‘VOTE FOR ME!, VOTE FOR XYZ PARTY!, the voiced boomed from the loud speaker. People of Garin Samari, your only job is to vote me into office. Vote our party, XYZ into power. I have been told that access to clean water has always been a major issue in this village, therefore all you need to do is vote for me to see the change that you have been looking for.
If you vote for me, I will make sure this village becomes a mega city, by providing clean and potable water. When I get into office, it will be my top most priority to fulfill my campaign promise to this village, which is giving you access to safe water. I will put an end to long distance walks to the stream to fetch water. I will put a stop to waterborne diseases affecting the villagers by providing safe drinking water. Let your vote count by voting for me and my party, XYZ Party. And I promise that I will not disappoint you’.
The villagers nodded in complete agreement, applauding the man who will bring pipe borne water to their village. We will definitely vote for this man, the villagers said amongst themselves.
Two years and 6 months after XYZ Party won the election into office, life had remained the same for the villagers of Garin Samari. No one has returned to fulfill the campaign promise of providing clean and safe water for the villagers. Life has continued, with the long distant walks to the stream, drinking of contaminated water, which caused cholera and other diseases among the villagers.
Children played around, while the adults went about their businesses. Life in Garin Samari, a village in Taraba State was peaceful and pleasant. The village had a peaceful atmosphere that was comforting to the villagers. The air in Garin Samari is clean and fresh, which was why the villagers loved to take walks in the evenings. The major occupation of the people of Taraba State is agriculture, so it’s no surprise that the villagers in Garin Samari loved to farm. They would wake up early, and go to the fields to start the day’s work. They farmed crops like maize, cassava, yam and groundnuts.
They specialized in commercial farming, working very hard to get good produce that they could take to the city to sell for profits. They still preferred the village life to the city life. ‘There is too much noise in the city’ they would say to one another, as they take the bus to the city to sell their produce. They were at least happy that they had a feel of civilization, through a primary school and a secondary school, which had been provided for them by the State Government. With the absence of other amenities like electricity, pipe borne water and good roads, the villagers of Garin Samari could boast of no other form of civilization that the villagers could enjoy.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning, Buba said as he walked along the path, with his wife and other farmers, to their various farms. They talked and shouted greetings to one another from afar, for those whose farms were not too close to others. ‘It is almost the end of another rainy
Season’, Buba said to his wife, ‘you know what that means, right?’ ‘Of course, I know what it means’, his wife Wamani replied. The coming season was not the villagers’ favourite season for some reasons. It was a season when the only source of water for the villagers which happens to be the stream usually dried up. This makes it almost impossible for the people of Garin Samari to get access to water.
Buba and Wamani’s daughter Tabitha, splashed water as she enjoyed the cool touch of the stream water on her skin. ‘Let’s enjoy ourselves because it’s not going to last’, Tabitha shouted at her friend, Simbi, who was at the other side of the stream. This was their favorite place to play, the stream. Tabitha and her best friend Simbi, are cousins. They were born 5 days apart, maybe that is why they were so close, their parents would say. The large stream where they swam was the village’s only source of water for washing, cooking, drinking and bathing.
‘I wish the stream will remain full so that we can swim as we like throughout the year’, Simbi told her cousin Tabitha, as they made their way out of the stream. ‘My father told me the people in the city do not need stream, to be able to fetch water’, Tabitha said to her cousin. ‘So how do they get water to use if they do not need streams?’ Simbi looked confused. ‘My father said the people in the city get water through something called tap’ Tabitha said, as she concentrated on filling her pot with water. The sound of Simbi laughing made Tabitha look up in amusement, ‘why are you laughing, did I say something funny?’ she asked. ‘Of course, you know you did. I know palm wine can be tapped from the palm tree, so are you saying water can be tapped from the tree too? Or isn’t that why it’s called tap water?’ Simbi replied. Tabitha looked at her cousin, obviously confused about the information she just shared with Simbi. ‘I will have to ask my father about that’, Tabitha thought to herself.
The walk back home was quite a distance, which is why most people who go to the stream to fetch water, preferred to go in pairs, to enjoy the company and share talks, without feeling the distance to the stream and back.
Buba and Wamani taught their children Daniel and Tabitha, the importance of being contented with whatever they had, no matter how little. He also taught them not to be contented in certain situations. Buba would always tell Tabitha and Daniel, ‘no one should be contented with what they know could lead to diseases and maybe later death’. Buba would say this whenever he was referring to their only source of water in the village. He, as well as the other villagers, were tired of all the empty campaign promises, made by the politicians. ‘After they win the election, and get into office, they forget their promises until the next election’, Buba complained to his wife.
