The trials of a first family
The Trials of a First Family (A short one-act play)
Gen. Megida – President of a country
Yanrinyan – Gen Megida’s beautiful wife
Col. Kobo – Retired army officer, political jobber and friend of Gen. Megida
Alhaja K – Yanriyan’s young London trained feminist friend
Igwe Sultan – Village Chief
Mr. Saysay – Gen. Megida’s spokesperson
Elder 2 – Yanriyan’s maternal uncle
Setting: A well decorated palace in a rural farming and cattle rearing village.
Time: Evening, right after prayers and before sunset.
(A very sombre but tense room with a couple sitting far apart from each other in a palace-like setting, surrounded by stern looking elders.)
Igwe Sultan: My people, I welcome you. Some of you may know why we are here, because the rain is not a stranger to the sky. Things have not been going well with our esteemed son. It is apparent that the yam placed on a child’s head by an elder has become such a burden that the child’s eyes are now emitting tears. Our beloved son’s recent utterances have made this meeting inevitable. Our people say an adult should never shut his eyes when the young ones are playing with sharpened knives. So our wife, we would like to hear from you first…
Alhaja K: (Sharply cuts in as Yanrinyan is about to speak) How come this meeting is full of men? Do we not have women in this community who can be part of this settlement? Is this a men-only village…?
Col. Kobo: (Interjects) My able General, you did not tell me you married another wife and paid the dowry, because the last thing I heard Igwe Sultan say was for your wife, Yanrinyan, to state her matter.
Igwe Sultan: (Calmly) My daughter, I understand what you mean, but it is not every fruit that is harvested with sticks. If our wives come here to deliberate on a matter like this, we men would go to sleep on empty stomachs.
Alhaja K: So women are only good for cooking for your hungry stomachs and not for deciding what is good for the community? You see, this is exactly where the problem lies! This is exactly where your Megida gets his ideas that are causing all these problems now!
Col. Kobo: You mean General Megida! What has this country become that a woman civilian would strip off a General’s rank with her big mouth? Oh, how I miss our Decree days when…
Alhaja K: I was not talking to you! I know your kind. When I have your time I will speak to you directly. Right now, I have no time for Kitchen Officers like you, Mr. Decree. Anyway…
Igwe Sultan: Can we have some order, please? My daughter, I hear you. Next time we will invite our grandmothers, mothers and daughters. After all, what is good for the donkey is good for the horse. Yanrinyan, please talk to us – why did you decide to take your husband’s dirty linen to a public and foreign river to wash?
Yanrinyan: (Genuflects) My elders, I greet you all o. It is not a secret that I have gone through thick and thin with this man.
Elder 1: (Cuts in) You mean your husband.
Yanrinyan: (Ignoring him) During his campaign, I went everywhere with him, casting, binding and campaigning among men and my fellow women. When we get home, even though we were always both tired, I would cook for him and rub his entire body with Alabokun so he could carry on with the hectic task of campaigning. As soon as my husband won the election, things changed. I did not understand the husband I married and campaigned with again. As if this was the first time he was tasting power, he suddenly became an unknown masquerade in our house.
I said, okay, maybe it is because of fatigue and I carried on caring for him. He told me not to wear expensive jewelleries or clothes and to make sure I do not show off and become boastful like other first ladies, I said, “Okay, anything to make you successful, I will do”. Come the day of inauguration, listening to his speech, I heard, “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody”. I pinched my friend sitting by me, I said, “Ha! Alhaja K, you are the one that went to study in London, what exactly does my husband mean by that statement? After we have won election, he is now saying he belongs to nobody?” My friend said I should calm down that it does not mean he doesn’t love me or belong to me. I said, OHHH.
As he was sworn in and I was making a list of people that will work with me in my own Office of the First Lady, the next thing I know, my husband has gone to make an announcement – there will be no Office of the First Lady! Haba, Megida, what will I be doing? Go to farm or go and learn sewing? Our country has always had Office of the First Lady and they have used it as they please, how come when it came to my turn my own husband wants to wipe the palm oil off my yam before giving it to me to eat? I said for the sake of peace I will not protest, I will do whatever makes my husband happy. To even sit and relax a bit like we see Michele and Obama do on TV, whosai! Today my husband will say he has conference in America, next tomorrow it is Germany, the following day it is London. My elders, just like that the river started flowing from my feet without washing it.
