(excerpts from The Whore; Chapter 7)
It is amazing how often the common man quite easily gets intrigued by complete rubbish. There is no doubt that well spanned out worded wool of bullshit as easily catches the fancy of the most intelligent people as it does the most gullible ones. But it is a lot easier to deceive the more naïve people on the street that the more learned ones. It usually takes little to exploit their hapless sensitivities, hurt their already dissolved pride and incite their very selfish imagination.
When the people have been unconsciously indoctrinated to accept every action of their leadership as dubious, then it is quite reasonable for them to be suspicious of their leaders. It is after all true that their leaders are from within the people and are products of their community. So when they refuse to be sympathetic towards the difficulties that are apparent in leading the nation, the people refuse to be remotely understanding of the sacrifices the leaders also make.
Occasionally, the odd set of good leaders would appear out of the blue like prehistoric birds soaring up in the bare skies overhead, with the landscape beneath them ravaged by volcanic lava. Everyone looks up to them to provide that elusive succor. The relatively safe animals watch from their trapped tree tops and rock summits. They watch the flow of hot burning lava overwhelm and destroy the unfortunate multitude that could not even afford mere safety. But the safe ones end up in one of those odd states of mind, as they watch others perish.
This group would naturally complain less. To them, it is like terrible things only happen to others. But it only makes their own miserable state appear brighter because they humanly thank their good luck it wasn’t happening to them. Their silly grumbling will be a pin prick to the others’ gunshot wounds. Their silence is an act of perseverance as far as they are concerned. But then the sudden appearance of these good looking credible leaders doesn’t always deliver the things it promises. Subsequently all leaders get real lonely indeed on their high perch. They are only surrounded by a lifeless hedge of followers. These people feed them only the praise-singing goodies that will keep them comfortable. This would ensure the leaders dish out chunky helpings of the nation’s wealth to keep their close clique of cronies living in opulence and unimaginable affluence all around them while a huge majority of the rest edge a living in squalors.
Soon the unimaginable happened out of the blue. A swift bloodless military coup d’état brought in prehistoric apparitions out of the annals of the nations old history. In one single elabourate act of mutiny the entire armed forces of the country secured the nation tightly. This enabled members of the civilian styled police force to take into custody the entire executive and legislative arm of the current Nigerian government. It was executed in one swift faultless move, with such meticulous precision that not a single member of the expunged government was missed; both at federal and state levels. And with very little surprise the nation woke up to the announcement that the new imposed civilian Vice president of the Nigerian republic, and chief of all Armed Staff, was the retired military intelligence colonel named Sylvan Inalegwu.
Installed as the President and Commander in chief of the republic, was the former amiable federal minister for finance; Tanimu Lawal. He had only quite recently resigned from his exulted influential position as the man in charge of the nation’s finances to allegedly further his studies abroad. But the popular media had hinted that he was actually secretly forced out of office because his public utterances had painted the government in bad light. There is debating that no single Nigerian is oblivious to the fact that a drastic change was required to put things aright but the victorious feel to this sort of change was lost with the excessiveness of it. The sheer veracity of it ominously infiltrated the measured restraint of the people, such that it numbed their once eager expectation. Emotions cannot always be controlled but deliberate actions can be managed.
The new leaders simply appreciated their condor regardless. This played right into their realigned prominence but didn’t sway their perspective. Those individuals, who before coming into power had viewed all others around them as minions to be belittled, will still see them in the same light when they come into power. The military in whatever guise fits this bill distinctively.
It is this reservation that Laraba and Kengua had jointly put out in a brilliant piece which Matters carried. They had researched and set out facts without recourse to sampling the opinion of the men put in power by the military. They didn’t consider that omission essential but they didn’t feel like they were withholding any vital information. As a result of this they were summarily summoned by the most powerful men in the country. They didn’t panic. They instead treated and approached the summons like they would have their next interview assignments, without dread like any other person would have felt. They were hurried by policemen into meeting the displeased military installed political leaders. There were well positioned black suited men with cotton like plastic stubs stuffed inside an ear each. This had short stringy white cords sneaking from inside these ears and down into their shirt collars, like tiny cream coloured lifeless worms. They appear to whisper to themselves from long distances, with their eyes hidden behind dark sun shade glasses as they looked around their indoor positions. They kept scanning their immediate surroundings like an amateur local thief would, before picking his first pocket.
