Even in a Nigeria that works, something will always go wrong
It was a festival of prints and delicacies at the congress hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel. The recently passed Local Content Law had among other things, brought life to the failing economy. The Nation had just witnessed a sudden turnaround in fortune and President Lucky Ebetimi Jonah was throwing a special banquet to celebrate everyone who had a hand in its success.
On one end of the huge banquet table was Dr Nkiru Okogie Ezeala. Clad in a bright red Ankara gown, she clawed at the slices of the special cassava bread just as she shared jokes with the Central Bank Governor, Dr Sanni Lamidi Sanni. He donned a patterned knee-length top with a Jonah-esque hat to match. They had both won their places on the roll call of awardees owing to the part they played in achieving the President’s transformation agenda.
“Madam Eze, I’m so glad we did it”, Dr Sanni broke the silence.
“Did what?”, She replied, stuffing her mouth with the last slice that lay on her plate.
“We deregulated successfully”, he continued.
“Despite the initial resistance that met our proposal, we pulled through. Ah! And I remember that funny look you had when you couldn’t answer that one question from the raging CNN reporter?” Dr Sanni smirked, pouring himself a glass from the bottle of Dangote beer set before him.
“Yes Sanni, those were really tough times considering the fact that I was the one on the receiving end of all the insults that flew around”, Madam Ezeala retorted. The slight frown on her face quickly dissolved into a smile.
Many months ago, their attempt to transform the economy into a market-driven one yielded a violent ruckus that was even mooted by some as a revolution in the making. But after that threatening storm came a surprisingly blissful calm. As the head of the economic team, the effervescent Dr Ezeala put together an action plan that drove the Nation forward. Needless Subsidies were subsequently yanked off the country’s expenditure. The economy transited seamlessly to a cashless one; buoyant businesses sprang up with reckless abandon creating millions of job opportunities and deflating the huge unemployed population. It seemed like the perfect time for this heroine to munch heartily in the face of her gobsmacked critics who watched as the event streamed live on TV.
Somewhere else at the table was the chairman of the anti-corruption commission, Mr Farouk Waziri. Barely standing at five feet, the country had this little man to thank for the complete recovery of public funds that had been looted over the years; and in the same vein, the full prosecution of offenders, which included some very high profile names once touted as ‘untouchables’. Recovered funds had been ploughed back into development of infrastructure. Better roads, a revival of the power sector, ultra-modern health facilities, and many other amenities sprouted around the country. All of a sudden, the country was becoming the ideal destination for foreign investors and tourists. Mr Waziri clinked glasses with a number of security chiefs present; eggheads who were responsible for bringing crime rates down to an all-time low. The Islamic anarchists who threatened the unity of the country had been brought down too. But these tough guys were looking quite civil tonight. Swapping their official regalia for traditional outfits definitely did the trick.
Away from the group, Mr Hameed Ribadu, the IG, dazzled in a wine-coloured dashiki. He held on to his glass of locally made palm wine as he tried to catch up with Raymond Seriake, chief coach of the all-conquering Super Mambos. Three months ago, the Super Mambos team pulled off the biggest upset ever to be recorded in world football.
“The President is indeed honoured to have everyone here today…”
The voice on the microphone pierced through the hall as feasting continued.
“Next on the list of awardees for tonight is the spirit behind our dearest Super Mambos team, the man whose performance almost single-handedly won us the World Cup. Welcome, Captain Austin Yakubu!”
A rousing applause followed as he stepped up to the podium. The voice continued to read out his citation just as the President received him in a warm embrace.
Then pandemonium broke out. An alarm went off. Plain-clothed detectives appeared from nowhere. They made President Jonah duck as if to escape being hit by a dangerous missile. Then they whisked him away from the venue through the back door. Everyone scampered for safety. The overweight Finance Minister hurdled, the skinny Central Bank Governor followed behind closely; the pot-bellied IG too. Little Mr Waziri took cover under the huge banquet table while security details worked with the anti-bomb squad to evacuate the building.
In an instant, it appeared the much celebrated Yakubu had gone from being the one hero everyone looked up to, to a vilified zero. He was shoved, mouth agape, into the trunk of a waiting van.
At the SSS headquarters, Detective Rogers interrogated him in what sounded like a monologue of fury.
“We had intelligence reports that there would be an attempt tonight, so we installed a device that could sniff explosives within inches of the President. What we didn’t know was that it would involve a high profile citizen.”
“So you had it sewn up inside you? You didn’t think we would detect it, did you?”
“Now, who wants the President dead?!” Rogers barked on, crashing his fists hard against the table that stood between them
“Mister, I don’t understand the drama myself”, an obviously bemused Yakubu struggled with his emotions as he spoke.
“All I know is that I had a metal plate inserted in my left leg. I’m sure you all saw the horrific injury I sustained during the final game of the World Cup. Specialists put the plate in to fix my broken tibia. My medical records should prove this.”
“Sir, he says he’s got a fractured tibia”, Rogers whispered to his boss who just walked in.
“I was just about to tell you the same thing, Rogers. Our tests confirmed it too.”
Rogers scratched his head as he turned in the direction of the ruffled football captain. “I’m sorry Sir, it looks as though we had a faulty detector back there.”