Last Sunday, 7th of July, was my birthday and though you could not be in my house to share the fun, I prepared something to make it up to you. It’s more fantasy and less business management but it’s specially written for you because it captures my heartbeat. Here goes….
As I lean forward to blow the thirty-something candles on my cake, I shut my eyes and make a wish.
This birthday, my wish is unlike last year’s when I prayed to be a pirate and fantasized about enjoying wild adventures like Johnny Depp in his Pirate of the Caribbean series; instead I wished I were an important politician in my country, say a state governor or even the president. A tall order someone might say, but if you live in my country or you’ve been to it, you would know why my wish isn’t so bad. Either owing to the financial resources at their disposal or the near-absolute powers they wield, state chief executives are just worshiped in my country.
Take for instance the events that would take place on my birthday, if I were a governor. A flurry of activities would have begun days before the birthday proper. Starting with different interest groups like the market women association, road transport workers’ union and committee of politicians’ wives calling their members for meetings to deliberate on how to show support for me on my birthday. Each will levy its members and raise money to purchase pricey gifts befitting of my Excellency. They will also send some representatives to the market to buy materials that will be sewn as 'aso-ebi' (matching clothes) and worn by all of them to the festivities when they bring their gifts.
Staff of the government house would be at hand to fete my guests; including the kitchen staff working hard to satisfy all palates-in-attendance with the best of dishes and wine; protocol teams sending out invitations to guests, performers and musicians and the security division upping their game in anticipation of a larger-than-usual crowd. Then the airwaves come alive with paid announcements from well-wishers trying to outdo each other as they lavish me with accolades and thank God for ‘the governor-extraordinaire He has blessed their fortunate state with’. And finally the newspaper houses, now besieged by well-wishers clamouring for the center spreads to display my birthday greetings, auction it to whoever has the deeper pocket, while the less-loaded ones settle for the less desirable half-pages next to the obituary section.
But amid all the hysteria, tributes and gift showers, I remind myself that it’s all an act; a scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours charade. I refuse to be deceived that I am that loved by these people or where were they during my pre-governor birthdays? I realize that favours by way of contracts and political appointments are what these people crave. As I continue my fantasy, I tell myself that the celebrations must go on, whether they love me or not or whether they want to exploit me or not; but I am going to introduce a twist to this birthday. I will make it so different it will be my most significant one.
I will stun all the well-wishers bent on taking advantage of my position to enrich themselves and also shock the indifferent electorate with goodies coming their way. Firstly, weeks before my birthday, I will get my PR staff to drop hints through the rumour mill that I would be on the lookout for well-wishers so as to reward them with juicy deals. Then I will begin to work quotes implying payback for all loyal friends into all my speeches.
Next, I will compile a list of foundations and agencies that have been proven to deliver on job creation and micro grant disbursement initiatives and instruct the protocol team to include itin the invitations and direct that all funds earmarked for purchasing gifts for me, buying ad time on radio stations or ad space in the dailies be donated to them on my behalf and a receipt of their donations forwarded to the office of my chief of staff. The strong-worded directive will explain that my displeasure will be expressed at any gift provider who insists on offering them to me or well-wishers bent on flattering me in the newspapers. Ask me what a governor needs a collection of expensive artworks, stacks of premium home appliances and several $137,500 Range Rover HSE gifts for, when he is sated with all the luxuries you can ever imagine? Or, of what use is spending over $12,000 just to splash my smiley face across the centre spread, if not to massage an over-sized ego?
Imagine the deluge of resources that will inundate these foundations, courtesy of my canniness and at no cost to me! In a country where there are more graduates than vacancies and more job applications are written than appointment letters, imagine how my ratings will surge at the polls without any corresponding publicity stunt expenses! Wow, I’m enjoying this wish!
My select list will feature organizations like Dangote Foundation and MFIs that have demonstrated an impact on people’s lives like Self-Reliance Economic Advancement programme (SEAP). I will summon their MDs and inform them in advance that the contributions coming their way are for the sole purpose of empowering my constituency with jobs and grants to set up small scale enterprises and family businesses. Dangote is a household name in Nigeria for job-creation and community development and I will reach an agreement with the foundation’s MD to come up with creative entrepreneurial initiatives to put a dent in the unemployment figures of my state. SEAP and the like organize traders and small enterprises into cooperative unions for easy monitoring and sustainability and provide them with unsecured loans to do business.
As I puff to blow out the last candle on my cake, my family and friends chorus “For He Is A Jolly Good Fellow,” I open my eyes and realize that it’s all a wish, a fantasy.