Urhobo Historical Society



Following an attempt on the life of the General Manager, Bayelsa State Newspaper Corporation on January 12, 2009, by Dr Edmund Maduabebe Daukoru, being the fall-out of a publication asking him to step down as paramount ruler of Nembe, there is a growing consensus among citizens of the Kingdom for Jesus Joseph Christ to be proclaimed Amanyanabo of Nembe, Mingi XII. The publication had called for the worship of the serpent to be abolished alongside the ancient Edenic practice of burying face-down the first child to die in any family, after the fashion of Abel. This eighth chapter of Epistle To Maduabebe by Nengi Josef Ilagha takes the encounter between David and Goliath one step further.

 

Jesus for President

 

When a man is wrapped up in himself,

he makes a pretty small package.

-         John Ruskin

 

By His Majesty Nengi Josef Ilagha
Mingi XII, Amanyanabo of Nembe
Bayelsa State, Nigeria

 

 

YOUR MAJESTY, I very nearly addressed you as Your Excellency. What a sorry slip of tongue that would have been. I know itís a title you will jolly well love to take, if not combine with that which you already claim, but it is not your portion. If it were, everyone in your domain would starve to death. It is not Godís wish that any one of his children perish simply because Seiton wills it. It is not done. It cannot be so for all time. As things stand, the tables have been turned, and you have no choice in the matter than to play a different ceedee. It is time for God himself to rule in the affairs of men, and I mean directly, through the aegis of Jesus Christ doth come, like a thief in the night.

 

Come to that, I fully realize that you are tired of hearing from me, but I am left with no option than to reason with you on paper, by post, across the turbulent waters of the internet. Peace, your majesty, be still. It is I, Teme You Mi Nengimobo Jisos Kraist, Son of Man, Son of God. I have come to crush the head of the serpent. Have you by any chance come across a knuckle-head who goes by the highly suspect name of Maduabebe? It is easy to recognize a double tongue, isnít it, a forked tongue, yeah?

 

Lest I forget. It has been brought to my notice that you have wiped the chalk off the faces of some chiefs in Nembe, without recourse to their family groups, without regard to those who voted them into the Nembe Chiefs Council. You took this truly unilateral and inconsiderate action for the simple reason that these discerning chiefs saw it fit to invoke a court injunction to forestall your unwholesome attempt to bring them to disrepute over some matter worth investigating a little longer. And you forget that, as learned gentlemen, these chiefs are well equipped to tell you a thing or two about their rights, even if you were to bribe the next judge not to hear the case they may bring to court.

 

Well, I trust that Chief Olu Coker & Co will take up the challenge you have thrown their way, and act in full accordance with the dictates of the law. Since you have literally seized their bowler hats and dons, I have no doubt that they will take fresh pride in their wigs and gowns, dust up their law books and do what is expected of them Ė summarily take you to court, and pursue you into gaol, with some help from Halliburton, and with the full endorsement of Gani Fawehinmiís spirit. It seems to me that you have been throwing stones all about recently, quite forgetting that you surround yourself with glass houses imported from Dubai, if you know what I mean.

 

Needless to say that your latest action has come as a great show of despotic behaviour unbecoming of a democratic king. I have no doubt that you spent too much time in the presence of Olusegun Obasanjo. Your attitude smells of something crudely reminiscent of the farmer from Ota. It is the way of all tyrants. They can never stand competition. No, they would rather not be challenged. They are more at home with a dinner table full of yes men who cannot stop nodding their heads and laughing at dull, insipid jokes. The king, yes, is always right. Ah, our king is ever so funny, even in his royal gown. His royal majesty is wise, yes. He sounds like a clown in his crown and gown, yes. Thus saith the king, yes.

 

And what if, for once, the king is wrong on this score?

 

Sometimes, your majesty, I wish Chief FKC Peters-Amain had lived a little longer, long enough to see you ascend the throne of Nembe. O, yes, Amain had his shortcomings as a man and as a chief, but you wouldnít have had a chance to get away with some things I see you shove aside. By the way, the man died at a rather inauspicious time, didnít he? Come to think of it, the late regent himself is believed to have been a strong contender to the throne. He died even before the cement on the grave of your predecessor had dried up. Is that right? If so, is it possible that you had a long hand, by way of long-range missiles, in his demise? Were some witches and wizards well paid to curtail his ambitions?

