The severed head lay on the side of its face, and Jide was looking into a sinewy aperture filled with goo. He couldn’t see the eyes: he saw just bloodied vessels, ribbon muscles and things a biology major would have been thrilled to identify. Gooey sinews, veins and stringy things flamed out perpendicular to a protruding grayish white, and waxy-looking lifeless tongue. Because the head was so close, he could not tell if the congealing deep red-brown blood streaks on the earthen floor, on which they lay were his. He knew he had been hit hard on the skull and could feel a gash in his head. Then there was the overpowering stench that dazed him. It woke him up.
“Coffee or coke, Monsieur,” repeated the blonde attendant as Jide peered into her emerald green eyes. She was smiling and pretty. Just the sight Jide liked being awakened to.
“Coffee, please. With plenty of cream.” The twinkle in his eyes matches the glint in her emerald green, which came with a knowing smile.
“We will be arriving in Lagos, in thirty minutes. Thank you for flying with us. I hope you enjoy your stay.” She hands Jide his coffee with a pleasant smile and officiously pushes the trolley, ambling down the aisle, stopping to attend to flyers seated on his side of the aircraft.
Jide had kissed the tarmac on alighting from the plane. Everything moved rapidly at the frenetic pace of Lagos soon after that. In no time, the jet pace of maneuverings from Lagos, swept him into office as fast as a bat out of hell, as the new senator from the lethargic Kogi state in northern Nigeria. Everything seemed orchestrated in his favor, as a successful recall of the comical, erstwhile court jester singing senator, left a vacant seat once he had absconded after being declared wanted by the police, for faking an assassination attempt on his own life. It was rather ironic that the myriad corruption charges did not make him budge. Almost all the senators in the national assembly faced corruption charges and none budged. Nigeria was fantastically corrupt. But he was among the young emigres in the diaspora, who wanted to change and modernize the country. They dreamed of their own Wakanda, the fictional technologically advanced paradise that was a haven, where blacks thrived in dignity and prosperity.
It was the overwhelming sentiment that propelled the Brobdingnagian youth population of Nigeria to the polling booths. The vast majority of them were unemployed and although disenchanted, they hoped they could live the American dream in Nigeria. The Nigerian youth wanted their own son of Africa, their own Barack Obama, in Nigeria. They saw Jide as their answer. The fired up Nigerian media was pressured to keep up with Western standards, values and a global audience, because of shifts in their market’s tastes, constantly defined by American television that catches them by surprise every day. Journalists wrote in inflected language transliterated from their native tongues, coming out just a notch above broken English and vernacular, while making irksome adjustments to suit a Western lens. While all this was alien to their experience, and dictated by Nigeria’s “petite” bourgeois, the journalists uncharacteristically recognized the movement demanding change.
In an unprecedented move, the mainstream media decided to organize and televise a debate between the candidates for the vacant senatorial position, intending to make a splash and bring their revelation and new political sensation into national prominence. Jide was to become Nigeria’s hope candidate and the galvanizing symbol of the sweeping change movement and its youthful aspirations.
Jide’s savoir-faire, patrician good looks and Oxford garb-cum-education made him photogenic, among the British-venerating, Americana-envious Nigerian citizenry. The media often sidelined, and long used to Nigerian television viewers’ being perpetually drawn and captivated by Western cable networks and programming, hoped to score one against foreign TV stations fishing in their nondescript waters. Nigeria’s young and handsome Americana senatorial candidate was certain to pull crowds. At least Western female crowds.
Jide Jaiyeoba had refused to end the relationship with his oyinbo fiancée. Like many young Nigerian men, who had sojourned in the academic halls of Western universities, he had been enthralled by a white woman. The media bosses assiduously went to great lengths to hide this complexity from the Nigerian public’s eye, as photographers strategically captured him with a Yoruba, Igbo, Benin or Calabar woman being chaperoned on a casual date with the athletic Americana wonder boy. An Ethiopian model was as exotic as their camera lens would occasion. The media did not wish to send a rude and unpatriotic message to Nigerian families, that their tribal daughters were not good enough for the savant.
Initially the media bosses incubating the young star’s political prospects had been worried that Jide may have fallen prey to the Western predilection for homosexuality, as some now ostracized Nigerian young men had. That would have extinguished not only his political ambitions, but also snuffed out the life from him via the hangman’s noose, since homosexuality was outlawed in Nigeria, and invoked a death sentence by hanging. While in many of the states that did not mete out punishment by death, forty strokes of the cane minus one sufficed as a cure.
