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The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona By Chimamanda Adichie

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Chimamanda

As soon as he opened his eyes, he felt it. A
strange peace, a calm clarity. He stretched.
Even his limbs were stronger and surer. He
looked at his phone. Thirty-seven new text
messages – and all while he was asleep.
With one click, he deleted them. The empty
screen buoyed him. Then he got up to
bathe, determined to fold the day into the
exact shape that he wanted.
Those Levick people had to go. No more
foreign PR firms. They should have made
that article in the American newspaper
sound like him, they should have known
better. They had to go. And he would not
pay their balance; they had not fulfilled the
purpose of the contract after all.
He pressed the intercom. Man Friday came
in, face set in a placidly praise-singing
smile.
“Good morning, Your Excellency!”
“Good morning,” Oga Jona said. “I had a
revelation from God.”
Man Friday stared at him with bulging eyes.
“I said I had a revelation from God,” he
repeated. “Find me new Public Relations
people. Here in Nigeria. Is this country not
full of mass communication departments
and graduates?”
“Yes, Your Excellency.” Man Friday’s eyes
narrowed; he was already thinking of whom
he would bring, of how he would benefit.
“I want a shortlist on my table on
Wednesday,” Oga Jona said. “I don’t want
any of the usual suspects. I want fresh
blood. Like that student who asked that
frank question during the economic
summit.”
“Your Excellency… the procurement rules…
we need somebody who is licensed by the
agency licensed by the agency that licenses
PR consultants…”
Oga Jona snorted. Man Friday used civil
service restrictions as a weapon to fight off
competition. Anybody who might push him
out of his privileged position was suddenly
not licensed, not approved, not registered.
“I don’t want you to bring your own
candidates, do you hear me? I said I want
fresh blood, I’m not joking.”
“Yes, Your Excellency,” Man Friday said,
voice now high-pitched with alarmed
confusion.
“Put that DVD for me before you go,” Oga
Jona said.
He watched the recording on the
widescreen television, unhappy with his
appearance in the footage. His trousers
seemed too big and why had nobody
adjusted his hat? Next to The Girl from
Pakistan, he looked timid, scrunched into
his seat. She was inspiring, that young girl,
and he wished her well. But he saw now
how bad this made him appear: he had
ignored all the Nigerians asking him to go
to Chibok, and now The Girl From Pakistan
was telling the world that he promised her
he would go. He promised me, she said. As
if the abducted Nigerian girls did not truly
matter until this girl said they did. As if
what mattered to him was a photo-op with
this girl made famous by surviving a
gunshot wound. It made him look small. It
made him look unpresidential. It made him
look like a leader without a rudder. Why
had they advised him to do this? He
pressed a button on his desk and waited.
Violence was unfamiliar to Oga Jona. Yet
when Man Monday came in, his belly
rounded and his shirt a size too tight as
usual, Oga Jona fought the urge to hit and
punch and slap. Instead, he settled for
less: he threw a teacup at Man Monday.
“Why have you people been advising me
not to go to Chibok? Why have you people
been telling me that my enemies will
exploit it?”
“Sah?” Man Monday had dodged the teacup
and now stood flustered.
“I am going to Chibok tomorrow. I should
have gone a long time ago. Now it will look
as if I am going only because a foreigner, a
small girl at that, told me to go. But I will
still go. Nigerians have to see that this thing
is troubling me too.”
“But Sah, you know…”
“Don’t ‘Sah you know’ me!” This was how
his people always started. “Sah, you
know…” Then they would bring up
conspiracies, plots, enemies, evil spirits. No
wonder giant snakes were always chasing
him in his dreams: he had listened to too
much of their nonsense. He remembered a
quote from a teacher in his secondary
school: ‘The best answer to give your
enemies is continued excellence.’ What he
needed, he saw now, was an adviser like
that teacher.
“Sah, the security situation…”
“Have you not seen Obama appear in
Afghanistan or Iraq in the middle of the
night to greet American troops? Is Chibok
more dangerous than the war the
Americans are always fighting up and
down? Arrange it immediately. Keep it
quiet. I want to meet the parents of the
girls. Make gifts and provisions available to
the families, as a small token of goodwill
from the federal government.” He knew
how much people liked such things. A tin of
vegetable oil would soften some bitter
hearts.
