He could see the story vividly in his mind as he made his mental constructions and polished his angles on the way to the interview. For most parts of his adult life, he had wondered how it would feel for things to be just a little better than they were. He had known that feeling for far too long. Now, he knew that nagging feeling was the reason he became a journalist, the same reason he was pursuing this story and the reason he would do it all over again.
In the course of his career, he had attracted attention from all quarters because of his unfaltering dedication, which he knew would close so many doors and ultimately ensure his under-achievement. He had chosen integrity over glory, by all means the hard choice. Now, in his mind, he earnestly prepared for the election special that would at least cause a stir, as a payback to a society that mocked his good intentions.
He had reached his destination.
Exactly three hours and forty-two minutes later, he sat in one corner of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as the would-be governor’s concluding statement replayed in his head “Good intentions alone will not open the doors. There’s too much mud in front of the door, and to open it, you must get waist deep in that mud. I’ve made my choice. The danger is, the mud never quite washes off”. The unmistakable meaning of those words hit him the same way now, as they did when he first heard them.
It reminded him of a movie he had once seen where God and the devil were supposedly in a battle for souls, and had to reach some form of compromise. That was how he saw every election period. It seemed all forces were out to claim a share of the polity, and the moment a concession was made to the ‘dark side’, it corrupted the whole process and it was a one way trip to political Hades from there.
Just then, he was interrupted by an exchange between two young men to his right.
“Why do you think I got the voter’s registration card? For free bus rides of course!” said the first man.
The second man, with his mouth thrown open, replied, “Oh boy!! I no know o! I for collect that thing too o!”
The journalist stared incredulously at the two as they went about their conversation. He wondered about their misplaced priorities and the sad truth that stared back at him.
As he alighted, he observed an incident that put the lid on his story. A child beggar, with his blind mother in tow, was about to accept a token from a passenger in a moving bus. Not long after he left his mother’s hand to chase the moving car, she tripped, and fell. The boy stopped momentarily, looking from the moving bus back to his mother. When he moved, he moved towards the token that turned out to be a 10 naira note. In the background was a large worn out poster that read “Vote now and determine your destiny”
The following week, on the third page of the biggest Nigerian daily newspaper was the story NIGERIAN ROULETTE by Fredrick Wali Wali. In the piece, which was dubbed “an eye-opener”, he likened the Nigerian situation to a game of ‘Russian Roulette’, only that in the Nigerian case, where everyone is a player, the revolver is fully loaded and the last bullet is undoubtedly left to the Nigerian child, the future. It caused more than a stir.