Okro’s Spark (2)
Check out the earlier installments of John Okro before you read this one:
The volume of their speech seemed to
increase as abruptly as it had reduced. Now it seemed Okro could make out at
least some of the conversation. They were speaking in pidgin. He quickly came
to the understanding that there were three men involved in the discussion. The
fire had not abated so that meant he had bigger problems right now: he needed to
stay alive and not fracture half the bones in his body by jumping possibly 30
feet down. And he still needed to pee!
He was now hearing nothing. At least not
voices: footfalls. His breath caught in his chest not for the first time that
night as he began to try to piece it all together. He didn’t know how it looked
like from out front but given what he saw inside, the fire must be pretty
visible from where they were standing. And they were obviously not calling for
That meant they were in on it.
But he still needed to pee. And really
badly at that…
Abia State, Nigeria
“General F. O. Uzodinma (Retired)”
That’s what it read on his complimentary
card. That a partisan politician without any other discernible source of income
had a complimentary card was a source of befuddlement to most of his friends
without ties to politics. But those within the mainstream political circuit in
Eastern Nigeria knew that a ‘compli cardi’ (always said in a heavy Igbo accent)
was as necessary as having a Special Assistant for Carrying Air Freshener. As
for the air freshener bit, no politician who wanted to be taken seriously
risked leaving a stinker at any toilet he visited in public. Granted, there
were many other pitfalls one could step into in this political terrain but it
seemed that the hole you trapped yourself in when you stole money was within
your control: you could siphon sensibly. And basically, everything else you
could do in moderation.
But the call of nature had a mind all its
own. Whether it was at eateries, hotels
used to host the odd public dinner, higher institutions’ auditorium
conveniences, wherever. No one could tell where his political detractors were
hiding. They might be next in line to use the cubicle one stepped out of and
those evil doers stopped at nothing. The importance of those assistants came to
the fore most recently when Chief Egbukor was scandalized.
This was around 2002 when the United States
had intelligence people scattered all over the country, and the world in fact,
searching for even a whiff of terrorist activity in the wake of the September
11 attacks. In Abia State, for example, random politicians were being called in
for questioning at State C.I.D., Aba.
For some reason, Chief Egbukor was called
in as well.
The next thing Chief knew, the rumor mill
began spreading news that the Americans had uncovered Chief as one of the
financial backers of the famed ‘Bakassi Boys’ who, at the time, the United
States classified as a terrorist group. Essentially, that made him a terrorist
as well. Chief issued several press statements denying any ties to ‘Bakassi’
but no one seemed to believe him. Finally, the Commissioner of Police held a
press conference – with Chief in attendance – at which he unequivocally said
that Chief Egbukor was not a suspected terror monger.
When the conference in question ended,
Chief found himself to be ravenous. Consequently, he gallantly marched into a
nearby eatery to grab lunch. Still feeling boisterous from his recent victory
of sorts, he ordered large. Two servings of jollof rice, two servings of dodo
and the biggest chicken thigh his stubby fingers could point at from where he
stood. He sat while his bodyguard stood over him as he ate. When he was done,
he was still feeling peckish.
“Wetin dat?” he asked his bodyguard as he
pointed to the big transparent container the ice cream was swirling in. Moments
later, he was enjoying a cup of the white stuff. Then the reporter stepped up.
As he rushed towards Chief, the burly piece
of beefcake (also known as Chief’s bodyguard) stepped in front of Chief
blocking the reporter.
“Leave am,” Chief said almost
instinctively. He knew when trouble came calling but this man seemed like a
harmless one right away. Autobash 2000 moved aside slightly, allowing the
“Sir, my name is Simon Agu. I’m with the
Daily Clarinet.” As he said this, he held out the name-tag hanging from some
flimsy rope slung around his tiny neck.
“Gini ki cho?” (What do you want).
