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Broken Club… Jideofor Aluka

Eddy tried to push you out of his office. When his hands reached your chest you found it hard to swallow. In that instance your mouth clasped. Everything ran out, away from your mind. It was hard for anyone to accept. For what?
Madam was the first to rush into the office. She was screaming. No sir. No sir. If she put herself in-between you she would be ruffled.
Rogers came in. With the table that had tripped you to the floor, he kept your fists apart.

Did you not walk into this place on that Monday morning? You and Eddy. It was Eddy’s first day in office as the commissioner for social welfare. The PRO led you two with your entourage. Those who followed you were the commissioner’s orderly; a police corporal you said his baton was broken and worn. And seven other people drawn from Eddy’s kiths and kin.
Eddy’s office was where the tour ended. You advised Eddy it was the proper thing to do, to visit all the departments in the ministry. You said he was supposed to meet as many of the ministry staff as possible. They ought to know their honourable commissioner from day one, you urged.
You saw the fair, busty lady occupying a desk as secretary to the honourable commissioner. You called her madam. And since then you’ve called her Madam. Even though you got to know her name is Deborah.
You asked the PRO jocosely. ‘You guys have even chosen a PA for the commissioner?’ He caught your game. And everyone laughed.
‘She’s beautiful, anyway… and I know she would be smart.’ You added, commending the brisk way Madam opened the door to Eddy’s new office.

That was seven months ago. About a year earlier you had gone to Chief’s country home to thank him for his support. That was what you told Chief. Even though your actual mission was to ask for his continued support. It was you who made the arrangement. It was you who knew who introduced you to Chief’s younger brother. It was you who gave the man twenty thousand naira as appreciation. And he mumbled that fifteen thousand would be going to Chief’s younger brother.
It was Eddy who bought the Remy Martins you presented to Chief to thank him for his support.
Chief received you well. He told you he was the one who was supposed to thank you more. You were the engine and axle of your ward, he said. The vote from Eri-Eri I made him party chairman.
When he acknowledged that you said ‘thank you Chief.’ You did not hesitate to mention the efforts of the ward chairman and the woman leader. You mentioned the names of other members of the executive council of Eri-Eri I. When you said that Eddy nodded. He nodded calmly because you two understood how that day had gone.

The voters arrived the venue of the election before it was 9:00am. There was long disagreement with the electoral committee over what model to adopt for the exercise. But not everybody was aware. Open secret ballot. You agreed in private with the chairman.
A little while later, the chairman came to tell you opposition persisted. Option A4 they insisted. He told you the treasurer and his line-up would not budge.

You remember the treasure. A smallish man with a big head and a harsh mustache. He wore brown caftan two times his size the day you joined the executive council meeting called by the chairman. In a serene tone he asked why you were at the EXCO meeting.
While he talked you did not stop choosing from the tray chairman’s niece passed before you. You did not relent as you picked the biggest garden egg with a quantity of groundnut sauce. You were pent-up. And you did not ask the little girl about Nda Oyi, her father, as was in your mind. You kept gaze on your fruit and made sure you did not see the treasurer’s face
‘Madam Aisha is here.’ Treasurer also frowned.
You concluded he had no case. If he brought Madam Aisha into it, you had no case. He should have known.
Madam Aisha insists she is the substantive woman leader of Eri-Eri I. Chief Mrs Grace was suspended three weeks past by the disciplinary committee set up by the party executive at the LGA level. When people gathered in front of the hall that day, outside the party secretariat, Dr Oguna had said someone could be in that capacity as part of the delegation to welcome the first lady. The chairman of the disciplinary committee had said it to everyone’s hearing.
Madam Aisha was part of the delegation. When she shook hands and smiled back at the first lady, the first lady wished her luck as woman leader.
The chairman got his voice in defence of Madam Aisha. Treasurer disagreed. Others disagreed with him. And the meeting did not hold.

