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Fiction: Lovers of the People by Olabode Oladapo Samuel

Fiction: Lovers of the People by Olabode Oladapo Samuel

Like a cruising car showing off its efficacy to the passers-by, they waddled and chatted down the street. Things were really changing here. Hopes were high; the birds were singing sweet melodies; people were happy. 

For the past four years now, they’d realised and would continue to realise that they hadn’t made a mistake. The steps were so skillfully calculated and obviously its rewards were visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. The government was working. Soon, all the remaining social amenities would be provided to their town. In the blink of an eye, this town, their town, would be swiftly turned into a city. With the way things were going and moving faster, their seemingly unquenchable expectation for the establishment of a tertiary institution would be fully and adequately satisfied. Their economy which was depreciating day by day would be drastically improved. This government was clearly open-handed. Cash was flowing, their town would soon become popular. Like that, they chatted their way towards a market.

“Have you heard that the governor is coming today?” Labake asked Royeke.

Labake and Royeke were friends from childhood. Through times of hostility and reconciliation, they still managed to get along. They’d caused each other pains and had vowed never to converse together again, but with the movement of time and the healing of bruises, they’d realised the impossibility of ending their friendship. They spent virtually their whole lives in the town. They knew how things worked around there. They were never devoid of information nor oblivious of a minute development in progress. The only visible disparity between them was that while Labake was fat and of average height, Royeke was slim and beautiful, though some people considered her lanky.

“Today?” Royeke repeated like someone unpleasantly pressed to a corner. “Okay, I thought it’s supposed to be tomorrow.”

“He should be around in less than two hours,” Labake said.

“Seriously! I don’t know why he’s disturbing himself. He has people’s mandate already or what do you think?”

“Abi nao. Just that politicians like showing off.” They smiled.

As they were entering the market, they greeted passers-by, traders in their shops among others.
In less than two hours, the governor would be there with his entourage and convoy, campaigning for his second term in office. His good works preceded him. He recently started the construction of a two-lane wide road passing through their town straight to the government house. Power supply was stable, taps were running. He truly was the government of the people by the people and for the people. People adored him and highly respected him. He was coming to see his people, his citizens and most important, people who believed in his cause.

“I heard the governor is at the garage and is moving down here. Did you see him?” Mrs Duroti inquired as the duo were approaching her.

For more than two decades, Mrs Duroti, Labake’s mother had been selling “ready-made” clothes in the market. She was born here, lived here, worked here and probably would die here. She knew every route in the town. One thing that was peculiar and sacred to the people of the town was their market day. Market day was always held in every five days. The market was considerably large enough to accommodate other traders from neighbouring villages, towns and cities to showcase their goods. It was a den for cheap goods, especially farm produce. This was apparently the main reason why some outsiders couldn’t stop patronising the town.

“No Ma. We even thought he should be here in the next two hours.” Labake replied and greeted her mother. Royeke greeted her too. 

Customers came around and there was no time to socialise. Labake and her mother attended to the customers while Royeke left them for her mother’s shop which was directly across Mrs Duroti’s. Fifteen minutes later, screeching of tires, blasting of horns and sirens coming from the rally were becoming audible. Villagers in the market engaged one another in light conservation. They gathered in twos, threes and so on. Their lover, the lover of the masses was coming. They were elated and the more the sound became audible, the more they gyrated, showing their support and allegiance.
The governor, his entourage together with his party members and supporters got to an open space at the centre of the market. They were surrounded by market people who either gathered to watch the governor or halted the process of buying and selling goods to watch him.

As planned, a makeshift podium was quickly and somehow mysteriously arranged for the governor to have a good view of the people and comfortably address the throng. A microphone was affixed to the podium. He wore his party vest and a pair of blue jeans. He covered his head with a fez cap, having his party’s logo on his right hand. Finally, to show his solidarity to the people, he wore a pair of neatly shined black shoes and his stomach was moderately protruded. He repeatedly chanted his party name and slogan to which the people responded accordingly and enthusiastically. After they were all calm, he started.

“Good morning my people.” He began slowly. “As you all know that the governorship election is fast approaching, I hereby come here to solicit your supports and most especially your votes.”
He took his time lecturing them on how imperative it would be for them to come out to cast their votes. Although he strongly believed that the people were for him, if they didn’t come out massively on the day of election to cast their votes, God forbid, the opposition might win.

“You have all seen what our administration has offered and done so far.” The crowd nodded and chanted with approval. To that, he waved, smiled and continued. “If you all come en masse and cast your votes for us, we promise to continue the good work. You are only witnessing a tip of the iceberg. If you vote for us for the second time, we promise you much more of what we have been able to do in the first term.”

He went on, pointing out the roads under construction with a promise to finish them. He assured them of opening the newly constructed primary and secondary school blocks. Their administration would ensure that the power supply get better and better. There would be improvement in water supply too.
He took a breath, stooped closely to the microphone and with the consciousness and awareness that this was what the mass had been expecting, he said, “If you look around you, you will see that work has already started. We are determined in ensuring that we construct a new market for you people, our people. And to this promise we will surely fulfil. Modern structures and shops which are under construction already will be firmly established in this town. Furthermore, if you vote for us for the second term, we promise you strongly that we will ensure that an institution of higher learning is brought to this town. Also, we are going to ensure the availability of job opportunity for every citizen of our state.”

