Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmadu and Alhaji Shehu ben Abba were friends—or so they thought. They had been that way for close to three decades since they first met as freshmen at the University of Colombia. They had a few things in common and a lot in contrast. Apart from them being African Islamic kids in a western college, they were co-incidentally from the same northern Nigerian state. They most importantly shared the same career interest— politics.
Their social origins were the prime contrasting factor about them. Shehu was the affluent, a little spoilt kid with fleshy cheeks and he never lacked anything he really needed, having a, money can do all things attitude.
On the other extreme end of means was poor Ibrahim. The frail, skinny, streetwise guy who needed one scholarship scheme or the other for every step he took into a classroom. He was brilliant—he had to be. Ibrahim had gone through shit and that wasn't figurative, a pit toilet had collapsed under him as a twelve year old.
Ibrahim had since then risen a long, thorny ladder to become the governor of Adamawa state. From that malnourished and unkempt boy to this pot- bellied politician, the very kind that stopped at nothing to get whatever he wanted, even political mandates. He was as good as they come, he was also as well fed as they appear—rounded tummy, fat neck with several skin infoldings up to the base of his skull . . . whoever says background determines one's ending?
He would have been a fine man if not for a few undesirable features like his longer than usual forehead, his bushy and fully grown eye lashes that required combing and then his tunnel-wide nostrils. He used to think he was the only one alive that could dip two fingers into a single nostril until his younger son tried it out with smooth success.
His' was a long journey along which he had learnt some skills and perfected some others. Being the first son in a poverty striking family of nine and having to compete on the big and rough stage of politics with the wealthy and influential, he had learnt how to be loyal to anyone who had the slightest means to help him in whatever way to achieve his ultimate personal goal.
What had been working for him and might as well turn out to be his biggest undoing was his eagerness to switch allegiance to the winning team. The skills he only had to perfect were amongst many; deceitfulness, an art he sublimely played to make anyone believe anything that escaped his mouth. He stood as the only one alive who could make the world believe once again the earth was flat with a simple argument.
Everything in him spoke of politics, the good and evil of it. He was talented in identifying opportunities and when he found one, he never lacked the tenacious will to grab it. A trait that came in handy when he met Shehu a member of the famous ben Abba family believed to be a scion of the great Modibbo Adama. It was a family that dominated northern Nigerian politics and business. In Ibrahim's cabinet, there were two ben Abbas, one at the senate, two at the house of representative, one at the state house of assembly, one federal minister and some others in different appointment offices.
Time seemed to have flown so fast, Alhaji Shehu ben Abba was sitting in Ibrahim's office, face to face with the same man who used to do his laundry, get someone to do his assignments, clean up the apartment they shared, cook his meals and every other chore a housemaid should do, then later in the evening bore him to sleep with stories of the humility of his childhood.
'This is insane and it's daddy Mallam's fault,' Shehu spat out in sublime anger without any attempt to conceal it.
Mallam Umaru ben Abba was widely addressed as daddy Mallam, even among his children, Shehu and his siblings. He was the strategic orchestrator of every political move of the dynasty and for that responsibility, surrounded himself with eggheads.
According to daddy Mallam three years ago, it was wise for Shehu to go to the senate and if after four years he wished not to continue, would run for governor which had been his desire. Shehu knew well enough how futile and unwise it was to oppose daddy Mallam.
Meanwhile, not just anyone but a family loyalist had to hold fort at the state government house. He had to be smart and at the same time understand the family's interests. That was Ibrahim's spot in the picture.
Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmadu, a smart and brilliant social climber who could not afford to miss a pint of a chance to fraternize with the famous and wealthy was introduced by Shehu to daddy Mallam, the head of a political empire who sought and grabbed any opportunity to add yet another canny wonder kid to his ever growing team.
Their meeting was like a desperate spouse- searching bachelor and an equally desperate spinster. Two opportunists, of course when a man searching for a wife stumbles into a woman searching for a husband, marriage becomes a certainty, and that was their story.
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When Shehu immediately after graduation at a party organized for him was bragging to daddy Mallam about the credentials of his servant friend, all daddy Mallam hung on to was that he was smart, can be loyal and from a poor family. Those were all he required from him. Quickly, he was drafted to a ben Abba's campaign team and after the senatorial victory, he was appointed as special assistant. He soon became known as daddy Mallam's boy. Even family members loved him more than their own brothers perhaps for the fact that he had proven to them on many occasions he can give his life for the family's course.
