Jeffrey switched off the microphone and padded away from the dais towards the audience scratching his earlobe and peering over his shoulders repeatedly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve assembled here today to have frank discussions on the future of our great party. The future of our party hinges on ability to retain power at the next general elections in six months. I see in your eyes a firm belief in the principles of our great party and I’ve no doubts whatsoever about your commitments to this cause.”
He brushed the left lapel of his pinstripe suit with the back of his left hand, cleared his throat and continued.
“We are aware the previous administration employed several strategies including—buying votes, making empty promises, engaging in rhetoric, casuistry, sophistry and trickery to enable them remain in power. They delayed the completion of construction projects, executed and commissioned these in the penultimate month to the elections; they doled out money and basic necessities to charity, schools and hospitals and invited the media to cover and report these activities all in frantic attempts to patronize the electorate.
“Quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, the previous government has failed this nation and we cannot afford to shield their failings if we want to retain power. Of course we cannot retain power playing pious. Dear friends, the future of this party lies in your very hands…”
He drew a conventional clap and cheers from delegates as he strolled proudly back to the dais to shake hands with the party bigwigs who stood in reverence to him as he walked back.
He departed immediately closely shielded by a couple of uncompromising bodyguards in dark shades and black suits.
Speeding down the streets to the official presidential mansion, the scores of durable, luxurious four wheels constituting the president’s convoy was a delight to watch. Fast moving motor cycles preceded the fleet blaring siren, paving the way.
With the agenda now clearly defined, participants comprising constituency organisers, campaign strategists, propagandists and other high-ranking party hacks dispersed into various committees to confront their assigned tasks. They assembled under Jeffrey’s instructions to draw out an action plan for victory in the pending general elections.
What followed two days of vigorous writing and ruthless editing after the three-day retreat was a scintillating piece that Nick submitted to his sub editor for assessment and review before publication.
Nick was a daring investigative journalist who’d surprised many with his shocking revelations on several issues. He had disguised himself as a staunch follower of the ruling party and had attended the retreat with micro chips strapped to his body.
“So tell me, how did it go?” Mike, the sub editor asked.
“Just as I expected. Convinced that all participants were like-minded and party faithful, nothing prevented them from talking freely. The president himself was very explicit—it’s a make or break affair—he must have a second term. Power is indeed sweet! Once they get it they don’t want to let go off it.” Nick said.
“Yes, that’s why we must change them constantly. Constant electoral change tends to be an efficient means of checks and balances rather than the conventional institutions of judiciary and legislature.” Mike said touching his nose. “If they’re changed constantly they’ll have no reason to feel that they’re invincible or that their political traditions are second to none. Well, let’s assess the tapes and the story.” He added.
Having accepted the story with very few comments, Mike released it for processing and publication the next day. Strangely however, Nick found his office in a mess the next morning when he got to work. The tape and the story were gone. Other departments including the lithography department that had copies of the story were also ransacked. Mike rushed to the scene immediately Nick ended the call.
“This is clearly sabotage.” He said as soon as he arrived at the office.
“Well, though the tape and the story are gone I have back up. We could still do the story.” Nick revealed drawing a puzzled look from Mike.
“That’s good to hear but we can’t be in any hurry to do that now. At least we must fish the mole out first.”
“But you know the story is time bound. Let’s rather do the story first; later we’ll fish out the mole.”
“I respect your views but we can’t publish it now.”
A week later, Nick became frustrated. This story must be published immediately.” He told himself.
Consequently he changed the angle of the story and offered it to another press house which paid generously for it on acceptance.
“Tell me what you mean by this!” Mike blurted throwing a copy of the publication on Nick’s table with the headline: “President Teaches Political Trickery” highlighted on the front page. Nick starred at Mike without a word.
“Remember we commissioned you to do the story and you couldn’t offer it to another publisher, especially when you’re still in employment with us.” He sneered.
“That notwithstanding, you’ve demonstrated enough that you were no longer interested in publishing it. And since it’s my intellectual property, I decide what to do with it. Remember the story was running against time.”
Mike limped out of Nick’s office to his office with a rueful look on his face. He sat in his chair and crossed his fingers. He read the first paragraph repetitively shaking his head each time in disagreement.
“The president has urged functionaries and sympathisers of his party to employ trickery, sophistry and casuistry to enable the party retain power in the next general elections. He said this at the start of a three-day retreat of top politicos of the ruling party a fortnight ago.”
What’s this Nick has got me into? He wondered. Meanwhile at the presidential mansion, Jeffrey had ordered the arrest of Mike and Nick after he was shown the publication by his press secretary.
Late evening while Mike was still struggling to swallow just one morsel of the food served him at dinner, he was picked up and dumped in a poorly lit dungeon. Moments later, Nick was also taken.
If there was one thing Nick had reminded himself about always, it was the fact that life as an investigative journalist could bring up unpleasant surprises anytime. So he was prepared for anything. That perhaps was the reason he kept back ups of every fact he had—recorded or printed—at several separate locations. He seemed neither bothered at all about the incarceration nor how long it would take for them to leave the poorly lit and nauseating dungeon. Mike however felt jittery at their fate in the dungeon.
“Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen next and I certainly can’t keep this guilt any longer.” He said apologetically.
“What are you talking about?” Nick asked looking rather puzzled.
“W-well, I was responsible for the supposed raid. In fact there was no raid. I made it up to make the loss of the tape and story palpable.” He added.
“You’re not serious, are you?” Nick said indifferently.
“I am. All I needed was to wait for Octavia to close. When she finally did I broke into the office and took the story and the tape, then went to the other departments to destroy other copies.”
“And what did you do with them?”
“I sold them. I sold them for five thousand dollars to the president’s campaign manager.”
While Nick and Mike were languishing under despicable conditions in incarceration, being fed with crumbs of dry bread and unclean water, Jeffrey was revelling in the comfort of his paradise. His weekend receptions for party officials were delightful as were treats for foot soldiers. The final reception was held a week before the election at the official presidential mansion for both party bigwigs and foot soldiers. There was choice foods and drinks and beautiful women to have and to hold.
“The essence of this grand reception is to show my appreciation to you for your unflinching support. It is also to bring everybody—high ranking officials and foot soldiers together to interact. Have fun ladies and gentlemen and make merry. We’ve already won the election, what’s left is the declaration by the electoral commission.” He said drawing applause from the fairly tipsy audience.
Handouts of brown envelopes packed with hard cash were given to each attender in appreciation when the event ended.
The elections were conducted amidst tensions and results duly declared. It was pretty obvious what the electorate wanted—a leadership that would promote decency in how politicians grab state assets. That, they felt the opposition candidate could provide, at least that was his message.
New Ministers, Chief Executive Officers and Directors were appointed. Boards were constituted and sworn in and the moment of reckoning came swiftly. Jeffrey was investigated and tried for corruption and human rights abuses. All his assets including the seven mansions he’d acquired during his tenure were confiscated to this state. He was then placed under house arrest in one of the mansions located on an island south of the country.
Nick and Mike were subsequently released.
This is 10 year old amateur draft. Never been revised since.