HE whisked himself up the stairs of the Council building, like someone trying to run ahead of time. Passersby didn’t mind that he ignored their greetings; everyone knew that sometimes council chairman Osaki Ibiba could be so engrossed in his own work to the point of being eccentric. So whenever someone greeted him, they ignored him at the same time and didn’t care whether or not he responded. It was a hot afternoon as usual and people went about their businesses in the town’s square, not minding the heat, it had become a way of life – like the little children running after dogs around the concrete water fountain, brandishing shiny pot bellies or the pubescent girls strutting on the sidewalk with colourful umbrellas held above their heads.
Unlike the children, girls and the burning sun, Osaki Ibiba drew attention wherever he went; perhaps it was his medium height and petite stature that made him stand out. The more he tried to escape, to pass through a place unnoticed, the more attention he drew to himself. Some people though wondered what had become of the man who was so social with everyone prior to becoming chairman. And his clothes too – too plain it was a pain to look at him for long – green whitewashed trousers and a faded navy-blue shirt, his uniform from the Labour Union days. He left for work everyday at eight o’five in the morning wearing the same clothes as the day before, crossed the street on which the council office stood at exactly midday on his way home for lunch, returned back to work at exactly three p.m. and then went home again at five p.m. after the day’s work. Everyday, for two years now, Osaki immersed himself in his routine, in his job. And the results could speak for themselves: a mended water tap here and there, a new football field for the town, graveling of the once muddy road that led to the market. Since Osaki emerged as chairman, the town seemed more colourful and prosperous but his friends were gloomy, they’ve lost a once jovial, loyal mate.
It was time for elections again and Osaki felt his job was not yet done and so was re-contesting. This time against the pop-gospel artist Mase Belema who also was his distant cousin. From childhood Osaki had known about Mase’s fierce temper and so as the two sat down to dinner at a local diner a week to election day, Osaki kept recalling incidents from childhood; where Mase had been beaten up by a girl, where Mase had farted out loudly before the whole class. Mase was getting irritated at the ‘jokes’ and began to shift in his seat and that spurred Osaki on all the more.
“Could you get me a pepper shaker?” Mase called out to the waitress just to distract himself from Osaki. As the waitress went for the shaker, Osaki mumbled,”Bring a salt one instead.”
The innocent waitress returned with a salt shaker and Mase sprang up from his seat and pounced on her, dealing punches on her face…
…ONE WEEK LATER.
“It is sad what happened to Mase Belema who is a distant cousin of mine, and would have been a worthy opponent in this just-concluded election. I only hope that in his solitary confinement he finds time to reflect on his life and the choices he’s made in the past so as not to repeat them in the future. He is my fellow countryman and some of you may think it is unpatriotic of me to speak of him in this manner but I am not here to patronize anyone. Thank you once again.”
Everyone hissed and sighed and went their way.