Negotiations had gone on for two months and twenty-two days; yet the akudaaya – one of the special men and women who could oscillate between the world of the living and the world of the dead – still insisted on having his way. He proclaimed himself a god.
The Yoruba know their gods and how to appease them, but a man who had been dead for a while, broke every known record and appeared as an akudaaya after thirty years. He didn’t appear to just a few; he didn’t just appear in secret places. No one will have his or her sanity questioned for recalling a conversation with an akudaaya.
Kolapo the akudaaya wanted to get the respect of Sango, Oshun, Yemoja and Ayelala; so his main target for words was Pa Fakunle, the chief priest of Ondo State, and the state governor who had peed in his pants during his first encounter with the ghost.
“You are not a god.” Pa Fakunle said, glancing at the governor beside him as if to be sure of their support. “You have no right to be making these demands.”
The three men in white agbada beside the governor nodded cautiously in agreement.
“I am a god.”
The priest narrowed his eyes. “Come on Kolapo, give me a break. You are an akudaaya! A few things in a calabash, say kolanut, palm-oil, ekuru, eko and some ogogoro sacrifice will do.”
“You are insulting me because of your ignorance. Fakunle, the head of an elephant is not for children to carry.”
“We know we have offended you Kolapo. We regret the injustice you suffered by the wrong use of the government machinery; but we cannot meet these demands.”
“Cannot or will not?”
“What difference does it make?”
“Is it that the state is too poor to build a place where I can be worshiped? Or is it that you think I don’t deserve that sort of honour?”
“Look,” said His Excellency, the state governor, Chief Biodun Kayode. “We’ve done so much for you already. You will have to make more reasonable demands.”
“More reasonable demands?”
“We know your death was an avoidable mistake,” Pa Fakunle added. “for which we are truly sorry. My father who was the priest at that time made me work with him for all the rites you demanded. We did those things because they were fair.”
“It’s like you people are saying the same things you’ve been saying for the past two months. You have to do everything I say. This is not a negotiation.”
But it was a negotiation in the beginning. At least that was the impression the governor got. That was what His excellency Biodun Kayode thought.
The akudaaya wanted a six-bedroom house, Victorian style, an indoor swimming pool, a throne-room with yellow silk curtains, paved walkways and green fields. He wanted seven volunteer virgin women too; to live and work in the posh shrine. Nothing else. He even brought a colourful magazine; he had the picture of the house on paper and on his mind – if whatever it is he had now was indeed a mind.
The governor had given a quick glance at the pictures in the glossy magazine; he smiled before he made a face as if he had suddenly remembered a joke should not be funny. “The state cannot afford that. It was not in the budget.”
“You people have been wasting my time. If not for the respect I have for our people, I wouldn’t have been here. You are leading people and you are not even considering decisions that concern them with deep reflection.”
“Kolapo, this is the twenty first century even if it is the tail end of it. There are no new gods. Our people have evolved..”
“You think American idols will be worshiped on this land? There is a difference between the air and land; anything can blow in the air, anything can flow in water, but land is solid. Your roots!”
“Yes.” Said Chief Kayode. “We read your book. It’s now my favourite, I’m even talking to the minister of education about making it compulsory reading for learners at every stage. Before my tenure ends by the grace of God every educated person would have read the book in three or four stages of his educated life.”
The akudaaya exhaled deeply. You would think he could float away someday, because of the way he sounded like a deflated balloon when he exhaled. “You still don’t get it do you? You think you can push me to back down with flattery and sweet nonsense?”
“What do you want?” Pa Fakunle snapped.
“Fakunle, you are talking to me like that?
Pa Fakunle observed the face; he looked sincerely angry as if he really thought himself superior. The young man died as a forty-year-old man thirty years ago, but Pa Fakunle who had been fifty when he died, who had been older than him wondered why his akudaaya had been disrespectful.
“You won’t see me again.” The akudaaya said.
That was what he said the last day he sat with the governor, Pa Fakunle, and the three men in white agbada, who are called the agbada funfun advisers.
