“Greatest Nigerian students, welcome to this meeting,” begins the moderator. “To my right, standing near that umbrella, I have Mr. John Ebele and his team. To my left, near the broom is the team of Mr. Buma Muhammed.” He clears his throat then continues. “As you all know, our Departmental elections are taking place a week from now. So this is an avenue for us to discuss and interact so we can make good choices when voting. I remain your humble colleague” he adds with a smile, “Atta Jega.”
This is my first time attending a Students’ congress meeting or whatever name they refer this kind of gathering by these days. Today curiosity brought me here. I’m not only interested in hearing the aspirants talk and give wild promises, I’m also interested in seeing the students’ reaction because as you all already know, I’m a self-proclaimed psychologist.
A friend of mine comes in and sits beside me. He is more up to date with the ongoing drama than I am, so his presence is most welcome.
“Wonders shall never end, so Dozie, you don finally attend congress for once,” He says with a grin.
I shrug nonchalantly. “I was bored. How far?”
“I de oh. Been de try do that assignment but I been no wan miss this.”
The moderator is chanting on how the elections would proceed, the positions up for grabs and their aspirants.
My friend sighs. “Who cares about who gets the bloody P.R.O. position? It’s the president’s post we wan discuss joor.”
I stare again at the teams standing adjacent each other and despite my naivety as regards the current scenario, I notice something explicitly wrong but before I can query my friend, someone from the crowd, like though in sync with my thoughts shouts out the question.
The moderator uneasily shifts his legs and throws a stare at the team standing near the broom, silently passing the question on to them. Someone from the team steps out, “Buma sadly couldn’t make it today due to some…” His voice is buried in the rumble of vocal dissents that engulfs the room.
“Who do you think would win?” I ask my friend.
He shrugs. “It’s a tight race, John has been president for a session and, well, many people believe he screwed up. So now Buma has a lot of fans screaming for ‘change’” He rolls his eyes.
I stare at the Buma team again. “Correct me if I’m wrong but most of the guys I’m seeing in Buma’s team were in John’s last time.”
“You damn right they were?”
“Then how is it change if it’s the same people we’re recycling behind a new banner?” I ask.
“Beats me.” He replies with a soft yawn.
“John obviously has your vote?” I ask
My friend shrugs. “We attend the same church.”
I stare at him incredulously. “That’s your reason? What does church have to do with any of these? What does religion have to do with it for that matter?”
He shrugs but says nothing. A female student comes and seats beside me on the other side. Would that she had been real good to look upon, I might have thanked providence for bringing me here. As I stare at her ‘not interesting’ face, I murmur a greeting and return my attention back to the moderator.
He has managed to calm the room down and is now talking about the two aspirants. “Both Buma and John are experienced in this aspect,” He remarks. “As we all know, John is the current President of the department and is seeking reelection while Buma was once students’ president during pre-degree.”
I turn and look at my friend. “You did Rems ba?”
His eyes narrow antagonistically. “Yes, the more reason why Buma must not win.”
The girl on my other side scoffs, we both turn and stare at her.
“Why shouldn’t he win?” She fires back. “What has John done that he should deserve reelection? Look around, he has spoiled our department. Putting him there in the first place was a big mistake.”
“How?” My friend inquires.
“What has he done well? See how students have been failing courses, see how many spill overs we have…”
“Na him go read for them?”
I hush both of them before they go further. A representative from Buma’s camp is about to speak.
“Greatest Nigerian students!” He hails, people respond “Great!”
“As a dedicated member of this great department, it hurts my heart to see how far this department has fallen.” Murmurs ripple through the crowd. “What has our present leadership done for us? Look at our financial state. Our department’s purse is empty. The student union fees has been increased repeatedly. Where are the benefits they promised us? I’m here to offer you a chance for change!” Some people in the crowd responded, “Change.”
“Our lecturers do not respect our intellect anymore. Our tests and exams have been so bastardized that these days people pass more from their pockets than from their brains. Those of you who were in pre-degree during Comrade Buma’s time would recall how it was. Due protocol was always observed. There was order and discipline”
My friend snorts with contempt. “Is that what they are calling it now?” He stares at me with aggression. “Do you know that back then, that mo’fo was catching people for dubbing, for ‘cooperation’ – his own bloody fellow students. He was even reporting lecturers too.”
The girl ripostes. “What’s the point of us being in school if we can’t get our brains to function? He was helping us channel our efforts the right way. And lecturers couldn’t just come and try to extort us like they do now. Even lecturers were scared of him so they did things right. And he brought order, discipline, punctuality…”
“Aha!” My friend interjects. “Dozie, do you know that back then, you no fit come late for any class or meeting? This guy would have you kneel outside, aswear! And during class they used to write ‘names of noise makers’”
I was taken aback. “You can’t be serious.”
