President Dandagoro stood before the closet mirror preening; turning this way and that, he admired the sheen of his naked skin like a beauty contestant. Wiry by nature and military training, he had not gone to seed like most of his age-mates. Tapping his stomach and hearing the resultant thud, he smiled at his reflection and said, ‘old soldier never die!’ He kept repeating it and hopping about the room, a walking stick slung across his shoulders. The phone rang, distracting and causing him to stumble against the bed. Irritation swiftly replaced happiness as he yanked the phone off its hook. Were it in his days as a military ruler, he would have ordered Mr Katung to run laps or frog-jump till dusk for flaunting his orders. There was so much being a civilian ruler deprived one of, he thought, slumping across the bed. Barely two years in and people were already criticizing him. Nonsense! If that overambitious soldier from Ogun had not introduced GSM during his civilian reign, most noisemakers masquerading as activists would not have found it easy to pollute others with their thoughts. In fact, he thought, turning over to his side, he would whisper to the Communications minister of his desire to curtail the country’s access to the internet. After all, North Korea was doing that successfully. He was still mentally drafting the bill’s content when an alarm rang, jolting him into the present. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was already time to break his fast. Levering himself up, he strode into the bathroom for ablution.
Prayers done, he stalked across the room eyes casting about for the remote. Growing impatient, he remembered that his days of remote controlling things were over. So, clearing his throat, he ordered: ‘Television on’. The images slowly spread across the screen as did his smile. Some days he had trouble believing he was commander in chief again, after so many decades. Some nights he woke up disoriented and scared, and it took the mechanical buzz of the drone patrolling his bedroom to remember he was in the presidential villa. He was going to order CNN away and settle for a movie when the headlines caught his eyes. Subhanallah!, he exclaimed, jumping out of the seat he had plonked into. ‘Volume increase!’ The sounds filled the room and staring at the pits filled with carcasses of cattle, bile churned in his stomach. He could see the flies buzzing about, revelling in death. His hands squeezed into fists. Bastards! Striding across the room, he picked the disconnected phone and dialled a number.
“What is this am hearing in Abia state? Why was I not told… Shut uf! Don’t talk while am talking. Understand? Good, go on.”
As the information slipped through his ears, his features hardened. “Idiots! Call me the IG of police and the commandant!”
“…for the villagers affected, we can offer remuneration to keep…”
“Dr Umoh, shut uf and sit down!” Dandagoro ordered in his f’s and p’s switching accent. “How can you be talking about renumera…what?”
“Yowa! How can you? Do you know how much the government is already spending on Bokoharam victims? Anybody else?”
A portly man stood up, readjusted his hat and spoke; “Mr President Sir, I suggest we pacify the people by offering a televised condolence because the media – international and local – is sympathetic towards them and supports the actions they took.”
“Is that so? Look at me, who am I?”
“You are the president of Nigeria, Sir”
“Alhamdulillah. Exactly! So don’t start telling me how to run my country, gagane kwo?”
“I am sorry, Mr President Sir.”
“Yesterday, I had a dream. Who is minister of Agriculture?”
A lanky man shot off his seat and stood at attention. “Mr President Sir.”
“You are the one? Good. Go and pind the countries with the best grass in the world.
“If we pind a solution to the froblem of ‘no grass’, then the herdsmen and their cattle will not leave the north to steal, kill and destroy, shikena!”
The handful of men present in the meeting nodded, smiled and applauded genius.
Dandagoro sat in his office, thighs quivering with frustration. How dare those nonentities say he was silent on the crisis because he was kin with herdsmen? Imagine! Even Obama had joined in. Kai! Were it not for that summit billed for next month, he would have… Nonsense! And now, everywhere on TV, people were carrying placards. What did they want him to say? Glancing at the folder in front of him, he burst into laughter. There would be urgent issues to talk about after the implementation of fuel subsidy removal.
The hall was filled to capacity with government officials, journalists and their equipments. Murmurs rose and fell in discordance as people waited for Dandagoro and wondered why they had been invited. In public appearances he always made his detestation for journalism known. He abruptly ended interviews if difficult questions were being asked, and once slapped a female interviewer who kept repeating a question although she had been instructed to skip it before the program went live. A hush fell immediately he stepped in. Most shocking, was his red and puffy eyes.
Dandagoro sat down and blew noisily into a handkerchief offered by his chief of staff before speaking into microphones dotting the table.
“…It is with deep regret that I stand here bepore you. The killings in our country have reached unimaginable heights with losses incurred in fersonal, pinancal froferties and sadly, lipes of citizens of Najeria. I fromise that the fiful resfonsible por this shall be dealt with to the pull extent of the law!” His voice rose on the last word and he banged his hand on the table. He continued reading till, reaching the end of his prepared speech, questions began to swirl.
“Mr President Sir, what do you think of the rumours that the military is responsible for the attack in Agbisi village in Abia State?” A man whose microphone bore the SN logo stood to ask.
“Mr Journalist, you have already answered your question by calling it a rumour,” Dandagaro answered, the ghost of a smile hovering on his lips.
“Sir, part of the steps by your government to improve IGR was to call for a ban on imports. Wouldn’t you say that importing grass for cattle like the Minister for Agriculture announced last week goes against this plan?”
Dandagoro cleared his throat. “Mr reforter, when was the last time you ate meat?”
The gathering tittered.
“This morning, Sir.”
“Yowa. Do you know that ip we check, meat is something that even the poorest najiran cannot do without? Even the fiful whose parms are destroyed, even the ones who died, all op them eat meat. So how can a flan to make meat continually available with smaller damages be a bad one?”
“Mr President Sir, is it not safe to assume that if the government spends money on providing comfort for cattle, then the prize of meat would also increase, making it inaccessible to the masses?”
“Now you are talking! The government flans to start exforting meat and all other cattle related products. With this, revenue increases and we can subsidize the frize por citizens.” Dandagoro finished with a smile.
“Mr President Sir, what are your views on communities taking the law into their own hands when the government fails to answer their calls for help?” A lady asked.
“Taking the law into one’s hand is against the constitution and fiful who go against the law must be funished!”
“Mr President Sir, does this in any way support the claims that people of Agbisi were massacred by the military as punishment for standing up to the invasive herdsmen that have been the scourge of the country since you became president?”
“Shut uf!” Dandagoro’s face mottled with anger. He stood up and leaning into the microphones, said; “When I was a little boy and used to look apter my baba’s cattle, an animal killed one. Do you know what my baba did? He sent me away prom the house! Me, I hunted the animal, killed it, cut the head and carried it home. So, I can categorically tell you, that the loss op one of my cows is equal to the loss of my children. If fiful decide to kill my cow, then it is equal to killing my children and whoever kills my children is asking por froblem.”
Perhaps, it was the slow measured tones in which he made this statement that silenced the hall.
“Mr Pre-president Sir,” someone croaked from the back.
“What is your response to people who say your government does not deliver on the REFORM agenda promised during your campaign?”
Readjusting his caftan, Dandagoro replied, “Be fatient. I am pocusing my attention on kworruption because it is Najiria’s froblem. Thank you ladies and gentlemen of the press. God bless the Pederal refublic of Najiria.”
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