By Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
The distant siren tells you the governor is finally on his way. You don’t have a wrist watch so you are not sure what the time is. But you can guess it is almost noon. The sun is now directly overhead. The tarmac on which you sat is hot. Suddenly there is activity every where. Uncle John begins to pull the other children up to their feet while Aunty Sarah is arranging them in position. You get up stifling a yawn as if it was wrong to yawn. But you know you are hungry. The bite in the lower part of your stomach had increased by many folds. You hadn’t eaten much that morning because the Head Mistress had insisted everyone must turn up early for final rehearsal. So you took only a slice of bread and rushed out.
Leading the parade meant a lot to you and even more was the thought that you were going to shake the governor’s hand. The excitement had disappeared like dew on a sunny morning as you waited under the sun. All you wanted now was to go home and eat something.
Using the back of your palm, you wipe away beads of sweat that covered your fore head. You notice the stain it leaves on the white gloves you are wearing, but you don’t care. You can feel that your inner wear is drenched. It meant you had to soak and wash it as soon as you got home. You remember that there was no OMO left at home. You had used the last of it to wash your socks so that they are sparkling for this parade. Mothers voice warning that you should be easy with it, that she doesn’t have money to buy another one until she got paid rang in your head. She had taken a loan to buy food stuffs so that you both don’t die of hunger.
The police band started playing just as the convoy entered the parade ground. There are many big cars. You wonder why the Governor with all these big cars could not pay his staff. You are thinking of it as you will your legs to respond to the ‘Left-Right’ command from Uncle John. As your legs hit the ground successively ready to obey the ‘Forward March’ command, you find yourself thinking of home. Of the meatless lunch. Of the unpaid NEPA bills. Of the broken down jalopy.
You didn’t take the decision until you got in front of the podium where he stood like a pregnant woman. You notice that most of his agbada is lying on the ground and you feel what a waste of cloths. A police man who looks sad is standing behind him like a statue. As you shake his hand, you didn’t say ‘Happy Independence’ as had been planned, instead you tell him in a voice close to tears that your Mother had not been paid for Months.