PETER, a legislator’s son
CHARLIE, a senator’s son
SAM, a civil servant’s son
MONICA, a politician’s daughter
ANGELA, a judge’s daughter
ASSUMPTA, a farmer’s daughter
(In a small but expensively furnished room, there is great merry-making amongst a party of five university undergraduates: PETER, CHARLIE, MONICA, ANGELA and ASSUMPTA. There is a lot of wine-drinking and intense smoking. Random music of the latest Black American pop stars is being played from a heavy-set 2-loader CD player situate at a corner of the room. ANGELA is more reserved than the rest. She does not smoke and she takes her glass of wine in minute quantities. In the thick midst of merry-making, CHARLIE steals a few glances at her and looks away when caught. After a few minutes, CHARLIE staggers to his feet and raises up his glass.)
CHARLIE: I salute, my people. (All raise glasses) I am happy to proclaim that the budget has reached its first trillion.
ASSUMPTA: Yes, O! Just look at the amount given to agriculture. During the regimes past, the nation was willing to spend an atomic amount on that sector.
ANGELA: Hm! I just hope this sumptuous budget will reduce crime rate.
ASSUMPTA: Forget that, Angela. There will always be criminals.
PETER: This is great news. That means that Abacha’s loot has been wholesomely recovered.
CHARLIE: Peter, you tongue is flippant. Is Abacha the only human being that looted? Who told you that it was loot that made the government rich? Have you forgotten that Abacha can lay claims to that loot? What makes you think that the loot was fully recovered?
MONICA: Haba, Charlie! How many questions will Peter answer at once?
PETER: I believe you went to school, Monica. Haven’t you heard of rhetorical questions? Questions that will make you think and think and think till your head pops out.
CHARLIE: Ever since birth, people have always been thinking. Till date, we are still thinking. It’s time we stop thinking.
PETER: (stands up) Yes! This is my fatherland. Let us help our fathers to make this nation a great nation. (sits down and takes out a pen and paper) An idea just struck me. Let us create national development plans to help aid our fathers in their climb to national integrity. It will be restricted to us, the youths. As you know, we are the leaders of tomorrow. (pauses) Abeg, Charlie, you know the latest cigarette brand?
CHARILE: Let me think. A cool friend of mine told me, O! And I even smoked it from him.
PETER: (eagerly) Men, how does it taste?
CHARLIE: Heaven! You will be in heaven. Just try it.
ANGELA: Ladies, it looks like the men are not yet ready or don’t want to be ready to climb to national integrity.
CHARLIE: Ladies, we need to be high in order for our thought processes to flow fine. We need to charge our brains for ideas to come to paper from pen. Le pen. We need to be up and strong for plans to come to fruition. What better way than to live in smoke!
MONICA: Charlie, what was the name of the brand you smoked that took you to heaven?
CHARLIE: Yes International.
ASSUMPTA: Humph! I’ve smoked better brands.
ANGELA: I think the first development plan is the creation of rehabilitation centres for straying youths.
PETER: (writes) That’s good. That’s very good. I have an idea: the creation of universities in all the villages.
MONICA: (excited) I have an idea, too. Balanced salaries to all undergraduates and instant employment to all graduates. (pause) Have you tried London?
PETER: No. How is that?
ASSUMPTA: Don’t mind Peter. He is a slacker. Someone needs a heavy nail and hammer to break the rock that you are. (pause) Well, how about worldwide and up-to-date education and knowledge to the uneducated young?
PETER: (writes) That’s a fantastic idea! (pauses) Nobody said Benson and Hedges, Rothmans…
ASSUMPTA: (shakes her head) Mba-mba-mba! (smokes and drinks)
CHARLIE: OK. What about Memphis, Marlboro?
MONICA: (nods vigorously) Ehe! Now you’re talking. We need brands we have never seen before.
SAM: Ah! My people, if you need a brand you have never seen before, then check this out. (fishes out a self-made, paper-wrapped cigarette from his shirt pocket) I salute you.
PETER: (hails) Sam, Sam! Na wetin be dis, ol’ boy?
SAM: (proudly) Dem dey call am Mari-J. I have spent my entire life savings to get it. E no dey easy, O!!