“Sir, given that you have just been sort
of… em… vindicated…”
“Sort of?!” Chief yelled. “Ya mother is
SORT OF smelling. Ya father is SORT OF stupid…”
“I’m sorry sir…”
“No o! Don’t be sorry for me. Be sorry for
ya mother because her armpit SORT OF reminds people of ahurun!” (Ahurun = fart)
“Don’t be angry sir. Please sir. I meant to
say that since you were thoroughly and absolutely vindicated by the
Commissioner within the last hour as per your non involvement in the terrorist
“…what do you have to say to your
“Detra- gini? Nna, I don’t have farm now…”
“No sir,” he winced slightly then
continued, “I mean your enemies, Chief.”
“Oh, those foolish people? Well, tell them
that I feel, eh, very happy to have been cleared of all this stupid nonsense. I
am innocent and anybody who doesn’t, eh, like me can go and, eh, jump inside
“Imo river, sir?”
“E ji’m mili n’onu?” (Am I carrying water
in my mouth?)
“No sir. Thank you, Chief.” He scampered
off before Chief could direct another missive his way.
“An’ofia,” (bush meat) Chief intoned as he
looked into his ice cream cup to see it had all but dissolved completely. He
silently cursed the reporter as he resolved to drink it. It still tasted great.
He decided to relax in the eatery for a bit. Partly to allow his food digest
and partly to see if any more reporters would happen upon him in the eatery.
After about ten minutes, Chief felt his tummy rumble… and he instantly felt the
need to go. And go viciously. He couldn’t figure out what could cause him to
metabolize the food so quickly and so thoroughly. He suddenly realized he was
sweating heavily. Even under the immense attention of the air-conditioners. He
contemplated holding it in. He had a tiny feeling somewhere that the moment he
stepped into the toilet, he would be missing another journalist. And to him,
all press was good press at this time.
Little by little, he began to lean on the
table in front of him more and more till he was suspending practically all his
weight on his forearm and elbows. His rear end was by now almost completely off
Auto B spoke: “Chief, you know we can go
and come back in a few minutes. Anyone who comes to eat can’t be in and out all
that quickly.” He could read Chief’s mind like a book with giant print.
“Don’t worry. I’m ok.”
Chief now realized he was becoming a bit
obvious. However, he figured he still had to hang around for a bit longer
because from here he was headed to the Owerri airport to catch a flight to
Abuja. He would return first thing the next day but by then, the story would
have broken everywhere. He had to do all the press now and enjoy the discomfort
of his enemies. He changed his posture.
He now planted his fists into the space
around his buttocks on the chair using them to prop himself slightly as he
tried to ease his own suffering. This was not worth it at all at all.
Chief looked at Auto B and nodded in the
general direction where he imagined the toilet would be. Wordlessly, Auto B
helped Chief out of his chair.
Twelve minutes later, Chief was flushing.
He noisily let out air from his nostrils while he kept his mouth shut, afraid
to inhale the first-fruit of his savage onslaught on the toilet bowl. He shook
his head at himself. He should have known not to eat here, he thought. The place
was smelling Izal, Izal. Now see his tummy. And see the result. Rubbish.
He came out of the cubicle and promptly
proceeded to wash his hands at the faucet. As he did so, he heard quick
footfalls approaching the toilet. Autobash seemed to perk up like a guard dog.
The steps quickened and Simon Agu practically ran in the door. As he rushed in
the smell that assaulted his olfactories made him hit the brakes. As did Auto
B’s outstretched arm. He skidded to a halt as he expressed his discomfiture
with a loud: “Hmmmmmm!” He squeezed his face disgustedly, immediately seeking
out where to spit into.
“Auto, throw this fool out of here. Idiot.
Don’t you sh-sh shit?” Chief’s stutter was clear evidence of his embarrassment.
The next morning, as Chief strode into the
Owerri airport – back from a succesfull trip to the nation’s capital – his
aide, Chigozie, came to greet him. “Chief they want to finish you o!”
“Haven’t they tried enough already? They
should have learnt by now that nothing can spoil my name or scatter my image.
