A journal of narrative writing.
Chairman Popo
Tunji Ajibade

Chairman Popo’s house is in GRA in Bedoro. By the way GRA means, Government Reserved Area. I am not sure you have such places in America. Maybe you do, but the government does not reserve them for politicians. I learnt that your politicians look for their own accommodations whenever they arrive the capital city as elected leaders. Mrs Mathews, I heard something strange in the news the other day. It was said the Prime Minister of Britain announced that his cabinet ministers will not ride in cars bought by government, fueled by  government, repaired by government, chauffeured by government-paid staff, but they will take cabs from homes to their offices. Can the Prime Minister do that?  How can he subject high state officials to such indignities? It is not proper that big politicians should ride in buses and cabs like common persons. You see, this is one reason I said both the Americans and the Europeans are the same. Your president will not have gunmen provide him with maximum security, he chats with common people on social network websites, and now the Prime Minister of Britain says ministers will take cabs to their offices.

See, Chairman Popo had a brand new government car allocated to him when he arrived office. He had since increased the number of cars in his convoy each time he received allocations from the Federation Account. At the last count, he has five cars, Jeeps, not just ordinary cars. Those ones are apart from the escort cars that blow the sirens in front and behind him. No one was allowed to get close to the black shining Jeeps the last time he came to our town to visit his aged parents. His security details ensured that, just as people were not allowed to go within fifty metres of his parents’ thatched mud house during the time their son was around. Ever curious Sunbo had left the confines of his mother’s arms, walked over to the vehicles and touched one of them, smiling at himself in the black shining body.

The shout of “gerrrout from there!” from one of the gunmen made the boy run. His eyes opened wide with fear, he fell on his naked belly that had traces of the slimy ewedu soup with amala which  he had just been fed with, picked himself up, and ran back to his mother.

The same vehicles were packed in Chairman Popo’s premises the first time we went to deliver our letter, grilled by policemen carrying guns. 

“Yes, wetin you come do for here?” one of the policemen asked as soon as we approached the gate of the Chairman’s house.

 “We come to see the Chairman,” I said as the head of the delegation.

“You come to see Chairman,” the man said, pronouncing it Sheerman, with the edge of his lips turned down. “Chairman no dey.”

“Where did he go? We can wait for him.”

“I say Chairman no dey, you say you fit wait for am. You no go fit wait for am.”

“We will wait,” I said.

“You chop winch? I say you no go fit wait for here. Abi una no see say dem write am for there? You wey be their lawyer, read am make I hear.”

I read what was scrawled in red paint on a wooden board hanging on the gate.

“Alsatian Dog On Duty. Keep Off.”

“You see am? Na ‘in you come tanda here dey tell me say una go wait. Here na ya papa house? How you take come here sef, all of una? Where una from come?” he said, his voice turning  gruffer by the minute.

 I imagined he was the Alsatian dog the board referred to. He could pass for one with his heavy neck, bulky body trapped in a tight-fitting uniform, and fat cheeks with falling lips. He seemed to growl like a dog as he talked.

“Who be these boys, wetin dem want?” someone pushed the gate, showed his face, and asked.

“We are the ones, sir. We come to see Chairman Popo,” I said, eager to have another person who might be sympathetic to us.    

“God go punish ya Papa,” the Alsatian dog said. “Na you dem ask question? Oya, kneel down there. I say kneel down there!” A bulala, appeared in his hand from nowhere, and he was about to land the multi-eared cow hide on my head as I went down on my kneel when the man at the gate spoke.

“Leave am.”

The man at the gate came out. The epaulette on his police uniform showed him a senior officer, grey hair showed under his police cap.

“See ‘im head like dog,” the Alsatian dog said, the white of his eyes boring into me. “if you know take your eyes off me, I go wack you head now, now.”

“Wey you boys come from?” the senior officer asked.

“Igbo-Elefon, sir. Chairman Popo is our Council Chairman.”

“That one come mean wetin? I say e mean wetin?” Alsatian dog said. “Na your Council Chairman, that one come mean say make una come here come dey disrespect person. Na for ya village una think say you dey?”

I said, “We didn’t disrespect you. We…’

“If you open ya mouth again, I go break ya head.”

‘Wey you say una come from?” the senior officer asked again, his hands adjusting the cap on his head.


“Why una want see Chairman? He is in a meeting with some important dignitaries, and when he finishes, he will go out as part of the governor’s entourage to a state function.”

“We are the representatives of the Igbo-Elefon Youth Forum. We are here to give him a letter that he will help us deliver to the State governor.”

Eh, ehn. Young boys like you, una don begin dey write petition to the state governor, abi?” Alsatian dog said.

“It is not a petition. We are…”

 “Wey the letter?” the senior officer asked.

I brought it out of my pocket and gave it to him.

“You can go. I will give him the letter when he is less busy.”

 “We want to see him by ourselves, sir”

“E be like say una no get ears. I say Chairman dey busy now, he can’t see you.”

“We came to have a word with him. We will wait until he is ready to see us.”

“Where you want wait?” the Alsatian dog asked. “You no go fit wait for here, because here na high security zone. Don’t you see that signboard over there?”

I turned and read on a signboard grounded close to the perimeter wall, ‘Military Zone. No Hawking, No Trespassing, Keep Walking.”

Mrs Mathews, we have not had any response to the letter we wrote to the governor since we delivered it a year ago, and none from the president since we sent a letter to him six months ago.  I imagine neither of the letters was delivered to the addressees. They couldn’t have been delivered because of the things I heard about our Chairman and the governor.  It is said they all sit to share funds allocated for road construction, water, schools and so on. But no one would do anything about it, you know, not even the dreaded anti-graft agency, because our state is under the control of the party that ruled at the national level. Ma, the strange thing is that our Council Chairman had lived and worked in our town before he was elected. He knew our problems in Igbo-Elefon but he did nothing about them. Our town is two kilometres away from the local government council headquarters yet he packed to GRA, preferring to travel seventy kilometers everyday to and from his office. We were told men of the State Security Service or SSS gave elected officials induction course on security matters, so Chairman Popo decided it was no longer safe for him to live in our town. But I believe there is another reason for his decision to stay away from Igbo-Elefon, Ma, and I will show you why.