The campaigns had come and gone, and Port Winkle was now solemn like a sinner kneeling before God’s altar. All the razzmatazz or lobbying had ceased, and the daily gridlock on Aba Road had disappeared. Even the street urchins and feisty peddlers who littered Aba Road footbridge had crawled into a hole. The only people who stayed put were the police. Along the length of Aba Road and other main roads in the city, duty-ready policemen with guns, clubs and horse whips stood guard. This was a grand strategy to keep any election-robber or naysayer at bay during the election.
This wasn’t the only plan. On the eve of the election, it was in the news that the primary schools within the city were going to be used as voting centres. Again, the news had said the governor was providing a fleet of fifty-seven seater buses for transporting children to their schools. There were twenty of this kind of bus, and each one would station at a bus stop along Aba Road. Of course this arrangement was for children who must pass through the famous road to school.
Simi and her brother, who had never been on a public bus before, rode on one of these buses. Her dad always said public buses were too crummy or that the drivers and their conductors were hot-headed and over adventurous, and she hoped to see if her dad was right as she and her brother hopped aboard, from Artillery bus stop to their school.
The bus’ driver was a well-rounded fifty something year-old man. She could guess his age because he looked as old as her dad. This driver had smiled at her and even showed her and her brother to their seats. Surprisingly, his bus was scrubbed clean. The windows glistened. The seats were plush and smelt like lavender, and as she sat in her chair, looking around, she couldn’t help but think her dad had lied to her.
Her seat was in the middle row, from where she could listen to the chattering from the front and back seats. Everyone was carrying a flag and talking about the party they were going to vote for. Two very big talkers sat in the rear end of the bus, who, for half of the journey, gabbled on and on about how Teme Koko was the choicest candidate because their parents had said so. This almost made her lose her mind as the big talkers were from her school. She’d never thought anyone who went to her school would be voting for Teme. It was treacherous!
Soon the bus’ tyres screeched and stopped in front of her school, and she was happy to get off and to not have to listen to any more prattling. She hurried down and waited for her brother to clamber down the stairs. Together they waved goodbye to the kind driver and strode into the school compound which had taken on the look of a beehive! Five teachers, including Mrs Beke, were standing at the front porch to welcome the children before sending them to their class teachers to be apprised of voting procedures. At one side of the school field, the male teachers were hurling poles and tarps to set up canopies. Already they had finished setting up two canopies and some people, whom she hadn’t seen before, were unpacking boxes under one of the canopies. There was a booth under the second canopy, and the booth looked like a small public toilet.
Now all the people who huddled under the canopies wore green vests with the inscription PWEC. That was long for Port Winkle Electoral Commission, which meant they were government officials.
She turned to look at her brother while pointing at the PWEC people. ‘You see those people over there?’ she asked him.
‘Yes,’ A.J. nodded.
‘The government has sent them to conduct the election.’
‘Am I going to vote?’ the brother asked immediately with delight.
‘You’re not yet five years, and the government has said children below five years won’t be allowed to vote.’
‘But that’s not fair!’ the brother cried. ‘I want to vote!’
‘But you’re not yet five years old,’ Simi said softly. ‘You’ll have to wait until you’re five.’
Meanwhile, Mrs Beke had spotted the children and was walking towards them.
Simi saw her and froze. What else could the principal be bringing but trouble?
But Mrs Beke was nice. ‘What have you done to your brother?’ she asked.
‘Nothing, Mrs Beke,’ Simi replied, clasping her hands in front of her. Everyone clasped their hands together on their thighs whenever they stood in front of the principal. It was a sign of piety and respect.
‘So why is he looking sad?’
‘He wants to vote, but the government has said children below five years can’t vote,’ Simi replied.
‘Oh, that,’ Mrs Beke murmured, smiling. She bent forward to meet the boy’s face. ‘Don’t worry, my dear,’ she said. ‘Very soon you’ll be five, and you can vote.’
‘I’ll be five years old in April,’ A.J. protested mildly.
‘See, that’s next month, which is not far away. And that means you can vote in April,’ the principal lied.
This brightened the poor boy up, and the principal took him by the hand and walked him to his class.
[End of Excerpt]