Two Weeks before the National Award

For the first time in the history of the nation, a female was sworn in as president. The appointment of Azima Ibrahim Chukwumerije Oruwari was very much like that of the fourth elected President of Nigeria; only that in this case her predecessor’s plane crashed into the gulf of Guinea under mysterious circumstance.
To some it was destiny. Howbeit to others it was just a matter of fortune – good or bad depending on which side of the River you stood. Well, as things stood after much ado about nothing, the former vice president was sworn in as the first female president of the country just six years after her introduction to politics.
Her road to stardom would forever be imprinted in the hearts of women the world over. In 2014, as a relatively unknown politician she became a member of the House of Representative at the age of 34 and barely served for two years when she ran unopposed for the vacant senatorial seat in 2017; her predecessor stepped down for reasons of ill health. In 2018, she ran alongside the president and was sworn in as the first female vice president on May 29th, 2019. One year, later her boss died in a plane crash and she was sworn in as the president of the country. Her attempt to investigate the crash has been impeded on every turn.
The rise of the relatively unknown politician took the world by storm and the political experts sensed that her strings were being pulled by some powerful people but the exact purpose remained a mystery. This carefully guarded secret would lead to another auspicious occurrence in state affairs.

In a beautifully set but compact office without decorations associated with females, a gallant athletic built woman approaching middle-age stood like an Iroko tree in the heart of an evil forest. Behind her eyes of steel that intimidated even the bravest of men lay overwhelming compassion for the suffering people of her country. Since she swore the oath to protect her citizens, her life has been threatened by evil forces that feared her radical stance on sensitive issues.
She tapped her fingers on her purple silk gown and started to pace the room as she waited for Senator Tessy Oruwari, her best friend and most potent ally. They had talked briefly on the phone and the urgency in Tessy’s voice meant that they had to meet immediately. The call came while the president was in an important meeting with her bona-fide advisors named the G4. They included Anthony William, a former MI6 Director; Rodrigo, the Personal Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of the Vatican; Viktoria Aleksandra, the Russian Ambassador and Kofi Mensah, a power broker in the IMF.
This was the president’s special task force in fulfilling her agenda of transformation in Africa. She wanted to start from her nation. Charity, they say, begins at home. Their major intent was to break the monopoly of the rich and ensure poverty alleviation. In order to do this they would have to wage war with those forces that militated against a poor and war ravaged continent.
Tessy, however, hadn’t been completely trusting of the foreigners. ‘What do they stand to gain?’ she had quizzed Azima. Though Azima couldn’t give her a direct answer about helping to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals, she had been able to convince her longtime friend and partner that these people were truly ready to help. She had since grown indifferent about their coalition.

