By: Ogunwale Emmanuel
There were seven bottles on the table. Six were opened. Two untouched. Making it eight. Did I say they were seven? Make it eight.
There were eight rows on the table. And nine chairs. There should have been eight chairs but the fat woman took up two chairs all on her own. Three actually, but the unofficially official estimate was two. No one dared mention that out loud, of course. No one even dared tell her she was “plus sized”, for the obvious reason that no one wanted to lose their jobs. As you can surmise, she was the boss.
And you know what they say. Never anger a fat person, their rage is…weighty.
Anyways, there are eight bottles, unofficially-officially nine chairs and six men round the table. The mood is tense. The air staler than “na today, oga. I swear” bread. Everyone was edgy and tense. Except the thin man. But he didn’t count. Once, when counting the number of people present, he actually excluded himself, would you believe it? Himself! So he wasn’t worried, partly because he felt he was too good to share their problems and also because he didn’t count. The chances of him contributing was… slim.
Someone clears her throat at the far end.
“The problem,” the throat clearer announced solemnly, “is that we think there is a problem. Hence, the problem.”
Silence, already an active player in this passive meet, doubled down even further, following this apocryphal statement. Everyone turned to face the throat clearer. It was Mullah “Muller”. The famous three term senator. A man with enough clout and enough venerated dignity to knowingly say this and not have it dismissed as nonsense but actually high wisdom. Once he said solemnly “The terrorists hiding in our hair, we must comb them out!” and everyone nodded and cheered. No one considered the weighty allegation and lie put against lice there. But that is a story for another day.
After Muller made his statement, the silence of the committee took on an introspective stance. You could say they all… mulled over it.
“But if we don’t think there is a problem, how can we then solve it? Your thinking is strange, Senator,” replied Rogba.
Former military man. Man of steel. Ice. Man of stone. His relationship with Mullah had always been a bit… rocky.
“I am not saying we do not have a situation at hand, but calling it a problem makes it one,” Muller responded.
“Enough nonsense. Does a problem cease to be a problem because we change its name?”
“No. But by calling it a problem, we are creating an issue out of this issue.”
“So you think this situation is not a problem? Ha!”
“The very act of you calling it a problem is my problem, senator.”
“Gentlemen, please!” the fat woman finally croaked. Spoke. “Enough pandering. We know what is at hand and no amount of grammatical grandiloquence will save us. So let’s discuss way on how to get out of this mess!” And she punctuated that sentiment by releasing a loud merciless fart, which everyone studiously ignored.
Silence, like an on-rushing river filled the place again. This time, an unsure one.
The not-so-thin man, two chairs and three bottles away from the thin one perked up. He knew the problem. He had solutions. Now was the time. He cleared his throat and was about to tal—
“We’ve been focused on the wrong issue all along,” the elderly statesman to the left of the right hand man of the fat woman stentorianly said.
“We have been tackling the wrong thing. The real issue here is how to tackle this issue.”
A rumbling assent greeted this pronouncement.
“We must face this issue headfirst. That is the only—”
“Hold it, hold it. Head first? Nonsense,” Mullah said. “Who doesn’t know a sensitive problem of this magnitude is best viewed from the side?”
“You are all looking at it the wrong way,” Rogba rumbled. The not-so-thin man perked up, hopeful.
“Front? Side? Rid-diculous! The only proper way to resolve this is to work backwards. Only the inner can truly fix the outer.”
He looked around for support. He expected some introspection. He waited for the applause. It never came. He was still a bit too young and too poor for his nonsense utterings to be hailed as wisdom. Or perhaps even this committee could only take enough stupidity.
“Inside outside? I had never heard such a thing without a good meaning.”
Chaos. Turmoil. The fat woman croaked to no avail. Spoke. Shouted actually.
The not-so-thin introvert gave up talking again, for the 12th time.
“Order. Order!” the fat woman croaked for the 34th time in the space of three minutes. Spoke.
This time, they listened.
She glanced at the time. 49 minutes gone. Today was up.
“Clearly, you gentlemen representing your districts on this issue are full of impassioned grit and steely determination. I can see all of us are ready to truly solve this err…err…thing. Very commendable. Although I would love nothing more but to listen to you all, our one hour is however almost up. If there is no other issue err… Shall we adjourn?”
“We’ll definitely get down to solving it next time.”
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
And so ended the thirteenth meeting on the issue no one really knew anything about but all agreed was important.
They had made tremendous progress, these dignitaries and senators. First they had established the problem was not a problem but an issue, outlined ways to approach tackling the problem which was not a problem, but a problem, and established confidence in their ability to solve… it.
And the historians wondered why the country was the greatest in Africa.
Well, this is the part where I reel out my achievements, interests, hobbies and all those things that make me a cultured Nigerian. Problem is, I don’t have anything interesting to say. Or the finesse to say it. I’m an intellectual agbero. I love book, breasts, anime, Nietzsche and Arsenal. And the only thing I want to do in this life is tell a frigging good story. That’s all.