 

I hear all the new chieftaincy stools in Nembe Kingdom owe their fateful emergence to Peters-Amain. What do you really think of balkanizing the major war-canoe houses and letting serfs and servants become lords in council and pay masters overnight? Perhaps that is why you have decided to decongest the Nembe Chiefs Council and do away with some rebellious elements? How do you de-chalk a chief who has been chalked many seasons ago? Too many chiefs spoil the case for sole proprietorship of opinion, is that right?

 

How many chieftaincy houses are there at present in all of Nembe? How many more have been created and endorsed, between the time you declared your intention to gun for the Mingiship and your actual ascendancy to office by hook and crook? Letís consider this closely. How healthy is the recent practice of breaking up the war-canoe houses into fragments fit for staging a lobby in the rowdy parliament of chiefs, fit for appropriating the spoils of office?  These are hard and fast questions, and I wonder where they are coming from. At any rate, please bear in mind that failure to remove your cap before proffering answers may attract a fine.

 

What to do now that Jesus Christ has come to sit upon his promised throne in the land where the first man was created? And there you are already seated. O, dear. If only there had been XIII months in a year, instead of XII, this entire tirade would not have begun in the first place. What to do now? If I know you well enough, you are already calculating how best to get a big, fat bribe across to Messiah, in the finest tradition of Halliburton. I wonder just how far you can go.

 

O, go ahead and weep your heart out. Even Jesus wept on January XII, on behalf of the world, when the shackles brought on by Seiton were broken in a final sense, the yoke dismantled, and the precious captive set loose from the hounds by none other than Ama Gido, God of war. At the risk of sounding intemperate and repetitive, allow me to reiterate that you are verily, verily in trouble with Calvary Head. You have no choice but to confess your sins. And I mean, you must go beyond lip service. You must sit down and write the story of your life, ticking off hour by remembered hour. You must set an example for John, and for all the queens and your sundry princesses at large.

 

Now, time for interrogation.

 

I.       What were you hiding under the long, woolly gown that swept through the streets of Nembe on coronation day?

 

II.      From the viewpoint of a confirmed fraudster, where is the safest place in the world to save stolen money?

 

III.     Why did you find it expedient to introduce your nephew to drug use in the course of your countless trips abroad? Are you trying to sabotage him to the best of your ability?

 

IV.     What did Obu Egberi of Fantuo mean by saying as follows: ďYou Maduabebe, canít you catch that Pikiri Pussy?ĒÖor, something to that effect? Could he have been referring to your famous agility in bed?

 

V.      Why did Chief Timipre Sylva collapse in South Africa when he heard that Bayelsans had taken up placards to call for his removal from office, and why did he bother to hurry back to base at all?

 

VI.     What exercise would you recommend to your nephew about breath control, since the microphones of Radio Bayelsa have been complaining about an excessive outbreak of wind in every edition of ďRelax With Governor SylvaĒ?

 

VII.   In view of the unrelieved power supply challenge in Bayelsa State, what is your honest professional advice to government?

 

VIII.  What efforts have you made to bring back historical artifacts and icons captured, seized or stolen from Nembe in the course of history?

 

IX.     The Ijaws are a nation of over 20 million people, populous enough to be balkanized into the Eastern and Western regions as minorities in times past. Why is it that only one authentic state has been created for them since independence, namely Bayelsa, in spite of the strong economic credentials they command in Nigeria?

 

X.      Is it true that, as the largest and most popular political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, can never be disbanded? Is Jesus Christ under compulsion to join this party and inherit a tradition of fraud and corruption?

 

XI.     If Jesus Christ were to float a minority political party towards the next elections in Nigeria, would you care to join forces with him to change the fortunes of the chosen nation, without expecting any form of gratification?

 

XII.   Will you vote for Jesus if he declared to run for the next Presidential elections in Nigeria under the platform of the Niger Delta Peace Party, NDPP?

 

Lest I forget, your majesty, I felt suitably molested by the six Nigerian soldiers you sent after me on January XII, 2009. I am yet to recover from the cold grip of handcuffs around my wrists. Parts of my body are still aching from the experience. When next we meet, I will point out where and where. That was not a joke at all. What did you do that for? What was all that gangsterism in aid of?