ANGELA: (snaps her fingers) Kai! You try.
(SAM sits down proudly on the settee. CHARLIE summons PETER secretly to a corner of the room.)
CHARLIE: Men, I really feel her. (thumbs at ANGELA)
CHARLIE: Angela. She really gets to me.
PETER: (heaves a sigh) Really, Charles, you’ve got to get strong rein over your emotions. For you to feel Angela gives me a strong sense of presentiment and foreboding.
CHARLIE: C’mon, men! You know what I mean. I really dig dis babe.
PETER: OK then. Why don’t you wait until you get to school? You can just go to the archaeological department and tell them to give you shovel to enable you dig. But not Angela! Don’t dig Angela!
CHARLIE: (angrily) Peter, don’t you understand? I want Angela to be mine. I’ve been having her in my mind for long now.
PETER: How long?
CHARLIE: Long enough. Too long sef.
PETER: You really got me confused, Charlie. You feel her. You dig her. I mean, the act of feeling and digging someone just didn’t suit my sort of intellect.
CHARLIE: Humph! As if you have an intellect at all. Abeg, don’t make me change the subject.
PETER: I think I do, because it tells me that you should have known that Angela is the daughter of a magistrate judge, and you are the son of a senate president.
PETER: The Senate and the Judiciary don’t mix.
CHARLIE: How do you mean?
PETER: The way the Senate dictates the amount of their salaries has not favoured the Judiciary one bit. The Senate people are a bunch of biased people, but the Judiciary is not.
CHARLIE: By the time you realise that statement of yours has put you into trouble, it will be too late. What has that got to do with this?
PETER: If ever your parents and hers find out, you both will be in soup. Let me put it that way.
CHARLIE: What is wrong? I just want to ask her out.
PETER: One thing can lead to another, and I won’t be there to stop you. I am a mere son of a lawmaker. I love myself, as you see me so. I follow the law of everything.
CHARLIE: Get out! Follow the law of everything my nyash!
PETER: Ah! To legislate is not a day’s job, O! You should see my father in action.
CHARLIE: I see. While your father is “in-action”, his own son is “inactive” to the need of a friend.
PETER: Na you no, Charlie. Me, I shall not violate the law concerning this. (turns) I show you my back. (turns back)
CHARLIE: (grunts) Humph! Which law you write, Peter? What law? There is no law concerning this.
PETER: Charles, there is, O! There is. Just find it out and obey. Simple. Let’s go join the others.
(When they return to the settee, SAM is proudly sniffing his “Mari-J” while the ladies are speaking amongst themselves in low tones. Soon, their conversation comes to an end.)
CHARLIE: Being the son of a legislator does not make you a legislator, Peter.
PETER: This is my fatherland. I must assist my father in nation-building.
ANGELA: Then, why were you two at a corner whispering to yourselves as if you both had something up your sleeves, some ulterior motives, some hidden agenda? Is that part of building a nation?
SAM: (grunts) Humph! Build! If you know what it took my father, an ordinary level-four civil servant, to build his one and only house in the village, then you will know that the word “build” is a most dreaded word. His pocket was completely torn on sand, cement, water and gravel. He also had to make sure that the builders were building. He supervised more than the supervisor he hired. It has been two solid years since the house was completed, and till this very day, he is still paying the debts he owes concerning that house. (looks heavenwards) God, let him finish payment before he dies in Jesus Name. Amen. (pauses) And now, you want to build a nation. Go ahead, if you love the wahala. If building a house is hell, then you could imagine what building a nation would be, especially this nation.
PETER: (eyes him viciously) With your pessimistic nature, Sam, we will be unable to start the very foundation of this nation.
SAM: (shrugs) Me, I no go contribute. I believe this nation has already been built. If you think you can build it straight or crooked or patch-patch, it is left to you. Na una sabi. (begins to light his “Mari-J”)
PETER: (ignores him) Any more ideas on nation-building?
CHARLIE: (smokes) Yes! For the sake of the youths who are doing this country a favour by pouring goods of excellent standards into this country, I say that there should be a reduction of tax on those goods. (smokes)
PETER: (writes) Not bad, not bad at all.
