LiterarySaturday(LS): General and The House

by ahjotnaija

General was known for his scandalous outbursts. When he called press conference, the country was heightened. Journalists held their breathe to grasp every word. He kindled (inter-)national interest. His talks tilted political balance in the land.

It did in the last general election. He said the election would be a do-or-die-affair. His support for the Party of the People (POP) was unshakable. Some analysts and sympathizers maintained he had been misquoted. “Journalists are scrupulous, you know”, they said.

The people knew better. General did not make empty threat. He neither confirmed he misspoke nor denied the statement. Subsequently, the POP candidate won with a landslide.

Once, he called another General a fool. His anger was at bursting seams, when the rage in him spoke, ‘Bangadi is a greater fool. Indeed!’. The press conference ended. He had just generated another headliner; it was a counter-response. Apparently, General was not unconscious of the implication of his word-choices.

Bangadi suddenly became notorious for celebrating his 70th birthday every year. Overtime, he successfully confused the people’s memory. General insulted Bangadi exactly for this reason.

Bangadi had announced his intention to celebrate once again his 70th birthday. More curious: Bangadi was, until he turned 70, not known to be particularly interested in celebrations.

General belled the cat. He spoke to the confusion, when journalists asked if he had anything to say to Bangadi on the occasion of his birthday.

For the celebration, the weather will be especially good, forecast the forecasters. The sun was expected to shine. It might be windy, but moderately so. Rain was expected to fall in an amount that will appropriately compensate.

So, like the weather, journalists expected a goodwill message from General. The request infuriated him. He was quick to hide annoyance though. He smiled. Brightly. “I am unaware Bangadi is still 70. He celebrated his 70th birthday once.” If General had stopped at that, that certainly would be fine. He went on, “I shall not be bamboozled by a confused Bangadi. I am sure he did not know when he was born.”

Gbam! The next scandal headliner was born! The Peoples’ Pamphlet read: ‘A Confused General cannot Bamboozle me’. Another read: ‘Birthday General in Confusion’. The headline of the Daily Nuggets was less discreet. It referenced General with his nickname: ‘Ugly-Face refused Bamboozling!’ Ugly-Face was the name given General by the extremely poor in the land.

If Bangadi knew better, he would have kept to himself. But one would understand his predicament. After all, he was a General too. Bangadi, in a response to General, was quoted to have said ‘a fool at 70 is a fool forever!’

Journalists went to the Villa for a follow-up comment.

General cleared throat and started, ‘Gentle(wo)men, I thank you for your diligence and special interest in this matter. Clearly, I was right to call Bangadi a fool. I did not elaborate on his foolishness. My omission needs no correction. Bangadi took it upon himself to tell us how foolish he is!’

The journalists busily documented every word.

General continued, ‘We know I am much beyond 70. The gods of the land is graciously kind to me in matters of age and wisdom. Bangadi is an insomnia sufferer. If he indeed referred to me in his statement, he must be insane!

The saga of the two generals went on for weeks. Caricatures showed both men in boxers punching each other below belts. It gave hungry people in the land a reason to laugh again.

In the light of previous experiences, when it appeared in the news that General outspokenly referred to members of the House of Representative as “A mad people in a house of disrepute, bastard, certificate forgers and hypocritical moral preachers, who climbed a mole and gasped for air as though they disembarked from a mountain”, confusion overtook the land.

Tension was high. Especially in the House of Representatives. The people followed the news for more.

The senators were first to catch in on the outburst. A long lost chance! They proudly pointed out members of the lower chamber were irresponsible and less-trustworthy. Although General and the Senate hardly agreed on anything, they released a statement, which ended with ‘They are rascals like he called them!’

Rascal was written in bold with a footnote showing they borrowed it.

Actually, disputes between both chambers had reached escalating heights. Bills read and unanimously voted in the House met their Waterloo in the Senate. Without any justifiable consideration.

Understandably, the signal from the Senate did not go unnoticed. The House did not bother to accept anything from the senate. There was obviously a power tussle.

More curious however was the rumor that refused to go away. The leadership of both chambers had in one meeting attacked themselves with amulets and charms. The chief whip debunked the rumor. He claimed it was a fabrication of fantasy, from those bent on discrediting the honorable leadership of the House and Senate.

He could however not explain that Honorable Depe died the same day. He ran out of the parliamentary complex. He collapsed, but not before he circled round a spot, embracing an invisible object. He held his head, shouted for help and eventually collapsed. He had gasped for air shortly after the collapse. Then he died. His death was strange. Chief Depe’s theatrical manifestation before his death was even stranger.

In a desperate attempt to redeem what was left of the image of the House, the speaker alongside four members headed to the Villa. A Redemption Committee was born!

The reception was cold. General, who normally wasted no time in expressing displeasure swiftly, did not behave differently. He hit the hammer on the head. “Honorable Farouki demanded and collected 600 billion Naira from Chief Sanbe, CEO of Sanbe Standard Oil and Company (SSOC). He promised to exempt SSOC from the process. Chief Sanbe showed irrefutable evidences. His claims were not mere wind chasing accusations”.

General demanded that the issue be attended to immediately and every indicted members be brought to book.

Honorable Farouki was the Committee Chairman for NIEM- National Integrity and Ethical Matters. SSOC and some other oil companies were accused of corruption.

General was not generous in trust. He held meetings with a person at a time. He wanted to avoid deceit and get out as much truth as possible. He recapped one party’s talk with different coloration. That way, the other party gave out more.

Although the men came out to report of a successful meeting, the truth was, they had been subjected to rounds of interrogation. General wanted to get to the root of the scandal. When he spoke with the speaker, he demanded, “I want nothing but the truth.”

