By: Moghalu, Jennifer Chinwendu
He threw his big, mango-shaped head back in satisfaction, heaved a heavy sigh and squared his shoulders as he made to take his seat adjacent to mine. His gait and choice of clothes reminded one of his ancestor warrant chiefs’ during the British colonial period in Nigeria. His eyes which were fixed to the ceiling got a different interest. It was the Front-Page Editor’s seat. Often, I had caught him sitting on it, swinging from left to right. With eyes shut, he often muttered things to himself. He wanted the seat by all means. It is well known that he is the only person in the office amongst us reporters who has bagged a master’s degree. He strongly believed that the highest corporate position and all respect should apart from the Publisher go to him.
He was a known snub. But today was different. When our eyes met, he smiled at me for the first time ever! For my ‘good morning’, he gave me a resounding reply. We were all shocked and tried to ascertain what was wrong, we were sure something was, but he just smiled and nodded at us.
Minutes later, Ossai cleared his throat loudly to draw our attention. His seat was closest to the entrance. He circled his stomach with his finger to represent a huge belly. It hit everyone at the same time. The Managing Editor had arrived! Apparently, no one had heard him drive in. Kayode, the sports editor who earlier on had his legs spread out on his desk brought them down pronto. Sochima, the new intern who was leaning against the photocopying machine while waiting for the papers to emerge from it stood erect immediately, standing taller than the five-storey building that was adjacent to ours. I was afraid she would hurt her neck. She stuck it out way too much, her head hitting the ceiling that was about eight feet high!
Everyone else adjusted to a different position, heads engrossed in papers or the computers before them. The buzz in the atmosphere quietened down, leaving only the depressing sound of the old, in-great-need-of-replacement, put-me-out-of-my-misery loosely hanging from the ceiling.
He entered. Chief Dr NPK Okike-Orakwue, Bsc. Msc. Btt. Llb., Llm. PhD. The man that has attained the highest level of education. Of course, that’s why he often asks me to spell everything for him and can’t converse in English for any more than three minutes before he switches to his mother tongue.
As usual, his stomach led the way. Amarachi, the office messenger, often teased that the future of Nigeria was enclosed in his stomach. He called the shots and he knew it. His giant strides told a lot. His about 4 feet 2 inches height doesn’t deter him, neither does his overweight size. He often took pride in his huge stomach. It was evidence he has been eating well, unlike most unlucky and poverty-stricken Nigerians.
We greeted him in unison. ‘How do you all do? Amarachi, take that fan to the highest point it can get to. You all need to work in a good working condition because nothing else would suffice’. He is a good man. Of course, he cares so much about our working condition. That’s why he always demands extra funds from the Publisher to make improvements and refurbish our Editorial department section. Amarachi promptly did as she was instructed. Nothing changed with the in-hell-fire heat in the small room that we found ourselves in as staff. Just one thing became more intense, the destructive sound coming from the fan.
Chief, as we normally refer to the Managing Editor, called for me as soon as he settled down in his office connected to ours by a passage. What now? It really was too early for him to make me run errands for him. Amarachi was our office messenger though. Whoever sends her to get anything is in safe hands. Because, she will go back and forth for at least five times before she even gets close to getting exactly what was demanded for. And of course, she is most honest and trustworthy, that’s why money keeps disappearing from people’s bags each time she comes in contact with them.
He didn’t call me for errands’ sake, at least not in the way I thought. News had emerged and we needed to get more information about it. Following the huge profit we made after publishing the unfortunate event that took place at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Office when a stupid and in-need-of -home-training snake had swallowed about 36 million Naira, Chief thought it would make sense if we also gather information and publish a similar story that trended currently. A gorilla in a zoo in Maitama had swallowed a bag containing about 6 billion Naira. He hoped that huge profit would also come from this one. I concluded immediately that both the snake and gorilla must be related somehow, seeing that they eat the same kind of food, Money.
I set out with some of my colleagues in the old and out-of-order 500 thousand Naira worth van, that chief had procured with the 3 million Naira provided by the company. The president was on the news as Okechukwu, our driver put the radio on. I shut my eyes as I tried to make out the things he was saying. He was stressing the importance of “one Nigeria”. His English was very good. Definitely, that’s why it sounded more like the Hausa language. I could imagine the amount of saliva emanating from his mouth to cover the faces of the audience close to him as he addressed them.
Our president is indeed a superhuman. He is rumoured to not have any school certificate thereby making him ineligible for his position as the president, but he managed to secure the position and even has a PhD holder as a subordinate vice president, wonderful! I opened my eyes again as the serene voice of the newscaster came on. She had moved on to another news. The President of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the body in charge of conducting elections in Nigeria, has been heard say that the INEC had no server for the recent general elections in the country. He also promised that elections all over the country was free and fair. Of course, what he said is true, that’s why about 3 million was allocated for election server before the election was conducted. Also, why on earth did electorates pour out on the street to protest against the disenfranchisement and election violence they experienced in their polling stations during the elections? They must be delusional!
We hadn’t gone that long a distance when we heard the first explosion. The second one followed immediately. The vehicle was out of control. We all went into a frenzy. Everyone around me went into prayers. Silas went ahead to call on the gods of his forefathers to forgive him for failing to return to his village to take up his role as the priest of a certain deity seeing that he is the only surviving male child. Women are of course a weaker sex and inferior, his sisters wouldn’t suffice. Prosper, another intern with us, prayed for our deliverance from Boko Haram insurgents. He was sure they had planted a bomb in our van for publishing a story recently, calling for the world to not forget the rest of the Chibok girls and others (mostly Christians) kidnapped and are yet to be found. This is amidst claims of totally wiping out the terrorist group in the country.
The vehicle finally stopped, it had run into a pole. We alighted in a split second. The driver couldn’t because his leg was stuck to something and would not budge. He also appeared to have hit his head against something, thick red blood oozed from an open wound on his forehead. The accident occurred because both the front tyres of the vehicle had exploded. We raised our voices in glee to bless our boss for providing such a wonderful van for us.
I collected myself and moved to the van to grab my bag. With the speed of lightning, I brought out my phone and dialed 911. I told the woman that answered our emergency and she promised that help will come to us immediately. A few minutes later an ambulance appeared as medical personnel ran out to help us, handing us blankets while the others tried freeing the driver’s leg. They took him into the already waiting helicopter and made for the hospital.
I looked at the driver’s face. He had turned white. It had been four hours since we called for help. Nobody has shown up. Nobody would stop to help us. We weren’t in Los Angeles but a certain Nigerian highway!
Moghalu, Jennifer Chinwendu is a writer and undergraduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe Univerisity Awka where she is pursuing a degree in Law. Her love for Literature and positive change will make a great impact in Africa and the whole world!