Kengua and Laraba instantly recognized these men to be secret service operatives. They appear placed more for show than for security. The seemingly spurious drama that usually accompanies these security arrangements prevaricate the actual purpose for it. The domineering stature of the security around these big political persons is so extravagant that it overwhelms all visitors to their presence with unnecessary pressure. It is such that it turns everything upside down in their minds, if they are not focused and thick skinned. They need to be tough breeds.
It gives the impression that most of these hyped up security arrangement is deliberately put there to intimidate and not really secure the big personalities it hedges in. It merely compliments the conspicuous air of superiority that these big persons relish. It is the initial step in formative stages and the appetizer that whet the appetite of the arraigned guest. It is the guests’ first whiff of aroma and first glimpse of the supposedly massively grim presence they are being marched into facing. But Laraba and Kengua couldn’t be made of tougher stock. They were well fitted not only to foresee such plots, but to also expedite their own sublime psychological measures towards surmounting them. Their fervent dedication to a quite demanding professional calling has always been preening them for such moments. Their integrity already had an incalculable value and their distinctive journalistic worth is of clearly superior definitive form.
They were the sort not to be puffed out of words by these lavish fads and their silly childish ploys. They both saw this superficial show of status genitals as mere stupid substitute for sincere comforts and it is more an exception to the rule that the norm it was peddled forcibly as.
They were ushered into a well-furnished massive sitting room, with eight identical huge cream coloured couches set in rich leathery-suede upholstery. President Tanimu Lawal and Vice president Sylvan Inalegwu were already seated comfortably in a couch each, beside one another and exchanging genial chit chats. The two journalists’ hurried entry wasn’t acknowledged by either of the men. It looked like the two eminent men already seated in the huge room, had with that simple act insinuated exculpating the rude trespassing into their momentary time of leisure.
Laraba offered some salutation, just as one of the nine unarmed police officers that had come into the room with them stepped forward. He did so carefully, stooping low in an unsteady tipsy mannered that is supposedly meant to show reverence. Veering to approach the new Vice president from behind, the police officer stopped just short of Inalegwu’s right ear and whispered a curt inaudible sentence to him, then stepped away smartly to joined his fellow police officers in taking up scattered positions at the numerous entries into the big room.
Laraba’s greeting remained unanswered as Inalegwu appeared to repeat the officer’s words to President Lawal in another inaudible whisper. Kengua had remained silent. It was unlike him not to have expressed an opinion already, Laraba was thinking. He was however checking himself and merely being mindful of an overreaction. He was willing to let the whole thing play itself to some point when his hasty words wouldn’t digress from the real purpose for bullying them into this highly unconventional meeting with the President and his deputy.
Laraba was still immersing her thoughts into unraveling why they were summoned like this and what it could all lead to. She wasn’t feeling threatened any longer. Once they had been brought to the presence of these men, her fears abated. Their exulted offices must have treasured their glowing hearts with overt civility, at least within the visible sphere of things. They weren’t going to be caught dead doing their own dirty work themselves, certainly not when it concerns these two high profiled journalists standing before them and not exhibiting any fear.
President Lawal barked an order in Hausa and one of the officer turned on his heels and marched out. His steps registered with continuous squeaks, like he was walking in ankle deep mud, with dirty water oozing up his loose fitting leather boots. Still without acknowledging Laraba and Kengua, who were still standing at one end of the big room, Lawal and Inalegwu simply continued their interrupted discussion. This time their voices were quite audible as they talked about some big shot in their government making some obscure mistake. They had continued conversing in a preachy manner until the officer who had left a few minutes earlier on some errand returned. He reappeared with two others, dressed in plain civilian clothes. The police officer rejoined the rest but the new men sat down together on the couch nearest to the Vice president and looked the way of Kengua and Laraba, without a word. The President and his Vice then suddenly kept quiet, without any notable act prompting them to. The interior of the big room had that air conditioned residue icy odor. The muffled hoot of a refrigerator somewhere in a room nearby continued and added to give the atmosphere in the room an eerie feel.
