MR CHAIRMAN, HIS EXCELLENCY’S NOMINEE
The coolness of the newly decorated Board room contrasted so sharply with the heat immediately outside of it. Four new “Carrier” brand air conditioners each installed at a cost of ten thousand dollars hummed away in the empty newly furnished Board Room which had over the previous three weeks been worked on, day and night to ensure it was ready before the arrival of the newly-appointed Board members These Board Members would oversee the giant Mungerun Government-owned brewery. His Excellency the President and Commander in Chief of the Mungeruun Armed Forces had about a month earlier appointed a governing Board for the giant Industry. Among those appointed was Chief Asemojo a former labor union leader who had turned a politician, as the Chairman of the Board. Others were Chief Clejeso who was an American-trained Attorney, Chief Mangawa a medical Doctor, Chief Jobagoca a veteran politician and Chief Oguebe a labor leader recommended for the Board appointment by his Labor Union. Other members were appointed from various state and Federal Ministries. The Chief Executive of the Brewery Mr. Kumezi was the Secretary of the Board with Board membership status.
For nine years prior to the inauguration of the Board, the duty of running the brewery rested squarely with Mr. Kumezi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the brewery. It was his duty to ensure that the brewery ran smoothly. He could hire and fire. He awarded the contracts. He was the administrative head of the brewery as well as the chief accounting officer. He bought the raw materials, He bought the machinery. He oversaw the distribution. He liaised with the supervising Federal Ministry. His word as far as the brewery was concerned was law. A disagreement with any of Mr. Kumezi’s policies could have disastrous consequences for any dissenting staff. He had the reach both in Kuveri the provincial capital where the brewery was situated and in Kumbruuja the capital of the mineral rich Federal Republic.
The air was awash with preparation. “The Board Members are coming!” The statement reverberated in virtually every lip from the three hundred and twenty staff strength brewery. The hopes ran high for those who felt oppressed and marginalized. These felt that at least there would now be a neutral group for them to narrate their woes to. The fears and anxiety ran wild in the faces of the few who had been in the good books of the erstwhile “Super Duke”, as the Chief Executive Officer was often referred to. The latter who was often also simply called Chief Executive or CEO had reigned over the affairs of the brewery for close to a decade and his, name had almost become synonymous with the brewery. “Oyoyo” the brand name of the beer and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages that were daily churned out of the heavily government-subsidized brewery was indeed often called “Kumezi Beer”. Mr. Kumezi himself, a really hard working man was known once in a while to declare free food and drinks for all, where ever he heard people calling for “a bottle of Kumezi beer” in a bar or hotel. The cost of such free food and drinks was of course bank-rolled by the brewery under “promotional costs.” Both the external and the internal auditors for the brewery were appointed by Mr. Kumezi himself and so it did not matter how recklessly and inappropriately he spent the company’s funds. Mr. Kumezi was widely known in town as a shrewd and highly seasoned civil servant. He perfectly understood his environment. He was a thorough-bred Mungeruun who knew the system. He knew who to meet for greatest effect in times of difficulty. He knew the political power brokers both in Kuveri, the State capital and in Kumbruuja the Federal capital.
Mr. Kumezi knew how to share the money. He understood the true meaning of the word “settlement”, not exactly the English meaning of that word. No! He knew the useful meaning conferred to it by one of the previous “leaders” in Kubruuja. It was not a neologism, but a useful meaning which ensured that any loot went round evenly between all collaborators.
The hedges were being cut all around the brewery complex. Heaps of refuse in unwanted places were being cleared. A new touch of paint was being applied over some of the older buildings. The overgrown trees were being pruned. An air of festivity mixed with expectancy filled the entire brewery premises.