“Sah…”
“From Borno we go to Yobe. I want to meet
the families of the boys who were killed. I
want to visit the school. Fifty-nine boys!
They shot those innocent boys and burnt
them to ashes! Chai! There is evil in the
world o!”
“Yes Sah.”
“These people are evil. That man Yusuf was
evil. The policemen who killed him, we have
to arrest them and parade them before the
press. Make sure the world knows we are
handling the case. But it is even more
important that we tell the true story about
Yusuf himself. Yes, the police should not
have killed him. But does that mean his
followers should now start shedding blood
all over this country? Is there any Nigerian
who does not have a bad story about the
police? Was it not last year that my own
cousin was nearly killed in police detention?
Let us tell people why the Army caught him
in the first place. He was evil. Remember
that pastor in Maiduguri that he beheaded.
Find that pastor’s wife. Let her tell her
story. Let the world hear it. Show pictures
of the pastor. Why have we not been telling
the full story? Why didn’t we fight back
when The Man From Borno was running
around abroad, blaming me for everything
when he too failed in his own
responsibilities?” Oga Jona was getting
angrier as he spoke, angry with his people,
angry with himself. How could he have
remained, for so long, in that darkness,
that demon possession of ineptitude?
“Yes Sah!”
“You can go.”
He picked up the iphone and spoke slowly.
“I want to expand that Terror Victims
Support Committee. Add one woman. Add
two people personally affected by terrorism.
How can you have a committee on
terrorism victims with no diversity?”
On the other end of the phone, the voice
was stilled by surprise. “Yes Sah!” Finally
emerged, in a croak.
He put down the phone. There would be no
more committees. At least until he was re-
elected. And no more unending
consultations. He picked up the Galaxy,
scrolled through the list of contacts. He
called two Big Men in the Armed Forces, the
ones stealing most of the money meant for
the soldiers.
“I want your resignation by Friday,” He said
simply.
Their shock blistered down the phone.
“But Your Excellency…”
“Or you want me to announce that I am
sacking you? At least resignation will save
you embarrassment.”
If those left knew he was now serious as
commander-in-chief, serious about
punishing misdeed and demanding
performance, they would sit up. He ate
some roasted groundnuts before making
the next call. To another Big Man in the
Armed Forces. They had to stop arresting
Northerners just like that. He remembered
his former gateman in Port Harcourt.
Mohammed, pleasant Mohammed with his
buck teeth and his radio pressed to his ear.
Mohammed would not even have the liver
to support any terrorist. He told the Big
Man in the Armed Forces, “You need to
carry people along. Win hearts and minds.
Make Nigerians feel that you are fighting
for them, not against them… And when you
talk to the press and say that Nigerians
should do their part to fight terrorism, stop
sounding as if you are accusing them. After
all, let us tell the truth, what can an
ordinary person do? Nothing! Even those
people who check cars, if they open a boot
and see a big bomb, what will they do? Will
they try to subdue an armed suicide
bomber? Will they pour water on the bomb
to defuse it? Will they not turn and run as
fast as their legs can carry them? Let’s start
a mass education campaign. Get proposals
on how best to do it without scaring people.
When we tell Nigerians to report suspicious
behavior, let’s give them examples.
Suspicious behavior does not mean anybody
wearing a jellabiya. After all, was the one in
Lagos not done by a woman?” He paused.
“Yes, Your Excellency!”
“As for the girls, we have to go back to
negotiation. Move in immediately.”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
“I should not have listened to what they
told me in that Paris summit. Why did I
even agree to follow them and go to Paris,
all of us looking like colonised goats?”
From the other end, came a complete and
lip-sealed silence. The Big Man in the
Armed Forces dared not make a sound, lest
it be mistaken as agreement on the word
‘goat.’ Besides, he had been part of the
entourage for that trip and had collected
even more than the normal fat juicy
estacode.