The following morning, Kolapo the akudaaya was out on the streets by sunrise, dressed in black and red buba and sooro, leading a procession of over fifty black and grey – different shades of both – boa constrictors along Oba Adesida Road. He was the only one-time human being standing close to the snakes; unseen by the powerless, but seen by the ones who had washed their eyes with the secret waters of the world.
There was no need to see the man. No one in the city has ever seen three big snakes in the same area, not even two big black snakes.
The state government had been on the so-called Save Earth Conservation Project to keep endangered species; and boa constrictors had been named as one of the dear ones. The record says the entire state had three.
Those who saw the fifty-seven big snakes that morning, those who saw from a distance, and from pictures on social media, knew – without being told – that the man who had died thirty years ago, who would have been seventy now had he been alive, who had compelled the powers of Gulungulun and Ondo state – official and spiritual – to come for an indaba, was indeed a god.
“I will bring this state to a standstill!” Kolapo the akudaaya had said and had slammed his clenched fist on the table like a judge’s hammer on a gavel in one of his meetings with his excellency.
“Why are you being so rude?”
“Your excellency, respect yourself or this state will soon be ungovernable for you!”
“I’m giving you the respect of someone who is with the ancestors. You are not giving me any respect. See how you are talking to me. I, too will die one day and be like you are. I deserve my respect.”
“You want a god to respect you? You think Oshun will respect you? Sango? Yemoja?”
The governor snorted. “Kolapo, you are not a god.”
“Don’t say that again!”
“You are not. You have to be reasonable. Please. I can’t just build the fucking Taj Mahal for you just because you asked.”
“If you really know what you should know you wouldn’t be playing with the wrath of a god.”
That night it didn’t end well, which was the reason for the dozen other meetings.
On that snake morning children on their way to their school, on foot, and in the Orange School Buses, and in the blue-and-yellow Akure taxi, some of them on Gulunguluns Okadas; the ones among them who saw the snakes, died of shock, got paralyzed by shock, got traumatized by shock, and scarred emotionally by the sight. Most of the living could not leave their beds as soon as they got home, but even on it their eyes would be wide-open, ready to run at the appearance of snakes. Many of them – a lot of whom had never seen a cobra before, except photos and drawings of one – held on to their parents like a climber plant on an iroko tree.
How many times in your life have you seen twelve snakes at the same time? How about three? Fifty-seven?
The interesting part was Kolapo the akudaaya’s disappearance after procession. He disappeared, like the snakes; they descended from the hills of Oba Ile, went through Oba Adesida Road and disappeared somewhere around the First Bank roundabout.
The police investigators sneaked to their offices to see what the CCTV cameras had captured. All the cameras got no visuals of snakes, but the video from a YouTube account “KIG Network” was loud and clear.
General Ojopagogo of the electronic army wanted to know who it was that had set up the YouTube account. Who the hell was the face behind KIG? Telephone numbers, emails, BVN, thumb print, face profile; the general wanted it all. Day Two: The state was still on lockdown, the cars left on roads had been covered with a brown film of dust; one of the Orange School Buses was still under the sky-light cover of the Bus Stop at Captain Cook, its doors and windows open but no pupil inside. Day Three: The state governor gave a televised broadcast. He talked about insecurity and what the government has done and is doing to ensure safety; he wanted the good citizens not to withhold vital information, and such vital information should only be given to the appropriate authority to avoid panic. Day Four: The state was still like a ghost city. If you lockdown Akure you will lock down Ondo state and Gulungulun. Chief Biodun Kayode gave another televised interview. He wanted people to go about their normal business. He wanted people to know that the threat that had shaken us a few days ago is being given utmost attention by the state government. “It will soon be resolved, so my good people, don’t hide in your homes like cowards, let us continue our lives as people stronger than before.”
He was a politician. He made it look easy. A popular Gulungulun comedian once said the governor had downloaded every speech Obama had ever made and had studied them like a PhD thesis. Day Five: The videos of the snakes were still trending. They got twelve billion views on YouTube; KIG kept counting their nairas, General Ojopagogo really tried to know who was the brain behind the KIG page. Then a news leak revealed that the state governor had made his televised statements not because anyone had seen Kolapo the Akudaaya or had made peace with him, but because he wanted to make sure that a conference he had been planning for over a year, that was expected to hold exactly twelve days after the snake issue, goes on as planned.
