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EDO: Dancing naked at the market square

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Of course, we have all heard of that ancient phrase, “The king is naked!” haven’t we? The phrase is as old as the hills, rendering its accompanying anecdote as variegated as there are colours in the rainbow. One is now not certain about the trendy variants, but the version I am familiar with runs thus: Once upon a time lived an insufferably self-centered prince in a very powerful kingdom. Upon ascending the throne of his fathers’, the new king as soon became inebriated with power. As a prince he had learned that the one factor which distinguished the king from the rest of the royal family was the fact that no one ever questioned the words or the actions of the king. It was that singular fact that most excited the would-be king. He thus had secretly yearned to mount the throne even many years before it fell to him.

Not surprising, therefore, closely monitoring the effects of his actions and words on his subjects became a cardinal past-time of the new king. At whim, he would command that beautiful young girl be sent to his bed-chambers. It made no difference to him whether such girls were betrothed or even married. At whim still, the king would appropriate large swathes of titled choice lands, all to the anguish of the victim-subjects. And, rather unbecoming of established tradition in those parts, the predatory young ruler would set aside his court’s considered verdict and put his accused subjects to the knife.

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But in spite of these glaring outrages the traditional reverence for the monarch still ruled the hearts of the subjects, to the latent amazement of the now egoistically venturesome king. What other actions or words would outrage his subjects? The king then began to wonder. He subsequently devoted a disproportionately large amount of his waking hours pondering that puzzle. As fecund as he was venturesome, the king’s restless mind finally came up with an altogether novel, if bizarre idea. A forthcoming kingdom-wide popular festival had winked the king the hint. How about a most provocative costume on that grand occasion? The king had then thought. So on the festive day, while royalties and subjects alike gathered at the expansive town square, the half-crazed king abided in his bed-chambers, alone, relishing his novel costume before a life-sized mirror. He remained in that attitude until he made assurance doubly sure that every other soul in the kingdom was at the square grounds.

Without waiting a minute further the king made a bee-line for the town square. His steps majestically measured as he waved his specter this way and that way, grinning from ear to ear. But the kingdom didn’t cheer; rather grave-yard silence suddenly enveloped the entire square with adults and discerning children discreetly averting their eyes. As demented as ever, the king presumed the deafening silence to be reverence, and proceeded to the richly-decorated platform. Amidst that prevailing pin-drop silence the piercing voice of a child rang out, “The king is naked!” And as though on queue, the huge crowd dispersed as if it were in a moment. Thus ended the reign of an overbearing king. Since that ancient king the world has witnessed countless other “naked kings”.

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This tribe of rulers has not merely increased over the ages but has, more so in the latter centuries, evolved into “dancing naked kings”; an evolution which had stirred a sage to aver that, “Those that the gods want to ruin, they first make mad”. A 21st century Middle Eastern sadistic ruler would bring that maxim into bold relief in his reckless abuses of power. Notwithstanding his many luxury mansions, that blood-thirsty ruler had danced naked until he became a borrowing creature. His life practically came to a horrible end in a barely ventilated hole! In our sub-region, a power-inebriated master sergeant had danced nakedly until his eyes were brutally plucked and fed to the birds. A glaring thread runs through all of these: persons in a very powerful position who allow themselves to become pathologically self-centered, the gods ultimately make mad. Interestingly, an empirical evidence of this presently unfurls in Edo state. Therein, in the unmistakably erudite words of the Iyase (traditional prime minister) of another ancient kingdom, a queen was recently delivered of a bouncing baby boy. In keeping with tradition, well-wishers have been thronging to the palace to felicitate with the widely admired royal family. As his wont, the very particular Iyase ensures that every session is fully video recorded. He would subsequently review the recorded sessions along with palace aides with an eye peeled on possible details-of-interest.

According to the Iyase’s latest account, there is as yet nothing of special interest in the videos, not counting the king’s attention-arousing voice and the new-born prince’s piercing intermittent yells and screams. The Iyase was well used to the attention-arousing voice, what with his decades in office and his close personal association with the owner of that voice. But the Iyase thought there was an unusual periodicity in those sequenced yells and screams. It seemed to the gracefully aging but still mentally-lithe palace adviser that the princely baby was communicating at all the sessions(?) He then invited the king to the reviews. The accomplished diplomat didn’t need to listen more than once to fully decipher the infant’s unsettling message: A chieftain is dancing naked at the market square!

Nkemdiche; consulting engineer, wrote from Abuja.

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