A journal of narrative writing.
Chairman Popo
Tunji Abijade

Oh, dear me! Where did I veer off what I was saying. Ah, yes, I remember now. Our state governor entered the room, Mrs Mathews, and Chairman Popo introduced us, six members of his inner caucus, to him, saying we were his henchmen. Henchmen! I became impatient to finish secondary school and enter politics from that moment. I mean, if I could be so high in politics at this age, a henchman to Council Chairman, then nothing will stop me from becoming the governor of the state by doing what I did for Chairman Popo which had ensured his return to office for a second term. It was a simple thing they discussed that day, Ma. I mean the State Governor and Chairman Popo. The things that turn a nation upside down can be deceptively simple at the onset, sometimes seemingly inconsequential. Eh, did I say that? Inconsequential! I will soon become a dictionary myself. Don’t mind me, Ma, it is one of those words I picked from our school principal. Imagine students hailing each time the school principal used a ‘big’ word while speaking to us on the assembly ground,  and you will understand why it rolled off my tongue with ease.

I said what the governor wanted Chairman Popo to do sounded inconsequential at the time.  Days after that meeting, Chairman Popo called a meeting of the State chapter of the ALGC. A week after that, we were at the state Civic Centre where the governor played host to the twenty members of ALGC, representing all the local council areas in the state. The five thousand capacity hall was full, and thousands of people stood outside. I got the contract to bring Brigade Band Boys, native drummers and praise singers; you can bet I brought just twenty out of the total number of fifty-two for which I had collected money. Politics good, o.     

“…You have succeeded in transforming the whole state within your first term in office and you have only been consolidating on the gains of the first four years in this second term. For someone who has done so well, we have no hesitation to conclude among ourselves that your experience and expertise will be needed in the nation’s highest law-making house, the senate.”

That was Chairman Popo speaking on behalf of the other council chairmen at the Civic Centre, Mrs Mathews. “You have created a problem for us in this state, in terms of succession, because I wonder who would be able to succeed you and fill your shoes by matching your achievements,” he had continued. He turned away from the crowd, to face the state governor, when he said this.

What happened, Ma, was that Popo and the rest of the ALGC members had adopted the candidature of  the State Governor as the party’s senatorial candidate to represent our senatorial district. These chairmen had earlier purchased Expression of Interest form for the governor, and the ceremony was about handing the form over to the governor. Chairman Popo said the outstanding quality leadership displayed in the almost eight years reign of the governor was the basis for their action. And he added that all he and other members of ALGC  requested from the governor was for him to take the form, and accept their pleas to contest for a seat in the senate.

By the way, Mrs Mathews, our state governor had promised that Councilor Popo would succeed him as the governor, and all the council chairmen would become state commissioners. I have wondered how any politician outside the group would break through this arrangement, not with the way I helped Councilor Popo to return to power the last time, and not with the way we had planned to go about the coming election. There has been tension in the state with political opponents engaging in assaults against each other since the maneuvers for political offices began. I was part of a group that disrupted a campaign rally where Chief Riyibi was to address his supporters. He wanted to pick our party’s senatorial ticket in our senatorial district. But he had been confronted with the task of having to grab that same ticket from the state governor. Riyibi knew he would be a looser both at our party’s primaries and in the general election, as things stood.  Some  days back, we were at a campaign rally where the state governor addressed his supporters.

“…We are aware of what those who oppose His Excellency’s bid for the Senate are planning,” Councilor Popo said, addressing the crowd after the governor had returned to his seat. “We know they want to rig, but are we going to sit down and watch them?”

“No, no, no,” was the response from the crowd.

“The secrets of what they want to do, how they plan to kill innocent people, send out thugs to intimidate people, snatch ballot boxes, bribe officials of the electoral authority, and announce fake results – all these things that they think are secrets – they are here as open to us as the palm of my hand,” Chairman Popo said, showing his open hand to the crowd.

The loud cheer from his listeners traveled in every direction, and in the midst of it came sound of gunshots. People scattered, falling over one another as they tried to escape. I threw myself under the raised platform on which party chieftains had sat or stood. More men in black hoods came out of three cars, and continued to shoot. The security details around the governor, even with their pistols drawn, fell one after the other. Mobile police men shot with their AK-47, but they were overpowered. Some of them dropped their guns and ran. Two men dragged the governor off the platform, pushed him into the boot of a saloon car that had been standing on the same spot before the governor and his entourage arrived, and drove off, followed by two other cars    

Mrs Mathews, I had never seen guns such as the ones these men used, guns that released so many bullets at a go.  These ones had kept on firing for several minutes. Six days had passed since the incidence took place. Chairman Popo was wounded, and I am staying  with him here at the national hospital which is in the nation’s capital city. The State Governor has been rescued from his abductors; they were intercepted at one of the nation’s border areas, as they attempted to cross into the neighbouring country. The seven men gang confessed they were sent by Riyibi to  kill Chairman Popo, whom he accused of planning to rig the coming election, send the  governor to the Senate, and then occupy the state governorship seat himself. The abductors however took the governor away with them, seeing it as an opportunity to demand for ransom, a big business here, if you must know, Mrs Mathews.

Chairman Popo is still unconscious, but the two bullets in his brain have been surgically removed. Doctors say, he has 50-50 chance of recovery. I am the only person from Igbo-Elefon who has come with him all the way to the capital city, and bored with sitting all day long at the reception, I had taken a stroll around the large hospital complex, saw a cybercafé, bought airtime to do some browsing as one of the Attendants explained to me, and I came across your request on Google for young people aged 8-16 to write to you on the topic, ‘Politics as I know it.’  See, Ma, my airtime is about to run out, and I have to go back and check on Chairman Popo. I will press the SEND button now, though I know I must have made so many mistakes, especially in places where I typed as if you were seated next to me which, as my English teacher said, is wrong. But I don’t have the time to go over what I have typed in order to do the corrections. Please, pardon me. But this is what I know about politics.

Ah, silly, I almost forgot to identify myself; my name is Roti.