THE KINGMAKER

My dear son,

You should know that the first time Mr. Afonta came to me, you would have thought, from his look of abject humility, that he was a stray dog in need of shelter. I must confess though that I had my misgivings about him from the very beginning—he was too humble to be true. And these misgivings proved to be correct. But he had come with his uncle, a very good friend of mine, and a man that I could not refuse.

“Chief Akulienne,” the uncle said, placing a bottle of Remy Martin on my table as a mark of respect, “I have come with my nephew to pay you homage. As our people say, he who pays homage to the king will live to have homage paid to him in due course of time.”

“I am no king,” I said with a poor attempt at modesty.

“You are next best to a king. Anyone who denies your political influence in this state, especially our local government area, may as well deny the existence of the sun. As the saying goes, one does not enter a big man’s compound to pluck fruits without first obtaining his permission. That is why we have come with this little present,” – he pointed to the drink – “to seek your support for my nephew’s ambition to contest for the office of the Chairman of our Local Government Council. We know the election is yours to decide. Anyone you support stands elected. Here he is—Mr. Aaron Afonta—at your service. Look upon him with favour and he will not disappoint you.”

I looked upon the young man that was presented to me to decide his political fate. There was something shifty about his manner that made me dislike him on sight. Perhaps it was the midmorning sun, streaming in through the big French windows, which fell on his clean-shaven face in a harsh circle that gave his eyes a sly look. Then again there was the little matter of his qualification. Among all the aspirants (and there were ten of them so far) who had come to seek my support, he was the least qualified, with only a first degree whereas others had post graduate qualifications. There was even a medical doctor who had come back from America with the sole purpose of contesting the election. But this doctor had yet to pay me a visit.

KingMaker-EBOOK-500x500The thought that the fellow might actually be ignoring me rankled in my heart like bile. And so to let him know the kind of man he had to contend with, I decided out of sheer devilry to throw my weight behind Afonta.

I took him round to the traditional ruler and other influential men of our town and introduced him as the next Local Government Chairman. Without reservation, they pledged as one man to give him their support.

Then at this point I had the first warning that this Afonta fellow might need watching. Even though the election had yet to be conducted, he started carrying on as if he had already been sworn into office. Well, I admit that this kind of brazen attitude redounded to my credit, for he could not behave the way he did unless he had utter confidence in my ability to deliver him. That was the idea but I felt a little modesty wouldn’t hurt.

Two weeks before the election, a political rally was held in the Eke market square. It was at this rally that Afonta would tell the people what he proposed to do for them if he was elected chairman. I doubted if he had any manifesto to present; he was too busy receiving felicitations from friends and well-wishers to bother with such trivialities.

His major opponent, Dr. Amilo, had been going about town outlining such beautiful manifestos that if there were a charm to transform paperwork into physical structures, Egwendo Local Government Area would turn overnight into London. And what was more—and this I would never forgive the man—he had been dragging my name in the mud as he went about his campaigns. He said that I was a sinister old devil who sucked the blood out of the meagre resources that trickled into the Local Government treasury. Can you believe that? But that was not all. He also said that the sooner such political meddlers—he did not say kingmakers—like me were weeded away, the better it would be for the Local Government. He added that a vote for Mr. Afonta was a vote for backwardness and political strangulation—only God knows what he meant by that.

Well, the fool was on to me all right. How he could have come by the facts he quoted, seeing as he had been away for so long, I could not on my life tell. But from that moment, I swore that he would never smell political power in the state as long as I lived.

The day of the rally was a Saturday. Before noon, the market square was filled to capacity with people who had been induced with various gifts to lend us their support. Even from a distance of three kilometres, the noise at the market square could be heard, and it sounded like a billion bees on invasion. I couldn’t see how Dr. Amilo could entertain the slightest hope of victory after witnessing such a multitude of people, unless he was simply a moron. The sun seemed to be in conspiracy with us, for during this time it slid behind the clouds and from there it peered at the unfolding events with a sleepy eye like an old, indulgent fellow. The day was unusually mild. The old ogbu tree which had stood on the same spot from time immemorial—the very tree under which you claimed as a boy to have seen a ghost—cast a gigantic shadow over most of the square so that the canopy erected over the podium at one end of the square almost appeared unnecessary. When a gentle wind arose, its enormous branches swayed heavily, murmuring a low song.