“I don’t want to hear about any other
mutiny,” Oga Jona continued. “You will get
the funds. But I want real results! Improve
the conditions of your boys. I want to see
results!”
The Big Man in the Armed Forces started
saying something about the Americans.
Oga Jona cut him short. “Shut up! If
somebody shits inside your father’s house,
is it a foreigner that will come and clean the
house for you? Is Sambisa on Google Maps?
How much local intelligence have you
gathered? Before you ask for help, you first
do your best!”
“Yes Your Excellency.”
“And why is it that nobody interviewed the
girls who escaped?”
There was a pause.
“By tomorrow night I want a report on the
local intelligence gathered so far!”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
Oga Jona turned on the television and
briefly watched a local channel. Who even
designed those ugly studio backgrounds?
There was a knock on the door. It had to be
Man Thursday. Nobody else could come in
anyhow.
“Good afternoon, My President,” Man
Thursday said.
Short and stocky, Man Thursday was the
soother who always came cradling bottles of
liquid peace.
This time, Oga Jona pushed away the
bottle. “Not now!’
“My President, I hope you’re feeling fine.”
“I received a revelation from God. From
now on, I will stop giving interviews to
foreign journalists while ignoring our own
journalists.”
“But My President, you know how useless
our journalists are…”
“Will Obama give an interview to AIT and
ignore CBS?”
“No, Your Excellency.”
“I know some of our journalists support
Bourdillon, but we also have others on our
side. I will beat them at their game! I want
to do interviews with two journalists that
support us and one journalist that supports
Bourdillon. Find one that will be easy to
intimidate.”
“But…”
“I want names in the next hour.”
“Yes, Your Excellency.” Man Thursday now
stood still, lips parted in the slack
expression of a person no longer sure what
day it was.
“Tell the Supporters Club to change their
television advertisements. They should stop
mentioning ‘those who are against me.’ I
will no longer give power to my enemies.
They should mention only the things that I
am doing. I like that one with the almajiri
boy. It shows Nigerians that I have helped
with education in the North. They should
make more advertisements like that.”
In response, Man Thursday could only nod
vigorously but mutely.
Later, after eating vegetable soup with
periwinkle and a plate of sliced fruits – he
was determined to keep himself from
looking like Man Monday – he asked Sharp
Woman to meet him in the residence. Not
in the main living room, but in the smaller
relaxing white parlor. Sharp Woman was
the only one he fully trusted. He had
sometimes allowed himself to sideline her,
when he had felt blown this way and that
way by the small-minded pettiness of other
people. She was the only one who had not
allowed him to dwell too much on his own
victimhood. Once, she had told him quietly,
“You have real enemies. There are people
in this country who do not think you should
be president simply because of where you
come from. Did they not say they would
make the country ungovernable for you?
But not everything is the fault of your
enemies. If we keep on blaming the
enemies then we are making them
powerful. The Bourdillon people are
disorganized. They don’t have a real
platform. Their platform is just anti-you.
They don’t even have a credible person
they can field, the only major candidate
they have is the one they will not select. So
stop mentioning them. Face your work.”
He should have listened then, despite the
many choruses that drowned her voice.
It was she who, a few days later, and after
the four rubbish candidates stage-managed
by Man Friday, brought the new PR people,
Kikelola Obi, Bola Usman and Chinwe
Adeniyi – when he first saw their names, he
thought: and some crazy people are saying
we should divide Nigeria. They were in their
early thirties, with rough faces and no
make up; they looked too serious, as if they
attended Deeper Life church and
disapproved of laughter. They started their
presentation, all three taking turns to
speak. They stood straight and fearless.
Their directness and confidence unnerved
him.
“Sir, we voted for you the first time. We felt
that you would do well if you had the
mandate of the people instead of just an
inherited throne. We liked you because you
had no shoes. We really liked you. We had
hope in you. You seemed humble and
different. But with all due respect sir, we
will not vote for you again unless something
changes.”
