The Things They Would Never Know

The Toyota Hilux trucks marked in police colours, sirens blaring sped along the road against traffic, the policemen leaning out of the car, swinging horse whips at drivers slow on making way for the approaching convoy of two Range Rover SUVs.
In the rear passenger seat of the second Range Rover sat one of the most influential and wealthy men in town. He was the rare kind that shied away from public view, had never appeared before a television camera nor granted any interviews to any journalist, but his business name resounds all over town that little children know it by heart. His influence was such that was felt all over the economic landscape and amongst the workers in his factories that it could open unexpected doors for a favoured one only by the mere presentation of his business card. He traveled a whole lot around the world mostly for business and rarely for pleasure; there was some transaction to be made with the executives of some foreign bank, an expatriate worker to woo onboard with a generous sum of dollars or in rare cases, a ceremony in honour of some political figure held in Paris or Dubai. On this night, he was running late on catching up with his flight to Charles De Gaulle airport. He had called his contact in the airport to delay the flight for some more minutes. The nervous man had called his line and in a very shaky voice, apologized that he couldn’t delay the flight any longer than thirty minutes because some high profile government officials were on board the same flight and that concerns were beginning to mount up as to the delay in the flight schedule. He had been stuck in the dense traffic of the night, a typical night in the Port-Harcourt metropolis when everyone was in a haste to get to the comfort of wives and concubines at once. There being no traffic light nor wardens to check the beastly nature of men, they had been a deadlock in traffic and with headlamps gleaming, horns blaring, engines steaming and unworthy cars breaking down, drivers had lost their nerves, resorting to hurling verbal missiles at each other. He had called on the police commissioner and in no time at all, his cars were being led through the sea of cars by mean-looking police men in police trucks smashing headlamps with long sticks and whipping drivers off the path with horse whips. The man smiled to himself for a fleeting moment, he would have to show his gratitude to the young commissioner upon his arrival to the country in four days time. He stroked his shaved chin thoughtfully, indifferent to the drama going on around him. Although through the tinted glass of his window he could catch the eye of one or two persons staring long at his car in a covetous manner like it was some broad ass woman, yet it meant nothing to him. He had seen a lot of the expression for far too long to get used to it. He had always been adored, had always been feared and had always been admired.
There are many things people wouldn’t know about the man that they admired. Not everyone loved him though, only his family actually did. People feared him, most envied him, everyone honoured him and some aimed to become like him.
He thought different of himself. He prided in himself and in his achievements; over the years, he had tended his clothes-line business from scratch and nurtured it into a household name with factories and warehouses in major metropolises in the country. He prided also in the percentage of the populace he has in his employ. He had diverged into other businesses, building a conglomerate with companies listed in the Nigerian stock market. He was now an investor wooed by state governors to come invest in their states. He knew he was a demigod just the way workers scuttled about whenever he visited any of his factories, the way he was worshipped in public whenever people get to recognize him as the man who owned those towering factories advertised on TV and seen scattered all over the country. Nobody dared to disagree with him even when he felt he was making no sense. Whatever he wanted done, there was a crowd of too-eager people always handy, ready to do his bidding, ready to pander to his every whim and caprice.
He thought different of people also; he hated them at least a whole lot of them. He knew them to be mindless leeches, wavering in their grasp of sensibleness in a desperate bid to cling to his aura of affluence like some egret enjoying a free ride on the hump of a grazing bull. He imagined people to think of him as holding two keys to success; one for himself and another for the most persevering human parasite. He never trusted those around him, those who depended on him for an assurance of tomorrow’s bread, always affirming his every opinion. He didn’t trust those away from him either, he knew them to be envious of his achievements. He could read into their looks, the resentment they held against him as though he owed them some form of reparation for the wealth he had amassed while they remained poor and poorer. Some of those looks he saw got impressed upon his mind, they haunted his sleepy head upon the pillow. He would imagine those faces creeping up to his bed, brandishing dagger, poised to sink its sharp, gleaming blade into his flabby flesh.
He owed nobody any apology for being wealthy and getting wealthier. He worked very hard for it, he remembered many nights when he had to stay awake tossing sleepless about his bed, his mind encumbered by a multitude of businesses, pondering on his fears, fears of losing his money to crooked accountants and managers. At moments like these as he washed down a sleeping pill down his throat, he envied some other poor fellow sprawled upon his thin mattress favoured by the goddess of the night to forget his woes in the blissful depths of slumber.
They wouldn’t know of how depressed he felt looking in the mirror, seeing his fast graying hair and the worry lines traversing his face, signs encroaching upon his features a bit too early. He knew many men his age of moderate means who looked much younger, visited a doctor less often, and had nothing to worry about maintaining a diet to check against a rise in blood pressure. They wouldn’t know, they would always point accusing fingers, too quick to blame their misfortune on another. If they had anyone to blame for the social injustice they felt, it should be society and whatsoever tends to bring man to become a social being. The human society had a way of self-stratification; the few wealthy, a handful of middle class and a majority of the poor whose living fuelled the very existence of the wealthy. Even if they killed him to sate their envy, it will not change anything; another wealthy fellow would fill the vacuum of his absence. They should blame themselves too, the very fabric of the human society. They were the ones that are always needy, desirous of the things they really never needed, getting indebted just for a fleeting moment of luxury. They are the ones too stupid as to live an illusion, to believe that life consisted of material possessions; fine clothes, the latest electronic gadgets, expensive cars.
They would never know that they are the very element of the society, the poor. They wouldn’t know that they influence values, and that they dictate the politician’s offer, the industrialist’s produce, that they made their choices with their votes, their money, their voices, their actions and their inactions, that they allowed the media to ply their gullible senses with half-truths and falsehood. He and his likes pandered to this innate nature of these poor and get paid in the process, capitalizing on their ignorance of the reality that the rich needed less than the poor did, were less oppressive and suppressive than the poor who needed all these material things to laud their perceived form of elevated status over their fellow poor and needy.
He remembered an article on last month’s issue of one start-up magazine. The article had cited claims of disgruntled workers on all of his factories complaining the poor employee welfare. It had gone further to spell out his total neglect for social responsibility, that he should give some measure of the lot back to the society, it suggested building a public library, donating expensive equipment to hospitals, supporting soccer or some other sporting activities, or any sort of philanthropy as done by few of the multi-national oil companies.
He ignored the article; the magazine was just an upstart trying to garner some form of public awareness. He believed himself to be a true Nigerian, a poster child for patriotism. He had made his millions and still invested it in the country, creating jobs, and contributing to the economy, that was much more social responsibility than the politician who looted the treasury, stashing away the loot in a foreign account, bought shares in foreign companies, or bought mansions in the U.S, U.K or South Africa. He never pitied the poor. He pitied the fact that their emotions were always misplaced. If they knew any better, they would crown him their messiah and stone all those politicians to death on the streets. But they don’t know any better because they have refused to.
He reverted his mind to where he was headed, Paris. Thank goodness they were close to the airport, he couldn’t afford to be miss the flight to Charles De Gaulle airport. He had a meeting in two days time with a team of Italians in Milan. If he succeeded in convincing them with the generous offer he had in his heart, they would fully automate the operations in his factory saving him a lot of money in salaries and welfare. Hundreds of workers would have to be laid off, but he could only feel sorry for them. It was no fault of his whatsoever; he had businesses to grow and more money to make in profits


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