With that and other few more promises, he majestically concluded his speech by shouting the party’s name and slogan to which the people loyally responded accordingly and cheerfully only for them to realise the truth of the matter a year later.      
She looked up into the sky, vividly saw an approaching bullet, and many thoughts ran in a jiffy through her simple brain. To blame or to act? To react or to calm down? To ruminate about the past or to save the future? She was indecisive, not because she didn’t know what to do but because she was high and dry, highly frustrated.

“Ma’ami! Ma’ami!” Labake called her, bemused by her mother’s stationary position. Instantly, Mrs Duroti was jerked out of her nightmare back to the dreadful reality she tried to run away from. “Are you not going to do or say something?” Labake asked, almost crying.

Since a month ago, the market had been really burning, emitting heat greater than the Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. Friends had and were becoming foes, smiling and hopeful faces being gradually metamorphosed to austere and depressed appearances. Their lives and what they’d cherished for ages were steadily being ruined while they were still alive. Their situations were getting worse and things were getting really weird.

The last market day before that market day, things couldn’t really have got worse when Labake mounted on Royeke like an angry mob pounding on a pickpocket. It all started like an inquisition. Then it became the free-for-all. Who actually began what was to be a feud was actually a matter for debate but Mrs Duroti firstly voiced out. 

“Mummy Royeke, why did you shift your counter towards us? You know well that your shop doesn’t extend to this place.” Mrs Duroti was addressing Mrs Ajala.

Mrs Ajala was Royeke’s mother. Just like Labake and Royeke, they were childhood friends. Probably that was what fostered the intimacy between their two daughters. Although they still maintained their relationship cordially, marriage had had its pound of flesh on their closeness. Sometimes, when the occasion arose, they did attend ceremonies together, sewing the same attires and same designs. Mrs Ajala was a grocer. Recently, things hadn’t being going well with them.

“Don’t tell me that. You’re the one at fault here. You are the one that couldn’t maintain you boundary. When I came to market this morning, Royeke informed me about what Labake did.” Labake, who was busy spreading the “ready-made” clothes on a counter, together with Feyi, Mrs Duroti’s apprentice, looked up at Mrs Ajala in disbelief and shifted her gaze to Royeke who was four feet behind her mother. Their eyes met. Royeke used her hands to guard her waist, questioning Labake’s strength and probably challenging her to a fight.

“Mummy I didn’t do anything!” Labake exclaimed, trying to defend herself.

“Shut up your dirty mouth!” Mrs Ajala shouted at her.

“Mummy Royeke, you don’t have to shout at my daughter like that. You are meant to listen to both of them before you conclude, a reasonable elder doesn’t judge having heard from just one party.”
“Let us hear words.” Mrs Ajala cut in. She made the next statement, “Who else will the housefly support if not the one with the sore. Like mother like daughter”, and all hell was let loose.
They proceeded from insulting one another, mothers and daughters, to grasping one another’s clothes. This madness they displayed within a very short period before people in the market noticed them and brought them back to saneness. However, the damage had been done, feelings had been hurt, and the bond had been loosened. That incident haunted Mrs Duroti particularly, being a person of loving, easy-going, and tender character. 

“Feyi! Feyi! Feyi!” Mrs Duroti wailed at her apprentice who had become the recipient of her distressing situation. “Why are you so sluggish? Quickly park those ready-mades inside the black sack before they get soaked in water.” It’s about to rain.

As she was packing the clothes, she couldn’t help herself thinking, silently cursing the prevaricator that brought this calamity upon them. The promise was well constructed and made. Like hungry fish sighting the fisherman’s fishing line, they unconsciously took the bait. Now, like a vagabond wondering the deserted desert, they were high and dry. Nevertheless, what could they do? Or better still, what could they have done? They’d sold their birth rights to the cunning dogs. They were left to ruminate on the leftovers.

Finally, the heavens opened and there was commotion. People were seen struggling to protect their goods and chattels. The wisest had packed their goods and went home or didn’t bother to come at all. Others were wet from heads to toes together with their goods and chattels.
Mrs Duroti looked around and sprinting tear nearly found its way through the hard walls of her eyes. She wasn’t about to cry because of what she actually saw. She was about to cry because of the inconvenience and defeat she felt within, the agony. She noticed people wallowing in the running mud, trying to pick up their falling goods from it. There were no roofs to shield them from the sun and rain. The government had bulldozed their once cherished, ancient market for the promise of a better one. It’s been more than nine months now and work had abruptly halted. No information about the way forward. The government was dead to its promises; the market was gone, reduced to ruins; the economy was done for; and the people were dead, soul and mind. 

None would certainly believe there had once been a very big commercial centre on the piece of land if that person never saw it when it still enjoyed fame and popularity, when it was full of glories as it was always busy with different forms of trades before bulldozers and other machines were brought from the government’s office.

Mrs Duroti gave up after being mercilessly beaten by the rain, sighted Labake and Feyi and said, “Pack the dirty and soaked clothes. It’s time to go home…”

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