The conference, GFU (Global Farmers Union), had cost him eighteen billion naira, hours of meetings and planning, and one October weekend in the VIP Hospital because he had worked too hard on a certain Friday night.
The news headlines had screamed his death the following morning; even though he had been discovered by his Personal Assistant as soon as he fell from a chair in a private wing of his office.
Chief Kayode would do anything to make the conference happen. He was already tired of the gripping fear in the city, the graveyard silence, the sense of death that hovered above a place and made most of the citizens to move around day and night, like chameleons, and like wanted criminals.
One evening – day seven to be precise – the governor was seen by the roadside in Oba Ile, in blue jeans, seated on a stone, drinking from a transparent bottle. The man looked like a boy, except for his face.
You could have thought he was drinking water, because a transparent liquid in a transparent bottle, you know the look. And he looked like a thirsty man.
His eyes later became red, with a glassy sheen, and he kept talking, like a spoken-word artiste recording something for Vevo; the few Oba Ile residents who could come out from their prisons of fear stayed with His Excellency and listened. He was talking about the goodies of Africa, women with big bottoms, diamonds, titanium, ivory, gold, platinum. Nothing beats the honey pot of a curvy African woman. Nothing.
“Your Excellency, are you planning to have another wife? We all know your wife is lepacious.”
“Can you see my life? Do you see why I want internet regulation and new journalism laws? I’ve only been here for ten minutes and a journalist shows up out of nowhere.”
“You’ve been here for forty minutes your excellency.” The man said with a smile full of yellow teeth. “Sir, is it true that your statement about insecurity is not the whole truth?”
“OK. Fine. I admit it. I want the conference to hold more than anything else. Judge me as selfish. I don’t give a kak. But do I want fifty-seven snakes marching round the streets in my city? In my state? No. No. Can somebody fucking tell me what I should do about this kak?” He said shamelessly.
“Your excellency, your language…”
“Don’t tell me about language now. I don’t care if the whole state hears it. Start videoing me for all I care! You think I care about politically correct nonsense now?”
Pa Fakunle appeared behind them. If he had been seen from a distance the company of His excellency would have seen him. “Chief Kayode, why are you bothered about this thing? The akudaaya is angry; he wants us to build a big house for him.”
“It’s not easy to do. I have to justify that expense.”
“It is easy.” Pa Fakunle said with a wince. “Just build it, say it is the state government museum project to honour Kolade and his contribution to the state and the past years of rich Yoruba history.”
“And the virgins, is it possible to see seven virgins women in Gulungulun?”
The chief Ifa priest chuckled. “Your excellency, the world is not that bad, we will even get seven virgins in Akure.”
“Great.” Chief Kayode stared into the space ahead of him, even though he was not seeing the green wooded hills ahead of him. “I’m seeing things in a revelatory light.”
“When the museum is built this guy will have his followers and they will worship him as he wants to be worshiped.”
“Write that down.” The governor belched, pointing at his personal assistant. “Write that in the official gazette.”
When Kolapo was alive forty years ago he was a tailor whose father – a father of two children because he had fertility issues – had been a billionaire, so Kolapo had an inheritance of billions, but he loved tailoring. He made clothes for a fee, he charged like all the other tailors in Akure. He managed what his father left behind. He paid his taxes, he had good advisers, and he had a shrine behind his father’s biggest house where he lived.
He loved reading too; he bought thousands of thick-covered books that had been discarded by a university library in the New Haven. He would buy anything written about Africa.
He self-published a book on African history, African diaspora, African arts, African religion; one thick book, 1000 pages. A boring book. It was ignored all over Gulungulun, it was not in stock with any bookstore, even though tourists treasured it.
You would see those books at the foot of Idanre Hills, and at Erin-Ijesha Waterfalls, and at Ikogosi Warm Springs. You will see it by the poolside at Jojein. Tourists bought it like hot akara; Kolapo made so much money such that the locals who ignored it didn’t matter.
