Chairman Meets His Excellency By Lasisi Olagunju

“The dog and the baboon must truly be soaked in blood. Now, I agree. Can the ear ever be greater than the head? We have made this party so fertile that an okra tree is now scheming to be taller than the farmer?”

“You are speaking in proverbs today, my chairman. And, you are not smiling.”

“Your Excellency, I want to fight. Enough of this Lagos man’s insults. You have heard what he did again. The last time you asked me to let go. Remember I told you, rankadede, that this man won’t stop. Now, court cases are sprouting at night, everywhere. The man thinks he is the only eagle in this sky. What does he think he has which others don’t have? For the twenty years his monkey spent in the American bush struggling for unripe bananas, my dog had been in the city, calling the shots. I was a governor when this peacock was an ordinary, upstart senator…”

“My chairman, easy, easy. I read what he wrote and even know what you don’t. Look at me, why have I been calm in the face of provocations around me? Do I look like a fool? I’m Fulani. There is a practical reason Yorubas salute us as the fair snake that enters the town like an invalid. If you want to catch a monkey, you must play monkey. It is only a snail-man that captures a snail. Read my body language, don’t look at him; he is noise, pure noise. I am the one you are trading with in this market, ignore the noise of this space. Chief, don’t fight, at least, not now.”

“The frog thinks its bulging eyes can frighten my zebra away from drinking at the stream. I know he enjoys politics as fish enjoys water. But, will fish stay in water when it is hot? I will make this party hot for him.”

“Chairman, I have never seen you this angry. Just ignore him. With patience, the wise licks a whole pot of hot soup. You don’t paddle through the treacherous sea with fury. It will drown you.”

“Your Excellency, I’m sorry if I appear implacable. The man feels everyone must be his victim. Every bush rat describes itself big. You are big relative to the size of your farm. When a child’s entire horizon ends with his father’s farm, he is likely to boast, even to the king, that the royal farm isn’t as large as his father’s. This city of power is not this bat’s neck of wood where he is the main issue. It is true he did well at the beginning of this journey. But, no matter how helpful you have been to someone, if you are immodest in your demands, you lose all respects. This gentleman has lost me. In fact, he lost me a long time ago…”

“If you are this angry, what do you want me to do? Every fumbling bride who can’t dance in this party blames either my drum or even me, the drummer. With what I have seen sitting here on this rock, I can write a million-page book. I don’t know where the chief hunter contests the throne with the king. His duty is to hunt and kill for the palace kitchen. That is the meaning of his chieftaincy. There is a problem when the hunter grumbles that he has no seat in the royal dining room. That has happened repeatedly but I’m not bothered. What I do is that I always ensure his excess fingers are cut each time he touches my sleeves.”

“Gaskiya, Your Excellency. I hear he complains everyday that he was trashed so soon after the war. What exactly does he want? He has eaten so much that he is about throwing up. What again despite all he has been enjoying? Why would the best man want to share the bed chamber with the groom and the bride?”

“Sheege! What a wicked proverb. The bed chamber is not a place for any third force. It is a sacred grove for only the licensed…”

“ Hahaha…Your Excellency…”

“My chair. You see, the Fulani everywhere have a particular delicacy. In Burkina Faso, it is called chobbal. It is a carefully prepared blend of pounded millet and raw milk. Here, the name is different. It is sweet and cooling but you don’t take it while on the grazing field unless you are under a spell. If you succumb to the enemy’s spell and drink it, you lose your cattle to careless slumber. That is the way I view this issue. I don’t want a distraction from experts at distraction, no matter the bait. It is the fish which opens its mouth that gets caught by the fisherman’s hook. I am keeping my powder dry. Just fall behind me and watch as I use some people to practise what I learnt in military school.”

“Interesting. Old soldier never die….”

“Yes. Old soldiers don’t die, they’ll rather fade away. That is why you bloody civilians always lose to us. We allow you to underrate us.”

