Recently I travelled through a state capital and found in the middle of the city, a huge wide billboard, which towered high above with the image of one person sprawled across it. It was the picture of the state governor so thickly decked in traditional attire, complete with a walking stick. He looked more like a character out of a Nollywood movie, smiling down at onlookers in that I have arrived manner of Nigerian big men, with a bold inscription “Imagine another four years” taking up the remaining space on the board.
Four years of what I asked myself?
I took a look around me, at the people who daily walked past this giant billboard, who without options look up at the smiling face on the billboard as they walk past, the people whose imaginations the governor is so bent on tickling.
The people didn’t seem to be smiling back. Not the little girl of school age with a bowl of pure water on her head who was timing the flow of traffic in order to cross over to the other side of the road in good time to appeal to the people getting off the bus:
Not the young lady holding out a long strip of yellow, green and blue cards from under an umbrella few yards away beckoning me to recharge my phone. All I could see was a struggling young girl trying to pinch out a living, her beauty concealed by years of sitting out at the mercy of the elements:
Not the lady traffic warden who was having a tough time directing the traffic. Her face showed tiredness, her shoes too. Her yellow uniform was now tending towards pale. She was cursing and showing her five fingers to the bus drivers who showed her theirs too as they sped away, coughing out thick black smoke, like chimneys:
Not the two boys, no more than thirteen who were exchanging punches right under the billboard of the smiling governor. All that clawing and bickering meant some issue of survival had led to the fight.
I looked back at the huge billboard and I asked my self again, another four years of what?
Perhaps if the governor had spent the last four years doing his best to translate the billions accruing to the state into schools to take the children off the streets; into jobs that ensured their parents wouldn’t have to send them out to the streets; into traffic lights to ease the work of the lady warden; into well tarred roads that wouldn’t create such herd of noisy smoky cars and impatient uncultured drivers. Perhaps if the governor had done all this already, the next four years wouldn’t have been so difficult to imagine.
But he didn’t. He spends more time in Abuja than in the state capital. He goes off to the ends of the earth, flying first class with a large delegation, which includes his girlfriends, chasing what he calls foreign investment. When he is around, he speeds past in his noisy convoy. When the workers ask for more pay, he complains about dwindling fortunes and the global economic melt down.
And while we seemingly recline and resign to fate, with the opposition joining him in Government House to drink sparkling wine in fine glasses, he doesn’t leave us alone in peace. He follows us around, right to the streets to rob pepper into the festering injury, to mock us and tickle our imagination, requesting of us the use for his own benefit the very last article we own, our thought.
“Imagine another four years!” I refuse to imagine sir.
These are the kind of billboards, such damning symbols of government, erected from our common wealth that I believe Wole Soyinka once called on us to throw food morsels at every morning religiously before going out to find a living. Perhaps it is apt to resound that call today. A call to act out our denouncement of non performing governments, to voice out our frustrations which we’ve held up for too long in our hearts, to reject the perpetuation of our misery, to say no to another four years: to say enough is enough.
We have today, a window of opportunity to decide what happens in the next four years. Maurice Iwu who superintended the last electoral hoax that gave us the likes of the governor on the billboard has been removed. The electoral reforms or at least some of what is left of the Uwais panel report seems to be heading into our law books and most importantly the new President Goodluck Jonathan has promised on more than one occasion to organise an election in which votes will count and will be counted. Its now up to us to take the right decisions the very first of which is to ensure we are registered to vote. INEC says it’s an ongoing process at every Local Government office nationwide.
Let’s equip ourselves to rephrase the line on the billboard. Let’s ask the governor and his like across the country “Imagine life outside Government House”. Yes we can.