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Eketi @eketiette
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September, 2018. Somewhere in Kano.

The sun's heat radiates off the asphalt, its greyish hue a testament to its blackness, once upon a time. As the keke speeds along, houses and potholes soon give way to a long stretch of untarred road, punctuated by uneven dips and bumps.
Dust accompanies the heat, rising from the ground and tickling our nostrils.

A conversation is going on in Hausa between one occupant of the keke, a man, who sits at the far end on the right, and the driver.

“So the keke is your own?” the man asks.
The driver, a teenager who looks every bit his age, nods and in rapid fire Hausa, says,

“Yes. I paid cash for it. As I am now, I’ve almost complete money to buy one for my younger brother.”

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen years old,” the boy replies. “My brother is fourteen.”
“Ah!” the man exclaims. “I know that one keke costs over two hundred thousand. How have you been able to raise enough money to buy for your brother? How much do you make a week?”

He says he makes ever one hundred thousand naira a month. But that’s not his only source of income.
“Every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they come and carry us in trucks to those villages inside inside.

All we do when we get there is say,

‘Sai Baba! Vote for Baba! He has done well for us’.

Then they pay us twenty thousand naira.”

"Every week?" the man asks.

"Every week."
There is astonishment, the kind that shakes you, and robs you of your voice. I shake on hearing those words. Not so, the man who asks the questions. He loudly expresses his incredulity.

“So, are you going to vote Baba?” he asks.

“No o! Me, I’m just making my money.”
October, 2018. Somewhere in Sokoto.

The car trundles along the clogged up streets, teeming with people. Although here and there, figures in jalabiyas and hijabs occasionally line the periphery, the crowd is made up of men and boys. A big politician has arrived in town,....
...we’re told, and the throng is headed in one direction—the venue where he’s to be welcomed in grand style.

We’re instructed to park and wait, until the bulk of the crowd has gone by; it’s no use trying to go against the current, they advise.
As we wait, I marvel at the loyalty that drives this mixed swarm of honest men and miscreants, workers and the unemployed.

However, from idle chatter and snatches of conversation, I realise that I may be wrong about that loyalty.“
“They will share money for us,” says one young man to another, as they press forward. He tells his companion that the man who’d recruited them to show up and welcome the big man, promised that they’d be paid for doing so.

A few metres away, there is a sudden stampede.
A boy, perhaps no more than twenty years old, shouts to another, saying, “They’ve started paying. They’ve started paying.” Then he dives into the melee.

At some point, the mass of bodies shift and the sight that meet the eyes is one that’s so surreal, it beggars belief.
There is a van of indeterminate colour and age, packed in what used to be an open space, surrounded by a mass of black bodies. The doors of the van are open. From it, some men pull out carton after carton.
As each carton touches the ground, it is ripped open and its content...
...spill out into the eager hands of the horde. Small bottles wrapped in transparent cellophane. Some of the bottles have been broken and the dusty red earth thirstily soaks up the syrupy offering.

Cough syrup with codeine.

That is the label on the bottles.
I am stunned into numbness. Around us, boys and men cheer and congratulate each other on how many bottles they’ve been able to grab.

They celebrate their “payment.” This politician is a good man, they say. They will vote him and his candidate in the next election.
One member of our team looks on, torn between disgust and sorrow.
“We’re finished in this country,” he says.

An automatic counter declaration rises in my chest but gets stuck somewhere in my throat. Weak, I nod in mute agreement, over and over.
August, 2018. Somewhere in Abuja.

Abdul is our popular neighbourhood mai-ruwa. Whenever water stops running, you can count on him to fetch you gallons of clean water.
After missing for some days, Abdul reappears.

“Abdul, where you go? We no come see you again,” I say.
“Customer,” he replies, “I go my village go collect my PVC.”

He regales me with tales of his visit. His father is fine; a cousin got married, and a brother’s wife gave birth to a baby girl. The part of the tale which interests me most is about his PVC, how quickly he got it.
“E no hard, customer,” he assures me. “Even those people wey come from Chad get their own.”


Yes, Chad. He says that every day, new ones come. Men, mostly. They all have PVCs and will be voting in next year’s election. According to him, they’re here to ‘support us.’
I've taken the time to chronicle these experiences for three reasons:

1. Just in case you thought this country was bad, I want to let you know that it’s worse.

2.There are some of you who go about saying that our votes don’t count. You even tell others this lie.
Look, our votes do count, and those who know that they do, are working overtime to make sure that PVCs get in the hands of those who’ll vote for them.
So, if you’re thinking of boycotting elections, don’t be stupid. Or unfortunate. Get ready to go out and vote!
3.Grassroots politicking is so important.

These political fights and wrangling on Twitter and Facebook are nothing. I’m not saying that they don’t make any impact. I’m saying that offline, is a vastly different story.
Take Abdul for instance. He’s never heard of the Not Too Young to Run law. Nor does he know any section of the constitution. But he knows the names of the councillor, chairman, representative and senator representing his ward and constituency.


Grassroots politics.
Consider those villages where truckloads of boys and men are paid to go and shout, ‘Sai Baba.’ Unscrupulous. But reaching the common man.

Even if you’re not a registered or card carrying member of any political party, at least do your utmost to campaign for better governance.
Begin in your community.

It’s good to write online; keep that same energy offline.
Many people out there looking for a guide and often, someone to tell them who to vote for. They need you.

Are you going to be the voice in your community? Will you keep quiet and let the liars...
....bribers, deceivers and cheats win?

Will you start a fight among your brothers and sisters over who is the Messiah or not?

After reading this, what exactly are you going to do, to contribute to making things better?
I tire of talking about this country sometimes. But it's hard to keep quiet.

I just hope we'll wake up soon, in time to turn away from the precipice to which we're headed.

Over and out.

I know, today, I'm serious. I'll resume my humorous threads later.
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