Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 7
…That’s why we have a publicity wing, that’s why the party invests so much in the media.’
That was part of the problem! Chief Mike now found it hard to believe certain reports emerging from the media. It was gradually becoming more difficult to differentiate between factual reports and those cooked up by the parties’ publicity wings. It was also becoming increasingly more difficult to get an accurate gauge of the actual popularity of the Congress for Advancement, as most media tended to put it at an all-time high. This was hard to believe as the Democratic Alliance’s rally to formally present their candidates to the people, the previous day, had been so massively attended that the state television which beamed the live images described it as one of the biggest rallies ever organised in any part of the country. He had personally been shocked, and not even the report by some newspapers that morning that the crowd was bought with money had sufficiently eased his fears.
‘The C.A’s rally to formally present her candidates to party supporters is only a few days away, sir. That is a big opportunity to create a good first impression and there will be no better way to do that than through a powerful speech. I am already doing a rough draft, sir, though the Publicity Secretary of the party would surely be doing same. I know I can convince Sir Maigida to prevail on him to allow you use mine. I will be back to discuss the points so we could add any personal inputs you may like to add.’ He arose and bowed low before taking his leave.
Without another word, Chief Mike watched him take his leave. He wondered how the next few months before the elections would turn out. He knew it would affect his business, but hoped the impact won’t be too much. He was spending lots of money already, but was ready to spend much more. All that mattered was attaining his goal, the seat of government. According to Sir Maigida, that was what mattered most. Monies spent could always be recovered; all it required was a few mega contracts awarded to fronts. Chief Mike smiled in spite of himself; politics was really a dirty game.
It was a big success, just as Ezekiel had predicted, the party’s rally. The stadium was packed to the brim. There had been attempts by the state government to deny the C.A the use of the stadium, but the government had given in when the media took it up. They had been so demonized by the papers that some government officials had to officially come out to deny ever intending to prevent the C.A from using the stadium complex. It was becoming a big weapon, the media, and the C.A appeared very adroit in its application.
The state owned television had also been forced into broadcasting the event by same means. Many newspapers had pre-empted their refusal to cover the rally, thereby forcing the government into prompt acceptance when the C.A eventually applied for their coverage. They had paid more than normal for these services, but they had gotten what they wanted.
Chief Mike had been particularly pleased by the turn out of events; his powerful speech was resoundingly cheered by party supporters. He had especially loved the part where he called on the people…
To be vigilant and steadfast, for we are moving away from a corrupt, self-enriching government to one that is determined to selflessly lead. We are promising a breakaway from the barrier of parochial, outdated and inconsistent policy make-ups which have physically and mentally impoverished our people and lessened our collective expectations to a NEW DIRECTION of progressive, people-oriented ideas, through which we all will have our hopes alive again…
His voice had been drowned by the hoots and cheers by the crowd, so much that it took over three minutes to get them listening again. How he loved Ezekiel that moment; he was going to handle all his future speeches. Even his wife had congratulated him afterwards for a very inspiring speech. Florence, of all people! He had also loved what the papers had to say about the rally and particularly about him. The People’s Eyes Newspaper had put it:
One thing that sets aside the Congress for Advancement is their knack for entrusting governance duties on qualified and passionate individuals who are determined to lead the people in a new direction. This is no better exemplified by their governorship candidate, an accomplished businessman, philanthropist and dedicated Christian, Chief Mike, who at the massively attended rally yesterday revealed a passionate side to leadership that has been lost to the state all this while…
…that has been lost to the state all this while…
He had been described as a dedicated Christian! It was a call to start taking church attendance seriously. He knew his wife would laugh at him if she saw that description on the paper, he hoped she won’t see it. It was almost a month since he last accompanied her to church wife, there was always a time for repentance.
‘This shows that the paper reports all this while haven’t been false,’ Ezekiel said in his office, beaming with smiles. It was a day after the rally. ‘The momentum is clearly with us, all we need now is to consolidate.’
‘Yes, you composed a truly great speech!’ Chief Mike raised his glass.
‘I told you, sir, I told you!’ They clinked glasses; Ezekiel’s containing orange juice while the chief’s contained champagne. He continued after a sip: ‘We have to work hard to consolidate on what we have on ground. I will get a list of the things we’ll need, this state must move in a new direction.’
Just then, there was a knock on the door and Bolanle entered the office.
‘Sir, some men are here to see you – Sir Maigida and two others.’
Chief Mike and Ezekiel exchanged glances before the chief asked his secretary to show them in.