As expected, Shehu had had enough of the senate's ayes and nays, now he wanted his birthright governorship. As unexpected though, Ibrahim was unwilling to let go sweet power. Two days after Shehu announced his candidacy, he requested him for a meeting in his office.
For over an hour, he had been explaining and pleading, applying every trick he knew to sell to Shehu the reasons he needed a second term, Shehu wasn't buying. He might not be as intelligent and keen as the other man but he had this ben Abba trait going for him. An overwhelming unwillingness to compromise.
A slight and gentle shake of his head was all he needed to communicate his firm position.
'I beg you in the name of Allah,' Ibrahim repeated solemnly for the twenty-fourth time that afternoon.
Shehu narrowed his eyes on Ibrahim's large mahogany desk occupying the space between them; it was of a huge size it could stage a grand sumo wrestling championship. For a while he looked around the office, it was a lot better than it was when his uncle was governor. 'see what this bastard is trying to keep me away from,' he thought.
'You know you risk impeachment if daddy Mallam gets to hear of this selfishness,' Shehu made an attempt at a little threat, he tried to sound casual but he knew daddy Mallam's prowess was well known to Ibrahim, at the same time he knew how calm his friend could be in the face of crises.
Droplets of sweats formed a trickle down Ibrahim's cheeks, otherwise he appeared calm. That man could say the two stanzas of the national anthem softly in the midst of a 9.9 magnitude earthquake.
Ibrahim took a 360 degree turn on his swivel chair then returned to fix a jovial stare on his guest. 'I told you about this long before now, Shehu.'
'I thought you were kidding', Shehu returned quickly and hotly too, 'and of course you had to be, you know how much I want this', he lifted his hands from the mansion of a desk and folded them on his chest, 'now it is late, you don't expect me to call a press conference to announce a withdrawal, do you?'
'You can do that for a friend.'
'And jeopardize the family's political strength?' Shehu asked wrathfully.
Still playing it calmly, Ibrahim replied, 'It's called sacrifice,' it sounded sakreeifaiice, like Elton John said it, 'I do it for the family often.'
Shehu stood up, anger in his eyes, clenched fist and teeth, jerking his chin muscle momentarily as a characteristic sign of his rage. 'This conversation is over,' Shehu declared with such an authoritative tone that Idi Amin himself would have envied. 'If you dare bring this up again, I'll make sure daddy Mallam hears,' he adjusted his agbada, by swinging his arms upward and forward towards his chest. He adjusted his cap too then turned to the exit door, 'Have a nice day.'
Ibrahim chose not to respond; instead he punched some numbers on his telephone.
The drive from the government house to the airport was roughly twenty minutes, giving the slightly heavy traffic. He had to fly back to Abuja for another of those boring executive sessions where all they do was talk and argue endlessly on issues without results and for a little excitement, rain vilifications on each other.
When he got elected to the senate, he told his little son he was going to make laws for the nation, after three years inside that dome; he could not remember ever making one. He had moved only one motion in the house so far and that wasn't to be considered underwhelming for a man who strongly believed the best way to waste four years was to hole up in the senate.
'This chump head really wants me to do this for four more years,' he muttered to himself in anger.
Then a call came into his cell, to his disgust it was Ibrahim. He cursed before he opened his line. 'Yes?'
'Calm down, Shehu', Ibrahim attempted, 'I was just thinking about Idris your late or lost brother, how mysterious his case was, the aftermath of his disappearance . . .' he went on with an unusually passionate tone.
'I don't understand you Ibrahim . . .'
Meanwhile, his driver made a sudden turn into a road that does not lead to his destination. He taxied so fast into this desolate road and the preceding events happened so fast. A dusty, non tarred brownish road with shallow drainage gutters on its shoulders and rusted roof mud huts further on its flanks took over from the tarred dual carriage city traffic road miles into their diversion.
'What are you doing? Where are you taking us to,' he screamed at the driver, holding the cell away from his mouth. Without waiting for any response he held the cell closer to finish with Ibrahim. 'What are you talking about Ibrahim?'
Ibrahim continued still calmly but a little cold this time, 'This is what I'm trying to say, now we can't tell if he's dead or not but if you get there and he happens to be dead, please do tell him how much we miss him, and tell him I'm sorry.'
'What are you talking about?' a confused Shehu questioned.
'Modu has a better explanation,' Ibrahim assured.
He turned to his left to face Modu, the mobile police escort. Modu already had his .9mm police revolver pointed at Shehu's left temple. 'I sorry oga', the officer's countenance and next action wasn't anything apologizing.
The next sound and of course the last Shehu heard was a click of the trigger.
The End (oku agu)