By Ifedayo Babalola
‘They must be stopped! This cannot be!’ Shorty’s bearded face is a mix of fear and rage. ‘We must stop them!’
‘Stop who? Stop what? ‘Lanky queries, wincing underneath the heavy decibels pumping from the earpiece.
‘Haven’t you heard? Well, it is privileged information still. The Group revealed to me this morning…’
‘My friend, calm down and talk sense. The Group, secret information, revelation….. ‘
‘You listen to me. The diplomat prince may soon be picked as the new COS to The President! That is absolutely, utterly unallowable!‘
‘Who exactly? What is his name and why does the appointment bother you so much?’
‘Because the survival of this nation depends on it. In fact, the survival of the human race, you might say.’
‘Now, that is absolutely, utterly serious,’ Lanky would have laughed if not that he fears something serious is happening to his friend. ‘The human race? Is Aso Rock appointing The COVID-19 as The COS? And….’
‘This is no time for jokes.’ Shorty suddenly drops his voice and leans close to the webcam. ‘I cannot mention his name. The Group forbids it. They are everywhere. He is the diplomat prince from the south-northern city of the north-southern state. That is all the clue you are ever gonna get from me if you really love your life…And talking about life, shouldn’t we be putting on masks?’
‘For a video call?’
‘Exactly. I’m gonna put one on anyway. I do not know where you’ve been.’
This is the first conversation between them since the lockdown was declared. Lanky had made several attempts reach his friend by phone. When he got no answer, he contacted the wife. Apparently, Shorty had locked himself in his room from day one of the lockdown, explaining to his family that what he required was a total lock-up. According to him, he needed space to receive The Great Epiphany.
So when Shorty’s wife informed him two days ago that his friend asked that a zoom meeting be arranged, Lanky was both delighted and curious in equal measure. After these opening minutes however, curiosity has grabbed a disproportionate quota of his emotional arrangement.
Shorty now has his mask submerged halfway into his covid facial hair, his eyes peep from somewhere behind his eyeglasses. In better times, Lanky would have quipped that he looks like an iron god in specs. But things are far from normal right now.
‘But he is very qualified, isn’t he? A well…’
‘Bravo! You’ve worked it out, eh?’
‘Articulate and intelligent man, he is and….’
‘How right!’ Shorty cuts in again. ‘Artificially intelligent.’
‘I said articulate and intelligent.’
‘What’s the difference? Intelligence without compassion is artificial all the same. Think Saro-Wiwa, Abacha, the other diplomat and many more.’ He pauses to adjust his mask before proceeding. ‘What will a diplomat bring to Aso Rock? More deceptions and lies? How to call black as blue? Oh great! The media team over there will now have a mentor in apocalyptic manipulations and open deceit. Have you read “The Omen”? It is a novel about a diplomat who tricked his wife to raise an offspring of Satan? Now, we have diplomat holding the reigns of Aso Rock power. Do the math. Serious omen.’
‘Yes. That sounds like the title of a bestselling fiction that I’ve read.’
‘That is a fictional story, alright!…. But The Group says with this appointment, the fulfilment is at hand, and it is taking place right before our eyes!’
‘There is no correlation. You need to get a grip. You are becoming paranoid, my dear.. ‘ Lanky tries to tone down the temperature of the conversation.
‘It’s you who needs to wake up, matey! You think it’s far-fetched? Let me tell you, eh? No prophesy unfolds with a hundred per cent accuracy. Besides, this man is Nigeria’s own “The Prince” as prescribed by Nicolo Machiavelli. Remember him? The end justifies the means? Are we ready for a COS who engages any tactics to get whatever he wants?’
‘You know very well that I’ve studied The Prince; but at the last count, you wanted anyone but Abba Kyari, didn’t you?’
“That was then. That was a long time ago. Now, I say, anyone but them!’ Shorty’s voice keeps rising, the face mask modulating like a broken base amplifier.
‘Them? Who is Them?’
‘The Ilorin Fulani of course!’ Shorty bangs the table. The webcam wiggles in protest. ‘Who else?!’
‘Now… You see yourself?’ Lanky counters. ‘Agboola is a Yoruba name….’
