The African Olympics AD this century

by Godwin Oji

Organisers of Olympic opening events are taking their cue from the musical, Chicago, and when it will be time for Africa, Richard Gere’s ghost will be ever so lightly tap taping with patent leather shoes, smiling and urging

“Give ’em the old razzle dazzle, Razzle dazzle ’em
Give ’em act with lots of flash in it”

And Africa will razzle them like they have never been razzled.

No no no! None of that malarkey with sheep and cows. Yes you heard me, no domesticos, but real and proper animals.

What were the British thinking? Geese, how uncool is that?

Africa will give them lions darting across the Serengeti, giraffes craning their glistening necks, tigers prancing-No no, cut, cut, there are no tigers in Africa, but who cares? Maybe we should leave that in.

Richard Gere’s feet hanging up there somewhere in the sky. Masai drummers will be jumping upping the tempo and African warriors will beat black jungle beats on giant skin drums. Their faces glisten with war paint from unilevers. A flock of ostriches will break cover over the Serengeti, as Richard Gere sings-

“Give ’em the old hocus pocus, Bread and feather ’em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?”

Not for us Africans any of that William Blake’s mumbo jumbo about this green and pleasant land. Africa is a continent, remember?

(But that was sorted out in a Paris-style drawing room somewhere in Africa. After all, they will muse, Africans are all alike, except for the Cameroonians with the Joseph and his Technicolor dream coat.)

Back to the show. No no, no Green and pleasant land, but Jungles and deserts and sweet rolling savannah.

Maybe a line from Senghor about the edge of the burnt rim, tee dee dum-I find you the Promised Land. That will do, that will do, and Richard Gere will intone, feet flashing now.

“What if your hinges all are rusting? What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting? Razzle dazzle ’em. And they’ll never catch wise!

And there will be no Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the slopes of the Tor saying the lines from the Caliban, no Peter Pan and that whatshisname form chitty chitty bang bang, no.

We will have Mr. Kurtz from Conrad’s heart of darkness intoning some drug induced verses as his boat lazes up the Congo, African warriors with painted faces snarling on the banks just beyond the crocodile filled shores

Richard Gere will be turning hoops by now.

“Razzle dazzle ’em, Give ’em a show that’s so splendiferous, Row after row will grow vociferous”

Lights, as the slave ships darken African harbours, filled with trinkets and buttons and whatnots

‘Give ’em the old film flam flummox
Fool and fracture ’em
How can they hear the truth above the roar?”

The Africans will be screaming above the roar and cursing the sun that has made them so black and strong and beautiful, and the warriors will leave off their drums to the sound of gunshots and the smell of cordite.

Then Wide shot to Miriam Makeba singing, not abide with me, but Malika. Close up to her beautiful troubled face.

“ Maliiiiiiiiika, Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.”

Now Richard will slow down now, to the sound of light lightly tapping feet encased in crocodile leather, the lights will fade, and then as the new ships following in the wake of the slave ships sail in, his tempo gradually rises, clickety click, then his mellifluous voice starts a-rising as first, the explorers and then the missionaries and then colonial administrators file out solemnly onto the shores of Africa.

“Throw ’em a fake and a finagle, They’ll never know you’re just a bagel,
Razzle dazzle ’em, And they’ll beg you for more!

No chimneys would rise from the scorched earth as the British did in 2012. How can they?

We have no Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the slopes of the Tor, but we have plantations, and plantation administrators with shorts and mosquito swatters, drinking gin to the sound of grunts coming from bent black backs, the Administrator raises a flask and drags on his gin.

He stands up from his director’s chair, places his glasses on the table next to the gin bottle, facing the sweaty labourers. His second set of eyes to supervise the work

At this point, Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Richard Gere will cry, Give ’em the old razzle dazzle, Razzle dazzle ’em, Back since the days of old Methuselah, Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

And then now the show will slow down, the warriors who had disappeared into the jungle will crawl out in ill fitting fifties style suits, speaking the white man’s language, and the colonial administrator looks off from his harem tours. The lights will close up on his confused face. Have I been sleeping on the watch?

