For months on end, there had been schemes and stratagems carved out to kick out the incumbent Member of Parliament. Three tenures after he was sworn in, not a single finger could point to any significant socio-economic change in the community. The roads were still untarred with some riddled with potholes the size of trenches. Illiteracy rate was very high, school dropouts littered the streets during the day and joblessness remained on the ascendancy.
The schemers met under the covers of the dark, in the corners of the alleys and at ungodly hours of the night. Those hours when the moonlight was the only brightness illuminating the pitch black streets reeling from the diurnal visit of dumsor. The repercussions of their actions were severe. If discovered, internal ostracizing awaited them. Nothing was harsher than physically being a part of a community but mentally removed from it. But they queried themselves, “if not us then who, if not now then when”.
Their individual soliloquies magically brought them together. Like magnets on virtual thinking caps, they someway somehow knew they were meant to team up. Maybe it was the spark in their eyes when they saw pictures of Che or the glee with which they read the memoirs of Thomas Sankara. Dissent was not a physically punishable crime but the social compulsion to conform was so strong, stepping out of the box was impossible.
But their resolve had been made and there was no turning back now. Their parents would be shamed on the streets with the very fingers which cannot point to the things society needs for its own good. Every revolutionary had a price to pay. At least the currency of transaction here was not hemoglobin based. Blood was not going to be shed but privileges they were told would be lost. But what privilege were they enjoying? The erratic power supply or the abject penury their people were subject to day in day out.
The schemers, four in number and led by a daughter of Eve were the fearless lot out of a multitude of spineless fawning and servile constituents. Young and brimming with the kind of enthusiasm a crash course in civil disobedience imbibes in you, they were determined to show the sitting MP the exit door.
Amina, the leader of the intransigent four sparked the thought which was slowly snowballing into a movement. She had briefly met Kwaku, Abu and Ali back in senior high school before their eventual alliance at the nation’s premiere University, a healthy distance away from their stifling community. There, they found themselves always in the middle of heated debates on governance, leadership, and active civil participation. Not a single lecture went without a banter with either one of the four fully immersed in it. Soon, word spread around campus about four distinct student who talked too much.
When these four students met each other on the lush green grasses behind the school’s library for the first time on campus, they knew theirs was about to be a bond for the annals of history. The meeting had been set up by a lecturer they all shared in common. Serendipity was truly their guide. The morning after, their discussions were no longer the same. It was no longer about looking at the picture, the microcosm which was the dilapidated community they all came from became the focus. Every engagement became centered on how to make the place they all called home habitable by 21st century standards. It was not too much to ask for running water every morning, they queried.
The jolly days of thinking and talking were over with their graduation from school. Now was the time to put boots on the ground and thoughts into the heads of others. On the first night they met in the place they called home after walking up the podium for their degrees, they knew the task facing them was a daunting one. The type filled with hurdles every meter of the way and thorns every corner they negotiated. The challenge was now getting the masses to believe change was good. Not just any type of change but changing the bottomless pit the people in their community called honorable.
The word honorable is the most abused vocabulary in the English language. Evoking an imagery of honesty and assiduousness in the cause of the people, this man they called honorable was the polar opposite of the meaning of the word. He had rode into power on the back of the goodwill of the people. In him they saw one of their own. A son of the land and a member of their ethnic grouping, they could relate with him perfectly well. On TV, they saw people of other ethnicities displaying their command over the Queen’s language and interjecting their speech with their own native language. That was what the people of this town wanted. One of their own finely decked in their traditional attire and speaking their language on national TV.
The incumbent happened to be the most educated member of the community at the time the nation became democratic. When their town become a constituency fully on its own, it was time to realize this dream they had and who better than that son of the land who had received his education in the city. Promising them heaven on Earth, they voted him into power in an overwhelming fashion. But the minute he was sworn in, his ears became deafened to the cries of his people.
His administration became a cycle of campaign during the election season, abscond your people for the better part of four years, reappear in the constituency with the sweetest of voice and cheap handouts for the people, win the election, and act out the greatest disappearing act. The cycle had repeated itself over the past three tenures with no one standing up to challenge it. But that was about to change and who better to do so than the four schemers in the dark of the night.
The scheming in the night had gone on for far too long, it was time to take it to the streets. Amina was no longer going to settle for rhetoric. Action had to be taken. So on Friday after the Jummah prayers, Amina stood up from the segregated section of the women’s prayer space in the mosque. She raised her voice above that of the imam who was still in the middle of his supplications. Coincidentally, he happened to be praying for another victory for the incumbent who was in the mosque to donate two bags of sugar and a 50 kg of rice to the entire community in addition to ablution kettles and a few mats.
“FOR HOW LONG ARE WE GOING TO CONTINUE BREAKING OUR BACKS FOR THIS MAN WHO IS NOT DOING A THING FOR US? WHO AMONGST US HERE CAN MENTION A SINGLE GOOD THING THIS UNSCRUPULOUS MAN HAS DONE TO BENEFIT US ALL? WHO? WHO? WHO? IT IS ABOUT TIME WE CHANGED!”
Scrambling heads started to turn around from the male section of the mosque. Who was this disrespectful girl talking? Does she not know her place? Murmuring started from the midst of the men and intensified around. Whose daughter is that? What a shame to her family! That is what we get for educating our daughters? No man will ever be so rude like that!
Suddenly, Kwaku stood up from the corner of the mosque and started to chant “We Must Change! We Must Change! We Must Change!” Ali slowly rose up and so did Abu. These were three well respected men joining in the chorus. The plan was not to “take it to the streets” in this fashion but this was an opportune moment. They continued to chant. “We Must Change! We Must Change! We Must Change!”
Like well-placed dynamos, the effect started to ripple through the mosque. The old man leaning against the wall who had lost his daughter to a water borne disease chimed in. “We Must Change! The woman sitting next to Amina who was still standing and chanting also joined the chorus. Her son had gone to see the MP for help in securing a job but was turned down in a very humiliating manner. He left home for Libya after that and she was yet to hear from him two years later. All around the mosque, the chant grew louder and louder. “We Must Change! We Must Change! We Must Change!”
The energy in the mosque was soon overpowering. Out of nowhere the front line surged towards the MP chanting in his face. His bodyguard, sensing the anger quickly grabbed his hand and led him out through the nearest door. Jumping into his SUV, they sped off in a blitz with the crowd hooting at them.
The spark had been lit and the people were now awakened from their slumber. It was no longer enough that their representative in parliament was someone they identified with culturally. Any MP representing the community now had to prove his or her worth to the people.
The morning after, the incumbent made several overtures to the people. Suddenly, constructors moved their heavy duty machinery into the community and commenced work on the roads. The neighborhood school which was just about falling was receiving attention from civil engineers and the four musketeers were invited to the plush living room of the incumbent. Four brown envelopes were laid on the table to buy their silence. But these mouths could not be gaged. They did take the envelopes however. After all it was their money. The tax payer’s money.
With their four envelopes, their efforts against the incumbent intensified. The movement had caught on and nothing was going to quench it. The only tenable alternative who had not received popular support over the years was suddenly seen as a viable replacement for the incumbent. Politics of identity was no longer a selling ticket. At the polls, Mrs. Georgina Awuku convincingly trumped the incumbent Alhaji Mamadou Rogoso.
What had started behind the library of a university far away had culminated into the paradigm shift of an entire community. The people of Gurundi were no longer going to be taken for granted.