Hon. Hajji’s Bigger, Better

Mrs. Hajji was talking her husband’s ear off about the children. “Rose …this…. Paul ….that…. and Minysteria’s just rude.” Hon. Hajji didn’t indulge; he had already said what he needed to say about his children to his children. Not to say, he wasn’t bothered by the disappointment they had brought him; but rather he did not care to speak his wife on this matter as she would just fuel the fire. She was the eternal bad cop when it came to their Super Parenting Team; Hajji suspected that this was only because she would rather have all his attention to herself and all the wealth too. Hon. Hajji imagined how amazing it would be if his wife and children weren’t so spoilt; if they did not act as if privileges afforded to them were rights. Had they raised the children wrong? Or was it the pressure of being in the political eye for most of their formative years? He reminisced about the days when Paul, his son looked up to him and followed him everywhere possible. Now it seemed as if he strayed as far as he could from his father and his career path. He looked back fondly at the days when Roselyn had big ceiling-shattering dreams that did not involve her being naked or objectified. However, now it seemed that if it did not objectify her, she didn’t want it. Minnie was on the right track at least her career was; in a matter of fact that was the only thing going right in her life and Hajji suspected that her defects were much deeper than her siblings’.

 

These were not the children of a Career Politician; they were the children of an arrogant rich man. He unconsciously feared that his children and their failures were the main reason the party wouldn’t nominate him for the bigger better position he always pushed for. He had been in politics for almost 30 years now; 20 as a Member of Parliament with each election yielding better and better results but nothing higher.  He wanted to move on to bigger better things. Even though he held an enormous degree of power and influence, he had been limited to the same old constituency for 30 years. He felt like he was still someone’s henchman;  articulating orders that came from higher up. He still answered to the party. Like all first-timers, he had been honored to serve in any way at the beginning but 30 years of stifled policies and shot-down ideas left him with little honor and fleeting loyalty. He hadn’t decided on how he was going to break into this Bigger Better position yet but he knew for sure that he would have to fight a lot of adversity for it.

 

“Hon. Hajji! Hon. Hajji! Hon. Hajji!” It took Jabari three tries to get the Mheshimiwa’s attention, “I have the Party Chairman, Hon. Chacha for you on the line.”

Hajji immediately discerned that he was not in the right mindset to speak to the Party Chairman. “Tell him I’ll return his call after the charity event.”

“Yes, Sir. “ Jabari spoke calmly into his phone and turned to Hon. Hajji again. “He says it can’t wait.”

Hon. Hajji reached over for the phone, put his hand over the voice receptor and took a deep breath before putting it to his ear.

“Chacha! I didn’t think I’d hear from you until the next Fundraiser.”

“Ahaha! Hajji don’t kid me. We spoke last week. “The voice on the other side did not portray the playfulness of its statement. Hon. Chacha’s voice was stern and urgent.

Hon. Hajji’s eyes widened as he collected himself. He could tell that this was an important call. He asked dutifully,” What can I do for you, Mr. Chairman?”

“Your Annual Hajji Foundation Charity Event is today, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Now I may be divulging information that exceeds your rank but you are our most popular Member of Parliament in the area.”

“Last time I checked.” Hajji smiled a little.

“Well, we are far behind our projection targets for the General Election and we feel that only you would be able to boost us to where we need to be.”

“Chaaacha.” Hon. Hajji tried to level with the Party Chairman. “You know how I feel about talking politics at my Foundation’s events. In its 17 years, I have never.”

“This is not lost on me, Hajji. IT. IS. NOT. But President Kibaraka may not succeed in re-election if we don’t take some drastic measures. Ones that maybe we haven’t taken for 17 years or even more. “

“I don’t see how my remarks will tilt the scale.” Hon. Hajji was careful not to show too much of his apprehension. “Seeing as the president’s poll numbers fell right after the audits of those two government entities were released detailing deep-rooted corruption and rampant mismanagement. How did that even happen, Chacha?”