“Huh. I hope this man hears this direct from Your Excellency. He doesn’t appear to know his limits. He even wanted me sacked. Can you imagine that sir? What did I do wrong to have merited his sack schemes? If not for you, I would have come down, just like that. I am eternally grateful to you, Your Excellency.”

“Why are you thanking me? I did it for myself, and that was because I realized he is an antelope hunting a leopard.”

“The antelope does not stand a chance…”

“You think so? A Fulani wouldn’t agree with you. You’ve never heard the Antelope and Leopard story before? Why the leopard always kills the antelope?”

“No. That must be interesting…”

“Leopard once thought Antelope was a friend he could strike a deal with. They had a deal and one thing led to another and Leopard became indebted to Antelope. Then Antelope turned himself to a beautiful girl whose charm cast a spell on the big cat. She started making demands. First she demanded the fiery eyes of Leopard be removed because they were not romantic. She got them and then asked for the claws which she described as unpleasant and dreadful. She got those ones too, and finally asked her suitor to remove his ugly teeth if she would agree to his advances. Love-drunk Leopard removed his teeth and became utterly useless and dying. Then the maiden showed who she really was — the Antelope. But it was too late for the defeated Leopard. That is what our friend wanted to do. If you can’t face the Iroko in the forest, start by attacking its roots one by one. Very soon, it will fall. I am the target of all these moves and I know. And if they don’t back off, they will soon know what we mean by kare jini, biri jini…”

“Huh! The baboon and the dog will be soaked in blood.”

“Yes. Imagine a dog sauntering into a tiger’s bedroom.”

“That will be a bath in blood. But you have done so much for these people. What else can a man do for them to show gratitude?”

“You know General Obasanjo wrote about this in his book…”

“Which of his books? My Command or My Watch?”

“No. The one he wrote in prison.”

“Oh. This Animal Called Man.”

“Exactly. Obasanjo says in that book that ‘we must always brace ourselves for man’s ingratitude, indeed, man’s treachery…’ “

“He wrote that? But he is another problem that must be solved.”

“My chair, leave our boss o. He knows what he is doing and why he is doing it.”

“And there is this loud one from the north who attacks you everyday. He recently said he gave you a good book on economics and that you read only two pages…”

“That one. I don’t have his time. Must a man read all books? If I meet him, I will ask if he has ever read Winston Churchill’s views on books.”

“I will want to know that too.”

“Churchill said: ‘If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them – peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.’”

“Interesting. But sir, this lion in Lagos is due for taming. We can’t go to the 2019 bed with this snake constricting our rafters.”

“Every snake has a charmer. What taming is more effective than keeping your enemy busy fetching rain water with a basket? He is doing that for us already and we won’t ask him to stop. There will always be work for his hand to do until we cross the river next year.”

“The wise bird knows a dead tree is not where to build a nest. It will soon become firewood for women. I suggest a plan B in case he breaks loose from our spell.”

“Every soldier has a Plan B; even a Plan C…”

“ Soldiers! And you were so jovial with him at the Kano wedding on Saturday. I was wondering how you managed to stand him.”

“Do you throw away the kitchen sponge after washing the dishes? You will need it after the next dinner party. Besides, it is an unwise father who turns his daughter’s wedding party to a night of owls. I saw his worth as a friend and I can guess his worth as an adversary. In the military, we were trained to always keep the enemy within the range of our weapons. In politics, every friend is a potential enemy, so what you need is short range. The targets here are smart, very mobile, never stationary. Politicians are very clever people; they know that as the range increases, the options available to you decreases too. So, they try to keep a safe distance, but you must keep them within the range of maximum damage. And that is short range. You can’t slap someone who is not close to you. I won’t fight and throw this one away. I call him my frenemy — Friend and enemy. I will continue to keep him under my armpit.”

“Great. Now what do I tell the press outside? They are waiting.”

“Ignore them. They are not our friends.”