On her way home, Tabitha pondered on her conversation with her cousin, and wondered if truly water could be tapped from a tree, just like wine is tapped from the palm tree. Maybe that
is why it’s called tap water. Tabitha, arrived home from the stream and went to sit beside her father under the small guava tree in front of their house.
‘Father, I have a question to ask you’, Tabitha said as she sat on the small wooden stool beside her father. ‘Go ahead, my daughter, what is bothering you?’ ‘Today at the stream, I told Simbi what you told Daniel and I about tap water. Is tap water tapped from a tree, just like palm wine is tapped from a palm tree?’ she asked. Buba’s face turned into a big smile, such innocence from a child he thought to himself. But is this innocence? Buba asked himself. A 10-year-old child in Garin Samari village should know what tap water is, if only the politicians who came to their village and convinced them to vote them into public office kept to their campaign promises when they won the election, his daughter will not ask him such question, Buba mused.
Whenever it was time for a new election cycle, these politicians usually go on campaign tours, and make campaign promises, among which is the provision of clean and safe water, through the provision of tap water to the villages, like the ones they had in the cities. After the politicians get elected into office, they forget all the promises they made to the villagers about providing basic amenities like clean and safe water. This has become a pattern, which the villagers were tired of.
Water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid, amongst other diseases have become common diseases the villagers have constantly battled with, due to exposure to contaminated cooking and drinking water. Buba knew that skin rashes, seen on the bodies of some little children in the village was a result of infections spread through the stream water used in bathing. The choleras and diarrhea were gotten through the stream water that served as the only source of water for drinking and cooking.
‘Father, so Simbi is correct, that tap water is gotten from tapping water from the tree?’ Tabitha’s voice brought her father back to reality. ‘No, Tabitha, Simbi is not correct’. Buba said to assure his daughter. ‘Tap water is not gotten from a tree, it is water that is gotten through a valve connected to water pipes. However, those of us in the village, who go to the city to sell farm produce see this water coming out of the tap. To get clean and safe drinking water, the pipe-borne water, which has been treated are passed through pipes to various houses for usage’.
With the curiosity of a child, Tabitha asked her father why he thinks everyone needs pipe-borne water. ‘Afterall, the stream water is there for cooking, drinking and even bathing’. ‘No, my child, Buba said, ‘it is important to have pipe-borne water because it is clean, safe and healthy to use, and also, it is not usually exposed to toxins. No one can survive for long without drinkable water, which is why clean and safe water is a necessity and not a luxury’. ‘Why then do they have clean and safe water in the city and we do not have in our village? Isn’t it supposed to be available to everybody, if indeed it is necessary for human consumption?’ she asked. ‘Yes, my child, you are correct. Clean and safe water should be available to everybody for healthy living, notwithstanding the purpose for which it is used, whether for cooking, drinking, bathing or other uses. Clean and safe water is important for both the rich and the poor, the young and the old. In life, there are basic amenities, which are necessary but cannot be afforded by some, while some other people take it for granted, such is the case of clean and safe water supply’.
Later that evening, the village town crier went around the village to make an announcement. ‘People of Garin Samari’, he shouted, ‘the village chief has asked me to tell all the men in the village to gather in front of his house, for an important deliberation today, at 6 pm. What could the village chief want to see all the men for, the villagers asked one another. Most times, women and children were included when the villagers were asked to assemble. But since the town crier said that the village chief asked only the men to assemble, it must be a serious matter, the villagers discussed as they went back to the houses. ‘Why do you think the village chief wants to see all the men?’ Wamani asked her husband. ‘I really don’t know’, Buba answered ‘but I hope it’s something good’, he added. ‘Father, can I come along with you? I will hide under one of the trees around the Chief’s house’ Tabitha asked. ‘Certainly not!’, her brother, Daniel shouted from the second room asking. ‘Are you a man?’ ‘My daughter, you cannot come with me, you heard what the town-crier said, but not to worry, I will be back soon’ Buba reassured his daughter. ‘Okay father’, Tabitha said, knowing it wasn’t her lucky day.
‘Good evening, my good men of Garin Samari’, the village chief said, as he welcomed the men. ‘I called you here today, to tell you that I received a visitor yesterday evening. This visitor lives in the city, he needs our support to be elected into a political office in the forthcoming election’. There were sounds of disapproval and murmurs as the village chief continued. ‘I want us to give him all the support that we can, because he has promised to provide that basic amenity that we need, which is access to clean and safe water.