Converging in her conference room that morning, the G4 and the president were fine tuning the final phase of their plan before taking action. ‘Once we expose these secret loots and take them from the criminals we can build viable industries that can transform your nation from a consuming nation to a producing one. Your people could get well-paying jobs as they willingly improve their skills to function in these industries,’ Viktoria pointed out.
That has been the number one point in her agenda from the day she assumed office some two years ago. And they had done a lot of fact finding to know that it would not come easily because there are those whose wealth depended of the nation being free of viable industries.
Some journalists like the editors of the Daily Star, Sunshine People, and This Sun have been ardent supporters of her innovative ideas. They have tried to rally the masses around her. According to one headline by a Rivers State reporter, pen named Diepriye O., she was ‘A Glimpse at Hope’. This did not flatter the intense and determined leader. She would rejoice and accept praises, in her own words, ‘when statistics and figures start to do the talking.’ It is, however, worthy to note that not everyone was happy with her work.
According to her political mentor, she was going too far. Once he had said to her, ‘All you need to do is follow the blue print given to you – period.’
She had felt insulted by his remark. ‘What do you take me for? A dummy?’ She clattered into his words.
‘That is exactly what you are if you do not heed my words.’ He had retorted in his usual arrogant fashion.
The president wanted to react but her ever present friend, Tessy, had stayed her hand – and her anger. She trembled ferociously.
It took all of her to answer calmly. ‘In this instance then I would rather be a dummy.’
This had been the beginning of their cold war. No one would bulge and so it became a constant niggling in their shoes. Suddenly, the media turned against her as they were constantly fed with negative and inaccurate reports. Some reports claimed her efforts as resource-wasting reforms. Others stated that she was childish and ‘petty’. She had her suspicions but refused to allow the enemies of national progress to distract her. Since her mentor and his allies no longer supported her, she had to strengthen her ties with the G4.
She had first come in contact with them in Zimbabwe some years ago as a young senator; an office she barely occupied for months before the presidential election. In that UN conference, the focus was on the assessment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and how each country in the continent of Africa had fared. Senator Azima Oruwari, who was been accompanied by her friend, colleague, and sister-in-law, Senator Tessy Oruwari, gave an account of the implementation of the MDGs by her country. While her report was commendable, she had something more to say. And her statement was what caught the attention of world leaders concerning the emergence of a new voice in African politics.
She had said, ‘the only way these goals can be achieved is that every leader takes off the kid gloves and put on the aesthetic one for shovelling excrement. We must get to work like the mechanics and carpenters because there is so much work to be done… and most of it has to do with dirt-cleansing.’
Yes, she was applauded, but she had sat humbled and embarrassed that her words had received cheers and rapturous ovation instead of dragging the leaders to their knees in tears for the ailing continent. What she didn’t know was that there were those who were actually brought to tears and knelt within themselves. One of such persons was the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Viktoria Aleksandra, whose maternal root lay in eastern Africa (although it was a carefully guarded secret). She had approached the eloquent and passionate Nigerian senator and made acquaintances. After that meeting Azima was made the head of the taskforce committee in charge of the assessment of the MDGs in Africa. This was one of the landmarks of her career and when she ran as vice president, the International community’s attention was more on her than the president. And as if by a stroke of fate, the president had died in a plane crash shortly after his election and Azima had become president.
Over the years she had formed alliance with Viktoria’s G4 group but she wasn’t committed; not until her mentor and party leaders started to give her the impression that they were not concerned about national development. When the leaders realized that she was shutting them out, they fought back by any means necessary. There were rumours in the partisan-controlled press that she was going to be impeached. And undisclosed sources referred to as chieftains in her political party affirmed to the rumours. She was expecting war. But would she be able to fight the cartel?
The ignorant public would easily be swayed by their ability to deceive. The advantage of her enemy was in their willingness to fight dirty –they wouldn’t mind destroying lives and properties and creating a civil war to preserve their control and hegemony. But how far was she willing to go?
That morning as they met, Rodrigo had been direct. ‘You must be willing to sacrifice a few good men to save your nation. This is the only way history will be made. This is the only way that we can have a chance of toppling their fierce and paranoiac wielding of power.’
She had groaned deeply. ‘There has to be another way. Come on comrades, we are supposed to be the best brains in the www, we can come up with a way to triumph without bloodshed,’ she said this attempting a punch at humour. By www she meant whole wide world.
Her dry sense of humour eased the pressure though. After hours of intense brainstorming and scheming, it was timely. What she said didn’t necessarily have to be funny because it’s an unwritten rule that we get to laugh at the jokes of the most important person at the table. It seems rude not to laugh; this was the case of the melancholic Rodrigo.
‘Madam President, even our religion says that the Messiah had to shed his blood and give his life to save the world,’ Rodrigo had mumbled amidst forced laughter.
This remark drew genuine laughter; and Azima who was always fond of having the last word had said, ‘Maybe so that no one else would need to shed any more blood.’
‘Impossible. Impossible,’ Anthony William had snickered. He was a man of few words, one with a reputation as a man of action. He has been brought on the team because of his military prowess and staunch belief in grass root development in Africa instead of using it as a play field by the world powers. He had served as a Director in MI6; a British master spy in the pedigree of the fictitious James Bond. He had opted out due to some irregularities he couldn’t condone. Some said that he was straight as an arrow. Retirement, however, is another form of cover.
While they were in the meeting, the president’s private line had rang and it had been an inevitability to ignore the call. She picked. ‘Tess, what’s up?’ she forced a smile trying to summon the god of patience.
‘I must see you now.’ Tessy had breathed urgently.
‘I’m in a meeting. Okay, okay, meet me in Room Six.’ She had wanted to object to Tessy’s request but thought better of it. If Tessy says to see you now, it’s either you get out to meet with her or she comes to get you. Tessy never changes. From the time they met at Rivers State University through their road to Aso Rock, her resilience had been an ever present attribute. She had shaken her head musingly. She too was like that, neither was Jane an exception. The thought of Jane had upset her. She turned to her comrades with a hopeless gesture.
‘Please, I must take this. You can go on without me.’
Now as she waited for Tessy to show up, she marvelled at the power that could raise a girl of illegitimate birth to an illiterate mother, who merely survived, to the point of being the leader of the most powerful black nation in the world. However, the irony was that this powerful nation has steadily remained one of the poorest in the world. She squeezed her eyes shut as if to drive away the obscene thought. She would definitely see to a reversal, she vowed to herself for the umpteenth time.