I gazed at the lists in my hands. I understood. It was their list of ministerial
appointees. I almost laughed but one stern look from Chief Babawole and I
I cleared my throat and squared my shoulders. My best statesman behaviour had to be deployed and I started to speak slowly, making sure of the words before I allowed them fall off my tongue.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, elders of of our great party…Let me first thank you for your kind vote of confidence…and especially our able Chairman who has kindly taken me under his wings…it is because of people like you that I have come this far…that our party has come this far…V.I.P!…’ They responded in unison.
‘You have my word here today that I will be a good, wise, effective and unifying president for you, all under a liberal, progressive over-arch…for everyone…our country needs your wisdom, especially at times like this and your good counsel will be what will prove critical as we progress from this aspiration to taking the presidential villa!’ They were all attentive, I had them eating out of the palm of my hands.
I squeezed a little more.
‘What I see here gathered today are faces of the most powerful people in this country; men and women who are totally committed to the progress, prosperity and peace of our land; great individuals who are fighting for the good of their different peoples. Thoughts like that are rare among people of your type…people who have been prejudged by the overwhelming majority of our people…a mass of young people who make up about seventy percent of our population, they have judged people your age and influence; they think you are greedy, ageless, prehistoric predators who only take and never give, monopolistic, barring everyone who is not of their narrow but all-pervading clique…. That is how they think…but look at you here today, great men and women, untiring faith in the national project, without consideration for self, just that which is best for the larger number! You are great men and women!…I have glanced quickly through the names you have handed to me to consider for positions in the inclusive government we shall be forming…when we win and are in power… I did not notice a single one…yet…that shares anybody’s name here…you have not added your own children and relations! That is honour! Eyes firmly locked on what is best, who is best among us being pushed forward to represent us! I salute you…one by one…I doff my hats to you, my fathers and mothers…’
They were glowing with pride at my words and nudged one another in
pleasure at my words.
‘You have my word that we will be equitable. I will consult widely. I will be fair
and everyone will be satisfied that no one gets more than the other…. As you have raised merit above nepotism, I will meet you at that same point of
fairness and honor…I will make those decisions on merit….It is to you I will still come for counsel on how best to go about this….Just give me till after the
campaigns, let us finish the elections, win the victory we are certain is ours
and then, we will move quickly, gather together again like this, put our house
in order before we go public…Please indulge me…’
To a man, including the Party Chairman who had been truculent towards me
from the moment he set his eyes on me, they rose, clapping, happy. They
shook my hands as one of the women raised the party song and then my
personal presidential campaign song. They all sang, back-clapping and even
the Chairman who never really liked my campaign song, sang it. He thought
the song is too snazzy. The young people liked it, I liked it. We were leading,
‘trending’ as they would say, and that was the whole point.
Baba Alagbole sidled up to me and whispered in my ear, ‘That was done like
a politician…keep it up…’. Out of nowhere, the Party Chairman was at my
side. He smiled broadly into my face, ‘You are learning…good boy! Good
boy!’ He is not much older than me though I must admit he looked like he
could employ me. Where he was rotund, with fat always bubbling under his
clothes, I was wiry; the figure I thought was best suited to my preferred jeans
and adire tops.
Several bottles of spirits and wines of different descriptions appeared from
nowhere, people were served generously and a quick toast was proposed to me by the Chairman. A photographer hustled around to get a good shot but one of the men, a man with a strange looking red cap with one long feather in a corner, shouted at him not to take a picture. The man scurried away.
The drinks disappeared as quickly as they appeared and again, I was bustled out and into the Chairman’s SUV. The long entourage took off, with police sirens blaring all around us. At CMS, one of the commercial motorcyclists doing stunts around us fell almost straight into the path of one our cars. The man laid there, still. I was shaken. I yelled at the driver to stop. The Chairman yelled at him not to. I was speechless. I kept looking back to see if the man would move but he was still. People gathered around him, some pointing at our convoy.
I felt rotten all day after that that a man could lose his life on my account, even if as some argued, he was over-excited. He was only expressing his support, in his own way, and he died doing it.
The crowd at Teslim Balogun was mammoth. The party had done its
mobilization work well. Our flags were everywhere. Everyone had the party
ankara with my face emblazoned on it and my photographs were everywhere.
It took us a total of seventeen minutes to go from Ikoyi to Surulere but it took us about one whole hour to get into the stadium. Such was the pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
It felt good. It assured me that we could win.
I knew I could handle Surulere. It was ‘home’. I went straight to the podium
and instantly took the microphone from the Master of Ceremony the moment
he finished announcing my arrival.
