Victim of Greed
By Tony Chuks Modungwo (Nigeria)
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One cool evening, I prepared to keep a date with Connie. She’d arrived in Lagos two days before from Los Angeles. She came around once a year. I was at Murtala Mohammed International Airport to wait her arrival. Some of her relations were also there. After I dropped her at her cousin’s flat at Surulere, I promised to take her out this day.
“Biola, I’m going for a party in Barrister Jackson’s house. He is celebrating the silver jubilee anniversary of his marriage.”
“I would’ve liked to be there but I’m not strong enough for any night party.”
I turned and looked at her. She looked shapeless and frail with her six months’ pregnancy.
“Do you need to see the doctor?” I asked, as I was shrugging into my coat.
“No. I still have my drugs. Please bring me some water and the tablets on my dressing table, and make me a cup of tea before you leave,” she said in a soft voice.
Our maid had gone home. Her father was critically ill in the village and there was no money to carry him to the hospital for treatment, so I gave her some money.
After I’d given Biola her cup of tea, I started to leave.
“Please darling, buy me some ice cream when you’re coming back.”
“Why are women such a bore when they are pregnant?” I said, as I moved towards my car.
“Barrister Jackson was a member of our club. TCM was a club strictly meant for millionaires. It was supposed to be a socio-philanthropic club, but we used it mainly as a forum for meeting fellow wealthy citizens and self-advertisement. The mere mention to an individual that you were a member of TCM Club was another way of telling him you’re a millionaire. Our luncheon parties were always looked forward to by most respectable in the society. The Clubhouses were situated near the beach. All conceivable indoor and outdoor games possible in our part of the world were available – chess, draught, golf course, polo field, tennis court et cetera. We even had an airstrip for exclusive use of members. Barrister Jackson was a Minister and owned the largest share in Royal Hotel, the costliest in the country. He always treated Biola and me to expensive dinners whenever he wasn’t abroad. He’d a private jet and an expatriate pilot, who he paid heavily. One good thing about Barrister Jackson was that he was generous. He made it a point of duty to donate to the less-privileged every year.
Immediately, I got into my Hallmark Jeep, I slotted my “Sexual Healing” cassette by the late Marvin Gaye into the car’s stereo. The voice of the late superstar filled the car. My fingers were tapping the wheel in response to the music as I drove.
I drove straight to the residence of Barrister and Mrs. Jackson.
“Hello Chika, you’re welcome. Where is Biola?” Mrs. Jackson asked.
“Biola is heavy with pregnancy and can barely move.”
“Poor Biola. We all have been through that. Please give my regards to her,”Mrs Jackson said.
“Chika! Chika!” Barrister Jackson hailed me, as he came out of the inner room.
“Happy anniversary. I was waiting for you before I congratulate Mrs. Jackson for having coped with you for twenty five years.”
They both smiled. “Please sit down and take something, others will soon be here,” Barrister Jackson said.
After a meal of rice, I took a shot of brandy.
“You didn’t eat much,” Mrs. Jackson observed.
“Yes. In fact, I’m just coming from a cocktail party organized by a business colleague,” I lied. I was sparing my stomach for the dinner date with Connie.
After I stayed for about thirty minutes, I decided it was time to leave.
“Barrister, I’m sorry I’ve to leave. Biola isn’t feeling so fine, but there was no way I’ll fail to appear to congratulate you and your family on this great achievement.”
“Please give our regards to Biola. We shall be around to see her soon,” Barrister Jackson promised.
I walked out to the car park and drove away to Surulere to meet Connie.
When I got to Connie’s cousin’s flat, where she was staying, she was seated in front of a dressing mirror experimenting with various hairstyles. She looked her magnificent best. She was a delightfully beautiful lady with long, smooth tapering legs. I’d befriended beautiful women in my life but she was in a class of her own. She was gloriously and hopelessly in love with me. But which woman wouldn’t be when I was loaded with money? She stood up and brushed her lips against mine, setting my nerves aquiver as though I had made contact with a naked electric wire.
One of my friends had once told me that it was useless marrying when there were women who could look after you and sleep with you without getting married. As I squinted at Connie, I started to agree with him.
“Let’s go to Millionaire’s Inn for dinner,” I told Connie.
This hotel, like the name, was meant exclusively for the rich. Everything sold here were for double or thrice the prices they were sold in other big hotels. You must be loaded with money to contemplate going there. Their service was impeccable and the environment clean.
“Chika, this is why I love you. You are not only handsome but you also know how to take care of a woman.”
“You also know how to dress. Chika you look elegant.”
“Thank you, Connie. A mermaid will grind her teeth in envy at the sight of your beauty,” I responded.
When we got to the car, I slotted, “We are the world” into the car’s stereo before I drove off. On arrival in the hotel we went straight to the reception, where I received nods of recognition from the smartly dressed clerks. I booked for a V.I. P. suite. I held Connie by the waist as we moved to the suite, directed by a bellboy. The suite could be a good advertisement for the biblical “Garden of Eden”.