Although they knew of his white English fiancée, they had thought the relationship was one of convenience or a green card pact for a permanent foreign abode, which some Nigerian men often arranged with their willing oyinbo friends as an escape route to the West, in case anarchy finally broke out into full-blown war in their beloved but chaotic homeland—always calling them back to its turbulent shores.
The media bosses were relieved after the resourceful Ikumade, whom they had sent to spy on him around the clock, revealed photos and video recordings of Jide screwing his bombshell secretary in every imaginable position, for durations that would make porn stars envious. Recommending Titi, the University of Lagos fresh new graduate to be Jide’s personal secretary was a gamble. She was meant to gather information on him, and the plan was not for her to get romantically or sexually involved with Americana wonder. She was not his type, they had thought. She was an appropriate fit for the Alhajis from the north and the polygamous chiefs in the south—Nigeria’s abdominous moneybags—but her tribal rawness seemed out of place for the debonair, pristine and stately Americana wonder boy, with a paradoxically aristocratic air, that seemed more English than American. But they were wrong and pleasantly surprised. Judging from the graphic compendium, Ikumade had on display in the cloistered offices of the media bosses, Jide was a well-hung stud. Nigerian women, who were now more politically active than the men, liked the idea of their politicians being virile men, even though they certainly all would not be bedding them. For the Nigerian women, it was a vicarious pleasure knowing a Nigerian sister was enjoying the “pleasure-giver” from all that man. And for the men—being a stud meant “you were representing.” This detail now fit perfectly into their scheme to make Jide Jaiyeoba attractive to the Nigerian voters.
Although several videos of Nigerian politicians and senators engaged in compromising sexual acts, ménage à trois and comical trysts were viral on Facebook, the exposed dalliances failed to damage reputations that were non-existent. The cabal of ignominy could not be embarrassed by public censure or revelation of their sexual escapades. But in Jide’s case, there must be no exposure, the bosses determined. He was a young African man and was doing what was expected and encouraged of virile Nigerian men. They needed proof that he was one. They had it, and now put the matter to rest. The bosses gathered together in the lodge, where Ikumade torched all the explicit materials in a giant ornamented bronze urn, an 800-year-old artifact of the Yoruba Ogboni secret cult, to which the media bosses belonged. The flames rose in the air, evaporating the secrets of Jide’s virility, now destroyed in the ancestral urn set in the center of the lodge. The elders sighed in relief, smiles displayed on their weary, wizened and yet satisfied faces.
All social media was agog in anticipation of the to-be-televised debate between the Americana wonder boy, muscular, lean, eye-candy Jide Jaiyeoba and the former army chief—the portly, short, bald and facially scarified General Danbanza—who happened to remind everyone of the late perfidious brutal dictator General Sani Abacha. Although the final verdict on the carefully orchestrated face-off between the repatriated young political neophyte and a seasoned military politician and former general, affiliated with the cabal that directed the fortunes of Nigeria, should have been a foregone conclusion given the sentiment among the youth in the tottering amorphous state, however, the Nigerian populace was hopeful rather than certain.
They had been here before, and even closer to the highest office, but still had their unified political will subverted by the cabal under General Ibrahim Babangida. Even the Nigerian millennials remembered from their parents’ memory of how they were robbed by the cabal that owned Nigeria. The expression of their collective political will through the election of an affable American trained billionaire businessman, had been violated with the annulment of the June 12 election—paradoxically said to be the freest and fairest in Nigeria. But they expected things to be different in the senate race, featuring the political debut of their Americana wonder boy, and their Nigerian Barack Obama, Jide Jaiyeoba.
But what followed had been a farce—for the old cadre, cabal, and the army that is. The debate was moderated by Nigeria’s version of the American broadcaster, Brian Williams. Jide had initially been irritated on his return, to discover that there was a Nigerian version of everything American. Flavius Art Alade, the seasoned moderator with the clipped English diction, which Nigerians loved to hear every week on his eponymous daily talk show, was stupefied at General Danbanza’s ludicrous response to his question, on the televised debate.
“General”, said the moderator as preamble to his question, “Kogi state is endowed with a variety of minerals. Can you name a few and tell the audience how you intend to utilize their commercial exploitation for the benefit of Kogi state citizens?”
