I wasn’t very keen on going back online the next day but I knew I had to, although what I saw baffled me. My post was trending on Twitter with the hashtag #NaijaVsBullies.
A ton of Nigerian twitter users were defending me, the kids, and their country with a bunch of hilarious memes, deep comments, and sassy comebacks. My private message was full of random Nigerians asking me if I was okay, and wondering if I let the bullies get back to me.
A bunch of the hateful comments from the previous night were no longer there, because their owners already deleted them.
I whooped and started jumping like a maniac alone in my room. They didn’t know me, but they knew I was Nigerian like them, and they supported me. My 7k followers were now 12k. Yay!! Influencer in the making.
I was even more overwhelmed because all ethnicities were involved in the trend. They set aside their differences, to push back the bullies. It made me wonder; can the Delta State indigenes set aside their differences and push back the political bullies like Chief Ikenna and the governor?
I typed out my thoughts and made a thread story on what I saw and heard at the private campaign between Chief Ikenna and all the societal leaders of Asaba. I left my phone upstairs and went down for breakfast. Amaka and Dad had already gone to work, so I had the house to myself again.
By the time I came back upstairs from breakfast, my follower count was now 16k, and I didn’t even know how that happened. The engagement on the thread was mind-blowing, with people sharing their grievances about the failed administration of their governors and the president.
My phone started ringing, but it was my Dad calling. I was in a glorious mood so I picked the call.
“Nike, what did you do? Ehn?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’re trending on social media because you made yourself an enemy of chief Ikenna. How can you reveal the details of his private campaign? I only got you that invitation to help you learn, not for you to cause trouble.”
“Seriously? The people deserve to know the truth Dad. The man is promising those leaders a share of the state cake if they can get their people to vote for him.”
“It is not a new thing, and you can’t change it. This is not America and only you can’t do it.”
“Who said I planned to do it alone?”
I ended the call after a little more back and forth argument with him. I wasn’t going to abandon a set of people that defended me to the mercy of these tyrants. Those innocent kids and their ugly soccer ball deserved better.
I grumbled silently after Dad dropped grandma and me at the stadium 10 days later. She wanted to see someone near the stadium, while dad thought it would be good for me to stay off social media for a few hours.
I wasn’t a fan of my grandmother and she didn’t think she should apologize for what she did. An elder is never wrong she said. She said the little hole in my right ear was the reason I was so stubborn and refusing to be friendly with her.
She even suggested taking me for spiritual cleansing, because she was sure I had a spirit following me. I chose not to follow her, so I entered the stadium instead.
I saw the youths and kids all had different small football pitches on the large field. Most of the girls were either running on the tracks or laughing with one another on the bleachers. It was a refreshing sight.
I was so fascinated with the running girls that I didn’t see the group of people walking towards me. They were close enough, before I realized they were coming to talk to me.
A young guy, around my age stepped forward and offered me a handshake. “We thought it was you. Ejiro had to bring out your picture on Instagram for us to confirm. Hi, my name is Steven.”
I returned his handshake and waved at the other people in the group.
“We are sure you must have gotten a lot of gratitude online, but we wanted to deliver a personal one to you.”
“Gratitude for what exactly?”
“Your campaign and passion for making us believe we actually have a say in what happens to our country.” One of the girls responded.
“No, you all had the passion before, I just nudged it out.”
“Honestly, before your campaign started, I believed my vote wouldn’t matter, so there was no point trying. But when I saw a bunch of youths like myself coming out with you to help campaign for Dr. Irivwotu, I knew we had a chance at saving this country after all.” Steven gave me a really impressive speech.
I suddenly became shy and bashful, because the praises being heaped on me felt undeserved. I wish they knew how much I despised my heritage before all these, maybe they wouldn’t be so grateful and enamored with me.
A plump girl came forward and engulfed me in a hug. She smelled of sweat, but felt comforting. “I’m Ejiro, and I’m sorry about the recent attack on your life.”
“Thank You Ejiro. I’m happy their plans were foiled.”
Yes, I was attacked by a bunch of hooligans one evening after campaigns, but the area vigilantes and some young men in the area chased them off and caught one of them. He was handed over to the police, and nothing came of it till that moment.
I wasn’t stupid, I knew my sudden physical and virtual campaigns would garner me a few enemies.
“Well, it’s us against them. We might not win but the past two weeks have gotten Dr. Irivwotu more supporters than the entirety of his campaign. Youths are no longer keyboard warriors, but active political participants.” Steven smiled and told me. “We have a news for you though.”
“Oh, what is it?”
“One of us is related to Dr. Irivwotu, and we would like you to meet him. He has heard about you and he has seen all your efforts. We can arrange a meeting between you two and send a stronger message to the supporters and opposition.” He concluded.
I was dumbfounded and happy. I rushed out a bunch of yes while laughing at the same time.
“Come, join us on the field.”
“Oh no! I’m terrible with sports.”
“And so is Ejiro, but we let her play anyway.”
“Hey watch it.” Ejiro scolded him good naturedly.
“Alright I’ll join you. But don’t blame me if you lose, I warned you ahead of time.”
The reception at Dr. Irivwotu’s office was so beautiful and comfortable. My feet sank into the plush rug and the AC hit my brain in the right spots.
Steven, Ejiro, and Kevwe; the guy related to Dr. Irivwotu, all sighed in contentment as they sipped their drinks beside me.
“Why did you choose to motivate the youths out of their political apathy?” Ejiro asked me quietly.
“Honestly, I think it all started at the private campaign. Then the strangers that came to my defense, the hardworking nature of Nigerians, the unparalleled sense of humor, and a knack for being resilient. I felt it was time for us to stop complaining online and make things physical.”
“A ton of the masses would still sell their votes though. Doesn’t that bother you? All your hardwork might be for nothing.”
“We don’t have to win, but I want them to realize that the power of evolution is in their hands, only if they wield it. The likes of Chief Ikenna will continue to win elections unless we come out of the virtual world and fight in the physical.”
“Chief Ikenna has got the votes of the older Delta-Ibos though.”
“Don’t worry. The next phase of our campaign is to show them that even one’s kinsman can betray one. Trust me, I have a personal story on that account.”
“Well, let’s hope they listen.”
“It’s simple. Sufferhead no dey tire una?”
She laughed and nodded her head. “That’s an impressive slogan. Why didn’t I think of that?”
We were silent for a while and then she tapped me again. “You know, the best thing about Nigeria isn’t the land or weather or riches. It is the people. Nigerians are what makes the country worth uniting and fighting for.”
“Of course, the people are any Nation’s greatest resource.”
Before we could continue the conversation though, Dr. Irivwotu came out of his office with a mini entourage and we quickly scrambled to our feet, Steven spilled his coke in the process.
“Uncle, this is the girl you have wanted to meet. Nikki, this is the man of the youth himself. So, meet Nikki Larry.”
He extended a hand to me and I shook it. His hands were rough and calloused, a reminder of his humble beginnings. I might be prejudiced, but there was kindness in his eyes and no hint of shrewdness.
“Hi, I’m Adenike Oyelari.” And I am a Nigerian, I added silently.
So, we have come to the end of Evolution. Be sure to finish the tale, whichever way you deem fit. Did Dr. Irivwotu win? Or was it Chief Ikenna?
Stay tuned for new short stories coming up again. Thank you 🤗