I moved over to the telephone and ordered for dinner and a bottle of brandy. Brandy was Connie’s choice drink.
“The food is very delicious,” Connie complimented.
“That is why I brought you here. Their standard is high.”
I uncorked the Remy Martins and poured liberal quantities into our glasses.
“To an enjoyable stay in Nigeria,” I toasted, and we clinched our glasses.
When Connie had had enough of the brandy, we moved into the bedroom. We undressed. My arms slid around her. She pressed herself against me, her mouth seeking mine. We flopped onto the bed. I roused her to the highest echelons of passion before we made love. My thrusts into her made her cry out my name. She gripped me in her arms, holding me tightly, her long legs twining around me. We later collapsed into a delightful sleep.
Early the next day, we made love before going for our bath. We were fully dressed by five thirty. I collected my unfinished bottle of brandy. As I was driving to Surulere to drop Connie, I drank occasionally from the bottle. As we approached a police checkpoint, she warned me to put the drink away.
“Relax babe, I know how to handle these guys,” I assured her.
“You may be charged for drinking while driving.”
“Charge who?” I retorted. “I am known in this Lagos. The rich get away with anything in this town.”
She wanted to say something, but changed her mind as a policeman waved me down. I wound down my window.
“How are you officer?” I asked, giving him my boyish smile.
“Ah, Chika! Chika! I am fine, sir.”
The bottle of brandy was still in my right hand while I held the steering with the left.
“Our flamboyant Chika, you are enjoying.”
“Give me some drink so that I can enjoy with you,” he begged.
I took a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey from my car compartment and handed it over.
“Thank, sir. You can carry on, sir,” he said smiling broadly.
I looked at Connie and smiled. I engaged my gear and drove off with the policeman waving.
“You think you’re in U.S. where those crazy policemen give ticket anyhow. This is Lagos.”
“But are they supposed to drink while on duty?”
“That’s none of my business. The Police Inspector General should decide that.”
“This is why they shoot innocent people at checkpoints when they’re drunk. He didn’t even ask why you were drinking while driving. But everyday, I hear on radio, a jingle that announces that: ‘If you drink, don’t drive and if you drive, don’t drink.’ This is nonsense if nobody is ready to enforce it.”
“That is mere propaganda. What’s the business of our police officers if you decide to commit suicide? If you decide to drink and drive, you are on your own.”
“But the drunk driver might not kill only himself.”
“Connie, you’ve stayed too long in America; you’re out of touch with happenings in your country. Anyhow you die here it’s regarded as the will of God, otherwise it will not have happened.”
“The policemen are supposed to be mentally and physically alert, while on duty to be able to do their duties of crime detection and prevention. How can they do this when they are drunk,” Connie asked, as she got out her cigarette case and lit a cigarette.
“Babe, don’t bother yourself. Our police officers have their ways of doing things,” I said, as I took a sip from my bottle. I passed the bottle over to her, but she declined.
“A policeman found drunk on duty should be fired,” she said with the cigarette slanting between her lips.
“Fine. Petition the Police Headquarters. How about a policeman found taking bribe?” I asked.
“He should also be fired.”
“Then we’ll have no Police Force.”
“Do you mean there are no good and disciplined police officers?” she asked , with her eyes screwed up to avoid the smoke as it spiraled pass her face.
“Police officers are only members of the society where corruption is an institutionalized way of life. If there are no givers there’ll be no takers.”
“Why is corruption so rampant in Nigeria?”
“The white men taught us how to take bribe.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Yes. I am. During the slave trade era, they came in ships and bribed our chiefs and got them to sell their subjects into slavery. It has never been in our culture to take or give bribe. When the imperialists came, in order that they might get cheap sources of raw materials, markets for their manufactured goods, cheap labor for their plantations, and commercially exploit our people; they bribed our chiefs and important people. They became their tools. This was how we came to have black people scattered all over the world and bribery institutionalized in our society.”
“I don’t quite agree with you,” Connie said slightly annoyed.
“You don’t have to, you’ve lived too long in America that you reason and do things like them.”
“The habit of soaking alcohol like sponge contributes to the carelessness of many drivers at the wheels, thereby turning the highway into human abattoirs. There should be legal standard of alcohol tolerable for drivers like in U.S. Law enforcement agents should carry out blood test of drivers when a driver is suspected to have taken too much alcohol. And such a driver should be severely dealt with if the result of the test is positive,” she parried.
I drove into Connie’s compound. “I shall come to see you soon.”
“How soon?” she asked.
“Once the business permits. Have this money and give yourself a treat while I’m busy.”
“Thank you. You’re a darling,” she said, giving me flirtatious come-on signals.
I reversed and drove away. I stopped on the way to buy Biola’s ice cream, before heading home. When I got home, I met Senator Harrison waiting for me.