A presidential suite had been booked in Konjoko hotel the five star government hotel whose management had been contracted out to a foreign company. The presidential suite was booked on indefinite basis for the expected Chairman of the Board. One other suite had also been booked in the same hotel adjacent the presidential suite for any of Mr. Chairman’s treasured companions. A third reservation also an executive suite was made close to the executive suite for any aides who might also accompany Mr. Chairman. Another one room was then reserved for Mr. Chairman’s “driver”, his chauffer. .
All four reservations were made and paid for, on indefinite basis. The position of the Board chairman was a part time non-Executive one. The Chairman, for as long as he was in office could however live in the hotel for as long as he pleased , all expenses paid by the brewery. He could eat or drink anything he desired and entertain any number of guests as he desired all at the expense of the brewery. Meanwhile reservations were also made for each of the other eight Board members. Over five million dollars was made as deposit to Konjoko hotel for accommodation of the Chairman and other Board Members for the inaugural meeting of the Board. Mr. Kumezi did not look too happy signing the check for the hotel deposit. That was certainly money which might have constituted part of his pocket money during his monthly visits to Kumbruuja where he often went to “settle” some bigger “Ogas”, the senior Ministry officials in Kumbruuja the national capital. He needed the goodwill of these latter to remain in office, especially against the backdrop of the numerous complaints of financial impropriety, mismanagement and cronyism that had dogged his many years of helmsman ship in the brewery. His comfort as regards the hotel bill lay however in the “discount “ he was sure to get privately from the hotel for his recommending the hotel to himself for patronage. Since that discount was often placed at three percentage of total cost, Mr. Kumezi through his agent the brewery’s Public Relations Officer was sure to collect at least one hundred and fifty thousand dollars as a ‘thank you” fee. That was “chicken change” for Mr. Kumezi who was reputed to be very rich with scores of multimillion dollar real estate properties including gas filling stations in his kitty.
Despite his enormous wealth however Mr. Kumezi would not let the opportunity of grabbing an extra dollar slip off his way. He would go after any of his subordinates who stood on his way to grabbing even a cent from the multiple contract and other “business” opportunities in the brewery. His cronies would however always help cover Mr. Kumezi’s paths since they were sure that he was very good at “settlement”. He was a strong believer in “chop I chop” even though an earlier attempt at registering “Chop I Chop” as one of the political parties in Mungeruun had not met with success. The powers that were, did not want to make it too obvious to the rest of the civilized world that “chop I chop” a nefarious policy by which looted funds from government coffers were systematically and methodically shared out between collaborators, was virtually legitimized in governance in the Republic of Mungeruun.
Mr. Kumezi was however a very smart man. He knew the civil service rules “up to his finger tips”. He understood the system. He knew that he needed the good will of the new Board and especially of the Board Chairman to continue to have a smooth sail in the brewery. He knew he had accumulated a good number of enemies in the nine years that he had occupied the Executive seat in the brewery. These were people who he had either trampled upon during his astronomic rise to the top position through “man knows man”, a blatant form of cronyism. Others were people who were genuinely opposed to the financial empire he was building for himself from the enormous resources of the brewery. Others were people whose girl friends he was said to have taken using his pre eminent position by promoting the latter in rank for some non-monetary fee, a weakness which Mr. Kumezi often openly acknowledged. Others were simply people who did not like him for no explicit reason or people who simply did not wish to work hard and who wanted him out of the way for them to “lazy about”. In any case Mr. Kumezi needed the Board Chairman. He knew that Mr. Chairman’s position was a purely political appointment. He knew that for the latter to get to that position that he must have good political connections. Indeed he knew that Mr. Chairman occupied a high position in the political hierarchy of the ruling political party the Mungeruun Peoples Party and that he had contested for a political post and failed. The Board position was a party compensation for his failure and for the latter to “recuperate the expenses that he must have incurred both for the contest and on behalf of the party”. Mr. Kumezi understood and he was prepared to cooperate. To start with, therefore Mr. Asemojo must be made very comfortable in the hotel. He must be pampered. He must be feted. He must be given whatever he wanted. No expense should be spared.