The Senator’s Car
Everybody laughs at the Senator whenever he drives past in his car, an old blue 505 Peugeot that chugs around town belching dense black smoke.
The traffic authorities seem to have taken no notice of the car so far, but the kids in the neighbourhood have.
The tykes take impish delight in screaming after him each time he visits Ajegunle, a slum in Lagos where an old uncle lives:
“Help-me-push-am! “Help-me-push-am!!” “Help-me-push-am!!!”
Help-me-push-am has become the Senator’s nickname.
His extended family members and close friends have tried without much success to persuade him to buy a car befitting for someone of his standing in society, to free them from this shame.
One of his more embarrassed relatives, a successful importer of shrimps from the Far East had even offered him the key of a brand new Toyota Carina once, but he politely turned down their kind gestures.
It beats the imagination of those who meet him for the first time, why someone who has wined and dined with the cream of society, could cultivate such Spartan habits.
They called him names behind his back and sometimes right to his face:
“He must have hidden the money he made somewhere in Ghana!”
“I wonder why M.O.T has not arrested him yet…You know these government policies… hot at first then, they become cold…”
They tease him.
He has become a laughing stock. But he bears all these sarcastic remarks with equanimity.
Senator Segun Latunji is a middle-aged slightly balding man of average height. He is married and has three kids who live abroad with their mother. He is an enigma to many, who could not understand why a former Senator of the Federal Republic should be living in penury after his retirement.
His community openly withdrew support for him even before he declared his intention of running for a Second Term and many of his colleagues in the Senate were only too happy that he did not return because he had subjected them to severe mental torture when he held the exalted position of Chairman of the Senate Committee on Financial Matters.
The officials of the law eventually caught up with him when his jalopy acted up again last week somewhere around Marina. They swooped on him at once like vultures.
Those traffic management people simply towed away the offending vehicle because he had infuriated them by refusing to part with the N5, 000 they demanded from him.
When he joined them at their office later, Latunji asked to see the officer-in-charge. One of the four officials on duty that fateful day, who sported a straggling moustache, regarded the poor Senator as if he were something the cat had dragged in and growled at him.
“Yes, yes, what do you want to see our Oga for, and who are you by the way?” he barked, certain the Senator was another one of those sanctimonious folks. They all compromise in the end!
Sure enough, they forced the Senator to part with some money. But that was the beginning of their troubles. Little did they know that the N5, 000 notes he handed over to them after he had ensured that they gave him a receipt, were cleverly marked.
Just moments after he had paid the fine, three plain-clothes policemen walked in with a warrant of arrest for the flustered traffic officials, whom they caught red-handed.
It was then that they knew they were in big trouble. The victim flashed an ID card at them bearing the name Senator Segun Latunji, Transparency International.
Author’s note: The Senator’s Car won the Commonwealth Award for Short Stories in 2004