“Welcome darling my dad has been waiting.”
“Good morning, sir. I went for a party in Barrister Jackson’s house.”
“That’s what Biola told me. How was the party?”
“Fine, sir. I hope there’s no problem?”
He wore a flowing robe sewn the hausa style called babariga, with an hausa cap to match. Two of his heavily built bodyguards sat around him.
“There is no problem,” He smiled. The kind of smile politicians used to deceive the electorates. He’d a glass of whisky in his hand.
“I’m happy to hear that, sir,” I replied, as I gave Biola her ice cream. I crossed over to the bar and fixed myself a drink and took my seat.
Senator Harrison brought out a cigar and lighted it with a gold lighter. Wealth could make one develop some real bad habits. He smoked for a while before he spoke.
“Chika, I’ve come to invite you to my party’s meeting.”
“Yes. Have you ever thought of going into politics?”
He puffed at his cigar before he said anything. “My son, I bet it’s better if you go into politics. You’ve got all it takes. I promise to give you all the assistance you’ll need. I shall make sure you start from the top. After you’ve made money, the next thing is to acquire power. You can only achieve this by going into politics.”
I became increasingly apprehensive. I’ve heard of thugs killing opponents of their political masters. I wanted to join politics when I wanted money as a matter of life and death, but now that I have got it I’d to settle down to expending it, I felt.
“Come son, don’t be afraid. I know you’re thinking of the violence associated with Nigerian politics. I’ve made adequate plans on how to protect you. I have spoken to my spiritualist and he has promised to make you beyond human destruction like I am. I’m offering you this help not only because you’re my son-in-law but because of the way you’ve handled my business. I’ve been making unprecedented profit. Just show your willingness to join and I shall take care of the rest,” he promised. “I’m going to sponsor you for the gubernatorial race. And once you’re a governor, you’ll make a lot of money and have immunity against prosecution, no matter what you do. That’s power.”
I was amazed by how optimistic Senator Harrison seemed about my gubernatorial prospect.
“But how can a new member of a party become a gubernatorial candidate? Are there no old members willing to run?” I asked skeptically.
“Leave that to me,” he said in his characteristically pompous manner. He was a domineering personality.
“I’m not known outside my constituency in my state.”
“Don’t worry. I shall make you popular. You can’t fail to win unless you fail to try.”
“Chika, please don’t accept. I know for sure daddy is capable of pulling some political strings but politics in this part of the globe is very phony. The parties are so disorganized the rules are not adhered to. Secondly, there is a lot of violence in our politics. It is too risky.”
“Chika will make a good politician. He is smart intelligent and industrious. I will guide him and success is guaranteed.”
“Thank you, sir, for finding me worthy,” I said to conclude the discussion on a positive note.
“Biola, It is impossible to marry a man without becoming a part of his career, so get interested in politics, it is an interesting power game.”
I would’ve rejected the idea vehemently then but my stubborn cupidity didn’t let me.
I went the next day to tell my parents I was going into politics. On the way to see my parents, I ran into a campaign rally of the Conscience Peoples Party. I parked my car and decided to listen to what they had to say. Chief Oni was the presidential candidate of the party and Barrister Dums was a senatorial candidate for Owambe State.
Huge crowd frantically waved their handkerchiefs and shouting, “We want a great Nigeria”. Barrister Dums and other party executives led by Chief Oni, slowly made their way through the crush of people lining the route to the podium. When he climbed the podium, people raised thunderous unceasing ovations; Chief Oni was the first to speak.
“My fellow party faithful, during this approaching elections, we’re going to embark on enlightening and organizing immeasurably wider masses of the population who previously took no active part in political events, so as to remove the present corrupt and insensitive government. It’s unfortunate that in our country today, people have gone mad with greed. The masses have been manipulated for opportunistic gain. There’s unrestricted access to the state resources for the educated elites and the politically well connected. Upward mobility, most of us are aware, is achieved more through clientage and personal relationship than through ability.”
“Power,” someone shouted.
“To the masses,” the crowd chorused.
“Nepotism and “long leg”are very common in this society. The majority of our people suffer from these obnoxious practices because most of them are poor and have no influential friends. The wealth of this nation is appropriated by a few, while most people become poorer, ruined and starved. The masses have suffered so much from this robbery, oppression and torment, that they now bear scars of poverty all over their body.
“Our party, the Conscience Peoples Party is the only hope for the masses. We must do all within our power to prevent any form of rigging of this coming election. Any further rigging by these nefarious people will spell doom for our country, so we must resist them.”
As Barrister Dums moved forward to address the rally, clenched fists were raised in greeting and shouts of “Power to the masses,” rent the air. The people moved further, everybody wanted to see or touch him.
“Power!” he shouted.
“To the masses,” the crowd responded.
“Power!” he repeated.
“To the masses,” the crowd responded jubilantly.