Successively with each hand, the general folds and rolls up his flowing white agbada, over his shoulders, in a typical gesture for an agbada-wearing Nigerian big-man and then clears his throat.
“Taink you my broda, Plabius. Kogi is well endowed wit plenty plenty minerals. We get am for coca-cola, Fanta and [s]prite. I will maximize exploitation with maximum distribution among de market people, by increasing de motors on ground to maximum capacity.”
And that’s when Jide burst out laughing, as he no longer could restrain the mirth building up in his insides, with every word uttered by the provincial, broken-English-speaking, erstwhile general vying for a position, he was clearly not qualified for. How ironic, that he had been one of Nigeria’s leaders and lawmakers for many years. The laughter initially spattered, then it roared as it was drowned in the thunderous hilarity, emanating from the audience, and which suddenly inundated the spacious auditorium, in the five-star hotel in which the debate was held in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital.
However, despite his rudeness, Jide still won the senate race. Rudeness had become stock in trade for Nigerians in their daily interactions. The ostensible young gentleman from America was Nigerian after all.
“Tiwa ni” (Yoruba for “He’s one of us”). The Nigerians thought affectionately of their Americana son, who had returned home, after his long sojourn in the distant lands of the white people, living across the oceans. They would vote for him en masse.
John Mugu, the chief of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, tasked with fighting financial crimes, among its government officials and politicians, dropped the third bale of crisp $100 bills he had inspected, back into the large Ghana-must-go bag.
“You’re sure you do not want my boys to take the photos?”
“Don’t worry about that, chief. My secretary, Titi, will take the photos as the senator delivers the next bag. They’re very cautious when we go through these distributions, and I am afraid introducing your boys at this time may disrupt things by making them suspicious. We don’t want anything to look odd.” Jide tries to reassure the head of the anti-corruption federal agency, which was like the United States’ FBI.
More in a fit of righteous indignation, than any real calculated planning on his part, Jide had decided to report the routine malfeasance that occurred in the senate offices, as 32” by 18” large sized Ghana-must-go bags stashed with cash, were distributed among lawmakers, in the armed services committee in which he was a junior senator. The old general, President Buhari, had been trying to wage a one-man crusade against corrupt officials in government to no avail. Jide Jaiyeoba, the callow young senator from America, felt he could help the old soldier, who was routinely sabotaged by the lawmen, his cabinet and some corrupt service men in the government. But Jide decided to act after the senators had started to use his office as the venue for distributing the stolen money. Of course, he hadn’t told his British fiancée, Elaine, or anybody else in his family.
He had cultivated a friendship with the young anti-corruption czar, John Mugu, during his short training at Harvard, where Jide had received his law degree, after graduating from Oxford. Although when they’d first met, Jide had the impression that Mugu was a bit of a coxcomb, and he wondered if he realized his name meant “fool” in Nigerian colloquialism, but he soon discovered despite appearances, Mugu was sharp as a whip and had a laser focus on combating corruption .
With one hand in the pants of his royal blue silk linen three-piece suit, the dandy showed off his Harvard crested burgundy tie, as he reaches for the matching box square to wipe the sweat off his brow. The constant sweatiness from northern humidity left a cloudy crease around what should have been a fitted white dress shirt on Mugu. As the foppish chief turns around to leave his house, Jide probes:
“Aren’t you going to fit me with a wire? Just like they do in the movies.”
John Mugu looks sideways at his Westernized friend and chuckles.
“Those are American movies. Get used to homemade movies in Nollywood. No wires, bro.”
Titi was pretty. She was chocolate complexioned, voluptuous and tall. She had the sort of erotic countenance that instantly stirred erections, in every man’s pants on sight. Titi was the heart-wrenching pain induced by an eyeful of fantasy. Her tiny waist made her hour-glass figure more pronounced in her tight-fitting cream, mini-skirt suit that could barely contain her carriage. But the cheap deodorant she wore, mixed with light sweat and hair, made him aware and a bit too conscious of what went on down in there. With enough prodding and baiting, Jide fucked her anyway. Surprisingly, all was well and even pleasant down there; just the normal savor of intoxicating vapors that drive men wild and enraptures them for that moment they are enmeshed in the deep waters of a woman’s love. Like their men, Nigerian women knew how to fuck: it was a full-bodied screw. Every titillating position was like a new battle in an unending war. Nothing like the soft, sweet, sensuous rhythmic lovemaking between he and Elaine, Jide’s blonde and blue-eyed fiancée.
