By Muhammed Adoke
…Stepping out of the vehicle was a delight. I looked at my wrist watch and the time clocked 1:15pm. I walked towards the gathering of mothers in their multitude and noticed how they relish behaving like children when they are among their folks. That sense of familiarity makes even the strictest of all mothers to act childishly in the midst of her contemporaries.
“My own nkor?”
“U never give me o!”
“What of my neighbour own?” The noise was too much that no one seemed to be hearing what the other was saying. The distributors were in uniformed blue face cap, white polo T-Shirt and black trousers. They were two women and a young man. They gave orders and commanded respects, amid awe and admiration from the recipients. They must be persons well ‘connected’ to the Ogas at the top. In a critical period like this, getting an appointment to be in charge of food and other relief materials is the nicest of all white-collar jobs. Such job is a sure licence to not die of hunger. I looked around turning my head from one side to the other, and almost twisting it in order to know whether or not any significant changes had taken place during my absence.
Going back to the handout, I remembered that some years before, these hardworking women of my beloved community used to be timid when it came to jostling for material things in the public. Then, it was perceived an insult to motherhood. Why, have things changed so fast? Why?
In the middle of the crowd, I could recognize the head teacher of my former primary school, shouting back at one of the women who had accused her of collecting twice. I felt disappointed and at the same time sad that she has come down to this. That was a woman who ought to be living well on her pension after over thirty years of serving her country. In a sane society, the retired head teacher would not be there arguing about her share in such a gathering. My heart bled. I walked briskly backwards to the direction of my mother’s house.
At the centre of the Village Square is situated an aged long statue of a woman in her prime. It was said that she used to dance to the sound of thunder and lightning. Her name is Mother Iya.
Folklore has it that in those days she lived underground as a spirit and showed up when thunder and lightning struck. It is also said that whenever she was in dancing posture, whoever sought favour from her would have success. Nowadays, it is said that the activities of religious fanatics have desecrated our lands and forced Mother Iya out of the community. For many years, so many sacrifices have been performed to appease Her, but, Mother Iya has refused to return. Still, every generation is advised to keep hope alive for, someday, Mother Iya will reappear and dance the dance of Blessings and Favours to the people.
I walked towards Mother Iya, determined to ask Her some questions which I believed she would have answers. She always does. Getting closer to the statue, I heard “Dada”, called in a mellowed female voice. I wondered who the caller might be. “Who is this person, a woman that could recognize me from my back despite my long absence from this land? The voice did have a close resemblance to that of my mother. “No! I was certain it could not be her’s. My mother would not be in such a gathering” I said to myself with a high degree of certainty.
“Dada, is that you?” the voice sounded again and sounded familiar to me. I turned round to see who it was that called me.
“Onyamioo, oh, nyehi Onyiam” (My mother, oh I’m back, I said.) I sprang on her in a solemn embrace. She was full of joy.
“You’ve grown into a man! Look at your moustache?” She said and hugged me.
“I’ve missed you so much” I told her.
“Tah! If you truly missed me, you wouldn’t have stayed so long before you pay me a visit…” she said, and was sombre. I felt she missed me just like I missed her.
“I’m sorry mother; you know how busy we are at school. I hardly have time for myself…” I explained. She became cheerful. She gazed at me for a couple of minutes, studying me so as to be sure that ‘she is with whom she thought she is with; that is ‘Dada’!
“What’s that you are holding?” I asked, looking at the polythene bag that her right hand was carrying.
“Oh! You mean this? It’s my share….” She said dismissively.
“My share of the National cake; so they said….” She smiled and her beautiful gum glittered. She looked younger than she was when I saw her last time.
“What’s in the bag? And from who?” I wanted to know more.
“Rice and salt, from these party people” she answered shyly.
I frowned and felt a bit heartbroken. Mother knows how much I detest seeing people collecting gifts from politicians. It is like the people are being bribed.
“Do you really have to collect it?” I asked.
“I did that because they told us it is for everybody. Moreover, if I refuse it, other people will see me as an oddity and might think something is wrong with me!” She lamented.
“How many cups of rice are there?’’
“Five cups of rice plus a sachet of Dangote salt….” She revealed. “I’m sorry son….” She added.
“You don’t have to appologize to me, mother. You only did what a lot of women in the village did. Look at the crowd! But next time, always search your conscience…” I said and then added: “Do you really want to vote for the man who brought these gifts?”
Nigerian politicians always have their blatant ways of influencing the hearts of even the most complicated Nigerian. But what hurts me most is that Nigerian politicians think that individual handouts of salt and garri can compensate for unfulfilled promises on good roads, unbroken supply of electricity and water and provision of good health Care system; and education available and accessible to all. The Nigerian politicians don’t think highly of the electorates, that’s why they offer them ‘pieces of fish’ instead of showing them how to fish for themselves, as a Chinese proverb says.
Comrade Muhammed Adoke is a social commentator and activist.