“You’re all welcome to the first rally of our great party. The Conscience Peoples Party is the only party that has a clear and precise programme for all the people. Our party is made up of people who really want to fight for the emancipation of the masses from the yoke of political tyrants in this country.
“Succession of leaders should be chosen by the people on the basis of worth. Some unscrupulous politicians are doing all in their power to institutionalize rigging. This has caused cataclysmic crashes. Do not be deceived by the propaganda that anyone, who had not served an apprenticeship, was sure to fail in politics. Libya’s Ghadafi, J. J. Rawlings of Ghana, and late Gamel Nassar of Egypt, who helped to shape affairs of their respective countries, had little experience when they came to power. The masses of this country can no longer bear the endless oppression. They need us to save them. It’s better to die fighting the oppressors than to allow our people die of starvation.”
“’Power!” Chief Oni shouted.
“To the masses,” the crowd responded.
“Please, anyone who have anything to say should come forward and do so,” Chief Oni said.
“I’ve heard from a reliable source that PNP is planning a massive rigging of this coming elections,” a man from the crowd said, after the Master of Ceremony, handed him a cordless microphone.
“We’ve to be vigilant, so that we can thwart all their plans,” Chief Oni replied.
“PNP has been recruiting and training thugs for some months now,” another man told the gathering.
“I’ve heard that too,” Barrister Dums said. “This party believe in non-aggressive approach to our opponents,” he added.
“How about if we are attacked?” the same man asked.
“Then we’ve to fight back in self-defense. We’ll only be involved in selective violence in self-defense, and in defense of democracy,” Chief Oni said.
Before they disperse they recited the pledge of the party.
I pledge to stop at nothing
To lift my people from
The present pit of hopelessness
And pathetic oppressive rule
Of political tyrants
That has taken
Our country hostage
All of a sudden, there were sounds of guns firing in different directions. I ran towards my car at a high speed. People deserted the venue like so many rats clambering off a sinking barge. They were crying, shouting and there was a great stampede. Many people were trampled upon. I fell down four times and each time struggled quickly to my feet before I got to my car.
I later learnt, the commissioner of police had banned any type of rally, without first getting written permission from the police. It was the police who’d come to disperse the crowd.
My father was seated in front of our house when I drove as close as I could to the house in my Hallmark Jeep. He looked anxiously to see the stranger that had missed his way. This type of car was rarely seen in the area. Owners of motorcycles in the area were lords, let alone car owners, not to mention of Hallmark Jeep.
He moved further on his seat, stretching his neck to see the owner of the car. His effort was frustrated, because the windows were tinted. Austin came out of the house and recognized my car immediately. He rushed to meet me as I came down from the car.
“Brother welcome,” he greeted.
“How is school?” I asked.
“All is fine. How is your wife?”
“She is fine.”
I was wearing a flowing garment, the yorubas called “agbada”. It was made with “wonyosi’ an expensive lace material. I’d a long, big gold pendant hanging from my neck. My father was hypnotized by my unnecessary display of wealth. Austin ran into the house and brought out an old chair for me. He placed it by the side of my father and cleaned it with a rag.
“Good evening, sir,” I greeted my father.
“Welcome. Who owns that car?” my father asked, his gaze narrowed as he stared at the car, noting its aristocratic features. There was certain arrogance in the way I stood, holding myself proudly tall.
“It is mine. Why do you ask?”
“It looks to me as an expensive car.”
“Yes. It is. I’ve come to inform you that I am going into politics and I need this type of car for my campaign. It is bulletproof.”
“What do you need a bulletproof car for? Who do you think will want to shoot at you.”
“Austin! ”my father called.
“Sir,” he replied.
“Call your mother for me.”
When my mother came out, he told her, I was going into politics.
“Please don’t do it, my son,” she wept bitterly.
“I’m sorry for you. You want to take deeper plunge into corruption. You’ve given all your life to Satan. You’ve been a smuggler and trafficker, now you want to become a politician. Why did you go to the university to read Industrial Chemistry? What is the relationship of the course with all these things you’ve been doing?”
“I want to develop Coastal State. And with my knowledge I shall be able to establish industries for our people.”
He waved his hand dismissively. “Industries indeed! You’ve become a slave to greed. Explain to me how our nation shall be great when it is filled with avaricious people like you?” my father said reproachfully.
“Daddy, you’ve to see things in their true light. This is Nigeria. Blame the system not men. If I’d kept my hands clean, I would’ve been in the same state with you today. Can’t you see? Nothing is going to be right again in this country instead everything may just possibly go wrong.”
“Men are the architects of the system and they can change it.”
“That is impossible, dad. Some of the architects will not be willing for any change.”
“But there have to be a change. Things cannot go on like this forever. God has his way of doing things. He will soon wipe out the sinners. Don’t forget that the wages of sin is death,” he declared righteously.
“You’ve started preaching again?”
“Yes, I have to. If men remember that God told them to be their brother’s keeper a few wouldn’t be living in luxury while majority wallowed in abject poverty and stared face to face with starvation.”