The entry of the two casually dressed men had squelched any hope of this turning out to be just a simple chatty gathering for Laraba but Kengua wasn’t yet frayed. He instinctively decided to attempt taking some charge of the proceedings before it commenced. He planned to stop it from taking another form but he hasn’t the faintest idea which form it was going to take.
Kengua broke the uneasy silence and he wasn’t stopped or interrupted. He went ahead to say that he felt it was necessary to remind the small gathering that he and his colleague are members of the press. He said they owe it to the general public to report whatever transpired after they were openly dragged off. Laraba got a hint of where he was headed, got her wits about her and contributed. She added that if they were to be bound to some confidentiality oath, then they might as well be exempted before it even commences. But Inalegwu was ready for this.
The Vice president smiled in his usual modest manner and waved the journalists closer, but they didn’t move, remained standing right where they were. One of the police officers behind them stepped forward and physically nudged them forward. He urged them to move nearer to Inalegwu with a combination of his stern mien, a barely audible grunt and sheer gut renting will power. When they were a mere three paces away from where they stood earlier, considerably still farther off from Lawal and Inalegwu, the VP needlessly cleared his throat before speaking.
“Sorry to disappoint you Mr. Hoe, but this gathering is not just some casual meeting. It will soon break up into units, set up to examine both of you and Miss Thomas separately. We plan to cross examine both of you on certain sensitive issues of national security your international magazine has chosen to treat with such carefree laxity in its recent publication.”
“Are you interrogating us?” Laraba almost grasped.
Lawal smiled at her, almost fatherly like, before attempting to clarify.
“Your choice of word is old fashioned, Miss Thomas. I assure you we are only going to ask questions. But we have every intention of using whatever you say against you.”
It wasn’t as reassuring a response as his smile meant it to be. Laraba flinched from the gory thought it made her conjure up in her roving mind. It wasn’t helpful to her discomfort.
“Very well,” Kengua said. The anger in his tone wasn’t disguised. He looked straight back into Inalegwu’s steady stare. Kengua clearly wasn’t scared yet and wasn’t showing he was.
“By all means let us commence this examination.”
Lawal stood up. The grace was absent in his movement but that urgent deftness remained, Laraba thought. The President looked like a man trying to hide he was beyond his depth. Inalegwu was naturally a whole lot more comfortable in his composure as he also stood up to join his standing boss, who was actually increasingly appearing more of a stooge. Kengua toyed with the description of a puppet being stringed erect before the puppeteer emerged. Then the puppet spoke again, in the same poor fatherly impersonation as he attempted a somewhat ill-befitting farewell. He consciously kept his tense gaze away from the journalists’ eyes.
“I will suggest you use your cell phones to call your families before we confiscated them. We wouldn’t want them worrying about you needlessly. Indeed most families worry a lot, for families are synonymous to worries. Worry is synonymous to pain, pain to other conscious feelings. Ultimately, conscious feeling means being alive. So please cooperate with our men.”
President Lawal turned and walked out without another word. Inalegwu stayed and kept his firm gaze on the journalists standing before him, both now visibly uncomfortable. There was a hint of pleading in Laraba’s eyes, she was clearly broken. Kengua’s expression now looked rather unsure, but still doggedly resolute and not scared yet, Inalegwu thought. Inalegwu then made a ditched attempt to ruffle the wits of Kengua before he left it to the casually dressed men still seated beside where Kengua and Laraba stood. It looked all but halfway done.
“Relationships are the heaviest weights we carry, my dear friends. We each have responsibilities to families, friends, colleagues, neighbours and fellow citizens. In your case, it is also to your readers. And in our own case; as a Government, it is also to the entire nation. It so happens that these are the same group of people. We have the ultimate responsibility to ensure they aren’t miss-led away from giving our common efforts their understanding and support.”
