MALCOLM (Excerpt)

Chambers Umezulike tours eight Nigerian cities for special book signing of his novel, MALCOLM. Praxis magazine publishes excerpt of MALCOLM by Chambers Umezulike.

MALCOLM (Excerpt) by Chambers Umezulike.

Abuja, Nigeria
Date: 2018

THIS MORNING, The Chief of Africa was walking around the terrace of his plush penthouse at his villa. He was thinking about so many issues with his brain in gear five. Looking at him, he was looking like the wrath of God. The sun was coming up fast and leisurely; probably it did not know of what Chief was passing through. Labina sat on a plush sofa some meters away from him. She was in satin panties and brassiere; smoking, sipping Vodka Martini while fingering her Samsung tablet. She just rode up from the swimming pool situated at the foot of the villa some minutes ago. Chief’s villa amongst his so many luxury villas scattered all over the world was situated at the outskirts of Abuja, set in five acres of land. The villa had a massive artificial lake with a harbor that housed some motorboats. From the penthouse, he could see his two private jets Dassault Falcon 7X and Embraer Legacy 450 sleeping quietly, under the hundred meter steel-made blister hangar; with a long asphalt made runway. But his mind was not there, buried in thoughts the surroundings were just blurry images. There was also a vast space of more of a parking lot than a garage that had series of his motor vehicles, parked neatly and accordingly, one after the other, as if it was a section of the well-known Clara Motors in Abuja. There was an ostentatious golf course at the northern end of the villa. Close to the golf course was a deep lion pit, guarded by steel railings where Chief’s four, full-grown lions lived. Chief was crazy about lions. The left side of the villa was a large reserved area made into a wood where he normally hunted when he was in the mood. The wood was made in a way that some animals and birds were living there coordinatingly as if they were in a big forest. The Chief of Africa had been featured amongst the hundred most influential persons in the world for about ten times by Time magazine. World Watch magazine had also described him in this way: Retired General Usman Ibrahim Shata, GCFR, GCON, GCVO, popularly addressed as ‘Chief or The Chief of Africa or TCOA’ is the father of Africa. He briefly ruled Nigeria during the military dispensation. He is now the Chairman of the largest political party in Africa. The pan-African party that he co-built: The African Democratic Party, is the ruling party in twelve African countries. He is a man of power and authority; and the third most famous African of the twentieth and twenty first centuries after Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and Nelson Mandela. He is also the richest African and the 8th richest person in the world. Chief was a tall, large man who resembled a big fish. He resembled a man that ate ten times in a day. He had partly concealed eyes, a straight nose and a big mouth. His appearance was not his pigeon. He had power and money, and it made him smirk of how men and women of importance all over the world fawned over him. He was from Benue State. From a wealthy background, he joined the army at a very young age and became an army general in his mid-forties. He schooled in Korea Military Academy and went for further training in Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot, London and the Advanced Armoured Officers’ course in Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. He was a good orator and could fluently speak French. Chief came back from Banjul on the previous morning, the last destination of his concluded tour. His pan-African party was spreading its tentacles all over Africa and regardless rigging in their candidate into the Gambian presidential seat, his party was also able to rig-secure eighty percent of the seats in the Gambian Congress. But it unrested him that his own country’s presidential election was a month to come and his party was lagging behind by mighty kilometers. With the way things were, he knew that only rigging or something radical would save him from the coming shame. His political empire was about losing its major grip on Nigeria, their root country. He could not imagine it; he could not imagine that his party would be having issues in his own country under his powerful watch. To him, it was a big shame and something had to be done as soon as possible. But rigging the election with the international attention that its campaigns and preparations had generated disturbed him. Though he believed that there was nothing he could not handle, because he had been in the selfsame hotspot before and did so well.

His activities after he came back immediately had taken away the joy he got from his tour. The relaxation he gathered from his vacation had disappeared and he had started losing weight in mere twenty four hours.

