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Tell me something new, you may win my vote

[By Michael Munyimba]

ONE day, a small boy was walking alone to school in the neighbourhood when suddenly a huge ugly Pitbull sprang from behind and began chasing him, barking viciously.

The frightened youngster took to his heels, screaming for help, but no one came to his rescue. Fortunately, the boy was a good runner and kept a good distance between the dog and him. But the dog was slowly closing in on him and soon the boy realised that there was no way he was going to outrun the fierce beast. And so, in a sudden dramatic and unprecedented twist, the boy stopped running and turned around, facing the Pitbull eyeball to eyeball.

Disoriented, the huge dog came to a screeching halt two metres away from the boy, obviously wondering why its timid victim had suddenly mustered the courage and strength to face it. Could it be that the boy – Charlie – had given up on the fight and decided to just peacefully allow the canine to gracefully feast on him, or was he up to something mysterious?

So, for a minute, the two enemies stood there, silently staring at each other hatefully, like two enemy soldiers caught up in a tight spot of “who fires first”, with their fingers straying to imagine triggers. Then suddenly, the small boy violently leapt toward the dog in a vicious feat of attack. Shocked, the disillusioned dog got frightened, turned around and shot off in the opposite direction at the speed of a bullet. This was a spectacle that could have made good public viewing, had ZNBC camera boys been there to capture the scene. It seems the dog got too scared, such that its trembling legs gave way.

The boy caught up with the Pitbull and tackled it, sending the giant beast sprawling on the tarmac on ‘all fours’. And before the dog knew what had befallen it, the small boy dived on it like an experienced goalkeeper and began biting it all over its furry body. The howls of pain and fear from the dog with the boy on top of it now suddenly attracted a huge crowd. But by the time they rescued the dog from the boy, the animal had already been badly injured and was rushed to ‘UTH’ where it ‘succumbed’ to death, reporters like putting! That story went viral all across the world with newspaper headlines screaming, “Pitbull bitten to death by small boy”, “Small boy puts down Pitbull”, and many others. It became a famous and popular story that everyone was interested to hear.

In another event, a young lady was crossing through the slams and gutters of a dangerous neighbourhood somewhere in Africa on a fateful evening on her way from work. From nowhere, two ugly chaps waylaid her and dragged her into a nearby shack where three other thugs were awaiting. The five gang members then took turns raping the young lady, after which they dragged her to a nearby bush and dumped her. Community members later found her and called police who rushed her to hospital where she was resuscitated. She recovered after a couple of days, but refused to tell the cops how and where the incident happened, even though she remembered distinctly the location and shack in which it occurred. She didn’t believe in the justice system where criminals were kept in police cells for a day or two, and mysteriously released once they were bribed by friends and relatives of the perpetrators. She had her own plan of how she was going to execute the kind of justice needed, the kind that was going to teach those thugs a lesson they would never want to forget in a hurry.

So one evening, she put on a nice short dress, got a knife, and sneaked out of her parents’ house. She was going to pay those ‘dogs’ that raped her a ‘visit’. Lo and behold, and unfortunately for the boys, their door was ajar as the whole group partied inside; with beer and marijuana making the rounds while skanking to Bob Marley’s tunes.

For a minute, she observed the situation while peeping from outside. Then suddenly, she burst inside; knife in hand, closed the door behind her and held one thug by the neck. She asked them if they remembered her, and slowly, after examining her face, they all nodded affirmatively. And then the drama begun; she ordered them to undress, then she released the guy she was holding. And behold, she too started undressing… Anyway, the story is that two of the guys later died, while these other three vanished from the location in thin air – forever! Justice had been served.

Wow! Weren’t these fascinating two stories? First, boy bites dog to death instead of the other way round, then girl revenges by going back to her rapists to rape them back too! Now, do you know why these two anecdotes and hypothetic stories appealed to you, caught your attention and glued you to the end? It’s because they are new, because you have never heard of such things before.

That’s how we humans are, we are attracted to new things and abhor mundane things; we get bored by things that we already know. Dogs have been chasing and biting humans from time immemorial, but humans chasing and biting dogs is unheard of. Just like women being raped, we hear about that every day, but when a woman goes back and revenges by raping her assailant, it becomes of human interest to the world.

When reporters go out to look for something to write, they go to look for stuff that will be of interest to their readership, because that’s the stuff that is going to sell their paper. They don’t look for things already known; they want to surprise you with something you have not heard before. Now, politicians are like reporters, and that’s where I will base my article today. They both struggle to give the public new, interesting stuff.

But before I go on, let me briefly give you two brief examples of stories that once captivated readers before I summarise with my politicians to which this article is addressed. There was once an event in Britain where Prince Charles was guest of honour. Several other bigwigs were in attendance, of course. Then shortly before the event started, guess who saunters in, walking majestically as though she owned the world with a contingent of bodyguards surrounding her. None other than Joan Collins, the Alexis of the television series Dynasty of the 80s. Now, to the new generation and those not in the ‘know’, Collins was not just one of the most celebrated English actresses, she was also one of the most beautiful and charming of their generation, the types of Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Taylor and others; the kind that could melt a man’s heart.

