Thursday, 12 January 2017

HONOURABLE MINISTER, HORRIBLE MINISTER (PART 4)

It was one of those quiet, moonlit nights at Itelorun Village.

It was so quiet that you could hear the singing of the birds in the distance and chirping of crickets in the households. The moon was full and it mercifully threw its light down bathing the landscape with a bright glow in a community where there was neither electricity nor potable water.

Itelorun Village could be described as one of the hundreds of thousands of such communities dotted all over the country that qualify to be called GFAs (Government Forgotten Areas). 


The road to the village was a narrow, dirt road and it snaked its way into Itelorun, 10 km off the major inter-city highway. There were no schools and neither were hospitals nor any other infrastructural facility. The about 250 inhabitants of Itelorun had to make their children trek about 10km to and fro the next village every day to the schools and the primary health centre there. 

On some occasions some pregnant women who fell into abrupt labour died before they could be taken on okada to the health centre. This is why although the Child Mortality rate all over the country has dropped from 90 to 46 deaths per 1000 births in recent years, the figure for Itelorun alone would be much higher than the national average.

So, why would Karimu be interested in a parcel of land in this village which apparently had very gloomy prospects?

Five years before then Karimu, who loved mingling with students and other young folks with the deceptive promise of fighting their cause, met a post-graduate student of Geology who did an extensive research work on the basement complex rock at Itelorun and other villages nearby. Karimu was naturally interested in his findings because that place was part of his home zone in the state. The young man carelessly told him that the whole of Itelorun sat on an extensive marble deposit. 

Karimu’s ears tingled and offered to fund the typesetting and binding of the young man’s research project. He, of course, got a copy of the document for safe keeping. (This was a man who gave a student group a cheque for N250,000. It ‘bounced’. The students took it to him a few weeks later. He collected the cheque only to give them just N20,000 cash, saying to the angry and disappointed students that that was all he had!).

Anyway, he vowed to buy up every square centimetre of land in that village. He succeeded in getting about 5 hectares. However his land speculative adventure was halted when he asked about who owned the massive 500 hectares that made up about two-thirds of the village. He was led to Akanbi Olorunmbe who was as adamant as he was caustic-tongued.

In one of their meetings, Akanbi had told Karimu that if he wanted he should go and sell his father’s heritage. The Olorunmbes don’t sell their heritage for all the money in this world. Karimu felt insulted, hence his desire to punish Akanbi by all means.
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Jamiu Jango and Tunde Orikanbody arrived the area at about 7pm. They found a Beer Parlour and decided to while away the time there. What they had come for would require the cover of darkness to do.

They quaffed a carton of beer in between them. At about 9pm, they rose up to go. Jamiu noticed, through his alcohol befuddled brain, that Orikanbody had his cell phone hanging from the back of his denim trouser pocket. 

He warned him to put it away more securely. Orikanbody, more inebriated than his partner, merely waved him away, saying something to the effect that he was expecting an sms alert. Anyway, the two men staggered their way into the ash coloured Toyota Sienna car that Karimu had provided for them upon reaching Ibadan. They drove the almost 10 km from there to Itelorun Village.

It was a wonderful, moonlit November night. The sky was clear, almost devoid of cloud – except for a smattering of nimbostratus. The stars twinkled in full complement of the full moon. The gentle breeze swayed the trees in a move similar to the Mexican waves we usually see in South American football stadia. It was a night to fill up your lungs with fresh oxygen from the trees and grasses around. It was a night to appreciate God for the wonderful gift of life.

Akanbi Olorunmbe lounged on an easy chair in front of his house. His wife, Salamatu sat on a low stool about half a metre from her husband. She had before her a wide steel tray filled with leafy vegetables which she picked as she prepared for tomorrow’s lunch. Her husband would take ogi and moinmoin in the morning as was his wont. That was settled.

A transistor radio sat on the window sill closest to them. The local radio station blared out lullabic old tunes of the sakara and apala genre.
At about 10pm, you would expect someone at ease like Akanbi was on this night to doze off – which he did.

But he was soon woken up by the sound of a car. Akanbi thought it was one of those maize merchants who disturb them in the night with advance payments so that they would not sell to their rivals.

He saw two men come down from the vehicle which now parked just in front of his house. They approached him. Akanbi thought they wanted to ask for direction to the house of Chairman of the local Association of Maize Farmers.

He was mistaken. These were harbingers of death!
Salamatu looked on in horror as the loud report of the gun deafened her ears and muted every sound. Blood gushed out of her husband’s forehead. She opened her mouth in shock. Words failed her. The men turned immediately and made a dash for their car.

She ran after them but could not catch up. Jamiu and Orikanbody scrambled themselves into the Sienna and drove off in a cloud of dust.

The neighbours gathered. There was pandemonium everywhere. Nobody could make a sense out of the bedlam, until the Baale of Itelorun arrived. They carried Olorunmbe’s lifeless body into his house.
Two men on okada offered to go to town and tell the Police.

The women were wailing. The children too. Their ululations could be heard kilometres away. The peace of Itelorun was not only shattered but one of their kindest citizens had been brutally murdered.

At the earliest hint of dawn, the Police came in a patrol van. They examined the body and asked some villagers several questions. Salamatu was still too shocked to talk. There seemed to be nothing much for now in terms of a lead to the murderers. They picked the corpse and placed it at the back of their van. As they entered the vehicle one by one the patrol leader – an Inspector – lifted his eyes along the bush path to the house. He saw a black object. He moved closer. Squinting his eyes in the early morning sun, he found a cell phone partially covered by a dry banana leaf….!
N.B. Please we shall continue in Part 5.

I have received calls from people, whom I respect, to the effect that the story ‘Honourable Minister, Horrible Minister’ is about a certain political appointee and so I should discontinue the series. I wish to state that the story is pure fiction which I take from my head every morning. The characters and plots are fictional. Any semblance to any living or dead person or place is merely coincidental. I shall continue to exercise my freedom of expression as long as I have broken no law.

I appreciate those who have called and I appeal to them to please do not abridge my rights to expression.
Thank you very much.

Omi Tuntun, Igba Otun!

Credit: Kehinde Ayoola J P

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