Richard will smile and dance in reply

“Give ’em the old three-ring circus, Stun and stagger ’em
When you’re in trouble, go into your dance”

And then the colonial guns will boom out in black hands. The perspiring African corps soldiers in European military gear will hesitate for a confused moment. They look back to their masters as Richard urges

“Though you are stiffer than a girder
They let ya get away with a murder
Razzle dazzle ’em
And you’ve got a romance”

And then the killing will start. CUT

This bit was rather troublesome during rehearsals. One old African said. Hey look brothers, it is meant to be fun, we need some laughter. We Africans are great laughterologists, the white flash of Ivory teeth, that is what we need. But the more sensible voices with carry the day, let us cut here, to the New African leaders.

Richard Gere will look puzzled for a moment, drums will roll, as if the musicians are insure of what the tune would be. Richard’s face will break into a smile. Why Change the music he will seem to say, and then the music will stop. Fela will emerge from the noise and confusion, naked but for his swimming trunks. No he is not doing the medley. He has a thing in his hand. He raises it to his lips, angry sounds soar over the stadium.

Richard Gere will start tap-taping furiously, feet and trouser leg all in a blur, and as Fela’s saxophone fades out, he bursts out into the same song, in a different key

“Give ’em the old Razzle dazzle
Razzle dazzle ’em
Give ’em an act that’s unassailable’

The African leaders will stand to attention, home rule in European suits as flags are lowered and replaced with new flags now, same flag, different colours, a bit more red and yellows and greens.

“Give ’em the old, Double whammy, Daze and dizzy ’em
Show ’em the first rate sorcerer you are”

The drums are beating now, and there will be no Sir Whatshisname to ring the bell to announce the opening of the games, and no James bond to jump Her Majesty off the helicopter. No no, who needs Queens in this rugged and humid land. A president for life! Long live the new Republic.

Fela emerges again from the noise and confusion, naked but for his swimming trunks. No he is not doing the medley. He has a thing in his hand. He raises it to his lips, angry sounds soar over the stadium. But the flags wave out, a waving flag, freedom is a waving flag.

We now cut into the almost last scene; there is a helicopter in the air.

Now the president must jump off the helicopter.

Drums roll, Richard Gere’s doing a terrific African dance now, Fela is livid with his blowing lips, and a pre recorded film will flash across giant screens. European leaders smiling, patting each other in the back.

“Didn’t we do well? Look at President Mumu Jumbo jumping from an aeroplane? Just a couple of years ago, he thought it was a bird. “

Richard Gere is getting confused now, the

re is some confusion in the aircraft.

The president has refused to jump!

Fela is blasting away. Manu Dibango joins in. “Big Blow!” he sings and turns to Richard Gere. CUT

(There was more confusion during the planning of this scene. First, all the presidents wanted to jump, and the South African president wanted Mandela to do it, but the President of Senegal pointed out South Africa barely qualifies as Africa, at which point the president of Equatorial Guinea agreed to play super man. It will look good during the next elections if he survives.)

As the president hovers near the open door, clutches his talisman and refuses to jump, Richard Gere is tired by now, his legs will be moving ever so slowly and then over the Tannoy, a shout will ring

“We forgot to arrange the cycle race, and the marathons, and the tracks and the swimming even though Africans don’t swim.”

Richard will stop dancing by now. He will try to urge them again, but nobody is listening now. He too must have realized, the Olympic games are much more than just a-razzling and a-dazzling, there are millions of other things to attend to.

And then the blaming will start.

It is the neo colonialists, the sell-out Africans, the world bank, and nobody will blame Richard Gere after all, all he did was sing,

Razzle Razle them

Fela will move it now, Na old old story be dat oh!

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