“All fingers will never be equal.”
“Accepted. But the differences in sizes are not very much. Don’t go into politics. You could be heading for self-destruction.”
“I must. I want to go and serve my people.”
“Or you want to go and steal from your people?” he asked accusingly.
“Dad, hence you’ve decided to sit idle while a few people mortgage the fortune of this country, I’m not going to be with you. I’m going out to get my own share of this nation’s fortune.” I smiled gallantly.
I saw I couldn’t convince my father, why I must go into politics so I left him. I lingered around until he left for the church in the evening, before I called Austin to off-load the things I brought for the family. I opened the trunk, and went to sit down. Austin called other of my younger ones to assist him.
I came with a bag of rice, a carton each of milk, sugar, toilet soap, vegetable oil and detergent. I gave my mother twenty thousand naira to buy other food items. I gave Austin ten thousand naira for his upkeep in school. I also gave one thousand each to the other younger ones. They were all happy.
“Thank you, my son. God will bless you,” my mother prayed. “But please don’t go into politics. It’s a very dangerous game in this country. We hear of so many assassinations of political opponents. Please don’t joint them, you could be killed,” she pleaded.
“I’ve heard you,” I replied.
“I drove away from here to Josephine’s house. When I got there, I met a car parked in the front; the driver was sleeping on the steering. I knocked on the door, but there was no response. I tried the door and it opened. I walked in. Her bedroom’s door was ajar, so I decided to check if Josephine was sleeping.
I walked into a terrible scene. The Permanent Secretary, Josephine had denied was not her boyfriend, was lying by her side on the bed naked. I leered at the two naked lovers for a few minutes and hissed.
The sound jolted them from their slumber. They struggled to cover their nakedness. I turned and walked out of the room, banging the door.
So Sally was right, I said to myself. Josephine was a slut.
The next day, I went to see Kola in his office. Kola was intelligent. His courage was evident in the way he handled his arrest and detention when I jumped bail. I wanted to hear what he’d to say. When I entered Kola’s office, he sat on his expensive swivel chair. He wore a dark business suit and a neat haircut. He was clean-shaven.
“Hello Chika,” he greeted. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” he asked, giving me a welcoming smile.
“I want to discuss something important with you. Can you spare me thirty minutes.”
“I’ m busy, I’ll try to hear you, but not more than thirty minutes.” Kola was still my best friend, even though we often disagreed on issues, there was genuine respect between us. Kola followed our country’s political scene as much as politicians and took note of everything that went on around him.
“Kola, I’m here to inform you that I’m going into politics.”
“For God’s sake, Chika! You’ve made a lot of money since you became the General Manager of Harrison Holdings. You’ve fleet of expensive cars, architectural edifice in Lagos and your village--- not to mention a lovely wife from a rich background. What else do you still want? Don’t you think you’re becoming too greedy? Don’t do it. As a politician in Nigeria, you must have the capacity to say what you don’t mean and pretend to mean it.”
“Kola, I’m not going into politics to perpetuate the traditional approach; I want to bring in new values into politics. I’m obviously aware of allegations of political insincerity in the country.”
“What elective post do you want to go for?” he asked hesitantly.
“I want to go for the gubernatorial race. My decision is borne out of patriotism than anything else.”
Condemnation showed in his eyes and voice. “Chika, do you know the sad thing, you’re not pursuing power to advance your state of origin beyond the present situation, but to turn the entire system to make more money for yourself and your father-in-law, even at the risk of stagnating the development of your area. What do you know about politics that you want to start as a Governor? Senator Harrison wants to impose you on your people.”
“This is what is called spotting and grooming of leadership in politics. Most prominent politicians worldwide are men who earned their place and their power, first by serving others in lowly positions, then by industry and intelligence and by God’s grace rise to exercise immense power.”
"Some People decide to go into politics because their people call them to serve, but you are going into politics because your father-in-law wants you to participate; strictly for selfish gain. This kind of imposition is what has brought Nigeria to it’s present pitiable situation. It is something subversive of democracy. It’s sad that the more efforts a few honest Nigerian politicians make to position our country as a democratic nation, particularly in thinking and actions, the more politicians like Senator Harrison relapse into the malaise of old habits of undemocratic practices. By the conducts of most of our politicians, corruption appears institutionalized at high levels and so seem accepted as a way of life. What’s your agenda if elected into office?”
“I shall do my best for my people. Coastal State people are poor. The poverty ravaging the state manifests in several ways, including unacceptable level of unemployment and lack of basic amenities. The high level of poverty has turned our young girls to prostitutes and our young men to armed robbers, a situation that is creating a lot of social tension and acute sense of insecurity. The state of insecurity discourages investment. I hope to combat poverty seriously.”