This is a small man you thought. You could constrict him with your left hand. You worried that the day was slipping from you. You went to the gate and told Eddy it was hard to change things to your favour. If his candidate lost Eri-Eri I, he was sure his candidate would lose the governorship.
You went back and saw the vice chairman was not at a place. His face looked like he was looking for somebody to call.
Of the three candidates you called one person awkward. You called him awkward because he was not supported by the chairman’s faction, which you belonged. He was not supported by the treasurer’s faction. He was awkward. The vice chairman had given him no chance. And you too did not.
The vice chairman had a hopeless mope as a huddle formed for the awkward candidate. You shared his hopelessness. You talked to him and he agreed to your plan.
It was Eddy who ran to you with a proposal. Twelve thousand naira for each person in the opposition. It was the chairman and the woman leader who lured the electoral officer away. It was Eddy who arrived in minutes behind the building with a sack bag filled with two hundred naira bills. It was you who handed the treasurer twenty thousand naira. You appealed to him. Your proverb meant a man does not dare another man.
He began to tell you how his disagreement with chairman began. He told you it was a time before they became members of the executive council of Eri-Eri I. He reminded you of Chief’s court case. You told him you followed Chief’s case in the court until the embezzlement charge was thrown out for improper presentation. He told you he was supposed to be in the court that day. He was selected to be in the list. And he would have received the five thousand naira given to other supporters of the party stalwart. He was supposed to be there to sing praises of Chief. But he was singled out from the list. He told you it was chairman who made that happen. Chairman made him lose five thousand naira. He told you chairman continued to make effort against his becoming visible in the ward. He told you the chairman did not understand that he’s an inalienable ally in the ward. That was his disagreement with the chairman.
You pleaded with him. And you told him all his troubles were over. You told him you would introduce him to chief, as he has supported your plan.

Option A4.

The line for the awkward candidate was obviously longer.
Someone started the noise. What are we doing? There is no order. It is not fair. It is not free. We don’t agree.
The others you had arranged joined. You caused chaos.
The electoral officer made an announcement to suspend the exercise. The chairman and treasurer stood behind him.
In the morning of the next day, it was announced in the radio. Eri-Eri I reported the freest and fairest election. You made Chief party chairman.

Months later Eddy’s candidate became the governor of the state.

The day Eddy was confirmed commissioner you said Eddy had got to the end of his own track. You said that to a mutual friend. The man was at the swearing in with you. He said Eddy was not at the end of his own track. He just covered a lap, he mentioned. When you said it was a very lucrative lap, he agreed. And told you it was as much like you too had covered a lap in a 4x4 track.

Then, you remembered where it all began, during the political season of 1992.

You bickered with Eddy in front of the university auditorium. The spectators called it a bull fight. They shouted Bull vs Bull… The noise around you now does not feel like the spectators cheers that day.
The next day your posters were everywhere in the campus. BULL FOR PRESIDENT… , ENYI. THE PRESIDENT YOU WANT…
It was your H.O.D who first called you Bull. The appellation spread from the mouth of your course mates. Dr Akin had called you Bull that day you stood up in class. The day you interrupted his explanation of how international treaties work. You wanted to empty your bowl. When you said that, the lecturer’s dumb look was going to make everyone laugh. ‘For a bull to rise in such a manner it must be five gallons of hot liquid for the grasses.’ He forced you a laugh.
The day he lectured about international activism as an element of international relations you did not grasp a thing. You met him for a private lecture. He told you activism without measurable political influence is worthless. He received you many more times and you began to see him as a mentor.
It was not you who involved Dr Akin when another Bull (ENYI) out of rumour materialized as presidential candidate. It was a friend of yours, your course mate. It was this friend of yours who told you you could use persuasion on Eddy. He told you you could persuade Eddy to step down for you. He told you that’s diplomacy. It was he who told you Dr Akin handles the toughest course in Eddy’s department. Your course mate told you your head of department is your tool.
Dr Akin talked to Eddy. When he did he cajoled Eddy. And told him you two were for the same cause. He told Eddy how well he admired his political vibrancy. Even though he was an outsider; as he called persons outside the humanities. He said to Eddy, that he admired his political resolve even as member of the science faculty. But it is a game of give and take, he made him know. Give your friend this one and as a member of your faculty for the next semester I will encourage you.
That day, as your H.O.D talked to Eddy before you you did not talk. Eddy too only listened. You listened because you were almost certain of the outcome. Eddy listened because it was supposed to be the final agreement on the matter. Because many of your friends and supporters had talked to him. He was promised support as Director of Socials.
As Dr Akin talked to Eddy, as he lectured him on reciprocation in politics, he said the kind of things he would say in your class. Politics is about forging alliances. Politics is a continuous affair. It is a union that lasts many years.
‘My friend’, he called Eddy. ‘This is an opportunity to create a synergy that will last you a life time.’
‘The Bull is an ally.’ Your H.O.D said not looking to any particular of you. But he heaved pride into your steady heart. Eddy’s face staggered up like a boxing promoter who’s about to throw in the towel.

