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‘Have your President call my President’ | Sonala Olumhense

‘Have your President call my President’ | Sonala Olumhense

Hello, Excellency!”

“Hello Mr. President. It is always so good to hear that: Excellency.  It is wonderful. People like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they never call me that.”

“It is not a problem, Excellency. I know you are very busy, Excellency. They said you wanted me to call you?”

“Oh really, who? You know we are so busy with the COVID-19 pandemic here.”

“Of course, Excellency. You know I am working from home these days. So I watch everything on CNN.”

“You watch the Fake News?  No, you should be watching Fox News.  I work from home too; I call it ‘Watching from home.’  So much fun like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Sorry about the loss of so many American lives, Excellency, almost 60,000.”

“Yes, thank you. It could have been much more, but we are doing a tremendous job all over the country.  Mine is a very effective leadership.  But how are you doing? They were telling me you have a major problem in Cano.”

“Oh, Kano. Yes. But it was just a misunderstanding. We have it under control.  All we need now are ventilators.”

“Ventilators. Oh yes. Those are in very high demand all over the world.  Everyone wants them. I had to tell our governors to fend for themselves. But we have enough now in our stockpile, and I am expecting a lot more.  We will be helping Italy, France and Spain.”

“Your Excellency, you must also help Nigeria. We are a good friend of the US.  We will do anything you ask, Excellency.”

“Anything I ask? I like the sound of that. I remember that when you visited me two years ago, I requested fairness and reciprocity in our relations. We give Nigeria annual aid of over $1bn, but you have huge trade barriers preventing US businesses from investing there.”

“Trade barriers, Excellency?   If any, we will dismantle them without delay.  We want US investment.”

“I could actually authorise the ventilators today, but they are in such demand.”

“Excellency, we beg of you.  Elon Must refused to give us 500. Please just 100 or 200.”

“You think that would be enough?”

“More than enough, walahi, Excellency!”

“But you have a population of 200 million.”

“Yes Excellency, but we have no hospitals to place them.  I use foreign hospitals myself. No problem”

“So you may have a distribution problem then.”

“Not at all. I will give three each to some states, one in some cases, and none to some states at all, and I will keep the rest here at the presidency.  More than enough.”

“Why one in some states and zero in others?”

“Oh Excellency, the PDP states are those that will get one, out of my generosity, because they are the ones that didn’t build hospitals or buy ventilators.  Those that get zero are those that didn’t vote for us.”

“Oh, the Democrats!”

“No, Excellency, we are the Democrats, the Progressives.”

“But aren’t they PDP…the Democrats? Anyhow, you can save a lot of money and buy a lot of ventilators if you want. I mean, you are getting back $321m of Sani Abacha’s looted funds from us. If you resist the temptation to give part of that to a state governor, you could really do a lot.”

“But Excellency…”

“And there are records of all these former governors and ministers and senators who are double and triple-dipping or fleecing their states under terrible pension laws, some of them dating as far back as 18 or 19 years.”

“Those are just rumours, Excellency. Many of them are our friends, and they have told us they never did any such thing. It is just like Sani Abacha; he never looted anyone, that is just a name. But believe me, if you send us the ventilators, we will soon be curving the flat all over Nigeria.”

“You mean, flattening the curve. I will see about the ventilators, but they may not be available for three or four or five months or end of the year.  Some of these things are not easy.  Remember the 12 A29 Tucano jets you overpaid for?  I know you were hoping to get them by 2020, but that will not happen before 2023. You may more quickly receive the 12 Mi-35 helicopters you signed with Russia in October last year.”

“Thank you, Excellency. I will have my ambassador follow-up on the ventilators. Maybe we will be lucky.”

“Ambassador? You mean you have an ambassador here in Washington, DC?”

“Emm Excellency. Do you mean you have not seen him?  I will check. I remember nominating one old man…twice. I remember this because he was even older than me. That is one of the reasons we really need these ventilators. Otherwise, we will never deepen the curve.”

“Flatten the curve, you mean. But are you aggressively testing? Your numbers seem so low!”

“Oh yes Excellency, we are testing. We test everyone who looks suspicious.  We just don’t want to waste test kits.”

“That is rather interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. But in the US I am doing a fantastic job.  We are testing better than anybody on earth and we have tests like you wouldn’t believe. But what do you intend to do about power?”

“Power? No problem, Excellency. I am quite strong.  I can race anyone.”

“No, not your muscles. Electricity. Ventilators are very sensitive equipment.  Fluctuating power can easily damage them. How will you power them?”

“Oh, electricity? Walahi only some people have that problem.  In Aso Rock we have generators. Then backup generators to backup the generators. We even have backup generators to backup the generators which backup NEPA.”


“Sorry, Excellency. NEPA is what we call public power supply. My children told me the company now has a new name. But don’t you worry, we will get it right. We will even get EFCC to count the generators every night.  They will not disappear like loot from the Abacha years.”

“That is reassuring. But you know, your country could have really benefitted from that ‘Power Up Africa’ Obama was pursuing. But I am told your country never showed interest.”

‘Power Up Africa’? I am sure it was PDP who blocked it. APC is NEXT LEVEL performance. No problem.”

“What about maintenance?”

“Maintenance? We don’t worry about that.  We always buy new ones, whether jets, cars or generators, and throw away the old.”

“No, I mean maintenance of the ventilators. These are very sophisticated equipment. Like a car…very high-quality. Many doctors and nurses have never seen it before. If people are learning on the job to use them, people die.”

“Dying, Excellency? Nobody dies in Aso Rock!”

“’Excellency.’ Music to my ears. But with no oil being sold, no planting being done, no trading in the land, and little importation likely, what about that thundering hunger and anger?”

“That is okay, Mr. President.  This place is protected by hundreds of soldiers and hundreds of policemen.”

“Sounds like a plan!  You got your ventilators!!”

This piece originally appeared on Punch Nigeria and was published on May 3, 2020.

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