‘These politicians have come again’, one villager murmured. ‘They promise us things but never fulfill their promises’. ‘Very true’, other villagers echoed in unison. ‘As soon as they get what they want from us, which is our votes, they leave, never to return to fulfill their promises’. There were nods of agreement, as the villagers agreed with what the last speaker said.
The men did not want to hear any of it, and they did not hide that fact from the village chief, who also knew that their complaints were justified. They had been treated badly by politicians.
Buba stepped forward up to address everyone. ‘Good evening, our village chief, good evening friends, hardworking men of Garin Samari. I want to sincerely thank the village chief for finding us worthy, to call on us to deliberate on this matter. There is nobody who is seated here today, that is against any person contesting for office, that I can assure you. But as a village, we are tired of being used, we are tired of not seeing what has been promised, we are tired of seeing our children fall sick every day because of lack of clean and safe water. All we have always asked these people is sincerity. Sincerity to fulfill their campaign promises. As a village, we have always made our priority known. What we want is clean and safe water, which I am sure is not a difficult task for these people in office. But rather than fulfill their promises, they forget us completely, until the next 4 years, when they need our votes again. But this time, we say no’ he concluded. ‘NO’, the other men responded in unison.
‘I understand your anger and frustration’, the village head said, which is why I asked this person in particular to come tomorrow from the city to talk to you all. He would have preferred to address you all immediately, but I told him the proper thing to do, is for me to address my people first’. On the way back to their houses, the men discussed in low voices. They were frustrated because of the unfulfilled promises of giving them access to clean water. Enough is enough, they all agreed.
Two days after the village chief met with the men in the village, Idris Idu, a man in his mid-forties, came to the village. He was campaigning for public office in the big city and he needed the peoples’ vote in order to win.
He drove with his entourage to Garin Samari, where he had, earlier had conversation with the village chief about the forthcoming election, and how he wanted the people to vote for him instead of his opponent. But the village chief told him how other public office holders came to his village, and made campaign promises, just for the people to vote for them, and after the election, they get wrapped up in their new status, that they forgot the poor people they made promises to.
Idris Idu knew it would take a lot of convincing for the people to understand that he is a man of his words. He grew up in the village and knew what it meant not to have clean and safe drinking water, so he knew their pains. Idris therefore asked the village chief to invite everybody to the meeting ground, including the women and children.
The people were already seated by the time Idris Idu and his entourage drove to the meeting ground from the city. There were big cars all around as the people came down in different cars. The villagers never got tired of seeing these city peoples’ big cars and beautiful clothes, but this one was different. There was distrust written all over the faces of the villagers, these people have come to show off, they whispered amongst themselves.
Idris Idu, exchanged pleasantries with the Village chief as he got ready to approach the villagers. ‘Good afternoon, my people,’ he said. My name is Idris Idu. When I was coming to your village, I thought about what to say to you, the villagers, to convince you to vote me into public office. But as I came down from my car and looked up, I saw the faces of people who trusted but were disappointed, and so I decided that I wasn’t going to talk about my campaign, neither will I tell you that if you voted for me and I win, I will provide your village with what you have all desired for a long time.
Therefore, I want to tell you all that whether you vote for me or not, whether I win the election or not, I am going to construct pipe-borne water for this village. I will bring clean and safe water to this village’. The villagers looked on as he spoke, most of them had a non-chalant attitude about what he was saying, because they still didn’t believe him. Idris Idu, noticed their countenance, they still did not believe, he thought to himself. Idris’s heart went out to these villagers. He knew what it meant to desire a thing and not get it. He knew what it meant to drink, cook and bath with contaminated water. He was once like of these villagers. He was once on the other side just like these villagers.
‘My people’, Idris said, ‘I was once like you. I was once a little boy whose only source of water was the big stream we had in our village. That was where we fetched the water we drank, the water we prepared food with and even bath with. The same stream water where rain water washed human excreta into, the stream water that was filled with germs and bacteria, which resulted in waterborne diseases.
‘I know what it means to have cholera and diarrhea, to be rushed to a nearby hospital where there were no facilities to treat me’, I know all these. As Idris Idu was talking about his experiencing, he started getting the villagers’ attention. So, he was like us, were the questions written on their faces, they couldn’t believe that the man standing in front of them once drank water from the stream. ‘Unbelievable’, they thought.