‘Give me your support as D.O.S.’ Eddy begged.

That day you agreed on how to execute the first riot.

You were president. Eddy was Director of Socials. You were the face of student activism. The previous administration had begun efforts to have the school authority rescind a new levy. The levy was called examination fee. Announcement of the levy was made in your class by your H.O.D. That day you wanted to debate it. But Dr Akin sternly told your class all he had to do was pass information that came from the vice chancellor’s office. It was announced the semester before you ran for president.
You said students were not supposed to pay extra money as examination fee. You said it was not fair. The other time you tried to raise the levy in class Dr Akin laughed you off and called you a weak activist. In same manner, he said it was not his responsibility. He would not solicit for students before school authority. He told your class such matters were not considered a problem in his own days. In his own days of school activism. (If student activism had not been killed.) But in the days he taught you privately he encouraged you to resurrect it.
It was Eddy who organized the seventy or so students in Zik Square. It was he who had told them the university authority compromised the last Student Union Government and would go ahead with the levy. It was he who told them you would lead a demonstration to the vice chancellor’s office. The students, under you, were to register their displeasure. The seventy heads drew voices in the hundreds. The voices said; WE ARE NOT HAPPY, WE CANNOT BEAR THIS, TREAT US LIKE YOUR CHILDREN… The placards also read same.
A placard had REVERSE THE ILLEGAL FEE written on the white surface with a black colour. Later you told Eddy that was an inappropriate way to express a legitimate displeasure. You told him it shocked you when you saw it. That was when you stood in the pavement in front of the vice chancellor’s office. It was when your voice aired the mind of the students before the vice chancellor and the school authority.
You didn’t like what the placard read. But you liked that the vice chancellor was uncomfortable. You liked that his infamous baritone could not hide discomfort. You liked that he recognized you as the new government. And when days later your S.U.G council debated the ambiguous response you got from the school authority you said the most important point was that you registered your position as a new government.

That was on a Wednesday. On Friday of the next week police was in campus. A report had it that someone was shot. There was rumour of two fatalities. A girl you know was raped. A boy lost money that was supposed to be his school fees. The students rioted when your rumour seeped into campus that the vice chancellor had reneged on his pledge to drop the levy. Part of the false talk was that the special squad of the Nigeria Police had arrested Eddy on his way to class. The students caused trouble. And the police came.
While police paraded the school main gate students broke louvers and ceiling. By the time you made the five minutes plea for peace you were in front of the auditorium. You knew a boy called Eric and some other group of rascals had pulled down the fence around the back gate. You knew your riot had slipped away from you. You knew it had turned violent. You heard the sound you were told later was the sound of gun shot by students. You knew it was then everything wrong could happen to anybody. You knew nothing about the safety of your students. You had no clue what the school authority was up to. You did not know Eddy’s whereabouts.
It was later, that night, Eddy told you the signal you were both expecting came. But it came late. He told you when you searched for him he was at the library waiting for the representative. He told you he stayed there from 8:00am till it was dark.
You began to blame him for what Eric and the other boys did. You told him he should have given them signal that the plan was on course. You told him you could not go to them because you feared of your safety. Because you feared that if you told them their role was no longer necessary it was a must that you settled them. And you hadn’t the money to.
Eddy complained to you that they had started off rather too early. They should have given more time. At least 11:00am. He told you by the time he learnt of the riot it was late. He could not leave the library. He learnt he was declared missing.
It was then you repeated that it was not your fault that the riot started. The school authority had promised to provide the appropriation of the S.U.G from the school budget. They said they would do so from the beginning of the week. When you negotiated, you said the week was tense. You needed the money to arrange activities for the students. It was to avoid what happened. You wanted to avoid rascals hijacking the legitimate demand of the real students. But the settlement came late.
The next day you led a peace rally. It was on a Saturday. You led the peace rally to restore calm in campus. You did not say anything about the fee. You said what was paramount was peace and the safety of your students. That day you said your government would do everything to make sure peace reigned in the institution. You promised that the students would get their due through dialogue and discipline. As years went by, you maintained that that was a high point in your activism. You said it taught you how to handle agitations with dialogue.