Hon. Hajji could feel the Party Chairman’s face turn bright red from the other side of the phone. His breathing was now heavy enough for Hajji to hear, lucidly.

“Now look here. You are either with the party or you are against it. You cannot straddle the fence and if you choose to, we will have to find you a new party to run with in the next general election. I call you with complements and praise and out of the benevolence and goodness of my heart, ask you, not tell you, to do something for me and you throw doctored audit reports and corruption claims in my face! Hajji, I must just say I am…. “

“I have offended you. I apologize. I will make a few remarks about our good ol’ president.” Hon. Hajji extinguished the fire before it turned into an inferno. A good politician knew when to compromise on his honor; that is if he wanted to remain a politician and an active one at that.

“You better.” Hon. Chacha hung up and Hajji passed the phone back to Jabari.

“How much longer, Jabari?”

“About 45 minutes”

Hon. Hajji turned to his wife, “How do you feel about an independent Member of Parliament for a husband.” His voice tried to convey perky and casual but came out jaded, just jaded. His wife was not known for concealing her immediate emotions; in fact it often worked to his disadvantage as his wife would openly sneer at press conference and ugly cry at politician’s funeral. She was photographer’s candy at any event they attended. However, Hon. Hajji loved that his wife wore her emotions on her sleeve, he could always tell what she was thinking; what she was feeling. Lying between them was simply not an option. It had kept them together for forty years and it would keep them together even longer, maybe even forever. But this time was different, her face went blank; no expression; no emotion; nothing.

“Martha? Did you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“And?? What do you think?”

“I don’t know……”

“Don’t know what??”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Henry! “ Martha raised her voice a notch.

“What does that mean? I want your opinion. I thought that was clear.”

“No; you either want me to talk you out of it like I’ve always done or you want me to act somewhat supportive while you throw away 30 years of building rapport and coming up in the party.” She looked Hon. Hajji dead in the eye, her stare piercing his soul, revealing years of dissatisfaction and discomfort working in the party, “So which one is it, Henry? “

“I’ve been back and forth about this and that call from the Conniving Chacha just sealed it. I can’t stay. Winning party or not. The rot is deep and the most rotten lead us like dictators. “Hon. Hajji sighed. “I’m not ungrateful; at least I didn’t mean to be. But this is the party that plucked me from university politics with big dreams and better promises. This is not the party that gave me a platform big enough to get elected and help me finally implement some of my ideas for development. Somewhere, some when, somehow the party began to rot from the head down leaving me surrounded by people with whom I do not share a common principle or dream. I want Bigger! I want Better! And if that is to come true, the party is not the best channel with which to do it.”

“I’m going to be blunt, Henry Hajji, because that is what you need from me right now.” She looked away while she continued. “This country was built by men like you, Henry. That is why the party saw something in you so many years ago and funded your campaigns. And Unlike that party, you are still the same man; wiser and bolder but still governed by the same integrity. That is not something many men in your position can say honestly. You have not allowed your principles to fall for the spoils of power, and that has made you the most popular man in this region. From where we sit, it looks like it all works in your favor. But while you were busy developing your principles and standing by them, the country, just like the party, changed; and not for the better. Look around Henry, that Conniving Chacha orchestrated the selling of his country to foreigners. What he didn’t sell, he privatized and kept for himself and his cronies. He placed a puppet at the top and began to pull his strings. You wouldn’t just be fighting the party opponent in the constituency if you were to run independent, you’d be fighting Chacha, the party, the president, the whole damn country! This may not be what you wanted to hear but it is every single bit true. Bigger and better, also means harder and bloodier, Henry. ”

Advertisements

Hajji’s Children

The Mheshimiwa’s office was relatively empty today; not to say that no one sat waiting for him; the man was always on demand but less than the usual number sat patiently in those dingy metal seats awaiting his counsel. Jabari stared at the clock then at the door… then at the clock again. He twitched nervously. Boss was later than usual. Even though Jabari had only been working for Mheshimiwa Hajji for a few months, he could certainly say he knew all there was to know about the man, when it came to his professional life at least. He actually prided himself in the fact that he knew the boss enough that he would always be able to provide what the man needed before he knew to ask for it. Regarding the boss’ personal life, he wasn’t quite sure if he knew the man well enough. Or if there was really anything to know.

