Leke Alder by Leke Alder

Leke Alder by Leke Alder (excerpt)

I had been invited to Sierra Leone by the country’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Henry Macaulay. He wanted me to consult on the upcoming presidential election in Sierra Leone, assess the chances of the President. I flew to Lungi and crossed the sea estuary by ferry to Freetown. As we approached Freetown in those choppy waters, I wondered what lay ahead. The town was silhouetted against the grey sky by the length of distance as if by a fog. The image reminded me of the shot of Vito Corleone arriving in America in the Godfather movie. Behind that fog lay a mystery. I had never been to Sierra Leone.

We soon entered the fog, sailing in bated anticipation. As we moved closer to the dock the engine of the ferry went quiet and began to whisper, as if afraid of awakening Leviathan. We soon docked and began to alight. Above the din of arrival, I overheard my great Aunt, Aunty Joko. Well, not her in person. The people on the dock spoke Saro. Aunty Joko spoke Saro. Saro is Sierra Leonian pidgin English. Aunty Joko was a character. Very fond of alcoholic content, we often wondered if her caustic tongue was not capacitated by a certain volume. She made us all laugh, both children and adults. But behind those heavily penciled eye lashes lay a history no one could access; or one that the older generation fiercely protected. As far as I knew she had no children. If there was a love disappointment no one could tell. Aunty Joko carried herself philosophically. Totally harmless, having no guile, she was the soul of the party. Members of the family loved her. They showed their love by supporting her, each giving her an amount at the end of each month. My father did too. Till she died everyone supported her. She in turn was gracious and generous. She always had a gift for those who supported her. She was appreciative. Humans are not always appreciative of those who show kindness to them, she was. She was full of prayers for my father.

I left Aunty Joko on the dock. I was driven to my hotel. I tried to settle down but I couldn’t really. My mind was racing against the assignment. Besides, settling down in a new environment can give off an air of strangeness, making it difficult to accept a new context. The hotel had standard furnishing. I plunked myself down on the bed, laid flat on my back with my shoes on. I just wanted me to be. I stared at the ceiling, trying to corral the pillow, but it seemed stubborn. I have this eternal duel with hotel pillows. They tend to be proud and overstuffed. A large volume of stuffing strains my neck. I soon figured out a way to cut my pillows down to size. That settled, I jumped up and took my bath. After my bath I unpacked some items from my luggage – my laptop, a notebook, pyjamas… Items I’d need regularly. I walked to the window and stared far into the distance, like a giraffe. I began to ponder my approach to the brief. I had several meetings lined up. It was going to be a packed schedule.

I began my work in earnest and went down for the first meeting. I needed to get a feel of the country from unusual sources. This will aid interpretation of events. In the course of my stay I would meet several politicians, talk to several people on the streets. I went to party headquarters and had a meeting with the women leader of the President’s party. I also had a meeting with a UN ambassador to assess the view of the international community. Through him I got to look at the country through the window of a fair amount of objectivity. I learnt about the opposition, garnered information about the putative opposition presidential candidate. He carried an albatross: he had a sense of entitlement. More often than not that translates into pride during an election period.

Four days into my consultation I was invited for a one on one with the President at the State Lodge.