It was the point The Union secretary, Rogers, made again and again. ‘Let’s continue with the dialogue.’ He said this with a tone that defied his height. It wasn’t the Rogers that would hold Ike by the collar and tell him he was a stupid vice-president to oppose the views of his principal. It wasn’t the Rogers you begged to stop fighting with a certain landlord. The landlord claimed he had paid his annual dues to the secretary of the union. He fought him because the landlord couldn’t recognize him as the secretary. He does not talk soft always. You said the only soft thing about him was his albino skin. Whenever you said that you added that the path he took to the summit he had reached in activism tanned him into something between hypo pigmentation and a dark skin colour.

It was when Rogers came between you and Eddy you unclasped your fist from his shirt. He too did. Your safari suit did not rumple. But Eddy’s shirt did. He strengthened it before stepping back to his desk. You did not look at Eddy. Instead you looked at Madam. And you looked at Rogers.
Something made you wonder if Madam told Eddy anything about you. But you didn’t think about that again. You wondered why Rogers talked soft. You wondered if he felt Eddy’s office needed diplomatic silence, as he often said. You wondered if he would say your idea failed.

The day you saw Rogers at Eddy’s office, it was like a re-union. They were on a courtesy visit to the honourable commissioner. They were the executives of The Union. You called Rogers to one end of the corridor. You said you wanted to talk to him as an old acquaintance. When you talked you asked him about the affairs of The Union. It was then he said things to remind you you are a founding member of The Union. It was then he laughed out loud and said ‘You are a part of us.’ That you would understand the challenges of The Union.

You had met Rogers some days later at The Bar. He told you your record was up to date. He gave you receipt for all your outstanding dues. It was then he spent so much words to let you know you are eligible for any position in The Union.

Eight weeks later, the president died.

It was Rogers who came to tell you Mr Etioka was dead. After a brief illness. It was he who told you it was good PR for the honourable commissioner to release a condolence message for such a stakeholder. Which you prepared immediately.
When Rogers was about to leave the ministry that day, he told you this was your opportunity.

You did not tell Eddy of your plan until you had done all the groundwork. Rogers promised to give you every assistance you needed. He said you were the kind of ally any activist wanted. He assured you the support of majority of executive members. He told you he was certain his plans to make you president of The Union would work.
Even then, you did not tell Eddy. You told him on a Saturday evening at The Bar. It was after your third visit to the shrine Rogers had told you about. You did not go to the shrine with Rogers anyway. Actually when he told you everything about the shrine it shocked you. But you never let Rogers know. You were surprised how willing he was to tell you about such a place. But you never let Rogers feel your shock. You agreed when he said you were an old player. He said you knew all these things. You agreed. You agreed because you did not want to look naive.
It was then he explained the direction to you, without looking at your dismissive face twice. It was then he called the name of the man he last took to that place. And told you the man’s own did not work. He told you it was because the man did not show enough goodwill to the destitute as he was asked to. Then you told him you no longer believe in such missions. And he did not challenge you. You told him you will get the support of Eddy. He said you were right. His effort and the support of the honourable commissioner to the executive governor of the state would make you president of The Union.