Then Inalegwu paused and suddenly, in a different tone.
“Mr. Hoe I understand you are quite the stud.” He smiled and winked at Kengua, who didn’t indulge him with any visible response. Kengua still kept a straight face.
“Well, you must have taken time to consider what we guys put into a romantic relationship. That is the fun part of courtships that intrigues me, quite massively. Surely you do understand what I mean, don’t you, Kengua? I am referring to that uncanny way the guy thinks he is chatting up a girl, while in the actual sense it is the girl that has the upper hand, almost always.
“After that, the manner in which such relationships take their good chummy comfortable time to go up north, it is usually unbelievable how fast most of them tend to go down south in such a short time afterwards. Makes you wonder then if really these couples and their onlookers alike, weren’t just reading the maps of these relationships upside down all along?
“I mean, they could unconsciously be making the South Pole the North Pole, without the slightest clue. This is really the authentic summary of the relationship between the Leadership and the Media on the one hand, and the public on the other hand. We are the couple and the rest are the concerned stake holders and onlookers. They are our families, friends, colleagues, neighbours and fellow citizens. They constitute the entire nation we owe a responsibility too.
“And how do we each handle it? The Leadership moulds its facts to make it commendable and acceptable to the nation, while the media manipulates its own to simply make a profit.”
Kengua’s confusion got the better of his vocal cords.
“Mr. Vice president, I am at a lost as to what is it we are supposed to have done here. Is there any particular thing we had written or printed that your government considers not factual?”
Kengua was pleading now it seems. At least his words were taking on more of that fetching tone, to insinuate so. But still his eyes weren’t hinting fear yet. Inalegwu ditched his attempt and made to walk away too, certain that his operatives would easily tidy up the knotty end he had just undone with subtle dexterity. He was sure he was turning over to them a mentally frizzled and emotionally frustrated pair. Surely even Kengua’s logic was in a state of rancor now and it was a matter of time before budged, buckled and concedes. Laraba was already ready for the picking.
“I’m afraid I must leave you all now; national business awaits me.” Inalegwu concluded. He looked away and walked off with what appears to Kengua and Laraba as the last chance of common sense and their final reasonable appeal to any sense of civility.
“Like his Excellency explicitly instructed earlier, do strictly ensure that they both call their families first, then confiscate all their personal belongings.” Inalegwu addressed his men.
Laraba couldn’t take any more of the subtle torture and oddly enough, that was the last straw for Kengua too. They rather gave in almost simultaneously, as exhibited by their joint call for the departing Inalegwu to tarry a while and let them talk things over. Laraba added a loud please.
They were made to wait alone for three gruesome hours afterwards. Inalegwu had reacted to their plea, and ordered the two still unidentified casually dressed operatives to leave the journalists alone for a while longer. Then Inalegwu sparingly requested that he is allowed time to enable him finish up some other business of state and return, before hearing them out. Laraba and Kengua were kept in separate rooms, away from each other and they were given only a glass of water each. Their personal items weren’t taken away but they couldn’t use the toilet. They were allowed to make any number of phone calls but strictly within the earshot of their guards.
Inalegwu received them alone in the same huge room he and the President had met them earlier in the day. He was more cheery and inquired if they were able to contact their families.
“Your loved ones shouldn’t be left in the dark to pine unnecessarily about your wellbeing. Their feelings speak for the relationship you share. Without feelings, the human mind would simply become a living lifeless vacuum.” Inalegwu clearly enjoyed the apparent displeasure his guests had suffered while they waited alone in the separate rooms they were kept in.
They had suffered that torturous moment more because they had little faith in Inalegwu’s merely insinuated assurance for their safety. They weren’t ignorant of what he is capable of. Ignorance is a symptom of faith and since they knew they were being taken for a ride, they feared the worse. They had lost faith in any hope of being let off easily. They sensed that the President was a shade uncomfortable about all the arrangement concerning them but they were certain he wouldn’t contribute zilch to secure their freedom, if push got to shove. Thus any hope outside the one Inalegwu offered dried up for them. But the bigotry and subtle prejudice represented by Inalegwu snatched away any expectation of honesty in his offer.
