It sounded like a fire alarm, on a sinking ship. It was so insistent, that my head went temporarily into a shell-shock. The shrill was jarring! I woke up with a jolt.
I cursed under my breath, searching to locate the source of this rude inconvenience.
Where was Amadioha, when I require him to stand between me,and those roaming spirits of unrest?
I looked at my watch, it was 5.00 am.
Then, the sound exploded again.
And it was……
“Oh My God”, I muttered under my breath.
Who is the man, so presumptuous of himself as having enough balls in between his legs, as to dare harass my rest, at this time of the day?
I know it must be a man.
Had it been a beautiful daughter of Eve, with promises of eternal life in between her legs, this call would have been going the other way, and this disturbance, would have held pleasurable promises.
It is man. It must be a man. It is only a man, who beats his drunken chest in the wee hours of the morning, to disturb those, whom they felt have not mapped the boundaries, or shown them the furthest perimeters of their relationships.
Amadioha seems to be tempting his impulsive son, in a foreign land!
The telephone screamed on; gradually waking me to my full senses. The insistence of that incoming call, struck me as unusual.
As my anger boiled; my heart sank.
Every Nigerian in the Diaspora always dreaded that 5.00 am call.
It is never good news.
They are always there to bring you bad news from home.
I drew a long, panicky sigh, and picked up the telephone.
The number was a Nigerian one, but foreign to me. I did not recognize it. I don’t have this caller on my contact list. His name would have appeared on the screen. So, this is a scalar quantity, I thought to myself.
“Hello, my drowsy voice, rudely woken from slumber, muttered!
“Bros, how far na?
The voice from the other end screamed, in a crude pidgin; the bonafides of the Nigerian streets.
My ears that just suffered an auditory assault, was subjected to another jolting round, by the coarse, semi-screaming voice of this caller, whom I am yet to recognize.
I have realized that Nigerians shout, as a matter of course.
This is a phenomenon, one observes in a very noisy society. Nigeria happens to be a very noisy one. The moment you land at any of her airports, is the moment your torment by a cacophony of unharmonious sounds, of deafening decibels, in a war to out-scream the other, begins their concentrated, unrestrained and unceasing assault on your ears and being.
This is why Nigerians scream to be heard, over and above the deafening sounds of their environment. Most of them don’t even realize it. I never even realised it myself, till I left Nigeria.
Whenever I come back home, I ask myself in the very first moments: “Odogwu, how did you ever survive this noise level”? And after a few days of landing, I revert back to screaming like every other person.
The same happens in the opposite direction, once I get back to base. My journey across these two spaces; home and exile, is always a seesaw of adjustments. It is a festival of acclimatization versus de-acclimatization whenever I move in between the land of my birth, and the land of my sojourn.
This noise level, may explain why Nigerians scream, when they pray; scream when they greet, scream when they deliberate, when they converse, when they speak on the telephone; and even when they gossip.
“I dey my brother, which ones dey happen”?, I muttered again, waiting for this robber of my sleep, to actually get to the point, of why he decided to wake me up this morning.
“I just dey come back now, and I say make I hala you”? The voice on the other end bellowed!
I was floored by anger, followed by sadness. Sadness at what I am perceiving to be a total lack of consideration for others.
This anger, normally issues from the irritability of being woken up, from my hard earned sleep.
I wanted him to cut to the chase, for me to see if I can salvage a few more hours of sleep this Sunday morning; from where I was, before this guy decided that I owed him enough favors or debt or deference that empowered him, to disturb my sleep, at this unholy hour.
“Did something happen”? I asked!
“No bros, I just came back from Night vigil, and I say make I hail you”
Night vigils are those events of religious Nigeriana, where people abandon their homes at night, to go pray in a specified venue, most probably a church, to their old and New gods for favor and prosperity.
A lot of signs and miracles are alleged to happen at these events, depending on who is retailing the story, even sexual miracles.
OMG! I muttered to myself. Why would a crazy chicken decide to dare a drunk wolf?
Can you imagine?
This guy had nothing better to do, than to call a guy in Germany at 5am, in the morning, just to “hail him”! Does he not have any respect for people’s time, and right to privacy, I thought to myself.
I couldn’t place my hand on it. I wanted to bark out my discomfiture, save for my mouth, which smells, whenever I woke up from sleep, and decide to talk before washing my mouth.
The fear of a smelly teeth, is the beginning of wisdom.
Some calm overcame me, as I sighed deeply, and asked him;
“Is that why you called me this early morning”?
“Yes, bros! Plus the fact that our pastor talked about tithes today; and those criticizing Pastors”! And I read two of your articles on Daddy Freeze”
I realized it was one of my cousins; the rugged one, whom you cannot even bring yourself to hate, even when his carefree and laissez faire approach to life, makes him a pain in the ass.
