Chief Iwuchukwu paced around his luxurious master bedroom in agitation.
This was not good, he muttered to himself. This was not good at all. Had he not contributed thousands… no, millions of naira to the party’s coffers? Had he not, as a result, been promised that he would be selected as the party’s candidate for the House of Representatives’ election in his constituency? Then why was Aloysius Nnaemeka being allowed to put himself forward as a candidate?
The chief inhaled deeply, sat down and mopped the brow that was sweating in spite of the chill of the air conditioned room. He thought again of Nnaemeka – a young, brash businessman who had made a fortune from the equipment leasing company he had set up shortly after graduating from university. He had then joined the party, and since then he had publicly, passionately and persistently preached the positives of bringing a new type of progressive politics to Nigeria. What the country needed, he said, was a type of politics where people were voted in or out not based on who they knew or how well they could rig, but on how well they performed. And he declared his intention to make the party the spearhead in bringing about this change.
Of course, nobody publicly disagreed with Nnaemeka, but privately a lot of the old guard – Chief Iwuchukwu included – fumed at what they felt was his insolence. They were certain that they were the ‘riggers’ that he was referring to in his impassioned speeches. Despite this, the chief was not really troubled. Let Nnaemeka continue to spout as much grammar as he wanted; as long as he, Chief Polycarp Iwuchukwu, continued to contest – and win – elections, what did he care?
But his complacency had been shattered last week when Julius, an old friend of his from way back, had brought him the news that Nnaemeka would be contesting the election primaries. He had immediately got on the phone to the chairman of the party’s local branch.
“Dike… wha-what is this nonsense I am hearing about that arrogant fool being allowed to contest?” he had spluttered in anger.
“Ah… chief, you know how it is. We are a democratic party, and as such, we allow all comers to throw their hats in the ring…”
“Don’t give me that nonsense! ‘Democratic party’ my backside! Was the party democratic when it was taking my money and shutting out other candidates?”
“Chief, I don’t know what you are talking about.” A warning note had entered the chairman’s voice. “As I said, we are a democratic party. We are also a party with rules about who we can and cannot choose to allow to contest on the party platform. So if a candidate was to go around bad-mouthing the party, it would be very reasonable for us to suspend him.”
Chief Iwuchukwu had rung off in anger. He was sure that the young upstart had paid a lot of money to be allowed to contest. But that did not change things. He knew that Nnaemeka had a large following and was genuinely popular with a lot of people, so he, Chief, stood to lose the election primaries the way things were.
He got up and resumed his pacing. There must be a way. There must be a way. He decided to call Julius. If anyone could think of something, he could…
It was 8.00 pm., about a week later. Chief Iwuchukwu was alone in his bedroom, sitting at a table; he had told everyone else that he did not wish to be disturbed. He looked at his watch and muttered, “Julius said that this man would be here by now. I don’t want any time wasting.”
“Come on, chief. It’s just 30 seconds past eight. It’s not as if you yourself are not ridiculously late for your own appointments.”
The chief whirled round in shock. The tall, well-dressed and obviously well-muscled person that he saw was not at all the person that he was expecting.
“Oh – you think that we all dress in rags and live under bridges?” the man smirked. “You of all people should know that we get paid very well.”
“Ho-how did you get in here?” the chief stammered.
“The same way you got in – through there,” the man responded, gesturing to the door.
“But why didn’t you announce yourself at the gate?”
The man signalled his irritation in his voice. “That is the way I prefer to do my business – under the radar. Not everyone wants – or needs – to be announced with fanfare. In fact, that I could get in here without anyone seeing me should tell you that I am good at what I do.” He held up his hand. “But no more questions. Let’s get down to the dirty business of the day.”
The man took another seat, and for the next few minutes, the man set out his plan, while the chief nodded in growing enthusiasm. This man was good, he thought.
Finally, the man stood up. “So, I’m sure Julius must have told you already how I do business. Half of the money first, then half when the job is done.”
“Yes, yes,” said the chief. He pulled out a drawer, brought out a black briefcase and handed it over to the man, who opened it, quickly scanned the bundles of naira notes inside and snapped it shut. “Good. I’ll be back to collect the other half soon.”
“You’re sure you will be able to do it?”
The man stared at him levelly. “I never fail.” He turned to leave, but the chief had one last question.
“What is your name?”
“Ekumeku,” the man said. “Call me Ekumeku.”
A few nights later, a BMW pulled up in a suburb of the city, several miles away from where Chief Iwuchukwu lived. The door opened, and Ekumeku stepped out. He was dressed in black from head to toe, and he was wearing sneakers. Around his shoulder was slung a holdall.
He breathed in the night air and looked around. The neighbourhood hummed with the sound of a choir of generators, but the streets were deserted. Everyone had retreated to the safety of palatial mansions behind high walls. Good for them; good for him.
He shut the car door and strolled down the street past a few houses. After a while, he got to a particularly impressive wall with a threatening ridge of barbed wire . He stopped, then unfolded a ladder from his holdall and leaned it against the wall. He then ran up the ladder in light, quick steps, and at the top, he vaulted over the wire with supreme agility and landed quietly in the shadows on the other side.
He paused for a while, then he ran stealthily towards the rear entrance. This was secured by burglary proofing that had locked with a heavy padlock. Ekumeku smiled to himself, then he brought out a thin metal tool from his holdall. After some fiddling, the padlock yielded, and he slowly and silently swung the proofing open. The wooden door behind the proofing stared at him in defiance. He smiled again and used to tool to gently persuade the door to give way. Then he slipped inside into the inner darkness to finish the job the chief had sent him to do.
It was a weekend morning, and Chief Iwuchukwu was once again in his bedroom, re-reading the story in the newspaper of the brutal murder a few days’ ago of Aloysius Nnaemeka. As he read, he nodded his head in satisfaction. Of course, he had publicly declared his grief and shock at the slaying of one of the nation’s most promising young politicians; it was a reflection of how the morals of society had gone to the dogs, he had said, and he called on the police to do all within their power to bring the perpetrators to book. But privately, he was happy that once more, the way was clear for him to win the House of Representatives’ seat. Ekumeku had done his job – and had done it well.
“I told you that I never fail.”
The chief jerked around, and saw Ekumeku standing with his hands clasped behind him, his holdall slung round his shoulder.
“I wish you would announce yourself instead of appearing and disappearing like a ghost.”
Ekumeku shrugged. “It shouldn’t matter to you – after all, you will not be seeing me any longer after tonight. Anyway, I have come to collect the other half of my fees.”
The chief pulled out the same drawer as before and produced a similar briefcase. Ekumeku scanned the contents briefly and nodded. “It’s nice to know that you politicians are becoming more sophisticated. Time was when I would be given this money in laundry bags.”
“OK, so we are done for now. But I don’t know what you mean by saying that I won’t be seeing you any longer – there are some other people I might need to you to ‘deal’ with in the future,” the chief said smiling.
“I mean this.” From behind his back, Ekumeku swiftly brought up a pistol with a silencer and shot Chief Polycarp Iwuchukwu three times, twice in the head and once in the heart. The shock and confusion on the chief’s face was the last expression it was to register before he slumped down, dead.
Ekumeku put the pistol away in his holdall. He surveyed the room one last time and turned to leave. Another job completed successfully, he thought. What a pity that Aloysius Nnaemeka was no longer alive to savour the demise of his political rival, as he had ordered. Oh well, that was what happened in this dirty business…