Laraba felt a little groggy from the emotional toll of the wait. Clearly it had drained any resolve remaining in her. She had already been more than a little daunted by the earlier meet. The usual arrogant individual within her, who exerts and wields such authority, was completely gone. She now repeatedly nods to every word that came out of the Vice presidents mouth, when he speaks this time around. It was quite obvious it wasn’t by some intellectual decision. She was by now too scared to think straight. But Kengua wasn’t clearly as terrified.
Kengua spoke with a faint stutter this time around. But it was more like he was someone given little choice to make a case for himself, not because he was actually guilt ridden. Someone constrained by the knowledge that he has been found out on some lie he couldn’t wriggle himself out of, no matter how hard he tried. The usual enticing free rein he allows the language of his speech appeared to have suffered a huge change. The gust and vigor of euphemism was entirely missing, in its place was a rather pedantic and finicky disordered logic in his utterances.
Inalegwu had sensed the changes early and set out to capitalize on it. He offered them cold drinks and instructed one of the secret service men to leave for some, even before either of his uncomfortable guests spoke or hinted they wanted any drinks or not. Obviously, he already had a very good firsthand experience of how people responded in such situations. Neither Kengua nor Laraba knew if they wanted drinks or not, and were naturally slow in remotely hinting either.
Inalegwu made an elongated face by pushing his chin down. He looked almost reptilian as he started to speak again, carefully slurring his words with deliberate emphasis.
“It is unpardonable that Matters is painting the honest efforts of our government as fraudulent, with no basis for such a drawn conclusion whatsoever. Your recent publication chose to delve into the sensitivity of this matter without any recourse to giving us a say. Your writing tampered its bias perspective with a complete lack of consideration for us and our concerns.”
Inalegwu looked at both of them expectantly, from Kengua to Laraba and back to Kengua again. Laraba cleared her throat and shifted in the big couch she had seated her petit frame in. This time they had been offered seats by Inalegwu as soon as they rejoined him.
Without any clear distinction, such a person like Inalegwu would have ordinarily been a very boring fellow to hang out with. He is the sort of person who glorified in other people’s misery and revels in making them sweat, relishing their discomfort. Vice president Inalegwu is a brave man and his bravery has been tested countless of times. But he easily recognizes fear only because he has felt fear numerously. He had merely learned not to let his will power fritter away by avoiding fear and instead confronted the reason for his fear head on each time.
How else does one know bravery without first knowing fear? That ought to make sense. By every definition known, for anyone to be termed as brave, they must first be afraid. Thus conquering fear is indeed the indisputable act of bravery.
The drinks arrived just as Laraba offered some sort of general apology for their oversight. Kengua chorused Laraba’s words and echoed her exact thoughts with additional words of his own for clarity. Inalegwu sensed Kengua was merely paraphrasing his female companion’s words with some hidden malicious intent. So he swiftly went on the attack once again.
“Both of you appear to still be persistent about the way you have handled this. You fail to see how damaging you and your magazine’s position have been. It is unfortunate that the damage has been done already and it appears unlikely that there is any way you can convince us that your intentions was ever honourable in this regard.” Inalegwu paused to allow time for his words to sink in. then he shook his head without meeting his guests’ eyes for the first time and as expected, that sent shivers down their spines. Laraba stuttered as she responded.
“You couldn’t be more wrong Mr. Vice president. I assure you sir that our intentions were strictly honourable and I am sure we can make appropriate amends to any damage.”
“Amends, make amends?” Inalegwu almost followed the words with an unconscious spray of spittle because he was just about swallowing when he spoke. He swallowed.
“Yes your Excellency, we could retract.” Kengua offers.
“That is you idea of redress? You want to publicly retract your publication after visiting the Presidential Villa and supposedly threatened by our security operatives to do so? Sorry guys, gone are the days went stupid governments fall for that ploy.