 

By 9.50 pm on Thursday March 19, 2009, I could have been dead for at least forty days and forty nights. Everything to do with mourning my demise would have been over, and I would have passed on as one more statistical unit of the anonymous dead. By December 19, 2009, nine months later, the very memory of my existence might have faded completely from the minds of my kith and kin. No doubt, that would have given you great cause for celebration.

 

I am asking you the next question because you have demonstrated quite clearly to me that you specialize in matters of death. Is it true that forty days and forty nights is the length of time it takes for the human body to rot completely? Is it true that the tongue is the last organ to decompose? Well, well, well. It so happens that my tongue is intact. It is not selling for N100,000 (one hundred thousand naira only) at the human parts market in Alaba International Market, Lagos.

 

Accordingly, I am grateful for this grand opportunity to articulate the questions I have put to you so far, to say nothing of the pack I am yet to transcribe. Indeed, you may wish to know that it is time for reckoning. Put simply, Judgment Day has come, and it is only to be expected that you should be in the dock, given the unbecoming range of private and public sins you have had the temerity to commit upon the face of the Earth, duly disguised as a human being. I do hope that I am able to get across to you in crystal print, and that you understand me perfectly.

 

Let me bring to your notice that, in spite of the choking absence of funds, me and my colleagues at the Bayelsa State Newspaper Corporation, BSNC, have since resolved that even if Sylva does not wish to help us, we shall do well to help Sylva. We shall take his face off the front page, and place yours instead with a nice, curious and cheeky headline to go with it. I have since engaged the services of professional marksmen in the advertising business to maximally orchestrate this patriotic purpose.

 

I hope you get my drift. For once, our paper sold out. With a great sense of fellow-feeling for your avuncular person, your nephew - our governor - ordered that every single copy of the edition carrying ďEpistle To MaduabebeĒ be bought off the news stands and summarily burnt at the banks of Ekoli Creek, not minding the fact that the handsome face of Jesus Christ stared out from the cover of the edition of WWW bearing the maiden date January 1, 2009, and quite in spite of the very civil and auspicious greeting to one and all Ė

 

Happy New YearÖ!

 

I have it on good authority that anyone who had dared to buy a copy of the said publication for record purposes was compelled to return it to the news stands, or risk being arrested by six soldiers. I have since reconciled accounts with the vendors. All copies were paid for, in cash. Rest assured that I promptly exercised the uncommon sense to pay the total sum of N300,000 only into our corporate account at Guaranty Trust Bank along Jesus Christ Boulevard, New Jerusalem, rather than defraud the treasury as some characters around me freely suggested. For once in the first fifteen months of my virgin tenure as helmsman of the state newspaper house, we were able to remit some money into the corporate coffers of the state, all thanks to a very frank epistle to Maduabebe. May our vendors never again suffer such severe intimidation by government.

 

Be a nice king, your majesty. It wonít hurt you to part with a mere XII million naira as a goodwill gesture to BSNC.  Donít zip up your purse, to use a phrase in common currency. The advertisement was given in respect of sexual promiscuity, not royal charity. Donít zip up on us, your majesty. After all, the story of the abducted queen sold very well for Thisday, Punch, Sun, etcetera. You are evidently a popular figure in the chosen nation. You are blessed with great powers of negotiation, so long as it takes place in some discreet place, behind the back door of decency and good conscience.

 

Frankly, I felt betrayed when I read in the dailies that you were compelled to part with good money that could have received great applause, to say nothing of abiding goodwill publicity, if only it had come to the coffers of the long-suffering state newspaper. Donít pretend that you are ignorant of the critical point being made. And the point being made is that I requested, with all humility, for your royal assistance to enable this neglected parastatal grow beyond this point. I begged you to direct Chief Pigatin Sylva to budge from his indecisive standpoint, and do what concerned and loving fathers do to children in dire need. But, clearly, I was asking too much. You denied me.

 

Little wonder that the humble epistle directed at your attitude problems has grown to the humble size of this loaf of bread in a space of XII months. I am glad to inform you that Penguin Books and Jonathan Cape, to say nothing of ABC Collective, are showing great interest in the manuscript as recovered from the internet, with a view to bringing the non-conformist temper of Jesus Christ to the full attention of every spider caught in the grip of the worldwideweb.

