‘Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under’-H.L Mencken
It is a nineteen year old boy in the University of Ilorin who wrote the president’s initial independence day speech. Of course it is the chief speech writer’s job, but the man, let’s call him Jide, cannot spell. Why make him a speech-writer? Well, one, he is from a state in the south west which voted for President AA Sule despite having an opposition governor and, during the campaign, as a newspaper columnist, he wrote some popular demeaning articles against the then ruling party, so this is his reward, the post of speech writer. He isn’t a speech writer but he is wise enough to create a speech-writing team of six bright people from the media and academia who the president knows nothing about but who draw directors salary from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He divides his team in twos and gives them speech writing assignments as they come.
For the independence speech he assigned Uju, from his former newspaper and Amos a lecturer from University of Benin to write the draft. The lecturer who usually writes for the tag-team was busy so he begged Uju to do the writing for him to go through afterwards. Uju is a good political analyst but no a speech-writer so she asked her boyfriend to write the speech. The boyfriend, a blogger and MA student in Unilorin couldn’t say no so he gave one of the super intelligent boys he tutors in the campus the assignment.
When the speech was finished, the boy passed it to the blogger who made two typographical corrections and passed it to Uju. Uju read one paragraph, nodded satisfied and emailed it to her partner, the lecturer. He paraphrased one or two sentences and emailed the chief speech writer who gave the speech a cursorily reading before asking his secretary to print it for Pedro, the chief of staff.
So when Pedro told Jide that his speech was useless, Jide called the lecturer and told him, with the strongest language possible, what he wrote was rubbish and threatened to fire him. The lecturer called Uju and told her she did a lousy job and, between nuanced insults, regretted having her write the speech. Uju called her boyfriend and blasted him for a poor work and threatened to call the relationship off since he couldn’t take her Aso Rock career seriously. Shocked, the blogger-boyfriend called the nineteen year old boy but the boy’s number didn’t go through.
Meanwhile Jide is sweating, trying to write a new speech with Pedro sitting opposite him across the desk. He wishes Pedro would leave the office but Pedro insists on staying here while the speech is written to underscore its importance. To make it worse, Pedro forbids him from consulting the rejected speech and his team. He has told Pedro that his useless team had written the rejected speech and that he is disappointed in them, now he is to write the speech without his useless team!
‘Follow Nigeria,’ he writes, ‘today is not a day for long-speech making; today is not a day for playing the blame-game either. Today is a day to look forward and look forward with boldness. We are not going to pretend we don’t have problems but, today, I use the opportunity of our independence anniversary to urge that we don’t wallow in our woes. Our future is strong and together we can make it stronger. I am your leader, you gave me this mandate less than two years ago; it’s too early to lose trust in me. It’s too late, anyway, to lose hope in Nigeria. Believe me when I say, I am capable of steering Nigeria forward. Ride with me.’
He stops writing and sighs. ‘What is it?’ Pedro demands.
‘I-I am done.’
Pedro snatches the pad and reads the speech. ‘You are stupid o.’
‘I beg your pardon.’
‘You are stupid, I say. Are you arguing with me?’
Jide sighs. He is at least ten years older than Pedro but Pedro is his boss and Pedro has the ear of the president and can fire him. If Pedro says he is stupid perhaps he is. ‘I am not trying to argue with you but that is the thesis of the speech you require of me. I want you to go through it before I expand it.’
‘First of all, is it ”follow Nigeria” or ”fellow Nigerians”?’
‘My bad, let me correct the mistake…’
‘You are doing a bad job, Jide; I hope you know?’
Pedro’s mobile phone begins to ring. He fishes the phone out of his pocket. ‘The president,’ he exclaims then cusses silently. He connects the call. ‘Hello sir,’ his voice is made of sugar.
‘I need my speech!’
‘It’s five minutes to ten sir.’
‘I know what time it is. Or are you trying to question my mental capacity?’
‘God forbid, am I crazy?’
‘If there is anything worse than crazy,’ says the president, ‘that is what you are Pedro. Sometimes Pedro I wonder the bad luck that made me appoint you to work for me.’
