Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit. Coynobi, however, made a joke that got all of us laughing, and it wasn’t short. It was a circus performance. Since the lockdown started, everyone has been starved of entertainment; moving from one challenge to the other, one movie to the next, twitter turf wars, and on this day, the baton fell on the writing community.
The joke was performed by Obi-wan Coynobi, in protestations to actions taken by Mrs I-tried-to-give-a-fuck (aka ITTGAF — shortened to ITT). This joke wouldn’t be fun, nor comprehensible (and comprehensive), if we do not start from the past.
MANY MANY YEARS AGO … there was a meeting by an extensive network of people called the gatekeepers of the Nigerian literary world, who were good friends with a powerful blacksmith. They called the blacksmith Littlefinger; a dramatic no-nonsense man from the north of Africa’s west.
Littlefinger was renowned across all classes; especially among people he locked up in dungeons for talking too much. Littlefinger had a reputation for talking when it suited him; but it repulsed him—a man of great social standing, feared, loved, and respected—to share this garrulous feature with commoners.
So he starts a crusade of locking up anyone who spoke when he did. And anyone who spoke about him. Some people came together, concerned by the intellectual sacrilege being performed on their friends who traded in the same business of talking, they went to meet Littlefinger, and Littlefinger handed them a cup of conversation, and a bowl of tea. They drank their fill, and negotiated their freewill. It was rumoured that Littlefinger gave them the gatekeepers a bag of chocolates. Many of them—the gatekeepers—have denied the chocolate, but the tea spills from their mouth when they talk.
The gatekeepers, with their cute little wings, forgot they went to ask why another talker had been locked up, and they flew to different gatherings of gatekeepers. Some of them were illegal under the laws of the land; but did it matter? The blacksmith had given them freewill, and in return, they spoke for him.
One of the friends of the gatekeepers, a well read woman in the abroad, had started a forum many years before, and like her friends, plugged into the renewed vibe that was the literary scene. The scene was a big circle of gatekeepers who were taken one after the other into dungeons by Littlefinger. While the gatekeepers focused on more important things like promoting queer arts—which, although was illegal in the country where the forum had the most impact, did not matter. The gatekeepers were apparently untouchable either because the forum wasn’t domained in the country, or because it knew the right people in the country.
This forum became an amplifier for a minority ostracised by unjust laws. The forum, owned by a gatekeeper, promised to always protect the voice of everyone, and that was what it did.
Obi-wan was/is a dazzling little star. Obi-wan would become a gatekeeper over the years by association with older gatekeepers. ITT held the gate open for him to work with her on her forum. He worked his way up the ladder, talking about the silence and prejudice suffered by the muted in the society.
ITT opened the floor for Obi-wan to talk about the struggles of funding gatekeeping. How many gates have been locked permanently because the blacksmith who promised to make more gates ceased making them abruptly. But there was Littlefinger, who picked a gatekeeper’s friend whenever they talked too much, locked them away indefinitely, as the gatekeepers looked away. They talked about the blacksmiths they couldn’t keep, and talked little about the blacksmith that kept them—even in dungeons.
Obi-wan focused on something that mattered to him; the tender love and understanding of the queer community and the need to normalise queer relationships. His friends—the next generation of gatekeepers—were picked at will by angry citizens, beaten, molested, and they talked. They frothed from mouth to mouth about their friends. When Littlefinger picked more and more of them for talking too much, they pretended to be angry about it, then went back to what was more important. Some accused Obi-wan, and the others for making it difficult for non-queer talkers to have a voice. But in the gatekeeping business, you only worried about the people closest to the gate.
While the gatekeepers moved from forum to festivals supported by Littlefinger, Littlefinger’s loving family continued to show how unimportant the voice of gatekeepers were. Mrs Littlefinger, a friend of the talkers, who herself had published her voice for the world to hear, kept close alliance with the gatekeepers. Like her husband, she shared tea with them. Like her husband, she was accommodated. Like her husband, her voice roared louder than the voice of other talkers. Like her husband, she hated another talker while she was talking. And her son, Littlefinger Jnr, was an orange from the tree. He fell very close.
An insolent, intolerant, hasty, foolish, uncouth, ill-mannered, pestilent, and vile haranguing young man with more numbers than name on Twitter called Littlefinger by his first name. Not even Littlefinger Jnr, or Mrs, dared to call Littlefinger by name.
To protect the honour of Littlefinger, Jnr promised to mete justice on Numbers Man (NM), by blessing his mother’s vile body with his penis, and those of his friends. NM cried all over the timeline, but who was NM in the grand scheme of things?
Littlefinger Mrs reminded NM of his insolence when she was asked what she thought. Who was he to call Littlefinger by his true name? How dare you call a devil a devil? Mrs Littlefinger was picked up by wannabe gatekeepers and quoted out of context. The older gatekeepers. The ones who sipped tea with the Littlefinger family. They were asked to talk about Mrs, but they said it was not their place. Some didn’t utter a word.
ENTER (again) OBI-WAN:
Obi-wan waved his magical wand of words and talked about the Mrs. It was not an area he was experienced in; writing about blacksmiths who actually made gates. ITT asked him why he raised his voice at Mrs, and what did Obi-wan do? He raised his voice at ITT.
Obi-wan, 26, locked out of work, prevented from carrying placards outside his home, denied from owning any dignity, took to the internet to raise his voice once again. His friends with whom he had shared his voice echoed his resentment. It was a war. Everyone (of his friends & anyone who loved him enough) asked for ITT to close her business.
ITT struts in to give her voice. Enamoured by her grace, penchance, valour, and flowery speech, the world was split between ITT & Obi-wan. People who spoke with the voice of ITT were called enablers of silencing voices. People who spoke with Obi-wan asked that ITT take down their voices which she had previously amplified.
Scheming, smiling, and smirking, Littlefinger sits in his palace, stroking his mane; Jnr on the right, and Mrs on the left. They are sitting around a little table sipping tea. They share the teary voices of gatekeepers—their friends, upcoming gatekeepers, and sympathisers— with each other. Junior laughs the loudest. He says their voices will die when they’re tired of fighting themselves. Mrs receives a notification; she has been invited to give her voice on gender based violence in a Webinar. Littlefinger stands, not more than 5ft10 tall. He starts laughing—dadada … diddidididi … yayayayayay … tatatatatata—uncontrollably at the joke Obi-wan started, and is pleased with himself that many gatekeepers do not know Obi-wan didn’t write the joke. He was only performing it.