‘The Japanese Yakuza, the Chinese triads, the Russian Bratva, the Mexican cartel, the Irish mob… the Nigerian government!’- A viral tweet (paraphrased)
It is 9am, October 1st and the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is snoring.
There are two or three people with the guts, courage, temerity and whatnot to barge into the president’s bedroom to wake him up. His wife is not one of them. His chief of staff, let’s call him Pedro, is one of them. Today, he doesn’t barge in, or knock. And before he wakes the president up he logs into twitter and posted, ‘The President’s independence speech to come up by 12 noon. It’s about progress not tradition.’
The president is lying on his side, coiled like a bead necklace, facing the wall. This is not the president’s bedroom, actually. Officially it is the study, but there are no books in here except files and clips of newspapers on the desk, under which is a leather chair. There is a small bar cabinet, too big and well-stocked for someone who claims to not drink anything stronger than La Casera. There is a 32 inch flat TV set on the wall at the foot-end of the president’s king-sized bed. There is no telephone in here. When the president comes here he expects not to be disturbed, on no account, while he ‘studies and commune on matters of gross national importance’. Pedro stifles a laugh at the thought of this. This is the president’s hiding place. He knows and he knows that the president knows that he knows, why the pretext?
The TV remote is lying on the floor, Pedro picks it up and switches on the TV, CNN; he changes the channel to Sound City, Phyno’s music; he continually increases the volume until the president wakes up and curses him.
‘Put that thing off, bagger.’
Pedro switches it off. ‘I only did that to wake you up.’
‘Why should you wake me up? Can’t I have a moment rest?’
‘It’s 9am. You have been sleeping since 10pm…’
The president sighs. ‘There are moments, Pedro, I regret ever appointing you. So you think I came in here to sleep? You are badly brought up.’
‘It is independence day and you were supposed to give your speech by 7.’
‘Today is Saturday, son, the Independence holiday is on Monday,’ and the president eased back in bed and shut his eye.’ Pedro nearly comes to tears. Not because the president called him son which irks him. He’s 47 and the president 61, how can he be his son? He has repeatedly begged the president to call him Pedro, anything but son, but the president won’t listen. But Pedro is near tears at the nonchalance of the president. More than two hours after he was to give a national speech, he is lying care-free because today is Saturday!
‘MR Pre-sident,’ Pedro said trying not to shout. ‘You need to get up and go through your s-speech.’
The president opens one eye. ‘Why are you working yourself up over an ordinary speech? Is it even constitutional speaking every October 1st?’
Pedro, dressed in jeans and shirt, is so weakened with stuffed down anger and biting frustration that he sits on the tiles. He once sat on the president’s chair and got the worse presidential tongue-lashing of his career. So now he just sits on the floor, moping at his bad luck of working for President A.A Sule. The president opens the other eye. He lifts himself out of the duvet and sits on the bed with both feet on the tiles.
‘This is torture,’ he moans.
‘NTA are waiting already.’
‘Let them leave if they can’t wait. I will talk to Nigeria when I am ready.’
‘I rescheduled the speech to 12pm.’
The president’s handsome but tired eyes look at Pedro like you would look at a fastidious child who had stained your spit-shiny shoe. ‘If I must give the speech today, it will be by four.’
‘I already announced twelve o’clock to Nigerians on twitter.’
His excellency’s face twists with rage as he rises to his 5 feet 8 and Pedro respectfully takes two steps backward. Aso Rock stands still for full fifteen seconds as god and man stand ready to battle. ‘There are moments, Pedro, that I think I work for you.’ The president sighs. Pedro resumes breathing. ‘Where is the speech?’
Pedro hands him the file. The president opens the file, flips the pages and grimaces. ‘Twelve pages!’
‘Sir, there are a lot of issue that needs trashing…’
‘I will not give a boring speech!’
Boring, his synonym for too long. ‘Your Democracy Day speech was longer.’
‘My frien’ cut the speech to three pages!’
‘At least go through it and see its merit.’
‘I will not. Write out the outline of the key points and let me see them. Then cut it into three pages.’ He made for the bathroom. ‘You may use my chair.’ The president called from the bathroom. Pedro didn’t use the chair. Stooping over the desk he wrote out the outline in his small brave handwriting:
-The slippery economy
=Criticism on being slow
=Achievements so far
=Forward Ever Match campaign
=Promise of more efforts
Then Pedro brings out his phone to check his tweet. 200 retweets, 342 likes so far; not bad. More than 100 replies, mostly opposing, and insulting even. One of them, which says, ‘Hangover of the American treat delaying the speech. Delay not progress’ has 70 retweets and 44 likes. Nonsense, Pedro fumes. He clicks on the fellow’s profile: ‘Young, angry, biochemist. Holding the government in the cuffs.’
‘Idiot,’ Pedro mutters. He looks at the display picture, leers at the ugly lips and the stupid hat, and anger boils in his stomach. He wishes he can grab the boy and continually hit him on the head with the fellow’s shinbone. ‘Idiot.’
‘Are you referring to me?’ the president demands. Pedro didn’t notice him come in. The president done with his toilets, is making for the desk in his shorts and singlet. There is a whiff of pot-belly. He sits down and Pedro hands him the speech outline. ‘Why did you call me idiot?’
‘I was referring to a twitter dog.’
‘You spend too much time on social media, son.’
‘I will not talk about Boko Haram and Biafra,’ President Sule says with a conclusive note. ‘I won’t talk about the issue with our national assets. Not yet.’
‘What do you want to talk about, your excellency?’
Pedro wants to hit his head on the wall. ‘B-but you have to say something to Nigerians.’
‘If I must, I will talk about the way forward.’
‘Hm. That includes the last three points?’
‘No. I can’t comment on being slow. I don’t reply to nonsense.’
‘Get the IC ready for my daily briefing.’
The IC, inner caucus, refers to a group that includes the national security adviser, the minister of interior, the senior adviser on political matters, the chief press secretary and the president’s personal secretary. They hate Pedro. In return he paints the Inner Concussion, as he refers to them, black at every opportunity, and nurses the private goal of getting at least one of them sacked before Christmas. The IC have been waiting for the president in the reception of his office since six as Pedro had informed them that the president needs his briefing first thing in the morning before his speech by 7 (a sweet lie). ‘They are certainly cursing me now,’ Pedro says.
‘Why should they curse you?’
Pedro doesn’t say. The president begins to wear his pyjamas. ‘Get the speech ready and bring it to the office by ten-thirty.’
Pedro hurries away, dialing the chief speech writer’s number. ‘Your speech is nonsense,’ he says before shutting the door behind him. ‘Meet me in my office ASAP.’
Update: Read Episode Two Here…
Tweets to @Oke4chukwu
Disclaimer: this is not the face of the mafia yet