************************************************************* After walking around for some time, The Chief of Africa lowered his bulk on to a chair behind his paper-scattered desk, a Virginia Slims cigarette between his fat fingers, studying some papers and in deep thought. He looked at his secretary, his hidden black eyes showing annoyance. Ayo Medeli, his secretary, came silently across the terrace from its western door, scratching his moustache. Ayo Medeli was in his early fifties; tall, thin and balding; with pooped out eyes and a pinched mouth. He had a very rare strange behavior and mannerism, something very close to acute weirdness mixed with madness but farther than that. He was a don’t-talk-but-just-listen-and-talk-only-when-very-necessary type of man. Most people thought that he was dumb and only Chief knew how he talked profusely like someone under a spell when a major discussion was going on between them. He could speak about seven foreign languages and had tight political cum world’s history knowledge. He had been extremely instrumental to the success of Chief’s dealings with big, powerful and influential names from different sectors throughout the world. Immediately he came in, he looked at Labina’s direction. He was longing for her, thinking of her beauty and that slender body. Chief had married two white women before and his ways with innumerable women were no longer a story. So Ayo was not surprised when he saw Chief back with Labina. It was like Chief came home from each vacation with a different woman; but Labina’s beauty and figure awed him. His lust almost gave him away when Chief barked: ‘Is The General or Senator Jersey Michael not coming again by ten?’ General Chike Ibinabor, GCFR, generally known as The General was a former president of the country; and Chief’s best crony that he confided in. They schooled in Korea together. He was the Board of Trustees’ Chairman of the ADP. He was a very ruthless, wise and witty man that Chief discussed his major ideas and robbed minds with before briefing the whole the G6. The General knew of any major decision of Chief before any other person, was his top adviser and the only one that knew Chief next to all Chief knew of himself. And now Chief was about making a major decision and needed his advice and support. Senator Jersey Michael, CFR, was a retired army Colonel, and Chief’s adviser. Chief saw him as his boy. He worked under Chief during Chief’s military regime and was Chief’s prime informant. In the Nigerian Senate and under Chief, he was a political spy that deceived everyone into thinking that he decamped to the Socialist Party and was no more in good terms with Chief. But it had been their plan to use him to spy their enemy, Socialist Party. Only few members of G6 actually knew this. Chief needed their support and advice in this critical moment. Once they second the move he was about making, then nothing on earth would prevent the execution of this move. He would have also invited the current presidential candidate of his party and another close crony but kicked against it. Once they conclude on the move, he would tell him of their plans. So to Chief, there was no panel as greater as having the ruthless brains of The General, Senator Jersey and Ayo brainstorm on ideas. And here he was, shouting at Ayo, his right-hand man as he was in a bad state and Ayo understood such moments. Ayo charismatically stood few meters in front of Chief’s desk touching his nose and scratching his moustache. ‘The General is on his way. Senator Jersey is coming sir. The Embraer Legacy 450 would soon be off to fetch the senator from Lagos. Like you know, there are so many things we need to know regarding the Socialist Party’s post-convention conference that ended two days ago in Lagos.’ ‘I have ears and I read papers and that includes why he is coming. Just in my few weeks’ absence, you all left everything in a mess. Everything is in a mess. Our party is falling in my country just because people I thought reliable could not handle petty political issues.’ Chief said in an angry and unfriendly voice as if he never knew Ayo, but continued controlled, ‘I want us to digest that my idea together. Remember to prepare everything at my den before they come, boss the cooks regarding the special Argentine cuisine for their lunch, you know the routine, so get things ready, we will discuss for long,’ Chief reminded him. Ayo nodded continuously and still scratching his moustache. ‘So what do you want now?’ Chief snarled after some seconds. ‘I do not want disturbance now!’ Ayo’s hand protruded immediately with a Sonny Ericson Planet Phone D25. ‘The Chief of Africa, the Commander-in-Chief is on the phone, he said you have not been taking his calls. That though he knows that you are not happy with him, that it is very urgent that he talks with you.’ ‘I am not talking with that jackass, tell him to call back later, only come in here again when The General or Senator Jersey Michael is around,’ Chief said in a cigarette affected voice and almost barking at him as if Ayo was solely responsible for his current problem. Ayo stiffened but recovered immediately. ‘But sir, the President . . . ,’ Ayo wanted to chime in but Chief stopped him with a raise of his right hand and waved him to the door with his eyes showing a dancing anger.

Knowing the sign, Ayo left ghostly like he came in, touching his nose as if to make sure it was still there, as if Chief’s anger had taken it off.

************************************************************* The Chief of Africa had been to the Aso Rock Villa immediately after he came back. He was so unhappy with some decisions and quick steps the President had taken during his a month absence. The President was irritating him badly and he now thought that the President also wanted to destroy their carefully built political empire as a way to pay the G6 back for his unsuccessful re-election bid which would have undermined their Aso Accord. Chief had said to the President during their discussion at the villa yesterday evening after they had watched the Socialist Party’s vice-presidential candidate’s manifesto programme together. ‘President Musa Abubakar, you have worsened the case. Why should you allow this young idiot to speak on this television network? This is an eleventh-hour publicity stunt that will sell us out the more. He had capitalized on it; the world just watched him. Imagine all he said about oppression, human rights violations, political prisoners, corruption and bad governance here. For goodness sake, The Africa Broadcasting International is the only satellite television network with firsthand details about happenings in Africa and Latin America. Hundreds of Millions of people all through the world are glued to it. What made you think that doing such would fetch us votes, if you think that it is a misleading development and that you are giving everyone a level playing ground? That is not needed; we would have continued with the way we have been playing this. We can never win on a free and fair basis; you know that, they have the populace. What is needed now is for us to use our misleading means and the media to cloud the rigging of the elections. Why should you also reduce the prices of oil products and pay those arrears of salaries within seconds? You still have not given me the reasons for all these you did, even without my knowledge, only until seconds before you implemented them. And even with my disapproval of all the implementations, you went ahead with implementing them.’ The Commander-in-Chief remained quiet; looking thinking and sorrowful; while Chief continued. ‘You have just made another mighty mistake and you have given our opponent something to sing about like he sang of now. They are cheap publicity stunts and very cheap ones for that matter. Okay see how he has capitalized on them, saying that we know what to do but corruption would not allow us to do so, he said this on the ABI. They have been saying all their nonsense in interviews on CNN and Al Jazeera which I have no problem with; but not on our own ABI. This is terrible for our image to our Western allies and the world. See how he pointed out the fact that all these eleventh-hour implementations would vanish once another of us enters power. Now they are using it as a major propaganda. We are looking worse. We continue losing people daily. I do not think that you still want to help us. You are not one of us anymore. Since that your funny second term plan was made not-existing again, you have been working against us chameleonly. But be warned, that if we lose the coming election, for your mistakes, I will settle you. I made you and I could see to your downfall at the snap of my fingers. If Mathew loses this presidential election owing to all this late rubbish, then be ready for the consequences.’ Chief threatened and started bouncing out of the President’s den immediately even without hearing the President who started gibbering at his back. ‘I now see your reasons Chief, but the pressure was so much. I . . . ,’ the President started diplomatically and seemed running after Chief but Chief was out of his den by then, walking heavily towards his CHIEF plated Bentley Mulsanne, parked at few meters away.

