THE WRITING OR THE RIGHT THING?
THURSDAY 12TH OF MARCH, 5:45am.
…….. Koookooorookooo, the cock crowed repeatedly in a distance.
…….. Alaaaaahu Aaakbar!! Assalatu Khayrun Minal Nahum!!! The Muezzin from Mosadoluwa Mosque cried out with his voice that creaked with old age and routine.
…….. “giiiive your life to Christ and Confess Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour!” the preacher cried out from her megaphone, two streets away.
………. plat! plat!! plat!!! tap! tap!! tap!!! kikikikikikiki!!! The footsteps and laughter of excited children were heard.
These repetitious cacophony of onomatopoeia had the effect that Mr. Kogolo could barely enjoy his late morning subconscious sleep. He rolled from side to side on the bed and after an extensively loud yawn, he finally was wide awake. Stretching his legs reluctantly down from the bed, he reached to put on the Lontor rechargeable lamp—epileptic power supply had become a norm in this part of the country. Anastasia, his beautiful wife was already up preparing the kids for school. While she bathed Margaret, their six year old daughter, Wright assisted his wife in dressing Martin, the four year old toddler. Wright’s love for the preservation of the truth and justice led him to name his two kids after Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the past decade, Kogolo Wright had toiled tooth and nail to give his family the best treatment his earnings could afford, but according to the standards of the Naijirian society, he was yet to “hammer”. Ana ran a retail shop at Landmark mall, positioned at the junction of their house street, Coker Street. Their home was so strategically placed that every other place that they frequented—Church, School, Office, Market—was situated within just about a six mile radius distance. The only taint in this beautiful family was poverty. Well, not the demeaning kind you see on CNN, UNICEF or WHO African reports. It was the kind that left Wright indebted to the Cooperative arm of his firm, which made them prey on his salary with avaricious interest rates. Ana on her own path survived the dealings of the LAPO agency, where she had obtained a loan to run her business. In short, in their financial buoyancy, the Kogolos became a microcosm of their country’s debt situation in the foreign market.
It was the second time in this fiscal year that Naijiria had been struck by price inflation. It was also two months to the gubernatorial and presidential elections and campaign fliers flew everywhere. Different faces, same old promises. Several parties and aspirants with their fictional agenda; each one thought themselves the Messiah. Every one of them, including the incumbent failed government, believed they had the panacea for the adverse economic situation. The campaign period was a scenic route to almost always the same dead end—regrets! The political system remained a nightmare, day in, day out, epoch after tenure such that these nightmares became more like an unending series of de javu.
Mr. Kogolo was not among the lot who ranted day and night about the dysfunctional nature of the nation, but he was amongst the fewer ones that tried to make things right. As for Ana, no matter how hard things went, she was optimistic to a fault. She carried out all she did with a smile. That kind of smile that paints a picture of certainty—as though she was sure it would get better some time. Afrojazz legend, Fela’s “Sufferin’ n Smiling” is an accurate depiction of the way the Kogolos gracefully lived life despite the whole national economic crisis.
THURSDAY 12TH OF MARCH 12:00pm.
Mr. Kogolo sat at his desk in his office. He had recently got promoted to position of the Chief Sub-Editor, Weekend. He even had a designation name plate on his desk. It was a feat that was long coming his way in the prestigious media outlet, VOP. The Vox Populi or the Voice of the People as it was popularly known, functioned as a watchman media house of some sorts. Over the last decade, she had hired a score of investigative journalists and had exhumed several secrets—scandals, conspiracies, launderings, murders—in fact, all sorts of crimes related to the government or corporate agencies. They were the scourge and the Achilles heel of the elite. The VOP became not merely a household name, but a beacon of truth, hope, justice and enlightenment for the laymen. The only flaw to this honourable and prestigious profession was its meagre pay.
As always, the newsroom of every media house was a beehive of activities, a literal mad house. Just as Mr. Kogolo walked into the newsroom to vet the works of some interns and subordinates, he exchanged pleasantries with some of his colleagues. Chants of his eulogies filled the room; ‘Mr. Right’, ‘Mr. Write’, ‘the Write man’, ‘the Right man’…..and on and on they went. They all admired his penchant for upholding the truth and justice. This was his drive for seeking and finding the award-winning publications—doing the right thing and the right time. It was for this reason that some of his articles like; “THE BROWN ENVELOPE SYNDROME”, “THE TRUTH BEHIND THE BUDGET PADDING SAGA” “THE BIG NAMES BEHIND THE INSURGENCY FUNDING” “CORPORATE COMPANIES AND CORPORATE SCAM” and lots more were published. He was definitely a big shot with a very popular column in the weekend publications. Most of his stories were revealing truths, and were also mind-blowing blockbusters. It was the same way with his colleagues; they all had to compete for the front page headlines or the centrespread stories. A sense of great satisfaction accompanies having one’s stories plastered on the front page.