When you told Eddy, it excited him.

You said it was good your name was not in his official list of aides. He said ‘that was a wise decision.’
You said ‘I know…’
You repeated ‘I know’ before you carried up your cup of beer. You poured the beer into your mouth. And thought about Eddy playing the early days of your alliance in his mind.
Your mind ran home from that distance when Eddy started to caper about the Awka conference. You did not say anything else about your ambition. You bore you expectations in your mind.
It was five days later you discussed your effort to become Mr Etioka’s successor. Eddy said ‘you have all my support.’ He told you ‘you are a part of this office.’

It was Eddy who delivered the address of the executive governor of the state. It was he who arranged the policemen that surrounded the venue that day. He also paid for the refreshment of the voting members. He pleaded with everyone to approach the exercise with dignity. And said the police will deal with anybody disturbing the peace. He wished everybody luck.
When you crossed each other at the entry of the hall he whispered to you. And he left. The next time you saw Eddy was on Sunday. He attended your thanksgiving service at your hometown. He came with his wife.

You told Eddy everything about the first executive meeting you head. You assured him of stability. And he promised the government will continue to show understanding in the challenges of The Union. He promised you the bus The Union had requested from the office of the executive governor will be provided in no time.

Eddy’s office was becoming crowded. People who had heard the noise wanted to see what was happening. They crowded the lobby to Eddy’s office. Eddy’s orderly tried to shove Madam off the door. She stood there all the while. She stood there as if she intentionally blocked the door. As if she didn’t want anyone else to see what was happening.

When the police tried to come in, she said ‘where are you going with that thing…’ Because the corporal held a baton. And it had touched her. That was when she said ‘where are you going to with that thing.’
And then she said ‘please stay there.’

She said it with scorn. And maybe it was what made you throw a gaze at her. That was all you did in the past few seconds. Because shame and uncertainty pinned your feet to the floor of Eddy’s office. But your face made it look like anger. It looked like uncontrollable anger. Rogers continued to mollify you.

‘My dear please get out of that place.’ Eddy shouted on his secretary.
The wedge of people behind her made it look like Madam walked with a reluctant step. Eddy watched her with a frown. And you watched Eddy.
You turned to see Madam’s behind. A sting of irritation overwhelmed you. Like you felt two days after you returned from the Awka conference. The day you cautioned Madam in a loud angry voice. It was the day you told her the comment she heard you make was a command, not a request. You told Madam she was misbehaving because you had begun to play with her. You said so because she sneaked into your room that night at the Awka conference.

Madam sneaked into Room 013. When the door opened you looked and saw her behind wrapped in a luscious ivory gown. You could not tell if it was fear or anxiety that gripped you at that moment. You had asked her if she felt lonely in her room. And you had said she could come for your company if she did. You said that as an easy continuation of the jokes you shared at the dining. But she came anyway.
Madam sat in-between your legs to watch BBA with you. You sat on the bed. When she drew the blind and locked the door you wanted to tell her never mind. You wanted to tell her you weren’t expecting anyone.

She asked you if the commissioner had slept. You told her there was no problem. As you said that you thought of something. You thought of the times you went out in the night with the commissioner. You moved out without his driver to see a mistress. And he would give his orderly three thousand naira to buy bread for his family. You wanted to tell Madam how long you knew Eddy. You wanted to tell her the times you shared a whore. The time you went for the convention of S.U.G officials in the Western Region in Lagos.

You did not tell Madam you and Eddy wanted to drive around some female hostels in town. But you told Eddy you were tired.
You chuckled. Madam looked at you as if she wanted to kiss you. She did not ask you what amused you. So you did not tell her about the place Eddy had taken you to in Benin, the city she grew up. You did not tell her Eddy had taken you to a brothel in Benin, and girls held you hostage…
Madam turned to see your face again. And you began to touch her nipple. That was when you began to play with her.