From the Aso Rock Villa, he had several meetings with top members of ADP at their party house. He also had a lengthy meeting with his party’s presidential candidate, Retired Major General Ikot Mathew-Appiam who was a member of the G6, former military governor of old Cross River State and also the former Minister of Information and Communications.

************************************************************* Labina watched how Chief treated his secretary without a word. She was an astute judge of men and Chief’s behavior since they came back had told her to leave him alone, that the man was under a hot iron. But she knew that Chief’s hot temper was not for her as she made a trial. ‘Capo, lei deve rilassare; the morning is too early to start up a day this way. There is nothing that could not be taken care of. And if you continue this way, you might make a big political mistake that might affect you later,’ she started advising, leaning forward. ‘Come, let us eat downstairs and maybe play on the bed after it, I am just offering a means of relaxation for you to calm down. After which I might help you digest the situation if you think I could advise in any form. I really do not know what is up; the only thing I can recollect is that we went to Germany for business like you said; from Germany to Gambia for a presidential inauguration. We returned to Nigeria yesterday morning, you left me in this whole villa that seemed like a federal state on its own. You did not even show me around the villa and left to see the President until very late last night. This morning you have not shown me any attention since you left the bed. Ciò che succede realmente con il suo partito?’ She asked. Though Chief saw sense in what she said about making nasty mistakes, he also knew that he did not have another way to play his script except the plan that he was thinking of. Chief ignored her but got to his feet again and walked over to a bank of flowers bordering the terrace. There, he was chain-smoking with his back to Labina while looking down at the swimming pool, his mind busy. He did not even show any sign that Labina was there nor even talked. After what seemed like sixteen minutes, he turned to her and said, ‘You make me laugh mio bellezza. Just relax. I would have time to show you around in the evening. I have issues that I will tell you about later, I do not doubt your intelligence and maybe contributions at all. Later Labina, later. I have an important meeting by ten am. Just find something to amuse yourself with downstairs.’ ‘How can I enter the wood? I wish to play with Winchester M97 in the wood,’ she asked. The mention of Winchester M97 gave Chief a quick nudge in his heart but he did not let it show. He did not like how the young woman played with guns every time. One day, she might be high on something and gun me down mistakenly, he thought. And death was the only thing he feared. ‘Okay, go dress up. Tell Ayo to call Maskey to take you around the wood. Maskey is in charge of it. Also tell Ayo to come up with my daily agenda so that I can see how to make out time for you later today. But keep in mind that we would attend a dinner party in the honor of the new German Ambassador to Nigeria by seven tonight.’ Chief said, admiring her. She stood up and walked towards him. They hugged each other and kissed hungrily for a moment. She had to keep up the performance, there would be more millions of U.S. dollars stuffed in briefcases in this big villa, she believed. She had not forgotten her chief aim of following Chief back to Nigeria and last night, she dreamt of ten million U.S. dollars in a briefcase in Chief’s wardrobe. ‘Andare va,’ Chief said and released her regretfully, ‘this is not time for this mio bellezza. I have issues to think about, and it’s going to be a crazy day. Anything you want, money, cars, whatsoever; tell Ayo and he would fix it. Also have your breakfast in the dining room. My chef must be ready with preparing our breakfast. I do not have the appetite for a breakfast right now,’ Chief concluded firmly. Seeing no need to push him, she inclined her head, gave him a quick kiss and left the terrace.

A pretty means of relaxation, very important, very very important, he thought, as he watched Labina hip-swish to the door. He turned and continued thinking his way out.

Chambers Umezulike was born at Ogidi in 1989. He’s a Nigerian Secular Humanist, Human Rights Defender, Novelist and Essayist. He’s a co-author of “The Metamorphoses Of Nigeria (1914 – 2014),” a 1000 paged Nigerian centenary book chronicling stages of economic, social, political . . . developments of Nigeria since 1914 that her Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated by the British. His articles and short fiction have been published in The Guardian, Sun (Nigerian dailies); and literary blogs and websites. He is currently doing his Master of Arts in International Studies at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya, on a university scholarship.

Chambers is set to tour eight Nigerian cities starting from Abuja as from May 1st. Click here for details of the Book Tour.

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