14 Jun Hostile waters: Episode 3-The meeting.
“Our most pressing need is water”, Baale Aborojoko Said. The wizened old man took off his skull cap and wiped his face with one hand.
The other commununity leaders nodded in agreement. It was such a momentous occasion. Never before in the history of Ifemekunuland had the leaders of the communities been involved in the planning process.
“Year after year, they come to us asking for votes and promise us heaven and earth. We thought with this democracy thing, we’ll get a better deal. Instead of getting softer, the coconut leaves just got stronger.”
Akiwaju was moved. He had visited each community leader in their domains and all had agreed it would be great to get together at the same table to discuss the problems of Ifemekunu. Only Baale Makanjuowo of Abeope village was not present. He had sent messengers to convey his regrets.
Akiwaju listened as they all voiced their complaints. There were other problems, especially with the school infrastructure and supply of fertilizers for the farmers. Finally, he spoke up.
“My fathers, thank you so much for making it here today. We are the ones to make the change our land needs. I have taken note of the issues you have raised. I will attend to them within this week”.
Baale Makumo called him aside at the end of the meeting and looked at him intently. Akiwaju trembled inside but managed to retain his composure. Baale Akiwaju had an imposing stature. He towered more than one cubit above Akiwaju and was at least twice his width.
“My son, I feel the purity of your heart. Please, take Ifemekunu to the promised land”
Akiwaju prostrated and thanked the Baale. Even that gesture sat well with the other Baales and they patted him on the back.
As the Baales left, Akiwaju recalled those years ago when he had guinea worm. His older cousins had praised him and told him he had finally become a man. He was so bemused when he learnt in school that it was a parasitic infestation caused by drinking infested water. He shook his head. It was the same water everybody in those villages were still drinking.
“Ranti!” He called out.
Ranti was his personal Assistant. Akiwaju found him just apt for the job. Ranti had a strong sense of responsibility, and a quick grasp of situations.
Ranti came in, smartly dressed as usual. He wore a sky-blue short-sleeved shirt and black trousers. He carried a folder in his left hand.
“Write a memo to the Purchasing and Supply Department. Tell them to put out an invitation to tender for a water project contract. Contractors who can respond within 1 week will be our favourites for the job”.
“One week, sir?”
Ranti stood there in wide-eyed amazement.
“Yes, Ranti. I know what I’m doing. Some birds have learnt to fly without perching. I am going to shoot without missing.”
Ranti went out, quietly.
Akiwaju sat at his desk, and took an orange from the fruit basket Baale Aborojoko had brought him. He sucked on the sweet juice of Ifemekunuland, and made up his mind to water those souls that believed so much in him.