I wanted to ignore him. But I became fully awake, when included in his long disquisition about “how good it is to sow seeds, and how good it is to “give to Caesar, what is Caesar’s”, he asked me this banal question:
“But bros, why are you always political in your writings and speeches”. Do you think, you will change these people? Politics is dirty here ooo.
I woke up!
Amadioha was not going to let me miss this teachable moment!
“Do you really want an answer to that”, I teased him?
“Yes bros”, he said.
I was about to borrow some peals of angry thunder from Amadioha,the righteous one, to break his head for that insolence of not even saying Good morning, after invading the privacy of my sleep, when I perceived a tiny tincture of genuineness in that answer.
My hot anger, which was about to explode like a geyser on an annihilatory mission, nosedived. There is something about his genuineness that instantly disarms, defangs and neutralizes my bile.
“Ok”, I said.
“I have a story for you”. I began:
Okpa was his name!
“Yes, I know Okpa; the one I eat every morning with a bottle of Coke”, he chimed in.
“Shut up you idiot, and listen. It is just a name of a person in the story. Any perceived similarities to your food, is you showing what your major preoccupation is”, I guffawed!
Okpa deemed himself not only an avatar, but a colony of greatness. Can you imagine a man viewing himself as a collective? Is that not madness?
In his hallowed opinions of himself, greatness did itself a favour, by attaching itself to him.
For him, that is an incontrovertible truth. For his clime, he was pregnant with hubris.
That he is food in the most proximate potency,for kites and hawks and termites, was never allowed to obscure or interfere with this beatific vision, he peddles and entertains about himself.
His opinion of himself is so superlative, that he couldn’t spot the difference between Alexander the Great, and Alexander the Great Idiot.
To this end, the story he told himself about himself is always different, from the story his peers told about him.
To purchase his endearment, or emotionally blackmail him, one needs only prefix his name with Oké; for him to ask the bar-man, to pour you a whole gourd of your “special”. All at his expense.
Oké in this worldview, denotes the fullness of manhood. It is the apogee of masculinity, and a badge of achievement.
It is honorable.
But that title also hides a dark side.
History has seen it variously deployed as a diadem, with which sycophancy crowns hubris.
It has been severally deployed, as the flute played by cant and her minstrels, for which the famed wrestler mistook for praise, and danced himself into eternal disrepute.
Legend has it that Oké-Okpà, was, once invited by gods guarding the portals of politics, to consult with his brothers.
The fate of the clan, was at stake. Solutions were sought everywhere. Extinction stared them in the face. Everyone’s attention was needed. The oracles of the hills and the Spirits of the Plains, were consulted. They commissioned this consultation. The clan was forced up the mountains of decision, for which everyone’s input, is needed.
Emissaries were sent out. The message was clear. Everyone is needed at the village square.
One should not forget that politics has been the most ancient of games. It has not only been the game of thrones. It has being the adventures of dominions, the preoccupation of principalities and dalliance of powers.
It was the amusement of the gods of at Olympus, the adventures of the senators and imperators in the Capitol of Rome and the act of Republics and kingdoms everywhere. Empires and emperors danced to her tunes, as they rose and fell. Slaves and freemen, lived and died in her embrace.
Politics cuts across existence. It could be seen in the dance of ants and termites, as their armies marched in and around their anthills. It is resident in the cries of Bonobos, on their arboreal perches. Fishes played it in their various schools, as monkeys do in their various congresses. It is played domestically in the homes, as it is played publicly in the halls. Men play politics. Women do as well. Nations and tongues play it, as countries and states do. To be human is to be political. To be animal is to be political. That explains why the human animal is labelled as homo politicus.
Mazi Oke Okpa knew all this. But a man in thralldom to hubris, cuts off his nose, to spite his face. He was asked to come and join in the decision-making process of what affects the whole. Rationality recommended attendance. But hubris commanded him to ignore reason, like a puppy ignores the smell of feaces, whenever death pays it a visit.
Like every man pregnant with hubris, Okpa looked at himself in the mirror; beats his hairy chest, and wondered how a “whole” him, could descend so low, as to assemble in the same halls of deliberation, with all those unwashed animals of the jungle.
He was literarily the “Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga” of his universe. He was the Mkpi-na-agbara-oha: “The great he-goat, before whom all the Does, are condemned to bend their asses.
He couldn’t fathom, why and how a whole him, in all his Alpha majesty, could ever be expected to abide the olfactory malodor of those other animals of the realm, who are presumptuous, ignorant, and crazy.
