Nkem


by Nwanne Agwu

You had known her since you began your kindergarten classes in the school. A normal classmate was what she was until you began to admire her.

Every evening you would go to the shop to help Mama out and sometimes, she would go home to rest for the day. You had read that stress caused stroke and you told Mama to always rest. Whenever you met her doing some chores, you would cajole her and make sure she left the work for you.

Mama knew about Kasie, the girl you had been friends with since grade ten. ‘She is now growing into an agbogho,’ Mama would say. ‘Make sure you both don’t do anything wrong.’ You knew you would never put your thing into hers, you only held hands and talked about what you had heard, about the proposed change which you preferred corruption to. About Naira’s depreciating value towards the Dollar. About fuel scarcity and the Dictator’s, sorry, President’s childish and non rhetoric speeches. You always laughed at the President’s accent  because he talked as if the words were so hot and he had to keep his mouth open, for the air to go in and cool them while he spoke, he sounded so hollow.

Her father was a University professor who had invited you to his house, after you had helped him take the bag of garri and tin tomatoes he had bought from your store, into the boot of his car. That was when you began to admire Kasie. She was chocolate-skinned with big eyes that made you think she could see what you thought. Her lips were pink and you had to ask her if she applied lipstick, the type that your cousin would always line her lips with and begin to rub her lips together, releasing them as though they were sticky. Her breasts were gradually increasing and you were amazed to hear that she hated using relaxer on her hair—she preferred her afro. Her legs were straight, so straight that you began to compare which was more straight between yours and hers.

Her leg kept you warm during the cold mornings of the rainy season and the harmattan. You both removed your socks and made your feet touch, caressing each other. You would stop and lean your leg on hers, you always looked at her face to see if she smiled or not. You knew she didn’t know you looked at her from your isi-anya. Sometimes she would lean on your shoulder and you had noticed that her body felt so warm that you used to ask if she had fever, until the day she told you that that was her normal temperature. She in turn joked that you were cold blooded, because your hands felt cold. You wished to become as warm as she was. You wished for the day you would sleep with her, sometimes you were frightened if you will be shy about her seeing your manhood that day; it was so big. You had heard your friends talk about how the girls moaned and cried as they were thrusting and withdrawing, and the way they jerked. They walked home through the akwuna lodge, the place where harlots lived; no one called it a brothel.

You hardly thought about other girls because that was something you should never do, but whenever you thought about kissing, sucking and having sex you made sure, you didn’t visualize Kasie in your mind’s eye, it was done only with other girls in mind.

Kasie was a different girl, you always walked her to the bus stop before you joined your other friends. She was one of the most important reasons why you always looked forward to Mondays during the weekends. She made your weekdays, adding a certain sort of flavour to your life. You had begun loving unrelaxed hairs and her ideologies and her thoughts were always yours. You knew what she could and couldn’t say. You would watch her mount an okada, before you would turn to go home, sometimes you both walked till you’d reach the junction of your street.

She waved bye as you turned to leave. But you were not feeling alright. You wanted to walk home with her. Something was happening inside of you, something that seemed listless and unfathomable.
‘Whrrrrrrlll…tsssaah’ You heard it, the sound of a crash. Kasie and the bike rider lay on the road with blood on their heads and legs and and hands and mouths. Blood was flowing. You could see as it gushed like water from the yellow plastic container you used to fetch water. It was as if sacks of sand were tied to your calves, you could barely move and you could not even think. You couldn’t believe that it was the same Kasie you had just talked to that lay on the road. Only then did you know why a man who was suddenly met by a fierce lion would only stand and look in fright; your mind ran away. Some kind hearted people helped to get a taxi which conveyed her and the okada rider to the hospital. You were in the taxi with some other woman. You didn’t walk home with her—you were driven to the hospital with her. She was unconscious.