ANGELA: Improved personnel in government jobs and private enterprises.
ASSUMPTA: (smokes) Better and contemporary farming equipments for the young to handle.
MONICA: Improved strategies in politics to pave the way for the young. (smokes)
ANGELA: Absolute eradication of all types of corruption, including smoking. (gets up)
(All display shock, except SAM, who inhales his “Mari-J” with great delight.)
SAM: (heavenly excited) My people, come and take a smoke of this. You will never regret you did, I assure you.
(As if pulled by a magnet, PETER, CHARLIE, ASSUMPTA and MONICA drop their individually lit cigarettes and share SAM’S “Mari-J”. ANGELA looks on with disgust. They all get intoxicated by it.)
PETER: (heavenly) My God, this is it! All around I see white.
CHARLIE: Yes! Everything white. As white as smoke. This is the smoke of the century, the smoke of all smokes.
(ASSUMPTA and MONICA nod their approval. SAM nods with utmost pride as he collects back his “Mari-J” and smokes it gently.)
SAM: (dreamily) This is the life. I hail thee, Mari-J!!
ANGELA: (angrily) The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young.
(Everyone else bursts out laughing as they resume smoking their cigarettes. CHARLIE goes to her.)
CHARLIE: My dearest and sweetest and loveliest angel…
ANGELA: (interrupts him by briefly covering his mouth with three of her fingers) Tah! Don’t you ever speak to me with that smoke-coated mouth of yours again! (smashes her glass of wine on the floor)
(The laughter gradually dies. PETER frowns.)
PETER: (angrily) What did you do that for? I did not invite you here to start breaking things.
ANGELA: (confronts him) What happened, my dear national development plan writer, to your climb to national integrity? Did the ladder break? Did the rope twist on you? Are you a mere toddler at mountaineering?
MONICA: Haba! How many questions will Peter…
PETER: Quit taunting me, you bitch!
CHARLIE: (feebly) Listen, Angela. You’ve got to be careful, you know. We’re all very high, you know, and this is just a party, you know.
ANGELA: (barks) That’s the problem! This party! This party is the problem! You talk about this, you talk about that, with a mountainous plate of food in front of you, which the lowest section of the society never prepared in their wretched homes before. Think of it, Charlie, as you live in your smoke of disorder, smoke of corruption, smoke of immaturity. Smoking is corrupt. That is why it must be eradicated. Write that down, Peter!
ASSUMPTA: Peter, also put down absolute freedom of speech for young women, absolute independence for young women, the eradication of girl-child marriages, the eradication of misarranged marriages, the right for young women to own properties and the right for young women to become presidents of the nation. (giggles and smokes)
PETER: (annoyed) Stop this! I am fed up!! (drops pen and paper on the table)
MONICA: (sarcastically) Yes, why wouldn’t you be? Because it’s an all-women affair. You should know that women make up the greatest percentage of the populace. We are very special.
SAM: (angrily) Ehhh!? So you mean that man without woman is nothing? Nonsense!! (begins to cough)
ASSUMPTA: That is your assumption, Sam, but you should know that women are an important species.
CHARLIE: Sam, she is right. Women are an important species, you know, a specimen to be sampled and tested in laboratories. And we, the men, are the laboratories.
(The men burst into raucous laughter while the women fold their arms and look on with anger on their faces. SAM’S laughter increases his cough.)
ANGELA: (confronts CHARLIE and points a finger at his face) You, Charlie, I believe that your own tongue is flippant.
CHARLIE: (happily) Finally, it seems that I have gotten your attention, angel. (holds her hands) I have had my eyes on you for some time. You’re so beautiful and I need you. What are we going to do about it? (winks at her) Would you like to come to my laboratory?
(PETER resumes laughing while SAM battles with his cough. ANGELA slaps CHARLIE on his cheek. He moves back, stung.)
ANGELA: I’ve already warned you never to speak to me with smoke in your mouth.
(This time, it is the women’s turn to laugh as she walks away from him. CHARLIE touches his cheek.)
CHARLIE: Wow! That was one hell of a slap, Angela. I saw stars.
