When I reached home that evening, I was curious to see what was in the envelope. I opened it and saw that it contained American dollars. I counted. USD3,000.00. Why? I kept it in my drawer.
The following morning, I went prepared to court. I was informed by the court interpreter that the judge is on leave. Court interpreters as always are sweet, helpful people. My office, as usual was not informed earlier that the “divine” had gone on leave, so we took another date. I think gods are not obliged to do so. I can imagine the wrath I would have to undergo had I been late 10 minutes before the “divine”! Anyway, I always tell myself that the world is round. What goes around, must come around - I have personally witnessed this phenomenon all my life.
After having breakfast at the court canteen, I called Dr Rasuawahi. “Good morning, your Excellency, can we meet up earlier? My case did not go on today”.
“Sure. I will finish all my meetings by 6pm. Can we have dinner at Sahara at 7.30pm?”
Sahara? I know the place. It serves Arabic food. I said, “Ok, Your Excellency”.
I reached Sahara at 7.30pm on the dot despite the famous KL traffic. “I am with Dr Rasuawahi”, I informed the hostess there. She immediately brought me to the back, exclusive part of the restaurant. Behind the curtain, was Dr Rasuawahi and three others, one of whom I recognized to be a Minister. The table was filled with plates of food – zirbeyan rice, kebab, huge lamb, kofta with parsley, hasaa al-khodar, fatat al-ads and much more. Food, in my estimation more than enough for 10 people.
“Sit down please. Meet my lawyer, gentlemen”. I did not even know I was already appointed and for what purpose.
I was introduced to the others by Dr Rasuawahi – John Knowitall, a foreign financial consultant, Dr Churimaka, his political adviser and strategist (also his cousin), a local businessman (who was smiling all through the night, god knows why) and the YB.
As I sat down, having shook hands with everyone; Dr Rasuawahi asked me, “What’s your drink, sir?”
“I’ll have a sharab al-na'na please”, I replied, showing off my knowledge of Arabian drink.
“That’s a nice mint drink”, said the YB, showing off that he knows it too. The local businessman was smiling.
Frankly, I have always hated dinners with people I am not close to. My dinner usually does not take more than 10 minutes. I also have never been comfortable till today with talk on how the lamb is marinated or how the prawns are fried. We have already killed those poor animals; let us not make a festival out of it. And small talk at dinner tables easily tires me out.
Everyone wants to make a joke and you have to laugh due to sheer politeness. It is such an effort for me. And it amazes me how the local businessman’s face muscles do not tire from the continuous smile on his face. He must have had lots of practice. But I learnt something at that dinner. Dr Rasuawahi is a great host. A master.
He was a different man from whom I had known the previous day. He was humble, down to earth and completely friendly. You will never guess that behind this man is a devious creature lurking. Even I felt comfortable with him at the table. The YB and he exchanged brief conversations of investment into the country.
“Don’t you worry. John will get in touch with your contact before the official line begins. And I assure you, I will be indebted to you too”. Both the YB and Dr Rasuawahi smiled and nodded to each other knowingly like as if passing a secret message. In any event, I was the happiest person when it was declared that the dinner was over.
“Lawyer, you come in my car please. I’ll get someone to drive your car”. Without asking where we were going, I found myself following him. I must admit, he had a certain aura of authority about him.
We did not talk to each other in the car. He was mostly on the phone speaking in some foreign language, which I guessed must be Juburtian. I was feeling nervous but I did not know why. Maybe because I was beginning to see completely different faces of his in such a short span. I kept reminding myself that I am not committed in any way. The car drove into a hotel basement and stopped at the car park.
The driver got out of the car and came back in 3 minutes holding a big packet. He said something in Juburti to Dr Rasuawahi and we drove out of the basement. Again, we were quiet during the journey back to his hotel. Finally, we were back to his luxurious hotel room. Once inside, he asked me in the tone I was used to yesterday,” Coffee?”