 

Look, if you think I am being a noisy gadfly, why donít you simply send me to study under Muammar Ghaddafi? Send me to Tokyo. Send me to the Himalayan Islands. Send me to be with the Dalai Lama. Come to think of it, send me to the Vatican to stay beside Pope Benedict XVI. Send me to conduct an interview with Dan Brown. Send me to the Caribbean Islands to study for the next degree that will make Eden proud. I want to say a prayer before the tombs of Haile Sellasie and Marcus Garvey, to say nothing of Bob Marley.

 

Why donít you just send me far away from you, so that you and Sylva can do what you like with the fortunes of Bayelsa State, to say nothing of the oil wells of Nembe Kingdom. That is, if the land and people of Bayelsa allow you at all. Isnít that what you guys are after, to take absolute control over the proceeds from the oil wells? Isnít that what Odumegwu Ojukwu was after when he carved out the Republic of Biafra from the Federal Republic of Nigeria? How smart can you guys get? How clever have you been all my life?

 

But, of course, you canít send me anywhere. You canít afford to part with any coin on my behalf. A brass farthing would be too much for you to forego as far as my interest is concerned. Both of you are that greedy. Whatever anybody tells you, your majesty, I am not a selfish man. I do not know how to hoard knowledge. If you send me out and I find a book in the Bahamas that I think would be useful to a geologist like you, what stops me from buying it for you? I confess that your nephew was the first Nembe man I know to have ever called me a friend, and actually write it down on paper. I am reminded of how Sylva returned from his very first trip to London and bought me two fat novels: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and The Moorís Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie. ďFor my friend, Nengi IlaghaĒ he wrote, then signed with a flourish. Timipre Sylva. London. Jan 3, Ď97. Today, I am proud to show my governorís autograph on the title pages of these books to anyone who cares to see just how very friendly his signature looks.

 

When I look back now, I simply tell myself he didnít really mean it. How friendly has he been? He simply wanted to impress me with the fact of having embarked upon his maiden trip to London. And, frankly, I was impressed at that time. What could my friend have said if your majesty had succeeded in killing me on January XII this chosen year of our long-expected Lord and Saviour, Jesus Joseph Christ? On the other hand, what would you say if this same great friend of mine were to kill me without notice?

 

Would you have given a colourful oration at my graveside, in case my bullet-ridden body had been discovered at all? I have no doubt at all that you can be that generous. That would have been really nice of you. I have no doubt that you would have gone so far as to say how promising my career was as a poet who was denied his due by the folks at NLNG, and how you were set and ready to sponsor me to the best universities around the world, if not for the fact that I wrote stubborn epistles. And, deep inside, even as you returned to your seat, you would have been sniggering your heart out.

 

Even so, I find it hard to believe that two authorities who ought to protect me as a treasured citizen of Glory Land practically looked the other way when six Nigerian soldiers forced me out of my car in broad daylight, stampeded me into their waiting truck, sandwiched me in between them, and clasped handcuffs around my wrists. Are you both still pretending that you did not hear or read anything to the effect that Pope Pen Constantine The First, Chief Executive Officer, Vineyard Press, Glory Land, escaped assassination at the hands of six Nigerian soldiers, all touting guns at yahoo, number-plate covered, on the said January XII, 2009? I dare say I am yet to receive any condolence messages from you, and I am appalled at your indifference to matters pertaining to your jurisdiction. Not that I look forward to any from you. I am alive. That suits Jehovah. I am alive. Thatís okay for Adonai.

 

Anyway, I suppose I might as well keep my humble ideas to my humble self. Let us trade gossip about other things. I have just dismissed the last case brought before me by Pentecost, and could do with a royal chat. If I cannot reason with my king and my governor, sitting across each other on the same breakfast table, why am I a responsible citizen? Come to that, if you donít like the way this epistle is going, why donít you just award me one of your numerous road contracts? I am sure I can construct one kilometer of a tarred road for far less than one billion naira. If, as a master of the Living Word, I can venture into genetic engineering and discover the cure for HIV/AIDS, I might as well be a construction engineer working in concert with George Fente. I might as well import my own fleet of trucks and pay-loaders and bulldoze every other vehicle out of the way in the manner of Azibapu Eruani of the Azikel fame. 

