Àbíkú and the Dialogue with Gods – by Seun Sobola - THE BUSINESS PACKAGE


Monday, September 19, 2022

Àbíkú and the Dialogue with Gods – by Seun Sobola

Àbíkú and the Dialogue with Gods – by Seun Sobola

He first found himself transformed to the not-so-old carpet – drank from the dirt-ridden compost set on a metallic bowl in the single room which, was cleaved into sections by colourless veils. Then lay his back on his safe left hand on the floor; as it was steely to rest on the right hand that was conspicuously infected with bursitis. However hard he threw himself to his right, he would always rolled back to where was comfortable. He shut his eyes, stopped the bizarre talks, put an end to the stumbling of his legs and went to a long travelogue of phantasm.

He stood firmly on a green pond, with a covered top; and a view of a palely photoelectric vision. A horizontal golden table flashed with the reflection of the green pond it was levelled on; and microphones, a jar of wine, bowl-shaped drinking vessels, four furnished settees behind the stunning table, and another one of exact proportions opposite the four. From the left-handed side, incised on the settees were as follows: scientist, philosopher, nun, and nonconformist, while on the settee opposite the four was his name.

He disappeared and landed in a market, surfing for the nonconformist – and unless he offered a chaste cock, the nonconformist would never stand. He however furtively in spirit took a cock from the market – and brew forward to a village with a wide crossroads.

It was at noon at the crossroads. He called out the nonconformist three times – winds began to howl; leaves rustling like unforseen sinister, and houses withering into the mists of unawareness. When he looked up, he saw a robust, dark and short man, with red cummerbund, enveloping from his swished waist down to his neat downward feet. And in tremor of his fear, he gave the holy cock to him and he left to take the fourth seat.

Because of a heavy downpour, which mangled onto the wastelands of cleanliness, the semen of godliness, he went down to the rim side of the river, where no swimmer in the world no matter how good would reach, to the river goddess, the nun. Not empty-handed but with a staunch ram in a Ghana-must-go.

Piscine were quaking, tottering, shrinking away like lowly lambs – and his legs were dripping in a fusillade of shots. The nun from head to tail was a lofty fish, slightly giving him a welcome hug in her opulent aquaria, as well, swinging her fishy lips at the ram he brought to her. In a word she went forth to take the next seat.

He was barefooted inside Kuso where the towering deity resided; neither he dare put on sandals, else the god’s thunder peace would lampoon his shameless stone, nor would a woman enter, else grave. The god, being a simple deity could be given any foods for his graving worship. He then spluttered the cooked yam from the piercing heat of sunlight – and the god rose to the top like the tip-top philosophers. He splashed above the ancient moon searching for explanations which philosophers would eternally ask for.

He was at the marketplace again, in a rabble of clustering scene – as a buyer in human form, not to secretly steal, rather, to get some provisions for the inquisitive scientist. He bought ten dead snails, a consignment of crayfish, original squashy shear butter, a gallon of red palm oil, and a bag of highly cold sachet water. He went into despair as it was hard for him to get other scraps known to him only, nonetheless he went like that because scientists were generously accommodating.

He took his own settee and as well as the gods, at the gathering of wisdom, the epoch of incredulity, principally to hash out the profound issue: What is the source of vices in Kongi kingdom? And he being the purveyor of the scholarly dialogue, he gave way to appreciating the esteemed moments from his guests, which were rare to accrue. Before long he began with a question heavily saddled with nonsensical sympathy and palpable understanding.

‘Our kingdom is currently battling with a redoubled calamity and, which we suppose to join hands together, by harnessing unity with solidarity. But we can all see it on the drawing board that we are not united in any sense. Religious sectarian killings, banditries, disaster at many levels, rapes, racism, explosions, torture, kidnapping and others are dramatically escalating day in, day out. And I think this is the reason why I have always been reckoning with the ideology of absurdist theatre that professed the human life to be meaningless and ridiculous by nature, if he doesn’t take it into his hand. But, uh… that’s nothing! The fact remains, why is it that vices are prevalent in our kingdom these days? Let me begin with our nonconformist.’

Hurriedly thinking through all these, unable to fathom how he was going to start, the nonconformist, shook squeakingly his head – despite the little difficulty, he became lively as a cricket, and could not suppress a smile that showed like a new button; that meant to say he was mocking the question. Then, he asked for permission, to briefly digress from the focus to sprinkle humors in an exceptional manner.