Jabari had a painful childhood. He didn’t realize it till much later in life when he was afforded the luxury of seeing children grow up loved, cared for and spoilt unconditionally. Jabari never had close family, not normal family anyway. He had vague recollections of people so selfish that they abandoned him. He was born in the exotic ‘coast’ of the country where the weather was hot and humid and everything else including the people were cool and easy going. His parents made a mistake. He wasn’t even sure they were fit enough to be afforded the title of parents, to him they were just two random human beings who happened to reproduce. They were two young ignoramuses who cared a notch too little for anything or anyone, especially themselves. They had that going for them the day they met, so they went ahead and made offspring like all ignoramuses do when they’re idle too long. They were both drug addicts; Jabari’s grandma always said that’s what ‘kept’ them together and away from their son, Jabari. They sent Jabari to live with his grandmother and his cousins instead. His maternal grandmother was lovely and old, too old to care for 11 children; they barely scathed by.

For about 8 years, Jabari lived in the utopia where he had 10 brothers and sisters and grandma was actually mama. Then, his mother came back to the village. People like her only did that for two things grandma said; for money or to die. Grandma didn’t have any money. ‘The life’ had finally caught up with her in a viral way. She was seriously unwell, Grandma explained. Jabari had gone back and forth hating her then loving her then pitying her and finally cursing her. When Jabari was 12 after finally forgiving her, he became the sole caretaker for his mother. His mother finally passed away from complications stemming from HIV/AIDS, something they only referred to then as “Mdudu”. That was the first time Jabari heard of it. It was the most painful he ever had to experience to the day. He had slowly begun to forgive her as any child would, only to watch her writhe in pain and lose her brutally soon after. He had never met his father. But that was a bridge he had burned immediately after her death; a bridge he could not, would not rebuild. To Jabari, his father had died with his mother and family was who you made it.

Jabari liked to think that Mheshimiwa Hajji was a good father, if not the best. That the man did his best considering his circumstances to ensure that his family was loved and cared for. Jabari liked to think he knew his family too on account of all the thoughtful gifts and cards he bought for them, silently, on behalf of the boss. He would finally get to meet Mheshimiwa Hajji’s family today. They would be arriving in less than ten minutes in the car service he hired for them; a separate car for each. That meant Mheshimiwa Hajji was late. He was never late. Something felt strange to Jabari. He shifted uneasily, glancing at the clock again. Through the door came, Hajji’s son, Paul. Paul dragged his feet lazily and slouched making himself look a lot shorter than he was. His eyes gave away his dread to be there. He walked straight past Jabari into his father’s office and immediately walked back out. “He’s late. Everyone’s late. But I’m supposed to be the ‘bad’ one. I should have stood him up.” He began to whine and rant to himself in the middle of the room as if no one else was there. Jabari was staring at him so hard that he almost didn’t notice Hon. Hajji’s older daughter, Roselyne walk in. She screeched when she saw her brother, taking him into his arm kissing on the cheek and forehead cheekily, and Jabari’s attention, as well as that of everyone else in the room, was diverted to her.

“Where is he?” She began, drawing away from her brother who was cringing from the public displays of affection he had just received from his sister.

“You know he yapped for thirty minutes when I told him I wasn’t coming. Now, where is he?”

“That’s your misdoing. You know charity events aren’t optional for the Hajji’s” He imitated his father as his sister burst out laughing. They laughed for a little over a whole minute before they noticed the half-full room staring at them. They kept quiet and stood in the middle of the room awkwardly, aware that the eyes of the constituents were on them. Jabari did not miss his cue.  He was by their side in seconds to direct them to a room where they would be more comfortable. He showed them to the meeting room down the hall then dutifully went back to his post.