“No, I don’t know the answer. So, what did the first Nigerian James Bond villain say to the first Bond girl, Pussy Galore, when they met?” Titi gives up trying to figure out the answer to another one of Jide’s piquant pop quizzes.
“Oya, please tell me now.”
“Gbami l’ọwọ. Emi gan ‘Dick All-Night.”’
“Aahh…mor’ogo! Bad boy!!” She flicks her index finger at Jide, lightly tapping his cheek to withdraw her hand for a light clap, giggling in unrestrained delight at the charismatic senator’s dirty joke.
“When will you take me to Dubai?” Titi queried with a saucy grin.
“Never. I am taking you shopping in Milan, with two nights in Paris,” Jide replies warmly, as he does some mental gymnastics of where his English fiancée, Elaine would not be in. Although theirs became an open relationship, on the eve of his departure from New York, Elaine reasonably understood the temptation and loneliness Jide would face amid university age vixens in Lagos, notorious for the alluring beauty and sexuality of its “unilag babes” who were far too easy for a bloke from yankee.
They did anything for the money and a ticket out of Nigeria. The soft-spoken Englishwoman, whose mother was an American, sent Jide off with ten bags of extra-large condoms. Her American mother had been stationed in Nigeria, working in the U.S. state department in the seventies. She told Elaine tales about Nigeria.
“It’s a man’s country,” said the retiree, who had done more than just pushing paper at the United States embassy in Lagos. A lot more than she was at liberty to reveal. Now she prepared her daughter for life with a Nigerian man.
“Be safe. No diseases. I want to have healthy babies with you,” Jide’s blonde best-friend since high school smacks him lightly on his tight muscular bum and drops a soft wet kiss on his lips.
Now entangled with Titi, his inamorata or side chick in millennial parlance, Jide wondered what his fiancée, Elaine, was doing in New York City, all by herself. The voice of Titi calling his pet name summons Jide from that reverie.
“J.J. I made you a special drink. A break from the coffee. I don’t like kissing your coffee breath. It will also send you to sleep, after we make love. I hate it when I wake up and I find you working in the study instead of lying next to me in bed.”
“I don’t have the luxury to sleep so much, we have a lot of work to do for Nigeria. We are behind the rest of the world. And I was elected to work long hours for the people and not to sleep all day.”
“Orobo. Oyinbo ni gbogbo iyẹn jọọ, ẹ dami lohun jare! I say drink it up now.”
His secretary petulantly expostulates at his weak protest. Titi dismisses his reluctance with an autocratic imperative for him to drink from the concoction she has brought to energize him yet send him to sleep after their soon-to-follow roll in the hay.
“Oya drink it for me ololufe mi, and I will ride you tonight like you have never been ridden before.” Coyly fluttering her long bristly false eyelashes, Titi seduces Jide who softens to the bait.
“Wahala! Sorry madam. Ma binu,” Jide replies good-naturedly, playing along with a disarming apology in Yoruba. He downs the hot cup of energizing concoction in one bitter gulp.
Jide catches the almost teary mien in Titi’s eyes, before she turns away to exit his office, and he bows his head down to return to work. That was the last thing he remembered before he passed out in drug induced stupor.
“He’s awake. Pour water for im face.” A man barks out, in a crude gruff voice.
The splash of cold water over him, as his exposed right ear is suddenly blocked by the flood flowing through more than one orifice in his head, induces a choke, cough and desperate gasp for air. Jide tries to shake out the water, but still unfamiliar with his surroundings he thumps his head against the hard-earthen floor. But he is awake alright. He realizes he’s bound hand and foot, as his arms are tied behind him, while he lay sideways, on his left side in a half-lit chamber.
He recognizes the voice, but he can neither remember the facenor can he match it with a name.
“You could have been president. But you had to try and play Americana hero. Too many American movies, my boy. You thought you were Black Panther? Or James Bond? Ode.” The unidentified speaker, whom Jide cannot see, calls him a fool in Yoruba.
