Fiction

Watching the News: Fiction by Muritala Sule

‘Pass me some kola, please. I am feeling sleepy,’ said the reporter.

‘Go buy your own; or doesn’t Concord pay you?’ his colleague quipped.

‘Forget it! Don’t insult me.’

‘Hiya! Man no dey play with you? You too vex,’ the second reporter said, smiling. ‘Okay,’ he broke a piece from the lobe of kolanut. ‘Take!’

His colleague ignored it, but he thrust the kolanut into his palm. ‘I’m sorry. Take.’

The first reported took the piece of kolanut. He peeled off a crust here and there and tossed it into his mouth. He crushed it noisily. A sneeze burst out of him and he sprayed his friend with kolanut particles.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said

‘No worry. Take another kola.’

‘No more. It’s alright. I think I’ve caught cold.’

‘I get Zorro for my pocket,’ he produced a small tin. ‘Take. Rub your face. It’s the dew. Dew don come down.’

The second reporter took the tin gratefully. He read his wristwatch. ‘God! 12.15. When will these people end their goddamned meeting for Christ’s sake? It’s been going on for the past sixteen hours.’ He rubbed his forehead with Zorro, gently.

‘Eh, Shina, looks like they’re coming out,’ the second reporter pointed toward the forecourt of the State Building, heaving up his bag of camera and accessories.

Shina sprang to his feet. ‘Ugh!’ he winced from a sharp pain in his back. ‘Chuks, has the tree torn my shirt?’ He turned his back to Chuks.

‘You didn’t even ask whether it tore your back. It was your shirt you first remembered!’ He laughed.

‘Ah, country hard, my brother,’ Shina laughed. ‘Well…eh, come on, Chuks, they’re out!’

They scampered toward the State Building. Other reporters emerged from the dark resorts under the numerous trees on the premises. Before they could reach the front of the State Building, the Minister for Public Utilities had hurried into his car and was driven away. Some reporters ran after the car. At the gate, they caught up with him shouting questions.

‘Sir, you’ve been reported as saying water is not for the consumption of every Dick and Harry, but those who can produce their tax receipts for the past three years-‘

‘Sir, people are asking why they should pay more for the supply of darkness by the National Electricity Company…’

The Minister kept a straight face while the gatemen fussed about the gate. He was driven out as soon as the gates were flung open.

Shina and Chuks remained with other reporters at the porch of the State Building.

‘What sort of questions are they asking that man?’ Chuks said. ‘He’s already said even breathing is not for everybody.’

‘Please, Chuks, leave that one aside,’ Shina said. ‘Our main interest here is the Minister for Health. Get me good shots of him as soon as he steps out, even if he’s trying to run away.’

The Minister for Health seemed to be the target of many other reporters as well.

************

‘James,’ the Minister for Health called his aide-de-camp, ‘you say they are all still waiting?’

James clicked his heel and shot out his chest. ‘Dem still dey wait, sir. I look dem from the window.’

‘And all other ministers are gone?’

‘No car yonder sir.’

‘I didn’t ask about cars, James,’ the Minister shouted, but quickly checked his voice.

‘All correct, Sir.’ James shot out his chest, ‘E be like say dem don go.’

‘What’s “e be like say”?’ the Minister scowled.

‘Dem don go, sir.’ James clicked his heel again.

‘Now, James!’

‘Yessssssir!’

‘What I want you to do is,’ the Minister paused for a while, ‘without appearing violent, clear off everything on my path as I walk out of the house. Everything!’ Solemnly, he repeated, ‘Everything. Do you hear me? Those stupid boys will not let you rest. They will worry you with stupid questions.’ He rose suddenly and picked up his cap. He examined the inside of it before fitting it on his head. He strode toward the exit. James followed him smartly.

************

‘Ah-ha, has the man gone already?’ a reporter said.

‘How could he have left? He’s still in there.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Isn’t that his car?’

‘But couldn’t he have left in another car? You don’t know military men?’

‘Oh, don’t sound so ridiculous.’

‘Ridiculous? If he wanted to avoid us, he could do that.’

‘Na true o! Sojaman fit do anything. Eh, A-dey hear waka sound.’ They fell silent. ‘It’s true. Footsteps!’

The reporters stirred and focused on the door of the building. James came out. He stood akimbo and surveyed the mob of reporters. The air became still. Chilly. Suddenly, footsteps rattled from within the house. James proceeded stiffly on a straight line, trailed by the Minister. Mechanically. The Minister’s car emerged from the dark, the door flung open instantly.

Reporters struggled.

‘Mr. Minister, reports say that the AIDs test on your son proved positive. Is that the reason you have sought audience with the National Executive Council to make a decision on the disease?’

‘Sir, has the NEC finally recognized Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome as a national problem?’

‘Mr. Minister – ‘ James dealt a few blows on a reporter who thrust a microphone too close to the Minister’s mouth.

‘Jesus Christ!’ The reporter shouted, crouching and holding his mouth. ‘God! Oh God!’ he whined, reaching for the two teeth that flew out of his mouth. Flashes rained on him from some cameras.

The Minister was driven off. Other reporters now turned their attention to the wounded man. They carried him to one of their cars.

‘Straight to the GH,’ someone said.

‘Better find a private hospital. The people at the General Hospital will not budge.’

‘The NUJ must do something about this. For how long shall journalists in this country be attacked at will by military men? And we say we have a union?’

‘Did you get the Minister?’ Shina turned to Chuks.

‘I got him,’ Chuks said and whispered into Shina’s ear, ‘And that reporter and his teeth.’

‘You’re a rascal!’

‘You know, that’s news.’

‘Bet it’s big news.’

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