The Collapse of a Kingdom

In this fourth chapter of Epistle To Maduabebe, Nengi Josef Ilagha’s tour de force on corruption in high places, the poet practically pushes former OPEC President, Dr Edmund Maduabebe Daukoru, off the Mingi stool with a commendable knack for tell-tale truism, and seizes the throne by force.


The Collapse of a Kingdom 

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

   George Orwell 

DEAR MINGI MADUABEBE, if I have summoned the courage to address you as such, don’t blame me too much. Your younger sister insists that your title could be no better. She is truly upset with you on account of the spite she has suffered at your hands over the years. I have a furry feeling that you are on your own. If I were to tell you the kind of things people say about you in beer parlours, in offices, in taxis and in many homes I visit, you will promptly step aside from that sacred throne in the best tradition of Ibrahim Babangida, honourably speaking, when he came face to face with the truth.

And the truth is that your kingdom has collapsed. You rule only over the body you see every time you stand naked before the mirror. You have nowhere to hide, save behind bars. Quote me even in your bedroom. Tell your queens I said so. If I have ever been rude to you before, allow me to get even ruder than Evinrude. I will presently give you reason as to just why this is so.

In the first place, where did I go wrong if I gave some well-deserved publicity to the story of your own younger sister, born of the same womb as yourself? Until she turned up with her woe-begotten story, I had no idea where she erupted from. She was the one who volunteered that she knew me in the early seventies, just after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, when I was but a school boy at Anglican Isoko School, Apapa, Lagos. I was known as Teacher Pikin because my Father was a classroom teacher in that school.

This is how it happened. I came out of my office on the morning of February XII, 2009, having worked all night long like a slave working an endless shift, no leave, no transfer, more secure than all the security men put together, watching over the costly printing equipment dumped at the warehouse of the newspaper corporation by the Bayelsa State Government for reasons best known to it. I stepped out to take a breath of fresh air, and there she was, seated right atop the slab of a soak-away pit.

“God bless you,” said I to her in greeting. She raised her face from the copy of Chris Oyakhilome’s Rhapsody of Realities she was reading, and looked directly into my eyes. I could see great hunger and dejection in that face. I said to her: “Daughter, arise and walk away from that place, for the slab upon which you sit is cracked and could collapse even now, and you could drown inside the septic waste beneath you if that happens.”

She stood up promptly, and said as follows.

“Noah, noah, noah. Imiete. Eri animi worio bo na kige bo. Eri amabo nto? Eri Nembe bo nto?”

“Kesiye,” said I in reply. “Eri Nembe furo togu.”

“A ikiomo barambu ain wo paga te. Eri tubo togu ne? Toru kubu mi Ilagha na Alanyingi na owoma mein na kige mi.”

“Iyorobo, I koria nimi. Eri Alanyingi na Ilagha na yai bodu.”

“Eri ein gho tubo bai ka nimigha?”

“Eri bele da indi bei. Eri Okparan bei bodu mi. Eri Gido bei. Eri Iruka bei. Eri Dajigegha bei. Eri Indukpurukpu bei.”

“Koko a koko. A gba barambu paga te. Ini ire mi tei?”

“Eri Igbagara Nengi. Eri Igbugburu Nengi. Eri Igbegumadudu Nengi. Eri Kubor Nengi. Eri Mingi Nengi, Oyi Main Findi.”

“A pa nimi nimi gha, ei yo! Eri iruo sou you Amanyanabo bei yo? Eri gbagba seiyo Mingi Nengi bei wa?”

“Eri abadi ogbo ngho kieri kote indi bei. Eri Onana Koko Owei bei. Eri Egbegwabo bei. Eri mesele kiri bio ngho ingbese tinmi eki opinda gho pura bo bei. Eri tundu ogono ngho ein kori eki sikomo tinmi kasi mo numo pere bei. I Dau re I kori tiemo worio.”

And suddenly, upon your sister’s face came the light of epiphany, such as was beamed on a recalcitrant Saul along the road to Damascus, and she was transformed in a Pauline way. She was promptly led to the Upper Room, Vineyard Press, Glory Land, where she gladly told her story in the presence of Jesus Christ, all ears and eyes open right behind her, and right before her. So did Augusta Idibiye Ombu open up. So did Walanyo, your selfsame younger sister who stayed with you for five years of your life in Lagos, practically washing your dirty briefs while you drilled as much money as you could into your pocket, so did she tell her story. And, O, what a pitiful story Walanyo had to tell.

In the end, I expressed my sympathy and volunteered an admonition, a short verbal epistle, if there was any. Arise and shine, said I, for the light of the world has come, like a thief in the night. To cut a long story short, since the said ordeal of your sister was published in Coastline News Network, our local CNN, her light has continued to shine. To God be the glory. So this is the reason I address you the way I do, which is no sin really, since Maduabebe is the name your father gave you, knowing your destiny well enough. As for Mingi Madu, the title and the name, it was your sister who called you that. I merely transcribed it in the course of the interview which, as you can see, I have done well to transform into a standard profile that may be read on CNN, BBC, SkyNews and all the cable satellite channels around the worldwideweb.