‘Although the election is in two months, I stand before you to tell you that I will be back in 10 days to begin construction of pipe-borne water in this village. It is no more about the election for me, it is about putting smiles on your faces. It is about getting fulfillment by providing clean and safe water for healthy living’. There was an uproar from the villagers, shouts of joy, excitement, jubilation, dancing and clapping from the young and old when Idris Idu made the announcement. ‘Who is this man, who is not from this village and doesn’t even care if we vote him into office?’ The villagers said to one another. ‘He is going to start the construction of water in 10 days’. ‘The election is in 2 months, but he isn’t bothered about that’. ‘Who is this man with such a good heart?’, were the questions on the lips of the villagers. ‘We will surely vote for this man’. ‘He must win the election’, they continued, talking among themselves, as they watched him exchange few words with the village chief, waved at the villagers as he zoomed off in his car, with his entourage behind him.
Ten days felt like one hundred days, in the eyes of the villagers, as they waited patiently to see if Idris Idu would fulfill his promise. Alas, by evening of the 10th day, the villagers had given up on seeing the promise fulfilled. There was no Idris Idu in site. Again, the look of distrust was back on the faces of the villagers. ‘They are all the same’, one woman was heard telling her friend as they rushed to the stream to fetch water, it was almost getting dark.
‘I knew that man’s aim was just to win us over, he never had any good intention for us’, Buba said, as he paced up and down the small family room. ‘It’s really sad, that a man like that will deceive a whole village’, he said. ‘You need to calm down, my husband’, Wamani tried to pacify her husband as she served dinner. Tabitha who hated seeing her father upset, walked up to him and held his hand. ‘Father, don’t worry, the man who promised us clean water will be back’, Tabitha assured her father. ‘And how do you know that’, Buba asked his daughter, tickling her at the same time. ‘I just know father’.
Life in the village was back to normal, there was nothing to look forward to. The only thing they had looked forward to, was the provision of clean and safe water. Idris Idu had taken that from them.
Fourteen days after Idris Idu made the promise to give the people of Garin Samari access to clean and safe water, sounds of trucks and tractors were heard from a distance. Men were heard singing, as the sounds drew closer. What is happening the villagers wondered as they all stepped out from their houses towards the loud noise that was coming closer. ‘At last!’, one of the villagers shouted with excitement. ‘They are here!’, another villager screamed. The day has finally arrived when men from the city entered Garin Samari, the little village in Taraba State. What a happy day it was for the villagers, as they watched the workers start work immediately, drilling and tilting the ground. There were piles of pipes on one side of the work area as the men worked all through the day, occasionally resting.
The women in the village cooked and served the workers as they worked. ‘They need strength to do the day’s work’, they would say to their husbands. The villagers did not mind the sounds of the tractors and big machines, it sounded like music to their ears. They could not wait to experience the outcome of the clean and safe water being provided for the village.
After seven weeks of daily labour and hard work, the construction was finally complete.
Tabitha was one of the excited children running around the village, singing and dancing. The villagers had been informed that Idris Idu will be in the village in 5 hours to commission the water project, before proceeding to the next village for his campaign tour.
Just like the first time, the villagers watched as Idris Idu and his entourage drove through the dusty road. Idris Idu, came down from the car, waving to the people as the villagers could not stop hailing him. There were shouts of praise as the man walked towards the constructed water project. Tabitha, who had gone to stand by her father, touch his hand to get his attention. ‘I told you he would come’, Tabitha said to her father. ‘Yes, you did, and I should have believed you’, Buba said to his daughter.
As Idris Idu opened the tap, there was a sharp gush of water. The villagers went wild with excitement, screaming, jumping, dancing and singing. Finally, they said, we have access to clean and safe water. Tabitha left her father’s side and snuggled her tiny body towards Idris Idu. There was so much crowd, as Tabitha touched Idris Idu’s shoes. Looking down, Idris saw a girl with big bright eyes looking up at him. ‘I knew you were going to come, because I prayed to God to make you come and give us clean and safe water’, Tabitha said to the tall man in front of her. ‘And God answered your prayers, because I am here’, Idris Idu said, as he asked for her name. ‘My name is Tabitha’, she said.
Idris marveled at the little girl’s innocence; he was impressed that she could say a prayer for the need of all the villagers to be met. Indeed, this little one will have a heart to help people when she grows up, Idris thought to himself as he pulled Tabitha up for all to see her face.
‘I know what to do’, Idris thought. ‘If you’re the father or mother of this child, know that I would like to sponsor her education to university level’ Idris announced. Buba and Wamani, could not believe their ears, as they ran towards Idris Idu and their daughter Tabitha. ‘This is a double blessing’, Wamani and Buba said, as they looked at their daughter with pride.