© Copyright 2022 by Ishaokanyie Otogbo
Image by thomasberghuis0 from Pixabay
woke up with a start and realized I was sweating profusely. Both my
bedsheet and pillowcase were drenched in sweat and my trembling trunk
was evidence that I was gripped with fear. I sighed. I hissed and
heaved. I was relieved when I came to consciousness and realized that
it was a mere dream. I wasn’t surprised because my mind had
been troubled for almost eight years since the current president
ascended the headship of the political stable. He came with so much
hopes and promises. But it all turned out a pipe dream. Things had
cascaded from bad to worse and had continued to nosedive unabated.
had headed in the opposite of the south pole, almost hugging the
horizon, the economy growing but southwards and terminating in the
pockets of only the politicians and their sympathisers. Most tertiary
institutions had downed tools and research institutes were on strike.
Even the national library was striking too. Most of the hitherto
serene parts of the country had transmuted into the slaughterhouse of
our continent. A
society snowballed into
a Hobbesian state of nature where almost every citizen was
victim and on the verge of taking the laws into their own hands.
Even a mere perceived or accusation of religious infraction earned
one instant death by fanatical miscreants who had assumed the
position and role of judges, dishing out justices, nay
injustices, according to their own dictates rather than the law as
interpreted by judges and justices. Turning themselves into
self-styled judges, arrogating to themselves, infinite powers and
even conferring on themselves, the prerogative of mercy, bestowing on
themselves, the exclusive right and authority of determining who
should live and who should die, dishing out and applying mercy
according to their mood. Even contemplating applying or wielding the
instrumentality of a nolle prosequi – a declaration
ending a legal suit. Assuming
roles and privileges in addition to being the accuser, prosecutor and
above all, the executioner! Jungle justice!
were so terrified that it was no longer if there would be another
killing but who would be next. No one was safe and the merchants of
death dared all without exception, instilling fear in citizens and
complementing it with a litany
killings leading to the astronomic rise
in sales of caskets. The purchase of shroud wasn’t dwindling
either. And ‘mass grave’ smuggled itself into our
everyday lexicon. Kidnappers had become more emboldened and revelling
in the ransom bazaar. Terrorists were on equal standing with the
government and were almost more efficient and superior to the
government in toll collection. The killer marauders were on the loose
with none caring and courageous enough to rein them in. Farmers going
to their farms – but only in their imaginations.
morale of citizens was at its lowest ebb. The fear was palpable and
everyone was suspicious of everybody. The security operatives were
not immune nor exempted either. The fear of the unknown hung
precariously on the horizon, stalking and taunting citizens who
waited with bated breath for that which hounded, depressed and
humbled their spirit. There was frustration and citizens had
despaired. Self-murder was on the increase and citizens were not
unwilling to do everything no matter how reprehensible to stay alive.
Amongst them were self-abductions and hawking their babies for
pecuniary benefits. Men and women posing as men of the gods were
tethering babies within the precincts of their religious enclaves for
only the devil-knows-what. Baby factories replaced manufacturing
factories. Ritualistic killings were on the increase and a
once-promising country had suddenly relapsed into a state of anomie.
fumes of generators must foul the air and the sounds deafen the ears
for citizens to have a trace of energy. The academia lagged behind
the industry. The underfunded schools were graduating employees
proficient in killing infant industries and sometimes competed to
outdo the herbalists in quackery. Almost all things were replete with
fraudulency for financial rewards and to prop up and gratify the ego.
The knack and appetite for foreign goods and services by the leaders
had exceeded the tameable limit and the led found in the leaders
suiting role models to be expeditiously mimicked. All these ills
conspired and culminated in creating an unjust society and an
import-dependent diabetic economy no one was proud of.
next elections were a few months away and I had hoped for a better
president this time around but dreamt that one of the hawks, a part
of the same locusts and political entrepreneurs that had held the
country by its jugular, tethering it to the mud and dragging it on a
pigsty for over six decades, had won the current election. Perhaps to
finally lay the country on a pyre. I was drenched in anguish and
grieved in my dream. It was another deferred hope. I smiled and
scratched my temple when jolted out of torpor to sensibility, taking
solace in the fact that it was just a dream and there was still hope
to right the countless wrongs of over three score years. I resolved
that I would vote, I would campaign for the best candidate and if
posterity ever deemed it necessary to chronicle the affairs of the
country, I had hoped that they would be kind to me and other
patriotic citizens of my generation who genuinely desire the best for
our beloved country and were willing to give their all to extricate
her from the woebegone status.
