By Ucheoma Onwutuebe
What is it about party rice that makes our country people shed decency and propriety just as easily as a woman in flight for danger throws off her heels? Does the firewood flavour contain the elixir of life? Or is it yet another manifestation of the ingrained “longer-throat” spirit that even modernity has failed to wipe from the psyche of our people?
It is nothing short of amazing to see at each party, grown ups scampering for jollof rice and fried rice, plastic souvenirs and drink, meat and fish….stuffing them into bags for their generations unborn, like their destinies depended on it. I am amazed at how quickly a guest becomes enemy if he ever left your party unsatisfied.
If only we fought for our basic rights as citizens the way we hustled for souvenirs, there would be no indolent politician left in Nigeria. They would have a rethink before carting away with dollar-filled Ghana-must-go bags to Swiss accounts.
But my people are ever amused and charmed by the petty, my wonderful people of cheap and easy gratification. I do not only speak of the average prole on the street; even the ones who boast of some measure of enlightenment do not spare themselves this debasement.
That mindset which makes us scamper for fripperies at events is the reason why we have not moved forward as a country.
Here is an instance:
A politician gets elected for the senate or as a member of house of Representatives. The hopeful people of his constituency roll out the drums in honour of their son. They hold Thanksgiving services for him, give him a list of things to tell the President in their behalf and remind him of what to do for their communities. His people stand by the riverbanks and wave him farewell as he canoes to Abuja.
But like the proverbial prodigal son, he squanders his money on booze and women and real estate in Abuja. And we know how easy wealth never seems to satisfy. For at the end of the the first tenure and for the first time in four years, powered by the greed to acquire more, he remembers his people in the backwaters and says to himself, I shall yet return and campaign for a second tenure.
And at this point you would think the abandoned people await him by the banks to pelt him with stones for forsaking them. Of course they have murmured and complained and held meetings and even sent messengers to him but to no avail. It is what they discuss each day when they congregate on Facebook. And if you would think the politician would come home as a penitent sinner, pleading for one more chance at political power, how wrong you are.
The errant son has nothing to worry about. Is there no rice in the market again? Are there no cheap rolls of ankara, no plastic containers, no gaudy umbrellas? These are all he needs his to placate his people.
So on the day of his return, he hovers the sky with his newly acquired private jet and circles and circles for dramatic effect, throwing grains of rice in the air. Watch the people scamper for rice like birds of the air that do not store up in barns. Watch how they would believe in that instant that all that mattered, all their life’s worth were hidden in those golden grains from Abuja. Only a newcomer would be surprised at the stampede. These strange grains of falling from the sky must be the universal panacea to all of man’s woes.
And in that instant, they would forget that their roads are no more viable. They would forget that the last pillar holding the walls of their community primary school together is ridden with termites. They would cease to remember that their crops have failed to yield for years and that the waters from their stream is infested with slime.
So after these years of being raped off basic amnesties, the only dividends of democracy this people would receive would be two cups of rice for each household, a piece of ankara cloth that all the colour would run after the first wash or if rain ever accustomed the wearer, gaudy umbrellas that would parachute in the wind when a storm began….
This is the mindset they bring to every event as they fight and quarrel for souvenirs that would not change their lives in anyway, these my people of misapplied gusto. Yet I believe that our eyes would become more enlightened by the day and we would ditch the charm of nonsense and cease to be beguiled by that which does not profit and act like civil people and for once, surprising ourselves and thieving politicians.