“Make I kick the stupid boy head. He think say im disgrace me for television.” Just before the kick, and before he passed out for the umpteenth time, he heard General Danbanza say: “I dey crase. Bloody senator.” Ignorantly using the wrong pronoun, the disgraced provincial general, whom Jide had wiped the floor with in their televised debate, abuses Jide in pidgin. Then the sharp, jarring and instant pain soars, as Jide’s head is kicked like a ball. He is thankful for passing out as he is spared the fetor of death that surrounded him, while the pain dies with the darkness that ensues.
The restrained young senator, still on the ground, opens his eyes wider, realizing they had been partially open for a few minutes. He now clearly makes out the meaning of the words permeating the earthen chamber, where he was being held captive. Its source seemed preternatural: it was from somewhere above him, yet it seemed not far behind.
“You could have been president.” Repeats the voice he recognizes, but which he still cannot match with a face or a name, when Jide evidently regains consciousness.
“We arranged everything for you to have a soft landing. We made you, Jide. But you had to think you could take on that baba’s fight against corruption? For where?” The speaker shifts in Lagosian fashion, fluidly between English and pidgin. It is a Yoruba man like Jide, speaking. He cackles sarcastically, at Jide’s pathetic heroic attempt to catch and expose Nigeria’s corrupt senators.
The speaker has an easy going, gregarious and unctuous voice. Jide even suspects it’s a sophisticated man, whose actions are measured with equanimity. “Who was it?”Jide wondered.
“Corruption can never die in Nigeria, Jide.” The sophisticated speaker, whom Jide realizes must have studied and lived abroad for some time, continues his philosophical monologue about a fantastically corrupt country.
“The day corruption ends, then Nigeria will cease to exist. The country is a criminal enterprise, built out of the spilling of the blood of innocents, shed by our forebears. From the time the first territories were conquered by tribal villagers, who slaughtered fellow villagers to help impose British rule and economic exploitation, our forefathers made a Faustian bargain. The chiefs, the kings and the soldiers sold their souls for a perpetual control of the resources in the area that came to be known as Nigeria in 1914. And we are the heirs of that blood pact.” Attuning the pitch of his voice, to ascertain in Yoruba that his captive was paying attention, the speaker screams at Jide.
“Ṣe o ngbọ mi?”
Great, Jide thinks: a history lesson. Only he can’t escape this one, shackled in the metal cuffs reinforced by wires mangling his wrists and ankles, as he remains immobilized on the clay floor stained with dried up red-brown blood.
Instead, Jide pays attention.
“Nigerians have paid the price in blood to sustain the criminal enterprise in our Faustian bargain—since the exportation of millions of our ancestors in chains. Since the Biafran War, the price was paid. And June 12? All payments in blood for the soldiers and yes, the faceless cabal to maintain power. Corruption can never end in Nigeria, Jide. You want to be a hero? Then give up your blood to sustain the nation. An attorney general did the same you know? He contributed his blood for Nigeria to continue.” The voice chuckles lightly again.
“Yes, my boy. Bola Ige, had the gift of gab, just like you, and could have been president, too. But he also tried to get in the way, by trying to be a hero. He had to be sacrificed, just as you are about to be sacrificed to our oracles for the Nigerian enterprise to continue. There are other ways to be a hero, and not in the naïve way you think, Jide. You have no choice in the matter. But sorry, I must leave you now Jide. I have a flight to catch to Moscow tonight.” The speaker peremptorily ends his monologue.
Jide hears the shift and drag of a chair’s grating legs on the ground, which set his teeth on edge and he realizes the speaker had been sitting and had just gotten up. Jide winces as he feels the cold touch of the blade of the sharp dagger on his throat, and a warm hand fastened tightly over his eyes, like a vise.
But in an instant, he feels and hears a thump on the ground next to him. He knows his head has not fallen off its neck, so it’s not him. In the confusion, fear and shock, he hears the piercing sharp bursts of sniper fire, and sees flashes darting overhead, mixed in the flurried cacophony that erupts amid the rapid exchange of gunfire. He recognizes the peremptory American accent, barking out orders.
“Freeze or you’re a dead man!”
His eyes are tightly closed, as his listless body is scooped up like bounty, hoisted over a muscular shoulder. There’s frantic activity, all around, and before Jide drifts into a relieved sleep, he recognizes who it is.
“C.I.A.” Elaine’s mother had him monitored. She’d used her old networks and pulled some strings.
“What took you so long?” In a barely audible whisper, this was the last thing the bloodied young senator said, before he slept off.
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