‘As a nonconformist what I do is to teach people about their failings, for them not to be dogmatic on any issues. This is because I wholly believe he who God would bless, surely He would bless. And in fact, Almighty God is the sole founder of all religions in our kingdom, more importantly the religions of those referred to as pagans, or whatever names they may have for them… Now, let’s take a look at this. It was one classical critic who rose in defence of poetry when he saw that poetry had suffered a disgusting defeat. He therefore wrote, and put it simple! He said it was not poetry that was corrupt, but the “medium” through which it was used by the writers of the period. Meaning that, there are sheer destroyers in religion. And you know religion was fashioned out of poetry by the rubbled avant-gardes, the Holy Fathers through some morality plays many centuries ago… However, with less suspiciousness, it is that same kind of mentality to ruin that animated one of our sons who saw nothing wrong with equating my name with their devil, but failed to find a near equivalent Dansan deity for their saviour, instead of Dansanising his name.’

An atmosphere of gleeful anticipation with unnecessarily cluttering of thoughts, was something that could not, but tolerated. And, as everyone was nagging some sort of echoes, which were unclear, leaving the nonconformist; quite unanimously as harsh as truth; to continue his talks.

‘With the huge marvelous company of my existence, the human instinct because of the possession of power to make oneself better and other people worse, by destroying their goals or diminishing them totally, to me, seems very deep. And I think I don’t need any linguistic, metaphysical or even psychological explications from people who manacle their fellow human beings’ essence in life, and then leave humanity at the expense of suffering, poverty and so on. Besides, this act is not only carried out by our leaders alone, but also now fascinatingly manifesting itself in religions. Some are unconsciously of the opinion that their own belief system is better than others, and they continue to downplay other beliefs through eliminating their symbols and languages by their so-called “conversion”. I am boldly saying it that is a wrongful judgement! Although I am part of the question by being a deity, incidentally I have mixed feelings about the word “religion”, because many doctrines are after what feels “good” and not what is “true”. And it is repulsive when people are compelled to believing with the absence of “evidence”. We may have to find an alternate way of thinking and the question is whether that is strong enough to motivate the new generations.’

The nonconformist took a French leave to the doorstep and slugged down a cup of wine. His eyes were shinning brilliantly; however looked purportedly dully at the nun, who was clearly nothing, but flopped in hay wires. For a moment she remained quiet, and more because as a theologian, the nonconformist had peeved her, and she must respond mundanely. Turning out to be too hard to move; she went slowly; and finally, almost in a frenzy, when she carefully shoved forward, leaving so much to be desired.

‘We can as well agree that many of our people have decided to seek comfort in dangerous solutions because they are afraid of having people who do not belong to their groups in their countries and communities. This however covers the experience of racism, xenophobic attacks, unfounded notions of religious terrorists, and the widely foolish aphorism of “black people” and “white people”… and we know God never created black and white Adam and Eve. Our ideas are now reduced to our belongings, as if that is the highest we can aspire. So, what I think we should do to get out of our problems is for us to downrightly recognize that we need to speak across our differences and ethnicities, and not as the man beside me had said, we could be better off without religion.’

The nonconformist was dropped inside a foggy; tongue-tied temporarily, that words could not be made out, but froze still an unwonted broaden look at the nun. It was the simple matter of leaving so much to be desired, that the argument was pawned in the hand of the scientist; and subsequently elucidated by the philosopher.

‘I am not a religious person. And I am not, too, a nonconformist, albeit I optimally concur with the nonconformist… I am a scientist, and I critically assess what we might call the combustible mixture of ignorance and power. Following that, if we are to take a look at everything happening in our kingdom today, I think we need to ask skeptical questions to interrogate those who tell us that some things are true. Because if we don’t, we may be up for grabs for another charlatan… otherwise people are thoroughly educated in order to practise their skepticism, then they don’t run their lives, the minority runs them with their fallibilities!’

‘I’m very satisfied with what our scientist has just said now. I could see her mentioning the masses, who are the most excluded and frustrated, to be adequately educated and prepared to ask for explanations from those who are ready to squander their lives. Indeed, explanations are highly welcome. But there is something we have left out, which is, why is it that we don’t always think there are reasons why people get themselves in these vices, rather than the usual justice or sent to prison we call for?... since nobody was incubated in these vices from birth, so people should talk more of their expectations, mistakes and reasons why they have been part of these grandiose projects or vices because it is easy to imagine the mankind when we basically don’t see it.’

He was silent for a while, the anchor; but taken totally by surprise, no one was chasing him; he remained in a state of empty thinking, and peaceful probings; eventually; he found the piece: A FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL RAPED BY A SIXTY-YEAR-OLD MAN. Less piqued he became; and hasty as fire, he asked, ‘Please tell me what kind of explanations does this man, who committed this ugly sin needs to give?’ The philosopher, left no stone unturned.

