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Since inception, the award- giving program has always been held at the community hall. This is because there’s no other event centre with a matching or greater capacity in Ohia.

The people in and beyond the community never miss the occasion. Hence, the large crowd that turns up year in year out. It is therefore, no surprise that the hall was filled to the brim. In the nearest future, a bigger space would be needed for the event, no gainsaying.

Three giant doors served as both entry and exit points at the venue. Although, there was a fourth door, which leads directly to the front row, that was reserved for special invitees.

Considering the large crowd already in attendance, the program could have as well started. But it did not. The important dignitaries that were specially invited to grace the occasion, had not yet arrived. They were obviously still taking their time and would want their entry to command the respect it deserves. Afterall, they are high and mighty.

Nevertheless, the common men from all works of life were already on ground; the fishermen, palm-wine tappers, farmers, traders, labourers, civil servants and even students.

Friends, acquaintances and trade partners alike, exchanged pleasantries and engaged in chit-chats here and there, just to kill boredom. Quite a number of them ironed out personal or community issues in small groups while some just played mediators. Others only got entertained by the going-ons.

Obi belonged to all the categories at one point or the other, since there was plenty of time before the commencement of the main event. As he walked around where his kinsmen were, a small talk entertained him the most...

“The fishes in the river must be feeling lucky today as you took the day off” a man teased his fisherman friend.

“their day of reckoning only shifted a bit, my brother. They cannot escape the wrath of my net. They'll be caught anyways" the friend replied.

Both men laughed in humour. That cracked Obi up too.

“But won’t rodents feast on the mature crops on your farm? Are you sure you really should be here? The fisherman teased his farmer friend in return.

“Let the rodents feast all they want. Every single one of them will be caught and used to cook a rich soup. By that, they will be the protein that will accompany the remaining farm produce I go home with, to their final abode” the other man submitted touching his slightly protruding stomach. He is obviously a foodie.

The two men let out a loud contagious laughter. Obi was infected with it. He laughed along till he walked past them.

The conversation reminded him of his own Chidi; the humorous one in their friendship. He peered through the crowd for him but it ended in futility. The hall at that instance was busier than a market place. So he gave up the search.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed from being very noisy to a relatively quiet one. People got distracted from their chatters and struggled to catch a glimpse of the source of distraction outside the hall.

The arrival of a fleet of car in a convoy was a sight to behold; each car as sophisticated as the one in front or at the back of it. The much awaited important dignitaries arrived in grand style. And the aim of their late arrival was very much achieved.

The master of ceremony, who had been waiting for this moment, sprang into action. His amplified voice rented the air as he sang praises of the guests of honour as they alight from their automobiles one after the other.

The reserved door flung open. A number of body guards trouped in first, accessing the environment with eagle eyes to ensure the safety of their bosses.

Then, the high and mighty were ushered in, side by side with the key excos of the multinational company organising the event. Some more body guards followed closely behind. Each taking strategic positions close to the distinguished guests of honour.

The special invitees, most of which are royalty, exuded affluence while the staff of the multinational companies simply symbolised authority. For both reasons, security has to be ensured. A few armed military personnel roamed about the event centre, to see to this.

Either because of the show of opulence or the presence of power, the commoners got intimidated. Most of the mouths that were talking got sealed and the eyes became more functional; for they looked on, in awe.

Some people tip-toed away from their conversations leaving their jist partners to themselves. Others had the courage to bid themselves a quick goodbye through gestures before finding their way to their seats. Without waiting to be told, they had it quiet in the once busy hall. There was decorum.

Obi found his way to his place. The two chairs were still intact and empty. Both were just on the next row behind the dignitaries’. He couldn’t help but commend his choice of seat once again. It indeed feels special to be so close to special people. He took his seat quickly. He was more than convinced that his friend would love this position more because his quest for riches was an open one. He dusted the second chair and waited for Chidi’s coming.

The spokesperson was beckoned on by the organisers. He was briefed about something that made his jaw dropped. His face almost went pale too. Although, he quickly recovered from the shock but that was not before the crowd had gotten a wind that there was something wrong.

All eyes didn’t leave him and all ears waited eagerly for the news the master of ceremony had for them. There was a pin-drop silence in the hall as everyone yearned to hear what message was to be relayed.

Obi sat up with rapt attention too. He threw a quick glance at the three entrances simultaneously to see if his friend had arrived. He was confident that his friend would not miss the program for anything in the world. But there was no sign of him in the hall.

He resorted to looking at the fourth door even when he knew it wasn’t likely he came in through that. He only met with stone-cold eyes of a body guard. He need not be told to look further. He was starting to get paranoid.

Chidi has been a notorious late-comer, but this extent was undiscerning. Obi began to wonder what could have happened to him. It was the voice of the master of ceremony, who just finished observing due protocols, that snapped him out of his thought.

“.....please be informed that this year’s award-giving program will take a different format from the norm” The MC submitted.

He was yet to hit the nail on the head but the crowd was beginning to get impatient as they chuckled. He quickly continued....

“ ....all the side attractions we are used to annually will not hold this year because today’s program is scheduled for only hour as against the fours hours of yester-years”

Loud noises rented the air. Amidst it, more information disseminated.

“....after the opening speech from the chairperson, the award-giving which is the most important part of this program will commence immediately. I urge us to make the most use of our limited time......" the MC alighted the podium rather head-dropping. He couldn’t find better words to convey the message.

There was pandemonium.

Right there, rumour had it that another important function similar to theirs was being held somewhere else and all the dignitaries were also invited hence the unpleasant development.

Obi was indifferent about the information. He couldn’t care less if a four-hour program was run in one hour, in as much as the awards would still be given. His concern however, was his friend who might miss the program owing to the new timing.

Without putting much thought to it, he rose up and made his way out of the hall briskly. He needed to get his friend to the program at all cost. He raced to Chidi’s house.

Shortly after Obi left, Chidi entered the chaotic hall ....
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