“I swear down, like say we still they primary school.”
“Archaic though the method might be, it still made the class quiet. We could hear more, understand more. Check the records, we had this school’s best pre-degree post jamb result ever!” She responds
“Omo, all that one na story!” My friend spits out. “Either way even if he wins now, he no get the power to try all those rubbish again.”
Their back and forth bickering has made me miss nearly everything the Buma representative has been saying. He’s saying something about the current leadership’s failure when someone from the crowd screams, “Oga Buma, show us your WAEC,” and people laugh in the crowd.
“What was that about?” I ask my friend.
He smirks. “There have been allegations that he doesn’t have school cert.”
“But he’s a final year student. Shey you can’t get full admission without having School cert?”
“Toh,” My friend murmurs. “Rumor has it that him use backdoor enter.”
“All those things are lies and propaganda orchestrated by John and his people!” She proclaims.
I shrug. “Well, if they can prove that he doesn’t have it then they should. He won’t only lose the presidency, he’ll get expelled. If not, I don’t see how it is related to this current debate. He’s gotten this far, that means he’s not a dundee. How many of them wey dey shout that thing use their hand pass their WAEC?”
My friend frowns and stares at me. “Are you now on his side too?”
“Just saying my mind,” I laugh.
Thanks to my two immediate neighbors, I missed nearly everything Buma’s man said and as John takes the stand, I pray they’ll remain quiet this time so I can actually hear him.
“Greatest Nigerian students!”
“As you all know, I remain your humble servant. I’m here to request a chance to continue the transformation that has already begun. My opponents ask that you look around, well look around and see for yourselves. During my time, two labs were built and the existing one was refurbished. During my time, we won the Dean’s cup…” A noisy applause from sections of the crowd followed that statement.
“When I said students are failing now, you asked me if he was the one reading for them.” The girl faces my friend. “Now I ask, is he the one that played for the people that won the Dean’s cup.”
My friend rolls his eyes, but thankfully can’t think up an immediate response.
“…I promise you, if reelected constant power in our labs.” John is still speaking.
She laughs dryly. ”That’s the same thing he said last year. Look how that went. Does he think us to be fools?”
“…to make this department proud.”
“Proud?” She spits out. “How can we be proud when we’re being robbed daily like people on the street? See how floppy our security has been under him. Last week there were three break-ins into the lab. Just the other day, right in our lab, a boy was beaten unconscious.”
“Him be James Bond or Jack Bauer?” My friend scoffs back.
“He’s the fuckin president. He should put measures in place to secure his students and their properties.”
“He’s trying his…”
“Best? Well is that’s his best, the more reason why he needs to vacate that office. We can’t stand being insecure in our own domain!”
I’m by myself wishing there was a way I could mute these two people sitting beside me so I can actually hear what the guy in front is saying.
If only wishes were horses…
“Under this guy, lecturers do whatever they like. Lecturers have been failing people simply because they didn’t pay up… openly… and no one is doing anything about it.” She continues intensely.
But horses are horses and wishes are wishes…
“You talk like he isn’t a student like us. Wetin you wan make he do? Isn’t there an ethics board were complaints are supposed to be submitted to?” replies my friend.
“Go complain there na, see how it turns out.”
” These Buma people think criticizing and doing are the same thing,” Laments my friend. “Just cause we insult Messi for not taking a shot well don’t mean we can take the shot ourselves. All they’ve been doing is criticizing and stating past shit, they aint said nothing about how or what they’ll do for the ‘change’”
“So, please vote for me. We don’t need change, we need transformation.” John says.
I’m not an English major, but aint ‘transformation’ and ‘change’ the same thing? I wonder.
“Thank you.” And he drops the mic.
Great! Thanks to these two people beside me, I heard little from the horse’s mouth on both sides. My friend and the girl are still arguing but this time, thankfully I can shut them out, as I steal a gaze round the hall.
All around are clusters of people, debating no doubt the credibility of both aspirants. I know, sadly, that most people have already made up their mind on who they want and no amount of facts, speeches or debates could falter their decision. There’s a scientific theorem that explains that, Bayes’ theorem I think. I wonder if any of them could pause and think what I’m thinking…
“Sorry, I have some news.” Atta, the moderator announces. “I just got informed that the election date has been shifted by 6 weeks.” He ignored the huge rumble that followed the announcement and dropped the mic.
Well, that could be a good thing. More time for both parties to strategize, more time for us the voters to consider who the more favorable option would be, more time to…
“Dozie!” My friend shakes me back to the present. He and the girl are staring at me. “Answer me na!”
“Eh, what was the question?” I ask a little confused.
“Who would you be voting for?”
I look up and once again stare around the hall.
“So many students we have in this department,” I reply staring round. “So many talents, so many potentials. I just wonder, how is it…”
How is it that these two are our only options?