Wednesday, January 21, 2009
This month on my blog readers get the chance to read a short story I wrote to bring to light how so many people suffer in different parts of the country just because a politician failed to fulfill his(for obvious reasons I wouldn’t add “or her”) campaign promise. “Utopia” captures the story of a very young African girl who has lost trust in the politician because of the deceit she had experienced. As a result of this her village and those in it are deprived of the very basic of social amenities. Yet the politician comes to the village every four years with a campaign message
The 4 X 4 wheel drives rushed past Aminatutu’s slimy body and that of her five friends she had gown in her poor compound with. The machines just drove as fast as the dusty roads of Okegbame would allow them, as thought they cared not about the little ones who had line up along the bushy path that lead to the only stream in the village. For some reasons Aminatu could simply not count how many of those big and new vehicles had driven past her. The first among them all was because she had never been thought the science of counting; she happened to be one of the many unfortunate kids in the village who had never seen the walls Onayiri Primary School, the only one located more than fifteen miles from Okegbame .The other reason was because the vehicles were so many that even if she was gifted with that uncommon art of counting, she would have lost count any way. The politicians from the castle had come and with him an entourage to help him tell a better lie.
Four year ago Aminatu had heard it all, from a different mouth though. The politician in the big black suit from the City promised the village of Okegbame heaven. He also promised the parents of every child in the village a better life and a clinic to help them treat the frequent cases of Malaria. What caught the attention of the whole village was his promise to put up three different bore-holes to provide potable-drinking water to the one thousand or so farmers and their little ones. Then, Aminatu was so excited to hear about this. Mainly because she no longer would have to wake up at three, before the rooster in her step-mother’s compound sounded in the mornings to follow her friends to the stream. Another reason Aminatu screamed upon hearing this campaign promise was that with the introduction of the bore holes, she foresaw an end of the guinea worm epidemic that had slowly eaten up three of her younger brothers and tens of other kids in other neighboring huts.
Years passed and nothing was realized. Neither the promises nor the mouth that made them. No foundation had been started for the village primary, no engineer had come to drill a single hole to provide potable-drinking water and no Doctor had been there since to start the clinic as promised.
Four years have passed, slowly though and a new campaign season has come.Pajeros screeching, trumpets blowing and handkerchiefs flying. Same promises of better lives, free elementary school education, improved sanitation and a clinic to combat malaria.
Aminatu together with more than half of the people in her village had never been to school and might never be. She, like all the other girls of her age helps her parents with the household chores and farm works so that her younger brothers can finish Primary school and go on to continue their education in a bigger village or town miles away. In Okegbame,it was considered a waste of families toil and sweat to invest scarce funds earned from the sale farm produce to finance a female’s education. In the end she would be going into a different family will all her knowledge learnt after all.
Aminatu had seen it all, the Malaria, Guinea worm, Diarrhoea, Cholera and the most recent one Buruli Ulcer. Ailments that had divorced people she personally knew from her childhood. The fetish priest said it was a punishment from the gods. At least so was the conviction, until one day the priest himself saw a three foot worm wriggle from his eight-decade old foot. From then it was clear that it could not be a punishment from the gods. It no longer was a punishment because the chief priests were all above reproach in the village of Okegbame and thus could not be punished by the gods.
Up till now no one knows with utmost certainty where these sudden diseases come from, not the oldest grey haired witch of the village nor the greatest warrior from the most-feared family. They however heard the college boy who comes there once a month said it was from the streams or so. It’s hard to believe though. How could it be that the stream contains no worms seen by them and yet was said to produce such long worms later.Aminatu together with all the other people form her village found it difficult to believe such a myth. They feared to express their disbelief in his presence.After all he is the one from the city. He is the one who is sent by the government once every month to educate the people on cleanliness and other understandable things that was above Aminatu’s illiterate understanding. “College boy” they all called him. He spent at most two hours in the scorching sun to educate the people of the village about the need to keep their surroundings clean. He spent half of the time talking about the prevention of diseases such as Malaria and Guinea worm. And then spent the rest of the time reading and translating into the local dialect the letters the villagers had received that month from their sons and daughter in the big towns and cities. Of course “Collegeman” did not do this extra-curricula activity for free. He charged the poor villages 40 shillings per page of translation. In fact most of the letters were almost only a page long. He supplemented his meager National Service allowance with such income.
Aminatu wished she were like “Collegeman”.How honorable it would be to be sent by the government to educate people in villages on cleanliness and other topics no matter how understandable they may seem to be. And the icing on the cake for Aminatu was the bicycle the government had provided him with. To her it was far safer and better than the big vehicles the politician had come in. She wished she could read and write. She wished her brothers had never been infected by the deadly long slimy worms. She wished the politician meant every word he said. And above all she wished she could hold the politician accountable in the future should it turn out that he never fulfilled any of his promises.Especially the one concerning the bore holes.
Author Edward of PathGhana at 9:37 AM