Nwanne Agwu is a Nigerian writer and poet. He is an introverted extrovert, a teenager, so shy. He has published at Brittle Paper, Flash Fiction Press and Pengician. His poem was among the top ten entries for the Chinua Achebe’s Iconic Ceremony, Awka, 2016. He lives in Abakaliki and blogs at nwanneagwu.wordpress.com

The President

On Friday morning, the breaking news in Lufrika was about the death of Fisadi. There were different versions about this Lufrikan leader’s death. One theory said that certain key leaders from the neighbouring country had bribed the doctors to euthanize him. Another theory was that God’s wrath was on him because he had enriched himself through the sweat of the poor. Others said that Fisadi was becoming a nuisance to the leaders of the neighbouring lands, because he never allowed them to dictate policies. People suspected that his death was organized, so that they could put their own leaders in office, who would dance to the tune of the policies that worked for them and benefitted their economy. Those leaders were known to plant their own leaders in government, whom they could use as puppets, with the intention of progressing their own agendas. Although Fisadi was a corrupt leader, he would be remembered for his firm stand against any manipulation by the neighbouring leaders. Lufrika needed a strong leader who would courageously administer the right dose of resistance to the oppressive neighbouring leaders. Fisadi rubbed shoulders with the neighbouring states when they wanted to introduce foreign ideologies that were meant to kill home-grown ideas.

Lufrika was one the most intelligent nations, with innovative people – although they were untapped. The land had a warm, cultured and educated populace. In spite of this beauty, the land was run by some neighbouring authorities. Lufrika exported raw materials at a cheap price, but bought back the finished product at exorbitant prices which were set by their exporters. The wealth of Lufrika benefited neighbouring lands more than it benefited those living in the land. Fisadi was hated by neighbouring lands because he eloquently told them to stop raping Lufrika, by using unbalanced multilateral trade. His speech and his relationship to a few neighbouring countries that were not trying to oppress Lufrika was positive, but it was offensive to those countries that exploited Lufrika.

A week later, Fisadi was laid to rest. The Tumbo Kubwa stadium was filled to capacity. People from all walks of life, the rich and the poor, as well as dignitaries from other lands, came to bid Fisadi farewell. Death could be a celebration of a well-lived life. However, the death of Fisadi was a celebration of the death of a bad leader. The majority of the populace were looking forward to seeing Fisadi leave the office because they were sick and tired of seeing their money being spent on building ‘a kingdom’ in his compound. They were sick and tired of seeing roads that were in a mess, despite the fact that the taxman followed Lufrikans everywhere. They were sick and tired of seeing escalating levels of corruption, with Fisadi doing nothing about it. They were sick and tired of seeing Fisadi and his comrades involved in numerous scandals, including the arms deal scandal and the siphoning of public money.

In his tenure, the economy had waned as a result of the huge wage bill, which had grown by the day, due to the creation of new ghost workers. A bunch of employees had smart pay slips at the end of the month, yet they had never worked anywhere. These ruthless ticks that relentlessly sucked the sweet blood of taxpayers, looked for more godfathers in office, so that they could fit them into the job system somewhere else. Having a good job, and more than one job, was about whom you knew in office, and not about one’s merits, qualifications or experience. God forbid! As if that was not enough, nepotism, ethnicity and racism was a huge problem during his tenure. Fisadi’s family and his relations were rewarded with the best jobs. It was pointless to apply for tenders or to consider looking at the gazetted tenders, because of the high level of corruption. Those in power knew who was to be given the job or tender, even before the job interview or tender was publicized. It was the time of a new generation in this land, that drove fancy cars and lived extravagantly, only a few months after they had been employed or received tenders.

It is important to mention that race was a factor that dictated who was smarter in a job. As if skin colour helped one to think better or less; as if skin colour determined who delivered the best or the worst work; as if skin colour determined who could be less or more corrupt, if he was given a job. Gosh! Wonders never cease. Some races had to work a little harder at school because the system had set their bar higher for certain races. There was no ‘I have got these certificates with these qualifications’, but it was all about ‘I look like this’ or ‘I speak like that’. This had demoralized learners, because they were never assured of a job opportunity in their own country, the schools never taught about having an entrepreneurial spirit, neither in the early stages, nor in the later stages of their schooling. All the learners knew was that they needed to work hard to get a white collar job. Period. Education was not regarded as a tool that enabled one see how one could employ oneself and others, or how one could transform society, but it was a tool that determined the type of white-collar job you would get.

