A journal of narrative writing.
Chairman Popo

It is a good thing our paths cross and you raise this issue, Mrs Mathews. You are an American, I am sure Or are you an European? It doesn’t matter, really. Americans and Europeans treat children and youth the same way. You are too permissive, the  reason you ask people of this age category to do a thing that should be of concern only to adults. I witnessed what my Uncle’s six year old son did to him the last time they came home from America, for instance. “Don’t be silly, Daddy,” the six year old had said, shocking me to no end, but my Uncle too has become an Americana, so permissive that he laughed and continued playing with the boy. Now when I say home, I mean Bedoro, the state capital city, Igbaroko, our local government council area, Igbo-Elefon, which is our village, no, I mean our town. We have become a town, you know, though none of our streets is tarred, we drink water from streams, and we have sixteen mud huts, ten mud houses with zinc roofs, fifteen brick houses with thatched roofs, and eighteen brick houses, each of them with just one side roofed, while the other side is yet to be roofed, their owners waiting for the next harvest season to have enough money and do the roofing.

I wonder, Mrs Mathews,  how you will ever know you are coming to a town from the main road  –  the road from Badoro to Wondu town. Wondu has its own history and it’s a real town, but don’t let me bore you with that, Ma. You can’t miss the signboard indicating the way to my town on the road from Bedoro to Wondu. Its base may be overgrown with bush for greater part of the year, but it is the biggest, the most colourful signboard you can ever see on this road. It is the product of our contributions – the youth of our town. We contributed money to make it and it reads:

Welcome to Igbo-Elefon


Birthplace of great hunters

Courtesy:  Igbo-Elefon Youth Forum

Note, Ma, that the word ‘Town’ stands on its own, in the centre of the signboard. You can imagine me standing in front of the signboard, wondering if ‘town’ is the more important, or the name ‘Igbo Elefon’. We had argued about those words at our meetings, you know. I mean meetings of Igbo-Elefon Youth Forum. Some of us said a village is a village, and it should be so called. Others said we should not belittle ourselves, and now after the majority has had its say, it also had its way. I think it is oppression, this thing about “majority carries the day,” that we always say.  Maybe you don’t say it in America, but it was the shout that filled the air the day we raised our hands at a meeting and youth who wanted to call our village a town had outnumbered those of us who did not. 

Do you know that majority is not always right, Mrs Mathews? I don’t even need to ask you, sef. I read in a book how majority of Americans elected the wrong man as your president some years back. The book is titled, All the President’s men, and my Uncle brought it from America when he came the last time. I can’t remember his name now, but I recollect reading that the president was elected in 1969 and he was forced to resign later. I am sure you know the president I refer to. Imagine, Mrs Mathews, you Americans elected a man who later told some people to break into other people’s offices just to get information to rubbish them when it was time for another election. He lied about the fact of his involvement in the break-in for years, insisting he knew nothing about it. He also co-opted  many of his aides never to tell the truth. But I commend you Americans because you stood by the truth. You did everything you could to find what the truth was, that time. Is it true you people can spend two hundred million dollars to investigate whether a president had sexual relation with a woman in his office and lied about it? And is it true that you can spend one hundred million dollars to investigate if American troops fighting abroad spent one million dollars more than they should?

The Attorney-General under that lying president died recently. I read about his death weeks  back in a five day old newspapers that one of my friends brought back from Bedoro to our village, sorry, our town. It was reported that the Attorney-General had rejected the president’s pressure to lie about the break-in at the time it happened. That must have been one wonder of an Attorney General. I mean, how did he do it? An Attorney-General refused the request of a sitting president? You Americans too get liver o! No one can do that here in my country. We once had an Attorney General who was a mouthpiece of our ailing former president and his wife.  I heard it on my father’s old potable, battery-powered radio the day the Attorney General said it was not necessary to have the Vice-President sworn into office in acting capacity, that the president could rule from his sick bed outside the country. And to think that man remained on sick bed outside the country for over ninety days. I had wondered if our Attorney General was in office to serve the people or be a slave to a sick president.


