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Parable of the food

By  Bayo Fasunwon

Hunger is a terrible feeling. The pangs hit him, and he was so sure that he would die. At that moment, he forgot that some men like him had gone without food for forty days and night, in order to get the change they earnestly desired. That was their destiny, not his. Ijewuru trudged along the lonely path, leading to the village. Everything he saw looked like food to him. As he passed by Iya Aminat, the food  seller, he suddenly realized that he had no money on him. The only valuable he held was a plaque representing his birthright. The plaque was a guarantee to a better life, good health, beautiful houses, wealth, standard education, and the realization of his golden dreams. He smiled as he touched the plaque, and the hungry worms in his tummy revolted. They seemed to have bitten him harder. He groaned under the weight of his temporary pain. A roasted dog is sweet, but what shall one eat before the dog is roasted?

Ijewuru saw him from afar  Teminikan. Everyone in the village knew him as a thief, a swindler, an oppressor, and a power conscious villain. His quest for power can only be granted, if only the plaque of Ijewuru became his. Both of them knew this. Ijewuru had vowed to give it to Ayanfe, whom he knew would be a great blessing to the village. Ayanfe had the love of his people at heart. Kind, hardworking, focused and full of integrity, but stingy with money. His stinginess was borne out of his philosophy that one should not consume what was good for all. If anyone should have the plaque, it should be Ayanfe.

The battle for the heart of Ijewuru had been fierce, but short of violence. The historians of the village, as was the custom had summoned him on seven occasions to relay to him the past of Iwase village. From their archives, they showed him that the progenitor of Ayanfe had been a warrior, who led the village of the bondage of the Igbominas years back. However, Ayanfes predecessors had tried to execute programs and policies that would fully liberate the people, but it was truncated. It was the predecessors of   Teminikan who led an uprising against Ayanfes progenitors and removed him from the seat of power. Since then, after about six decades, the birds of Iwase were no longer singing the happy songs; the rats were no longer squealing but grunting and goats had not ceased to bark rather than bleat. Common things of life became uncommon. Clothes, shelter, and food became scarce and development became unattainable. Instead of fixing the problem, Teminikans ancestors pitched the people against one another. Emphases were placed on the mundane things that divided the people. Diversities in religion, language, culture, race, and thoughts were given the podium, while good and affordable education, equal rights, justice, employment, industrialization, and development ideas were thrown into the vaults of impossibility.

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While the people of Iwase were busy hating and killing themselves, Teminikans ancestors and friends were making daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly withdrawals from the common vault of the village. They looted, and pillaged the treasury. The eagle-eyed men who saw this wanton depreciation of the commonwealth raised alarm. They were silenced, either by giving them crumbs of the stolen wealth or killing the stubborn ones for trying to disrupt the peace of the village. Therefore, feeding fat on the wealth of the now impoverished people, the families of Teminikan now held the three aces. They controlled wealth, thoughts, and the people. The only ace they had not gained was in the hands of Ijewuru. With the plaque. Ijewuru had the power to transform his village by the vantage position he holds  the Kingmaker. Whomever he gives the plaque to would govern the village for the next four years. The destiny of Iwase lies in the hand of Ijewuru, the hungry one.

At last, they met. Ijewuru greeted Teminikan and would have continued in his journey to satiate the belly. However, the latter would not let him leave. Teminikan knew opportunity, when it visits, and also knows how to grab it. With his sugarcoated mouth, he relayed to the kingmaker his various visits to the nooks and crannies of the village. He even wept at the poverty, disease, and dilapidations that dotted the village. Teminikan acknowledged that his progenitors could not be innocent of the travails and backwardness of his village, for which he on their behalf is so sorry. However, as a new breed, his quest for power was predicated on the need to correct the errors of the past. He outlined his programs of jobs, education, and development before the hungry kingmaker. Ijewuru knew that his promises were outrageous and impossible, but he was not one to argue. The name that one would call his child lies within the father.

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Thanking the power seeker for his vision, the intention at leaving was made known, by the kingmaker. However, the wince on his face could not escape the notice of the former. On enquiry for the cause of the painful frown, the kingmaker told him of his intense hunger. Teminikan only asked for a minute. When he returned saliva dropped from the mouth of Ijewuru like a burst oil pipeline. It was a bowl of cooked rice, garnished with fried stew, turkeys laps and boiled eggs. In its company was a calabash filled with freshly tapped palm wine, and few naira notes to escort the weary kingmaker to his home. The sight of this banquet increased hunger of Ijewuru. Without invitation, he lunged towards the food, but Teminikan was quick to prevent its abduction. He reminded Ijewuru that give me, and I would give you is the music played by the frogs at the riverside. He has what the kingmaker wants, and the kingmaker has what he needs. Exchange is no robbery as both would be better for the transaction.

Ijewuru tried to think with his brain, but his tummy was stronger. Of what use would the plaque be if hunger kills the holder. It is what the birds eat, that they fly with. Besides, it is the internal strength that gives external velocity. The food would be forever, but the plaque would just be for four years. Without much ado, he took the present and sold the future. Teminikan was happy to part with the terminal tray and claim the eternal glory. Both went their ways. Teminikan to the throne and Ijewuru to his house, where the latrine welcomed his post meal deliveries.

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Teminikan had no sooner ascended the throne than the treasury was opened wide for his friends. Tyranny ruled and the oppressed cried out to Ijewuru. In his beautiful ceremonial regalia, he sought the audience of the king he had installed. He saw him, but the king would not a glass of water give. His pleas for a better life went unheeded. Ijewuru could not believe the arrogance of the King, and reminded him that he could remove him from office. However, the king reminded that the ring had been inserted into the hands of the gods, and no ancestor could remove it. He also reminded Ijewuru, that he, the king did not get to the throne without sacrifice. He had bought the throne with his resources and must make profit from his investments before he could think of the people. He has paid the Piper, and therefore must be allowed to dictate the tunes.

Ijewuru did not get anything from Teminikan. Nothing for himself or for the people, whose future he had sold. Hunger dealt him another blow below the belt. He cried out, but none could hear. Reality dawned on him that he has to live with that hunger for another four years.

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