Ishaokanyie Otogbo 


© Copyright 2022 by 
Ishaokanyie Otogbo 

Image by thomasberghuis0 from Pixabay
Image by thomasberghuis0 from Pixabay 

I woke up with a start and realized I was sweating profusely. Both my bedsheet and pillowcase were drenched in sweat and my trembling trunk was evidence that I was gripped with fear. I sighed. I hissed and heaved. I was relieved when I came to consciousness and realized that it was a mere dream. I wasn’t surprised because my mind had been troubled for almost eight years since the current president ascended the headship of the political stable. He came with so much hopes and promises. But it all turned out a pipe dream. Things had cascaded from bad to worse and had continued to nosedive unabated.

Inflation had headed in the opposite of the south pole, almost hugging the horizon, the economy growing but southwards and terminating in the pockets of only the politicians and their sympathisers. Most tertiary institutions had downed tools and research institutes were on strike. Even the national library was striking too. Most of the hitherto serene parts of the country had transmuted into the slaughterhouse of our continent. A society snowballed into a Hobbesian state of nature where almost every citizen was a victim and on the verge of taking the laws into their own hands. Even a mere perceived or accusation of religious infraction earned one instant death by fanatical miscreants who had assumed the position and role of judges, dishing out justices, nay injustices, according to their own dictates rather than the law as interpreted by judges and justices. Turning themselves into self-styled judges, arrogating to themselves, infinite powers and even conferring on themselves, the prerogative of mercy, bestowing on themselves, the exclusive right and authority of determining who should live and who should die, dishing out and applying mercy according to their mood. Even contemplating applying or wielding the instrumentality of a nolle prosequi – a declaration ending a legal suit. Assuming these roles and privileges in addition to being the accuser, prosecutor and above all, the executioner! Jungle justice!

Citizens were so terrified that it was no longer if there would be another killing but who would be next. No one was safe and the merchants of death dared all without exception, instilling fear in citizens and complementing it with a litany of killings leading to the astronomic rise in sales of caskets. The purchase of shroud wasn’t dwindling either. And ‘mass grave’ smuggled itself into our everyday lexicon. Kidnappers had become more emboldened and revelling in the ransom bazaar. Terrorists were on equal standing with the government and were almost more efficient and superior to the government in toll collection. The killer marauders were on the loose with none caring and courageous enough to rein them in. Farmers going to their farms – but only in their imaginations.

The morale of citizens was at its lowest ebb. The fear was palpable and everyone was suspicious of everybody. The security operatives were not immune nor exempted either. The fear of the unknown hung precariously on the horizon, stalking and taunting citizens who waited with bated breath for that which hounded, depressed and humbled their spirit. There was frustration and citizens had despaired. Self-murder was on the increase and citizens were not unwilling to do everything no matter how reprehensible to stay alive. Amongst them were self-abductions and hawking their babies for pecuniary benefits. Men and women posing as men of the gods were tethering babies within the precincts of their religious enclaves for only the devil-knows-what. Baby factories replaced manufacturing factories. Ritualistic killings were on the increase and a once-promising country had suddenly relapsed into a state of anomie.

The fumes of generators must foul the air and the sounds deafen the ears for citizens to have a trace of energy. The academia lagged behind the industry. The underfunded schools were graduating employees proficient in killing infant industries and sometimes competed to outdo the herbalists in quackery. Almost all things were replete with fraudulency for financial rewards and to prop up and gratify the ego. The knack and appetite for foreign goods and services by the leaders had exceeded the tameable limit and the led found in the leaders suiting role models to be expeditiously mimicked. All these ills conspired and culminated in creating an unjust society and an import-dependent diabetic economy no one was proud of.

The next elections were a few months away and I had hoped for a better president this time around but dreamt that one of the hawks, a part of the same locusts and political entrepreneurs that had held the country by its jugular, tethering it to the mud and dragging it on a pigsty for over six decades, had won the current election. Perhaps to finally lay the country on a pyre. I was drenched in anguish and grieved in my dream. It was another deferred hope. I smiled and scratched my temple when jolted out of torpor to sensibility, taking solace in the fact that it was just a dream and there was still hope to right the countless wrongs of over three score years. I resolved that I would vote, I would campaign for the best candidate and if posterity ever deemed it necessary to chronicle the affairs of the country, I had hoped that they would be kind to me and other patriotic citizens of my generation who genuinely desire the best for our beloved country and were willing to give their all to extricate her from the woebegone status.

Still lying in the pool of sweat, I fantasied, my mind roved in contemplation, my imagination drifting from the current frustrating and derelict standing of the country to an Eldorado governed by men of goodwill and unblemished characters. As I sauntered out of my squeaky bed, I made up my mind to attend the political gathering holding that morning, where the entire community was to discuss, nay share some goodies in the never-ending rite of corrupting gifts distribution, culminating in endorsing and adopting the most magnanimous amongst the presidential candidates in the coming election.