After a couple hours in the newsroom, Wright returned to his office. He brought out his phone to check the time, when he saw three missed calls from a private caller. In this line of work, it was the norm to see calls of this nature; either from first hand witnesses that chose to be anonymous or persons who had conflicting interest in some areas of his investigation or already reported news. Mr. Kogolo had never stopped receiving calls of threats, but three missed calls?
“This surely would be a news lead. From my experience, people are not so persistent to give threats. This would be a news tip but I would not be able to call back because of the encrypted caller identity. Well, I would keep my fingers crossed”. Just before he could finish processing his thoughts, the call came in again and with and anxious haste, he picked;
“Hello, this is Kogolo Wright of the Vox Populi newspaper”. After he spoke, the line went silent, it was a dead air. Mr. Kogolo had a split second of reflection “Abi I spoke too fast again? Some of these sources are sometimes scared of speaking to journalists; I would be quiet until the person is bold enough to speak up….”
“Yes, I know it is you, that is why I called your line”, a loud creaky baritone voice spoke up from the other end of the line. It was obviously automated; it felt like the movies again.
“But why would a witness use a voice changer after already obscuring the caller identity?” It was this kind of precautious measures that made Kogolo interested in the news tip. All he had to do was to pay a close attention to the voice, and tone.
“We know you were there that night of the exchange” the caller continued. “The shutter of your camera and your flashlight gave you away. Maybe you should be more subtle in subsequent efforts. That aside, we were able to trace every bit of information about you. We know who you are, we know that you are a man of principle and you cannot be threatened. Hence, we will be giving you cogent reasons why whatever you saw that night should not make the news.” The caller hung up!
Ping! Ping!! Kogolo Wright’s phone notified him that he had a message.
“PLATINUM HABIB BANK
AMOUNT: NP 10, 000, 000.
AVAILAIBLE AMOUT: NP 10, 009, 350”
Mr. Kogolo’s phone rang a few minutes later and it was still an unknown caller, he picked up nevertheless. The baritone voice spoke up again;
“I trust that you would be reasonable this time, this is not the brown envelope you wrote about months ago. This should be between us. We have chosen to be generous with a couple Naijirian pounds and we know that you would do the right thing. We will give you a location to drop your camera and memory card; we would destroy the evidence. You now have enough money to buy as many cameras as you want. Do not try to be smart by making copies of the pictures from that night; there is always a price to be paid from trying to outsmart people in my organization. All you have to do is the right thing. Take the money and lock up, make Ana and the kids happy”………the caller hung up!
There are few times that a man feels truly scared in a lifetime; most times it is for his own life. When a man becomes so scared or worried for the life of another, it is usually borne out of true love. Immediately Kogolo heard the name of his wife and kids mentioned in context, it sent cold shivers down his spine. All the threats he had ever received till date were on his own life, never on that of his wife or kids. He decided to seek advice from his colleagues, but he was going to put it in a hypothetical context.
He walked briskly into the newsroom again, then he jokingly asked Kelvin Opene alias “the mighty Pen”, “what is your shut up price?” Kelvin replied, “Sir, with just two million Naijirian Pounds ehn, I can turn a blind eye on even a man’s life”.
“Habah”, Sylvia from Adverts retorted, “your shut up price is too much. Me eh, with just a million Naijirian Pounds Oga, I will quit this job. I cannot even earn that amount in two years. I will start-up a new business maybe in clothing or cosmetics”
Wole from features walked into the conversation and he asked what the topic was, when he was told he let out a long and loud laughter; then he stopped and replied “See, if it is not up to five million, whoever is tipping should forget it! With five million Naijirian pounds, there is enough to get a car, a house and even pay outstanding debts. Better think big, y’all.” They all called him a greedy tiger and opportunist. The conversation went on and on, even when Mr Kogolo had left the newsroom. One thing dawned on him that afternoon; the threshold of his colleagues’ loyalty to the job could be broken with money, it only depends on the amount of money that is to be paid.
He did the rest of the day’s job diligently. He was not sure about publishing the news the next day. He would give it a hard thought. He had already forwarded the news to Umaru in production. He decided that he would speak with a few more friends on the issue at hand. While he was lost in thought, an email popped up on the screen of his laptop—it was an unknown sender. Kogolo decided against opening the mail, “too many unknown persons have ruined me enough for one day. I am sure it is the location of the spot I have to drop the camera. I could just drop their money for them there before this mammon ruins my life”.
