The funeral had been the talk of town.
The small town of Apomu had never seen so many people before: a phalanx of big luxurious cars – Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Lexus – of the such the people had never seen before had started rolling in from the crack of dawn. These huge expensive mechanical beasts bore influential dignitaries who came dressed in their very best – danshiki, lace, silk and aso-oke. They would step out of their vehicles with an air of godliness, sniffing the air with a haughty look whilst waiting for an usher to come and escort them to where they would sit. One notable billionaire arrived in a helicopter, landing on a school field: some people nearly went blind as sand whipped up by the rotors of the mechanical dragon-fly went into their eyes.
Today was the day the Honourable Peter Olusola was burying his mother.
Peter was one of the few indigenes of Apomu who had done well for themselves. Rather than turn his hands to farming, as soon as he was old enough, and as countless generations before him had done, he headed for the big city of Lagos. He was only 16. An uncle had agreed to take him in and in return for doing chores around the house he would send him to school.
He excelled at school and won a scholarship to go further: his next port of call would be the University of Ibadan where he graduated with a First in political science.
With the dictatorial administration of the despot General Abacha out of the way he joined the throng of new politicians vying for positions in the newly elected democratic government.
He became a senator in 2003 and has remained in the senate ever since.
As a result of his meteoric rise in life his mother became a bit of a celebrity in Apomu: she had been conferred with a chieftaincy and even the King of Apomu had made her one of his trusted advisors.
And now she was dead.
She had died in her sleep at the ripe old age of 103: she never went blind, deaf or senile. At the end she was a picture of perfect health.
And now her son was going to bury her in a ceremony that would be full of pomp and pageantry; a funeral befitting a great woman.
The funeral had been in full swing since Thursday: today was Saturday.
The weather had been kind and the clouds had mercifully kept their distance. Chairs and tables had been set up in and around the Olusola mansion and even the street outside had been closed to traffic to accommodate more chairs and tables.
It was like Christmas all over again: live bands played all over the place; there was an open-air buffet for the many and an army of well-dressed waiters and waitresses to cater for the culinary requests of the well-heeled. Even the local folk of Apomu had joined in , dipping into the depths of their dusty portmanteaus, pulling out their Sunday bests putting them on to join the festivities.
The grand old lady had been laid to rest in a mausoleum her son had built especially for her in the back garden of their family house. It was a single storey building with marble flooring and white porcelain tiles on the wall. A catholic priest had blessed it and her embalmed body rested in a brass coffin.
That had been this morning in a solemn ceremony that had drawn tears from all present. Now the people ate, drank and danced in celebration of her life.
It was 9 pm when the last of his guests finally left: Senator Olusola sat in his lavish living room surrounded by members of his family. He was tired. It had been a long 3 days burying his mum and he was looking forward to a week of peace before returning back to work: there would be no guests, no going out. Nothing. Just a week’s holiday to get it all out of his system.
He was watching the news when a servant came in to inform him that there were a lot of uniformed men outside, some with guns, demanding to see him.
Puzzled, he followed the servant to the gate: he wasn’t expecting anyone and all his guests had left.
When the twin gates of his mansion swung open he was surprised to see more than 20 men wearing red waist jackets with “EFCC NIGERIA” emblazoned on them: they had come in 5 SUVs and they had an armed escort.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC – the anti-graft organisation set-up to investigate corrupt politicians, what were they doing here?
A well-dressed man walked up to him and thrust a piece of paper in his face.” Sir I have a warrant here to search your premises”.
Senator Olusola was stunned, “ this is an outrage! I’ll make sure the President hears about this intrusion!”.
The man was un-moved by the threat,” Sir…the President personally authorized the search…”.
The President? “And what exactly are you looking for?”, he asked them.
“We’ve received a tip-off that you’re hiding more than five hundred million dollars in stolen government funds here…we have searched all your other properties”.
Senator Olusola laughed.” 500 million dollars hidden here? You better find it or I’ll sue you for defamation of character!”.
Heads were going to roll over this. He was the Chairman of the anti-corruption committee set up by the President to look into cases of politicians accused of corruption: and now he himself was under investigation. Probably somebody trying to be a whistle-blower so they can cash in on the reward money.
He stepped aside and let the men in.
As he and his family and domestic staff cowered in the living room under the watchful eyes of the armed police, the EFCC men went through his house with a vengeance. They went through all the rooms, emptying wardrobes and cupboards: searched all likely hiding places like in the roof and store rooms. They searched the garden, in and out of the carport, in and out of the generator room, everywhere, but they couldn’t find anything.
By midnight they were done: they couldn’t find any trace of the looted money.
“ I’m sorry sir for the inconvenience we’ve caused you especially today the day of your mother’s funeral”, apologised the leading EFCC man,”…we’re just doing our job”.
Senator Olusola kissed his teeth. “ You haven’t heard the end of this! I’m going straight to the top with this! I’m going to make sure you all get fired for this!”.
The EFCC man could only mutter another heartfelt “sorry sir” as he and his men filed out of the gate, into their vehicles and promptly driving off.
By the time the Senator got back to his living room he was in a foul mood and sent everyone to their rooms: the domestic staff scurried out of his way, darting for their quarters living frightened cats, as he thundered around, this way and that way, swearing loudly at everyone.
Alone with his wife he poured himself a large measure of brandy and sat down.
“ How dare they?”, he said to no one in particular, “…especially today of all days that I buried my mother!”.
Not knowing what to say his wife snuggled up to him, resting her head on his shoulder hoping her closeness would calm him down.
He stood up abruptly and headed for the door.
“ Where are you going dear?”, she asked, concerned.
“I’m going to check on Mama…”, he said, “…they had better not disturbed her”.
She sighed: they had left all the rooms in a right state; clothes were on the floor; ceiling panels were left open; books and papers were strewn everywhere. Even the servants’ quarters had been search thoroughly. If they had done the same to the mausoleum – where her late mother-in-law lay – her husband would go berserk.
It was a short walk to the mausoleum in the back garden. It was a peaceful night and with the exception of the few nocturnal animals singing it was quiet.
He entered the mausoleum and looked around. Nothing had been touched : at least they had some respect for the dead. All the floral displays were intact and the candles on the small altar were still burning.
Her brass casket sat on a raised marble platform in the middle of the room with a purple velvet curtain surrounding the base.
“ Mama”, he whispered as he approached, hoping she could hear him, where ever she was. A single salty tear rolled down his face.
He produced a key from his pocket and inserted it into the keyhole at the side of the platform. The casket rolled downwards on its well-oiled castors to reveal a hidden cavity containing bundles and bundles of hundred-dollar bills.