She could be mistaken for the goddess of beauty, but this early Sunday morning, Beirut typified the goddess of anger as she flung open the bedroom door, stormed down the exquisite hallway into the luxurious sitting room, where Jimblow was ensconced on a green leather sofa with a wine glass gingerly sitting in his palm. “How dare you, Jimblow!” she glared, “How dare you go ahead with your threat despite all entreaties?” Jimblow didn’t look up from the newspaper he was reading; he merely reached for the champagne bottle, poured himself more drink and sipped as his swaying thighs suppressed his anger.
“I want to know why you still went ahead and smashed the gourd after I pleaded with you, Jimblow…,” Beirut continued.
“It’s only my constituents that can demand such from me, and you do not constitute part of them, woman,” Jimblow boomed, rising to his feet, meeting her molten gaze.
“You’ve come with this your constituted stuff again, abi? she shot back, adding, “Am I not part of those that campaigned and voted for you? What about Fragile and his people and supporters, are they not part of your constituents?”
“I broke no gourd, woman; I only spilled a little of its content. If not for the fear of God, your entreaties and those of other respected people, I would’ve smashed the whole gourd, and nothing would’ve happened!” Jimblow declared and sank into the sofa.
He cleared his throat, “The gourd is too large for Fragile’s head; it’s causing accidents in the area because it doesn’t allow motorists have a clear view. We can’t afford to let him go on like that. He got an approval for a shopping complex, but built a radio station, we told him to come and reconcile his building plan, he refused, and you want me to be silent? Remember, one of his press men died right in front of the house earlier this year when he was knocked down by a hit-and-run motorist. This year alone, accidents have happened around the frontage, where he makes music and peddles false news. That’s the challenge we have on Challenge Road, and as a constituted man under authority, I can’t fold my arms while my people are killed and maimed like Boko Haram victims in Borno. This is also not Benue, the kingdom of herdsmen. This is Ibadan, the city JP Clark described as the land of “running splash of rust/and gold-flung and scattered/among seven hills like broken china in the sun…”
Beirut cuts in, “But I told you to tread with caution, I know the size of the gourd doesn’t conform to the laws of the land. I also know that he built a canteen, a mast, a fence, a garage and a spiral staircase in front of the house which made no room for a setback. But what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t have demolished the canteen, garage, fence and staircase first, you should’ve taken him to the court of public opinion by being the first to report his infractions in the press. This is what you should also have done in the case of those knife men who live on the blood of cattle, whose place of operation you justifiably relocated. Being a popular minstrel, you should know that attacking Fragile would backfire if not properly managed. We should also consider his argument that the dual carriageway in front of his house ate up part of his land, and as such, there was no way he could’ve a canteen, a mast, a fence, a garage and a staircase, and at the same time have a setback on what remains of his land.”
Jimblow: You were reasonable up until your last sentence! Hasn’t he been plying the road? What about other citizens, who have the offending parts of their houses removed, does he have two heads? We remove, we don’t demolish, mind you.
Beirut: When you’re bent on a mission, you won’t listen to other people’s opinion or explain your position to them. This was what you did during the issue involving the paramount traditional ruler. Naturally, people’s sympathy would be for Fragile because they would think you’re attempting to break his gourd for the second time after his famous story of escape from the jaws of death.
Jimblow: I don’t care a hoot about what anybody says. They should continue crying like babies resisting early morning bath. Is it not the same house he’s still using to operate his rumour mill and dish out his music servings? Did I touch his mast? If I smashed the whole gourd, would he still be operating from there today? Before I came on board, that yellow-color man who wears decorative chains on his ankle approved a faulty building plan for Fragile because they both drank from the same gourd while savoring his music. Is that why I shouldn’t talk when people are dying in the area? How can I sit and watch while he uses the same building to attack my government, anyway? I should even be commended for exercising restraint and for not leveling the whole of the stupid building. Haven’t you been reading all the rubbish they’ve been writing about me? And you stand here, gnarling!
(Jimblow leaned forward in a huff and reaches for the remote control just as his agbada catches the wine glass on the stool, sending it crashing to the floor. A butler rushes in and clears the debris. He switches on the radio and a voice heralded a news talk)
Beirut: Between us, you know that if his radio wasn’t critical of you, you won’t touch his house, Jimblow. You once went to the station and praised it.
Jimblow: That was a political statement. Those who shouted hosanna were the same people that shouted ‘crucify him’. He too lied when he alleged the building is worth N800m. I told a political lie; he told a musical lie, shikena!
Beirut: But you said you were happy you didn’t demolish the house then, are you now happy you demolished a part of it now?
Jimblow: I didn’t demolish, Beirut, I removed. Why should he lend himself to the opposition? They lied that I have shares in one of the mega infrastructures I constructed for the land. Why should they lie against me? Can’t they see all I’ve done in this land and report them?
Beirut: But you can sue for libel.
Jimblow: There they go again, women! See why my oga patapata in Abuja confined your folk to the ‘other’ room? You’ll be out of office by the time justice comes calling. In politics, image is everything, a minute could cost eternity. If only the peasants of this country would revere reason over ridicule, preach practicality above rascality, display decency over degeneracy, what a kingdom-come paradise Nigeria would be. But Nigerian masses have always had the short end of the stick. They’re always manipulated. This is what is happening in Challenge.
(Jimblow increases the volume of the radio and listens to the news talk)
Radio: “…With the brouhaha generated by the Nigerian masses over the demolition of Mr Fragile’s N800m building, one would think that the ignoble military leader of the Oyo Empire between the 15th and 16th Century, Bashorun Gaa, had resurfaced at dawn in Ibadan last Sunday. Gaa was killed and burnt by the masses after he dethroned and dispatched to the great beyond four Alaafins of Oyo, and marched towards the throne. May Gaa never resurrect in our land…
(Fuming, Jimblow switches off the radio and turns to Beirut)
Jimblow: Did you hear that?! These people are picking their noses with the head of the cobra! Is this news talk or fools talk?! The war has just started!