He was greatly disturbed. He was convinced the accused Honorable could not have done the deal all alone. He strongly doubted the reports in the news.

At the end of the behind-closed-door meeting, the speaker denounced Honorable Farouki before a press conference. “He is an outcast, his unseemly behavior has brought the name of the House into disrepute.”

He wondered aloud there was a Farouki in the House who played so dirty. “He is a he-goat!”, he fumed. “Honorable Farouki’s stinking smell will spread, even if bathed in  strong perfume of oriental qualities. A shameless man, bent on contaminating the good trust the people gave the House.” He declared loudly, “No one shall dampen our spirit, not even Farouki!”.

“The greedy thief has bitten more than he can chew this time.”, was the only thing General added. He was tempted to curse, but restrained himself. He blessed the speaker’s rage with a nod.

An Honorable spoke on behalf of the three, “Honorable Farouki has shown us who he is. He must be dealt with.” He expressed solidarity with General and the House at large.

The men did not make any strikingly different confession. General’s worries skyrocketed; it went from small to big. The trouble was, the longer the scandal stayed in the news, the more names mentioned, then the lesser the chance to secure a large chunk of the money. Consequently, Honorable Farouki would have more palms to rub.

Every individual mentioned must be invited by the committee. Honorable Farouki must understandably buy support. An empty mouth noised differently.

General knew intuitively these visitors talked no truth. He needed to act faster to get the whole truth before he lost too much. At once he invited Honorable Farouki. He started on an extremely friendly note. He sounded near-fatherly.

“Honorable, I know all these things are not true. Only you and I know the truth. Tell me nothing but the truth. I am not a bad person. I will not hear only a side of a story to conclude that you are corrupt. Please do not mind the speaker and his men. He called you a bastard. I know he is twice a bastard himself. I neither believe his story nor do I trust his men. Their deceit followed them as they left me. Please tell me the truth…”.

With this preamble, Honorable Farouki knew a deal was in sight. He decided to tell his own version of the truth. He sighed, cough-covered his mouth, then began in a visibly low voice.

“In truth, I collected money from Chief Sanbe. Not only did I collect from him, there were other five companies who gave generously. They wanted a manipulation of the committee report”.

When he summarily said he collected 300 trillion Naira, General released a not-too-loud Ha! His face wrinkled and the waist pain returned. He knew at once that this version of Honorable Farouki’s story, especially the amount of money involved, was a part of the whole truth. Honorable Farouki placed a finger on his tongue and pointed to the ceiling before he announced the sum he collected. “God is my witness”, he finished.

General was dead-sure the money was definitely thrice the amount declared. He knew he was dealing with an hardened crook, so he did not push him too hard. Honorable Farouki was not going to divulge more information.

They struck a deal. He was to pay half the money into General’s company account as payment for purchase of animal feed.

“Be good to the members of the Redemption Committee. See to it that you distort the truth. As much as possible. Before the committee and thereafter.” Both men smiled. General needed not to speak with all his mouth.

Honorable Farouki acted to script. Upon reading news of his visit in the papers, he called a press conference. He outspokenly denied all accusations. His words were carefully chosen. He expressed shock over the speaker’s outburst, which spoke so despicably of his personality. “I have never met Chief Sanbe nor his representative. How could I have collected money from the businessman without contact?!” he asked.

He threw tantrums here and there, then ended the conference. He entertained no questions. Journalists reported the sensational self-defense. More questions surfaced. Faroukigate became messier.

Honorable Farouki had expected this dimension. He was indescribably happy the script was achieving desired results. Time for the next strategy.

Not a press conference. It was the internet. Another rounds of claims. His special adviser signed the release. It confirmed he actually met with SSOC outside scheduled committee meetings, apologized for the mis-statement. The Honorable’s appointment-scheduler was responsible for the half-truth fed to the public in the press conference. He has since been relieved of his job for negligence. Honorable Farouki maintained he collected no money.

Reactions could not be better predicted. Even the Peoples’ Pamphlet made a cover-story. The Daily Nuggets editorial submission on the series of distorted claims by the Honorable was bitingly sincere. The editorial ended with a recommendation: “The hallucinating politician needs some brain-jabs.”

Three days before the Redemption Committee meeting, Honorable Farouki pulled the next string. He confirmed the collection of 30 million Naira from the businessman. The money was shared among committee members. The bribery was adequately reported to KAMOLACA, the anti-corruption agency. He intended to nail SSOC with this evidence.

Hours after his statement, KAMOLACA denied openly it was ever informed. Also, in a joint statement, the accused members declared: “Our corrupt chairman should please handle this madness all alone. We received neither money nor bribe of any form from Honorable Farouki.”

Claims and counter-claims went on for weeks without end, until the Redemption Committee submitted its report to the House. The speaker read the 150 page document on the floor of the House.

Honorable Farouki was acquitted of wrong-doing. He acted in accordance with the constitution and in good faith. The report was of the opinion that the accusation was taken out of proportion. The sensational reporting did not help. It was nothing so serious.

For damage done to the image and personality of Honorable Farouki, a compensation package in monetary term was recommended. He was advised to sue Chief Sanbe, SSOC and even the media houses, if he so wished.

Chief Sanbe was to pay 900 billion Naira to National Treasury because he handled a delicate matter too carelessly. A public apology to the House was demanded.

The deafening ovation ignored an Honorable who was about to interrupt. The ovation went wilder when the speaker said, “SSOC played to the gallery and became the victim of its naked dance of shame.” He declared confidently, “The task of redemption has just started!”

More ovation.