Rogers closed the door as Madam left the office. You listened as he called Eddy. ‘Honourable commissioner. Please you can solve this amicably.’
You watched Eddy. He opened a file and began to sign the documents in it.
Rogers continued to explain to him.
Rogers explained to Eddy that your mission is not personal. He told him it was for the mutual benefit of the government and The Union. He said the aim is to foster the existing cordial relationship between The Union and the government. But he did not tell him he had dropped at the gate the first day you came to discuss the matter. It was the day you came to Eddy’s office to discuss the agitations of the executive members of The Union.

The EXCO encouraged you to table their concerns to the commissioner. It was in an informal meeting at Rogers’ place. It was not Rogers who said The Union was not getting full co-operation from the government. It was not he who raised doubt over the end of year bonus. But he chipped in that the bus donated by the government was different from a bonus. He said the bus had been pledged for more than a year. Then he said you should beg the commissioner for a bonus of five million naira.
The day you talked to Eddy over the bonus he said he would discuss the matter with the governor. His response satisfied you.
But it did not satisfy other executive members more than two days.
They pressed you on. The letter they sent you cited Article E, section 1 and 2 of The Union’s constitution. They accused the government of indifference to the plight of the masses. They said the government was playing with the sensibilities of the masses. They reminded you The Union have a mandate to defend the defenseless masses. They informed you The Union would have to take action to check the excesses of the government.

Rogers told you the vice president was head on over the matter. He agreed he was involved in the letter. But told you he reluctantly accented to the letter. He added it wasn’t something to worry about. You told him it was irresponsible of the vice president. But he maintained it was not anything serious.
You did not remind him Article E says the president could be removed for acts of negligence… incompetence and dereliction of duty. In a tone that looked pathetic he said the VP’s grievances could be assuaged. He urged you to put more effort to get the bonus. He said you should let the commissioner know the EXCO is threatening strike action. They threatened strike action over government plans to rename the Central Market.

You could not tell Rogers Eddy had explained to you his shortcomings. Over the recent weeks he had had to make a lot of explanation over the Encourage a Child programme. The governor was unhappy over the security hitch that involved the wife. The first lady was pelted with sachets of water during an awareness rally for the programme. Eddy is also being questioned for not awarding a contract to print calendar to a party chieftain. And the chieftain recently made unfavourable comment about the government.

Also, you did not tell Rogers the second time you went to the ministry for the matter you saw Eddy so disturbed. He was disturbed and you empathised with him that you did not talk about your colleagues. Instead, you forced Eddy to join you for lunch.

Eddy told you what worried him. It was the fight between his wife and his niece at his home. You knew he told you his relatives have been disturbing him for jobs in the ministry. He told you they were making too much demand on him. All the things you know he had done in the name of family were not enough. His sister in-law who is a level 8 teacher wants him to help her become a secondary school principal. They hardly appreciate the money he often gave. They say he has helped too little of his kiths and kin since he became commissioner. They accuse the wife of encouraging him to abandon his family. That was what caused the fight between Eddy’s niece and the wife. And it made his personal life difficult.
What you once jabbered with Rogers was that the governor is the type who doesn’t like to hear about strike. You know. Eddy told you. He told you when you used to parade with him. He told you the day the governor told his cabinet a strike action is a failure on the part of any council member covering the sector. Avoidance is a rule to keep ones job.

You came alone to Eddy’s office in the morning. You wanted to involve him in pleading with your colleagues to show understanding in the matter. Because the heat had become too much on you. But you did not meet him. Madam told you he got an urgent call from the governor.
Rogers did not tell you your VP contemplated reaching the commissioner directly. So you did not know about the letter that got to the office after you left. You did not know the letter warned the commissioner of strike action if the concerns of The Union were not attended to.

The commissioner read the letter and said you threatened his livelihood. He said he was disappointed. He said he would meet you with brute force as you resorted to indignity. He said it to Madam’s hearing. And he said he would push you out of his office if you raised the matter. As you have done this afternoon.

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