The requiem mass was celebrated by Father Pesa. He loved money more than anything else. Pesa and money were inseparable. Some of his flock made jokes about him, saying that even if he died and later rose from the dead, his first question would be, ‘Where is my money?’ In Lufrika, most of the clergy were like Father Pesa in terms of their materialistic attitudes and attachment to money. In all his sermons he made sure that he spoke about money, although never directly. He was known for telling people that if you bring your gifts, God would bless you and you would be rich. The flock gave huge amounts of money, because they feared that they would be cursed for failing to give, or for giving meanly. As if that was not enough, Pesa faked miracles, when his sermons did not woo people enough to tithe open-handedly. In most of his crusades, Pesa told people to ask the Lord for flashy vehicles, well-built houses or a good life, a good spouse, and so forth. His perception of success was materialistic and not a holistic one, which focused on spiritual, moral and physical pursuits. For him, and for many other fake preachers in Lufrika, the Gospel was used for personal and monetary gain and not for the holistic transformation of the people. The Gospel was made to talk money, instead of untainted truths. Establishing a church in Lufrika was a money-spinning enterprise. If yourbusiness failed, you needed to open a church and money would flow into your pockets, as fast as the flowing waters of the Niagara Falls.

On the day of the funeral, Pesa was the main celebrant and would take any available opportunity to make a kill. He knew those who attended the funeral were big shots, and was therefore prepared to focus his sermon on his financial target. He brought deeper baskets, to hold the hefty donations that he anticipated. More ushers were deployed and were on standby, from the time that the celebration began. This day was his moment to look out for money and please other politicians, instead of exercising his prophetic mission – this was the time when politicians robbed the poor people of their hard-earned money. You would expect a clergyman in his capacity to console the bereaved and, at the same time, talk about the need to mend one’s ways and to turn back to God, whom they had abandoned when they got involved in corruption and all sorts of injustices.

Due to his greed for money, Pesa never corrected the politicians who used citizens for their political agendas. During Fisadi’s tenure, the church was cohabitating with politicians. The church had abandoned its prophetic mission and slept with politicians and affluent people on their golden beds. The beds were so comfortable that they would never again see the value of walking with the populace on the edge. The marriage between Father Pesa and Fisadi’s leadership saw the death of a preacher that was once vocal and who spoke his mind fearlessly. He was now a preacher masquerading in the mask of a loving preacher, yet he was a traitor in the community of have-nots.

“Please be seated, Sisters and Brothers in Christ,” Pastor Pesa begins. “Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are gathered here to celebrate a well-lived life, the life of a man who dedicated his life to raising the standards of Lufrikans.” (People signalled each other with their lips, as they disapproved what the preacher said). “We bemoan the loss of a champion for the less fortunate on our soil. Fisadi will leave an unfillable gap in the hearts of those women and men whom he served indefatigably.” In order not to hurt the politicians allied to him, whom he adored because of his passion for money, he spoke really well about the deceased. ‘Do not bite the finger that feeds you’, goes the saying. Although the late Fisadi was a criminal who liaised with other politicians in siphoning off public money, before his ascendancy into power as the leader of Lufrika, Father Pesa canonized him throughout the funeral proceedings.

None of the projects, of which he was in charge, was ever completed. Most of the institutions and departments which he had headed up, had collapsed. Fisadi had blood on his hands. During his tenure, many people disappeared in politically-organized car accidents, gang shootings and food poisonings. These were all organized by Fisadi and his government. Despite his hands smelling of blood, Father Pesa (the man of God) still canonized him as a saint during his sermon, because the deceased had sustained him with blood money.

Father Pesa went on praising Fisadi, saying how good he was, how he brought development, how he empowered the youth, women and children, and how he improved the dilapidated infrastructure, and so on. In spite of him being a criminal, he was presented with saintly accolades that made him out to be a harmless dove. These preposterous praises that were poured onto the deceased, were hated with passion by most of the suffering populace that saw his leadership as an era of tribulation and hell. The ‘chicken’ that Father Pesa had been eating with the politicians in their intimate marriage, caused him to lose his moral authority as a pastor, while he was meant to bring hope to the suffering.

*excerpt from The President by Anthony Gathanmbiri Waiganjo available here

Anthony Gathambiri Waiganjo was born in Kihurin village in the Nyeri Country, Kenya. He wrote the novel ‘The President ‘ while pursuing his PhD degree in Gender Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), and lecturing at the same university.