‘Good! I will give you both the justifications, and as well as the explanations that can vindicate the man… there are four basic tenets upon which philosophy exclusively rests. These are epistemology… ethics… logic… and metaphysics…. I must say that philosophy is more than a course, it’s a way of thinking. All the problems of ours today, however, are questions of ethics. That is, how people behave in our societies, and their attitudes towards other people in certain ways… Now, I coincide at wholesale that raping, racism, murdering, torture and so on are bad. But, evils are also enticed by the vices we have listed. This is because ethics in our societies is “two”. It is not just about “one person’s attitude to another person”, it is also more of “a person’s attitude as a byproduct of his society”. That is, the kind of principles that organise a society always have great effects on the individuals… In our kingdom of today sexual contents are free to all and sundry. Some parents even indulge in them, and sometimes end in the hands of their children. Bad morals are now accepted; with youths not interested in criticising the governmet, but variety television shows and electronic frauds. Let me reframe it again, justice should be the least of our concern! We may have to go back to our families and societies. Parents should sit their children down and talk to them where they would hear because charity begins at home.’

It was not until it was at dawn that morning that he woke from his deep and eye-rolling sleep. He wouldn’t have woken earlier in the first place if the dream hadn’t ended, as he was highly pleased to continue it. That was what I had concisely put in a discourse. But he had the imprint that some hurried steps and clapping from his spiritual friends had honestly stirred him; soothly I guess too. The light from the local lamp shone unto him and annexed  innocent veils which, divided the single room into fractional one-quarter each – parlour, his own, his mother’s and the kitchen. 

The room, a cheap apartment in a rundown tenement, lay crumbled between the four familiar walls. A suit of old-fashioned clothes lay spread on the only bed his mother occupied – and above hung a picture housed in a wide, thickened frame. It showed her mother with a fur wimple and fur lace who stood upright, with dark and white eyes, and a plain face that could have been prettier if she had used makeup. There were also some other things, like the cooking utensils of darkened pots on a Kolo stove, the singing kettle, the compost of torrent situated on a metallic bowl, and a calendar that displayed the picture of one honourable who had held many posts at different times and at different places.

He shouted, ‘My mother!’ – nobody answered. He did not call out again because he hated not to be responded to when he called anyone, in any case that might happen or befall. He just remained where he was without moving away as stubborn as a mule. But he was a bit annoyed when he looked through the white veil; and discovered that his mother was not on the bed such that his lewd mannered wit soon passed away. He was now trying to push himself up with his dangling snail’s shell fixed on his neck, feeling intensely pained because he again rested on his weary right hand that was crippled by unavoidable accidents, and had left many painfully embellished marks and derelict bones.

He had many a countless time been taken to different hospitals, and the doctors had advised him to be careful with the recurrent accidents he always had before it got worse; but sufficed it enough to say, he had had not any death experience except the usual injuries. 

Moreover if we were to give full details of everything, to tell you all the conditions, his mother would contend with the circumstances surrounding his birth. Was it that he came out of her belly at the fifth month of his conception; despite several contraceptions she took? And that was because earlier before that Ifa had said he was no Ogbe. Or, was it, probably all more deeply that his problems budge them from their briskly house; to a rough-and-ready one that validated indisputably a metaphor that the consummate Milton found it hard to pronounce “r”? The smallest in degree was in that season on a day; neither with pretense nor insincerity that his father was lost among desert ferine. I thought his father was won at Alexandria; but he posited my intelligence was short, that it was at the pestilent tree of Alara. Many knew and fretted, though.

He was a veteran at the contest of obituaries, of lofty thoughts, high sentences, that he preferred elegies on headstones to good tidings. It wasn’t cynicism, or a mere joke, that was his foundation; he didn’t just care. 

After the sundry seasons of childhood he was versed in such skilled observations: ‘No! I will not do it! No one can love me! I cannot make myself happy! I cannot make anyone happy because I don’t even know what happiness means!’ True, even when he knew the adventure or the familiar hunting expenditure was a harbinger of joy and happiness, he created problems if there were none; apprised of revenge that jarred both his loved ones and fellow haters to sickness and mischief in spiced conscience. In the village, in school, in another universe, he was a brain, laureate, with a resourceful knowledge big enough to be banked. But they were not to be materialised because of the convenant to reunite with his spiritual friends.

His legs were moving continually in different directions; and eventually stood firm as a rock. The beams from the local lamp were fading out. One of the hands that was badly injured was held by the other. And with a deranged expression in his eyes, he used his head to dash the veil across to the kitchen, and started to move about, crawling from one pot of soup to the other. 

He broke so immensely in tears that they flowed down his face because there was virtually nothing to feed on in this unsolicited morning breakfast, except the water in a compost. His hands therefore in their stationed immobility, he bowed to the slightest movement he could; took some water with both his head and mouth inside the dirty compost as if a vulpine lapping on a lake; yet somehow deaf to the paucity of things to come. 

