By Frederick Mordi
He glowered at the article in the newspaper as he tried to sip tea that bright Tuesday morning. A pack of digestive biscuits, three big red apples and a glass of water lay on a small tray beside the white tea cup and saucer. There was a medium-sized bottle of imported honey on the table. He never takes sugar as a rule.
“Nonsense!” he finally said as he threw away the newspaper. The tea spilled slightly on the saucer and the table.
He bellowed at his PA through the intercom.
“Kema, get me FCT at once!”
Kema linked him up quickly.
“Senator, have you seen National Mail today?” he demanded angrily.
“You mean that report?” the voice at the other end of the phone replied calmly.
“Of course,” he retorted. “What else would I be talking about?”
“Calm down, Chief…”
“Calm down, did you say? You expect me to calm down when my multi-billion naira investment is being jeopardised by one small yeye Minister? I thought you said you could handle this. Now, I have my doubts. My whole investment is going down the drain because you failed to do what you are supposed to have done!”
“I don’t think it has come to that yet chief,” the voice said soothingly. “I have been pushing hard to block this. You would recall that I…”
“Apparently, you did not push hard enough”!
With that Chief Imola banged the handset on the receiver angrily. He counted one to 10 as his doctor had advised him to do whenever he is angry. The doctor’s prescription helps him to keep his high BP in check. He swallowed some tablets on the table and did not bother to touch the tea again. The biscuits and the juicy apples failed to entice him.
Chief Imola could not understand what was going on in the country anymore. He feels like an outsider inside his own country! It was as if there was a conspiracy against him. He called Alhaji Tanko, one of his close friends, who runs a successful shipping business at Apapa in Lagos, for comfort.
“If I were you, Chief Imola, I would make peace with the government,” Alhaji Tanko counselled him after listening to his tales of woe, “nobody can afford to fight the government, no matter how powerful that person may be. Do not forget that the government, like a king, does no wrong! Do not also forget that power tends to corrupt. But if you ask me, Chief, I am of the opinion that you must have inadvertently stepped on some powerful toes in the corridors of power…”
“But who could I have offended?” Chief Imola asked rhetorically. “I have always been supportive of the government—any government that is in power for that matter!”
None of them could provide an answer to the question.
Chief Imola felt a bit better after the conversation with Alhaji Tanko, his fidus achates. He tried to attend to the memos on his table. But after glancing at two of them, he lost interest and closed the file. As far as he was concerned, work had finished for the day.
His mind travelled to Abuja, where his last encounter with the intransigent Minister of Agricultural Affairs left him utterly speechless. He was particularly enraged when that ‘rude boy’ told him point blank that there was no going back on the new policy. The Minister had sought his understanding on the matter, reminding him that the masses have been groaning in pain over the exorbitant price of rice, owing to a short fall in local production. The only way to make up for the deficit, the Minister patiently explained to Chief Imola, who had paid him an unscheduled visit in his office, last week, is to import the commodity.
Despite the Minister’s assurances that the new policy would be temporary, Chief Imola was not satisfied. He left the office feeling very downcast. Had not this same government banned the importation of rice and encouraged local farmers to go into production of the staple food? So, why has the government made a volte face particularly now that he had invested billions of Naira in the venture in partnership with a wealthy Taiwanese businessman, who owns one of the biggest rice farms in Asia?
He regretted voting for the President, whom he helped to win the last presidential election in the country, with his strong financial muscles. The party’s leadership had assured Chief Imola of juicy contracts that would enable him to recoup his investments within a short time. He believed them as he had always done in the past.
And what has been his reward? Nothing! Absolutely nothing at all!
Chief Imola could not point to just one of the President’s policies that has favoured him since he assumed the reins of office! The government has blocked his usual channel of making money through contracts. As if that is not enough, he no longer has access to the kitchen cabinet. And to add insult to injury, his choice of ministerial nominee was rejected at the eleventh hour. Things seem quite different now…very different. He was seriously considering sending emissaries to the President to sue for peace, as his friend, Alhaji Tanko, had suggested.
After ruminating over it for some time, Chief Imola took up the matter with the National Chamber of Commerce, where he is an influential Council Member. The Chamber was quite vitriolic in condemning the new policy, which it warned could send the wrong signals to foreign investors. Not prepared to sit by idly and watch the businesses of its members suffer, the Chamber convened an emergency meeting in a four star hotel on Victoria Island to mull the policy, soon afterwards.
After exhaustive deliberations that lasted over eight hours, it was agreed that an advertorial be put up in National Mail, to express the position of the Chamber. However, when Chief Imola mooted the idea of a press conference, which should precede the advertorial, it was swiftly shot down by members, who argued that the involvement of the Gentlemen of the Press could send the wrong signals to the government.
He disagreed. He was a lone voice.
“Chief Imola,” the President of the Chamber put it to him bluntly after a heated debate over the issue, “we cannot afford a press war with the government! I am not saying that we lack the means to prosecute a full-fledged media campaign. The fact is we have unanimously agreed that a well-crafted advertorial would better serve this purpose at this time. I quite appreciate your views, but as they say, discretion is the better part of valour. I am sorry, Chief; we will stick to our original plan.”
He was not convinced.
The advertorial that appeared in National Mail Newspapers on Monday, June the 7th, confirmed his worst fears: it was materially different from the resolution reached at the end of the meeting.
Government’s New Policy on Rice Importation
Following the Government’s new policy on rice importation in the country, which will take effect from September 1st this year, the National Chamber of Commerce held an emergency meeting on June the 6th in Lagos.
At the meeting, the policy was carefully deliberated upon and the following resolutions were made:
- The National Chamber of Commerce fully identifies with the government’s new policy on rice importation.
- The policy is a welcome development that will not only ensure the availability of rice in the country; but will also make the price of the commodity, which has skyrocketed, to crash dramatically.
- The policy is in line with the government’s bold efforts to bring the dividends of democracy—one of which is food—to the table of the ordinary citizens.
- We will reciprocate this gesture by ensuring that our members import only high quality rice from China.
- We strongly frown upon a situation where a few powerful individuals attempt to hold the government and the citizens to ransom by trying to circumvent this well-intentioned policy. We pledge our continued support of all future policies of the government designed to revamp the ailing economy…
Chief Imola collapsed before he finished reading the full page advertorial in National Mail.
Tags: advertorial on rice import ban, african short story, author of the senator's car, china rice, Fred Mordi, Frederick Mordi, government bans rice import nigeria, nigerian strt story, raw deal, rice importation nigeria, short stry betrayal
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