I arrived at a human-packed rambunctious town hall to select for myself, a vantage point. Herded together in the disintegrating hall was a large crowd of pitiable sights of tired humans. Appareled in fatigued weather-tormented rags, the people looked famished. They all appeared distressed and ravished by lack but were temporarily, extremely excited. At least the thought of not returning home empty-handed put them in a joyous mood. They were all conversing about all but nothing, talking concurrently and shouting at the top of their voices as if attempting to drown each other’s utterances.

The overfilled hall reeked of poverty and despite their unappealing manifestation, they all revelled in temporary self-assurance. They were all sure that the energy expended in such frivolous talks on this particular occasion would be replenished, anyway. The odour oozing from the stuffy and congested hall was that of stale sweat emitted by unlaundered farm attires and poorly washed armpits. Some strange stench that smelled like farthings and unhygienic underwear complemented by the smell of snuff and tobacco completed the cycle of foul odour. It wasn’t unexpected though – besides most of them possessing just a few rags which improvised for wears to merely cover their shame, soap was now a luxury. And the impoverishment wasn’t unexpected – they were a flock ravaged and robbed by the shepherds. Despite their exuberance, their looks simply betrayed the personifications of a people who had endured the tortures and horrors of innumerable years of agonizing and harrowing misrule. Misery foisted on them by bad leadership for so long that, they had reluctantly resigned to fate and accepted their detestable condition as the norm. It was safer for me to wait outside and that was exactly what I did. Though I felt terrible, the place however afforded me an excellent view of the epicentre of the drama that ensued.

Strapped to the wearied backs of some of the ladies were children who it was easy to discern that a balanced diet had never been part of their menu. They seem to be in dire need of protein and it’ll be a herculean task convincing any discerning mind that those babies have ever tasted eggs or meat their entire life. Their unappealing appearance gave the impression that they must have even had their ration of colostrum from breastmilk generously donated by the gods, depleted by their inconsiderate fathers. Their stunted greasy and brownish hair was evidence that they were malnourished and in dire need of supplementary breastmilk. Dripping from the noses of some of the babies were thick milky substances. And what the children had on which were supposed to serve as items of clothing were discoloured climate-humbled sieves. Most of these infants who were certainly discomforted by what must be hunger gnawing at their intestinal walls sometimes whimpered, at other times generated shrilling sounds. These mothers who all appeared distraught were temporarily revelling in elation as if contracted to advocate impoverishment.

Protruding from most of the armpits of these pitiable women were thick, tired, discoloured brownish strips of rags which it may take a lifetime to convince even none doubters that they were once white. Those were supposed to be the straps of oversized bras which for sure must have been hurriedly gifted to them by one who didn’t bother to take into consideration, the sizes of what they were supposed to stockroom. What they ought to warehouse easily slide through with the well-rounded pointed tips terminating in the lips of babies. They all assumed the looks of a people who had befriended poverty for too long and made it their permanent companion.

Outside the town hall was a spurious pyramid of low-quality rice with plenty of wood concealed beneath it, drums of smelly vegetable oil and oozing cartons of expired seasoning, a heap of bagged decaying substance with seepages that made the sacks appeared to be perspiring. And whatever they were, didn’t have a pleasant smell. Also displayed were piles of blunt rusted cutlasses and numerous corroded hoes whose wooden handles had served as a meal for termites in the past, uncountable outdated wheelbarrows, bales of articles of clothing which must have once concealed the shame of foreign flesh, fleets of rickety cars that appeared as if exhumed from a dump site with their frames looking like roasted metals, plenty rusted fairly used motorcycles, some unhealthy tricycles and bicycles, miserable pieces of wrinkled yams and hunger-drenched chicken and hungered goats. A few starving monkeys were tethered close by too. Some ill-fed and emaciated balded local roosters with half of their feathers sacrificed in territorialistic fights, a shy sickish dog with pukey discharges from its eyes and nostrils that appeared wagged by its tail, a sickly cow and a diseased donkey that struck one as if wishing for death, completed the cycle of inducement items. They were all meant to be distributed to the electorates by the two major political parties to curry their favour. Empowerment! That’s what they are called in their political parlance while in reality, they’re troubles and hunger deferred.

When the well-fed elders who were led by the chubby chief arrived at the town hall, sanity was instantly restored as everyone adjusted and a pin-drop silence was palpable. Without much ado, Omichi the spokesperson of the community cleared his throat and spoke thus;

We are all witnesses to this ritual of hearing from the representatives of our two major political parties who are here to address us and if possible, convince us to vote for their parties and if inevitable, rig for their party.”

The hall spontaneously burst forth with loud cheers of, “Yeaaa,” followed by clapping and all known forms of approbation including a few novel ones.

He paused to take a breather before pronouncing the most pleasant and important part of the speech that everyone’s ears were straining to hear; “Fortunately, as usual, they’re here with lots of goodies.”

Everyone erupted into a frenzy as they clapped, shouted in excitation and parted one another’s wrists, hugged and slapped one another’s shoulders. And in one extreme and unusual case of joyfulness, a young man in high spirits unconsciously lifted the pregnant wife of his neighbour. Though an abomination, the festive mood caused the infringement to be glossed over.

Impressed with the uproar he had elicited, Omichi waited for the rowdiness to subside and then continued, “While some of you would return home plenty of dollars richer, some would become car owners and some of you bike owners.”

