It was a cool Eke market day in our peaceful but perplexed paradise, a day which every man and beast in our community anticipated its arrival. Birds sang their melodies across the garden, the anurans croaked harshly with wantonness, children saluted their mothers in rapturous faces as a means of reminding them to buy ‘akara’ at Eke market before nightfall. Less than one kilometer from my father’s house was sited the Ezeoka town hall overflowing with hundreds of men and women both young and old. The surroundings of the town hall were colorfully decorated with over fifteen metal poles bearing a yellow-brown Party flag swirling in harmony with the gentle Eke morning breeze.
I sat at the back end of the hall but due to my tallness and the rowdiness of the hall, I barely could see or hear the man standing on podium. So, I decided to humble myself and move quickly to the front to enable me see and hear the man who was speaking. I tried making my way through the crowd but just half way to the front stood this huge tall guy with six-packs and commando hands. He looked like a descendant of Goliath while I stood before him like a Lilliputian trying to read his facial expressions. Suddenly, it dawned on me that if I didn’t find my way back to my sit, people may likely leave the town hall meeting telling their neighbours and children the heart touching story of a young stubborn boy who was slapped to death by a bouncer during a political rally that held at the town hall on Eke market day.
I was determined to see and hear what the man on the podium was saying, so I ran out of the hall through the back door where there was no bouncer to restrain my movement. I squeezed myself into a crowd that gathered at the front window of the hall opposite the podium. At last, I heard his closing remarks as he said “I will air condition your roads, build you good schools and equip your health centres with modern health facilities. I will alleviate your poverty and create jobs for your women and youths. Your young men will no longer be seen on the streets and corners of Ariaria, Alaba and Onitsha main market hawking Gala and sachet water, I will empower them. I shall provide free education for primary and secondary school children as well as electrify your community completely. You are my people, and your pain is my pain. Your sorrow my sorrow and in your joy shall I have my joy.”
Hmmm…that man spoke as if he was the messiah our community has been expecting for decades to liberate us from the shackles of poverty and ignorance. You needed to see him sweating profusely like a woman in labour. He was really pregnant with words! His jugular vein distended as words triggered out of his mouth like the rattling of a gun. His piquant face stretched like a bubble gum and his large appealing eyes bulged out as he read his manifesto with such an unprecedented passion and oratory. What would you expect of our sincere people who have been eagerly waiting for a change?
On that fateful day of the election, men, women and youths all trooped out in mass, leaving their homes and businesses behind to vote our “Redeemer-Senator” into power. That man’s tongue really appeared greenish from a distance, but on a closer look I saw that it was red like crimson.
Two years have passed since he became our Senator. Our roads are still untarred talk of being air conditioned. Our people still drink unclean water from local ponds and streams despite the rate at which Loa loa is damaging our young women’s eyes. Both young and old are compelled to visit the bush at least five times a day, as a result of unavoidable stooling episodes emanating from the kind of food and water we consumed. My neigbour’s son is almost as weightless as a dry paw-paw leaf due to frequent diarrhea flecked with mucus, pus and blood stains. I wrote this work sitting beside an 18-year-old damsel on a blue sofa, who was helplessly trying to press her tommy into her stomach, groaning in excruciating pains. I paid attention to know what her plight was and regrettably, the war song of a battalion of whip worms in her tommy hollering in ecstasy was all I heard. Myself had got used to those songs, so whenever I heard them, I always lie flat in total surrender to the whip worm soldiers until the mortal combat was over. I fortunately discovered that tightly holding my pillow under my tommy helped reduce the pain of the gunshots released by the commandant whip worms.
What about the good schools and the promise of a free education for our children? Emeka’s mum was in my house yesterday night. She has been disturbing everyone in the neighborhood to assist her raise 33,200 Naira WAEC fee, to enable Emeka take his Senior School Certificate Examination in our own community secondary school. There are many other children in our community who are not in school currently as a result of financial bankruptcy. A typical example is Nkechi, whom I always buy ‘pure’ water from whenever I passed through Eke market to the city.
Nkechi is a moderately tall beautiful damsel. She is fair complexioned, with an admirable gait. She has a fine set of sparkling white teeth that looked exactly like that of the lady used for ‘Close-Up’ television advertisement, in addition to her natural soft-pink lip and pointed nose. I always love to make her smile because whenever she does, it reveals her dimple and that usually titillate me. Nkechi’s smartness never cease to amaze me, her ingenuity in business is quite rare for a child of her age and background. That inspired me to nickname her ‘Oprah Winfrey’ because I am optimistic that her future is very bright and I know someday her destiny helper will locate her. Severally, I have asked her why she is not in school. Well, her answer is as good as your guess. She stopped schooling after her Junior Secondary School and started hawking sachet water to support her poor widowed mother who sells dry pepper and fried groundnut in a bid to provide daily bread for her family.
Don’t bother asking me of the modernized health centres because my uncle’s wife – Mama Ebuka was rushed to the city general hospital about 6am today. She was said to be experiencing labour complications and was even screaming at the top of her voice as if she was going to drop dead the next minute. Her husband had earlier rushed to the only dilapidated Health Centre in our community around 3am when parturition started, to see if there was any mid-wife on duty who could help save the life of his dear wife and unborn child. Alas, that antiquated God-forsaken rusted iron gate of the clinic was firmly locked with a very big B&K top security pad lock. Only God knows if that woman was delivered safely of her baby or whether she kicked the bucket on their way to the city general hospital which is about 3-kilometers away from my village.
Every quarter of the year usually ends with a harvest of death in our community. At least four to five of our ebullient, well-meaning young men return to us in carved-padded wooden boxes honored with the title “Late” and conveyed by a state hospital ambulance. A majority of these ambulances arrive at intervals of three market days to our village, mostly from Onitsha and sometimes from Lagos. The story is usually that most of these youngsters with enviable destinies and potentials, were crushed by a speeding trailer or an over speeding jeep while crossing to and fro the highway with a carton of gala on their head and for many others a mad-rush to sell off a bowl containing just ten to fifteen sachet waters was all that claimed their precious lives. Unfortunately, most of these young boys and girls hail from the same town with our supposed redeemer who promised to create jobs and empower youths in his senatorial district but at last found fulfillment in passing his people through a hellish torture.
Now I understand the poem my literature teacher forced me to memorize in secondary school – “The Ambassadors of Poverty” by P.O.C Umeh. Our supposed redeemer is the true ambassador of poverty. He is the corrupt leader whose head is abroad and anus at home. He is the leader who faithfully kept all his electoral promises in the reverse order. He is the rancorous elite whose delight is in looting his own people. He is the devil that came to us in a saviour’s garment. Papa told me last week that he even owns mansions in Dubai, in addition to the houses he bought at Wuse in Abuja and at Lekki in Lagos. Indeed, that man is the most honest liar I have ever known.
(This Work is an Imaginative Short Fiction written by Gideon Nwankwo)
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