“We will not give you the undue satisfaction of being viewed as glorified heroes for the course of press freedom. That certainly will not happen on my watch! I am too versed in the intricate nature of the free world to fall for that.” Kengua made a mental note that Inalegwu had unconsciously let off that he was giving the instructions. That wasn’t ever in doubt but it felt good to confirm it. Kengua was quickly snapped out of his brief triumph as Inalegwu went on.
“When a free Press puts out its highly opinionated views of sitting governments, with no independent body objectively checking on the media or closely verifying these facts it incessantly puts out, it doesn’t occur to anyone that the Press is wielding such rued power as could be equated to that of any authoritarian government curtailing the freedom of the Press. It is merely two sides of the same coin that cannot be weighed separately.”
The immediate past slip by Inalegwu, which confirmed that he is indeed in charge, had somewhat boasted Kengua’s courage to take on the Vice president. Kengua never chickens out from a hinted intellectual debate, not from a colleague, a mark or even a prosecutor.
“Mr. Vice president, the Press is a merely a medium for information, instruction and examination, then entertainment. It is always at the disposal of government as it is to everyone else. The Press merely gathers all the data it gets its hands on and summarily puts it out there for everyone to use as they deem appropriate. Hence, this is all put out there for any entity, within the same sphere, to utilize for its information, its instruction and its examination.”
“That is merely hypothetical and you know it Kengua.” Inalegwu allowed himself to be dragged into the debate. “But what really happens is that both sides of the divide flex, spar and fight over the sentiments of the general public. And since government isn’t actually set up for that function, it ultimately loses out and the media almost never does.
“Government is at a huge disadvantage on all fronts. It has only a very limited existence against the endlessness of the media’s. Governments function within shackling administrative structures against the media’s impish nature. And then most importantly, governments must be accountable to the general public against the media’s mere moral choice to do so if it pleases it to. It is a NASCAR race between racing dogs and cars, with the dogs caged in one section of the track and the cars free to go round and round; refuel and take breaks and such.”
Kengua didn’t respond, checking himself quickly and reminding himself of the larger picture of the situation he and his colleague found themselves in. His brief outburst of intellectual anger was so short-lived this time that it was comparable to the life of the slowest gnat feasting on the hide of a Monkey. Laraba attentiveness to the debate was a lot shorter. By comparison, her concentration to their brief debate had the entire lifespan of a bug flying too close to an open fire in the wild. She brought the entire session to a final head rather impatiently.
“What do you want us to do to make this right, sir?”
Inalegwu smiled. The scepter of the conquered Monarch has been offered to the victorious invading Army in total submission. Inalegwu was glad the session was being recorded by hidden cameras. When they review the recorded tapes much later, it would certainly be lovely to see the reaction of his much younger ingénue colleague. It was purely for politically reasons that military had seeded the exulted office of President to the far northern region of the nation. This was designed to principally win over the most gullible section of the country and true to the known characteristics of the dominant people in that part of the nation, they had quite readily approved of an imposed regime, mainly because President Lawal is a northern Muslim.
President Lawal had clearly seen the political puddle he was walking into and he had not only stepped into it but stood in it, consciously. He made out to view absentmindedly at any implication that he was merely a stooge. All insinuations to that effect were regarded as cynical shots at the homogeneous stability of the regime. If Kengua and Laraba needed a clear pointer to the fact that Inalegwu was in charge, they were just about to get it, as explicitly possible as it could ever be. But Inalegwu appeared to hesitate first. He seems to have only briefly stopped smiling at a personal joke in his head. His first remark after Laraba’s insinuated submission kind of returned back and around the way they had come with their discussion, rather pointlessly.
“Just yesterday I was convinced I couldn’t get you to work with this government. But now that we are at the verge of coming to an understanding I admonish the awesome healing might of every single new day. Every new day is unique and timeless, isn’t it? That is what is special about today. Tomorrow starts it all over again,” a philosophical Inalegwu offered.
Kengua had picked up the offer first. His expression said he was just waiting to hear more. But Laraba said it out loud as soon as she realized what the Vice president had just said.
“Did you just offer us some sort of a job?” She asked and Inalegwu answered loudly, stressing out his drawn out words like he was talking to a pair of deaf retarded children.
