(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Monday, 10 September, 2018)
When the cock flaps its wings, our elders say its memory comes alive. But think of a nation without memory. What does it have to flap to life? What sort of people have no memory of yesterday, have no thought of tomorrow but think only of today and the food it brings? Welcome to Edidare where there is no deity but the god of food.
The only deity worthy of Edidare’s worship is the stomach. What they ate yesterday they have forgotten. What they are eating today is what they care about. And so, they sing their anthem – a daily devotional chant to food and its inherent goodness: “I believe in food; the administrator of the body…I believe too that in an assembly of foods, pounded yam is the chairman; amala is the deputy; gaari is the third in command; okra soup is the wife of pounded yam; amala got married to gbegiri and ewedu — it is its choice woman…”
The Edidare romanticize food so much they jump from one dingy kitchen to the other, signing off their well-being.
So, you see, today’s politics of the stomach has a mentor. The mentor is that lineage of idiots whose driver is their stomachs. Politicians have long stopped talking about goodness and governance in same sentence. North, South, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, the narrative is about money and food, sometimes s3x. Rice and Stew Very Plenty is the slogan for he who wants to be governor or president. It is all about voting and cooking soup. That is the politics of Edidareans, Nigeria’s contribution to political sociology.
Politicians get applause and are celebrated according to the amount of seasonings they put in the election soup pot. It is going on right now in Osun State, my place of birth. The day of feast is next week Saturday, September 22. They will elect someone as governor – or rather, someone will purchase them for his animal farm. You don’t kill vulture; you don’t eat vulture. You can kill vulture, you can even eat vulture; you just know that doing both has consequences.
Politicians are stocking vultures for the feast of elections; my people are washing their soup pots. They have forgotten the lean, hungry years that followed the last meal. It is the same with the vote raiders in Abuja and those in all other states. Death-bearing slave raiders are on the prowl. They are priming their weapons of mass purchase. But the victims are willing; they want the purchase. They worship their stomachs and will sacrifice anything for food, even if laced with cyanide. They eat and forget to think. What, really, is there to think about? And so, ugliness is what they celebrate as beauty. They live in a community of dirt; a very sick people.
The Edidare are ruled by a dynasty of fools — naked, empty and proud. It is an exclusive community of idiots. It is D. O. Fagunwa’s city of fools with Omugodimeji (Double Fool) as their king. The storyteller in Irinkerindo Ninu Igbo Elegbeje (third part of the classic Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole) says since he was born, he has not seen a dirtier town of inverted morals. Only the old work here — even these old ones are female; the young, male and female play their youths away. Here, wives are the breadwinners; husbands attend to domestic chores. It is a town in moral reverse gear.
The narrator sees them in the market square. They are naked, noisy and lousy. In sane climes, if you keep quiet, your headache keeps quiet with you. In this market, the louder the afflicted, the severer the afflictions. Sellers display their wares on heaps of refuse. And the refuse is not just a collection of market wastes. It is an odious colada of human and animal faeces spiced with rotten everything. The Edidare bathe once in four years, exactly like Nigerian politicians and their election cycle. And the market would have been bustling but for the fact that life expectancy here is so low.
Epidemics make sure that very few of them make it to old age. These are the scanty grey-haired, naked ones buying and selling in the market square. They die young, most of them; and there are spirits to blame for the epidemics that flay them. Filthy existence wouldn’t allow them to enjoy the benefits of old age. But they enjoy the life they live: the shorter the better. They, in fact, are proud of the odious smell from their untreated sores.
The visitor sees how the Edidare relate with their neighbours. It is the young ones who call the shots. Elders are of no moment in all matters apart from slaving away for the comfort of the young and idle. The ones who do no work are the ones who eat the fruits of the hard worker. Siblings back-bite one another; friends sink daggers in the back of friends. Chiefs undercut chiefs; compound heads sabotage their compounds. These are normal, standard behaviours; they are allowed and socially approved. The people laugh about them.