Still lying in the pool of sweat, I fantasied, my mind roved in contemplation, my imagination drifting from the current frustrating and derelict standing of the country to an Eldorado governed by men of goodwill and unblemished characters. As I sauntered out of my squeaky bed, I made up my mind to attend the political gathering holding that morning, where the entire community was to discuss, nay share some goodies in the never-ending rite of corrupting gifts distribution, culminating in endorsing and adopting the most magnanimous amongst the presidential candidates in the coming election.
arrived at a human-packed rambunctious town hall to select for
myself, a vantage point. Herded together in the disintegrating hall
was a large crowd of pitiable sights of tired humans. Appareled in
fatigued weather-tormented rags, the people looked famished. They all
appeared distressed and ravished by lack but were temporarily,
extremely excited. At least the thought of not returning home
empty-handed put them in a joyous mood. They were all conversing
about all but nothing, talking concurrently and shouting at the top
of their voices as if attempting to drown each other’s
overfilled hall reeked of poverty and despite their unappealing
manifestation, they all revelled in temporary self-assurance. They
were all sure that the energy expended in such frivolous talks on
this particular occasion would be replenished, anyway. The odour
oozing from the stuffy and congested hall was that of stale sweat
emitted by unlaundered farm attires and poorly washed armpits. Some
strange stench that smelled like farthings and unhygienic underwear
complemented by the smell of snuff and tobacco completed the cycle of
foul odour. It wasn’t unexpected though – besides most of
them possessing just a few rags which improvised for wears to merely
cover their shame, soap was now a luxury. And the impoverishment
wasn’t unexpected – they were a flock ravaged and robbed
by the shepherds. Despite their exuberance, their looks simply
betrayed the personifications of a people who had endured the
tortures and horrors of innumerable years of agonizing and harrowing
misrule. Misery foisted on them by bad leadership for so long that,
they had reluctantly resigned to fate and accepted their detestable
condition as the norm. It was safer for me to wait outside and that
was exactly what I did. Though I felt terrible, the place however
afforded me an excellent view of the epicentre of the drama that
to the wearied backs of some of the ladies were children who it was
easy to discern that a balanced diet had never been part of their
menu. They seem to be in dire need of protein and it’ll be a
herculean task convincing any discerning mind that those babies have
ever tasted eggs or meat their entire life. Their unappealing
appearance gave the impression that they must have even had their
ration of colostrum from breastmilk generously donated by the gods,
depleted by their inconsiderate fathers. Their stunted greasy and
brownish hair was evidence that they were malnourished and in dire
need of supplementary breastmilk. Dripping from the noses of some of
the babies were thick milky substances. And what the children had on
which were supposed to serve as items of clothing were discoloured
climate-humbled sieves. Most of these infants who were certainly
discomforted by what must be hunger gnawing at their intestinal walls
sometimes whimpered, at other times generated shrilling sounds. These
mothers who all appeared distraught were temporarily revelling in
elation as if contracted to advocate impoverishment.
from most of the armpits of these pitiable women were thick, tired,
discoloured brownish strips of rags which it may take a lifetime to
convince even none doubters that they were once white. Those were
supposed to be the straps of oversized bras which for sure must have
been hurriedly gifted to them by one who didn’t bother to take
into consideration, the sizes of what they were supposed to
stockroom. What they ought to warehouse easily slide through with the
well-rounded pointed tips terminating in the lips of babies. They all
assumed the looks of a people who had befriended poverty for too long
and made it their permanent companion.
the town hall was a spurious pyramid of low-quality rice with plenty
of wood concealed beneath it, drums of smelly vegetable oil and
oozing cartons of expired seasoning, a heap of bagged decaying
substance with seepages that made the sacks appeared to be
perspiring. And whatever they were, didn’t have a pleasant
smell. Also displayed were piles of blunt rusted cutlasses and
numerous corroded hoes whose wooden handles had served as a meal for
termites in the past, uncountable outdated wheelbarrows, bales of
articles of clothing which must have once concealed the shame of
foreign flesh, fleets of rickety cars that appeared as if exhumed
from a dump site with their frames looking like roasted metals,
plenty rusted fairly used motorcycles, some unhealthy tricycles and
bicycles, miserable pieces of wrinkled yams and hunger-drenched
chicken and hungered goats. A few starving monkeys were tethered
close by too. Some ill-fed and emaciated balded local roosters with
half of their feathers sacrificed in territorialistic fights, a shy
sickish dog with pukey discharges from its eyes and nostrils that
appeared wagged by its tail, a sickly cow and a diseased donkey that
struck one as if wishing for death, completed the cycle of inducement
items. They were all meant to be distributed to the electorates by
the two major political parties to curry their favour. Empowerment!
That’s what they are called in their political parlance while
in reality, they’re troubles and hunger deferred.
When the well-fed elders who were led by the chubby chief arrived at the town hall, sanity was instantly restored as everyone adjusted and a pin-drop silence was palpable. Without much ado, Omichi the spokesperson of the community cleared his throat and spoke thus;
“We are all witnesses to this ritual of hearing from the representatives of our two major political parties who are here to address us and if possible, convince us to vote for their parties and if inevitable, rig for their party.”
The hall spontaneously burst forth with loud cheers of, “Yeaaa,” followed by clapping and all known forms of approbation including a few novel ones.
He paused to take a breather before pronouncing the most pleasant and important part of the speech that everyone’s ears were straining to hear; “Fortunately, as usual, they’re here with lots of goodies.”
erupted into a frenzy as they clapped, shouted in excitation and
parted one another’s wrists, hugged and slapped one another’s
shoulders. And in one extreme and unusual case of joyfulness, a young
man in high spirits unconsciously lifted the pregnant wife of his
neighbour. Though an abomination, the festive mood caused the
infringement to be glossed over.