I raised one of the party songs and everyone sang and danced. The band
stopped playing when I raised my hand and I shouted, ‘VIP!’ The whole of
Surulere rumbled with their response. ‘We can do it!;’ They responded, ‘You
can do it!’ It was massive and I had the entire party elders smiling.
They were smiling, until I launched into the manifesto. ‘A situation where the
North West does not know what the South East is bringing to the communal
table and the South West pretends that the South South does not matter or
the South East questions what the North East contributes is unacceptable!…’
The whole stadium went silent. ‘We will unite the country, we will talk about
our differences and find a point of convergence…we will spend Federal
money to create an industrial hub in the creative and technically-minded
South East…the South West will be developed to provide us with commercial
power, manufacturing, the North will feed this nation…the South South will
bring more than oil that dirties the land and the creek, kills and pollutes…
everyone will understand their responsibility to the union…no one will be left
behind, development will be even, fair; what each of us can deliver to the
communion will make us all rich! We will all be rich, our country shall rise
again! We can do it!…
‘True federalism demands that we give more autonomy to the individual
components of the union and we will! Vote for your VIP senate candidates,
your VIP House of Reps members and we will revisit this warped
Constitution…some say it will weaken the Federal Government and I say, how
the harvest of governance reaches the people is more important! So, if you
will feel the power of your president and government more when states and
local governments have more power…so be it! Our collective well-being is far
more important than any legal detail of who has more power or who should do
They waited. The Party Chairman shifted. Baba Alagbole wore a straight face.
I glanced at him again but his face remained inscrutable. The stadium was
tense. Everyone stood still.
I challenged them all as I looked at their faces. They stared back into mine.
The people on the podium with me fidgeted.
Then ,one lone male voice shouted, ‘Nasara!’. It was clearly a Northern voice.
His yell meant ‘Victory’ in Hausa. That voice opened the floodgates. People
shouted in their various languages. Many shouted, ‘You can…you will!’ The
band picked up the song. Everyone danced. The Party Chairman was on his
feet. He danced, smiling broadly, seemingly happy, trying to catch my eye. I
carefully avoided his stare.
Then, I saw him whisper something in the Campaign Manager’s ear. I bent to
the microphone to continue but the Campaign Manager got there before me
and shouted, ‘Sarana!’.
I was confused. He saw it and sidled up to me, ‘What did that man say that
time…you speak Hausa…what does it mean…?’ ‘He said, Nasara…not
sarana…it means victory…’, I answered.
The entire stadium was still in turmoil, the noise so loud, no one could hear
the other. Dust rose. The band played.
He nodded vigorously and went to the microphone again, ‘Ranasa!’ Nothing.
He looked at me to confirm that he got it. I shook my head sadly and he went
for the microphone again, ‘Sanara!’ I looked away and he shrugged. He raised
another song and the band instantly picked it up.
The Party Chairman was instantly by my side. ‘This is it. The last campaign I
am going to let you have without using a written script! This man, you will spoil
things for this party, o…Eeeh, I am saying it now, nobody is listening…’
One of the women joined us, beaming widely. ‘My President!…you nailed it!
My Chair, did you see how they were eating out of his hands…gba sibe!’, she
shook my hand violently. The Party Chairman looked at her like she had lost
her mind and grabbed me by the hand, ‘Oya, campaign is over, come and go
home…’ He pulled me along through the pressing crowd of hangers-on and
security men. Then, he stopped suddenly, I bumped into his ample back, ‘Ehn
hen, they say you have refused to move into the house we prepared for you in
Ikoyi…’ I stared blankly at him. His stubby forefinger was almost stabbing into
my nostril, ‘This man…this man…isorait…this your stubbornness…
continue…’, and he was off, dragging me forcefully along, using his large
body as battering ram.
I went back to Yaba. We ate eba and Ijebu egusi that night. My wife knew that
I liked it and she crushed extra stockfish into it for maximum effect. I fell
asleep in the couch and no one disturbed me.
I would read about the story of the Okadaman in several newspapers the
following day, ‘BIMBO MANUEL KILLS OKADAMAN!’, ‘VIP PRESIDENTIAL
CAMPAIGN TRAIN KNOCKS DOWN OKADA SUPPORTER’, ‘VIP
CAMPAIGN ABANDONS DEAD SUPPORTER…’.
No one in the party reacted to it. Not one journalist mentioned the success of
my two campaigns. I thought it was poor information management and I told
the Party Chairman that I was going to grant a press interview…
‘I, THE PRESIDENT’ Series.