So, cameras flashed in rapid, blinding succession, while incorrigible murmurs rumbled through the auditorium as all focus suddenly shifted on her. But guess what, one female reporter’s attention was not on ‘Alexis’’, but on the Prince. She was monitoring his every moment. She was monitoring his every movement, assessing the Prince’s reaction to the commotion ‘Alexis’ had evoked. And finally, the moment she’d been waiting for availed itself. The Prince of Wales turned, literally swiveling his chair to have a glance at the famous actress. And that was it, the young reporter’s camera begun to blink ferociously, capturing royalty itself in that very act of ‘embarrassment and admiration’, labouring to witness the grand entry of this emblem or epitome (according to Nigerian vocabulary) of beauty and television star.

This reporter was aware of all her other colleagues from various media houses. She knew that their focus of coverage was going to be on other matters such as the speech by the Prince that was to later come. So, she knew all of them would be reporting on the same issue, which was going to be so mundane, less interesting and badly boring. The young reporter rushed to her newsroom quickly before the actual event even started, punched her story on her typewriter which her editors titled, “Alexis steals the royal glance.”

Believe me, that story became a blockbuster. Was the Prince admiring Alexis or what? Everyone was keen and interested to read and know more about this, than about the boring speeches of the Prince at the event and other activities. And her paper sold millions of copies in one single evening.

In another event, another reporter burst on the scene of a burning building in America one evening. It was a very important building, probably a bank or so, I can’t remember. As usual, hundreds of other reporters had gathered there with cameras and notebooks, trying to get details of how the fire started. Then one young innovative female reporter (it seems females are more creative and innovative) noticed something unusual. She saw one desperate female cat rushing into the basement of the burning building and coming out holding a tiny kitten between its jaws, dropping it at a safe place outside, then going back inside to rescue her remaining six babies.

The young reporter started taking pictures of this amazing act of love. And she based her story on it, instead of the burning building. And when the paramedics later took the cat for examination, they realised that she had actually lost her sight in the process of rescuing her young ones. The story hit the headlines with several follow-ups, resulting in millions of dollars being raised for the creation of a foundation for endangered animals of which the young reporter became the founder. And guess what? She too became a millionaire.

Ok, now here is the punchline and my conclusion – and this is for politicians, both in government and in opposition. As I earlier stated, you politicians are more like reporters. You need to tell or show the electorate something different from what your colleagues are presenting. Don’t tell me that you will build roads for us after August 12, because I have heard that before a hundred times. And to me, my interpretation of that statement is that you mean a road from your house to government coffers to loot public funds. Don’t sing me melodies of you bringing order in the country, because to me, the connotation to that is that you mean you will bring in cadres, militants and ‘youths’ to beat up everyone with opposition views to yours.

Don’t rhyme lyrics of ‘more money in the pocket’ after August 12, because I will interpret that to mean more money for you in your deep pocket. After all, you will be selling me trousers and shirts without pockets, so that only “your pocket” will be able to accommodate anything. Don’t tell me about infrastructure development because I will assume that you mean building 50 luxury houses for your family through funds that exceed your gazetted income, leaving me and other ordinary lads still sleeping at railway stations at night.

Don’t tell me you’ll create a corruption -free government, because I will take it that you simply forgot to put the word ‘IS’ between Corruption and Free, so that it reads ‘Corruption IS Free’. How else will you define the awarding of government tenders worth millions of kwacha to your friends and kindred without any PACRA papers of a registered company to supply rotten drugs and cabbages to hospitals and prisons countrywide? So yes, it’s true, corruption has been free for all and may remain that way for a long time. This boat or ship, olo ubwato, if you don’t understand English, is being captained by fake sailors without licences, mere fishermen who only know how to fish illegally and have stocked the ship with too much stolen fish. It has become so heavy that with the coming storm soon, it may sink.

Finally, Mr Politician, be like that small boy who was being chased by a dog. Turn around and begin chasing and biting away your old habits of lies, corruption, greed, violence and all; be like those two young female reporters, find something new, something different and crazy to promise your people during campaigns. For you in power, ask yourselves and say, what lasting legacy are we leaving?

At least for Kaunda, Chiluba and Mwanawasa, the promise of one free egg and milk a day for all was almost fulfilled, almost free housing units for seating tenants such that now, almost everyone has a place to call their own, free ‘coupon’ mealie-meal, and ‘the law shall take its course’ concept saw hundreds of fraudsters behind bars during Mwanawasa’s error. Those are landmarks we shall remember them for.

And by the way, if you feel violated by any system or individual, be like that young lady: stand up and approach the perpetrators – but peacefully. So, if you want my vote, come with a very good fandango. Napita.

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