By Kenneth Uwadi
My wife noticed my excitement on March 11th 2011 and asked what it was all about. Don’t you get it? The vice presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Namadi Sambo will today engage three other candidates in a public debate. The other vice presidential candidates are John Odigie-Oyegun of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Fola Adeola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Tunde Bakare of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).I want to hear their plans for Nigeria.
The debate organized by cable television station, NN24 was scheduled for 6pm so I stayed glued to my TV. I waited and waited so that I can at least watch our Vice Presidential aspirants live –Puuurh, no success. Next day, Some one called me on phone and told me that the debate was not aired live allegedly because of satellite problems. I got angry. A debate is more fun if it is aired live.
When my wife later told me she read from the papers that VP Sambo did not attend the debate, I started having the low down blues and had to go into a nearby restaurant to have a drink so as to cool my temper. I sat at a table in the popular restaurant. The waitress smiled at me. She’s dumpy. Her backside is too big. She radiates kindness and sympathy as she smiled. But to me, if you live with her type for three months, you would know real agony. I ordered for a bottle of beer. The man at the table across from me has watery blue eyes and a head like a football, the type of head we call Mozambique. Officially, the Republic of Mozambique is a country in south-eastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. The capital city is Maputo, formerly known as Lourenço Marques .But I am talking about a guy with damn big head here and not a country.
Three men with beer bellies sat at a table further down. They talk loudly of the Vice Presidential debate they watched from another TV station. I choose to call them Nnaemeka, Azuka and Nnamdi .Why do you think I always come in here when I have the low-down blues? This particular restaurant is where you can get all the gossip about Nigerian politics. Then the waitress came with the beer and she asked me if there will be anything else? And I told her, no, no, this will be fine for now. Then somebody behind me laughed, a cork laugh filled with sand and broken glass.
“What a nonsense debate. What Tunde Bakare, Adeola and Oyegun did was just criticizing PDP. It does not look like a debate to me. The whole thing was set to embarrass PDP .No wonder our Vice President did not participate. Yes, I'm happy Sambo never showed up. It sucked from the word go. A clueless debate. Secondly the candidates more or less gave speeches akin to manifestos in Student Union Government elections in Universities. The how of the matter was not addressed at all ” Nnamdi said
I began drinking my beer, watching the three men with beer bellies as they talk.
“The candidates in that debate did not articulate a plan to move Nigeria forward. Every one of them used the opportunity to criticise PDP . I watched them lie to Nigerians. We can now see how biased NN24 is. NN24 has indeed shown us that they are not capable of organizing a good presidential debate judging from the VP debate they organized.Bakare even declared himself winner of the debate. Does that not send signals that it was just a pre-arranged joke? Bakare’s consistent attacks on PDP instead of telling us what he would do if elected, is a good reason for PDP to be absent.PDP has been wise to back out of these debate for we that watched it, have seen it as partial, a debate of attacks rather than a debate of who's plan is better for Nigeria. Presidential debates world over is always opportunities to tell the world what you are offering the people if elected. But the V.P. candidates spent their time talking about the PDP. When you dwell on your opponents rather than talk about yourself and what you have for the people, you are already a loser and that is what all these V.P. candidates that participated in the debate are.” Azuka said
As they were talking, Ann came into the restaurant, saw me, and looked away. Ann is not in talking terms with me. I have tried to reconcile with her without success. She was my class mate in the University. She is also the wife of my uncle who works in NDDC. You may not believe it but there are people who go through life with very little friction or distress. They dress well, eat well, and sleep well. They are contented with their family life. They have moments of grief but all in all they are undisturbed and often feel very good. That is Ann for you.
Somebody behind me laughed again. The same cork laugh filled with sand and broken glass.
Azuka was still talking. “To hell with NN24 cable TV and their bias Presidential debate. We all know that Jonathan means well for Nigeria. Since he came into power he has shown us that he will do well if giving the chance. He has created new Federal Universities to address admission problems and correct some social imbalance in the system. The Power situation in the country has improved beyond what it was .Yes, power generation has significantly improved. Supply of fuel stabilized for the first time in so many years. Today, all our refineries are working, saving us huge amounts of funds spent on importation of petroleum products .Crude oil sale has increased because of his handling of the Niger Delta issue. He set the stage for free and fair elections by constituting an electoral commission comprising of Nigerians with impeccable credentials for firmness and incorruptibility He appointed a credible man in the person of Prof. Jega to oversee our electoral system. let’s give him the chance to do more.” Azuka said.
My phone rang, my wife on the line. Well, time to go home.
“PDP is the party that I tip to win the April election .You can even see that PDP has done better overall leg work than other parties. PDP has gone into so many rural areas to drum up votes; yes, people live in rural areas and are eligible to vote, not just Lagos and Abuja. Other parties think they can win the Nigerian election on the internet or on TV. If these parties cannot go to rural areas to campaign to get votes, how are they going to cater for these folks when they get into office? Buhari and Ribadu to me are just noise makers.” Nnaemeka said
I pick up my bill. I went to the register, paid. Pick up a toothpick and moved to the door. My car, still there and I saw the three men with beer bellies all getting into one car. They each have a toothpick and now they are talking about women. They drove away fast. It’s my favourite restaurant and if I ever get rich I am going to buy it and fire the dumpy waitress and there will be enough ice cubes for everybody.
(Uwadi wrote from Mmahu-Egbema,Imo State, Nigeria)