He needed the money badly. No, badly was an understatement. He needed the money so…He couldn’t even find the words. How badly could you need something that could save the life of your only son? N500, 000 is what the doctor told him to bring. Half a million naira! He and his wife had been able to come up with only N200, 000. They had gone to everyone they knew, without much success. Now he was forced to go to someone he barely knew: the local government chairman who stays on the same street with him. The chairman had promised to give him the money. But the condition…
“Sir, ask me to do anything else, I will. But this , Sir…I…” He tried to explain.
“I don’t understand you. I’m trying to help you here. Do you know how many people I am depriving to give you this contract? I am doing so because of your good reputation. People trust you in this community.” Said the chairman with the patient tolerance of one conscious of his benevolence.
“I know sir, and I truly appreciate your help…it’s just that…”
He sank back into the chair he was sitting on, and with his eyes closed, held his head in his hands. It wasn’t a difficult thing the man wanted him to do. On the contrary, it was something that would make the typical Nigerian go to church and testify of the goodness of God. The Chairman wanted him to sell his voters’ card and help him get those of other people in the neighbourhood.
It wasn’t his vote that mattered so much to him. He had voted these past years and it had never made a difference; the worst leaders still found their way to the government house. What was so unbearable for him was that he was being asked to jump into the shit hole he had avoided for so long.
His mouth formed a mirthless smile as he thought of the antelope again. He seemed to be doing that so often these days. “The antelope never thought it would get to the market the way it did,” he had overheard his father say in a proverb twenty years ago. “It only woke up to find its hands and feet bound”
It had seemed funny to his teenage ears then, but it had lost all its humour in the past few days. It had instead become for him, a riddle that won’t let him be. It had become the riddle of his life. What was the undoing of the antelope? Did it get sloppy? Was the hunter simply smarter? What was his undoing?
All he ever desired was to do the right thing. He was only doing the right thing when he refused to bribe anyone to get that big job four years ago. He felt he was doing the right thing by refusing to cut corners in order to get ahead in life. But what gains has his integrity brought him? Several years behind his colleagues and a son sick with a disease that only the doctor could pronounce!
He was again at the crossroads he had come to know so well. Only this time, he couldn’t see the paths clearly. What would be the right thing? Should he deny all he had ever stood for and save his son? Would it not be foolishness to sacrifice his son on the altar of his integrity?
He thought of the antelope and wondered if it ever got to escape.