Ghosts of Leaders Past

 Posted by yejide kilanko      226 views  Vote Chronicles
Mar 272011

A haggard looking young man opens the door to his ‘face me I face you’ room. He shuffles inside, flinging a polythene bag on the rickety table.

Pain flashes across his face as he sits on the thin mattress placed on the floor. His head was throbbing from a day of walking under a ruthlessly hot sun. Once again, he had not found a job.  It did not help that there were millions of other young Nigerians also desperately searching for a meaningful future.

As he unbuttoned his shirt, his stomach grumbled against its’ emptiness. His only meal of the day was ten teaspoons of sodden garri chased down by water. He glanced at the rusty metal bowl on the table. The last of his precious garri was already soaking for breakfast. A lone cube of sugar sat on the bowl’s lid.

After hours of tossing, he finally fell asleep. In his dream, as a bearded woman with hair on her chest brought a morsel of fufu close to his mouth, he screamed, his dark eyes flying wide open. Sitting up, he struggled to clear the smell of egusi soup from his nostrils.

Seeing a blurry figure in the corner of the room, he gasped. He recognized the face. It was the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Sir Balewa sighed. “On October 1, 1960, how could we have envisioned this current state of chaos? Believe me. Nigeria was destined to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage. Nigerians were meant to live without fear, to obey the law as part of their nature and live in a land of individual liberty.”

“He is right you know.” A voice from the other side of the room said.

The young man slowly turned and saw another blurry figure. This face belonged to the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Sir Balewa smiled. “Ha Zik! You were able to join us.”

“The Black Rock, I salute you. I had to come.” Dr. Azikiwe nodded. “We are all talking but no one is listening. Talk I listen, you listen I talk. This is the only way we can harness the strength of our ethnic, regional and religious diversity. Democracy has a fighting chance if we are able to achieve consensus for a common purpose.”

“Zik is right. Remember Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba, we all need each other.”

Another image suddenly appeared between the two men.

It was Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola! As a seven year old, the young man had seen the face during the June 12, 1993 presidential elections.

Chief Abiola`s words were quietly spoken. “I came to tell you that you have been chosen.”

The young man sputtered in disbelief. “Me?” What power did he have?

“Yes. You. Your generation. June 12 was not all about me. It was about a nation of young, old, men, women, Christian, Moslem, Northerners, Westerners, Easterners and Southerners, all coming together to vote their conscience. They were no longer willing to have other people determine their future. Remember this. We have done it before. We can do it again.”

When the images finally faded out, the young man fell into a deep relaxed sleep.

The next morning, bowl of garri in his lap, the young man held up the cube of sugar he had saved for this last meal. For a minute, he hesitated. Then he bit into the cube, dropping a half cube into the bowl. The other half, he carefully wrapped in a piece of paper.

Chewing slowly he thought to himself, who knows what this new day would bring.

Yejide Kilanko© 2011


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  21 Responses to “Ghosts of Leaders Past”

Comments (21)
  1. A hungry man’s dream. The message in the story is quite clear - HOPE. Nice story. Enjoyed reading it.

  2. Thanks Jaywriter. After I read your comment, I found myself thinking of a title change. A Hungry Man’s Dream is definitely better :)

  3. Wow! It’s amazing what dreams can emerge from real hunger. And it was clever of you to present two dreams in quick succession. As rightly portrayed, most dream of satisfying their stomachs before dreaming of the nation. Very true! Yet I think the story seemed to ignore the minority ethnic groups of Nigeria. Why? Nonetheless, I can’t fault the creativity & powerful message. Well done sweetie! *winks*

    • Your Royal Highness,
      Thanks for your comment :) Truly it is hard to think of long-term change when one’s body is starved. The hunger affects the mind too. Personally I have a nationalistic dream for Nigeria and I definitely do not dismiss any ethnic group. I just figured that if three ghosts were a crowd, introducing any more would be a riot :)

  4. Too short, rather amusing, and also out of the norm. I liked it.



    • Thanks Xikay :) I know it does not specifically talk about voting but I felt that an integral part of making choices particularly in an election is understanding the rationality behind making that choice. Are we really committed to make this country called Nigeria work. Do we all have a stake it in? Should I vote for a Yoruba person with no agenda or experience simply because i am Yoruba woman?. What made June 12 a landmark day in history was that people went to the polls and voted their conscience. We all know what happened. The ultimate sacrifice Abiola and others all over the country gave. If we don’t believe that we all have a stake in this country and are willing to fight for it, voting just becomes an exercise in futility.



  7. Loved the creativity, good descriptions and attention to detail, even with the limited word count.

    Well done!!!

  8. Thanks for your comment Mr. Lawal :) Much appreciated.

  9. Nice work. They’ve said it all…

  10. Nice work Yejide, I like the different approach you introduced; maybe it didn’t quite fit the theme of the contest, but I enjoyed it all the same.


  12. On the whole, I enjoyed your story. The message is quite clear though it is short and one feels that a little elaboration might have served better. Hmm, you throway entertainment small, fire us lessons wey suppose enter us well well. For asking sake, did you leave the main character nameless for effect? And I must say your cast of three big guys from different regions was interesting…Tafawa and Zik - contemporaries. I was gearing to salute Awo but of course, dreams would be dreams and so we see MKO of years later. Maybe, the dream for add one minority Chief like J. S. Tarka and woman sef…all in the sake of representing us all. :) Well done …though there were a few hitches that caught me in the throat…

    You might want to take a look at lines like these:
    “His head was throbbing from a day of walking under a ruthlessly hot sun. Once again, he had not found a job.” and “As he unbuttoned his shirt, his stomach grumbled against its’ emptiness” Don’t know about all the others who didn’t notice but this looks like tense confusion to me, present continuous and past perfect. You would find some other examples within too. Despite the cuteness of the tale (as aptly described by all our friends above), this gives the tale a certain sour taste that can be curbed out.
    Secondly, I think there is something not so right about this line “On October 1, 1960, how could we have envisioned this current state of chaos?” It might be me but I really think that it would come out better if you retouched or rather, reordered the words.
    “Chewing slowly he thought to himself, who knows what this new day would bring” [The last line]. I believe that this might have come better if it came out as “Who knows what this new day would bring” (in quotation marks to show that it is reported) or Who knew what this new day would bring to rhyme with the past perfect of the first part of the sentence.

    I would advise that you take time to work on your mechanics a bit more as it would help to make your work far more interesting and error free. It would also help in meaning and beauty. This story has potential to be far better and more enjoyable but it would take your careful reworking and perhaps, restructuring to give it some more flavour. Well done once more and keep giving us more…God bless Naijaria and you too, dear Yejide. :) Be good.

  13. Mr. Agema, thanks for your comments/advice. I can tell that you gave the work a good read. I definitely agree that there is room for improvement with this piece. Another other version will definitely be tweaked. God bless you too and have a great week!

  14. @Yejide kilanko, no wahala. Was a pleasure giving views on such a captivating tale … Hope you’re gearing to vote today… Kai, God, we need you. :)

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