The two men stood close enough for their potbellies to touch, nostrils flaring like those of raging bulls as their chests rose and fell in anger. They held each other’s gaze without blinking, even though their halitosis-rich breath was offensive enough to induce tears.
Around them, the chaos in the senate chamber raged on. Angry challenges and curses filled the air.
Do you know who I am?!
Who are you?!
You’re a cheat! A thief!
Something heavy fell beside the two men and they broke their staring match to look in that direction. A portly man was struggling to rise up from the floor where he had fallen. His aides tried to calm him down as he began to remove the various folds of white, billowy material that made up his agbada. The tribal marks on his dark face gleamed as his cheeks quivered in fury. “Who pushed me? I say, who pushed me?!” He looked like an ugly caterpillar squeezing out of its cocoon too soon; an aborted butterfly.
Senator Hanson Okoye returned his attention to the man opposite him. “You dared to insult me, Obinna? Me?”
“And why not?” Senator Obinna Ikeogu snarled. “Are you God? You can do nothing! Nothing!”
The last word was expelled so vehemently that it was escorted by drops of spittle which fell on the other man’s face. The man flinched as the wet flecks touched his skin, eyes growing round in shock.
“You dare to spit on me, Obinna? Are you mad?!”
Without waiting for a response, the enraged man charged headfirst. The ground seemed to shake as the two political behemoths plunged to the floor in a flurry of perfumed lace and meaty punches.
They were not alone in their frenzied struggle. Little pockets of violence had erupted around them, women and men scrambling for cover as furniture missiles flew through the air. The air stank of sickeningly-sweet perfume, overlaid with the stench of sweat and punctured egos.
Cameras rolled, silently recording the mayhem unfolding in the upper chambers of the Nigerian senate.
“What are they even fighting about?” one reporter yelled over the noise of crashing chairs and battling politicians.
“Who cares?” another one replied, his sweaty face wreathed with pleasure. “Let them fight. This is great television- I’m selling this to CNN!”
When the two senators were finally pried apart by security operatives in ill-fitting suits, Senator Hanson Okoye’s parting words bounced off the walls, propelled by pure fury and recorded for posterity by greedy microphones.
“You’re a dead man. You hear me? No one crosses me and lives. You’re dead!”
It was a boast that was often heard from a lot of angry men, and even though Senator Okoye was known to be ruthless, the other man scoffed at the threat. It was just one of many that drifted into the cloud of bad thoughts and wishes hanging in the large chamber. It was just another empty boast.
Or… was it?
One week later, a dark jeep slid into Senator Obinna Ikeogu’s compound. It was closely followed by a black Mercedes which glistened like a well-fed mamba, its tyres hissing as it kissed the gravel and rolled to a stop. The jeep’s doors opened, and it spat out an assortment of uniformed policemen and personal aides.
Inside the Mercedes, Senator Hanson Okoye leaned forward from his seat behind the driver, his brow wrinkling as he observed how crowded the compound was. He had hoped to have a private meeting with the other senator, with the intention of mending fences. He wasn’t planning to apologize- Obinna was still his boy, but the current friction was bad for business.
An aide opened the car door and he emerged from the chilled interior of the vehicle, blinking in the afternoon light. He paused for a moment, clearing his throat importantly as he basked in the attention his arrival had brought, then he moved towards the mansion, where he could see a small group of people, including Senator Ikeugo’s wife. The woman spotted his approach.
“Ewo! What are my eyes seeing? You dare to come here?! Wicked soul! My God will deal with you!”
The vicious words stopped Senator Hanson Okoye in his tracks. He stared at the screaming woman as her painted mouth writhed with threats of celestial punishment, lips opening and closing with the desperate fury of a shark out of water. He had never really noticed her before now; as far as he could remember, she was pretty and fair-complexioned, and buxom in a way that appealed to his African juices. But he had never considered her to be anything more than a trophy wife, just like his- only to be seen and not heard.
Anger filled him as her voice rose in pitch.
“Will you shut up your mouth, woman? I say mechionu gi there!” he snapped. “Who are you to involve yourself in an issue between me and your husband? Move out of the way, osiso, and let men handle their matters!”
“Handle what, eh? You should receive a Nollywood medal for your acting, evil thing! Haven’t you killed my husband? And now you came to gloat when his body is not yet cold… tufia!”
Stunned, he tuned her out and really looked around for the first time. The compound was crowded, yes, but he had failed to realize why. Now, he noticed an ambulance and a crowd of crying people standing by it. His blood ran cold and blood beat in his ears.
The woman broke free of the people restraining her and lunged at him. Artificial nails raked at his eyes and he instinctively threw up his hands. The sleeves of his native top folded downwards, revealing the beaded bracelets on his wrists.
“Look at them!” the grieving woman shrieked as sympathizers pulled her away. “See the charms this evil man used to strike my husband dead in his own bed! Fetish thing! I will show you that my law degree is not for decoration! You will rot in jail for killing my Obinna!”
Dazed, the senator stared at his own arms, blinking slowly as he considered the implication of his public threats to Senator Ikeogu and this ugly scene witnesses would soon be spreading. By the next morning, he would be branded a murderer on all the Nigerian tabloids and online blogs. He imagined the accusations trending on Linda Ikeji’s Blog and his blood ran cold.
He looked up to meet the eyes of the bystanders staring at his beaded wrists in suspicion. His heart thudded in panic. These aren’t even real! He wanted to scream at them. They are just for show!
Or… were they?
The woman stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, trying to identify the emotion on her face. Grief or misery?
Her assistant had already informed her that most of the party members had arrived for the meeting in her home, where they would pay their respect to her late husband’s memory.
Madam, I heard that you’re being considered to take your husband’s seat in the senate o, the girl had added, gleeful.
The new widow had always been a loyal party member, careful to grease the right palms and kiss the right asses; it came as no surprise that she was being considered for the position. All she had to do was play her cards right, and she would have all the power she ever wanted.
She turned sideways and admired her figure in the mirror. Her black lace gown hugged her in all the right places. She was still shapely, with a pert butt and skin carefully whitened with expensive skin-care products.
A pang of regret ran through her as she remembered her late husband’s bedroom skills; she would miss his lusty prowess. He was actually very good; well, at least it felt good when she closed her eyes and fantasized it was D’banj grunting above her. She would have to deny herself such pleasures for a while, like a properly grieving widow. She bit her lower lip and ran a lingering hand over her breasts. It would be difficult though…
A soft knock interrupted her thoughts. “Madam, they are all here.”
“I’ll be out in a minute.” She took a deep breath. She had endured a lot; her husband’s bad breath and foul temper, his leering and groping colleagues… she deserved this.
“Barrister Nkechi Ikeogu, turned Senator.” She rolled the words around in her mouth. They tasted good. It was a good start; today the senate, tomorrow the world.
She carefully practiced her expression of grief, peering into the mirror. That was what they would see- an anguished, beautiful widow; not an ambitious woman who had poisoned her husband and blamed his friend for the death. She hoped she wouldn’t have to kill anyone else to travel further into the corridors of power.
Or… would she?
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