BY SILAS AWURUM
I attended a meeting of stakeholders of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, in one of the local government of a State in the South East. The party chairman in the area is a young fellow, may be in his late 40s and has much passion for his party. I have never attended a gathering of the APC so when I got an invitation as an observer to attend one, I had to honour it.
I arrived at the venue of the political meeting, a small room with poor ventilation, where I met some party members outside the hall who were waiting for other executive members to arrive. The Chairman was not on sit and a young man in his early 40s approached me to inquire who I was having noticed a new face in their midst.
It took him sometime before he could make a move. From the look on his face, what may have gone through his mind was if I could be a top party member from Abuja. I was dressed in a well starched blue caftan with a traditional cap to match. When he summed up courage; he approached me and spoke quietly.
“May I know you sir, he asked with broad a smile on his face. “My name is John (not real names) I am a journalist” I replied. I noticed his face fell ostensibly worried what a journalist will be doing in the midst of party members. “Who invited you sir? We are not having a press conference” he told me.
“I know. Your Chairman invited me” I replied firmly. Not convinced, he walked away to meet his colleagues who were in small groups discussing. I did not hear what he told them but from his countenance, I noticed he passed the information he heard from me to them. They all looked in my direction muttering to each other what I could not decipher.
Few minutes later, the chairman arrived and all was set for the meeting to start. I could not immediately sit down because all the chairs were dusty. I heard the Chairman bark at one of the women demanding why all the chairs and tables in the hall were not cleaned up before the commencement of the meeting.
The dusty chairs and tables are clear indications that no meeting had taken place in the party hall for many months.The woman petite in size was wearing a wrapper engraved with the bold image of a top party leader and the party(names withheld). She grabbed a cloth and grudgingly cleaned the chairs and tables.The Chairman confirmed my fears when he thanked the members for attending the meeting after a long time. This was after the opening prayer has been said by a middle aged man whom I was later told was the Organizing Secretary.
His prayer gave a little insight of what party members are undergoing in the party in the State- neglect and total abandonment. He began his prayer “Oh lord, I thank you for this meeting after eight months. Please touch the heart of our local government chairman, our governor and our president whom we suffered to elect and have all abandoned us…. This is not what we bargained for. This is not what we expected….. Despite our hardwork to make sure they won during the election, this is how they are re- paying us. Make you strike them with you power in Jesus name. As they have dumped us, may you dump them in 2019 in Jesus name….
Shocked and startled, I opened my eyes and looked around, the Chairman was livid with rage but other members of the executives’ on the high table from their countenance seem to be enjoying the opening prayer. All the members chorused a thunderous “Amen” that shook the foundation of the building. Yours sincerely was taken aback. The Chairman uncomfortable with the situation gazed at me and gave the look of “Please we do not want this on the news paper” I overlooked him as watched with keen interest the unfolding scenario. Party members laying curses on their leaders! I wondered.
In my 15 years of journalism practice and having headed the Political Desk of some newspaper outfits which enabled me to cover many political meetings and gatherings across the country, I have never seen such brazen display and disdain exhibited for party leaders by their members. It was a strange development.
At that point, the chairman had to intervene and cut the prayer short. He yelled at the man saying the “dangerous prayer” and cautioned that he will not tolerate such in the meeting anymore. The Chairman was almost attacked by members who collectively told him that they have been abandoned by those whom they worked for during the elections.
The Chairman later took control of the meeting. He said he understands their pain and ordeal, explaining that by next year, the party will roar back to life as he has been assured by top leaders that their toil and broil that led to the victory of the APC in the 2015 elections will be rewarded. He appealed to members that the wife of the State Governor was coming for a visit in one of the local governments in the State and needed to be received by party members.
Murmuring trailed his speech from the crowd as they sweated profusely from the intense heat that had enveloped the room. A woman raised up her hand and was reluctantly allowed to speak by the chairman. I noticed she was being avoided may be because she is known to be aggressive and blunt with her speech. When she was given the opportunity to speak, shouts of “Madam Earthquake”, “Madam Earthquake” rent the air as she rose sweating profusely.
“My Chairman” she began. “You called us after eight months because the wife of the governor wants to use us again. We are not coming. That is the bitter truth. They are ingrates and they shall rot in hell and burn to pieces”
I raised my head as her speech elicited thunderous ovation from her co members who seem to agree with her postulations. She continued “Let me tell you. Our leaders starting from the President, the Governor, our Assembly members, party leaders are all wicked people. We members of the ruling party are even suffering more than those in the opposition. We have become laughing stock in their eyes”.
“I have not seen this level of suffering all my life. No appointments, no jobs, no form of reward for our party members. Nothing. This is the second time we are called for a meeting after the APC came to power in 2015” she fired.
“We are even here because the wife of the governor wants to use us for another useless programme not because you people want to say words of encouragement to us. Our Governor is the most inhumane human being I have ever seen in my life, giving appointments to non party members, empowering non party members with juicy positions and you expect us to come out and welcome her wife.” Madam Earthquake said
“Is it our local government Chairman and Assembly member, what have they done for us. They run away when they see us” She said.
“Madam Earthquake” was really furious; as she spoke tears welled up in her eyes as she was urged on by majority of members to continue. It became a rowdy session. The chairman begged for silence but no one listened to him. He looked in the direction of his Secretary; the man looked the other way. Other Executive members nodded in acquiescence.
Madam Earthquake was not done yet. She still had bile and venom in her to spill. She wanted to fire more salvos. She continued “The Wife of the President has said it all. The President appointed non party members into his cabinet. He is not a politician. Look at the suffering in the land. A bag of rice now costs N23, 000. What about garri and beans? There is hunger in the land and it is sad that we in the ruling party are suffering more than others…. There is God O!.. There is God O! .. The wicked will never go unpunished o…. She broke down in tears and was consoled by other concerned members who had aided on.
A rowdy session set in. The Chairman battled to regain control of the meeting. Party members rebuffed his entreaties for calm, all of them talking at the same time. A man whom they called “Ozoeemena” was shouting on top of his voice. He was livid with rage. I heard him say “We shall teach them a lesson. Devil incarnates. Chairman, you called us because wife of the governor wants to use us as her tissue paper like she did in the past. She is building new houses for widows in each of the local governments. How many has she built for any indigent APC member? Are there no widows as members in this party?”
“Her husband just made some appointments, did any of us get any. How do we defend the party when we are hungry? This is unacceptable. Even those in the opposition are enjoying better than us. What nonsense. We shall vote against them in the next election” he fired.
The Chairman looked perplexed. Several thoughts ran on his mind. He hit the table severally praying for calm but no one agreed to listen. The members were angry and the meeting offered them a veritable opportunity to ventilate such anger and frustration.
The Chairman looked in my direction, stood up and came to me. Some of the aggrieved members followed him and encircled him like a prisoner about to escape. They all spoke to him at the same time. He was dumfounded and speechless. The rudely told him to pass their message to whoever he felt would hear their grouse as they left the hall in annoyance signaling the abrupt end of the meeting.
I later met the Chairman whom I informed I had to leave since the meeting ended in a fiasco. I gave him words of encouragement and reminded him that as a leader that is the price he has to pay as a leader. He obliged me to take my leave as I left to him and some members of his Executives who appear sympathetic to him console him.
As I walked away; I nodded my head in disbelief and felt pity for these men and women who had embraced the CHANGE PARTY and had hoped that better days were ahead for them. What a sad tale! Its time for APC to wake up or doom awaits them in 2019.
AWURUM WRITES FROM OWERRI.