“We. Want. You. To. Work. For. This. Government.”
The look of astonishment on the faces of Laraba and Kengua froze and didn’t relax long after they went through the habitual rituals of looking at each other’s faces. They appear to be repeating what they clearly heard Inalegwu say in their minds. They exhibited that baffling skeptical hope that seems to imply the statement uttered might somehow change itself, if repeated for the speaker.
“In what capacity will you fit us in?” Laraba mused.
“What of our jobs, our magazine and our business?” The clearly much more amused Kengua had quickly added. His light complexioned face further illuminated by the reddened glow of amazement that took hold of its usually more cheery expression. Kengua’s face changes colour with his spades of moods. The change was swift, like the alteration in the hue of diamonds in a moon lit night devoid of any natural light after the slightest flash of artificial lightening. This gives the glassy gem some colouring momentarily, as did the switch in Kengua’s mood.
The vast experience Inalegwu has in this regard has taught him to rely on reading facial expressions on people, not their utterances, so he kept his eyes on the journalists as he spoke.
“I am a business man myself. I am part of a big lucrative private military services partnership, you know that. There hasn’t been any negative change in the fortunes of my business since I became part of this government. Rather, my business has grown steadily and even blossomed remarkably.” Inalegwu recognized the confusion in both faces before him.
“I don’t know, but sometimes this arrangement pans out, sometimes it doesn’t. This is especially true with the latter when there is conflict of interests.” Laraba found her conviction.
“Are you insinuating that it is morally wrong for my military versed business to bring its expertise to bear in the way we have handled the disastrous security challenges of Nigeria?”
“No sir. Clearly only a private set up as yours, with its massive international influence could muster that kind of support. You were able to use this vast infrastructural capability to solve and literally quash the major security threats the nation had prior to you coming on board. Most of us feel we probably wouldn’t have a nation by now if you hadn’t acted as you did.”
Kengua felt the need to butt in and end Labara’s eulogy.
“Sir, what ehm… we are trying to say is, as journalists we are bound to our moral obligation to be seen to be objective in our calling. This we clearly cannot do if we end up reporting for a specific section of the polity, in whatever guise.” It was more of devolution rather than the diplomatic evolution of the crux of the issue at hand. It was too blatant and rushed that Laraba feared Kengua might have just reversed the state of their present case by not letting the general idea of a refusal sink in gradually, like she had set out doing. She wanted it to evolve.
Inalegwu smiled inwardly, allowing himself the pleasure of personal congratulation for insisting Kengua and Laraba weren’t allowed private time to discuss together. They hadn’t the foreknowledge of what they would be confronted with or the time to put their acts together. They were disjointed mortals, in utter dread of the assumed power of a mere phantom of an idea. They could only play along with his plan together or allow the fabric of their union to crumble fully.
“I’m of a contrary opinion and I think I hold not a spoonful but a lake to your mere bucket full of experience in this regard. So hush it!” Inalegwu feint some impatience and totally enjoyed the sight of Kengua and Laraba’s tensed faces secretly.
“I will not kid you with insinuations of some secret plot. I like to be plain. We intent to clearly show the world you are a part of this government. Give you each spelt out offices and portfolios and not play the old pathetic ‘You have a hidden agenda’ game of regimes gone by. So either you join to play your parts in building the nation or we clip your speech and do it alone.”
And there it was, clearly put by the man who held all the cards and owned the tables. All of Inalegwu cards were on the table, very blunt and plain. Inalegwu looked away as soon as he finished speaking and beckoned the nearest aide to him. As he whispered agitatedly into the security man’s ear, clearing maintaining the impatient act, Laraba and Kengua looked into each other’s faces. They were mentally comparing their own held cards to what was before them. They had the next move and it was by now apparent that they have already lost this game.
Kengua realized they had to slip into damage control mode. Laraba opened her mouth and made to speak, as she looked for some sign from Kengua. Inalegwu was looking in the direction of Laraba because she had motioned to speak and thus missed, as did everyone else in the huge room, the spilt second wink Kengua directed in her direction.
