|Thursday, March 14, 2019|
agba Keh!" the MC bellowed!
"Yah!" the audience responded; that is, those not on their phones, involved in side conversations, or slurping pepper soup. The room hummed with excitement. People craned their necks to find their pallies amidst the two hundred or so Yagba Community Association faithfuls packed in the event hall.
The ten left amongst the association founders were dressed in their own special aso ebi. They were seated at the high table like royalty. Past presidents, guests of honor, and other dignitaries looked down from their elevated position. In charge women led serving hosts to one table or another ensuring everyone got fed. It was an intoxicating atmosphere.
"Today, we have not only come to celebrate Yagba Community Association's silver jubilee but also to launch the capital fundraising effort for a 150-bed specialist hospital!" The MC enthused. He urged his audience to dig deep into their pockets and donate towards this worthy cause. "Let our people at home know that they have worthy sons and daughters in America!"
So, the fundraising began. Triple Chief Dr. Alomalo gave $10,000. Architect Owonikoko gave $10,500. Down the line, guests of honor and members alike, jostled to out-give each other. Things were going great until a young man took the microphone. Resplendent in top of the line trado, the elders had been pleased when he'd followed in his father's footsteps and formally joined the association last year.
"Fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends. It is indeed an august occasion that we're celebrating today. Keeping an association alive for twenty-five years, is a major achievement. I applaud you all." Everyone cheered.
"Before I disclose my donation amount, I would like to ask a question?" Suddenly the place went silent. Things were not going as expected. Donate or sit down, what's 'ask a question?'
"What happened to the school we contributed to build last year?" The young man looked at the current president and those around him on the high table. He offered the microphone to anyone who could answer his question, no one moved.
Though he asked the question, he knew the answer. The money contributed for the school had disappeared into the pockets of the current president, his contractor brother, and the village chief. Two years ago, the money raised for the clinic had suffered a similar fate. As a face-saving measure, the previous executive officers had rented space in a strip mall to store the medical supplies sent from the US and to host the medical mission. When the rent expired, the clinic closed. Likewise, the funds to renovate the village high school had been diverted by a past official, to bag a chieftaincy title.
When nobody took the microphone, the young man tried to coax some ire out of his audience, "With all the money we've donated, Yagba should be more developed than where it is today. Let us demand account of funds raised for previous projects. Do we not deserve to know what happens to our money after we throw it in the pot?"
Quickly, the MC came to rescue the party from the jaws of introspection. "As we say in Chicago," he joked, "lazy man says he won't go to work because it's snowing outside." Everyone laughed.