Everything started falling apart on Monday, when Ibrahim Hidara stood up and requested permission to address the Parliament. The Chief of the Parliament, Chudi Oduola, had squinted before nodding and smiling in consent.
Ibrahim was Oduola’s closest companion and it was clear to everyone why. He had been at the forefront of Oduola’s meteoric rise to power and the two men had become strong political allies. Ibrahim always had a mischievous smile hidden under his moustache and was always joking about something. At their weekly meetings, every Friday – characterized by protruding beer bellies, expensive wine and small chops, and scantily dressed, slit–eyed girls – the two men would meet at the centre of the room and exchange never–ending inside jokes.
“The honourable Honourable! How is madam?”
“Getting rounder and rounder!” And boisterous laughter would explode from the two men.
Chudi Oduola was the people’s person. The type of man who drew admiration from people to himself the way magnet drew nails and when he spoke, his words rolled out like perfectly moulded eba and slid smoothly down his listeners’ throats.
The two men were like bread and butter, singular and plural – two things that went together.
But, he was finding it difficult today to understand the fast–paced words escaping Ibrahim’s lips as he jiggled a magazine with a shiny cover up and down. “Honourable Chief, perhaps you could explain this to the House?”
Oduola first stared blankly at the magazine that meant nothing to him then slowly, slowly, his brain registered that splattered across the glossy cover was his own grim, unsmiling face and written above, in white block letters were the words – THE NEW FACE OF DECEPTION: CHIEF OF PARLIAMENT LIES TO THE NATION.
There was complete silence in the House as Ibrahim went on and on about the contents of the magazine. “It appears that the honourable Chief, Chudi Oduola, has perfected the tactics of lies. He has been able to sweet–tongue his way into all our good graces and he is not even qualified to be a member of this House!”
The smile had disappeared from Oduola’s face. In its place was a look of clear horror. His heart lurched forward then picked up pace till it was throbbing painfully in his chest. His mouth was suddenly very dry. He tried to lick his lips and then tried to smack them but they stayed stubbornly glued together.
And Ibrahim wasn’t finished yet. He lazily flipped through the magazine, “We celebrated your 36th birthday at your villa two months ago but it appears you’re only 29 years old.” A murmur broke out among the house members.
“Enough! This is not a point of order!” Chudi Oduola had finally pried his lips apart. His eyes darted around wildly and veins stood out on either side of his neck as he swallowed convulsively. The murmurs increased tempo.
“Isn’t it?” Ibrahim assessed Oduola over the top of the magazine. He chuckled, “Authorities of Far Eastern University are even denying that you are one of their alumni and even worse, I have it on good authority that you are an illegal alien!”
A house member, who had been roused from his sleep by the murmurs just in time to hear Ibrahim’s last sentence, raised his sleepy voice in protest. The house member stood up and accused Ibrahim of character assassination and called him a hovering vulture, hoping to pick on the carcass of the honourable chief’s office. Then he rushed for the mace, the symbol of authority of the house.
The house was thrown into chaos and divided – with the majority supporting Ibrahim and the rest sticking by Oduola.
It is not clear who punched Ibrahim Hidara, but it resulted in an all–out brawl. Fists flew and punches were exchanged. Expensive agbadas were ripped and chairs sailed in the air. There were grunts and shouts. Shoves and kicks.
The air conditioner blared with its fullest intensity but Oduola sat completely drenched in sweat as everything unfolded before his eyes. He slowly got up and tried to creep past all the house members but just before he reached the exit, two female house members who were scratching at each other’s faces bumped into him and he tumbled back into the heart of the fight.
By the time the police arrived at the invitation of the chief security officer of the parliament, Oduola’s agbada had been ripped open in front. It now looked like a cape. He had several bleeding cuts on his face and his body ached.
The session ended abruptly as the members who escaped unhurt from the fracas scampered out of the House.
As Chudi Oduola was driven home by his driver, Bode, he sat on the edge of the car’s back seat and made frantic calls.
“What rubbish and nonsense! I was led by my zeal to serve this nation and they act like I am a criminal! Sue that magazine! File a 500 million naira libel suit against Ibrahim Hidara! The bastard should be taught a lesson!”
And then everything finally fell apart.
Oduola froze with the phone pressed against his ear and stared at the radio in his car with wide eyes when it started playing martial music.
“Fellow citizens, this is major Atan of the Nigerian Army. My colleagues and I in the Armed forces have thought it proper to take over the Government of Nigeria to save the country from imminent chaos on account of insensitive leadership. A dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed in all regions of the country until further notice. All seaports and airports, as well as land boarders, have been closed forthwith. You are advised in your own interest to remain calm and law–abiding…”
Bubbles developed and swam in Oduola’s stomach and he released a loud, acrid fart that made Bode’s eyes water. If there had been a coup, Oduola needed to get home, get everything he had and disappear. Fast.
“The light is green! Can’t you see that? Move, move!”
He barked at Bode. Flecks of saliva escaped Oduola’s mouth, cruised through the air and settled on Bode’s clean–shaven head. Bode’s fingers itched to reach into his breast pocket and retrieve his clean, white handkerchief to wipe away the spittle that was quickly drying because of the air conditioner in the jeep but he knew to do so would be to lose his job. He gripped the steering wheel harder instead and accelerated.
“Incompetent fool!” Oduola cursed under his breath.
A few minutes later, Oduola’s house was in sight. As Bode turned the car into the compound, a black jeep with tinted windows sped in with them.
Oduola jumped out of his car indignantly and turned to confront the intruders with an angry flow of words but stopped when he saw three men in the Nigeria Army uniform facing him.
If Oduola had croaked a word, it wouldn’t have been heard over the pounding of his heart. He opened and closed his mouth like a fish. One of the soldiers moved towards him with determined, sure steps and a handcuff that glinted in the sunlight. He had fat cheeks and black lips that were set in a grim pout.
“We just want to ask you a few questions,” the soldier smiled into Oduola’s terrified eyes as he clasped the iron on his wrists. It was a strange smile, one that stretched the lips but did nothing to warm the eyes.
Oduola’s knees knocked together. He released another long, loud fart and the three soldiers threw their heads back and roared with laughter. Oduola had soiled his pant.
Bode threw himself on the ground, wailing like a hungry baby till the fat–cheeked soldier jerked him to his feet and delivered two sharp slaps on both his cheeks with a brief, “Shut up!” command.
As the other two soldiers climbed back into the jeep, the fat–cheeked soldier held the jeep door open for Oduola. “Get in the car, Honourable Chief of Parliament,” the strange smile had vanished from his black lips.
Chudi Oduola, with hot tears burning at the back of his eyes, bowed his head and obeyed.
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