“Over these years, the signs of corruption had been visible to you, but you’ve been conditioned to acceptance. What I pray for this country is true democracy not a place run by a single party hijacked by a small number of powerful men, thereby retarding the progress of a country that deserved to be great. Chika you have changed. There was a time when you wouldn’t have anything to do with corruption. But for some time now you’ve been swimming in corrupt practices.” His look was firm, the tone adamant.
“Kola, the elimination of corruption in our country is an exercise in futility. To eliminate corruption, there need to be economic stability, which corruption itself has made impossible.”
“Corruption has been considered one of the greatest obstacles to the economic and social development of this country. I’ve lost count of the number of times, Transparency International has listed Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.”
“How did they quantify the amount of corruption in this country because it usually takes place in secret,” I replied.
“The effect of corruption is more in Africa than other continents in the world. Corruption has diverted a high percentage of the economy to bribe. The high rate of corruption has equally made it difficult to attract foreign aids and investment.”
“There are always going to be people who are corrupt. Corruption exists in virtually all the countries in the world, don’t mind the useless propaganda against Nigeria.”
“Ending corruption in Nigeria requires strong institutional mechanism backed by anti- corruption laws. Our judiciary should be empowered to enforce them.”
“Many government institutions to check corruption are already in place, but they are not effective and will never be.”
“Every day I see the disproportionate impact of corruption on the poor masses in this country, it makes my heart bleed. African countries must stamp out corruption, if they hope to someday emerge from the mire of underdevelopment and poverty. Africa need to be freed from the clutches of political buccaneers. Corruption is without doubt the continent’s albatross.”
“Have the leaders in Nigeria or Africa really applied the rules and the laws of the land without fear or favor? They should remove the causes of corruption and provide facilities for self-actualization and corruption will be unnecessary. Our present war on corruption is made to impress the international community without attacking the real causes, so it’ll not work. Things artificial have short life span,” I said.
“Chika, be aware you’re embarking on a dangerous adventure. Have you not heard of series of political assassinations in recent time?”
“Oh yes! I’m aware that politics in Nigeria is not meant for the fainthearted.”
“I rather wrestle with a lion than take part in Nigerian’s politics,” Kola said.
“It’s not good enough to live a passive and uneventful life, withdrawing from adventure, so as not to bear any of its bruises. By adopting this attitude, many glorious moments of one’s life will pass one by.”
“Nigeria is a place, where human beings treat other human beings so cruelly. One would think that Nigerians sit around thinking up ways to torture or kill their fellow human being. In my dark moments, I seem to see the country sliding toward conflict. I just hope not.”
The problem with Kola was that he was too cautious. He knew what was right but always counted the cost of achieving it as too high and the way too difficult, while he waited for others to do it. He lacked spark. Two characteristics often walked in tandem with two of us: criticism, then absolution.
Such depreciating social tragedies as ignorance, poverty, corruption, and social disorder dominated our argument. I left Kola promising to give my decision a second thought, but greed pushed me on. Elective post in Nigeria translated to access to vast material fortune.
Senator Harrison was happy when I told him I’d decided to join politics. But what I did not know was that I’d made a total mistake. My going into politics was later to become my nemesis. He took me to an old man about seventy years old who gave me some charms.
“You’ve to protect yourself against the attacks from candidates of rivalry parties,” Senator Harrison said, with an encouraging smile. “Think of yourself, Chika, as going on a long, wonderful and dangerous journey. I’ll be your guide. I’ll keep you safe, I’ll keep danger away from you.”
It was certainly impossible to be around Senator Harrison without becoming interested in politics. That’s basically all he talked about.
After that, he took me to their party meeting and introduced me to the top leadership wigs of the party. He told them he was sponsoring me as a gubernatorial candidate for Coastal State in the Niger Delta. Niger Delta is home to vast oil reserves, which made the country one of the world’s biggest oil exporters. However, the region remained poor, undeveloped and ravened by conflict. For many years, militant youths launched offensive against the Nigeria state and multi-national oil companies. This culminated to the destruction of oil facilities and in some cases killing of oil workers. The armed struggle was borne out of anger and resentment as most of the youths had finished school and no job. They’d kidnapped foreign oil workers a number of times for ransom. The region was awash with weapons. The proceeds of the exported oil were stolen by politicians like Senator Harrison, and high ranking public servants, while the people of the Niger Delta were taunted by the lure to have a bite of a piece of the plantain, fried with the crude oil from their land.
Some of party members objected on the grounds that I was a new member. “When a sewer had to be cleaned, they send for us,” one of the gubernatorial aspirants complained, “but as soon as the dirty work has been done, anointed candidate will spring up from nowhere. Our party constitution stipulates that a new member should be a member for two years before he’ll be qualified to seek elective post,” the gubernatorial aspirant protested.
We left that day without Senator Harrison pressing the point. Senator Harrison was subject to abrupt mood shifts. When things didn’t go the way he wanted, he could yell, scream and curse even his best friend. A one time business associate of Senator Harrison saw us as we were about to leave the party secretariat in Coastal State, walked up to him and said, “Hello Senator Harrison, I’m Larry Jones. Do you remember me?”