The king struts the palace ground barefooted in his dirty loincloth. He fights the ignorant visitor who mistakes him for the palace eunuch. He frets and spews anger at the impudent who looks down on him: the ignorant fool won’t see his regal gait, his royal gown. Even if the stranger is blind, what about the crown on the king’s head? It should have been visible to the inner eye of the impudent visitor. The king of fools has no sense of time. He is a serial maker and breaker of promises and appointments. If he gives you morning appointments, make sure you go at dawn otherwise you won’t meet him. But he sees himself as the best any people could have as king. “Which king is greater than me? Who else is better than me in wisdom? Show me which other king whose town is better governed than mine,” he asks his visitors who sneer at the pride of the naked.
The storyteller learns something from the idiotic Edidare. The king has very few confidants — and they are his chiefs. These are the only ones he listens to; the few he can trust. He thinks others have no ideas and therefore shuts them out of his government. He is advised to get himself and his people inoculated against smallpox ravaging his kingdom. He laughs. You are ignorant, he tells the alarmed counselor. The more he has sick people around the town, the safer his hold on the levers of power, the better the community’s wellbeing.
Every actor has his allotted time; you can’t overstay your tenure no matter how much sit-tight incantations you recite. Nature takes care of everything it creates. Smallpox soon draws the curtain on Omugodimeji’s reign. His son, Omugodimeta (Triple Fool) takes over. This one draws from the unwisdom of his father and from his father’s father’s stupidity. He is one king who knows all – because he thinks the wisdom of the world is in his possession.
Every other person is ignorant and foolish and unclean. Even when he is told that the horse he rides is actually a cow, he won’t listen and would laugh at the folly of the adviser who is jealous of his good life. Meddlesome interlopers, outsiders are the cause of the ills of the filthy town, the king and his chiefs so hold.
The king soon signed two executive orders against dissidents who think his monkey is foolish. He has his own logic, he tells himself and smiles. The first law: Strangers with strange ideas deserve punishment and should be caned nine times daily. The second law takes care of outsiders who think the Edidare is dirty, stinks and repulsive. It becomes a crime for every stranger in the town not to eat from the same plate with the community. The only part you must dine with is that part the king approves. Heady strangers who won’t mix are bringers of bad luck. Everyone who cherishes his liberty must eat from the king’s anointed bowl. You flout this Executive Order, you go to jail for ten minutes. That is the logic of the leader addicted to transferring his sins to the weak outside.
But there is an end to everything, even to the foolishness of idiots. Because the king and his chiefs won’t change and won’t allow change from inside, there was a hurricane. Change from outside cleansed the land and it was rid of dirts. The white man did just that stopping the blackman from exchanging his brother for a pot of gunpowder. The slave trader needed the gunpowder in his wars against his own brethren. Today’s slave raiders have no memory of the justice of the past.
Tomorrow’s slaves willingly sell themselves to servitude in elections for poorly cooked pepper soup. Their cock may flap its wings a billion times, in vain it does, there is no memory to bring back to life; their maize sees no inadequacy in producing cobs without tassels. They eat vulture because they lack the talons of wisdom to hold on to good behaviour.
You cannot dance with elders unless you are blessed with the right steps. It is the same with human societies. People without good manners cannot understand how great people became great. Some are like Nigeria in its present state; they sneer at sanity. Think of last week and the raid on Edwin Clark’s house. Think of the denials and the dismissals that followed. Think of the week before and its own absurdities. Think of the government blaming the media for the sins of killer herdsmen.
Think of the government blaming the media for Boko Haram resurgence. Think of last month, the invasion of the Senate, the denial and the dismissal of the big man that followed. Think of the failure of every stupid step taken, and why there must always follow a stupid denial and then a scapegoat.
Whatever silly stuff has happened in the past will happen again. The filth we venerate will always ensure that it happens. A leader should not be a statue, a Soja Idumota, which is ever present but sees nothing and knows about nothing around him. Scapegoating is failure’s defence strategy. It is one easy refuge for cowards. For the accident-prone, incompetent potentates, the bigger the sin, the bigger the goat to be skinned in atonement. When a father bed-wets and blames the son beside him; when a leader daily generates horrid dirts uncensored, defecates at the backyard of his opponents and invites sanitary inspectors to arrest the innocent, then know that evil has triumphed.
But evil shall not long endure, at least not forever. One day, soon, Nigeria will be wise.