
‘You could seek for elective positions; you could even be the next governor.’
‘Are you sure of that? Are you saying you would support me if I wanted to emerge as the party’s gubernatorial candidate?’
‘Why won’t I, Chief? I would be silly to do otherwise.’
The excitement was so great that he had to do all he could to prevent himself from collapsing in a swoon. The chairman left soon afterwards. He had promised to seriously think about the man’s suggestion, and that he was doing.
The C.A had all he needed to make it. Their last rally had been so well attended that the overflow filled up the State Stadium surroundings. They had anticipated such crowd, as mobile speakers were strategically mounted outside the stadium. It was a vast improvement on their position in the last elections, as they could hardly get the stadium half filled in their campaign rallies then. The state owned television station hadn’t made any mention of the rally, but the newspapers were awash with its images the next day. Sir Maigida had assured the people of better conditions once the Congress for Advancement got into power. He had listed the many areas in which Governor Igbobia had failed – the soaring unemployment rate, the high taxation rates, the poor state of infrastructure, the witch-hunting of labour unions, amongst others. The Patriotic Voice Newspaper read:
The wind is blowing and, very soon, it will blow away all vestiges of self-centred governance. The Congress for Advancement has shown that, with the support of the people, money centred politics will soon be a thing of the past. The State Chairman of the party, Sir Babagana Maigida, has echoed the sentiments of the common man on the deliberate failure, for personal gain, by the Paul Igbobia administration to address major issues bedeviling the people of the state, which in better climes are usually taken for granted…
He stood to lose little, whatever happened, but could gain quite a lot. From his discussion with Sir Maigida, the C.A wasn’t money-centric, and even if that was the case, he was sure he would be up to the task. He would inform his wife in the morning, and then place a call to Sir Maigida once he arrived at the office. Satisfied with his decision, he slid down on the bed and pulled on the blanket.
Politics was an all-consuming venture, and this Chief Mike soon found out. To get himself acquainted with the national party hierarchy and get well established in the Congress for Advancement, he had to embark on many trips to attend national meetings. He started working late into the nights as he had required his manager to always forward important files to his house. He would sometimes return from a political meeting and, after a short nap, delve into business matters. He would be on that till his wife slept and would sometimes remain so until Florence would awake in the middle of the night and go pull him into bed. He wondered how older persons like Sir Maigida could manage to so effectively combine politics with business, but gradually got used to it himself. The months sped by and soon it was time for the party primaries.
Florence had been sceptical when he first informed her that he had been promised the governorship slot by the party chairman.
‘I don’t think that will be the case,’ she had told him.
‘But Sir Maigida assured me of it in our first discussion?’
‘Not according to what you told me. He only assured you of his support.’
‘Yea, his support. Sir Maigida wields a lot of influence in the C.A, especially in this state. Whoever he supports already has it.’
Florence had smiled. ‘My dear, this is politics; Sir Maigida must have wooed many other persons with same promise. Are you the only big shot to have joined the party in the past one year?’
He knew she was making sense. He had discovered, after joining, that the C.A had lots of other business executives in their membership. Many of them only operated in the background, appearing neutral in the open world. They would attend dinner parties with the governor one day and the other day be in attendance at the C.A’s inner caucus meetings. He had discovered that he wasn’t going to be as important as he initially felt he would before joining. He had thought he would be the big fish in an opposition party struggling to find its feet, but was surprised to find many others there.
‘I know there are others, but Sir Maigida did assure me of his total support.’
‘If you are very sure, there’s no problem. I’m only speaking from my little experience in politics.’
He had laughed at her; she had no worthwhile experience to speak of. Did she think the little politics in her group, The Ladies of Hope, equated with real politics?
Chief Mike was surprised at the price of the governorship form. He hadn’t expected it to be so expensive – certainly not that of an opposition party. He purchased it anyway. Three others did too – a Professor and two business executives. He wasn’t pleased by this. The professor, Dele Imonikhe, was easily the most popular amongst them. The man had been in the party for many years and was familiar with all their workings. In fact, he was said to have rejected the chairmanship position because of his political ambition.
‘You can be the party’s consensus candidate,’ said his friend, Chief Obi, when he informed him of his dilemma.
‘Are you sure of that? The other candidates appear very serious about their ambitions.’
‘Yes, but only one of you will eventually emerge. It would be better for them to step down and avoid spending more than to spend more, yet lose out in the primaries.’
‘It is not as easy as you put it; some of them – the professor especially – are seasoned politicians.’
‘This is politics, everyone has a price.’
He had contacted Sir Maigida about this. The elderly man listened to all he had to say, his face expressionless, before responding.
‘In the C.A, we don’t impose candidates. The reason is that many joined us because they felt robbed of their aspirations elsewhere. I will advise you to prepare for the primaries, I can assure you of my support.’
The man was lying! Chief Mike thought. Wasn’t it this same support he had assured him in the first place? He felt deceived, but it was too late to back out.
‘I told you at the onset that I wasn’t a politician, now how do you expect me to scale through the primaries – especially with the likes of Professor Dele Imonikhe contesting?’
‘I will help you,’ said Sir Maigida, ‘but it will cost you something.’ He still maintained an impassive expression.
To be continued