So many years of working together had taught Laraba to trust the instinctive judgment of Kengua. She has since learned Kengua is never wrong when he gets one of his sudden brain waves in tight situations. Laraba didn’t speak, instead Kengua cleared his throat. As all faces turned towards him, he played their cards but in a rather inscrutable manner. He appeared to have also rather cunningly suspended the game at the apparent end of it.
“Believe me Colonel when I say the last thing I want to do is set your government down for some back biting plot.” Kengua had started out with his expression taking on the serious confident dim Inalegwu had long ago sparingly identified with his sincerest state of mind.
Kengua wasn’t putting up an act either. He has since also learnt from his past brief association with Colonel Inalegwu that the retired officer’s intelligence is not to be meddled with. He must be treated and handled with the utmost respect.
“The exigencies of our work will not allow us the luxury of hypocrisy. That is the stock in trade of politicians.” Laraba’s heart skipped a beat when Kengua uttered the last word.
Inalegwu only grinned and allowed Kengua to finish.
“Please don’t misconstrue this to be some abnegation of your offer. Pardon the soliloquy but I see loose ends that need tightening up. It is necessary to ameliorate things or else such an arrangement is porous and dies from avoidable maladies.” The use of big words is conscious.
The smug smile that now spread across Inalegwu’s face said he was even a lot surer of himself now than he was earlier in his drive to recruit the two high profile journalists seated with him. It was quite obvious Kengua, like a massive majority of career press people, didn’t like the disconcerting idea of even aligning with a serving government, talk less of working for it.
Their agitations for a steady lifetime of incessantly finding faults and not actually correcting them, is expressed covertly in their persistently subdued worded mutiny. This is constantly a contentious issue between their perceived sense of patriotism and the nonconformity to this by fragrant rebuke of the efforts of the representatives of government to exhibit theirs.
Inalegwu wanted to show he was on the same page with Kengua. To reflect this and to reveal he fully understood that Kengua’s inhibition is a perspective considerably clear to him, he offered a vaguely appropriate Shakespearian quote not quite familiar.
““Poor and contended is rich and rich enough.””
“William Shakespeare?” Laraba deciphered.
Inalegwu nodded with a smile and allowed Kengua to finish up. Kengua continued to speak with a strange kind of stutter. It wasn’t deliberately respectful as before, but it seemed to have resurfaced and strained the confidence in his words.
“We need other people’s opinions to define our own. We need their thoughts to align ours and their feelings to distinguish ours. Just like we need to see our reflection at least once, to know what we even look like. It urges us on by clearing out our excesses. This enables us to boldly assess government sincerely. If it is any other way, it is a sham and tilts credibility.”
“My dear friend, people like you tend to always underestimate the massive capacity of the human mind to accommodate all sorts of changes. Even after repeatedly experiencing the gross dynamism in the capability of people to adapt to change, you not only still doubt it, but you pretend it isn’t there entirely.” Inalegwu had jumped in after he has had heard enough.
“Well the ravages of time tore up your worries over this your Cowboys and Indians, Police and Robbers approach to the Media and Government relationship. It certainly hasn’t made either of our roles any more proficient than it ever was and hasn’t made us serve our nation any better.
“Both the leaders and led are bored of this endless war between those who are physically doing something to better our livelihood and those who say they know how it ought to be done but would not step up to the wild rodeo bull and do it. And we all agree that to be boring is the privilege of those advanced in age or status or both, because they can afford it but the masses aren’t ever able to. So we must join hands together. This is what we offer and refusing is clearly an act of hostility in your case. It is that simple. What will it be, finally?”
Inalegwu moved in his seat impatiently, Laraba and Kengua looked at each other yet again.
Kengua smiled and Laraba’s confidence returned into her eyes. She knew he has got this and something in her heart told her this was a special occasion. The odd sense of exhilaration her nerves suddenly felt revealed as much to her, hence her renewed confidence. They withstood the mental out lash, as the VP aired his perceived good views and emotionally tasked them all afternoon. It had initially taken a heavy toll them but it looks like it was their turn to turn the table around, letting him hug the source of his worries at his peril. He had called this on himself.