‘You may go and get that list ready, I will send for you once we are done,’ said Chief Mike, setting his half empty glass of champagne on the table and reclining on his chair.
Ezekiel wasn’t too happy with the dismissal, he had expected the chief to specially request that he sat in on their meeting. He arose and made his exit, saluting the visitors at the door.
‘Good morning, sirs,’ Chief Mike said, sitting up but not rising. Behind his wide smile, he wondered what Sir Maigida wanted from him, in company of his two opponents at the party primaries, the tall, light complexioned Chief Ohirhein and the average heighted and dark complexioned Chief Oye.
‘His Excellency in waiting!’ Sir Maigida replied going to him for a handshake.
‘Chief! Chief!’ The other men hailed.
‘You are all welcome, sirs, to my humble office. Please, have your seats.’ He beckoned to the four empty seats opposite his desk. ‘What are you drinking?’ He asked no one in particular after they were seated.
‘Sir Maigida has already offered us something to drink,’ said Chief Ohirhein. ‘We came here from his office.’
‘Yes, Chief; hope you serve water here?’ Chief Oye added, drawing laughter from his audience.
‘If that’s what you want, it can be arranged,’ Chief Mike said when the laughter had subsided. He spoke into the intercom, requesting his secretary’s presence. ‘So what informs this august visit?’
Sir Maigida was clearing his throat when Bolanle entered the office. He halted whatever he had wanted to say and watched as she received orders from her boss and went to the fridge to take out water cans and glasses. There was silence in the office until she spoke:
‘Sir, the report from the marketer just came in and he wants a feedback. I asked him to hold on as you were in a very important meeting.’
‘That was very thoughtful of you. What did he say?’
‘He said he had no choice…’ The sudden laughter from her boss’ visitors surprised Bolanle. She hadn’t meant her statement to be a joke and wasn’t talking to them in the first place. ‘He said he had no choice than to wait. I promised to get across once you were free.’ She hoped the men got the message from the frown on her face.
‘He would wait for sure; who wouldn’t when His Excellency in waiting is concerned?’ Sir Maigida chipped in, obviously oblivious of Bolanle’s scowl.
Chief Mike noticed it and smiled: ‘You did very well, Bolanle,’ and as she was about to leave the office… ‘Thank you very much.’
Bolanle smiled as she shut the door. Her boss was really trying, really trying to discard his hitherto brash disposition for a more humane one.
Chief Mike pointed at the glasses and cans on the tray before his visitors and reclined on his chair once again, this time, shutting his eyes. Sir Maigida’s adulation was really getting to him, though he couldn’t help but detect the tinge of sycophancy in it; he was already feeling like the governor.
‘Yes, His Excellency in waiting, we came here today to rejoice with you on the success of the rally yesterday. You really killed it with your speech. Everyone on the streets is shouting “new direction” now.’
Chief Mike smiled. The organisation of the rally had been mainly Sir Maigida’s handiwork and the speech had been Ezekiel’s composition. He was supposed to be the one congratulating the chairman. After all, Sir Maigida had also been responsible for recommending Ezekiel to him.
‘That’s true, sir,’ he replied, ‘the organisation was superb, thanks to you.’
‘And these gentlemen here,’ Sir Maigida quickly added.
‘Huh?’ Chief Mike sighed, he hadn’t seen that coming.
‘Yes. They’ve been working tirelessly for the success of the party. Did you know that Chief Ohirhein owns The Patriotic Voice Newspaper? Did you also know that he owns Resonance Magazine?’
Chief Mike never had an inkling. So Chief Ohirhein was responsible for the glowing reports The Patriotic Voice always carried on the C.A’s activities? And he had always seen the party adverts on the popular full gloss celebrity magazine, Resonance. Florence had once complained to his hearing of the high cost of advertising in that magazine; that day she had been discussing with a friend, an executive member of the Ladies of Hope.
‘I never had an idea,’ he said.
‘And Chief Oye singlehandedly paid for our usage of the stadium and was responsible for those customized vests on the party supporters…’
Chief Mike let out an audible sigh. Those vests had run into thousands.
‘And Professor Imonikhe, who is unavoidably absent, singlehandedly mobilized about a thousand students – I’m sure you noticed the gyrating group on the right side of the podium?’
Chief Mike nodded. He was being subtly informed that the contributions of his opponents had dwarfed his.
