Historians would remember Augustus Caeser’s famous unanswered question: “How did you like the performance?” He got no answer because he asked no one in particular. It was his very summation of the totality of his reign as emperor over Rome. Public office power is a performance. The audience may believe what they see. It may question everything. How the drama is enjoyed by the audience is a function of how well the actor discharged his acts. Some did theirs almost to perfection, some perfunctorily. In power politics, we see things watching performances. Nigeria’s theatre has moved to and fro London in the last three weeks. At home, we see on stage the type of raw cash we have never seen openly displayed before. Could Aeschylus, Sopocles and Euripides have written better tragedies than the unending ones on the Nigerian stage? We will see more as we move from Acts to Acts. In London, we see actors and star performances too. At what point did Augustus realise his audience must be asked their opinion of his performance on the Roman public space? Hopefully, one day, we will be asked if we enjoyed these offshore and onshore performances…
The kingmakers visited last week. Beyond the flashes of the close-up smiles you saw, what else could you glean from the expressionless faces they wore? Has there been anything else from them? Now, which king enjoys the company of kingmakers? Those who make kings are not ever trusted because they enjoy the booties of new beginnings. They are seen by the palace as leeches who give rams to the ancestors in their grove and still hold on to the leashes.
Why are the Yoruba the only ones visiting or allowed to visit President Muhammadu Buhari in London? Did you, like me, ask the question as I did when I saw the photos of Chiefs Bisi Akande and Bola Tinubu with President Buhari in London Thursday last week? Did you remember that Governor Ibikunle Amosun did same two weeks earlier? Did you read my mind as someone did, even volunteering an answer? Northerners visit him too but, as usual, they don’t make any noise about it. And, I believe my mind reader. That could be true. Although there is no way of confirming this, the skies over London are snow-stuck, opaque. Nigeria’s far northerners are like unseen poems, confounding, demanding. It is in their DNA. They are noiseless, smooth operators. They are not given to drama and the associated sounds and fury. They are like male mosquitoes; they love nectars, they make little noise. Those who visit and call the CNN are the female mosquitoes. Those ones talk 24 hours non-stop, shattering the peace of the night. They are louder in their noise. It is bad enough that mosquitoes won’t let you sleep. Now, combine that with their itchy, irritating bites and the red dots they leave on white sheets. Consider the combination and see how unwelcome every unwelcome visitor could be.
You wake up the slumbering royal, not this one who insists he is awake. The owner of this body insists he feels no pains and you are greeting him pele! How many of us enjoy the disturbance of anything in our moments of prized privacy? And, in any case, why should anyone visit anyone who insists he is resting, hale and hearty? And why should such visits not become mosquito visits? Noisy and irritating. Mosquitoes play hide and seek (and suck?). They are persistent irritants. You don’t want their company but they insist on being with you, beating their wings, even making you to beat yourself. And, no matter how far you run, they visit, still. Whining, humming, buzzing. Ah!
And it is not only in London that the Yoruba are making their noise on this Buhari matter. On Facebook, on Twitter, on every space they occupy, they make the loudest noise. They are the ones querying the genuineness of every photo. They are the only ones who know how many times the president has worn his brown jalabia while in London. They are the only ones who won’t trust their leaders — Tinubu and Akande. And the holy books order them to honour their leaders and elders but they won’t listen. They question and query anything and everyone. The president wore a brown kaftan last year in London. Yes. He wore it two weeks ago when Amosun visited him in London. Yes. He wore it again last Thursday when Tinubu and Akande visited him in same London. Yes — and yes. Is it recommended — like drugs? Imagine! What really is your own? Why should the colour of one’s dress determine one’s wellness? Don’t we have persons who are stuck to certain colours? Dimeji Bankole was speaker for how many years. He was always in white, head to toe. Did you ask any question? Can’t the president be stuck in his brown colour if that is what makes him hale and gives him peace in his moments of retreat? In any case, could he be sending a message with that colour brown? What message? What if he has read a 2010 study in the United States which said colour brown suggests ruggedness!? How about that from a man cooling himself away from the howling crowd of cynics?
The persistence of this brown jalabia is a metaphor from the king. Could it take us back to the mosquito metaphor? If you are a Yoruba, you will remember the story of why mosquitoes disturb the ear. In the very beginning, when every part of man was separate and human, Ear was a beautiful princess. Every prince, far and around, wanted her as wife. But she was an ostrich and she knew. She won’t be caught cheap by any suitor. Beyond princes, there were also rich, handsome dudes. She would take her time. She would not rush into any yes answer. Suitors streamed in and out. She smiled and smiled and let them go empty handed. Then one day, a poor, haggard creator hummed in. He wanted to marry Ear, the princess. How audacious, pretty Ear blurted as she tongue-lashed the miserable creature who gave his name as Mr Mosquito.
“You, marry me? I am Princess, the beautiful. Look around me. All these handsome, strong and well built young men you see are here to seek my hand. I am not even looking at their side yet. And here you are! Would it not be appropriate that you look for someone of your class? Look, you are ugly and weak. You aren’t strong and well. You will die before the week is over…”
Ear went on and on deflating the ego of Mosquito who was deeply hurt and felt ridiculed in the presence of other suitors. Me, dead in a few days? Ok. He slunk away with a vow to prove to this proud Ear that he wasn’t as doomed as she predicted.
Ear eventually got married to her Prince Charming but Mosquito not only refused to die, he also wouldn’t let Ear enjoy her honeymoon. Till this day, anywhere he sees Ear, he hums into her: Emi re o, mi o tii ku. (Here I am, I am not dead yet!).
There may be symphony in repetition but not all refrains are melodious. Some irritate — like the whining of unwanted mosquitoes. Those who saw Buhari with his brown jalabia last year in London also saw him with it this year — again in London. How about next year? There is beauty in wearing same colour on same occasions. There is a deep message in that repetition. It talks resilience. It is consistency. It is also ruggedness. It disturbs too. It comes repeatedly, mocking men and their affairs. Visits can be repeated too, like the brown robe. But not all that sleep want to be disturbed with visits. Some want to be left alone — sleeping.