I was the first to ascend the podium.

“My people,” I bellowed into the microphone. A sudden lull came over the crowd. “I thank you for finding time to come here today. It shows the support you have for our party and its flag bearer, Mr. Aaron Afonta. If this support which I see here today is translated into votes—and I see no reason why it should not—then we have no doubt of victory at the polls. Don’t allow anyone to deceive you with fantastic projects which have no bearing whatsoever on our lives in Egwendo Local Government Area. Anyone who wants to build an airport, or a stadium, or a railway station should go and do so in America. Here is not a place for such highfalutin projects. We do not have the money for such projects, and because we do not have the money, we do not want them. Here is Mr. Afonta, the candidate that I, Chief Ogbonnaya Akulienne, present to you. Vote for him and you will see democracy in action. Thank you all.”

A thunderous ovation followed me out of the podium. No doubt remained now that the people were for Afonta.

Finally the day of the election arrived. On the eve of the election, towards midnight, I received very curious, but interesting, visitors. There were twelve of them, robust, deadly-looking young men with murderous expressions that would have struck fear into a witch doctor himself. I let them into my study through the back door so that your mother—you know how much she disapproves of my involvement in politics—would not know of their visit. I briefed them at length on their mode of operation during the election. I told them how to snatch the ballot boxes, and gave them the key to the guesthouse that I had rented where they were to stay and thumbprint the ballot papers. When they left, I gave them ten thousand naira each with the promise to double the amount if they executed the job to my satisfaction.

They exceeded even my expectation.  Afonta won the election with a margin as wide as a mile. And within a short while he was sworn in as Chairman of Egwendo Local Government Area. Of course Dr. Amilo did not take this lying down. He made a lot of fuss like a cockerel that had been chased out of its coop. But what else could he do, the poor fool! If he had had any sense, he could have saved himself more trouble by accepting his defeat with good grace. But there must have been something in him which pushed him into making a nuisance of himself. Before we knew what was happening, he had filed a petition against Afonta’s victory at the Election Tribunal.

Well, this was only a little annoyance that was soon disposed of. The Tribunal struck out the suit for lack of merit—don’t ask me what they meant; I have no idea.

At this time too, I was waging a private war with Afonta. I had sent him a list of people that I wanted him to appoint to his cabinet but he selected only one name and returned the nine others. His reason was that they were not qualified enough to hold the posts I had designated for them. I was furious.

“Are you out of your mind, young man,” I asked him when I confronted him in his office, “to question the list I sent you? Now tell me, were you qualified when I picked you from nowhere and made you Chairman of this Local Government?”

He didn’t answer. For a long time he sat staring at his desk as if he were scrutinizing the list, still on his desk, for the second time. From the outer office came the voices of the people waiting to see him; I could even hear the secretary explaining to one of them that the chairman was busy at the moment. On the wall behind his desk hung the official photographs of the President of the country, that of the governor of the state and of Afonta, in that order.

At length he spoke, looking up, “I see a mistake has been made here, Chief. Looking at the list now, I realise that they are not as bad as I was led to believe by my Chief of Staff. Everything will be taken care of.”

“Good.”

If I thought then that we had finally got off on an even ground I was badly mistaken. About a month after this, I sent him the bill of the expenses I incurred during the election. It amounted to twelve million naira. Not answering my letter, he sent me a message that he would like to see me in his office.

He paced his office in great agitation. There was nothing of the fear and hesitancy I had observed in him a couple of weeks before. He was acting as if he had been in the office all his life. The chick was become a cock, I thought with some amusement.

“But, Chief,” he said in great anger, “this is preposterous! Twelve million naira! I cannot do this! Why, how much allocation does the Council even get from the State Government?”

“You are a fool!” I told him. “And you have only yourself to blame for your choice of language. Preposterous! I will teach you the meaning of preposterous! I will destroy you! I will throw you back into the gutter from where I picked you, you impudent fool!” I rose to go but he stopped me.

