BY Okanga Agilai
Chikelu came alive with his usual morning quarrels as animals foraged the bushy surroundings around his house. He girded himself with a wrapper round his waist, the customary apron of his eastern kinsmen, signifying a man who has truly woken up from his house, the previous night.
Chikelu, a middle aged man intermittently spat out large spittle, as he briskly brushed his teeth with a chewing stick, humming his favourite war-like song.
Chinedu! Chinedu!! Chikelu bellowed into the open air, as he inspected his home poultry barn. A cock was missing and he could not remember when he asked that it should be slaughtered for the family.
Chineduuuu!!! he shouted again. Mama Chinedu, a bulky mother of five, appeared from his back and calmly said, “Nnanyi, I have sent him to the village stream.” Okay! Where is that red cock, my good friend Nnaji gave me last year?, he asked.
Mama Chinedu said, “It’s there, look at it,” as she pointed to a giant feathered cock, attempting to service a hen. On sighting it, Chikelu heaved a huge sigh of relief.
“But let me ask,” Mama Chinedu uttered almost quietly. “You seem very angry this morning. Who has offended you?” she asked her husband.
Chikelu pretended not to hear, counting his stock of chickens, as he sprayed seeds of grains at them. But determined to get an answer, she repeated the same question. Her husband turned grudgingly to his wife and beckoned her to a seat beside him.
“My wife,” he began, “Do you know since after the civil war, none of our people has been able to rule Naija, our dear country?” “Yes,” the wife replied.
Chikelu took time to explain to his wife the political history of Naija and how the Presidency of the country has always escaped them by the whiskers.
“The last time a man from the North sat on the seat, after which it would have rotated to us, they never allowed it.” he said.
“They claimed he died; so the zoning formula changed and the seat went to another region,” “And now, the North is holding the seat again. And after the region, it will come back to the South and to us; but they are again saying Sai Baba is sick and too weak to continue in office,” he said.
“Amadioha, where are you,” he shouted with arms up in the air.
He explained to his wife, how he thought over it all through the night and the pains penetrated his nerves particularly, as others wished Sai Baba dead to create the opportunity for his deputy from the West to take over, to again, deny his people this second chance.
The wife listened with rapt attention and when her husband finished what she scornfully considered a dull tale, she muttered, walking away; “Is that why we cannot have peace in this house?”
Chikelu angrily raced after her, as she sped into the kitchen. “Don’t worry, next time, you’ll forget and say it again,” he said, retreating.
Elsewhere in Naija, the mood was nothing near pleasantness. Gloomy faces and angry comments coloured countenances. The media buzzed with news of how Sai Baba could not attend and chair the national council meetings of Naija for three consecutive times. Some accounts said, he could no longer eat or even recognize the face of his wife, Sha, the first woman in Naija.
Down West of Naija, the intrigues went high, complex and sublime to persuade the county’s national “assemblage” to declare the seat of the Presidency vacant and to ask his deputy to take over. All calculations had been finalized and one Alhaji from the Northeast accepted the position of deputy to the Yoro Vice President, who was to be elevated to take Sai Baba’s seat.
The heat whirled for two weeks. And Naija masses never believed an inch of the negative tales about Sai Baba’s worsening health condition. Yet, it filled the ears inescapably. They started asking questions and beseeching God in prayers never to allow a bad thing happen to the sons and daughters of Naija again.
Inside the Villa, Sai Baba sat in his spacious private room, playing with his little daughter, Ahra , after a cup of tea, with bread, spiced with honey. His attention suddenly turned to the TV as Naija people discussed his health on an early morning interactive programme.
The TV robust debates on his health condition and presumed incapacitation amazed him infinitely. He almost resigned to fate and write Naija off, from any possibility of regaining itself. But on a second thought, he got energized as Naija people debated the comments of his wife, Sha, dismissing insinuations about his worsening health condition. He read the feelings and mood of analysts, commentators and Naija masses over the mandate they gave him. And the overwhelming verdict pointed to a solid and popular masses’ support for his administration. They eulogized his policies and projects and wished him quick recovery to resume normal duties.
His Personal Assistant knocked on the door and came inside his private parlour.
“Ina kwana, Baba?”
“Lafiya,” Sai Baba answered in brightened mood.
“Yaya aiki,” Baba asked his aide.
“Na gode Allah,” the aide answered.
The aide came to inform him of files referred to him last night, which are on his table in his private study. He left almost immediately to look at them.
For three hours, he perused the two files marked “urgent.” One of the files was about security and he remembered the meeting he held with Service Chiefs the preceding day and minuted accordingly, in approval of actions for the decisions they took.
It was on a Thursday and the time ticked 1:30pm. Then, he remembered a meeting he scheduled with the MD of Naija’s National Oil Company and the Chief Law Officer. He rushed a bath and met them at the Presidential office. Cameras beamed at him, as he briskly walked into his office. Tongues suddenly ran mum and giggled. Others almost fainted as he waved to Villa staff chorusing “Good Afternoon, Sir,”
He spent nearly two hours in the meeting. A case of indolence affecting one of the senior staff in Naija’s National Oil Company infuriated him and he directed a query be issued to him. “This nonsense must stop. I can’t tolerate this laxity,” he echoed.
The brief appearance in his office soon went viral on social media. But many still doubted it, until the news began to make headlines in major traditional media. Some described Sai Baba a ghost, while the schemers kept saying to themselves that it was a comic show to douse tension. They insisted he has over strained himself to show his face in the office, in pains and would not come out again in the next two weeks. Then, Naija people would be told he has gone on medical tourism abroad, they insisted.
Next day, Friday, Sai Baba was at the Jum’at prayers at the Villa mosque, where he prayed and observed all the alternating postures in the near two hours prayers. A new wave of shock entered town again. “The president is a pretender,” Bajo said, biting his finger. “He is not even sick,” another said.
At Mai Shanu Square in Gombi State, some elders relaxed under a tree after the day’s farm work. They freely discussed the issue in vogue. They dissected what Naija people said about the severity of Baba’s health condition; the calculations to unseat him; his sudden appearance in the office and the Friday Ju’maat prayers.
“ Mallam, have you not heard?” “Heard what?”Another asked.
“We heard, one of our brothers who accepted the negotiation to become deputy President fainted and collapsed, when Sai Baba appeared in the office yesterday,” he whispered.
“Its true and we hear he has since ran to Equatorial Guinea on self-imposed exile,” another elder replied.
“Please, let him come back, Baba has no problem with anybody, but how Nigeria can become better,” he added.
“Let’s continue to pray for Baba, Almighty Allah will protect him from these wolves,” another pleaded.
Aminnn!!!! they chorused.
After his Ju’maat prayers, Sai Baba headed back to his private residence in the Villa after exchanging a few pleasantries with dignitaries. Back home, his wife; Sha had decorated the dining table with a sumptuous lunch. Baba devoured it with a few confidants, as they chat on various national issues.
–Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.