Senator Harrison looked at the man as though he was an apparition and turned his head away. Slighting people had become a common gesture on Senator Harrison’s part. An unbecoming behavior for a politician that needed people’s goodwill. His old friends were often afraid to approach him for fear of being snubbed or even reproached.
After he went to see some of them at home and bought them over. “A man is only honest when there is not enough money to buy him over,” he told me. The next time I attended the party’s meeting it was unanimously agreed that I’ll be the gubernatorial candidate for Coastal State. I came to realize the potency of “god-fatherism” in our society. Senator Harrison had the ability to handle different situations as well as difficult persons. He was a politically powerful figure. Being a shrewd judge of character and a master of hidden agendas he knew which people to push and how far to push them.
“You should understand that your position in this our great party depends not only on your financial contributions, but also on if you are able to deliver your state to the party. From the privilege information the Board of Trustee and the National Executive Council have, we’re convinced that Chika Okafor will be our best candidate for gubernatorial race in Coastal State. We want to win the elections in all the states of the Federation,” the national chairman of the party told the party members.
A godfather in Nigeria’s politics was a looming and imperious, materially endowed, guardian figure who provided the lifeline and direction for his godson who most times was a political neophyte. He single-handily funds political mobilization, campaigns, and manipulations of electoral processes and distortion of facts. The godson in turn offered total submission and obeisance to his master on ascension to power. The incidence of poverty in our society had a strong influence in the emergence of this phenomenon. The cost of winning an election in capital-intensive Nigeria’s politics was usually enormous and usually beyond the resources of most power seekers.
I was taken to my state and introduced as the gubernatorial candidate by a senior party official from the party’s headquarters. A few of the old members who were nursing the ambition to contest raised objections, but they withdrew their protest when they were threatened with expulsion from the party. After a brief meeting with the party chairman and his aides in my state we returned to Lagos. As from that day, I started to get prepared for the election. Senator Harrison was busy also preparing for his re-election into the Senate. I handed my General Manager’s job to my deputy in the office. Senator Harrison gave thirty million naira to me for my political campaign. I was shocked at such generosity. Of course, the process of rising in political leadership was a costly one. He instructed me to hire some thugs for protection. After all the charms I acquired? I asked myself. But I obeyed. I went to Ajegunle and engaged forty haughty men to facilitate my movement and that of my supporters. I bought fleet of buses and cars for campaign.
Like all previous elections, character assassination, murder, arson, whipping up of tribal and sectional sentiments were the order of the day during the electioneering campaigns. Thugs obeyed their masters’ orders without hesitation. The risk these thugs took however was disproportionate with their pay. A rap of marijuana and five thousand naira were enough for them to stake their lives. An adage in Africa said that the person who allowed coconut to be broken on his head might not partake of it. But if some people could be so stupid to want to die so that others could enjoy, I felt that was their problem.
The case of a politician and a thug was like that of a lizard and a rat. When both fell into a pool of water, the lizard usually swam to safety while the rat drowned after a feeble struggle. Senator Harrison once said: “The thugs in Nigeria are like ceremonial dress, they are taken out merely for a ceremony; when it is passed, they are packed away again, till they are needed, the next time.” So far I used them to achieve my aim I didn’t bother. Ten of my thugs were killed before the end of the electioneering campaign. I traveled extensively for my campaign, and dished out money like Father Christmas gave gifts to children.
In no time I was popular. My election posters were posted on almost all houses and public places in my state. Money was working wonders. Senator Harrison was right. But Senator Harrison wasn’t finding things easy, because throughout his first term in the senate he never did anything for his people. His people were determined he must not represent them again. Instead, they preferred Barrister Dums. He was a man of high moral standards and unquestionable integrity. He was an intelligent young man though not very rich. His people acknowledged his indisputable competence, and his resourcefulness. His academic record had remained unbeaten in the university he attended. The people felt he was their man. He was an ideal man to transact business. He kept to his promises.
Barrister Dums started his activism while in the university. Swept along by his youthful enthusiasm, Dums, one day found himself making a speech at a student congress; the following day, he was summoned before the Vice-Chancellor and the Senate and was temporarily sent home. He returned, planning an academic career in criminal law. Before he graduated, he changed his mind. He’d the dream all along to serve the nation one day, so he decided to be a political lawyer.
After being called to the bar, he traveled the length and breadth of the country, defending political prisoners against the prosecution of the state. He won many of the cases and became popular. He owed his success to energetic and well thought-out actions. He was as good as his words.
Each time I thought I had everything figured out, something else would come up, and I’d have to think of another way out of it. At times with the assistance of Senator Harrison
As the election approached, Senator Harrison called me to his house for a close door meeting. He was with three of his serious-looking bodyguards. They were big and heavily muscled men. He never went anyway without them since the campaign began.
