It was my cousin who first drew my attention. I thought he was lying, was somehow trying to make the man we both admired look smarter than we’d thought he is. “Comrade is sharing camels for Sallah,” he said. He didn’t laugh as I expected. And it was not the first of April, not even the right month. I asked him to swear by Allah that it was true that Comrade had indeed bought camels for the masses. He did.
I rushed to Twitter for a confirmation. One can never be too sure these days. I searched for “Shehu Sani camel”, and the first image that came with the results was that of the man on the back of a camel, surrounded by happy masses. It’s true. Comrade looked royal on the camel. Like an Arab prince, and he has his very cool Afro to go with that royalty.
I scrolled down, and the first ten tweets were personalised attacks of this man we all call the People’s Activist, this man who looked Abacha in the eyes and called him a dictator, this hero who spent the best moments of his life in prison just to give us this thing we call a democracy. Further down, I got disappointed in all who were agitating. These ingrates expected sleek Mercedes wheels. Even those whose senators didn’t share ordinary chickens for Sallah were on Twitter attacking our gallant Comrade who donated whole camel, and not even one, to rehabilitate the stomach of those he proudly, and of course affectionately, referred to as “my people!” I like that he made a distinction on who his people really are, and that was done in response to a certain Abubakar, who hadn’t criticised Comrade with respect. It is rude to disagree with a senator like that. And if you must, start with, “Distinguished Senator Sir…” and then add “With all due respect Sir” before you state your grievance nicely.
This was the reason I was outraged, and asked Comrade to go to bed while I handled all the small boys and girls I suspected of working for Tinubu and el-Rufai to run the People’s Activist down. These politicians are intimidated by Comrade’s profile. He was fighting Abacha as advocate of the people when Buhari, the so-called People’s General, was having tea with the brutal dictator, Tinubu was fighting Abacha from his London mansion as a member of the cowardly NADECO, and el-Rufai was just a 30-something-year-old whose life wasn’t even newsworthy for a local campus magazine. Though I expected Comrade to understand how this Twitter business works, to know how to spot starving critics and procure them to serve as defenders – as what we call Voltrons. Just the way Tinubu and el-Rufai do. We all know the blogs and Twitter handles that began as critics of these politicians but are now standby underlings and professional arse-lickers. This life is tough!
But Comrade was still a wise man, he asked for our advice, we the masses, on what to do with Abubakar, the underling who disrespected him. His reason for disowning Abubakar was that the suspected PDP mole worked against him in the last election. And I supported him for that. I know Comrade doesn’t tell lies. My honest advice was, instead of granting Abubakar liberty to insult a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Comrade must send his political thugs after him to teach him a political lesson.
At first they came at me for this honesty, wanting to blackmail me. They had no idea that even their paymaster el-Rufai had to unfollow me when I wanted to end his career. But I think it was Elnathan John’s profound praise of Comrade that eventually crushed their guts. I like what Elnathan wrote about camels, especially the scientific things he checked on Wikipedia and presented as though he knew them from birth. I like smart people like that. And his name intimidated those semi-literate overlords who have fed fat on the largesse of Tinubu and el-Rufai. Elnathan is famous and influential now that even white men shortlist him for their writing competitions just to promote their brands. It was my gossipy friend, Tabawa Inuwa, that made this observation about the Caine Prize. I didn’t even say pim. I don’t like small talks!
On Sallah Day, after a fill of Camel pepper soup, I spoke to this fellow who had been attacking Comrade. He denied that he was paid a dime by Tinubu or El-Rufai. Not that I believed him. His reason was that Comrade is a former prisoner. I didn’t see why that is a problem. He made it seem like Comrade was a genuinely tried criminal, not knowing how it’s the dream of every activist to get arrested and become instantly relevant. I rolled out the names of powerful people, including Mandela, who had all been in jail, and out to dominate political scene.
Since venturing to defend Comrade, speculations that we are only seeking political appointments have become the headlines of several gossip forums. And it’s true that Elnathan and I have not been considered for an appointment. Yet. I don’t even know why, despite these many profound essays that even white people quote from Aberdeen to Zurich. But God knows what we are doing is simply to celebrate the wisdom of the man who knows, as Elnathan captures it, “the enduring value of camels.” In a place where politicians only share underage goats, commending the man who shared things as gargantuan as camels is only the right thing to do.
One ungrateful beneficiary of the camel largesse contacted me the day after Sallah and asked me to tell Comrade to help him with some money to buy Flagyl. I asked, was it Comrade’s fault that you ate too much camel? This show of ingratitude for the kindness of the man who has given us camels to show us the real meaning of change is just uncharitable. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter