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Déjà vu – Part 2


In keeping with his routine whenever the Prime Minister returned from a trip outside the national capital, the Minister of the Interior again called at the Prime Minister’s water-front official residence on Marina Street. The nine o’clock nightly news had just begun when Mallam Yusuf stepped into Alhaji Gambo’s private sitting room; as though on cue, the four other persons in the cozy room took their leave no sooner than the minister had relieved his legs, exchanging pleasantries in Arabic with the Prime Minister.

‘‘Congratulations Mallam; I just heard on the news that the restive students have finally agreed to return to their classrooms…

‘‘Thank you, Prime Minister. This spate of protests really stretched our resources; we would have had dire challenges had they continued for another week. Honestly, Alhaji, there would have been serious security issues.

‘‘I wonder why they can’t carry out their protests without attacking the police. I mean, what’s the use in sending these children to school to acquire the skills to express themselves, if they always have to resort to violence at the least provocation? We didn’t see this pattern of protests in our student days.


‘‘Certainly not,’ helpfully put in Mallam Yusuf, ‘this is a strange departure from university tradition. Our intelligence people are developing a theory that there might be some outside influence…

‘‘You mean like from unscrupulous politicians?

‘‘Exactly, sir. There is hardly any other way to explain the source of the caliber of weapons that are found on these boys; honestly.

‘‘The minister’s response instantly invoked Prime Minister Gambo’s characteristic fixed stare. A male steward in a spot-less white uniform entered the room, bearing a steaming pot of tea and teacups on silver tray. The dignified duo barely acknowledged him as he proceeded to empty the impressively crested pot into the cups in turn. In another moment the steward left the room.

‘‘It seems to me your intelligence people and The Kalifa have been comparing notes of late…

‘‘I do not quite follow, sir,’ interjected the minister, darting a glance at the Prime Minister.

‘‘Mallam, our Premier is a resolute believer in the laws of science. You probably would recall your secondary school laws of motion and stability… You know, about how every action results in an equal and opposite reaction; and how everybody would remain in its state of equilibrium until acted upon by an external force. The Kalifa believes, in a like inner, that every society or social-setting would continue in its state of stability until it comes under external influence.

‘‘Mallam Samahu Idris is as much a scientist as he is a political and spiritual leader; his school of thought aligns perfectly with that of our intelligence people.

‘‘That school of thought has led us to make new resolutions at our latest meeting,’ resumed the Prime Minister with Mallam Yusuf again darting a glance at his companion, his breath virtually bated. ‘We resolved that some external influence must in large part account for all the headaches we have been getting from the eastern region, particularly under the leadership of Mr. Etah. The socialist flavour of his economic programmes has led us to suspect that some communist country with territorial ambitions might be the source of finances for the region’s unequalled economic success story…

‘‘Hmm, that makes a lot of sense; I have always wondered about that, now this offers some possible explanation for all the firsts of the region: first free primary education, first radio station, first television station, first free primary health care, first bottling company,’ thoughtfully interjected the pensive minister, still looking unwaveringly at his host.

‘‘Therefore, we further resolved to set up a commission of inquiry to thoroughly look into the finances of the region soon after the June hand-over of offices,’ explained the Prime Minister, prompting his audience of one to quickly call to mind some of the many less-than-conscionable assignments he had had to undertake as the then inspector-general of police on behalf of Alhaji Gambo, as the then deputy Prime Minister and Minister of defence. More often than not these assignments had tended to run foul of the national constitution, Mallam Yusuf thought. Still, he contemplated the Prime Minister as he focused more on the imminent commission of inquiry.

‘‘As you well know Mallam…

‘‘Sorry to interrupt, sir; I’m at a loss here. I was wondering how mere acceptance of funds from a friendly communist country could pass as an infringement of our national interests.

‘‘Alhaji Gambo stared at the minister as though seeing him for the first time that evening.

‘‘Honourable Minister, it is a potential security breach for any part of the country to associate with any nation that expressly denies the existence of Allah!

‘‘But the east is a staunch Christian region, and has been so for…

‘‘But don’t forget those millions of hard currency always come with inflexible conditions, yes?

‘‘Yes; but religion can’t possibly be one of those conditions. Em, that would be asking for too much of a people.

‘‘If you give a people much money you are at liberty to demand much from them. Mallam, when you consider the quantum of economic projects that came into being at a period when the region didn’t have access to their RCF money, you would agree that much money flowed into the east from somewhere. Even Christianity recognizes that to whom much is given, much is expected.

‘‘No doubt, Mallam, you would agree that such an association could jeopardize our national aspirations, and therefore should be identified and promptly uprooted. That’s exactly what the commission of inquiry will set out to achieve,’ the Prime Minister conclusively asserted with an uncertain facial expression that suggested to his guest that they were sinister motives behind the proposed commission of inquiry.”
Nkemdiche, an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.

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