I started seeing strange people in our house, giving all kinds of commands or just loafing about with big titles and not doing anything. So I called my husband to the other room and said to him, “This is not good o, you cannot work with people you do not know. Remember the country waited for you to pick the right workers to work with o, now that all these strangers have surrounded you and going ‘ranka dehdeh, sir’ all the time our country will go to the dogs o!” My elders, that is all I said and my husband roared like thunder and stormed out of the room, saying you do not tell a General what to do. I spoke to my friend, Alhaja K, she said I should tell the world through international press what was going on. And that was exactly what I did and my husband flew abroad the next day to say I belong to his kitchen and parlour and other room. So, it finally dawned on me why he cancelled the Office of the First Lady, he wanted to ban me to the house as if I am a village house girl, so I told him it will not happen, hence the rumble. That’s all my elders.
(Collective sigh from the audience – long silence)
Igwe Sultan: Hmmm… Is this the case our son?
General Megida: (Forefinger on jaw, legs crossed and shaking, turns to his spokesperson) Mr Saysay, where are the foreign media I asked you to invite to this meeting? I don’t see BBC, I don’t see CNN? Ehn?
Elder 1: (Cuts in) It is not every ripe fruit the butterfly perches on, we blocked the village gate. This is a matter for our community to decide not foreign press that have done more harm than good!
General Megida: So, you bloody civilian now give orders in this village? I call foreign press and you block them? (Rising to his full length now threateningly)
Elder 2: General, sit down! I say sit down! No matter the strength of a man’s phallus it can never break a wall. We made you what you are today. Sit down and talk to your elders. The soldier ant without a home base cannot win any stinging war!
(General Megida reluctantly sits down)
Igwe Sultan: Our son, a dog that does not listen to its owner will chase a lion and be eaten in the lion’s den. Talk to us, or we will close this meeting now.
General Megida: I have nothing else to say, I have said all I need to say to who I want to say it to.
Elder 1: Okay, since the okra has grown too tall for its planter, Igwe Sultan, I say you dismiss this meeting now. I do not have the the time to draw tears from the eyes of an orphan who does not want to cry.
Elder 2: I agree! Let’s close this meeting, since our General, Are Onakankafo, generalissimo says the snail can walk faster than it’s shell, let’s see how far he can go before it starts raining hailstones.
Igwe Sultan: My people, let’s calm down. The iron is never too hot for a blacksmith to handle. That our son says he doesn’t want to talk to us does not mean we do not want to talk to him. General, once again, we welcome you our son. We know the work of a president is not like running a local chemist store. No matter the length of a dog’s tail, it must fold under its leg when it sees it owner.
Col. Kobo: Igwe Sultan, you do not own our able General, the President of the Federal Republic of…
Alhaja K: You be quiet, you beggar! You think we don’t know you are begging for position at the Capital and your senses have been relocated to your pockets?
Col. Kobo: Woman, I am not your mate! I have your kind at home, I will…
Alhaja K: You cannot do jack! I have a better kind of you at home!
General Megida: Order! (Alhaja K and Col. Kobo still spatting), I said order and that is an order!
Col. Kobo: Sir! Yes sir! (Standing at attention, while Alhaja K starts laughing and muttering words under her breath)
Igwe Sultan: As I was saying, our son, truth be told you have not treated our daughter with the equal respect she deserves for all the work she did to bring you back to power. Yes, we know you are busy and the country is falling apart, but the hunchback is never too heavy for the mother to carry. You, our daughter, you know how we men are, you should not have taken your husband’s hidden sore to the gathering of hungry flies. You were supposed to mother him and shield him, we understand your statement of him not knowing half of the people he personally chose to work with, but you should have told him behind closed doors.
And you General, you did not have the restraint expected of a man of your stature and position. Our people say you do not kill a tse-tse fly that perches on your crotch with anger or else you do more damage to yourself. Yanrinyan is a co-owner of your house as your wife, even though you are a president, both of you belong to the kitchen, the bathroom, the parlour, the other room – everywhere, it is where the tortoise goes the shell follows. As for the strangers you have surrounded yourself with, please before they bury you alive, prune them, the feather that is useless to the eagle does not remain with the eagle. That’s all I have to say.
Yanrinyan: I thank you, Igwe Sultan, God bless your mouth and this community. But I must say one thing, I will never cook for this man again, ever. He knows where the kitchen is!
Igwe Sultan: Haba my daughter, not so…no matter the stench of shit, the fly does not run away.
Elder 2: Igwe that is not even a problem, the budget for cooks and chefs should be put to use. After all, Yanrinyan was not born to be in the kitchen!
General Megida: (Still visibly angry and pensive) Saysay, did you write down all what has been said here?
Mr Saysay: (Jumping up suddenly) No sir, I did not bring pen and paper, I thought the villagers will allow CNN and BBC to attend this meeting sir and record it sir!
Alhaja K: (Bursts into robust laughter in jest) You people will not kill me in this country oooo!
LIGHTS FADE, SOUND OF MULTIPLE SIRENS WAIL FROM AFAR.