Like Tom and Jerry, Ebora chases Artikú down the road, clutching a machete and a horn in each hand, a few cowries and amulets falling off his hunter’s regalia. Three young men ran after Ebora in hot pursuit.
“Haba! Baba, Baba, please, forgive and forget, please! This is Satan at work o! Baba, pleeease,” the chasing pack pleaded.
But Ebora was too fast for them just as Artikú was too fast for him.
With a lipless mouth on a rectangular head without eyebrows, eyelashes and definite ears, only a cartoonist or a caricaturist can be proud of the creature called Artikú.
Artikú’s solid frame shows his creator was generous with form but stingy with details, blessing him with a flat face, high cheekbones and two bead-size nostril tunnels overlooking a chiselled, strong jaw. Artikú is handsome in a fearsome way.
Artikú got his education on crime street, not in the classroom, making him insanely capable of anything in the dark arts of thievery, and the automobile industry rose up in acclaim of his wizardry about 20 years ago when he manufactured and co-patented with his former boss, Jenera Ebora, Special Purpose Vehicles that ran on the wheels of fraud.
In eight inglorious years, the Ebora-Artikú Special Purpose Vehicles plied the superhighway of corruption constructed by the Peoples Democratic Potty (PDP), ferrying billions into private accounts.
Ebora is the human contradiction that lives on Olumo Rock. His life is the pull and screech tug-of-war between good and evil with the latter triumphing inside his milkless heart.
During the day, Ebora dances in the sun of statesmanship. At night, he goes stark naked, unbarring his fangs, horns and claws, stuffing his agbada with looted shekels of gold, betraying family, friends and conscience; Ọmọ òru là á sè’kà.
Over two decades ago, elite conspiracy brought Ebora and Artikú together at a garage called Ass-or-Rock after (M)oney-(K)udi-(O)wo, the popular driver of the people’s hope and mandate, died in conspiratorial suspicion. Gladly, Karma came and the romance between Ebora and Artikú barely lasted four years before things fell apart.
Today, the foot of the corpse which Ebora and Artikú buried many years ago is sticking out. Artikú’s former disciple, waving the flaming sword of Michael the Archangel, has vowed not to bear the surname Archmugu anymore, blowing open the lid on the dirty secrets.
There was excitement in the air as Ebora and Artikú took charge of the Special Purpose Vehicle at the Ass-or-Rock garage. Thugs of the National Union of Transport Workers came out in large numbers, brandishing weapons, drinking alcohol and smoking. The thugs hailed Ebora and Artikú as ‘Your Excellency’.
Religious leaders, traditional rulers, workers, students etc were fully represented at the ceremony. After all said and done, Ebora, the driver, stepped into the gleamy SPV with Artikú, the conductor. They both admired the vehicle like little children would admire a new toy.
Ebora: Dis SPV na oyooyo! You dis boy, you bi winch! Where did you get this SPV idea from?
Artikú: (Smiles) It have tay, sir. SPV is the new abracadabra that can make money disappear. It can convey any amount of money. Remember the suitcases, sir?
Ebora: Oh, those suitcases! Did they disappear in SPVs?
Artikú: (Chuckles) It was during the regime of General Muhammodu that the suitcases disappeared. I was at the border that day. The suitcases that I saw with my two korokoro eyes just disappeared. I was shocked.
Ebora: You don’t mean it!?
Artikú: I mean it, sir. That’s why I modified this vehicle and called it SPV. It’s unlike the physical vehicles that transported those suitcases. It’s better than the BBVs – Bourdillon Bullion Vans. The SPV transports invisible cash of any denomination.
Ebora: Oh, I see.
Artikú: Sir, I suggest we get more SPVs for the numerous màgò-mágó we would soon embark on.
Ebora: (Revs the vehicle.) That’s ok. Artikú, you’re criminally creative! O ya call passenger make we run one trip kia-kia.
Artikú: Ok nah, oga mi. Lagos! Lagos straight! Lagoon straight!
Ebora: Artikú, Artikú, Artiku! How many times did I call you? Open your ears very well and listen to wise counsel. This SPV, uhm, we must be very careful o. We go make money, but we must be discreet. You know the bedbug? You know how it operates? Ehn-ehn, that’s how I want us to operate – suck and hide. No dey show yourself o. The people wey give us this vehicle dey watch us o, and I’m a man of integrity. After each trip, I go take 75% of the proceeds, you go take 22, we go give the cooperative people wey get di vehicle 3%. Is that ok?
Artikú: Yes, baba; it’s ok. Thank you, sir.
Ebora: That’s why I chose you as my assistant. I know you’re not greedy.
Artikú: I’m not, sir.
Ebora: O ya, call passenger, good boy.
Artikú: Lagoon straaaaight! Lagos straight! Lagos!
(Later, Ebora meanders the fully loaded vehicle out of the garage, singing ‘Buga’ by Kizz Daniel as passengers chat.)
Passenger 1: Dis country don pafuka, walahi!
Passenger 2: Na for dis yeye country wey dem go paint money watercolor, come make am scarce. Na only suffering sure pass for dis country.
Passenger 3: No, na suffering and death…
(The vehicle reaches Lagos safely.)
Ebora: O ya, bring out the passenger fares make we share.
(Artikú brings out all the fares he collected and Ebora uses his 75-22-3 percentage sharing formula.)
Ebora: Help me keep my own share, I’ll collect it later. You know I’m a man of integrity; nobody must see such an amount of money on me. After two trips, I’ll retire to my village.
Artikú: Ok, sir. After your second trip, I’d like to succeed you, sir.
Ebora: That’s ok.
Artiku: Lest I forget, sir. We need to supply electricity to the garage and its environs. We also need to sell off old properties of our transport association.
Ebora: I’ll leave everything to you. I’ll approve funds for the electricity supply and also approve the sale of the properties. But, Artikú! Artikú! Artikú! How many times did I call you?
Artikú: Three times, sir.
Ebora: If you no wan die, no die my money o.
Artikú: Lailai, oga mi.
Ebora: O ya, call passenger make I go my second trip. Call Port Harcourt-Abuja passengers.
Artikú: Yessooo, oga mi. Port Harcourt-Abuja straaaaight! Poracourt-Abuja! Poracourt-Abuja straight!
The vehicle reached Abuja via Port Harcourt safely but Ebora didn’t get up from the driver’s seat, scheming for a third trip. He was about to call on Artikú to bring the money with him when Artikú suddenly burst into tears.
Ebora: What’s wrong, Artiku. Somebody died?
Artiku: No, sir, it’s the money, sir?
Ebora: Which money!?
Artikú: It’s all the money, sir – the passenger fares, money for electricity supply and money for the sale of properties, sir; all is gone, stolen, sir!
Ebora gets up in annoyance, pulls off his agbada, revealing a regalia with cowries and gourds. He pulls a machete and a horn from under his seat and chases Artikú who was shouting, “wayyo Allah!’, ‘I don die o!’…
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Published in The PUNCH on Friday, February 3, 2023.