“Yes please. Two sugars please no milk”. I needed the black coffee.
“I have big investments in your country. All under nominees, of course. The people you met today are important to me in their own ways. Churimaka is very loyal to me and a clever man. John is loyal to me because I have made him very rich. “
“And my minister?, I had to ask. He ignored the question. So I asked him another while he passed the coffee to me.
“Thank you. Are you in exile in Malaysia?”
“Officially, Switzerland gave me political asylum but I am now officially attending a forum in Thailand”. I was getting perplexed.
“Er…I don’t understand”.
“Good. No one except those who need to know need to understand. You do not need to know”. It was more of a decree than an answer! Sensing that I was a bit upset with his response, he continued in a condescending tone,
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it the way it came out. It is simple really. There are many things that a leader does not have to explain to the masses and you are one of them. Even if I explain it to you, your mind will not be able to understand it. So, good leaders only tell people what they need to know. The same culture is practiced in your country but you do not know. The fact that you do not know shows that it is effective”.
I was trying to slowly understand what he just said. Somewhere in what he said sounded like an insult was directed to the mind of the people. On the other hand, I had to understand his mind. So I risked a question,
“Dr, that sounded very wise and I am slow to catch it”. I saw that he face lit up. He probably liked the idea of him being cleverer than me so I continued,
“Who then decides what the people should know?”
He gave out a laugh, “The leader of course!”. Hmm, sounded like a circuitous reasoning.
“That’s not fair isn’t it? You might hide something important or you might misinform the public”.
He laughed again shaking his head as if I was his 4 year old son who had said something naive.
“Friend, trust me, the public do not know how to handle information. They do not like to think. What they like is entertainment and a sense of security in their small lives. And that’s nothing shameful about it. It is not fair to complicate their simple lives. It is fine for leaders like me”.
“That’s not true. There are well meaning citizens who can handle information and can think”.
“I grant you that. What? 0.007% of the population? Apart from managing and thinking about the information, they can do nothing. These are the people who confuse the public by giving the public information they cannot handle. Because the fact is the larger public does not want to think.” He looked at assessing me whether I can follow his reasoning.
And he quickly added, “These very small number of people who appear to think on behalf of the public are people with vested self interest. They want to give meaning to their otherwise empty lives. They want to make a name, make a mark. They are anti establishment. Even they know the public does not care to think. But they know that when they can confuse the public, some gullible public will give them support”.
I interrupted him, “ That’s not entirely true. There are people who are interested in issues that affect the nation and….”
He interjected, “Don’t waste your time on that argument. The only two issues the public are interested are – mine and my. You do not understand human nature. As to thinking, they loathe it!”
He continued, “Where do you think the larger public will go - a free forum on ‘the role of responsible citizens’ or a free concert by the Pussycats? What do you think will be widely discussed – Dr Rasuawahi’s contributions to the educational sector or his sex scandals? Public loves entertainment and sensation".
He paused and then continued, "Put it another way, they want us leaders to provide them with everything including entertainment. As long as you provide them that or give the perception that they are getting it, they are like purring cats. Get them to think and they become directionless, hungry tigers”.
Raising his chest, he said, “I am an effective leader. I give my people the essentials of life, give them entertainment and occasionally, simulated sensational news. Good economy, good infrastructure and most importantly, I protect my people from information I know they cannot handle”.
I could see that Dr Rasuawahi was enjoying himself lecturing me on matters which I suspect he thinks is complex for my simple mind. Is it true the public does not like to think and easily lulled by goodies? I don’t really think so. He was dishing out logic which I could not identify with. This man has an ego thicker than an oak tree. He was smiling down at me, patronizingly and literally. I was seated and somewhere in his lecture he had stood up before me.
“Anyway lawyer, you have a way of making me digress. Hope it educated you. I need actually to brief you about my presidency in Juburti. And it is confidential.”
“Sorry, your Excellency. I am all ears now”.
NEXT: Chapter 4: The Assassination Attempt