Written by Owolabi Ifeoluwa
I was so sure that I was the one! The round of applause was deafening! I’d never felt so special all my life. Everybody was standing; it felt like they knew the recipient of the award already. Oh my God, that’s me, goodness me. I didn’t see them looking at me, but I thought their eyes were set on me. The MC continued to say “the name of the winner of the award is…..” , trying to put me …no, trying to put us on suspense. I was all smiles, my lips were twitching and my eyes itching, and my heart was beating so fast that a rock star could have borrowed it.
Why not? I’d worked so hard for it! I’d been so diligent with my work ever since I’d been in the service. I’d been so self-denying and sacrificing over the past one years of survey for that award. I did not give or take bribe, even when my husband’s brother working under me had embezzled money and was caught, he wasn’t covered up and he was sent to jail. I had grown to be desired by my other incorruptible, hardworking colleagues but hated by others of the other like. I had put in so much that I’d been nominated for the award.
I sat up on my chair and rubbed my palms together. I looked at the aisle and thanked God that I’d picked good shoes that morning that I could catwalk with as I would walk down to receive the award. I had used a big chunk of my salary to shop for this great day, well, I didn’t mind because I knew that this day would make it all better. I glanced at my husband as the MC invited the President of the nation to present the award to the yet anonymous recipient. Oh, I think right there my breath just stopped….did you say the president… oh God, ooh my God. O man! Everybody else not standing before stood up at once as the president approached that platform, I would be joining him there very soon, very soon, I said! I looked around me; my husband was not looking at me …yet. He would soon be looking at me when I hear my name and begin to walk down that aisle, he would then begin to respect me and stop beating me, my gaze shifted to his mother and his sister, after this moment yet to come, they would all stop nagging me in the house and begin to revere me in that house. I looked at my 18 year old son… my God he’ll be so proud of me, he’ll call me the best mom in the world! He’ll begin to listen to me and stop sassing me. I looked at my beautiful Jessica, oh, I love her so much! I had purposely invited all this people including my husband’s friends to witness this glorious transformation of my status in the society, though it was known to me, only me yet, what was about to happen.
As the MC shook hands with the president when he finally got to the podium, I surveyed the attendees for the last time because in less than twenty seconds, they’d all be staring at me. They consisted of all the Governors of the southwest zone, senators and other celebrities of the nation. I knew that the whole of the Nation was watching on TV…and others outside Nigeria were watching on DStv, of course it was a once-every--yearsthing, so it was worth the sweat!!
The much awaited voice jolted me back. “The recipient of this year’s Integrity in Service Award, International level is…. Is… Dr. Mrs. Oribamise Elizabeth kunbi”. The applause was deafening!! I thought I saw my husband and his friends stare at me with their mouths agape. I thought I heard Jessica scream ‘mommy’, I thought I saw… all, all! As I began to take that walk that I’d rehearsed so well in front of the mirror with my new shoes the previous night. I just thought that I couldn’t breathe as I moved, all those people were looking at me , I was the only one that mattered in the country that moment, the president was smiling at me, waiting for me… almost like my wedding day!!! All the celebrities and big personalities of the society were …! The snapshots made the whole scene look like my welcome into paradise…would it be like this too? Of even more elaborate than this? Well, that is then and this is now! But wait, really, I thought there were angels singing when I began to hear the song ‘stand up for the champion’, because for the first time, as they played the song to my cat walking steps, I appreciated the song so much that I thought an angel must have sang it.
I got to the podium at last, there the scene was like it was God himself waiting to give me the award and the angels are clapping for me, the snapshots were so blinding. I was all smiles and the President was smiling back at me, the plaque in his hands. Well, at that moment, I thought he just looked so handsome holding it as if he wanted to give me my valentine’s gift. Then the gap really closed in so well that I could touch it. He shook hands with me and we turned to the cameras. Then I saw HIM coming.
The struggle to get our pictures was so great…that you could have mistaken him for one of those who were just going to feed on gains from taking my pictures. He went past them, still unnoticed, until he got to the podium, struggling with the bodyguards…to be heard, to be seen… he grabbed the microphone, then I recognized him. Oh my God, I hope he has just come to smile at me, oh! Then he started to talk, hmmm, they allowed him to talk. Why? Please don’t let him talk, he’s about to say something y’all wouldn’t like to hear, you should spank him and take him back to his mom, back to his kindergarten class, how did he escape…. No, Lizzy girl, stop being silly, he has only come here to wish you well, with a warm hug, perhaps….
“This woman is not the one for it!!” Silence fell everywhere, now my heart was beating too fast that a rock star would not even give a dime for it. He continued, “last year, we had a deal, I was awarded a contract…” hmmm, they allowed him to talk oh! The music stopped and silence fell everywhere, everyone listened to his story. I just prayed that the dream would come to an end on time so that the ceremony would continue. It just didn’t seem it would continue as he spilled it all out. That small contract! God, what I’d taken was barely a million naira, barely one percent of the worth of the contract. My legs were shaking as he presented the paperwork evidence to those who ran to the podium to rescue me from the claws of hell and everlasting embarrassment. Everywhere became disorganized as people began to move around the venue and out of it, smiling faces became shocked ones, my imagined paradise turned to the deepest hell. My eyes were no more itching, my lips were not twitching either, and my whole body only just seemed to be falling apart as I was trembling. I could hear ‘why now’, ‘why now’ above people’s shouts and murmurings, but it sounded like ‘die now’, ‘die now’ so my legs just gave way and I fell. The last I remember- everything turned to black.