Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dessert: Banana Cake

“Dera, please pass me the baking pan. Thanks.” Nonyem says, folding the rest of the flour into the cake batter.

“What are you making?” Nkem asks, peering into the mixing bowl.

“A banana cake.”

“Hmm, banana cake? Have you ever baked one before?” 

“Um, no, but I like to experiment.”

“OK.” Nkem responds in a tone suggesting skepticism.

“Nkem, are you currently working on another blog entry?” Chidera asks.

“Yes. My next entry will be on the rule of law in Nigeria. By the way, did you guys see the embarrassing footage of lawmakers scaling the gates of the National Assembly this week?”

“Yes, I did. Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I mean, I wasn’t shocked when I saw the footage because nothing is beneath our lawmakers,” Chidera replies, shaking her head. “Aren’t these the same lawmakers who exchange blows with one another? Even the title lawmaker is a misnomer when attributed to Nigerian House of Representatives and Senators.”

 “Don’t mind them. Rather than draft or pass meaningful bills, like the Petroleum Industry Bill, they spend their time drafting senseless ones and fighting like children,” adds Nkem.

“Why are people surprised at our legislature’s childishness when the basic entry requirement to the National Assembly is a secondary school certificate?” Nonyem asks mockingly.

“I agree,” concurs Chidera. “There are several anomalies in our system that need to be addressed. What right has the Inspector General of Police to the bar the Speaker of the House from accessing the National Assembly? And why should legislators defect from one party to another capriciously when they’ve been voted on a particular party’s ticket? Imagine if after the current mid-term elections in the States that House Republicans decamped en masse on the assumption that the next occupant of the White House might be a Democrat. They would have made a mockery of the elections since the electorate, having voted mostly Republicans for a reason, would have still ended up with Democrats in the majority.”

Nonyem slides the baking pan into the oven. “Elections and politics in this country are a joke. Politicians keep decamping from PDP to APC and back for nothing more than where they can find enough butter for their bread. In my opinion, a typical APC member is a disgruntled erstwhile PDP member. If he feels his voice isn’t heard, or that he doesn’t have a chance of winning a post with PDP, then he cross-carpets to APC. And since there’s no manifesto that remotely differentiates PDP from APC, it makes defection all too easy.”

Banana Cake
Photo: Shayera
“That’s right,” affirms Nkem, “all parties are the same, unlike in the States where Democrats and Republicans have distinct agendas. By the way, per the constitution, shouldn’t the Speaker of the House and the others who decamped have vacated their seats since they did so before the expiration of their tenure?”

“Yes,” nods Nkem, “that’s what the law states, but hey, laws are flouted in this country. When you have our so-called police breaking the law with impunity, venal judges and a weak legal system, what do you expect? This is a lawless country where anything goes. I bet the Wild West was better governed.”  

Chidera chuckles, “Will you be voting in next year’s presidential election?” 

“What for? Am I crazy?” Nkem replies with indignation. “Remember Malcolm X’s advice on voting - ‘A ballot is like a bullet. And until you see your target, keep your ballot in your pocket’? Well, that has been my mantra, so I won’t be voting until I see a credible candidate.”

“From what I’ve read, the PDP presidential nomination form costs 22 million naira, that’s roughly 132,000 dollars, while the gubernatorial nomination form costs 11 million naira,” notes Chidera. “Why should political parties charge exorbitantly for nomination forms? These outrageous fees drastically narrow the playing field, allowing only the rich or those which rich patrons to run. This is the reason godfathers exist - they purchase these forms and fund election campaigns (if we can call them that) in the hopes that if the aspirant wins, they can ask favors and pull the strings. Essentially, the electorate doesn't really have a voice.”

“Yep, and that’s wrong. Maybe presidential aspirants should be interviewed and partake in public debates. That way, the public can see what they stand for, and those who aren’t worthy of the Presidency are rooted out early in the game,” Nonyem suggests. “There are so many people who are blinded by their allegiance to a candidate, and if you asked them why they supported such-and-such a person, they wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

“I agree. Most people would vote Jonathan simply because they feel Muslims and the North have ruled Nigeria far longer than any other group,” remarks Chidera. “It doesn’t matter that his administration has been marred by corruption scandals – like the missing 20 billion dollars the NNPC has yet to account for, or that he hasn’t been able to rescue the missing Chibok girls, or annihilate Boko Haram. Plus, who can forget the controversial Presidential pardon he granted to Alamieyeseigha, the ex-governor of Bayelsa State who was convicted of money-laundering?” 

“If Obama was plagued by the same problems during his re-election campaign, there’s no way he’d have won a second term,” Nkem opines. “By the way, why is it that in Nigeria, one can’t differentiate one administration from the other, unlike in America, where, for instance, the Clinton years were markedly different from the Bush years?”

“That’s because there’s been only one party or set of people ruling Nigeria, and with each change of government, things have gotten progressively worse – not better. It’s insane,” acknowledges Nonyem. “Getting people’s votes in this country doesn’t take much. There’s no need to impress anyone with campaign speeches; no need to state your views on relevant issues or discuss solutions to Nigeria’s problems. All you need to do is bribe the masses with bags of rice and they’d sheepishly vote for you. That’s the problem with Nigerians – we’re so myopic in our thinking. What use is a bag of rice when you’re forced to run your generator from morning to night, because power supply is unreliable? Of what use is a bag of rice when you can’t get clean running water at home or find gainful employment?” 

“The problem with Nigerians is that we complain and complain, but won’t admit we’re part of the problem,” quips Chidera. “I won’t be surprised if some Nigerians believe Nigeria’s status as Africa’s largest economy is as a result of Jonathan’s leadership.”

“Oh, yeah, I saw something like that in The Guardian recently,” Nonyem says, walking towards the oven. “I think the ad was paid for by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria. Only people with half a brain will believe that rubbish, because with or without him in power, the rebasing of our GDP would have yielded the same result.”

“Umm, that smell emanating from the oven...” Chidera licks her lips animatedly. “I’m salivating.”

“Nonyem, your cake smells heavenly. I just hope it doesn’t disappoint,” taunts Nkem.

Setting the cake on a cooling rack, Nonyem faces Nkem with a look of feigned annoyance, “Em, Nkem, if you keep talking, your tongue will not taste any of it.”

Nkem smiles and pinches her lips in attempt to stop herself from talking.

“What would you like to drink? I have freshly squeezed pineapple and orange juice, soft drinks and there’s green tea.

“I’ll have juice,” Nkem replies.

“Same here,” chimes Chidera.

“OK. So juice it is.”