by: ‘Kunmi Olamiju
Establishment Party’s supporters were mad, Hope Fighting concluded as he scrolled through the party’s Facebook page. He stopped at the latest campaign photo uploaded, a picture that featured all Bad Choice’s coterie.
At the edge of the group, the man’s daughter, Women Leader, posed with but apart from them. She wore gaudy sunglasses, looking visibly displeased. A few places from her, Dagger, the man’s infamous enforcer grinning maniacally, his equally infamous dagger, Death’s Kiss, strapped on a belt across his chest. When once the campaign had tried to distance themselves from him, Dagger’s stock had climbed as the election drew closer. Then there was the man’s son in a blue bespoke suit. Money Magician could make money disappear as quickly as it appeared. Close to him, the man’s pick for Vice president, Bad News, the biggest beneficiary of everything happening. His gaze was level; his lips held in a tight line. Hope shuddered. Bad News’s blank expression alone was menacing.
At the centre of the group was the man himself, Wrong Choice, or more accurately his corpse. His skin had the pallor of a preserved cadaver, and a cloud of flies hovered above him. He was held upright by a metal exoskeleton visible underneath the flowing robes he wore. It provided limited mobility and on cue, an arm could be lifted to wave when needed.
Despite the evidence before their eyes, his supporters carried on as if it were a normal situation. Hope sighed. He had to believe. He flexed his fingers, and began to type a long berating comment under the photo, his small contribution towards the election of Right Choice, in the lopsided fight against Establishment Party.
Like many people in Crazy Country, Hope had borne different names over his life. At birth, he’d been called Hope Abounds. In his teens, he was Hope Battered. As a young man, Hope Arrested, the name he went by the longest.
Never interested much in school, he’d completed a diploma program and after, focused on running his family’s electronics parts store. An only child he took his few highs and many lows the way he was raised; accepting them as part of a divine if baffling and at times disturbing, plan which would ultimately make sense in the end. It was the way the citizens of Crazy Country remained sane. In all things, giving thanks. Suffering, smiling, and giving thanks.
When the government evicted the family from the only home they’d known, claiming the building was on federal lands, Hope’s mother had only said, “In all things give thanks.” Even when it later came out, the promised compensation never reached them because it’d been shared between the local government councillor and a traditional ruler, his parents said, “Give thanks.” When his mother died from an Intracranial Teratoma misdiagnosed as malaria and typhoid at the state general hospital, his father kept up the stoic tradition of giving thanks. When his father was beaten to death the day after he turned sixty by drunk irate soldiers because his car overtook their convoy, Hope had well learnt the lesson of giving thanks and offered no protest when the soldiers were found innocent because the court ruled normal laws do not apply to them.
As the years rolled by and the shelves of the Electronics parts store began to have more empty spaces than goods, notices from dissatisfied creditors piled, his invoices unanswered, all despite Hope working ever harder and cutting personal expenses till the point he ate only once a day and lived in the shop, he bore no one any grudge. Least so the government. Politics was the furthest thing from his mind. The government was a beast to be appeased with dues and taxes while praying it did not notice you. Then one day, a year before Crazy Country’s general elections, a customer left a pamphlet in his shop. Its title was simply, “Why your life sucks,’ written by a Voltaire. He read the pamphlet because he had nothing else to do. By the time he was done, however, he was no longer the same man.
Voltaire’s radical but simple argument was that a country’s condition was reflected in the life of its citizens. When a country progressed, its citizens. When a country failed, citizens suffered. The reason things were so hard in Crazy Country was that Establishment Party could not steer the country in the right direction after forever in power and the time had come for change; change represented by New Party and its candidate for president, Right Choice. Right Choice was the founder of New Party. True, it had only won one election and it was at the state level, but they’d transformed the state under their administration. Voltaire’s last words were: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Vote Wisely! Your Life depends on it!”
It was a week to the election and the race for president was somehow still too close to call. New Party held rallies across the country in one last effort at swaying voters. Hope Fighting led the rally in his state.
They were fearless. Deep in the heart of an Establishment Party stronghold, they had to be fearless. Even as armed men began trailing them, like Hope, they raised New Party’s banner higher and beat their drums louder, peaking as the armed men charged the peaceful rally, attacking with machetes and broken bottles. It turned to a one-sided melee.
By the time, the scene cleared, the ground was stained red with blood and bodies lay motionless on the ground, Hope fighting among them.
The creation of Crazy Country, if a little underwhelming, was a remarkably peaceful affair at the outset. There was no political revolution, ideological dispute, or theological schism behind it. No, nothing dramatic like that. The present borders, generously delineated by the white hand of fate, resulted from an economic pragmatism; the need to balance a budget deficit, and was achieved by the amalgamation of unwitting disparate regions. Talk about the Founders – the true khaki-wearing ones – however, once in fashion, is becoming increasingly passé. As for dismantling their Frankenstein creation, there’s an unstated acquiescence to not broach the topic despite the consensus not doing so makes everyone unhappy. It is a perplexing situation, very much like an unhappy marriage where the couples remain together to ensure the other’s miserableness.
– Excerpt from “Life in Nominal Nations: Crazy Country.”
He became conscious of his environment by degrees. There was first white light, and then the realization he was the sole passenger on an aeroplane.
He heard a voice announcing: “Flight H3AV3N about to leave Nigeria. Please put on your seat belt when the indicator light flashes. Your pilot will address you now.” Promptly, in walked a benign-looking middle-aged man in a pilot outfit.
“How are you, Hope?” the man said in a slightly British accent.
Hope stared, completely baffled.
The man continued, “I know all of this might be overwhelming. But I’ll answer all your questions soon. What was the last thing you remember?”
Hope’s hand instinctively went to his stomach.
“Yes, yes,” the man nodded, “you were stabbed.”
Hope finally managed, “So am I—”
“Not quite. At this moment you’re hovering. It could go either way.”
Hope considered this a while and asked, “Are you God then?”
The man chuckled and sat next to Hope.
“Only a humble angel. I oversee souls from Crazy Country. I’ve found this,” he gestured around, “the most effective way to help souls from your country, erm, transition. It puts them immediately at ease.’
“What happens next?”
“It’s your choice now. You’re what we call a special case. There’s much left you could achieve.”
Hope pondered. “Who wins the election?”
“Ah, the future. Not even I can predict the future. As we speak, a certain member of the Establishment is pulling her faction away, claiming her conscience would not allow her support a corpse as her father died on his last trip abroad. The truth of course is that she is unhappy with the slice of cake offer her—”
“It means there’s a chance?”
“You could say that.”
Hope grinned. “I’ve made my decision.”
He regained consciousness with a groan. He got to his feet slowly and brushed dirt off himself as best as he could. Daylight was breaking and he realized he must have spent the night outdoors. He struggled to recall what had happened before it came to him in a flash. The rally. Armed men. A glaring face holding a knife, rushing at him. Oblivion.
His shirt was blood-stained but he couldn’t find any injury on his body when he removed it. He shook his head. Thinking about it was too much strain. He wore his shirt again and began the long trek to his shop, limping. Undaunted, there was still time to change people’s minds before the election.
Hope was alive.