“Mr Hajji, Miss Hajji…. Follow me! We have a room set up for you. Can I get you anything? Tea? Water? Juice? Soda? We even have porridge!” Jabari offered vehemently but they only murmured their refusals and walked past him into the meeting room across the hallway. The room was a grand boardroom with large elegant mahogany table standing in the middle of it. The room smelt of leather and polish.

The youngest daughter came into the waiting room next. Minnie walked straight into her father’s office too then came back out exclaiming, “I’m not late!” She was ecstatic for a few seconds before also realizing that the masses were staring at her. She then walked to Jabari and introduced herself in a rather professional manner before he showed her to the meeting room. She was the more humble and cultured of the three, Jabari could tell immediately. She was received far much less enthusiastically by her siblings than by the bystanders in the waiting room. It didn’t seem to bother her that her presence came with an air of tension with a hint of discomfort. The Hajji children gave each other a few awkward stares before Oldest Roselyne cracked the silence,

“So why are you here?” She said. Her voice was cross, almost mean.

“What do you mean?” Younger asked in reply with no animosity in her voice.

“Well, you said you didn’t need us! You remember, Paul?” Paul turned away, not wanting to get involved in what was about to turn into a full-on sister fight.

“I said I didn’t need you, Roselyne. Me and Paul are just fine, yes Paul? How’s aviation school?” Minnie deflected heavily while trying to bring her brother over to her side.

“Then leave! Leave us Hajji’s!” Roselyne began to raise her voice from the edge of her seat. She would have gotten up and backed up her words but Mrs. Hajji strutted violently into the room.

“Where is your father?” Silence

“Hmm. Roselyne! Apologize to Minysteria. Now!!”

“Muuuuuummmmm!” The girls whined in unison. Roselyne in protest of the apology, Minnie in protest of the use of her full name. Mrs. Hajji ignored them and walked over to her son.

“How’s Aviation school, Paul? Dropping out yet?”

“Actually, mum,” Paul stood to give her his seat, “Yes! I want to do theatre arts now.”

“Theatre Arts? Sounds familiar. Roselyne didn’t drop out of the same class a few years ago. What are you doing now?”

“I’m on the circuit now. Getting more gigs now. My agent says I’ll be vogue famous soon” Roselyne twirled gracefully as she stood.

“Circuit? You know I knew you’d be a call girl, Rose. I just wish your father hadn’t wasted so much on those three incomplete degrees to realize it. He could have just listened to me.”

“I’m a model, mum!” Roselyne sat back down. She had been struck down.

“Model? Hmmm” Mrs. Hajji poked. “And you Minysteria! I hear you are now a manager at 24. Impressive! Your goal was by 22, wasn’t it?” Minnie was the only one who didn’t take her mother too much to heart. They were the same; they could take it and dish it ten times over.

“Yes but, I lost those two years in that Catholic Disciplinary Programme you made me go to cause I called you chubby.” Roselyne and Paul giggled shyly behind their mother while Minnie and her mother locked into a death stare.

“And to think! I didn’t let them cane the delinquency out of you.” Mrs. Hajji said while pulling out a small mirror and her make-up purse out of her bag. Her children watched her quietly; all reflecting and regretting.

The meeting room door creaked open. Hon. Hajji’s presence drew the attention of the whole room. Everyone in his family shifted; He was here, it was now time to behave. He was in a better mood than usual. Maybe it was the annual charity; it always made him giddy to gun up good press.

“How’s the Hajji clan! Excited for our annual charity ball? Roselyne? Paul? Minn?”

“Yes, dad!” They faked enthusiasm in unison.

“And you my love? How are you? Excited?”

“Like you don’t already spy on me enough to know my feelings.” Mrs. Hajji didn’t look up from her mirror. She just continued to elegantly color her face with a brush.

