In different countries, the weather is an effective conversation starter. In Nigeria, however, nothing opens and sustains a conversation better than the term “Buhari.” Once tossed into the air, it blooms, swells with new life, and bursts into a heated debate. On this sweltering February afternoon, Buhari was again the center of discussion on our rickety bus.
Everyone was tired. February 25th, 2023 couldn’t come any faster. A new president was needed. Then, the pregnant coconut was broken: Are you going to vote?
“Vote, ke?” one man asked, “So they’ll shoot me dead on that day? My firstborn still dey SS1 biko.”
“Nna, thank you! I don collect voter’s card. I dey use am as ID. Person no dey comot my house that election day. Make them no use us as sacrifice for this nonsense country.”
“This election will be hot. But God pass them. PO go win. God go hear our cry.”
Everyone agreed. They would not vote, but PO will win. This interaction reminded me of a story whispered on my primary school playground. A childhood fable of sorts. The story of a boy who did not study but still ended up getting an A in his exams.
Let’s call this boy Clifford.
On receiving his question paper that chilly examination morning, Clifford realizes he doesn’t know the answers to any of the questions. Something-affectionately called ata in Igbo-speaking Nigeria-snaps on the crown of his head. Sweat percolates on his forehead and upper lips. Suddenly, his body was beset with itches. As Clifford was a strong Christian, cheating, or anything of the sort, was not an option. After ninety minutes spent in pen-chewing anxiety, Clifford says a prayer and turns in his paper. Heart swollen with hope, he leaves the hall, confident that God will come through for him.
That night on the other side of town, a grizzly teacher marks the scripts. The orange glow of a single kerosene lamp illuminates the white answer sheets. The wispy penmanship of the students stands before him, mortals to be judged by a pen-wielding deity. It is nearly midnight. Safe from the scratch of the judgemental red pen on paper, the house is quiet. Eager to be done with the…