ANGELA: Don’t worry. You haven’t seen anything yet. (ASSUMPTA and MONICA laugh together.)
CHARLIE: I am the man for you, baby. Won’t you go out with me? (PETER laughs)
ANGELA: (shakes her head) Dream on.
(ASSUMPTA and MONICA jeer at CHARLIE.)
CHARLIE: (amazed) Men, I never knew I could be this bold.
PETER: Well, don’t let it get into your head, as I’ve warned you before.
CHARLIE: Shut up, you dis killjoy!
(ANGELA and ASSUMPTA run to SAM, who has fallen to the floor, shaking and sweating. ANGELA puts his head on one of her laps. MONICA looks at her wristwatch.)
MONICA: (surprised) Na so time dey fly? Abeg, my people, I have an appointment with a Pol. Science student. (puts out her cigarette and exits)
(ASSUMPTA crouches and dabs off the sweat from SAM’S face. He shakes uncontrollably. Annoyed, CHARLIE turns his back on them.)
ANGELA: My dear Sam, what is wrong?
(Feebly, SAM raises up his unfinished “Mari-J”. ASSUMPTA takes it away from him.)
ANGELA: Oh you stubborn naughty boy! The Federal Ministry of Health warned you. I warned you, didn’t I?
(Slowly, SAM nods in response, looking at her. He coughs again and starts to foam at the mouth.)
ANGELA: (to ASSUMPTA) Go and call for help now! (ASSUMPTA gets up)
PETER: Wait, wait! What do you think you are doing? This is a party and I don’t want disturbance.
ASSUMPTA: (angrily) O boy, you dey craze??
PETER: Na you wey craze pass! Na you wey craze catch well-well, idiot!
ANGELA: Sam, don’t die on me! Sam!!
SAM: (smiles weakly) M-M-My b-b-beautiful angel… (dies)
ANGELA: (shocked) Oh my God! Assumpta, go and call for help now!!
PETER: Mba! No disturbance, Angela! Are you crazy? Do you know who we are? I mean, we are children of important, well-placed aristocrats. Can you imagine what will happen if all sorts of human beings come into this place? Think of it, Angela.
ANGELA: (gets up) So, Peter, you think this is the time to think, eh? (to CHARLIE) You were right, Charlie. It is time we stop thinking. Action speaks louder than thoughts. Can you see what living in smoke has done to him? (points at SAM) And I don’t personally care if I am a daughter of an aristocrat. I am Angela, not a child of some common magistrate judge.
ASSUMPTA: I am getting tired of this bandying of words. I’m going to call for help. (exits)
PETER: (calls after her) Assumpta, you’re crazy! (pauses) Well, Angela, I personally wouldn’t say that your father is ‘common’ because he is not. He is well-placed and well-respected in the society.
ANGELA: (crouches beside SAM) Is that the issue at hand now? Sam is our friend. We have to save him. Can’t you see that he is dying?
PETER: Well, that is a problem, isn’t it? (looks over him and shrugs) He should try and save himself. As for me, I do not want death on my own hands. Let me promptly and officially declare this party over. Charlie, I dey waka, O. (exits)
ANGELA: O God! Where did this madness come from? (looks down at SAM)
CHARLIE: (turns) Well, I can see that you prefer ordinary, common, dead men like Sam to handsome, important, promising men like me.
ANGELA: (gets up) What the hell are you saying, Charlie?? Are you well at all??
CHARLIE: (angrily) I am well, thank you very much! (brief pause) By the time you realise your mistake, it would be too late, and I won’t be there any longer.
ANGELA: Listen to me carefully, Charlie. Even if you and I were the only human beings on planet earth, I would prefer death in order to leave you all alone, in order to show you the meaning of being lonely. (Angrily, CHARLIE exits. She goes, turns off the VCD player and returns to SAM) Good riddance to bad rubbish! (pauses) Sam, hang on! Just wait. Be patient. Help is coming. Don’t go yet. (pauses) Well, if you have to go, which I believe you must have from the look on your face, then plead our cause to God. Ijeoma. May your pathway be soft and tender. (cradles him and kisses him)