Our costly but fruitless benchmarking trip to ‘study’ locusts
The urgency with which MCA Chonjo, the acting chair of the committee on environment, called a meeting was baffling.
The text message he sent us, the members, read in part, “please attend an emergency environment committee meeting today at 2pm”.
I could not place a finger on any environmental issue warranting an emergency meeting. So I called him.
“Just come, Bw Gwinso. It’s a matter that should have been discussed as early as yesterday,” he told me.
So that afternoon, I was the first to arrive at Chonjo’s office. As we sat waiting for the other members, we talked about everything except the agenda of the meeting.
My attempts to veer our discussion to that direction were fruitless. A short while later, MCA Violata and another MCA whose name kept eluding me arrived. The others had excused themselves.
“Lady and gentlemen, I have called you here at short notice because of an urgent matter.”
He then paused, pulled one of his drawers, and to our astonishment, fished out a grasshopper.
He dangled it on our faces. I could see Violata struggling to suppress laughter.
“This is what I want us to talk about. I found this one in my compound and got alarmed.
I’ve already posted a picture of it in the social media,” explained the chair, with the air of a scientist announcing a long-awaited breakthrough.
“But this is a grasshopper,” said Violata, pointing at the insect and laughing derisively.
“But this is not an ordinary grasshopper. When you see this kind, you should know locusts are around the corner,” he explained. “We must take urgent measures to stop this looming disaster.”
As he spoke, Violata gave him a look reserved for irredeemable imbeciles. “So what should we do?” the other MCA asked.
“I have a suggestion. Since controlling the insects requires knowledge, we need to study these things.
“So we should now become scientists?” Violata asked with a contemptuous sneer.
“Of course not. I am suggesting we visit one of the counties that have been invaded by the insects. This will enable us understand them better.”
The sneer on Violata’s face quickly gave way to a broad smile. “Sure. We need to get close to the insects to make informed decisions.”
Chonjo’s idea was supported by all the members. He suggested that we visit Meru county. He said he knew the place well and had many friends there who would help us in the mission.
Before the meeting ended, the chair assured us allowances for the trip would be ready that day.
We were to stay in Meru for five days “studying” locusts. True to the chair’s words, the funds for the trip were ready by evening.
The following day, we set off for the trip. After a whole day’s journey, we arrived at Meru. We all booked ourselves into a hotel. All except Chonjo. He said he still needed to see some people in the town.
“You just relax. We shall link up tomorrow morning at 8am. My people on the ground will be ready for us.” With that assurance, the chair took off.
Eight o’clock the following morning found us ready to begin the mission. However, Chonjo was nowhere to be seen. I tried to reach him on phone in vain. By noon he had not appeared and we got concerned.
“Why don’t we just go to the county offices, introduce ourselves and tell them what we came for?” Violata suggested. “We should not be held back by one person.”
“No. We cannot go anywhere without the chair. It will be irregular,” my colleague protested.
I agreed with him. The whole day, Chonjo never appeared and his phone off. I went to bed worried.
The following day, he arrived while we were taking breakfast. It was obvious from his eyes he had not slept a wink.
“Friends, I’ve just learnt the insects have moved away from this county. We should not waste time here. Let’s go back home and re-strategise,” Chonjo told us, saying nothing about his absence.
“What? Isn’t that a waste of funds?” complained Violata.
“But it is not our fault that the locusts moved away. Is it?” Nobody answered him. Instead, we boarded the van back home. Bora uhai. – [email protected]