“Chika, we must win this election, whether people like it or not,” he told me, immediately I was seated. “My people are not cooperating, but they are kidding.” He was a man of iron determination.
Senator Harrison electoral victory wasn’t just the defeat of the political opponent but the electorate as well. By making promises he wasn’t ready to keep he’d destroyed his political career.
It was no secret that he accomplished very little of note in his four years in the senate. What everybody knew was that he walked around with his fly unzipped. His main interest was making money. My mind flashed back to what Kola once told me.
“Our country which was one of the richest in the continent of Africa due to our natural and human resources has become one of the poorest nation. The lawmakers misperceived their role as primarily that of politicians whose allegiance is to their prospective parties and themselves, and not their constituents or the nation. There is display of utter incompetence, administrative midgetry, brazen corruption and indiscipline in all facets of life.”
“Why do you say so?” I asked.
“Instead of them addressing their minds to freeing the nation from foreign economic exploitation, they took pride in being the commission agents and local errand boys of economic masters in the name of the multinational companies. They receive kick-backs from them indiscriminately.”
“Do you’ve any proofs?”
“While the citizens of this nation are suffering, our lawmakers and other political leaders live in absolute affluence. Their ways of life give lawlessness the appearance of high wisdom. This is the ultimate sin in all African countries; politicians always place their own interests before those of the nations and their people. They do everything to get elected, and having been elected, want to stay in power whether they performed or not. They see failure to get elected as a crushing blow to their ego and it always frightened them,” Kola lamented.
Senator Harrison voice brought me out of my reverie.
“But how can we win if the people doesn’t want us?” I asked patiently.
He sipped at a glass of whisky on the rock by his side and lit his cigar. I waited.
“In fact that is why I’ve invited you here. How are your people behaving?”
“Fine. It looks I’ve majority on my side.”
“Don’t be deceived, gentleman. They may be pretending just to collect money from you. On the day of election, they’ll vote for another candidate.”
“What then can I do?”
Senator Harrison laughed heartily. “All these campaign and sharing of money to the people is just a smokescreen. The real strategies are what I want to disclose to you now. I’ve used them before and it worked.”
I selected a cigarette from my gold case and lit it with a gold lighter. I filled my lungs with smoke and blew it out through my mouth.
“You shall employ more thugs.” It was the weakness of Nigerian politicians to use people’s lives in the furtherance of their personal goals.
“But why? The campaign will soon be over.”
“They are not for protection, but to intimidate people to vote for you on the Election Day. I know you know where to get them. Secondly, I’m making arrangements to get some ballot boxes and the necessary documents required for voting. On the eve of the election, some paid people will vote in your house in your village.”
“How will these votes be counted?”
He grinned. “I’m coming to that. That’s the job of the thugs. They’ll carry them to the polling booths and exchange them with the genuine ballot boxes.”
“I don’t see how that can be possible.”
“They’ll drive to the polling booths in an ambulance, start shooting into the air to cause pandemomium so that the voters and officials will try to escape,they will remove the genuine boxes, and replace them with yours. And the other boxes will be dropped down the nearest river.”
“That’ll be difficult and dangerous.”
“That’s why the thugs will be paid ten thousand naira each. Not many people see that kind of money all their life,” Senator Harrison said.
“How about the police?”
“With one policeman assigned to about five polling booths, the switching of box operation will take place when he’s in another booth. But they’re no problem, they are for our party.” He gave another charming smile.
“But how about the polling clerks. They might tell the police what happened and refuse to count the votes in those boxes?”
He smiled indulgently. “I’ve thought of that, before the date of the election, I’m going to organize a party to celebrate my birthday soon and the electoral clerks will be invited. When poor teachers with irregular income and civil servants with their poor salaries see twenty thousand naira, they’ll betray their fathers,” he smiled mockingly.
“If they don’t run away with the rest some of the hired thugs will drive the agents away before the operation. And if they resist they should be shot.”
“It looks you’ve thought everything out, but I still feel it might not work.”
“This was how I did it in the last election and it worked. I believe it’ll still work. Even if it doesn’t, there’s still a way out?”
“How?” I asked perplexed.
“The clerks could alter the figures while recording the votes.”
“That is impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible. It’s very easy. Where we score 12 votes they will make it 112 or 212.”
At this point, I realized there were many things I still had to learn about politics. I’d thought that after campaigning, one would just pray to God, and wait for the verdict of the masses. I came to understand that Kola was right. So rigging could be carried on to the last minute? I wondered.
“But rigging is a violation of the right of the populace to choose their leaders?” I said.
“Forget it. What do the common people know about leadership? They only know what the politicians tell them. Acknowledging their state in life, they work for the politicians to achieve their goals and get paid for the assigned tasks. There’s nothing like democracy all over the world,” he joshed.
In my country, elections were always rigged allowing a few wealthy politicians with a handful of their cronies to take absolute control of the state through electoral fraud. And the will of the people was irrelevant.