‘You mentioned that name with your own mouth. May your sin be upon your own head. Anyway, you are so ignorant, my friend…. Yes. He has a Hausa surname, a Yoruba middle name, speaks Yoruba, his mother and wife are Yoruba. That is nothing but the cosmopolitan deception principle of The Fulani: “Be everything they are, but never let the conquered be anything we are.” You know the history! Anyone but them!’ The webcam wiggles again at the thunderous bang on the table.
‘Doesn’t that make him a mixed breed, half Yoruba and half Fulani? And won’t that make each of his children a quarter Fulani and three quarters Yoruba?’
‘Ah! Ignorance is bliss….!’
Lanky’s patience is being stretched. ‘If you use that language once more, I will end this discussion straightaway.’
Shorty’s wife sooths in from the background. ‘Dear, do not call your friend names, you hear?’
‘But he first called me paranoid. Okay, okay…’ He raises an open palm to the camera as a form of atonement. ‘As I was saying, you may work it forward to his grandchildren up to the hundredth generation, if you like. An inverted form of America’s Jim Crow rule is at play here. A single drop of Fulani blood in you makes you a Fulani. It is such a powerful blood. By the way, with all the attached privileges in Nigeria, you’d be foolish to identify otherwise if you have just a little above zero per cent Fulani blood in you. Intermarriage doesn’t change anything, you know. Everything about them is political, and that includes love, language, marriage and the choice of baby names. You may even call it wedlock as an instrument of conquest authentication. You see why the choice of an Ilorin Fulani is a slap and a ploy to extend the southern boundaries of infamy? All this nonsense must stop. We need you with us to put a stop to all this nonsense. I promised The Group I have a friend-’
Lanky watches with seething anger as his compatriot struggles to catch his breath under the carbon dioxide-filled face mask. In spite of his annoyance, he knows he must help this disturbed man at the other end of the line.
‘Look mate,’ he begins calmly. ‘I know the lockdown, the virus threat and all has put everyone under some stress, but you have to get some grip. For your own sake, for the sake of your family and for our friendship. I don’t know those you have been talking to, but if you have any problem with them, let me know. If there is any way I can help, you trust I will.’
‘You think I am mad, Lanky, or you are pretending not to know the truth? Okay okay…maybe you have aspirations. I know you know someone who is a friend to someone who knows the guy, but that is no reason to sell out. You are not jobless. We used to be together. Who did this to you? What did this to you?’
Lanky is astonished. ‘Because I don’t subscribe to your hysteria, that means I’ve been bought?’
‘Bought, simply naive or whatever!’ Shorty continues with greater vigour. ‘Don’t be deceived about talks of Fulanization. You can’t be Fulanized. Actually, to be Fulanised would be a honour if you consider the alternative. But you can’t if you do not have the drop of the blood; and it does not happen by appointments or religion. It does not happen by blood transfusion either in case you are thinking along that line. They will only use you and dump you. Even the Hausas have not been Fulanized.’
He adjusts his mask again before continuing. Sweat bubbles take social distancing positions on his forehead. ‘So, forget Fulanization. That is what The Group told me in The Great Epiphany. The aim is Bovinisation. Yes! You heard me. The Fulani project is to herd every other Nigerian like cattle. And you know what? That they give you this job does not mean they love you. If at all, it will be the kind of love they have for their cattle. Love to sale! If The Fulani can sell his cattle for slaughtering, they’ll sell anyone!’
‘And this group told you all these in your vision?’ Lanky manages to get a word in.
Shorty jumps up and walks to the middle of the living room. Lanky can now see his full dishevelled frame.
‘You think I’m mad, don’t you? That is what they said of all the prophets. But we are always vindicated in the end.’ He gazes heavenwards as he paces off and on camera, but his voice is clear and unbroken. ‘Yes. I saw them clearly – the turbaned leader, as he addressed his followers in faraway Fouta Djallon: “We must journey to this land. And when it is conquered, people whose inheritance you seize shall bow at your feet, better men shall be your cup bearers; royal virgins shall beg your friendship. You shall suck dry the milk of their southern tip and lick the honey of their western flank; you shall graze freely on their yam tubers and rule the waves of their oceans. That is the land and the people that your God has promised to you and to your generations……Follow me therefore, and I will make you herders of men……’
Lanky’s phone rings. It is Shorty’s wife. ‘Uncle!’ She sounds agitated. ‘The doctors are at the door. Please come over….!’
-Ifedayo Babalola is a writer and social critic.