“Chief,” he said with unnerving calmness, “I think I am prepared to accommodate some of your demands. But to tell me to sign off to you twelve million naira of money belonging to the Council is asking too much. You talk about destroying me. Well, you can destroy my political ambition—I will not deny that—but don’t say anything about destroying me. Nobody should ever boast of destroying another unless God is behind him. But the problem with you corrupt old politicians is that you are so power-drunk that you think you are God. Go and do your worst while I continue to do my best. Good day, Chief.”

I left without saying anything more to him. He was a dead man.

That night I called another meeting of my boys. This time the meeting was held in the guesthouse—I was wary of involving my household in the kind of confusion that was soon to erupt in the town.

I woke up the following morning to see the town engulfed in the worst catastrophe that had ever been witnessed since the end of the civil war. It was another good job by the boys. Everything was in ruins. The Local Government buildings and the market controlled by it were in flames. Although I didn’t envisage this one, the boys also helped themselves to other people’s property and in the process, lives were lost. There was a total breakdown of law and order which lasted for three days until the State Government drafted soldiers to the area to restore peace by force. Throughout this period, Mr. Afonta was not seen.

A week after the incident, I was invited to the state capital to see the Governor. In attendance at the meeting was the Governor, the State Commissioner of Police and other important functionaries of state. Also present, looking like a kite caught in the act of carrying off a chick, was Mr. Afonta. He sat in a corner of the conference chamber and stared at me with virulent hatred. I was unperturbed. In fact I was so unperturbed that I barely listened to what the Governor had to say. He said that Afonta had made some serious allegations against me, one of which was that I was the architect of the violence that rocked the Local Government Area.

“Well, Your Excellency,” I said when it was my turn to speak, “I will start by thanking you for inviting me here. But what I do not understand is why Mr. Afonta should make such allegations against me. In the first place, what power—or interest—have I, an old man like me, to cause mayhem in my own Local Government Area—a Local Government that you all know I helped to create and build to its present state? Does a man build and destroy at the same time? Your Excellency perhaps knows the immense contribution I have made to the state. Will I now, after all these, go to my own Local Government to foment trouble? The truth of the matter, as I found out from my own investigations, was that the violence was caused by the thugs whom Afonta had used to rig the election in his favour. When he refused to pay these boys for their services, they went berserk and unleashed violence on the town. Your Excellency may set up a Commission of Inquiry to get at the root of the matter.”

That ended it. In my presence the Governor severely rebuked Mr. Afonta for his conduct, maybe in an attempt to conciliate me. I was, on the other hand, given a state banquet and, towards the evening, the Governor sent me home with an escort.

I waited for what would happen next. I didn’t have long to wait. The next day, it was announced over the radio that Mr. Aaron Afonta had been removed by the State Legislature as the Chairman of Egwendo Local Government Area. A sole administrator was appointed in his stead until a fresh election could be conducted in three months’ time. Afonta was never again seen in Egwendo.

Meanwhile I am now waiting for the promised election with patience. I know I lost about four hundred thousand naira in Afonta’s misadventure, but what of it? I know without doubt that the next election will be entirely my affair. This time, I will be sure to install a chairman that will be completely under my control.

Please, my son, endeavour to pay your old father a visit soon, not so much for my own sake as for the sake of your children who, I believe, must have forgotten what their grandfather looks like.

Written by Okechukwu Otukwu

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Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. kachi

     /  October 26, 2013

    This letter long shaa….. Mischevious politicians! And they never take a break,even at their twerking old age. Rubbish people.

    Reply
  2. stotle

     /  October 26, 2013

    Lol.. A man after my own heart… Dis one na clean job

    Reply
  3. nik

     /  October 27, 2013

    After this he expects his son to bring his grandchildren home? Dirty old man.

    Reply
  4. Political Innuendos. Babbling strength. Nice story, Walter; i believe it’s your Novel!

    Reply
  5. MztaPaul

     /  October 28, 2013

    So Long A Letter….

    Reply

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