He became much calm. That is, he now understood his words very well that he said derisively, ‘Where is this useless woman? Does she want me to die of hunger? And if I had known she would do this, this glorious morning, I should have killed her long ago. I saw her, that day, when she tiptoed to the diviner who could see the past and the future. That thin old man had given her an empty snail’s shell, which she then fastened on my neck. She wants me to give her happiness, she is deceiving herself! I know it is not a spoilt milk, I can still kill her. I just hope people won’t say that I am too wicked.’ 

He went silent like their doorjamb, raised his head like a rude bear, out of alle charity, and again became a little annoyed with a countenance as shapeless as an old shoe; this time, it was no clear whether it was hunger that angered him, or the absence of his mother. Suddenly he noticed something was strange; just as he was wordless in the room; even outside was as noiseless as shadow. He said to himself, ‘Could that be the bursting of rapture? But how come I was not called?’ Upon his feet it was sarcasm! He gently pushed himself over to the door, turning sharply to his left hand which thrusted the door so vigorously as he went out.

He stepped out and looked round at other rooms in rapid amazement for where the people could be as the rooms were locked; they had forgotten about him. He staggered back to his door, feeling his way clumsily with his injured hand – of which he was now beginning to learn its value – in order to see clearly what had been happening. The whole of his right hand seemed lifeless, painfully increasing its tenacity, which made him to quickly use the other hand again as reinforcement. 

Bold enough was his face and quite fair like a fiddle that in a nearly equally outlandish miracle he bursted out with laughter, through series of thoughts that improvised loudly his appreciable space of excitement. His lonely minder became a cheerful lark that there was nobody in the house, and with mild equivalence for further confirmation, he scavenged the nearby houses; for comestibles; to another, till the closure end of the village. They were also locked with full big padlocks. 

A yellow fever eye then fascined on his face; as he lay at an angle of one of the thresholds he was scampering; without regard for what might happen. Again it was the right hand that flank scrapped on the wooden door, and was grievously pained, leaving his legs along one side hung quivering in the air while the hand was pressed painfully against the door. He muffled carefully some supposedly self-assertive questions to intercede on behalf of the pains: ‘Why am I the only one in the village with nothing to eat? And our room, why was it not locked?’ But as if in gruff reply to his questions, a highly grating sound was ticking from almost distant past; continuously and terribly slammed as if hitting an anvil to make Ogun’s slaughtering sword.

Abruptly he pulled himself together, but was still sitting on the plank; now tugged excitedly in probable shapes – as though a prey laboriously struggling for breath. His look seemed to give some definite ideas; he saw an unclear sign of a route across to the bush on the other side; then he rode, not homely but at a more humane pace for where the ticks were clanging. And although he had waited after no pomp, both his hands were already stretched out and was able to absorb the pains solely to mount his speed, the speed of a tortoise.

Eventually when he got there, he went berserk that it was a great surprise because the ticks he heard as he was coming were actually marked-singsong of starvation. Of course his landing point was on a river bank, towards a fat innocent river gurgling profusely; spared of covers, slabs of rocks being thatch roofs, that demarcated himself from the people of his village who were endemic in the virus of hunger. His mouth, worse than ashes, that he distinguishably felt the crunch of cinders between his teeth and its set femoras. Totally, he forgot his initial gambit that he was looking for his mother; as his legs started to clasp fetishly; and the slashing and troubled waves of tree branches, garlics, and boulders engulfed his emotional timetable, branding into a splattering pattern of infinite labyrinth simplicities. They were in a rowdy, cold and sober watercourse, crying and hurling in contemptuously craving voice, with plates stretched forwards on their hands, which no less depicted them as beggars. They looked homeless, famished; their psychics heavily and scornful damaged, stamping on themselves in militant ways, which could not fail to be unnecessary – but it was starvation. A heartfelt tears rolled down from his bitter defeat eyes as he made trudgely along to a camwood to sit, appealing to Heaven in prayers so hopeless like a church mouse. Then he doffed the snail’s shell from his neck, gnashed it against the camwood and used it to butcher his neck slowly, while saying:

I am Abiku – born to die prematurely

It is my destiny to die illogically – please understand

I have thought of what it could be like to die

Imagine you are on a long dreamless sleep

Imagine you miss all the exquisite complexity of life

The beauty of life, the universe, the sheer joy

Suddenly you feel they were so precious

Don’t forget that todays are legacies of yesterdays

The inscription written on the tomb tells us something about the type of life a man or woman lived

The picture will remain in the minds of the people

While I was born I cried while the world cried and now that I am leaving I am crying in anguish, and the world is still crying – it was my destiny anyway

But yours can be different

You may live your life such that when you die you rejoice while the world cry

Only if you can make in your position ‘starvation’ your concern because people are dying.

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