I was saying something about Igbo-Elefon, wasn’t I?  My apology, Mrs Mathews. I get carried away with any issue that provokes me to anger. And I am always angry about the way leaders here go about things, especially, someone like Chairman Popo who is our local government area council boss. As I said earlier on,  we have a signboard at the junction to our town that makes a ridicule of us. I know people ridicule us for calling ourselves a town though we are in the middle of a forest, and with nothing called modern amenities. One man in three piece suit, who looked like one of the people from Africa that attended universities in London in the 1950s, had pointed this out in a vehicle I boarded on my way back from Bedoro the last time I traveled to my aunt’s place.

“I wonder why this people make a point of informing us on a signboard that theirs is a town. I would have thought a town tells its own story,” the man had said, making other passengers  laugh as the driver parked the bus, and I alighted at the foot of our signboard. 

His Excellency, the Executive Governor of the State, through the Member of the State House of Assembly representing Igbaroko Local  Government Council Area, through the Local Government Council Chairman, though the Ward Councilor, had promised to provide us with pipe borne water, do the dirt road that run through our town, and construct new modern classrooms in our secondary school. That was the way we addressed our letter, I mean the letter we wrote as members of Igbo-Elefon Youth Forum to the state governor. When we became frustrated that nothing was done, we wrote another letter to His Excellency, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, through His Excellency, the Executive Governor, through the Local Government Council Chairman, through the Ward Councilor. Is it true, Mrs Mathews, that you Americans write directly to your president? My Uncle told me that the American president responded to an email his six year old son sent sometime ago. He also mentioned something about a social network website where the president maintains an account, and you American exchange views with him. That is breach of protocol, ai! I mean it is a breach of protocol in our country. In fact, it is breach of security. How can the president talk to ordinary citizens, direct, without going through his several layers of aides and…em…em security operatives? Such a practice is beneath him; it belittles a president if he communicates directly with common people. A whole president, fa!  You people are taking this democracy thing too far o!

Well, maybe it’s one the advantages of democracy. But we don’t enjoy such an advantage here. Our culture demands we respect elders and it is brought to bear on our democracy. I know places here where the traditional leader does not talk directly to people, his lesser chiefs do the talking for him. I watched one on TV the other day as one traditional leaders played host to some youth groups. His chair, royal chair, was the tallest in the room, and it was on a raised platform.  The royal father was turbaned from the top of his head to his chin. Those who dressed him must have left his eyes, nose and upper lips out at the last minute, and as an afterthought, or he would have passed for one of the masquerades in our village. Both his chiefs and the youth that came to pay their respect sat on the floor. The royal father did not speak throughout, one of the chiefs spoke on his behalf.

Our politicians here are royalties, you know. Go to the house of one of them, especially those that fancy wearing turbans when they return to their hometowns from the nation’s seat of power, Mrs Mathews, and you will be made to sit on mats, while he sits royally on a special chair. The host I am talking about may have bagged Ph,D at Oxford, it doesn’t matter. Democracy is one thing, culture is another. If you insist you are equally educated, and you want to sit on a chair in the presence of this Ph.D holder, you will be tagged with having girman kai. Don’t ask me for the meaning, Ma. But if you Americans have a word to for the man who is full of himself, then you got it. See, you dare not say you want to see a Governor here. See a governor, who are you? That’s a sign of disrespect, fa. You don’t even get to see the Ward Councilor, or the  local council chairman, though you voted him to represent you. You can’t see Chairman Popo, for instance, Mrs Mathews. Though you are an American, you can’t. I am sure of this because the security details around him are more than those around your president.

Sebi I watched CNN each time I went to Bedoro where my Aunt’s neighbourhood enjoyed abundant supply of electricity two days in every week, and I saw the long black car in which your president sat when he arrived at a function. There were no men with guns around him. I noticed two men with dark goggles, who were in dark suits. I knew they were security details because the men around our politicians  dress that way too. But there were no soldier carrying AK-47 guns around your president. But Chairman Popo has them. Plenty of soldiers and police officers with guns, the heavy type, follow him everywhere.  They were not around him the day he was sworn into office; but their number increased in the weeks and months that followed. They also stay around his house twenty-four-seven. They were there the day I went with other boys selected by Igbo-Elefon Youth Forum to give him a letter we wrote to the governor because the Ward Councilor, to whom we should delivered the letter, had again traveled for a workshop in the nation’s capital city, the fifth of such in five months.