He nearly jumped up from his seat. Small
girls of nowadays! They had no respect! As
if to make it worse, one of them added
that if the election were held today, the
only person she could vote for was The Man
From Lagos. Oga Jona bristled. That
annoying man. Even if a mosquito bit him
in his state, he would find a way to blame
the president for it. Still, Oga Jona could see
why these foolish small girls were saying
they would vote for him. The man had tried
in Lagos. But their mentioning The Man
From Lagos was now a challenge. He would
rise to the challenge.
“Sir, the good news is that Nigerians forgive
easily and Nigerians forget even more
easily. You have to change strategy. Be
more visible. Stop politicizing everything.
Stop blaming your enemies for everything.
You have to be, and seem to be, a strong,
uniting leader. Make sure to keep repeating
that this is not a Muslim vs. Christian
thing.”
Oga Jona cut in, pleased to be able to
challenge these over-sabi girls. “You think
Nigerians don’t know that it is mostly
Christian areas that they are targeting in
Borno? And what about all those church
bombings?”
The three shook their heads, uniformly, like
robots. They were sipping water; they had
declined everything else.
“With all due respect sir, if you look at the
names of bombing victims, they are
Muslims and Christians. If God forbid
another terror attack occurs, you have to
come out yourself and talk to Nigerians.
Stop releasing wooden statements saying
you condemn the attacks. We will prep you
before each public appearance. You have a
tendency to ramble. That’s the most
important thing to watch out for. Be alert
when you answer each question. Keep your
answers short. You don’t have to elaborate
if there is nothing to elaborate. Stick to the
point. If they ask you something negative,
be willing to admit past mistakes but
always give the answer a positive spin.
Something like ‘yes, I could have handled it
better and I regret that but I am now doing
better, and am determined to do even
more because Nigerians want and deserve
results.’ You have to start reaching out
beyond your comfort zone. Nigeria has
talent. Look for the best Nigerians on any
subject at hand, wherever they may be,
and persuade them to come and contribute
on their area of expertise. Especially the
ones who have no interest in government
work. Even one or two who don’t
completely agree with you. Think of
Lincoln’s Team of Rivals.”
“What?”
“Don’t worry, sir. The important thing is to
reach out beyond your circle. Oga Segi was
not a calm person like you. He even used to
threaten to flog people. But he had a good
network. Jimmy Carter is his friend. If he
needed expertise from a university in Zaria
or Edinburgh or Boston, he would pick up
his phone and know somebody who knew
or somebody who knew somebody who
knew. But with all due respect, sir, you
don’t have that. Bayelsa is a small place.”
These girls really had no respect o! He
glared at Sharp Woman, who shrugged and
muttered, “You said you wanted people
who would tell you the truth.”
But he listened.
In his first interview, the words rolled off
his tongue. Those girls had made him
repeat himself so many times. “I want to
apologize to the Nigerian people for some
actions of my government. We could have
done better. No country fighting terrorism
can let everything be open. But we owe our
country men and women honest, clear
assurance that we are taking decisive
action, with enough details to be
convincing. I ask for your prayers and
support. I have directed the security
services to set up a website that will give
Nigerians accurate and up-to-date
information about our war against
terrorism. I have also hired specialists to
manage the flow and presentation of the
information.”
And the words came easily when he shook
hands with the parents in Chibok, simple
polite people who clutched his hand with
both of theirs. He should have done this
much earlier; it was so touching. “Sorry,” he
said, over and over again. “Sorry. Please
keep strong. We will rescue them.”
The words were more reluctant when he
wore a red shirt and asked to be taken to
the gathering of The People in Red at the
park. But he cleared his throat and urged
himself to speak, particularly because, as
he emerged from within his circle of
security men, the People in Red all stopped
and stared. Silence reigned.
“I came to salute you,” Oga Jona started.
“We are on the same side. My government
has made mistakes. We are learning from
them and correcting them. Please work with
us. Together, we will defeat this evil.”
They were still silent and still staring; they
were disarmed. He thanked them and,
before they could marshal their old distrust,
he turned and left. That night, as he sank
to his knees in prayer, he heard the muted
singing of angels.
Chimamanda Adichie is an award winning
writer and author of bestsellers including
Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, The
Thing Around Your Neck and Americanah.

Written by: Chimamanda Adichie

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