‘All these go to show the unity within our ranks; no one is selfishly concerned only with his ambitions.’ Sir Maigida’s countenance was now serious. So were those of all in the office. ‘And these men intend to do more in the next two months before the elections only, if only, there are assurances…’
Chief Mike understood, Ezekiel had warned him. That boy was really an asset!
‘Assurances? I don’t really get you, sir,’ he lied. He no longer felt like the governor.
‘The next two months will be very important ones – the campaigns, adverts, organized interviews, meetings with student bodies, religious bodies, business groups and many more. These will require massive funding, publicity and mobilization. When different hands are at work, the job goes easier like we’ve seen so far. These men have selflessly invested in our cause and are ready to invest more, but want to be sure of recouping their investments.’
So much for selflessness, Chief Mike thought. He couldn’t feign ignorance any longer. Being a businessman too, he would have expected same had he been in their shoes.
‘What’s the deal, sir?’
Sir Maigida leaned forward, his right elbow on the desk and coughed slightly to clear his throat. ‘I went through this personally and don’t think it is too much. For my friends here, only forty percent of all state government contracts for the first three years and for Professor Imonikhe, the portfolio of the Secretary to the State Government.’
‘I think forty percent is too much, sir,’ protested Chief Mike. He was sure many other interest groups will spring up later. And he was spending quite much too. ‘Forty percent is too much.’
‘I don’t think it is when you consider our input thus far,’ said Chief Oye. ‘We are prepared to do much more, but we have to be sure of what we are getting back.’
‘Yes, in business we meet needs, but the process has to be profitable for one to continue,’ added Chief Ohirhein.
‘I understand what you are talking about, but we are talking about forty percent here!’ Chief Mike said forcefully. Have you considered the state annual budget figures?’
‘We are not talking about outright repayments, Chief,’ said Chief Ohirhein, ‘we are talking about contracts which will be executed.’ Chief Ohirhein’s tone showed he was getting angry.
Chief Mike wasn’t moved by that. He was concerned about himself too. If forty percent was going out to two people only, what was going to remain for others and himself?
Sir Maigida intervened, asking him to think about the proposal while they took their leave. The party chairman would later call him to settle for thirty percent and the secretarial portfolio for Professor Imonikhe, Ezekiel would advise him to agree to it, intimating him that Sir Maigida was sure to have a cut in the deal, they would meet at Chief Ohirhein’s hotel two days after to formally sign some documents to the effect and a few days later at the party’s secretariat, all smiles like nothing ever happened.
Among the proposals listed by Ezekiel was the setting up of a campaign office. This, he said, was necessary as the polity gradually heated up. A non-business environment was needed to accommodate party supporters whenever the need arose. Chief Mike could still go to the office, but he would make sure all political issues were referred to and resolved at the campaign office. A flat was soon secured for the purpose. Ezekiel also requested the formation of a Security Team, a request initially rejected by his boss, but later acceded to when he espied a red pickup van follow him from his office to the Government Reservation Area. The van had disappeared when the sirens of the police, who he had contacted, sounded closer.
Jubilantly, Ezekiel had gone about the recruitment of the guys for the team. He had two criteria for eligibility; brawn and a previous unconvicted record of participation in crime. The latter he intended to use to advantage should the guys try to be difficult. They were six in all; Lanky Peter, who once killed a policeman during a bank raid. The police never got them and the case was finally laid to rest. There was also Man Alabi, who raped a Commissioner’s wife in revenge for his friend, whose girlfriend was snatched by the man. The law had never caught up with him until the case died down. The duo of Ogbewee and Isumafen were two former students of the state owned polytechnic, who were dismissed on account of their cult activities. What was unknown was their responsibility for the death of the registrar whom they felt didn’t do enough to prevent their expulsion despite being from the same town as them. Lekan and Sunkanmi were members of a smuggling ring, who were caught while trying to smuggle in light arms for a robbery gang. Instead of allowing the law to take its course, they had killed their captors before backup could arrive and had been on the run since then. They had met Ogbewee and Isumafen when they arrived at the state capital and were strongly mooting a return to crime when Ezekiel intervened. It had surprised even him, the ease with which he had unraveled mysteries the security bodies had pulled out from after series of brick walls in the course of their investigations. It had been a case of like birds flocking together.
Chief Mike was also to practice what Ezekiel termed “spontaneous generosity”, an advice he put to practice when he stopped over at Mama Ijeoma’s while returning home from the office, paid for her entire stock and instructed her to serve all customers for free. While some viewed it as a mere political stunt, others hailed the move, describing him as a true philanthropist.