Francess lies in a sea of pillows, the sheets in disarray as OJ pulls on a pair of shorts. It is the moment after. OJ wonders if she wishes she can walk away from him, or if she can love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying.
I need money to buy hair.
Okay. I want you to stake out one Alhaji, he’s vital to my operations.
Okay, my Oga! I will send Warebi. Don’t forget my % sha.
You know the drill. Have I ever let you down?
No. You’re my knight in shining armor.
Flattery will get you nowhere.
Outside bar of the hotel, I lay out plans to Mani.
Good good. How we wan do d springboard?
One step at a time.
I nor go screw you. I came all this way na?
You came on my Naira.
We be partners. I nor go tell anybody
Mani nor bother, you de lie.
An announcement comes on. The Freedom hall initiative is starting. Anyone interested in presenting a drama, song, or poem can take the microphone. OJ and Mani find three quarters of the terrace tables are taken. It is a mixture of office clothes, idle sprinkling of jeans and jerseys. A petite lady cautiously approaches the microphone avoiding cables strewn across the floor. She coughs, then introduces her and her art studio location. She claims responsibility for hand painting the art adorning the walls. More pieces are available in an observation room across. Next up, a dreadlocked heavyset male launches into a diatribe on the continuous rape of the oil industry. His take on a Christine Amanpour interview leaves revelers reeling. He is quiet for a few seconds.
O’ my God, it could have been me
O’ humanity, it could have been you
Sleeping on a bed cursed by death
Slaughtered like rams in an abattoir
Those children said their prayers
Some recited spiritual mantras
Before giving sleep it’s right
Oh! O’ sleep, why allow death kidnap them from you?
You’re a weakling to give them away as preys
To demonic vampires, whose consciences
Are seared by brutality…..fostered by cruelty
O’ nation, behold your future
O’ future, behold your nation
Has it any right to one?
Was your throat not slit while you soundly slept?
40 children, 43 children, 59 children
Ah! See the death figures above
Statistics are confused men
Blame them not
Those are lives in their prime
Cut off before their time.
O’ People, rise up and confront the woes
That shred your tomorrow like papers
Hear me, You, who wear a fedora,
Proffer solutions to terrorism and stop misplacing priorities
Behold your children gruesomely murdered
Behold your children violently butchered
Behold your sisters badly burnt
Behold your brothers gunned down
O’ Mr President
Behold your citizens bereaved
Behold your gods utterly destroyed
Invite fury if positivity is it’s motive
Tell commiseration to shut up
Order solution to speak up
Call out the lion in every sheep
This pen desires to write no more
It is not as indifferent as man
It weeps uncontrollably
But just before it faints
Heart it’s blatant truth:
“IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU”
He abruptly dropped the microphone. It is picked by a female who proceeds to read a script. A trip in history shows Yugoslavia broke up into five countries in the 90’s. Many had called for a conference or a peaceful breakup along ethnic lines, but Col. Tito, silenced them. Every one of the five major ethnic groups except for Bosnians began to stock arms caches.
The Bosnians were accommodating and tolerant of Serbs, Croats, kosovars and Montenegrins. Onetime, Serbs claimed parts of Bosnia were Serb territory because Serbs moved there and contributed to its development. Tito died and the civil war broke out. The Bosnians were slaughtered and could not procure arms due to an embargo.
She flipped pages. I have a personal request to make to our leaders, if any of their relations are here. Majority laugh, a few smile.
Our Anthem reads thus: The labor of our heroes past shall not be in vain. The last visit of Zik, the founding father of nationalism to Zungeru his place of birth was on Nov 16, 1991. It was after a ceremony to mark his 89th birthday and raise funds to build Zik center which he promised during the 83’ second republic campaign as presidential candidate of NPP to promote education and tourism. Eight years later, the dream ALMOST came to fruition with a fundraiser at the Bako Kontagora memorial stadium under the chairmanship of Maradona. From the fundraising venue, guests drove to the site for the foundation laying ceremony.
There Zik said, my wish and joy is to witness the commissioning of the center.
Alas it was his corpse which was brought to the uncompleted building 5 years later on Nov 12, 96’ as part of funeral activities, 24 years after the center remains uncompleted.
Silence envelopes all, then a clap followed by a smattering of applause. By this time, OJ and Mani think they are in a political gathering of some sorts. The next minute brings relief with an expert rendition of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 on the piano as an usher drops invitations to a concert cum drama presentation: For Love of Country.
A lady reads out Christopher Okigbo’s Elegy for Alto as Mani wanders to the bar to get more drinks. The breeze is getting chillier as OJ puts his hands in hisjacket pockets. He fingers a piece of paper. OJ smiles, peering at the small note.
My prince: Pat Utomi’s 4 C’s- competence, commitment, character and compassion will take you everywhere. Frances must have stuck it in my pocket, she wore this Chelsea jacket the other night.
The next morning Oj and Mani cruise along Herbert Macaulay way in a taxi. Mani repeatedly eyes the mannequins displaying shoes.
How you take hear about dis guy?
Usual sources, na street to d core. The taxi pulls into a plaza, and OJ points to a store.
Na there inspector gadget de kpai people.
Mani and I enter the boutique and are greeted by a bespectacled male, dressed in expensive clothes.
Oga you’re here?
Yes oooo. I de supervise my boys.
The customers thin out as OJ and Mani inspect different shoes. Prices start from 70k. As the last one leaves, OJ turns the OPEN sign on the front door. Mani approaches the counter with a Zara Moccasin. He hands over his bank card to be used on the Pos machine. It slips out of the clerk’s hand, he stoops to retrieve it. When he straightens up, he finds OJ right next to him.
What happened? OJ asks, eyeing the tiny machine the clerk has run the card through.
Sir, you are not allowed behind the counter.
Where did you buy it?
It’s an antifraud machine, the clerk says firmly. It checks valid cards. With all these wayo boys, our Oga said we should be using it to confirm. I hope you understand. Their Oga approaches.
Oh yes I do. I reach out, take the machine, pull out the connecting wires and say to Mani and their Oga. This was used to clone your card details, either he sells the details or he charges your card in other locations.
Are you policemen?
No Ugo, we are people like you. We lead him to the opposite end of the store. Oj is recruiting Ugo for the intro operation. Oke and Tunde will also join for the springboard. Tunde will apply for a prospecting license. Funding from the springboard op should guarantee access to living their dreams.
(NB: It could have been you – Kolawole Freedom Olanrewaju)