 

You and your nephew are choking me, your majesty, and thatís the raw truth. You are twisting my windpipe, and I am practically out of breath. You are not extending a helping hand at all to the state newspaper, and I feel righteous anger against you. This is not a matter of police, navy, army, airforce or SSS. This is about being the keeper of your own newspaper. Otherwise, the least I can do is to tell the entire world that I hold both of you culpable in every material particular, as far as misgoverning Bayelsa is concerned.

 

And, for the sake of emphasis, let me state yet again that if anything happens to my fingernail, or if one hair falls off the head of one of my distant relatives, Ama Gido will not take it kindly with you. Touch not my anointed, says the Lord, and do my prophets no harm. Did you see what Gido did to the Executive Council Chambers last year? No earthquake, no storm, no tsunami, and yet Ama Gido collapsed the Executive Council Chambers, Government House, Yenagoa, just like that, the same symbold of power where Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Goodluck Jonathan and the military gentlemen before them, held forte. If that is not a sign and a wonder, give me another example.

 

Your majesty, do not discount the fact that William Jefferson Clinton, former President of America, and champion of the crusade against HIV/AIDS, takes my opinion seriously. I have just posted an epistle to him, asking his advice as to whether or not I should study Divinity or Medicine in Arkansas. I told him that my uncle, Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, emeritus professor of history, is likely to recommend that I move to Baltimore, Boston, Harvard or Wisconsin. I await his reply in earnest.

 

For your information, I want to read a course that will specifically train me to solve the problems of Bayelsa State, so help me God. You can be sure that I will do well to take elective courses on resolving the challenges facing the Niger Delta, and another for breaking the political jinx in Nigeria such that the face of a southerner can appear on the national currency, preferably mine. And may I live to see the day when a President will be imposed on this nation outside the constitutional provisions which stipulate that the Vice President takes over automatically from a President who is too ill to continue, or worse, dies in office before the expiration of his tenure. That will be the day Ama Gido will come strong upon this stubborn nation!

 

Perhaps I should settle for a degree in Divinity after all, something that will get me fully acquainted with all the disparate religions contesting for the attention of Adam and Eve. As the new Pastor of the world, it is only natural that I should acquaint myself afresh, and in considerable depth, with the ancient Mosaic scriptures and the synoptic gospels, to say nothing of the X Commandments. As for location, I may jolly well settle for California and make friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, or else Washington District of Columbia, so that I can be close to my personal friend from Kenya, Barack Obama, especially following my recent winsome presentation to the United Nations General Assembly, UNESCO and WHO, revealing the final cure for six dreaded diseases, first of which is HIV/AIDS.

 

While the glory of this discovery comes to Glory Land, allow me to remark that it is a grand shame that Dr Azibapu Eruani, Commissioner for Health, and his ilk are still pretending that they did not read anything about the efficacy of perenina, ideru and meun in solution, as clearly expressed in my inaugural thesis to President Barack Hussein Obama, published in the XIIth edition of WWW. How blind can these people get? How deaf can they be? Or, are they piqued and dumbfounded that, right under their medical noses, a blessed minstrel from the Niger Delta swamp is headed for worldwide glory?

 

As for me, if I get an acknowledgement from Mingi Madu, Iím cool. Let it be on record that the Nembe Kingdom has contributed to the worldwide pool of human knowledge by advancing genetic science with an all-time verity. The least I expect is that my land and people will celebrate this landmark achievement on Eden soil, in grand style, before I proceed to Stockholm to pick up the Nobel Prize for Science, the first and only poet so to do. And if the Nobel Committee is wise enough, they should award me the Nobel Prize for Literature as well, at the same ceremony, if only in recognition of Pope Penís tireless industry as evident in the year-long odyssey, A Calendar of Faith.

 

Or, your majesty, what do you think? I do have some more questions for you but, in the meantime, I have been preoccupied with a well-meaning bid to be more adept at constructing limericks that just might take my attention off these petty troubles, delivered in the best tradition of Edward Lear. One of my most recent attempts, which you may wish to bring to the gubernatorial attention of your nephew, goes as follows:

 

SOME GOVERNORS follow the wrong apostles

Bowing before the wrong altars

Some helmsmen lead their own footsteps

Into the grip of the proverbial abyss

Sylva & gold have I none, but this is what I think

 



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