He took a quick glance at the time on the laptop; it was already three o clock.
“Dammit! I have to pick the kids from school today”
FRIDAY 13TH OF MARCH, 7:00am
Just like every other day, Obong, a black and stout bald man had already opened his shop for service. He was a newspaper vendor and his shop entertained different groups of people; those who buy papers from their vehicles, those who flip through ten before buying one, and those who stand there to argue without buying any newspaper. The last group of customers come there every day to regurgitate their sour feelings about the country. All they need to do is to read a particular headline, and then they continue their chant of “this country don spoil”.
Today, the front page headline of the Vox Populi newspaper was the bone of contention at Obong’s shop. It read thus:
“DEPUTY GOVERNOR, INEC CHAIRMAN, POLICE COMMISSIONER AND OTHERS SPOTTED ALONG BERGER ROAD IN THE DEAD OF THE NIGHT.
*Men were also seen lifting ballot boxes into the cars of the Government House Aides
*The plate number of the frame dignitaries are government owned.
*The State Governor disassociates himself from these malpractices.”
*Reporter claims he was even bribed to keep quiet.
In the home of the Kogolo’s, it was the normal morning rush—preparations for school and work. While the kids sat down to eat, Mr. Kogolo sat on the dining table to read his mails as was customary for him to daily. He discovered that he had not read the mail from yesterday, the one without a known sender. He finally opened it, behold, it was not a location, it was a picture of a place. It did not look familiar at first, but when he zoomed in, it became clearer to him; it was a picture of his children’s school! The caller with the baritone voice must have sent it the previous day as a warning of compliance.
Mr Kogolo immediately became disoriented. He rushed for his phone to call Umar from Production unit. Kogolo buzzed Umar about four times before he finally picked up, he even sounded like he just woke up from sleep. Without the usual greetings or exchange of pleasantries, Kogolo cut straight to the point; “Umar, the story I sent to you yesterday, I would like it if you…”
Umar immediately cut Kogolo short “….If I do wetin Oga? Na your story dey front page for today’s paper. Oga Chief Editor say him like the story. He say na big story and na front page that kind story suppose dey” … “Oh! Okay, thank you”, Mr. Wright Kogolo replied and hung up. The die was cast.
Kogolo immediately started getting dressed for work. “Ana!! Ana!” he called out; “don’t let these children leave this house. They should not go to school today. Ana had never heard anything of that sort in all the years of their marriage and parenthood.
“My dear, is anything wrong?” Ana asked with so much concern. “Yes….No, nothing is wrong” Wright replied. “But you look like something is wrong na, what has happened?” Anastasia persisted, but she had a naturally headstrong husband that she knew would not budge. Her instincts told her it was work related, so she kept quiet and went to take care of her children. Wright took his keys, squeezed the handlebar and he sped off in his Bajaj motorcycle; he was heading for the bank. As he was going he kept muttering words like “the mammon would have no hold on me” “I would always do the right thing” “I did the right thing” “in fact, I will return their money”
SATURDAY 14TH OF MARCH
Certainly, it was a weekend but the dawn did not break with a relaxation vibe. It was a black Saturday in the nation, especially with the headline on the Vox Populi newspaper. This time, they were the bearers of their own bad news;
“JOURNALIST KILLED IN AN ACCIDENT ALONG COKER ROAD
*Conspiracy Theorists believe his death to be related to the revelation of the previous day; they circumspect that the ruling caucus are unhappy with such a scandal
Anastasia was yet to recover from the shock of the report. The picture of all that happened the previous day was still fresh in her mind—the argument, how he sped out, how the neighbours came running to break the news to her, how she held her dying husband in her hand submerged in his pool of blood at Coker junction. She could still remember the gazes of pity and despair from onlookers and bystanders. She still remembers the exact moment he died on her lap….the sordid memory was too fresh. She could still perceive his blood, she could still see the picture of her dying husband, she could not stop wailing despite all the consolation she got, nothing was going to replace this lacuna in her world.
In a well furnished apartment in the GRA of the state capital territory, a phone rings and this time it is still an unknown caller. The call is answered, the same coarse baritone voice speaks up; “Sir, the loud mouth has been silenced. We made it look like an accident. No one was spotted on the scene of the crime. There are conspiracies but none links directly to your involvement in this case. You are free to run for your second tenure”. The caller hangs up…..