ON SAMBE market days, when the sun aims fiery arrows at the clouds that froth in the blue skies, we sit under the big Neem tree close to St. Winifred’s. This white dispensary is the only thing the White missionaries left behind after they seized our gods and exported them to British museums. Now the Fulani herdsmen have come with their gods taking over our farmlands. We are now running like midwives finding Camwood leaves for women in labour. We are called women. And Mama told me that when a man is called a woman, he should better dig his grave.
“A woman is a sheaf forgotten in the farm when the harvest is good; only remembered when famine comes. Women are small hamlets while men are big cities. Women billow like sails in the winds of men. Don’t be a woman, son.” She said and I felt like the only man in Sambe.
I am here like an owl in the middle of the night. “The evil the lizard sees and rushes down the mango tree mean nothing to the owl. In fact, it dines with the owl in the dead of the night.” Mama once told me.
Since malaria chased the white man out of Sambe, she has survived on misery like tears to the eyes but the candle-lit rooms, the disturbing slaps of sleeping folks at war with mosquitoes, and the men and women spending the night in dark corners, paint Sambe with the perfection of Michelangelo. In the morning, used condoms are strewn everywhere like orange peels in this Sistine Chapel.
Last Saturday, the whole of Sambe was forced with empty stomachs to attend Mr. Chairman’s third wedding within six months. Not everyman is man enough to pay dowry and marry in this land. The amount charged for a wife is enough to bring the Heavens closer to us. “Even if her urine is petrol and her faeces precious like gold, I won’t pay a kobo for any woman.” The village clown often sings.
“You must fast and pray to pass through the eye of the needle and inherit roses in Paradise.” Man of God counseled when we complained that there was famine in the land.
“We don’t eat roses. We eat yams and drink from the shallow wells and naked streams.” An old lady whispered. I quietly agreed with a nod.
“If Paradise is all about eating roses, the angels should go to Zaki Biam and buy yams!” Someone shouted behind me.
“Brethren, the angels of God are not ordinary people. They are special like the dead cowboys on Dollar bills.” Man of God replied into the microphone.
We stood at the reception venue like mere shadows. All they wanted was a crowd to witness how real life is spent. Food and wine was shared seat after seat. I was there with Little Nephew. Man of God was among the dignitaries being served. He complained during morning service of stomach ulcers, and an offertory was made to cater for his bills at St. Winifred’s. But here was Man of God treating ulcers with peppered chicken. “If stomach ulcers come with such luxury, I pray for chronic ulcers for the rest of my days.” Little Nephew murmured.
I was infuriated and this somehow confirmed the story he told me about Man of God. Little Nephew peeped through Man of God’s door keyhole and saw him kneeling with the offertory basket raised heavenward saying: “Almighty God, King of glory. Descend from Heaven in your radiant glory and remove your share through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.” Now I wish I could take back the knock I gave Little Nephew on his forehead for speaking against the anointed.
Minutes later, a lady came with calendars. She was dressed in a green skirt and white blouse. There was something about her. She walked with a daredevil gait when obviously everything was as bad as her dress sense. In her early fifties, she was the ugliest woman here and the white blouse she wore was not spotlessly white, but a stained semblance of its true hue. “I was white” was indelibly written all over the blouse. She was smiling at us. Her teeth were like fangs of the Black Mamba. All the dignitaries sat comfortably under canopies laughing at the meanest jokes the emcee made. We stood like speechless mannequins melting like wax under the sun.
“Share the calendars round. You need them like wayward schoolgirls.” Black Mamba said and smiled.
“There is joy in sharing. Please, let the calendars go round.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fallopian Tube, we would share the toothpicks later, let the calendars serve for now.” Black Mamba added with a grin.
I felt like pouncing on her and breaking her shapeless members. The same government that forced us to come cannot give us food to eat. Last week, it was announced that all beggars should quit their trade, and the beggars should stop holding meetings. This was in response to rumours that the beggars were planning to form a union and elect a leader; it was called the United Beggars Association. A meeting was held but no leader emerged as the consensus candidate was too fat to pass for a beggar. A new faction of thin fellows emerged later that night called the Authentic Peasants Congress.
A pheasant flew past us, slalomed between the palm trees, and vanished into the funerary solace of the passing winds. The surrounding trees echoed of bluesy birdsongs and the ground trembled beneath us. We were tired of standing as witnesses to these merriments.
“We no go gree!” a voice shouted in protest. It felt like everything stood still for a moment. Less than ten seconds later, the whole crowd joined in deafening choruses, “We no go gree! We no go gree!! We no go gree!!!”
It was a thunderous roar of starving souls in harmony with stomach drums. The voices rose to immortal decibels and the heavens trembled and rained torrents on mere mortals. Men, women and children, could no longer bear the pain.
“We no go gree!” was the last cry the people chanted before the revolution started.