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Bullet In The Wind

BULLET IN THE WIND


He had somehow dodged it, or whoever fired the shot wasn’t accurate. But he had tried, at least. The man wasn’t over-speeding. It was the gun sound that disturbed the peace. It caught him unawares. The steering wheel jumped out of his slippery sweating hands but he quickly threw all his weight behind it to regain control. The car would not easily give in. It was man against a disobedient machine. It was the swaying he had only seen in Asian movies. Now, he had to act the best out of all he had watched on television for years.
“This will not work sir, it simply can’t.” The president took one deep breathe, heart pumping heavily, the floor bearing the heavy load the father of the country’s feet carried. To him, the devil had finally stood in God’s way. Didn’t this man know his very appointment was nothing but a license to share with him the country’s abundant wealth legally? “Youngman, you seem to be detached from reality. A pause accompanied the hoarse sluggish presidential voice.  A little cough clearing the throat saw him resume the talk. “I’m beginning to think you’re not mature enough to understand dynamics of politics here.” He continued, trying at pains to hide how hurting he had found the advisor’s team findings. “But sir…”
It was just another break. “Look, what ethics is this now boy? Or maybe it’s you who is making sense right?”  He could measure the gravity of his master’s anger. The immortal had been offended.
The president had asked Apawo several months before to carry out an assessment of popular sentiment towards government’s or rather, His Excellency’s plan to relocate them to some distant place from their land of ages. It was good it would be carried out by one of their own. The often described by his own people as a vocal young man was pleased too. Apart from the money in there, the people would feel his importance. “Government sends me to meddle on its part” was the silent expression that stayed stuck to the gleam on his face.
Apawo was a soft spoken young man. His peers usually laughed at the baldness that consumed a quarter of his head forest. Every time he opened the mouth, weird chuckling burst out from his entourage. His sense of humour made some thought he should have been a stand up comedian. Not during business though. He knew he was from the president’s ethnic group but he did not treat his duties lightly. The president had often cited his spirit whenever he was advising young men who had just sold away their rights to the government.
The duty conferred upon him had turned him into his own griot. His wife would feel Apawo’s importance too: she had on several occasions fiercely objected to her husband’s plans to join politics. “Stop acting like a fool man. Wasn’t it you this other day telling me you read politics is a devourer of men?” She had tried to reason with him. Now, she would feel the power politics had bestowed in a very young man of his kind.
To the president, this would be a test for loyalty too. Sniff dogs had reported to the listening leader that Apawo was slowly turning into a Brutus. He had to deal with such rumours with urgency, and utmost espionage expertise. The research provided the platform. Apawo would have to address the president, present the best of his arguments and above all look straight into the president’s eyes whenever summoned to discuss the report and progress.
Mr President loved hearing stories. He was from a clan of great story tellers too. That ancient tradition had been fused with modern day running of government affairs. He had men bent to see the behind of his friends and enemies alike. He had men on the backs of his most trusted party agents too. Power must be consolidated from all angles, at all cost.
The first hunt for minerals had given birth to distrust and hatred between the government and its people. They had heard of how peasants from faraway lands had their only possession confiscated from them with compensations just enough to keep them going for half a year or so. They would not be victims of fate: if history was to shift to regions, they had promised it was not going to be them on the receiving end. They would deploy all means. Some issued threats of a violent campaign against the ‘exploiters.’ Mere rhetoric: these were just people in the country’s remotest region where those armed to the teeth just had bows, arrows and a spear or so. Machetes were for domestic chores.
“Governments have artillery: guns, ammunition and piles of cluster bombs. The army parades every single Independence Day.” Every government man thought that way.
“If you don’t understand, we are sorry we can’t force you to understand sir. Go tell the government we, the rightful owners of our forefathers’ land, are not leaving Nkhalango, not for any other place.” One angry local chief had told Apawo at a district commissioner’s office where such meetings were being conducted now and again, furiously banging a table. He had attended a series of such meetings with the village leaders. At first, he had found pleasure in the free money he would make at the end of every little cough. It was thousands of kwachas lots of government workers would have to toil for a chain of months to make. But, each passing moment began to be hotter.
The villagers’ voice was uniquely unanimous. It was one uttered with unusual folds on the already mostly Kachasu-wrinkled faces. “Go tell the government we aren’t going anywhere.” It was one uniform answer the father of the nation’s advisor got from all places where his team had been dispatched to dig deep into the people’s take on the ambitious plan to turn their area into one great mining site. They had said they would die fighting for their land. “We have our brothers and sisters buried here for decades.” The president had to decide the way forward.
Apawo knew what everything meant. He had read and heard a lot about people fighting to death against forced relocation from their land. He had read about the Ogun people some time. Money stopped being funny. Every workshop room was tense. There would be sweat everywhere and screaming voices that were accompanied by stench of all kinds. He did not know how best to report the hurling to the mastermind of that whole plan.
