The house was big, just like in a dream; so ostentatious I almost didn’t believed. I looked around and was really impressed by everything I saw. Some people sha were indeed born with silver spoons, I thought to myself and shook my head in bewilderment. How in the world could this edifice belong to just one man? These corrupt political morons must be having a field day and milking our poor country very dry!
We were ushered in to sit and wait for the man of the house, the big politician whom I was yet to meet. It was gone past ten in the dead of the night. From around the house I could hear the dreadful barks of obviously well-fed dogs. I exchanged quick curious glances with Virus, my chap. He winked smugly at me and gestured that I should relax. I was not used to this, and I told him so in the tersest of words that I could find to use. But my station in life left me little or no choice. So here I was, my heart in my mouth as we waited for the Oga to make his appearance.
While we were at it, we were served some snacks with glasses of drinks in a fanciful tray. For my own safety I hesitated to touch my share. But without delay Virus chewed away and downed his drink with few greedy gulps.
“Are you not scared that the drink may have been laced with strangely poisonous substances?” I whispered to him, nervousness in my tone, “You know all these rich men some of them are neck deep in ritual exploits”.
He raised his hand and jiggled his index finger for me to see. Then he whispered in my ears, “You see this ring for my finger so? No be ordinary ring. Na protective talisman wey I buy from Benin Republic. Anytime somebodi wan harm me, the ring go alert me sharp sharp”.
“And how are you sure it’s not a fake ring?” I threw back at him.
He shook his head and said to me, “This one no be fake. Make you look am well well. The babalawo wey sell am for me na popular person for him village. I never hear say any of him medicine fail somebodi before”.
“If you say so”, I shrugged my shoulders and made a face, though I wasn’t convinced.
“I fit get you your own when I travel again”, he said proudly and patted my back.
We were so engrossed in our tete-a-tete that we didn’t realized when the Oga entered the room. He made a clicking sound to attract our attention. I almost jumped from where I sat; he’d entered like a ghost and jolted the shit out of my baggy pants! He walked to us and offered his hand for what should be a handshakes. A very brief handshakes. His palm was remarkably soft, like a baby’s buttocks. He was a smallish man; maybe five-feet-four or something near that, and he carried a smile that appeared anything but real. He was so much at ease and exude a lot of affluence. And when he spoke it was easy to know he was of the core Northern extract: “You are welcome to my home, my prends”.
“Thank you sir”, we both replied in unison as we stood erect to show him respects.
“Please have ya sits”, he said to us with a wave of the hand. “Is he ze one you told me abouz?” He asked Virus afterwards, jerking his head in my direction.
“Na him be this, Sa”, Virus replied and affected a foolish grin.
“Good. And I’m sure you hab told him whaz I want, ko?” He asked again in his accustomed accent, turning to give me a stare as if I were some chunk of obelisk being auctioned in an open market.
“I don tell am everything, Sa”, Virus replied and wringed his hands for the umpteenth time, “Him sef na ogbologbo guy like me. He strong like rock, and he no dey fear anybody wey be say na woman born am”.
“Good. In zhat case, I will go straight to ze point”. Now he turned to me and said thus: “My name is Alhaji Maikudi. People arounz here know me az ‘Small But Mighty’ or SBM. I am small in stature as you can see, but I can do what eben giants are apraid to do, walahi”.
“That’s quite interesting to hear, sir”, I retorted and pretended I was wowed.
“Thank you bery much”, he responded with an indulgent chuckle, “I am sure mister Biruz here or whateba he called himselp must hab told you whaz I want you both to do for me, eh?”
“Indeed he told me that you are aspiring for a seat in the house of assembly. And he talked about ballot boxes and stuff like that. But I figured it was best I see you in person and hear more from the horse’s mouth”, I replied.
“It’z ya fazher that you are calling a horse!” Alhaji Maikudi cursed at me before adding almost immediately, “Don’t mind me, my good prend. I was only joking wiz you. Anyway, ze general election will happen in a few days’ time. You see, I am interested in clinching ze major vote from my entire constituency. But zhere iz one stufid man in the opposition party who iz gibing eberybody here headache”. He paused to observe whether I was paying the needed attention.
“I’m with you, sir”, I quickly egged him on.
“Bery good”, he nodded and continued. “I want you to assist your prend here to make sure ze ballot boxes are snatched and brought to a designated place I would tell you later. What will happen on zhat day iz zhis. We will arrange for our boyz to cause confusion at ze voting center. It’z in zhat state of confusion zhat you both will snatch ze ballot boxes and disappear”.
“That’s no easy task, Alhaji”, I began to protest.
“Of course I know it’z no easy task, and zhat is why I want to hire strong and hepty men like you. Mind you, ze pay for ze job iz bery mouthwatering. In addition, I will always be in ze shadows to bail you from any confrontation wiz ze police. We have many of zhem in our payrolls. So zhey should not really be a froblem to us”.
“We fit do the job, Sa”, Virus enthused before I’ve even had time to ponder this proposal from Alhaji Maikudi, “But we for like know how much you wan pay us first”.
“Yes. It’s important that we know how much is in this for us, sir”, I said in support of my friend’s demand, “This is a dangerous job, sir. As such it would be in our interest to know whether the pay is commensurate to the risk”.
The Alhaji gave us a gaze and smiled rather to himself. He sauntered over to the nearest leathered seat and sank his small frame into its comfortable softness. He wasted some time to scratch his hairless chin. He looked at his watch (the purpose for which I couldn’t relate) and then returned his gaze at us from where he sat. He spoke at last after a thoughtful pause. “Okay, I am offering you three hundred thousand naira for ze job. One fipty for each op you. How abou zhat?”
One hundred and fifty thousand for each of us! By the spirit of my dead mother, I’ve never dreamt of getting hold of such amount. It was indeed a huge sum for even a poor graduate like my humble self. I could do so much with such a sum and change my tale from grass to full grace. This must be a dream. Please don’t wake me yet, God. Not even all my years as a laboring soul in those building sites could fetch a half of what was now on offer. Indeed if this was what it entailed, then I was very game.
“And that iz not all”, Alhaji Maikudi was still talking, “In ze event zhat I won ze election, I would also emfloy you both az my fersonal assistants”, he continued in a voice that, in spite of the accent, now ‘sounded in my ears more appealing than the tone Michael Jackson used when he sang Billy Jean!