“How are you, kids! Paul, School?” Hon Hajji ignored his wife’s callousness.

“We can talk about it after.”

“Now” Hon. Hajji insisted with a gruesome grin on his face.

“I’m thinking of dropping out of Aviation School. It’s just not for me. I want to try my hand at Theatre Arts!” Hon. Hajji’s mind must have replaced what his son said with white noise cause he ignored his son’s absurd request and went on to his oldest daughter,

“Rose! How is that job of yours? Any luck?” He must have also forgotten what Roselyne did with her life because he would never and had never approved.

“I’ve been trying,” Seeing the good mood her father was in, she moved closer. “I’m gonna be on a magazine cover. Soon” Hon. Hajji didn’t crack but usually, the thought of his daughter on print and not to the aid of his campaign repulsed him.

“Minnie! My Minnie Mouse! How’s the old desk job?” Minnie hopped with excitement. She had been waiting at least two months to tell her dad about her promotion. She imagined he’d be over the moon about it.

“I got promoted, Daddy. You are now looking at SetiNel’s newest youngest freshest manager.” Hon. Hajji turned to Minnie

“That’s wonderful, honey. But what is happening with your siblings?” He now turned and walked up to his son. Looking him directly in his eyes, their faces about to touch, he bellowed, “Theatre Arts? You? A man? Want to spend the rest of your life acting like a woman in plays? Putting oranges where your chest hair is? Is that what men do?” Paul was silent. “Is that what men do?”

“No.” He murmured under his breath.

“I will be paying tuition next week. You will redo that semester you spent thinking about theatre arts.” He turned to Rose whose face gave away that she was obviously thrown off by the sudden change in attitude her father was having.

“So you’re a prostitute now?”

“Mmmmh-hmmm” Mrs. Hajji affirmed.

“No daughter of mine will have her nakedness spread all over the magazines. You think I didn’t know about those nude campaigns you’ve been doing. I have personally had each and every one of them taken down.” He moved closer to her, she cowered. “Who taught you to be a harlot? Your mother is such a graceful lady. Then look at you! Naked! An MP’s daughter posing naked? On camera? Not this MP. Not my children. Over my dead body.”  Hon. Hajji breathed heavily, angrily while his children stared at him in fear; all except Minnie of course. She sat feeling mighty and unscathed. However, the truth is that she felt ignored. Her father only noticed her when she did something wrong. In which case, he would scold her and give her the silent treatment for a few weeks. He brushed off the achievements like they were nothing and he expected much better. She wanted to follow his footprints into politics but he had simply retorted, “You’re too loud even for a woman to ever make it as a politician. You say what you feel and think because you think everyone cares. But the men of this country, they like it when their women know their place. Quiet. In the kitchen or with the children. Your best bet is to birth a politician.”

Hon. Hajji’s nostrils had widened and his eyes reddened now. He got angrier and angrier just looking at the bad investments that called themselves his children. Minnie had just opened her mouth to speak out when a soft yet authoritative knock was heard at the door to the meeting room.

“Yes?” Hon. Hajji called out loudly. Jabari opened the door softly, immediately noticing the tension that ensued. He walked over to the MP, leaned in and murmured,

“The car to take you to the event is ready. If you don’t leave now, you’ll be late.”

“Thank you. “ Hon. Hajji politely to Jabari. He then turned to his children; his wife was now conveniently done with her makeup.

“I was not a spoilt child. Your mother, though a little spoilt now, was never over privileged or lazy.” Mrs. Hajji sneered. “I don’t know why you all act like nincompoops. You wouldn’t last a day in the world without me. You are all old enough to fend for yourselves yet you still live in MY MANSION! The Hajji Money train is now out of service. You all have an education, yes? Good luck.” He walked away dramatically. Mrs. Hajji made a patronizing noise before following him out of the room.

It was Minnie who broke the silence. “I guess we need new last names.”