The white flag floating at City Hall said it all. With the symbol of a mango fruit in the centre of the flag, Tumaranda—the Big Mango City—was juicy, wholesome, and edible for those hungry for plunder. All roads led to Tumaranda because it was a port city and had OPEC membership. From Kabogasa, Ya Salaam, Beberati, Meyo-Belo, and Bongori, the migration shift was to the place where the action was. The oil boom had changed the demographics of the city; with the growing crime wave, and unrepentant police brutality, the city was at war with itself. There was despair. Bayangé Street was littered with shuttered debauched houses, and homeless children. Pointedly, one could feel the absence of social security. But then, what had become of the law on responsible parenthood?
The crisis meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon at City Hall was just a piece of vaudeville. Despite the streaking Roman rays, there was no warmth. The air stood still. This was not the first time in two months that people would gather in City Hall. Everyone was there—the police commissioner for the city, the chief of the fire brigade, the chief of finance, the governor of the House of Corrections, a bunch of plainclothes men, and city hall officials.
From City Hall, you could see a picturesque detail of the city for miles on end. A flight of migratory birds flew over town giving a minute’s darkness that did not spell gloom. Both the shade of grey and the present false climate portrayed another aspect of the changing times. The Tumaranda scene was congenial. People, it is said, do not care about the weather except when a storm is announced.
The meeting was going to be recorded.
A hive of excited voices greeted the mayor’s arrival. Mayor Yuri Sonni—no surprise, an appointed official—was more interested in his next appointment than managing the city. His mayoral skills, undoubtedly, were low-keyed. He looked overworked and dour. He clasped his veiny hands, and later fidgeted with a Parker pen to focus as he took his seat at the head of a circular table.
“Gentlemen, listen up. I’m under fire,” he said, broaching the state of insecurity with anger surging in every axon of his body. “Our city is no longer juicy. It needs security, and we’re not doing enough.”
The city police commissioner’s hand shot up. “Mr Mayor, we have always worked as a team. To the best of my knowledge, your assertions look like an assessment of your administration. Give us the means, and we will perform!”
The mayor who had been peering into the hall came back to reality and said, “You know I have a political career before me and this city is not going to stop me.”
This faintly hieratic pronouncement was rather too much for the gathering. Voices rose, objecting to the mayor’s. Everyone was now on their feet, and the meeting was drawing to a dramatic finale barely twenty minutes after it started. This was surely the mirror image of a rotten system: the mayor had lost control.
It came as no surprise that this fiasco of a meeting was leaked to the press, a press which, though under harassment, was obsessed with tearing down the reputations of the high and the mighty.
Mayor Yuri Sonni, 53, was a man with a husky physique. When he spoke in his baritone voice, he did so dandy shyly. He was a perennial turncoat and a sell-out. He had picked up a reputation as a staunch supporter of the ruling Salami League Party. After a number of ruses, he had landed himself in the post of mayor. Working against the background that the art of governance was the mastery of chaos, he had quickly permeated the seamless tapestry of power by pitting his opponents against each other while relying on his friends to secure his current job, which was a sinecure.
Yuri Sonni, late that afternoon, sat behind his oak desk, unworried about the stack of files in front of him. He would process them at his own pace. He was not in a hurry. The most pressing of the files concerned the reconstruction of the Independence Driveway. Halfway through the construction, the contractors had just decamped! Sealing off that road while it was under repair was a serious headache to the city council; it had to reroute traffic to other pothole-infested arteries.
The mayor stood up and yawned. He looked tired, as if he had been working a lot. He smiled, shut the office door and left.
Image Credit: Aleksandr Andrushkiv