OF PRESIDENTS AND MAD MEN

You would think this man is a madman? I tell you, in truth he’s not. He’s smarter than you and I put together. He just put a label on Uncle Joe. He say of Uncle Joe:

“goffment na demonstration of craze”.
No one, until now, had been able to decode the stuff Uncle Joe is made of. Fela is not here to do that, and nobody has done it like he would have.

I took him for a madman too; the way he was mumbling to himself, scribbling furiously in the dirt with the forefinger of his left hand. I resisted the pull to get any closer to this gentleman to read what he might have been writing on the ground. But I refrained, deciding I was close enough for comfort.

He kept scribbling and wiping what he’s written, his incoherent muttering getting louder, faster but more coherent each time. I had began to hear distinct words like

“Jonathan… Habaa!”, “Blood of Jesus…ahaa!”.

Each time the word Jonathan entered my ear was when he wiped the writing in the dirt. This had gone on for a little while. I had taken so much interest in this gentleman that I missed my bus twice. He mentioned MAU-MAU! That was what really held me in a spell, standing there waiting, watching, listening to a “madman” rave.

I wished to see what this man is up to about MAU (that is the new nomenclature for the University of Lagos Akoka, imposed by Prez G.E. Joe, C-In-C of all armed forces, in the Quixotic bid to immortalized the fallen hero of Nigeria’s Democracy- Mushood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola) I am steeped in curiousity to find out why this mad man seems so offended at the name Jonathan, and kept invoking “blood of Jesus!” he’s also saying things that sound like “die by fire, die by fire”, but those rambling words weren’t too clear to my hearing at that moment.

He smiled, stood erect, looked up to the sky, held his gaze up at the sky in that blazing sun’s glare; did a perfect Military Salute that General Abacha would have, without grudge, conferred a GCFR on him for. For once I think he might have been saluting the General in heaven, but I followed his gaze, saw nothing but the furiously blazing Sun, set against a grey, blurry Lagos sky. That was an abnormal thing to do, but then who is normal in this country, from the First Man to that Gentle Citizen?

I looked down quickly, for two reasons: one, I did not know who might have been observing me too as I observed that lunatic gentleman. It would have been easy for anyone, friend or foe, to slap a label on me. Two- there was no way in the world I was going to beat that dude in the forlorn game of looking up to the Lord in the faraway heavens.

I can virtually see him, as I replay the scene in my mind: There he is now, marching in circles, around the spot where he’d been scribbling un-readable characters. He stops… he knees… bows head over clasped hands, mouth gasping- opening and closing inaudibly- I’m sure he isn’t reciting our National anthem, maybe The Pater Noster. But I can’t hear a thing. Too bad too sad.

This Praying Mantis pose is nothing short of poetically picture-perfect. I wanted to take a picture for posterity; but I desist, for looking around me, passing folks were stopping to look at us like some weird specimen of laboratory critters in a glass jar . Oh my! That was loony, I must have been going loco myself, standing there and (almost) mimicking a raving lunatic. Reality dawned on me and I thought of leaving that vicinity of blazing mid-Lagos-day-Sun and raving madness. But the man’s mouth, that was opening an closing like a beached fish, made a philosophical utterance that will stay with me, undecrypted, till my dying day, whenever that day comes.

The heat that day was so great in Victoria Island and Ikoyi environ, where I have been roaming. I heard it rained in some other parts of this boiling cauldron of a Lagos City. I wonder how hawkers, beggars, preachers and mad men coped in that grilling heat. I wasn’t coping very well myself, but I didn’t become such a misfit to reach for a umbrella that time- I always lost umbrellas anyhow.

I was not alone in that maddening heat- Uncle Joe, with his retinue of sycophants, and the legion of Red-eyed-armed-to-their-brown-teeth Soldiers, and Police and Navy, and Airforce and (maybe) Boy Scouts, was in Lagos that day, and at that material moment of madness. In a demo-cracy like ours, we all are equal under the sky, yes?

My compadre, Homme Loco said:

“Moses na Hausa man, baa? Solomon na from ndigbo state ehnn? Obama na ijebuman abi? Wetin be goodluck sef?… Maka why? Abi him na King Pharaoh abi na goffment magic ni?

I’m sure he wasn’t asking me those difficult questions, because he obviously wasn’t praying to me, though I was there, standing very close to him at that moment in time like I was his guardian angel, but I AM not God, I had unanswered questions of my own.

As I began to leave the spot, the dude hissed, got up on his feet… looked up to the sky again and said.

“nna mehn, this Sun fit make man pikin run madt o!”

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