Impressed with the uproar he had elicited, Omichi waited for the rowdiness to subside and then continued, “While some of you would return home plenty of dollars richer, some would become car owners and some of you bike owners.”
The curious crowd could not control their emotional outburst as they all stood up and clapped in appreciation, some climbing on top of the wobbly tables to be seen by Omichi and the elders, hoping and praying they would be amongst the fortunate to be gifted the most precious of the gift items.
Omichi cleared his throat once again and resumed, “Most of you would own motorcycles, bicycles and wheelbarrows.”
This resonated with the crowd as they all clapped and shouted in exhilaration.
“See those keke parked out there?”
“Yes!” They chanted.
“Those are what would convey some of you home.”
A few couldn’t contain their excitement and rolled on the floor and others inadvertently hugged their sworn enemies.
“Returning home with the keke, not as passengers,” Omichi quickly reminded them.
all hesitated and cocked their heads to one side, strained their
ears, positioning the ear they considered the best hearer, anxious to
assimilate the good news that was brewing and about to be pronounced.
“And you would be the riders of the keke as the proud owners,” Omichi announced.
Another round of disorderly movements and applause reverberated across the dingy town hall. Some aged men jumped about like children and collided with women and infants while demonstrating how to ride a keke.
Pleased with the chaotic scene he had set off, Omichi freed his throat of obstacles once more and said above all the murmurings, “The farmers will return home with hoes and cutlasses.”
This elicited another round of excitation but this time around, from the most miserable and poorly attired amongst them.
Satisfied that he had the people in the mood he wanted, he then asked, “Know what?”
“Nooo!” Chorused the crowd.
Omichi deliberately kept them in suspense for a while to heighten their excitation and expectation before dropping the bombshell, “We also have foood!”
The crowd erupted into another round of frenzy and clapped and sang and even danced. Some men pulled their dingy shirts and slapped their palm wine and garbage-inflated potbellies, others exposed their wrinkled and emaciated tummies to demonstrate refilling of their deflated tummy and in the process, making beautiful music that observers believed sounded better than that made with the talking drum.
“You would all have enough to eat!” Omichi announced.
“Yesss!” They shouted.
“Even after defecating, you could instantly refill!
“Yesss!” They echoed laughingly.
“You would all have enough to swallow!”
“Yeee!” Greeted him, with some scratching their throats to indicate swallowing.
“You would all have enough to masticate!”
“Wowww!” They responded and not a few exposed their teeth to illustrate chewing and prove their happiness.
“We have chicken and goats.”
“We have a cow!”
“Ohhh-nooo,” they shouted. Some tapped their heads to convey their happiness.
“Look outside, just look outside.” A thousand heads turned in the direction of the windows.”
“Can you see the monkeys?”
“They’d all end up in your pots of soup tonight.”
The cheers that erupted was out of the ordinary. They were so thrilled that while some men tapped their heads to declare their ecstasy, others conked their distressed heads and a handful stripped bare the upper part of their torso. Most women simply clapped their hands and a few unstrapped their headtires and strapped them around their waistlines as if preparing for a duel. One particular woman in a fit of uncontrollable emotion at the mere mention of the monkey meat threw caution to the wind by jumping too high, unintendedly unstrapping her baby who flew off her tired back like a projectile. The unhinged baby flying off tangent into the air, tracing an arc and headed towards only the-gods-knows where, perhaps towards crashlanding with a thud but was rescued by an agile youth who managed to seize the jagged fringes of the baby’s soiled and ragged shirt, salvaging the situation that may have ended with catastrophic consequences. Overcome by excitement, no one even bothered to reward the hero with a mere commendation or laudation. Not even Omichi who for some strange reasons, simply ignored the altruistic act and jocularly teased the confluence of humans about the heads of monkeys by saying, “But remember to preserve the heads of the monkeys for your annual Ogrinya dance festival.”
hilarious comment was greeted with general laughter.
Revelling in the ecstasy of suddenly gaining relevance as the centre of attention, Omichi looked at them obliquely and allowed the passage of time to heighten their curiosity before announcing, “We even have 404!”
“Shouts of Wooo! Wooo! Wooo!” rent the air and most of them thrust their malnourished necks forward, attempting to project their dreary faces above others, hoping Omichi would memorise their faces and gift them the dog.
“And we even provided scent leaves and ogogoro to go with the 404,” Omichi declared.
“Ooohhh-nooo. The indigrent is complete!” Shouted Omachi the drummer.
Stunned, the multitude all turned to behold the face of Omachi for inventing such an absurd word alien to their lexicon.
Still basking in the thrill, Omichi proceeded, “I can see you are all ragged. It’s four years already and you deserve to be better clothed.”“Yesss!”
Indigrent – Corrupt version of ingredient
Keke – Tricycle
Ogogoro – Local dry gin
Ogrinya dance – Traditional war dance
Okrika – Slangs for old clothes
404 – Dog meat