In less than ten minutes, I will be the first person to be publicly executed for charges of bribery and corruption since the senate amended the constitution and declared that corrupt public officers would be treated the same way convicted murderers and terrorists are treated-with no mercy.
It had seemed like a joke when I first read the newspaper headline while seated in the posh gardens of my Banana Island home, drinking imported coffee. I had promptly called my friends in the senate who assured me that it was all a ruse,
“It’s just for show”, they had said, but only a few days later, we were all sharing a cell in the infamous Kirikiri prisons; the joke had been on us.
“Do you have any last requests Mr. Ciroma Chukwuemeka Adekunle”
I thought carefully before I replied the hairy prison guard, it had all happened too quickly-my arrest, the trial, my failed attempt to bribe the judge and my subsequent sentence.
Many things had been left undone, many words unsaid but my sole comfort is in knowing my family is safe, I had done this for them after all. By now, I am sure my wife is on another continent with our two kids and whatever funds she was able to put together before our accounts were frozen.
This leaves me with only one option for a final request, I ask the prison guard to bring in the man who started this, the man who offered me my first bribe and helped me bribe many others after…
I still remember the day it happened even though I was still a toddler then. My mother had left me with him for a few hours while she went for an important job interview.
“The feeding bottle is in the cooler, please remember to let him sleep after eating o” she said
After leaving numerous instructions concerning my care and rethinking her decision several times, she finally left and as soon as she was gone, my dad, delighted to spend some one on one time with his son, transformed into my personal entertainer and instantly had me chuckling with simultaneous bouts of peekaboo and rib tickling.
Things had gone smoothly until the devil whispered in his ears and he decided to switch from peekaboo to throwing me towards the ceiling.
The first two tries had been as exciting for me as they were for him but on the third try, something went awfully wrong. By the time he caught me, I was wailing loudly as a small bump formed at the back of my head.
Nothing could stop the tears that followed and every attempt to pacify me backfired and made things worse. After trying every other trick he knew, my father decided that it was time to treat me like a man. He reached in his pocket and brought out the most fascinating object I had ever seen-a shiny silver coin- and only then did my sobbing stop.
He would later snatch his N1 coin from my tiny fingers while I slept but it did not matter, the seed had already been sown and as I grew older, my greed increased.
My older siblings were the easiest targets, each time they caused a household mishap, all I had to do was sing a song that I’m sure still brings fear to children’s hearts today,
“Den den den, I wee teh mummy for you….”
and they’d scramble to produce their savings in cash or sweets to buy my silence.
In primary school, my greed made it easy for me to omit names from the noisemakers list in return for gifts at break time. It was the perfect scheme until some boy who could no longer afford to keep his side of the deal ratted me out to the teacher. The strokes of pain I received from my teachers cane did not change anything, bribery and corruption had become a part of me.
All through my secondary school boarding house, my dad helped secure my comfort and protection by making monthly payments in cash and provisions to the most powerful seniors in school and all through my university he promptly sent me cash whenever I needed to settle lecturers to change my grades or settle my brilliant colleagues to do my school work.
I was beyond shocked when he visited me in prison a few days ago to say he was ashamed of me, to berate me for embarrassing the family name, to disown me. He had felt differently when I built him houses and bought him exotic cars, he had even openly called me his favorite child and often criticized my siblings for not being more like me.
He had to have known that the money I was spending so lavishly was ill-gotten but it never mattered to him until I broke the unwritten law of corruption- “Never get caught”.
“They said you want to see me”, tears roll down his face as he sits across from me and I soon feel my own hot tears on my cheek as my resolve to blame him for putting me in this situation crumbles bit by bit.
“Da…daddy”, is all I manage to utter before my throat betrays me. As we hold hands and weep silently, I sense his unspoken apology and offer him my silent forgiveness before the prison guard interrupts us.