What is it, Chigo?” Chief asked,
“It’s all these foolish press people o!
They want to ruin you upon all,”
“What is it?”
“Chief they said you wreck soakaways and
public rest rooms o!”
“Ah ah… Who?” A solitary drop of sweat
danced from the back of his head, dropped on his spine and gave him mild shocks
while it coursed down, ending its journey down the back of Chief’s briefs for
he seemed to have an inkling almost instantly of who was responsible.
“Chief…” Chigozie trailed off as he handed
Chief the copy of the day’s Daily Clarinet. Then he saw the awful headline on
the front page:
NOT A TERRORIST…
Generally, when people told this story,
they always omitted the fact that Simon Agu was no longer in a job. They also
omitted the fact that his house was soon confiscated for seemingly no reason
and his civil servant wife was transferred to Adamawa without warning.
Well, the General thought, why not avoid
all this rubbish instead? Anyways, the General thought to himself, he had more
important things to worry about. He picked up his cell phone to dial…
“Onyeujo, you are welcome. Sit down… Not so
far away now. Come closer. Mgba nu, sit on this chair right beside me.” The
General still could not wrap his mind around the fact that this frail looking
vegetable of a human being was supposed to be the number one hit-man in the
East. The man wasn’t feared. No. He was revered. Because he left no traces. No
links, no evidence, nothing. And he did even the most well guarded people. But
today Chief did not want the Angel of Death to pay a visit to anyone.
“Onyeujo, I have called you here for a
“Yes sir. What is it?” Onyeujo whispered in
reply. His voice (if you wanted to call it that) was more like a whisper. A
raspy, creepy whisper. It sounded thin, yet coarse and grainy at the same time.
“I have a different sort of assignment for
you this time. Fire. Can you do it?”
Onyeujo seemed visibly repulsed by that
question. “Can politicians tell lies? Please get to the details, General. I
have an appointment at a massage parlor that I wish not to miss.”
“Emmm… No problem. I will get to it. Do you
know any Mr. Uche?”
“Is that the man vying for your constituency’s
seat in the state house?”
“Yes. But he is up against my candidate.
You see the problem?” Onyeujo nodded and the General continued.
“Well, I don’t really see the need to, you
know, end him. He is a small boy. He doesn’t even have money but some people
like him because he uses big big English. The idiot doesn’t even have property
here. I could have sent you to burn his father’s house but I hear he is not so
close to his parents and it might not pain him very well…”
“So what’s the plan?” Onyeujo interjected,
“I learnt he is paying rent in a flat in
Lagos. I also learnt he will be in Aba here for Mike Ebere’s coronation. When
he goes back home, I want him to meet his house in ashes.” As the General said
this, he handed Onyeujo a piece of paper.
“That is his address.”
“You know my rates and you have my account
number, right?” The General nodded as he groaned out an “Mmm hmm.”
“Keep your eyes in the papers then… or I
might call when I’m done. Okay?”
“I’ll see myself out then, General.”
Onyeujo eased into his Datsun Laurel 2.0.
He had found out long ago that a low profile was best. In his line of work,
innocuous was the watchword.
Nothing bespoke that better than an ageing
He drove slowly while he pondered over the
General’s latest request. Crap. Irritating, mediocre crap. Meanwhile, his
massage appointment was not to be missed at any cost. It helped that the owner
of the place was hot beyond reasonability but he also needed those tense
muscles relaxed. The workload of a terror monger was pressure-filled. He pulled
his cell phone out of his pocket (a Nokia 3310) and sent a text message to his
friend Risky in Lagos. He suddenly remembered something and opened his glove
compartment. He took out a plastic encasement. Keeping his eyes on the road, he
extracted a small device with two knobs on the face of it. He depressed the
On the 5th floor of Gozie Towers, which
also happened to be the offices of Jobitex Incorporated, three blocks of C-4
Had to break this up in two so y’all wouldn’t get bored. Part 3 out on friday… Pls come back!