Politics in Eku is largely like it is in every other community. There are dirty deals that ensure that the most popular candidate may not often get the nod for party representation and of course there are the godfathers. The ever present godfathers of Nigerian politics – unfit for political contests but totally deciding who won.
Like in the larger society, here too the politicians called the shots; their majestic houses comparable with the finest of houses in Maitama while not quite 10 minutes from their posh marble terrace houses lived some of the poorest in houses that could at best be described as shacks- low slung structures built disgustingly close with paths for roads and outhouses for toilets. Almost impossible to believe that the photos in this post are of houses in the same community less than 10- 15 minutes from the each other? Believe it, all of these photos are of houses in Eku.
The traditional council was an enigma indeed. Men, mostly old and provincial in look wearing flowing wrappers sat round a large hall and deliberated on matters of state. The town hall; a spanking new building built in the latest fashion complete with marble tiles, interlocking stone pavements and the understated elegance of the latest modern architecture found in faraway Lagos – spoke of a traditional council that still wielded much power and influence.
So, it was a real letdown to hear the oldest chief, the Ogisi defer a matter that would ordinarily be called trivial – to the desk of the female Local Government Chairman who was ironically on leave outside the country.
Elections had just been concluded at the time I resumed duty and the stench of the rivalry and the quarrels that usually mark Nigerian elections was still very strong. Apparently, for a position that the community had been required to produce one candidate, they had presented two ; from different political parties – both sworn enemies and long time rivals. No one agreed to step down for the other and at the end it cost the community the slot that would have been theirs at the legislature. Their votes were divided along party loyalty lines; family ties and even church affiliations.
I doubt though that any lessons were learned as it appeared that the second man from the less popular party had intentionally been fielded to defeat the other aspirant. Community good did not win and it is doubtful that any good came out of the entire political season.
When the Presidential elections rolled round, I was suitably shocked that many in this small town had no support for their South South Brother. They were simply indifferent. Along with the dashed expectations of expecting a rain of money reminiscent of the Odili glory days, many felt that GEJ had deliberately ignored them while spending more money on other regions of Nigeria. It was not uncommon to hear glib denouements like “when we asked him to give us money for the elections runs, he refused and said he had no money” or “ who he help?” “he no try for us at all – Obasanjo sef better pass am”.
Up until that time I had been quite passive about the politics playing out in the larger society ; on the National stage. But, hearing these negative reports of a man reported to be stingy and not parochial convinced me of the need to do more research and learn more about the then incumbent President.
It was thus the keen interest in politics in this small town – often called a village; that thus spurred me to take active interest. From animated discussions in the hospital lobby, to discussions at the hairdresser or even in front of the hospital gates at the mini supermarket like row of stalls selling everything from assorted wines and snacks to local fruits and even food; came the clear voice of the Eku townspeople, they had expected more from their man and since he had not delivered, he was on his own. Ironically, my newfound interest led me to different conclusions; maybe because my evaluations were not based on stomach infrastructure or the evidence of the personal gains I had gotten from the administration.
On election day, it was quite calm – many stayed home and the few who ventured out did not make too much of an effort… Few stayed behind to monitor the votes or to ensure that their candidate won.
It is a sad testimony of how Nigerians allowed the rot in our political sphere to grow unchecked. For Eku politics is but a microcosm of the larger Nigerian Politics.