Next thing I knew you had sent hoodlums to raid my house and steal three of my desktop computers. May the Nigerian police locate the whereabouts of Ngotari Agai and Tekenah Calmday. Next, you sent the same bandits to break the glass door to the production room of my worldwide news magazine, WWW. After that, you sent the leader of your band of juju priests, Joseph Douye Otuogha, to strike at the spinal cord of the Corporation. Next thing we knew, the Chief Operator of the seven-chamber King Colour 2000 rotary press, Mr Diepreye Kwokwo, was dead.

And now, you dare to come after my daughter. How dare you? How dare you attempt, even conceive, the thought of abducting Pentecost? How dare you aspire to shoot God in the face? Who dares come after the children of Jesus Christ? All the saints of Heaven condemn you this day in the chosen year of manifestation, 2009. Even the EFCC outrightly condemns you to prison. Let your conscience torment you henceforth, if you have any. Let every single detail of every sinful act you have ever committed show up like sudden ghosts before your six senses, stretching through the mirrors of time into the very crack of doom.

If you dare touch any one of my own, you shall fast and never be fed. You shall shed tears that shall swell like turbulent waters until you drown in them. Your sorrows shall overwhelm you, even as Marie Corelli prophesied in her book, The Sorrows Of Seiton. You shall wail endlessly in the cauldrons of Hell, and no one shall hear your voice. If you dare harm one hair upon my head, you shall be lost to night and day, lost to history, lost to politics, lost to geology, lost to your family, lost to the world, lost to yourself.

You shall behold your sins in the full glare of your mind, and never stop shuddering at the wicked spirit that inhabits your body. You are mean, your majesty. You gather, and continue to gather vanity into your secret folds, even as your bank accounts break out in a rash. In short, Seiton, you are in trouble for all the terrible sins you have occasioned upon the face of the Earth since time began. You are in trouble for all the tattoos you have caused to be designed on the bodies of Adam and Eve. You are far more terrible than Osama Bin Laden, the bearded terrorist. You are far more horrible than George Walker Bush, the Anti-Christ.

You are by no means terrific.

Let me put your mind at ease for the rest of this humble epistle by introducing myself in simple terms. My name is Conscience, in case you do not know. I reside within you. I shall be very calm upon what is left of this page, speaking only in a still small voice that you must have become very familiar with by now. Verily, verily, I enjoin you to do the same. Peace, be still. It is I. Indeed, I promise not to use any more big words, no wayward metaphors, no side kicks. I shall be as plain and as friendly as possible in the few paragraphs to come.

At any rate, allow me to congratulate you on your first anniversary in office. I couldn’t help but hear the din and clangour of it all upon the clouds of Glory Land. While you were having a field day misappropriating valuable funds for the festival, I was whiling away valuable time, having quite a field day with this page, to say nothing of a field night. I have a feeling that you are already warming up to the second edition of the celebration. I dare repeat that you shall not last one more day upon the coveted throne. You shall witness the Son of Man sit in your place, even as he sits at the right hand of God, scribbling this very precipitate epistle to you at yahoo dot com.

Sit tight. Don’t move until you are told to move. You are under arrest. You had no idea, did you that God arrested you on Saturday February 23, 2008 when you took what does not belong to you, plotting your civil coups with a number of money-bag transactions across the creek, from Igopiri through Anyama Polo to Owusegi-Polotiri. Sit tight, I say. Don’t you see the pair of swords crossed in front of you? Your judgment has been pronounced from Heaven, and I have taken the trouble to transcribe it for the eyes of the world to behold and see, both of which amounts to the same thing.

Beyond a cursory interest, you may have noticed that the national papers gave scant regard to the epistle directed at you in January, 2009. You did your wealthy best to parry all XII questions by shedding serpentine tears over the phone to the pitiful hearing of your houseboys and palace guards. You equally did your jolly good plenty to overwhelm the said national press with your royal tears over Queen Gladys. Howbeit, you cannot take in every publisher in the worldwideweb, can you? Clearly, you cannot, and this copy of the unbelievable scroll in your hands is capital proof that you may have won the last age and the one before that, but you cannot win the Jesus Millennium.

Mene mene tekel peres upharsin…

Allow me to remind you that your so-called coronation was marked by an incident of grave historical and symbolic import. It will be nice to hear you deny that you saw two posters, one wailing amidst a dire storm in the night, as follows: Armageddon Has Come! The other, bearing a rare, refractive first-hand image of the battered body of Jisos Kraist on the cross, proclaiming clearly that Messiah, King of Kings, Lord of Lords & Prince of Peace, has come…like a thief in the night. If you claim not to have seen those proclamations, and nobody brought them to your attention, ask all over town. None of it may have made any sense to you then as now, because it is the portion of the wicked to forget their wickedness. But not so the long-term sufferer, not so the owner of the body knackered to bleeding stripes in Pilate’s court. Not so the nostrils of the Lamb of God who inhaled so much of the smell of his own blood, determined to have it shed, if only to redeem Adam from sin.