His pride commanded him to tell the emissaries of that message off.
And he did.
He told them that he was busy, with a caveat.
The caveat was that he, Mr. Oke Okpa, agrees to, and is bound by whatever decisions are reached in his absence.
His wings are sharp as to commune with other realms both aerial and otherwise, he thought. How could he reduce himself to dining with his inferiors, when he can spread his wings and fly to the heights,at a moment’s notice.
His hubris impregnated him with cynicism. The rest is history.
But he forgot the proverbs of his community, to the effect that if one man cooks for his whole clan, that they would eat and clean out the pots. But the day the clan will decide to cook for one man, that man, will never finish it.
That unfortunate surrender to the cynicism sired by hubris; that decision not to attend to the Politics of his community, remains the reason, why Oke Okpa and his descendants, became the sacrificial animals of choice, in Igbo mythology.
“Bros no be the story of the chicken, you dey talk about, in this round about way? I know chicken na. You confused me with Okpa before Oké. Oke-Okpa is Okuko Igbo now”? The voice on the other end insisted.
I ignored his interruption, and continued.
An Igbo calabash of wisdom has it that if you are in a society, and ignore the politics of that circumstance, someone else would eat the meat, that is rghtly yours.
So letting anyone seduce you, into cynicism portends danger to your existence. Politics determines whether you live or die. Politics therefore have consequences. Plato was right. The price paid by good men, who refuse to take part in politics, is to live under the government of bad men.
The chronicles of history have shown that politicians are traders of influence and wielders of cynicism. Both are pathways to power. One is positive, the other negative.
Across time, many politicians have rediscovered and re-engineered cynicism, as the instrument of hijacking power for themselves only.
They know that sowing cynicism, would scare off many, from interrogating the decisions made on their behalf. That is the most ancient craving of power. Power wants to tower supreme above all else. It wants to be absolute. It never wants to be questioned or interrogated. It desires to rule unchallenged. The ultimate desires nursed by power, is tyranny, where it enthrones its whims and caprices as Acts of State. That was why Lord Acton contended that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
To attain that, no sanctuary is too holy, that it cannot be raped; no grove of meaning is too sacred that it cannot be desecrated, and no epistemology is too lofty, that it cannot be bastardized; all so that power could be captured, kept and exercised for the sake of those holding it, for its own sake.
Power is that ruthless. It always leans towards the most ruthless cross-pollination of Machiavellian and Orwellian ontologies, whenever it is seduced by tyranny. And deploying cynicism is well within its purview in this regard.
Mbekwu Nwaniga, that famed trickster of Igbo mythology; who proverbially took the name, “All of you”, to garner and apportion the commonweal, to his avaricious estates only, on that day, that the Supreme Deity, invited all the animals to a feast in heaven, knew the Machiavellian value of cynicism.
Mr. Nwaniga knew that power, begets power. He knew, that if you can hijack the resources only for yourself; you would be in a position to dictate, who gets what, in your milieu.
He tricked the animals invited to that heavenly feast, that each should adopt a name, for that feast.
That was clever politicking. Cynical at best, and amoral at worst.
He chose the name: “All of you”, as his own name!
As Providence commanded his servants to begin serving the food, Mbe Nwaniga, called in a point of order, like a garrulous Dino Melaye would.
God granted him the audience.
Everyone shushed up.
“For whom did you prepare all these delicacies”, Nwaniga asked!
God, who wasn’t privy to the cynical politicking, out of which that question arose, innocently replied. “It is for all of you”!
The game-plan worked.
Nwaniga turned to the crowd and said, “You all have heard it”! It is for me, because I am “All of you”
That is a clever deployment of cynicism.
Anyone, who essays to get you to keep quiet, and not interrogate political decisions made for the society of which you are member, is arrogating to himself, the power to speak for you. If the whole society keeps quiet, that person elects himself to speak for “All of you”
So for those who ignore politics; those, who cynically presume that shying away from politics, or that not voting will solve your problems, you better go ask the Chicken of Igbo cosmology.
He was asked, to come join in the decision-making process, he told the emissaries of that message, that he was busy; that he agrees to whatever decisions were reached in his absence. That is how the Chicken became the animal of choice for every sacrifice in Igbo religion.
I couldn’t hear anything anymore from the other end of the line. I looked at my phone, and I have spent 89 Minutes regaling this guy, with tales by moonlight.
Believe me, I knew I crashed his phone credits. He would never dare call me early in the morning any other day.
I went to my Holy See, to relieve my bowels. And that is from where I am writing this now.
Ndi yard, if you think I am considerate say Aye!
If you think I am heartless, say Nay?
The Ayes have it.
Gwazia ndi yard unu!