One day the military governor of that time, Navy Captain Onyeachonam – the brother of the flambouyant televangelist Onyeachonam—said the state needed a place for a Games Village for the state’s football team. They wanted somewhere close to the stadium, somewhere spacious, a kind of place that would not cause the Road and Works department to modify the existing roads. Kolapo’s father’s house, the one he inherited and was living in, was spoken of.
Kolapo had been stunned when the governor invited him to his office and made what the billionaire called an insulting proposal.
“Onyeachonam if not for Gulungulun’s backwardness any military man, moreso one who is not Yoruba, should not be talking this kind of trash. I can’t sell the house. Never. Forget about it. It’s a dream.”
“You will be well compensated.”
“Don’t waste your time Onyeachonam.”
Two weeks later Kolapo was in 1759 – the most popular bar in Akure – , having drinks with friends, enjoying the night with the opelenge omo pupa who sat on his laps. Sometime during the night he ate an apple. You know what happened to that man, that Nigerian dictator known for his dark sunshades who ate apples in bed? Kolapo was not in bed; he was just careless enough to eat an apple. A mango would have done it, or the beer.
Two weeks after his death the government had paid peanuts for his parents’ house. They pulled it down with large yellow bulldozers – the kind with tyres higher than the tallest of men – and started work on the Games Village.
The state football team players and coaches have been living there for twenty-five years.
General Ojopagogo had gone to the Games Village immediately he heard from Her excellency that the governor could drink himself to death if a solution does not come speedily.
“He left with a whole bottle of Paraga.” The governor’s wife had whispered to the general when the man appeared behind the governor’s secret window to whisper a call. “He’s going to finish a whole bottle of Paraga.”
“Where is he?”
“Oba Ile,” she had whispered. “That’s where he usually goes.”
“He sincerely doesn’t fear these snakes?”
Her excellency snorted and smiled. “He’s drinking for a reason, isn’t it?”
At the Games Village he wanted his men to dig up the grounds near the windows of the female toilet where Kolapo’s shrine had been. The soil scans revealed some unusual bodies underground.
That was what the general called it. Unusual bodies.
After thirteen minutes of digging the dry red mud soil, they got to the underground room.
It was like the return of Abija. You know that Abija on TV in the Yoruba territory? A little like it, but the real deal.
In the underground, under the place which was once a shrine, you would see skulls, dry and moist skulls, pots, leopard skins, women with big breasts carrying calabashes on their heads; you would see the anjonus, the eboras, the iwins; the living dead and the dead.
The agbada funfuns, the three wise men in white, had been just right ahead of General Ojopagogo in the long drive from Akure to Oba Ile, and they stopped beside the road where the governor had been drinking just at the same time. The general parked his car behind the men, but he hurried down before the aged wise men could get down. He hurried to his excellency.
“Chief, we need to agree to Kolade’s demands.”
“I know.” The breath of alcohol preceded him and made the electronic army chief move back a bit.
“Your excellency, you’ve been drinking.”
One of the agbada funfuns, the one with a white goatee, took the almost empty bottle of Paraga from the governor and placed his hand behind his back as if to lead him to the waiting car.
“And what the hell does that have to do with now?” Chief Kayode turned to set his eyes on the general. “You told me Kolapo should be accepted as a god, and I said yes.”
“Sir, I’ve not even told you the reason.”
“We don’t need a reason Ojopagogo, we don’t even need the reason. We already have reasons.”
The general, relieved but desperate to see his boss’ reaction to the mysterious sight, handed his I-pad over to the governor so that he could see the pictures of the return-of-abija shrine. The governor went through the pictures and the videos. He became suddenly sober; the wise men in white came closer to see what had got their man’s eyes.
“This guy is a fucking god.” He said.
Feyisayo Anjorin is a filmmaker and a writer. His writings have appeared in Litro, Brittle Paper, Bella Naija, Kalahari Review, and African Writer. He is the author of Kasali's Africa, The Stuff Of Love Songs, and One Week In The Life of A Hypocrite.