Sunday, 28th May 2023

The parrot, iroko tree and our political elite

By Wole Oyebade
24 June 2021   |   2:55 am
Once upon a time, the parrot was barren. She was a paragon of beauty whose whimsical voice serenades all ears in the kingdom. But reproducing her kind continued to elude efforts.

Parrot. Photo/wittemolen

The downfall of the house of the greedy makes a terrible noise – African proverb

Once upon a time, the parrot was barren. She was a paragon of beauty whose whimsical voice serenades all ears in the kingdom. But reproducing her kind continued to elude efforts.

One day, and in tears, the parrot sought after Ifa priest to inquire of her lot. She made offerings to Ifa and muttered into the ikin divination seeds. The first dice was revealing.
Ifa offered a remedy though it sounded too good to be true for the parrot. “Not even an appeasement or sacrifice needed?” parrot inquired. “None,” the priest replied. “Just stand before the Iroko tree that borders between town and market, asks whatever you wish and go your way.”  
Though sceptical, the parrot did not discountenance Ifa. She heeded to instruction and before long, she had children aplenty.   
With joy, she returned to Ifa priest in appreciation. The priest also directed that she should extend the same to Iroko for its benevolence. In gratitude, the parrot and her kind started living on the sprawling Iroko tree. 
Iroko Oluwere, as the tree was fondly called, was more significant than any in the forest. It was the most patronised given its prime location at the labyrinth adjoining the village, marketplace and farmlands. Come rain or shine, farmers, traders and sojourners all found a resting place under its canopy. It hosted major meetings. Hunting expeditions also took off from underneath. Oluwere was never short of a pilgrimage.
Parrot sits atop listening to all conversations. She got to know the latest gossip in town, private supplications and heartfelt wishes of all-comers. To every prayer or request, the parrot would tweet in affirmation, and many thought it was the spirit giving its blessings. And for as many that got their wishes granted, by omission or commission, they would return with gifts to Oluwere.  
The fame travelled wider and beyond the village. “The talking tree” became the mecca of supplicants and worshippers. Day or night, footfalls did not cease on Oluwere’s path. Even those that had no business on the corridor made it a habit to kowtow in anticipation of imaginary protection. Not all requests were answerable, but many that got their wishes shared the testimony to encourage others to keep hopes alive and remain committed.
One day, a disagreement ensued between the Iroko and its mouthpiece, the parrot. One of the supplicants got the fruit of the womb and offered a gift in appreciation to Oluwere. Parrot took a keen interest in the offering and made a request to which Iroko would not grant.
“You know I have never requested anything of you in return for all I do to make you popular,” the parrot said. “You have never done anything deserving of a reward, you ingrate!” Oluwere fired back. “You can as well take your tweets elsewhere. It will not change anything.”
Parrot sucked it in, but would not take it lying low. She was up all night until an idea crossed her mind. Eni pe ki l’aase, ni a nse han. She has no divine powers like Iroko rightly said, but she is not called a parrot for anything. Leprous fingers may not milk a cow, but with ease can spill the content and even smash the calabash.
The following morning, as passersby were making usual requests, the parrot raised her voice and returned them with curses. Supplicants were shell shocked, as they dispersed quickly. One may take prayers for granted; not so with a rain of curses. Another set came in the afternoon; the parrot dispersed them with expletives. Night ritualists were also not spared.
Bad news travels faster. It went round that Oluwere had turned malevolent. Some reporters even exaggerated that they saw the spirit prodding to kill them. Many shrieked from going to the market. Even lazybones found a good excuse not to venture for days. The king summoned his chiefs on a fact-finding mission. Upon sighting them from afar, the parrot cursed even louder and everyone took to their heels.
The king concluded that Iroko t’o gbabode, bibe l’a o be. Oluwere that is compromised has to fall. At dawn, brave hunters and farmers all gathered to hewn Iroko. As the first axe struck at the root, the parrot and all hers flew away. By mid-day, the Iroko tree was gone.
You be the judge; who is the ingrate between Oluwere and the parrot? Perhaps, Iroko has a point in not conceding to the request of the parrot and calling her an ingrate, having earlier been a beneficiary of Oluwere herself. But should Iroko, in appreciation of parrot’s utility and value-added, though unsolicited, concede to her request, to broker peace as mutual beneficiaries of one another? Again, what hypothetically giving room to subsequent blackmails and greed?
What of the people that were once beneficiaries of the Iroko and its powers – be it divine or imaginary? Should they have forgotten so soon how soothing its ambience was in their vicissitudes of life? How come they expect only good, and forget to be patient with the revered Iroko tree in its own crisis moment? But what is certain is that all parties lost with the fall of Iroko, including Oluwere itself.
And that is the worth and danger of ingratitude. It consumes all goodwill; turns partners apart, blocks opportunities, and leaves everyone poorer than they should be. However, human society can get better with men and women learning not to take one another for granted. Our existence is intertwined and gratitude should oil the camaraderie. After all, owo omode ’o to pepe; ti agbalagba ’o wo keregbe. Ise t’ewe be agba k’o ma se ko mo, gbogbo wa la ni ise t’an be ara wa (That is, as a child’s hand cannot reach the shelf-top, that of the elderly cannot dip into a gourd. The request of the child should never be ignored by the elder, as all of us are useful in different ways). 
Indeed, real gratitude readily begins with individuals playing assigned roles well enough, especially in appreciation of the trust bequeathed. Unfortunately, the reverse is the norm across the socio-political sphere of our society today. It is terrifying to see how morally warped the political space has gone, with the reign of ingratitude the order of the day. Take the president for example, after multiple failures at the poll, the fortunes of general goodwill smiled on him. He was voted into office on the promises of restructuring the country and improving a lot of all. Barely six years on, the same person has dubbed restructuring a forbidden word and calling its advocates unpatriotic. The same government is working hard to gag free speech because it exposes abysmal leadership and the frustrations of the masses. How ungrateful!
But we all can draw some lessons from the above. First, life, like everything in it, is a gift. Truth is, we have nothing that we have not been given. Second, positions and powers are transient. Similarly, nothing in creation is too big to fall and this includes angels and demons. The corollary is that nothing and nobody should be undermined or dismissed as inconsequential. Even an underrated plant can blind the farmer in the forest. Lastly, we all need each others’ goodwill. Therefore, let us make the most of the opportunities of today and be blessings to others, not forgetting the ladder and rungs we mounted to get this far. With the attitude of gratitude, we can as well forgive each others’ foibles, make concessions without getting judgmental, reconcile differences, and live in peace. Ope mi o l’opin (my endless gratitude). Ire o!