Pedro bites his tongue with suppressed fury. Jide who is watching the butchering hides a smile of pleasure.
‘Are you there?’ the president barks.
‘Bring my speech now!’
‘Right away, sir.’ The call ends before he stops talking. Pedro shakes his head before giving Jide the blackest look he has ever seen. ‘I will take the speech to the president,’ he says rising to his feet, ‘if you don’t lose your job after this then I am not who I am?’
When Pedro leaves the room, Jide kneels down to pray for his Aso Rock job.
Perhaps it is the prayer Jide prayed or perhaps it’s sheer luck or just plain madness (choose one), the president of Nigeria fell in love with the speech Pedro brought at first reading. ‘This is super-sweet,’ the president drones. ‘Mehn, this is the speech I will give today.’
‘A speech of less than 120 words?’
‘Exactly. Great speeches are powerfully brief. Remember Gettysburg, do you know Gettysburg?’
‘If you mean Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address it’s nearly 300 words long.’
‘I am not Abraham Lincoln.’
‘Absolutely. And we cannot afford to seek to score a meaningless political goal when Nigeria is in security and economic crises!’
‘Is it your crisis?’ the president fires and Pedro nearly comes to tears. ‘Your excellency, the whole world knows of our troubles…’
‘I am not the president of the whole world.’
‘The whole country knows!’
‘Then why should I repeat it in my speech? And look at this line, ”we are not going to pretend we don’t have problems”, just look! My friend, this is the speech I will give.’
‘At least we can expand it to 250 words.’
President Sule sighs. ‘Ok, do that, but retain the sentiment. Bring it back by ten-thirty.’ It is already 10.15am, Pedro notes but keeps quiet about it. He is thinking of how best to improve this speech, no, he will rather die than take it to Jide; he makes a resolve to leak to the press, if the speech backfires, that it is the president’s sole idea to give such (bad) speech. The president is saying something but Pedro misses it. ‘Pardon?’
‘I am worried,’ the president says. ‘The Politician Who Shall not be Named is trying to undermine me. He is fanning media anger against me.’
The Politician Who Shall not be Named is the de facto godfather of the president. He built and led the coalition of political forces that brought the president to power. But he has clashed with the president because, according to the president, the president won’t let him have unlimited powers in the administration. ‘I need you to set a committee of my trusted political allies and their goal is to undermine The Politician Who Shall not be Named without losing any strongholds for 2019.’
‘How can that be done?’ Pedro asks.
‘That is for the committee to fathom. Go and work on the speech. Let me see the list for the committee before you contact them.’
‘Ok sir. How many of them.’
‘Seven. The NSA should be in the committee and chair it.’
Pedro who hates the NSA blinks with disagreement. ‘I thought I will chair it, sir.’
‘You will be the secretary and my ears and eyes in the committee. Go and work on this beautiful speech, son. I need it by 10.30, remember.’
‘Can’t be done. Can’t you see it’s 10.20 already?’
The president shakes his head. ‘I work for you so you can talk to me anyhow. You think I am an illiterate because you are writing stupid speeches for me. I can write my speech myself. I have a master’s degree from Leeds, son; even if I am an illiterate, as you think, I am more educated than you, at least. Go away.’
‘No one called anyone an illiterate. I have a PhD, sir, not that that makes you an illiterate, I am just saying.’
‘A master’s degree from Leeds is better than a PhD from Nsukka. I know you know that but let’s pretend it isn’t.’
‘I had my PhD from Ibadan.’
‘Same thing,’ the president says. ‘No Nigerian PhD can challenge an average degree holder from the UK. Get the speech back before eleven.’
Pedro lets the insult sink. If the things Nigerian politicians say in private are ever made public, there will be civil war in Nigeria everyday.
Update: Read Episode Three Here
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My guy said I will be arrested for writing this series and I am flattered. What honour it will do me: ‘Blogger arrested by DSS for satirizing Aso Rock (or whatever!)’ Bring it on! Please share and share this until DiSS does me honour.