By Edward T. Dibiana
“Hello”. (Silence from the other end). “Hello!, hello, helloooo”.
” He–ll–o” , a voice whispered from the other end and my mind skipped. The voice was gentle, surreal but distinct. “Could it be the surreal tone of the voice that affected me? Or was I not expecting to get a response?”, I wondered. As I was still trying to find answer, the voice blew into my ear again:
Without hesitation this time, I quipped:
“Hello, sir!, hello Your Excellency…. Hello! (silence again).
“Damn. Maybe my ears were deceiving me.” I began to doubt myself. “My mind must be playing a mischievous game on me. The surreal voice was just a figment of my ‘troubled’ imagination”, I tried to convince myself.
“How could he have responded to me? Why would he want to respond to a call from an unknown phone number, especially this time that he is having a deserve rest?” I thought.
“This is even a wrong timing. Why on earth would you want to call him this week? Just few hours to Democracy Day. Few hours to the second anniversary of his ‘Change’ government. You are just a joke. You should have known better. Have his media aides not told us that two years are not enough to evaluate his performance? But I have a message or two to deliver. And there is no auspicious time to deliver the messages than now. He is our president. Is he not? He is our leader, whether on Leave or bed rest, is immaterial. He promised us change and we are still searching for it,” I kept debating within me. Just as I was about giving up waiting for the ‘voice’ to come back, it returned…
“Eeeeeh”, (clearing his voice)”
“Hello Baba”, I said with sureness of resolve to dialogue.
“Not him, Sir.”
“Not him, Sir.”
“Oh Femi. You called today? How are you?”
“Not Femi, sir. I understand that Femi doesn’t have your number. So, he couldn’t have been the one on the line.”
“Femi doesn’t know my number?”
“So he alluded. Your foreign number, I mean, General. He alluded to that fact the last time you traveled for rest.”
“Correct, sir. He often said in the media at the time that he spoke to people around you in London to find out how you were doing. We understand what that means.”
“But you have not answered my question. Who are you?”
“You don’t know me but I know you, Baba. I’m just a concerned Nigeria that has some messages for you from my fellow concerned Nigerians. And as a Journalist too, I have a few questions, just a few. I hope you don’t mind? I’m not unaware that you are still resting, sir.”
“I’m fine with that.”
“Thank you, General. First, fellow Nigerians want me to tell you that they are fervently praying for you”.
“That is so kind of them. Tell them I appreciate their prayers. I appreciate”
“Yes, they are really praying. In churches, in the mosques and elsewhere. In fact, I read the other day that about 500 clerics were assembled in Zamfara to pray all night for you.”
“Yes, I was told”
“That is interesting. In that case, you must have been told too about the tragedies that wiped out two families in Lagos and Edo states respectively, last week?”
“Tragedy? Not at all. I hope Bola and Adams are safe?”
“Very well sir. Such tragedies do not come near the kind of fortresses they live in. An unfortunate family of six in Edo and another family in Lagos were killed by generator fumes while asleep. Poor citizens”
“Haba, that is unfortunate. They must have kept the generators on inside their houses while they slept. Our people need so much enlightenment about the dangers of such practice. That’s sad. Very unfortunate.”
“That’s true, Your Excellency, but that brings me to my first question. Wouldn’t such tragedies have been averted if your government had delivered on your campaign promise of change by fixing the lingering electricity power problem?”
“You see, we are trying but certain things are not as easy as they seem. Ask Fashola, he is on top of the matter…”
“But your party boasted during your campaign that it doesn’t take a rocket science to fix the power sector. What has changed, sir? You promised to fix the economy through diversification, by redirecting the economy from oil and import dependency to a production-driven one. Sir, how do you expect a profitable enterprise in the manufacturing sector where everybody is expected to generate their own electricity power? Even the smallest roadside businesses are run by generators. In what ways have our economy improved since your change mantra?
“See, if you ask Udoma and the other one… the finance woman, they will give you all the indices of our economic improvement…”
“Oga, leave Udoma and Madam Phonetics out of this because you are the one Nigerians voted for. The only thing they dish out in large quantity, according to the common man on the street, is ‘Turanchi’. Oga, their well-intentioned, high sounding ‘Turanchi’has not been able to put food on the table of the ordinary man. Neither has it been able to change the name and impact of recession in the polity. What other indices do you want the common man to understand?
“Your Excellency, there is grave suffering in the land. People are hungry. People are dying. People are crying. People are losing their minds. Self-dignity, belief and hope are now taking flight from our land. More than ever before, people are now accepting suicide as an escape route from the excruciating pangs of the escalating economic difficulties, abject poverty and disappointment under your watch. Do you know that many men are losing their authority in the ‘other room’ as a result of depression and the sapping stress of coping under your government? Rueben Abati, former presidential spokesman told us it was an exclusive ‘punishment’ for the presidential villa big boys. Now your government is freely distributing it across board. You promised us change. Didn’t you?”
“But you can see the change…”
“Pardon me, Sir for interrupting you, but I’m not done with my message. Have you noticed the rate at which companies are sacking their workers? Thousands of jobs have been lost in the past two years of your government because many employers are finding it difficult to cope with the horrendous realities of the time. Yet you promised job creation. Staple food items such as garri and Rice are becoming luxury commodities. Market women are groaning. Civil servants are fasting for their salaries to be paid. Was that the change you meant? Let me ask you sir, what are your thoughts about the dwindling popularity of your party among the ordinary folks on the streets, two years into your tenure as president? I’m not oblivious of the charade of cross carpeting into your party by the political class.”
“Ask Professor. He is the one doing the thinking now”
“That’s not in doubt, Baba”
“See, you said you had only few questions. Now you are asking many. Why don’t you direct all these questions to Alhaji?
“Haba! Baba, don’t go there. You want to turn this serious matter to a joke?”
“Alhaji a joke?”
“If you say so, Baba. You can as well add a liability. ”
“I take exception to that. That is uncharitable. How can you call Alhaji a liability? He is a loyal party man…”
“That is not in doubt, Baba. He is loyal. But how do you expect anyone to believe him? People say he has become so comical these days that they don’t pay much attention to him any longer. The other day he alleged that you were patronising Nigerian ‘Roots’ in London. True?”
“Aha, I understand. But the real jesters, Baba, are those goons in your fold who are joking that you will stand for election in 2019. In fact they are your real enemies. Your other set of enemies, if you ask me, are those that continue to encourage the lopsidedness of your appointments. That is clannish and nepotistic. And unfair to all concern. I have to be honest with you, this change is not working. Many say it is an illusion. What is your take on that? (Silence). Hello, are you still there, sir? Hello… (Silence). Ok, Let me not forget to congratulate you on the recent release of some of the kidnapped Chibok girls. Kudos on that, Baba! But the unchecked menace of the herdsmen remains a festering sore. Hello, hello…” oh, I was only dreaming?
Dibiana, a media strategist, lives in Abuja.