By: Obi Joy Ogechi
“Honourable members of the House, let’s have some quiet, please.” The speaker of the Kafayan House of Representatives pleaded as he banged his gavel for the second time that morning.
“Mr. Speaker, that particular shade of red looks great on you, you should always wear it.” Mr. Okopo, the Honourable member representing Dani constituency pointed to the prominent lipstick stain on the collar of the Speaker’s shirt as other members burst into raucous laughter. “I am glad that some of us, like Mr. Speaker, are doing all they can to advance gender equality in our great country, one woman at a time.” Mr. Okopo continued.
There was renewed laughter directed at the person of the Speaker. Not only was he a bachelor, he was notoriously known as an unrepentant womanizer so the lipstick stain could only have come from one of the society women or prostitutes (he did not discriminate) he spent the previous night with.
“Very funny, Mr. Okopo.” The Deputy Speaker of the House said with not a single trace of laughter on his face. “Order please, Honourable members of the House of Representatives shouldn’t be seen behaving like traders in a marketplace”. He continued.
“But we are traders, Mr. Jedi, we trade in Bills.” Mr. Chomi, the Honourable member representing Lambo community said to renewed laughter from the House. “Hear, hear”. Someone shouted from one of the seats at the extreme.
“If the Honourable members will kindly give me a few minutes to introduce this bill, we will be done with the day’s business in a very short time.” The Speaker pleaded again. The house quietened a bit, just enough for the hum of the outdated Air Conditioners in the building to be heard.
Mr. Speaker began, “This is the first reading of a Bill To Pay All House Of Representative Members The Sum Of Fifty Million Naira Every Year Upon Retirement As An Annual Retirement Benefit. This Bill, if passed into law, shall have a retrospective effect. This Bill is proudly sponsored by our very Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr. Jedi”.
There was a moment of such utter silence in the building as if the members were observing a moment of silence for a dead comrade. Members of the House turned to look at one another, their faces bearing different expressions of joy.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a very important Bill” Mr. Okopo began, breaking what was turning into a very long silence. “I believe I speak for every member of the House when I say I commend the Deputy Speaker for looking out for our welfare. However, I suggest an additional Ten Million naira every year on Healthcare.” Another round of “Hear, hear” and other vocal expressions of agreement came from the members who had come alive once again. Some were so full of excitement, they were banging on the armrest of their seats.
“I agree with what the Honourable member representing Dani constituency just said.” Mr. Chomi said as he stood on his feet. “Lawmaking is a very tedious process that has a lot of ill effects on our health. I mean just last week, I was coming from my residence to this place to contribute my quota to nation-building and do you know what happened? The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser I was in broke down some streets away from this place. The motor mechanic who goes everywhere with me tried all he could to get it started all to no avail. I didn’t want to use the other cars in my convoy because they are not befitting of a high-ranking member of the society like me, so all the while my mechanic was trying to work his magic, I was standing outside under the scorching sun. I could have died from the Heat Stroke.” He continued solemnly.
“Sorry oo” A member down his row commiserated with him while another said “God forbid, it’s not your time.”
“What if I was hit by a careless driver?” Mr. Chomi asked rhetorically warming up to his tale. “Or hired assassins shot at me? I propose an extra Ten million naira on security.”
“I support him.” Niko, the youngest member of the house said raising his hand to emphasize that fact.
“I have a contribution to make.” Said Ekete, the eldest man in the House of Representatives. He remained sitting as he had claimed in the past that he couldn’t stand or walk without his walking stick. “Retirement benefits are not at the top of the list of the problems we are facing as a country. There are other problems that outrank it. At Fifty million naira per lawmaker annually, we will be doling out billions of naira which the country has to borrow and I don’t need to remind the house of how large Kafaya’s debts are. What we are called to do is serve the populace not get rich off…”
“Very sorry to interrupt…” The Deputy Speaker Mr. Jedi cut in, not looking sorry at all. “I don’t remember you, Mr. Ekete, ever rejecting any of the allowances and entitlements due to you as a member of the House of Representatives and this is your fourth tenure as the Honourable member representing Lete constituency. Your constituency is the worse in the whole country, gullies and mud slides caused by erosion and bad roads and for sixteen years, you’ve not done anything to lessen the plight of your people. Permit me to say that you are not in a position to talk about rendering good service. This is a case of the kettle calling the pot black.” There were nods of assent from most members of the House in support of this line of reasoning.
“Moreover, what do people who are standing very close to their graves need retirement money for?” Niko asked.
“Are you referring to me, young man?” Mr. Ekete rose from his seat and asked, his body quivering in anger.
“If the shoes fit…” Mr. Niko fired back.
“Are you the one who will kill me?” Mr. Ekete asked again advancing towards Mr. Niko. Some members of the house who were sitting beside him held onto him to prevent that while some other members of the house restrained Mr. Niko who had also risen to his feet. Others were watching the unfolding exchange with keen interest.
“He didn’t mean it, Mr. Ekete, please calm down.” A member entreated.
“I meant it oo!” Mr. Niko shouted. “If he likes, let him not be calm. At this rate, it is a heart attack that will kill him.”
“It is you who will die of a heart attack!” Mr. Ekete cursed. “You will not live to be seventy-five years old.” He cursed some more.
Suddenly, there was a loud thud. Something long and black fell from the ceiling and landed in the middle of the fracas.
“My friend, na snake be dat oo!” A member shouted as he took to his heels. The gathering scattered as everyone scampered for safety. There were shoves and pushes everywhere. Mr. Niko left his prized Apple IPhone XS Max behind and Mr. Ekete ran without his fancy walking stick, surprisingly very agile for a seventy-five years old man.
Mr. Chomi ran out of the building, ran past his driver who was staring at him in open-mouthed amazement and ran past the security men manning the gate of the House of Representatives complex who were staring at the Honourable Members in bewilderment. It was only when he was outside the fence enclosing the House of Representatives and other ancillary buildings that he stopped to catch his breath.
“Chei!” he exclaimed, “The race to preserve one’s life never ends.”
Joy Obi is a lawyer by profession, a writer of various works of fiction and nonfiction and a fan of crossword puzzles. When she is not engaged in any of the above, she spends her time reading, trying out new recipes or watching movies.