Last week my friend Apo Calypso decided to spend a few days with me on his way to Ghana. You may remember Apo Calypso, the social gadfly and intellectual businessman. When the economy went down and new opportunities opened up, he closed his perfume factory at Ohaozara and moved to Abakaliki where he is now a prosperous rice farmer, one of the best as always. Now he was heading to Kumasi to examine their new advances in seed hybridization and high yield varieties.
I hadn’t seen Apo for ages and, as you can imagine, we had a lot of catching up to do. Apo is full of surprises; with him there’s not a dull moment—his impish good humor works overtime, all the time. But something was eating him—and then one evening it burst out.
“O.J., I’ve been thinking,” he began.
“Do you ever do anything else—when you’re not de-stoning rice, I mean.”
“It’s the Untouchables . . .”
“Ah, our miserable Indian cousins, gone so long they’ve even forgotten they are Africans. They’ve got a deep canyon to climb out of,” I went on. “But no one can help them. They must fight their way through, just as our cousins in the Americas have been doing for centuries. Someday an Obama among them might rise to be Prime Minister.”
Apo took a deep breath. “Are you quite finished?” he asked with an indulgent smile.
“You’re barking up the wrong tree, O.J.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not talking about the Dravidians of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I’m talking about the Untouchables of Nigeria.”
“Rubbish!” I retorted. “Nigeria is an egalitarian society. There is no discrimination in Nigeria. There are no castes in Nigeria. We have no Untouchables here.”
“Egalitarian my nyash!” he roared. “I’m talking about the men and women at the top, not at the bottom. Those who live above the law, those whom nothing can touch.”
“Oh, those!” Now I could relax. “Don’t waste your pity. They don’t deserve any, and they don’t need it anyway.”
“Cursed are the fraudulently rich, for theirs shall never be the kingdom of Nigeria,” he intoned.
“Apo, your irreverence knows no limit.”
“Facts are facts, my friend. Here is a class of people whose brazenness, cynicism, greed, dishonesty and bad manners knows no limit . . .
“They are totally lacking in integrity.
“Otu awu ezi! They may speak a thousand words but not one word is true.
“They are respecters of no law. Far from it, they have enacted laws putting themselves beyond prosecution for acts of brigandage committed while they sit in office or in parliament.
“They’ve known hatred—hatred of self, hatred of country, hatred of their fellow-citizens.
“They are miserable cowards, small-minded thieves worse than baboons and monkeys.
“A massive inferiority complex haunts their souls to the end of their days.
“I put a curse on all of them.
“They recognize no values by which they could see themselves as free men and women, only as servants and second-class to those who know what to do with wealth,
“Servants and held in contempt by those dedicated to the betterment of their own societies,
“Those who devote their time and resources improving their homeland, making it an attractive and healthy place to live or visit.
“Cursed be those who love to visit well ordered and beautiful foreign countries but are content to live in their own country surrounded by filth and disorder,
“Who convert to their private use the common property of the community,
“Who embezzle the wealth of their nation.
“They shall all die miserable and painful deaths,
“And their spouses who connive with them,
“And the senior civil servants who help them steal.”
“Apo my friend,” I finally managed to say, when he paused for breath, “please don’t waste your breath. The Untouchables of Nigeria don’t believe in God, nor in community or nation.”
“I know,” he said. “They don’t believe in love. Love is beyond their comprehension.
“They suffer from inordinate fear, fear of poverty, fear of not having enough.
“Many of them grew up never having enough to eat, and no clothes to wear.
“And now they can’t get over the trauma.
“Never having had luxuries in their childhood or youth, now luxury is their only God.
“They may go to church or mosque five days a week and pray ten times a day,
“But they don’t believe in God, only in gold.
“When they pray, they pray for more gold and safety for their gold.
“Cursed be those who fail to enforce the laws,
“Who fail to deliver justice,
“Who accept bribes in order to pervert judgment,
“Who fail to punish those deserving punishment.
“Of all offenders, such magistrates and officers of the law are the worst.”
• To be continued
Jemie is the Editor-in-Chief of BusinessDay