I return from a three-week sojourn in Kenya to general election season in Ontario. I return to the chromatic effervescence of electoral flyers, posters, and sundry campaign materials. Campaign ads become oxygen – inescapable, unavoidable. Ontario politicians, like their peers all over the world, are doing their do.
My voter information card, I am told, arrived a week ago in the mail. My six-year-old wields it in excitement, flashing a dentition with window designs that weren’t there when I left three weeks ago for Nairobi. The tooth faerie has had a rich harvest of two teeth while I was away.
Daddy, voter card, voter card, she screams.
Oh, that’s my PVC, I say.
Daddy, what’s PVC?
A voice in my head says: there you go again! Inflicting Nigeria on this Canadian child. Years before she will ever vote, they probably have started teaching her elementary notions of elections in civic classes in school. They are breaking down elections to juvenile concepts for them. Her teacher taught her voter information card, you are saying PVC. Must every detail of life pass through a Nigeriana semantic sieve in your brain?
Daddy, what’s PVC?
That is what we call that card you are holding in Nigeria.
Daddy this is Canada.
A bere niyen. Give me my card jor, Madam Canada.
Father and daughter joke and fool around. I chase her for the card. Then I settle down to the serious business of getting into election mode and spirit.
I am a very important person in my upper middle class suburbia neighbourhood. Because oyinbo people are always buying and selling homes like suya, many of our original neighbours who were here when we bought ten years ago have all sold and moved to other neighbourhoods, making us one of the oldest residents.
Were my neighbourhood in Nigeria – there you again, Pius! – I’d be something of an Area Father in Lekki or VI, a ceremonial Baba Isale. In political terms, I’d be a very important ward or neighbourhood chieftain – the person party elders and stalwarts go to see or send emissaries to during an election cycle.
These considerations are on my mind as I start to inspect the house.
I check the pantry. Nothing there beyond our usual wholesale Costco shopping. I was expecting sacks of rice, beans, cartons of this and that, garawas of ororo and palm oil.
I move on to our deep freezers. We have three deep freezers in the house. Nothing in them beyond our own regular supplies. I was expecting all three freezers to be overloaded with beef, goat meat, turkey, and chicken.
Maybe all the stuff is in our backyard, I say to myself, after all, we have a huge backyard.
I go to the backyard, expecting to see tethered cows, goats, and turkeys struggling for space. Again, nothing.
By now, I am getting alarmed. I rush back inside to check my bank accounts online: no deposits. Now, I know something is seriously wrong somewhere. I query madam.
Didn’t you say that politicians and their campaign volunteers were all over the neighbourhood, stomping and doing door to door campaigning while I was away in Kenya?
Yes now. Is this not election season? Shebi you have your voter information card. You better tune in and decide on a party and candidate.
She does not know why I asked that question. She only implores me to go do early voting. Me, I am thinking of other serious stuff. All around the house are campaign literature.
Me? A whole neighbourhood chieftain? Candidates and campaign volunteers have been visiting and dropping campaign documents and related literature? No mobilization! No infrastructure of any sort! A whole me, my house is littered with campaign paper. Me fa! Do they know who I am?
Whatever happened to:
Madam, good evening, we are from XYZ party. Is Chief at home?
No, he is in Kenya.
Eeya, we met his absence?
In that case, tell Chief that we want to do well in this neighbourhood and we know that we have a father in him and we don’t have to worry. We have some campaign materials for the entire neighbourhood that we have brought for Chief to share as he deems fit. Please ma, where can we offload these two trailer loads of rice, beans, salt, palm oil, and ororo? We also have a trailer load of cows, goats, rams, turkey, and chicken. Can we tether them all in your backyard?
Ehen, Madam, before we leave, can you please give us Chief’s account details? The party chairman asked for it. Chief will receive an alert. Please tell Chief to help us manage whatever he sees. We know that he is more than that. The Party Chairman will pay him a visit when he returns from Kenya.
Nothing like the desirable scenario above has happened. Instead, I have a voter information card and loads of literature from the parties and the candidates. I tell myself that Canadian democracy is backward, primitive, and underdeveloped. I tell myself that Canadian politicians belong in the 17th century.
My six-year-old boss interrupts my thought. Whatever elementary civics they are teaching her at school has combined with weeks of relentless political ads on TV to turn her to a precocious little political animal. I am amazed by the sophistication of her political chatter.
So, Daddy, who will you vote for? I like the woman. She speaks about interesting issues…
Oh, my Gosh, young lady, what in the name of Baba Adesanmi do you know about political issues?
She smiles and resumes her game but I am extremely worried. Here is a six-year-old tuning in to campaign season, listening to politicians on TV, and trying to break down their campaign issues.
If care is not taken (as we say in Nigeria), this child may start to talk about what a particular politician has said about health, education, infrastructure, wages, social safety net, commodities prices, housing, the future generation and such other nonsense.
I mean, here am I, her father, in a murderous mood, ruing the insult of politicians coming around without “seeing” him with mobilization and stomach infrastructure commensurate with his status and standing in the neighbourhood and she is opening her six-year-old mouth to talk nonsense about issues? Who issues epp?
I decide that before Canada ruins my daughter’s life with civics and issues, I will have to take her urgently to Nigeria. I will have to introduce her to her people and their world so she does not grow up clinging to the dangerous and erroneous notion that elections should be about vision and issues.
Come to think of it, by the time we vote next week, she would have gone through this entire election season in Ontario without hearing a single gun shot. People will be counting votes next week. Not corpses. What sort of life is that? I can’t allow my child to grow up without associating elections with guns, cutlasses, and corpses. I have to take her urgently to her people in Nigeria.
Evening. The door bell screams. My daughter rushes to the door. I follow. At the door, three foot soldiers of a particular candidate. All young girls. Everything about them screams teenagers. They are pounding the pavement. They are campaign volunteers. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
How old are y’all, if I may ask.
Two chorus eighteen, one says nineteen.
My six-year-old is already plastering them with questions. They try to sell their candidate to me. They are doing the issues thing. My daughter too is relating to them. Four Canadians, one alienated Nigerian. They are telling me about their candidate’s website. I can go there for elaborations on each campaign issue, they say. Or call any of these dedicated numbers.
I am drifting away from them. And. From. My. Daughter.
I am now hearing only the occasional word.
To our candidate.
I continue hearing them in bit parts as my mind drifts away. Two eighteen-year-olds, one nineteen-year-old. So passionate about campaign issues.
They have not come to my doorstep bearing mobilization.
They have not come to my doorstep bearing any kind of infrastructure and facilitation.
They have come bearing campaign literature and issues. Like the Canadian politicians they represent and believe in, like Canadian democracy, these girls are backward and primitive.
I look at them and see the future of my daughter. At eighteen, she too would be pounding pavements after school, volunteering and campaigning for politicians about issues important to her life and her future. Unless I do something drastic, she will be talking the sort of nonsense that these teenagers are yarning to me and her now.
No. This daughter of mine must go to Nigeria before it is too late for her!
She must go and meet her people and learn how they see themselves. She must learn that everything is reducible to food right now, food at this very moment. She must learn to become a prisoner of her belly and the moment. When you shit the food you have just eaten this moment, you move on to another this moment of food. And you must develop a culture of guns and bullets to secure this food this moment. That is how generation after generation of her people have done it. I must save her from Canada’s backwardness. She must evolve from Canada’s 17th century democracy to Nigeria’s 21st century democracy.
The Canadian teenagers drone on, punctuating my reverie. I hear them in single words and not in sentences: