By: Fasilat Rauf
Disclaimer: This piece is a fictitious work. Any semblance with name, time, place or event is a pure coincidence, it is not to taint anyone’s image. However, reader’s discretion is strongly advised.
In the ancient city of Eba-Odan, a city full of gold and honey, the home of valiant warriors: Araromi Ire; the one that spits fire like the god of thunder, Lariregelu; a courageous warrior in the heat of an intense warfare. Indeed, the glory of Eba-Odan can be gleaned from the well trimmed grasses adorning the city entrance; the beauty of her horizon can be likened to the view of a euphoric atmosphere filled with lingering scents of daffodils.
Buried deeply in the most fertile part of this ancient city is the Kingdom of Ukemba which is widely known for her riches, beautiful landscapes and the intellectual prowess of the inhabitant. The location of this kingdom, or, her long history of excellence makes everyone strives to be associated with it. The location of the kingdom of Ukemba gives room for two distinctive rulers, each exercising power in the kingdom: the superior and overlord being the king who reigns over Eba Odan, he is second to none, he has power over life and death without necessarily consulting his chiefs; the other, widely known as the Baale, is usually elected, periodically, by the people. Due to this, he is expected to be the voice of the people even though it will cost him, his head.
While the Baale has the mandate of the people, he is subjected to the whims and caprices of the King, that is, he cannot execute policies without the consent of the king. The role of the Baale is like that of a servant-leader, whose duty is to embark on a perilous journey, as perilous as the journey may seem, he still has to fulfill his duties. You might wonder why any sane person would take up such arduous position. It may be for the love of power, people or the pecuniary gain attached to it. The people pay certain amount to the king as tributes, the Baale and his chiefs gets 20 cowries, from each person’s tribute, to run their affairs.
There are disagreements between the King and the Baale from time to time. Series of cross fires have occurred but of utmost relevance was the event of May 2017…
BEFORE MAY 2017
The incumbent Baale, Ujoh Raimi, who was widely known for supporting policies that favored the people, after all, that was why he was elected, came to power through the simple majority vote. He was popularly known for his activism and equal justice for all. Not long after Raimi got to power, he accused the no-nonsense king of not performing up to expectations, that he failed to issue ‘tally’ to the masses after they’ve made payments for over two years. The King in his infinite mercy, promised to issue the tally after the Ajobo Festival(so named because it involves both the king and his Chiefs, the Baale and his Chiefs and largely the masses). The Baale threw caution to the wind saying: “Lai lai, ao nii gba! Bi ko si talli, kosi odun ajobo (Never, we can’t take that! No tally, no Ajobo Festival). The King was amazed at the impudence of the Baale and his Chiefs, he asked rhetorically “Ti aso ba tie ma pani, shebi a tie je aso to da? Kini awon omode ‘kunrin tio ni irugbon yi fe fimi se gan na? (If one would die for a course, shouldn’t such course be worthy of one’s death? What exactly will these beardless boys do to me?)”
ON MAY 2017
On this day, the unexpected happened. While the King and his chiefs made plans for the forthcoming Ajobo festival, the Baale was busy going from one house to another, trying to make the people see reasons why they should not partake in the festival. Since the Baale was closer to the people, the majority supported him and they made plans to boycott the festival. The King got wind of the mutiny, he was surprised the Baale had, indeed, forgotten his source. He called on the town crier who made the following announcements: “keeerrrrreeee o! Onile, alejo, Kabiyesi Ilu Eba Odan ni kin so fun yin wipe, lati oni yi lo, enikeni ko gbodo losi oko, odo, tabi r’ajo fun odindin osupa meje. Eni tio ba ko, iru eni be ni a o fi rubo Sango ooo. Se mo wii ree? (the king of Ukemba passes a message across that everyone should stay in their homes for the next seven month. Anyone that fails to abide by the rule will be used as sacrifice for the god of thunder).
This was how the irrational act of the Baale and his entourage brought untold hardship on the masses for seven month. What can a man do without being allowed to till the soil? Of what use is the beauty of a woman, who cannot visit night market to display her wares? The people of Ukemba experienced 7 months of penurious state, sorrow, cry of agony, that if the King relaxes the pronouncement, they will forever abide by his wishes. While the people plead for mercy, the king enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere while the Baale and his chiefs were busy going from one village to another, re-telling stories of the king’s cruelty, to their neighbors. This further infuriates the King and he promised to extend the lockdown by six months but failed to do so due to divine intervention.
AFTER MAY 2017
After seven months of hardship, the king eased the lockdown and allowed the masses go on with their daily activities, albeit, they must kiss his rings and promise never to go against his wills. These, the masses agreed to immediately. At this point, the supporters of the Baale have changed the course of their sail to face the direction of the masses, most of them were later seen calling the Baale, Ujoh Raimi, a fool. On the other hand, the latter was stripped of his title and his office was discontinued from operating. At exactly two decades after easing the lockdown, the day of judgment came, the erstwhile Baale and prominent members of his court were sent on exile for ten years. The eventual judgment was like the blowing of angel Gabriels’ trumpet which only occurs after centuries of expectations.
With the riddance of Ujoh Raimi and the supposed “camarilla” the office of Baale was further re-instated.
The news of re-instatement of the offices spread across the kingdom like a wildfire. Once again, the struggle for the offices began in earnest. At first, there were more than fifty aspirants for just fifteen positions (including the office of the Baale). Both young and old contested for the highest office. While the experienced aspirants buy palmwine and kola nuts for the people, to gain favor on the day of election, the king once again, showed his ability to over-turn events. He once again sent his messenger of doom, the town crier, to pass a message across. Like a wind to fire, the town crier took to the village square and he began: “Keeeeerrrrreeeeee ooo! Onile, alejo, Kabiyesi Ilu Eba Odan ni kin wi fun yin pe enikeni tio ba fe dije dupo ni ilu Ukemba gbodo ti gbe ni ilu Ukemba fun odun marun, ogbodo ni to eeka ile meji. Nipari, iru eni be gbodo je akinkanju tio le pa erin ninu igbo irumole. Se mo wiiiiirrrreeee? (the king of Eba Odan said I should inform you that to be eligible for any of the political offices in Ukemba, aspirants must have the following qualities: he must have reside within the kingdom for not less than five years, he must have up to 2 acres of land and lastly, such person must be courageous enough to kill an elephant in the evil forest). The king must have sensed that the older generation had enough information on how to run the kingdom, thereby challenging his authority. What he wanted was a dummy Baale and chief, which to him, was not too much to ask.
Voila! This was how the effeminate king turned the course of ship, introduced new policies for eligibility. With this new policy, only four candidates, none with the needed qualities, were eligible, out of fifty aspirants. The categories of those that could contest were reduced to the youth, who had little or no knowledge of how to run the kingdom. They were still groveling in their mother’s womb when the last Baale and his chiefs were banned from office. The campaign of these young fellows filled the whole kingdom like the air in an enclosed area. Of great importance is the question of integrity of the remaining four aspirants, who claimed to love the people, yet, failed to defend those that were disqualified but nevertheless, continue with the race against no one. Haba! Where is the place of camaderie?
The day of election came and the opportunists won, as expected. The people had a glimmer of hope that the newly elected Baale, Arisebioyo Oropo, will jettison his diplomatic attitude, fight for the people’s right even if heaven must fall.
Five months into Arisebioyo’s reign, the glimmer of hope began to fade, gradually. People no longer believe in this messiah due to some events that occurred and the Baale’s voice could not be heard. Should we talk of the invasion of the kingdom by thieves, who not only raped wives and daughters but took few men along with them as slaves. Or the menace of various chiefs that have taken to exploitation of the people for their own selfish interests. It is unheard of that during the reign of Arisebioyo, the village square, which served as a place of meetings and relaxations, for the people, was also seized by the king. Instead of ordering the youth to burn tires at the kingdom market square, to show their dissatisfaction to the king, the Baale was busy in his chambers, with his queen. “What a failure of leadership!” The people lamented bitterly.
Whenever there is an uproar, the Baale sends his town crier to inform the people that he knows their pain but it is difficult to act against the king. The last message he sent, through the town crier, was to commiserate with the erstwhile Baale and his chiefs on their being sent on exile. I could not help but ask “who was the message for? Is it the people on exile, who will, definitely, not hear the sound of the crier’s gong? Or their relatives who have dissociated themselves from the public?
Do not blame Arisebioyo Oropo, he does not wish to face the wrath of the overlord. Deep inside of him, he wishes to serve the people but how can he serve if he is on exile like the former Baale. Arisebioyo Oropo understands the act of ephemeral fight of valor which always leads to the death of the one that bears it. My little pence of advice for him is this: “No one eats his cake and still has it.”