What is more, it is a pity indeed that, up to now, you still think it beneath you to ask me just how I marked the first year of my anniversary. Or, have you forgotten so soon that I was proclaimed Mingi Nengi XII on the front page of the WWW edition dated Sunday February 24, 2008? In other words, Heaven registered my face as the recognized Mingi and substantive Amanyanabo of Nembe twenty-four hours before you appeared in the papers. How do you like that? And your face when it finally showed up, unlike mine, was far from the front page.

Now that we are talking strictly about home matters, you may wish to share a few sentiments with me. Why did Mary Queen and Otimibara go about town half naked, sweeping the streets of Nembe with brooms and dumping the debris in invisible bins? Vooooooh! Has it ever crossed your mind that their act was a rite of purification for Nembe, given the fact that they had seen beyond their noses to the day when the Mingi stool would be seized by Maduabebe’s unholy army? Think again. Think hard.

Since your foul coronation, I have had time to interact with quite a few eminent sons of Eden and feel duly gratified that a book by the title of Epistles To The Small Brave City-State – the result of painstaking concern over the future of our land – is in press to serve as an accompanying volume to this book. The spirit of courage it evinces will serve the memory of our honourable forebears, and inspire the patriot in every Eden son of the present and future generations.

One of the precipitate opinions expressed about your inordinate rise to power is strong enough to catch you napping. It goes to show that there are thinkers amongst us who are shy of speaking their minds for fear of reprisals from the contingent of army and police personnel you have stationed in Nembe to guard your interest. As a thoughtful young Edenite put it, “The rise of Maduabebe to the throne of Nembe marks the rise of Seiton over the affairs of the world. Maduabebe represents the serpent. The serpent has a double tongue. Whether the serpent blows hot or cold air, in the end, the serpent spits venom. It goes without saying, therefore, that in spite of how nice Maduabebe might pretend to be for now, his big fat ambition is to wrap as much loot as he can gather into the labyrinth of his selfish fold, to kill and to destroy, to bring the world to its knees.”

That fits you perfectly. You are an extremely selfish man. Your neck may look dry, but your bank accounts are oversize. And lest I forget, the unacknowledged Nembe philosopher of blessed memory, Ayebaegberi Teknikio, appeared to me in a dream on the eve of your coronation. He asked me to invite you to a marathon debate, face to face, at King Koko Square, both of us proclaiming our manifesto for growth and development in Nembe, after our individual fashion. On my part, I cannot wait for the opportunity. The Kingdom stands in dire need of progressive ideas.

Have you considered reviving the memory of the late philosopher and collecting his works, besides transcribing his ideas into a meaningful whole? I put it past you. No doubt you can take the next query in your strides. It comes from him. As a geologist, he says, what is your interpretation of the tradition that forbids the sale of periwinkle flesh within and outside Nembe, while allowing the shell to be sold in any market? That should put you in the mood to take the next XII questions at yahoo dot com. 

I.          Is it true that you are good at putting on tape the wild and provocative movements of female dancers at every other night vigil you attend in Nembe, as in iworoko, for purposes of nursing your private fantasies at horny time dot com? 

II.        Is it true that you formed a bad habit of visiting strip-tease night clubs whenever you traveled abroad, as a natural offshoot of being an iworoko habitué on vinyl, one in the particular business of sticking folded dollars and pounds into waiting pudenda, while enjoying a great laugh? 

III.       What is the exact nature of your sexual relationship with Susan, your white girl friend in Zurich, Switzerland, who is reported to have insisted that you continue to eat of her forbidden fruit at yahoo dot com before commencing the real thing? Are you guilty or not guilty of this grave sin of the soul with Susan alone, or with Monica, Margaret and Sybil as well? 

IV.       When last you looked at a photograph of yourself as a boy, did you see a tyrant in the making? 

V.        What, by the way, is the current population figure of Nembe clan? How many war-canoe houses make up Bassambiri, and how many periwinkle shells make up Ogbolomabiri? 

VI.       What purpose does it really serve if you alone hijack every cause in Nembe, and eliminate your own subjects whom you perceive to be your opponents and competitors in social and political circles? 

VII.     Since when did Nembe become a prefix limited to Ogbolomabiri and Bassambiri, rather than the all-encompassing suffix it has always been for the entire clan? 

VIII.    Why did you find it necessary to post a kite to the effect that Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange and Chief Pedro Adukpo-Egi Ikata may have connived to sponsor the last epistle to Maduabebe? Were you looking for an excuse to molest somebody? 

IX.       By whose authority do you occupy the throne of Eden, sitting as His Royal Majesty Mingi XII, Amanyanabo of Nembe? 

X.        If Jesus Christ demands that you step aside from that throne right now in order that he may occupy it and pronounce judgment upon the world, wouldn’t you gladly do so? Or, having returned to earth, don’t you think Messiah deserves a befitting Kingdom from which to reach out to the sundry kings and princes of this world? 

XI.       Are you hard of hearing? Don’t you recognize the signs of the times? What are you waiting for? How far do you think you can run, and in which bunker do you mean to hide? 

XII.     Where were you when I needed you?

“Tari Howells”