Achalugo was the women leader of the People’s Party (PP) for over five years and later on became the mouthpiece of the opposition party in my ward, notwithstanding the numerous men who were card carrying members of the party.
I always wondered how a mother of four coped with the impromptu visits to homes of the elites, unscheduled night meetings and the rigorous duties of a stakeholder and still comfortably nurtured her young family. It was once rumored that she had two heads -the second one was only seen in the dead of the night when the ‘main’ head had retired for the day.
Her husband was a quiet civil servant who was barely known in the community. So many people mistook him for her chauffeur or errand boy but rarely as her husband. He was that unsociable and very low profiled. The first time I saw him was when he accompanied her to flag off her campaign for her governorship bid. He wore a bucket hat, a white t-shirt and a pair of grey jeans.
The occasion attracted the presence of the crème de la crème of the society, businessmen, politicians, religious and traditional leaders and professors. The event took place in the largest stadium in our local government.
The stadium was a bit distant from my residence and so, I hopped into my Volvo and drove down there. I had just returned from the city where I had turned to a pauper and wanted to participate fully in the election. After all, we were told that every vote would count.
There was scarcely any available parking space since the helicopters, convoys and officers armed to the teeth cramped the field. They had come to show solidarity for the gubernatorial candidate. The state was a stronghold of the opposition party, Justice Congress (JC) and they were working twice as hard to whisk power from them. Hence, their choice of a popular female candidate.
Loud speakers mounted at strategic positions ensured that we heard the chants and speeches of the big wigs whenever any of them climbed the podium to repeat what the other had already said: A vote for PP is a vote for all.
Donations amounting to over 200 million naira were made in cash and in cheques while the crowd clapped and cheered. I disappointingly left after she delivered her manifesto, which was no different from those of the aspirants in previous elections.
Just a pole away from where my car was parked, I sighted thugs who attempted to hijack the event but were intercepted by the army and thrown into a van, women adorned in white lace blouse and Ankara prints singing Achalugo’s praises and children lined up at the entrance to the venue, holding placards with inscriptions like ‘The Woman For The Job’, ‘Achalugo Na You We Know’, ‘Tested And Trusted’ and so on.
I got into my car and sat for a while ruminating over the events of the past couple of hours. Was JC aware of how much support she garnered from her ward? What about the other local governments in the state? Was she also popular there? Would she be able to withstand the pressure of intense politicking? Did she appease the powers that be? I was lost in my thoughts when a man -who had the look of a Secret Service Agent- knocked on my window and yelled, ‘move it!’ and I kick-started my engine and headed home.
I got to my crib and looked at myself -a young man at 26, with a B.Ed doing menial jobs for a living and can barely afford one square meal per week. My rent was almost due and I haven’t saved enough from using my rickety Volvo as taxi during the evenings.
I wanted a change in government and a part of me believed in the woman I heard her voice that day but another part of me thought they were all the same, recycled thieves. It was better to vote in a lesser devil than give the renowned monster of a governor a second term in office.
I started campaigning for her among my passengers, neighbours, friends, extended relatives and anyone who cared to listen. I had never put in so much zeal into any project as much as I did for her campaign. She would finally redeem us from the clutches of the disastrous government in power. Despite my terrible condition, I gave free rides, bought food for those who wanted it and made several calls a day in a bid to convince people to vote her in.
Her posters were on every wall in the community, radio and television stations played her jingles and invited her for interviews, children coined songs for her and danced to them while they played ten ten, women were excited about the possibility of a female governor -it would be the first of its kind in the country- and men gathered every evening to discuss on how much transformation the community will enjoy when she finally won.
On the day of the election, voice of the town crier pierced the stillness of the cold morning as he reminded everyone of the venue of the election and the choice candidate. I sat up immediately and observed that my body temperature could fry a dozen crates of egg.
It was the last chance I had to canvass for votes and I wasn’t going to sleep on it. My clock ticked 5:00 but I decided to set an alarm for 6:00. It was too early to knock on people’s gates, I concluded.
I soaked a small towel in a bucket of cold water and placed it on my neck and allowed myself to fall asleep again. I had only closed my eyes for what seemed like a few minutes before being woken up by shootings and cries of people on the run.
I tried to sit up from the mattress but I had grown wearier and my hurting joints caused me to slump back. The fever had intensified and it was already past 12 in the afternoon.
The first thing that crossed my mind was bloodshed -typical in our elections and then, malaria. I had been exposed to the mosquitoes during my campaigns and couldn’t afford to procure malaria and pain medications.
This sickness came at a very bad time. I had planned to see Achalugo at the polls and tell her of my countless campaigns and prayers for her to win in hopes of a political appointment or even an employment offer. Now, I have lost all of that because of a hellish fever!