Nkhalango was one unusually quite area whose skies were dominated by red dust every time storms swept through. The water was very salty. People sieved some from the soil for use in their homes. Government had started sending surveillance teams after some mineral expert had prophesied the presence of large gold deposits in the area. Maybe the people would finally be rescued from the beast that had enslaved them for years. But, government runs its business from the capital they all remembered.  
“But these people are poor, if they don’t like the mining sector to help them grow, why doesn’t the government simply halt its plans? After all, these are the very same people we say we work for.” The question had all of a sudden started popping up in Apawo’s head after what he had assessed as a general discontent over the president’s plan.
“The people love me, I personally know that. Who do you think will benefit from the gold yourself? You think villagers don’t know it’s for their own good?” The president’s smooth round face drowned into a sea of wrinkles. The vigour with which he uttered his words made Apawo forget they had of late been worried of his ailing health.
Where in the world had honesty managed to stir anger in a noble man this easily? After all, his was a mere report of public sentiments, just that, facts: he wondered as he waited for the next line of rants from the father. “You’re letting me down son, you…”
Apawo silently prayed that he develop the heart to suppress the question that had started usurping him earlier on. It would be disaster. The will to defend his findings was becoming irritatingly inexorable. He knew he wouldn’t obey that will though. He had always read the authority behind His Excellency’s every speech. It was one that needed no inquisitive minds. When he spoke, earth had to listen.
“I’ll call you when I need you again; probably tomorrow… Before he could say a word, the president had turned his back against him and was on a way to some room. How fate works! He too turned around and headed for the exit door. His lips were vibrating, he was surely blubbing something that only he and the spirits would understand. He silently prayed to his forefathers and thanked them for keeping his mouth knitted every time his will urged him to confront His Excellency.
Was that master? Who had raised that strong obsession to open up a mining industry from the dead? It was ruining the trust that had been there between the republic’s first citizen and this mere advisor of his. Perhaps he had to report it the way the president’s ear anticipated. He couldn’t explain the ordeals to his wife though. He was the type that never swallowed pride, or, if he was, definitely not on this one, or just not to Nabetha. They had already exchanged words following her discontent over his getting so much involved into politics.
He found Nabetha still sitting in the car at the palace’s car park. She was playing with her fingernails in clear acts of solitude. How husbands abandon wives in pursuit for political success! It was one huge car park they used to jokingly refer to as The Presidential Square. It had at times witnessed a series of very serious meetings amongst the president’s boys every time they had been assigned a task. Names had been mentioned on that square and the following day people would attend funerals. His wife’s face had been worn out with worries of her husband’s apparent deepening involvement into politics. Her bird’s whistling voice was slowly fading away.
Or perhaps there were people not comfortable with how he was faring who were trying to dent his image before the president! Surely, there must have been someone in the Office of the President and Cabinet who would rather have the advisory and research role taken over by themselves or their relations. It wasn’t expected of the president to get angry over issues that required deep understanding.
The car behind them never signalled any light. The driver simply accelerated speed presumably to overtake them. How dare he? No signal? He too never minimized the speed, but he would run after him and catch up later somewhere so they could have a soft talk. He was a presidential advisor after all. He remembered how democracy had come rushing, ravaging through the respect for government officials that had always been there since colonial times. “This man wouldn’t do this was it way back,” he said, knowing the driver definitely knew he was working for government, from the vehicle’s registration number.
There wasn’t any other car in sight. It was them, in the middle of a road that passed through some roadside village. Nabetha had vowed never to utter a word on their way home. The lengthy discussion between her husband and the president, and her husband weary face worried her into anger. “This is exactly what I forewarned you against.” Now, they were on level with the car that had been trying to overtake them. The driver of the other vehicle struggled with a hand to get something from the empty seat beside him. Neither Apawo nor Nabetha really cared about the man, but they would see to it that they get him at the end of it all.
All they wanted was to let him go ahead with his takeover plan and get his vehicle’s registration number. It was irritating. Apawo knew he did not have that heart of most of his friends but this driver had overstretched his humility. Then, the driver stretched his arm through the window. Bang!  Terrified birds hurriedly left all tree branches and high into the skies they ascended.


The blood that oozed down the man’s crushed skull had with it some cream-white-not-so-fluid liquid. He wasn’t breathing, he wouldn’t. All she could see was him, fresh and energetic a few seconds before her very eyes painted his spouse red everywhere. A finger tapped on the remains of the steering wheel for some seconds. One villager realized there was a leg that had seceded, beside her. She noticed it too. “I said it darling, I said it…” A night came rushing through and ate away the last shinning patches of light…

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