The curious crowd could not control their emotional outburst as they all stood up and clapped in appreciation, some climbing on top of the wobbly tables to be seen by Omichi and the elders, hoping and praying they would be amongst the fortunate to be gifted the most precious of the gift items.

Omichi cleared his throat once again and resumed, “Most of you would own motorcycles, bicycles and wheelbarrows.”

This resonated with the crowd as they all clapped and shouted in exhilaration.

See those keke parked out there?”

Yes!” They chanted.

Those are what would convey some of you home.”

A few couldn’t contain their excitement and rolled on the floor and others inadvertently hugged their sworn enemies.

Returning home with the keke, not as passengers,” Omichi quickly reminded them.

They all hesitated and cocked their heads to one side, strained their ears, positioning the ear they considered the best hearer, anxious to assimilate the good news that was brewing and about to be pronounced.
And you would be the riders of the keke as the proud owners,” Omichi announced.

Another round of disorderly movements and applause reverberated across the dingy town hall. Some aged men jumped about like children and collided with women and infants while demonstrating how to ride a keke.

Pleased with the chaotic scene he had set off, Omichi freed his throat of obstacles once more and said above all the murmurings, “The farmers will return home with hoes and cutlasses.”

This elicited another round of excitation but this time around, from the most miserable and poorly attired amongst them.

Satisfied that he had the people in the mood he wanted, he then asked, “Know what?”

Nooo!” Chorused the crowd.

Omichi deliberately kept them in suspense for a while to heighten their excitation and expectation before dropping the bombshell, “We also have foood!”

The crowd erupted into another round of frenzy and clapped and sang and even danced. Some men pulled their dingy shirts and slapped their palm wine and garbage-inflated potbellies, others exposed their wrinkled and emaciated tummies to demonstrate refilling of their deflated tummy and in the process, making beautiful music that observers believed sounded better than that made with the talking drum.

You would all have enough to eat!” Omichi announced.

Yesss!” They shouted.

Even after defecating, you could instantly refill!

Yesss!” They echoed laughingly.

You would all have enough to swallow!”

Yeee!” Greeted him, with some scratching their throats to indicate swallowing.

You would all have enough to masticate!”

Wowww!” They responded and not a few exposed their teeth to illustrate chewing and prove their happiness.

We have chicken and goats.”


We have a cow!”

Ohhh-nooo,” they shouted. Some tapped their heads to convey their happiness.

Look outside, just look outside.” A thousand heads turned in the direction of the windows.”

Can you see the monkeys?”


They’d all end up in your pots of soup tonight.”

The cheers that erupted was out of the ordinary. They were so thrilled that while some men tapped their heads to declare their ecstasy, others conked their distressed heads and a handful stripped bare the upper part of their torso. Most women simply clapped their hands and a few unstrapped their headtires and strapped them around their waistlines as if preparing for a duel. One particular woman in a fit of uncontrollable emotion at the mere mention of the monkey meat threw caution to the wind by jumping too high, unintendedly unstrapping her baby who flew off her tired back like a projectile. The unhinged baby flying off tangent into the air, tracing an arc and headed towards only the-gods-knows where, perhaps towards crashlanding with a thud but was rescued by an agile youth who managed to seize the jagged fringes of the baby’s soiled and ragged shirt, salvaging the situation that may have ended with catastrophic consequences. Overcome by excitement, no one even bothered to reward the hero with a mere commendation or laudation. Not even Omichi who for some strange reasons, simply ignored the altruistic act and jocularly teased the confluence of humans about the heads of monkeys by saying, “But remember to preserve the heads of the monkeys for your annual Ogrinya dance festival.”

This hilarious comment was greeted with general laughter.

Revelling in the ecstasy of suddenly gaining relevance as the centre of attention, Omichi looked at them obliquely and allowed the passage of time to heighten their curiosity before announcing, “We even have 404!”

Shouts of Wooo! Wooo! Wooo!” rent the air and most of them thrust their malnourished necks forward, attempting to project their dreary faces above others, hoping Omichi would memorise their faces and gift them the dog.

And we even provided scent leaves and ogogoro to go with the 404,” Omichi declared.

Ooohhh-nooo. The indigrent is complete!” Shouted Omachi the drummer.

Stunned, the multitude all turned to behold the face of Omachi for inventing such an absurd word alien to their lexicon.

Still basking in the thrill, Omichi proceeded, “I can see you are all ragged. It’s four years already and you deserve to be better clothed.”


The bale of wrappers and clothes are all yours, to replace the ones gifted to you almost four years ago. They’re original first-grade okrika."


Indigrent – Corrupt version of ingredient

Keke – Tricycle

Ogogoro – Local dry gin

Ogrinya dance – Traditional war dance

Okrika – Slangs for old clothes

404 – Dog meat

Ishaokanyie Otogbo is a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Port Harcourt. He attended Federal Science College Ogoja and also holds masters degrees in Information Technology and Business Administration.  He hails from Atibulum Community, Gakem Town in Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State in Nigeria.
  He is a farmer and blessed with two children – Ashikem and Otogbo.

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