“This world is very, very wicked. I’ve been licking the pepper of its wickedness since I was eight days old, when the witch that called herself a midwife sneezed during my circumcision and castrated me. I have been asking for her name since I was 12 years old but by then my parents had known my mind and refused to tell me. ”
Last week I started this three-part review (this is admittedly a suffering review because of time constraints) yes, it’s already dawn and I am as exhausted as exhau…let me not disgrace myself. But let’s carry on, shall we?
This is diary number two! Meme, the seniormost Jumai, has been lynched by the townspeople, and afterwards burnt, after he opened fire in the townsquare, killing a couple and injuring some. This is how his son(?) Calamatus finds him. Another funny name huh? Well there is a story behind it. When he was born, Meme (who isn’t even his actual father but by the time he found out his wife had been cheating and this was a product of it, it was too late, Calama was his son by naturalisation (lol) ) sent a message to his father to ask for a name. The post-boy who was the one believed to be excellent at reading and writing in that village somehow managed to spell Clement in Latin. It wasn’t till Grandpa asked after his Grandson Clement that he found out his son’s original name got lost in translation (again, it was too late).
That he was a product of infidelity, and that his name had been a story of an unfortunate mix up, wasn’t enough trouble to start him out in life, the midwife who saw to his circumcision, circumcised much more than usual, literally leaving little or (to be completely open about the situation) nothing at all to be desired. He grew up compensating this heart-stopping loss with a sharp tongue and brain, eventually leaving the village to enter into full-time 419 business. When he came back to the village, he came prepared for war, and decided to continue Meme’s diary, which was the only inheritance he had from him
“It is only now that Pa has died that I’m beginning to understand him. And is it not this his diary that did it? Pride is a terrible thing, O. This is our Pa that will do his face like ironwood and you won’t know he is suffering inside. His tongue will be rough like sandpaper. Come near him and his mouth will strike you like cobra. But everything was just a show. See what was inside him: was this not an ordinary human being? This is war!”
It is moving how unaware Calama was that he was musing about his own self; an observation that could have very well been that of himself, or of a lot of other people. This is what makes you see what Chuma Nwokolo is trying to paint us – a picture of everyday human life. And is it not ironic that Calama asks “was this not an ordinary human being?” well he WAS an ORDINARY HUMAN BEING, that is why he had the nature of not wearing his heart and the troubles weighing it down, on his sleeve. Such nature is not reserved for extraordinary humans, it is us all.
When we enter into Calamatus’ world, we see to an extent the depth of the problem of corruption that Nigeria suffers and also the power money has. We see how money turns the same villages who would have spat on Meme Jumai, those who killed Meme Jumai, trooping in and out of this same Meme Jumai’s compound to kiss his son’s ass. Calama knew it, and used it appropriately.
“Money is useful when you do not want to talk too much”
Even the elders of the village shelved shame and drooled at all the money he was throwing around.
“Today was the meeting at the Igwe’s palace…all I told them was that I didn’t like what they had done to my father’s house. All I asked them was why they made my compound a garbage dump, whether they would like it if I turned their own compounds into burial grounds. And they said I was threatening to kill them!…They asked me how else I could make their compound a cemetary if it wasn’t by killing and burying them there. I told them that only fools and dunces could interpret my words like that, after all, I could make their compounds a burial ground for dogs. That was when the meeting scattered….finally after more than one hour they settled the matter by fining me one fowl…So I vexed very well and went and bought five fowls from Mama Calabash…When they saw they number of fowls I was bringing, the elders showed all their brown and crooked teeth…so I told them that…their fine was only one fowl; that I had brought the rest because of what was still inside my mouth – and the sun was too hot for me to be going up and down to Mama Calabash’s shop every time they fined me. That was when their eyes cleared and they started talking to me with respect.”
His hot-headedness made him do even more extreme things like filling the booth of his car with money and throwing it on the ‘hungry’ village people who fought each other to gather as much as one could. Eventually the young boys in the town took it on themselves to avail themselves to him, to serve him, and somehow help him operate his 419 business. He set up the place with all he needed – a telephone, computer, fax machine, papers, etc.
Then he decided to hold a burial service for his father, which under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been allowed by the chief and his elders, or even if it were, attended by anybody. But this was Calamatus Jumai. Even the Igwe himself visited him in his home to discuss it (interesting discussion). The burial service happened, and it was the biggest the village had ever seen. It was also the most memorable (hehehe). The morning after the service, the entire village was filled with screams. EVERYBODY HAD DIARRHOEA! lol! It was clear that the cause of it was the food that was served at the funeral – Jollof Rice, which Calama’s neighbour, Ma Caro, had prepared. So, they confronted Ma Caro.
“These people, I told her when she came, are asking me what I put into the jollof you served them yesterday. Why? She asked angrily, are they saying it wasn’t sweet? The rice that they rushed like refugees from warfront? No, I told her, but they are stooling like agric fowls. She opened her mouth…The jollof rice that I , Mama Caro, served from my own pot? She loosened her head-tie and tied it around her waist….then she hissed and put a finger in the dust, and licked it, and pointed to the sky…I swear I didn’t poison the jollof! If I did, let Caro my daughter die in childbirth! Let the child she delivers survive only to be slaughtered in a motor accident on his wedding day! As for myself if I poisoned the rice…let epilepsy choke me to death. As for anyone that says I poisoned the jollof….”
And this is where they stopped her immediately. She had given enough proof to get the villages looking for other reasons – which Ma Caro stated was their greed at a man they killed’s funeral that was killing them. They all shut up from there. But Calama was still curious, because he knew it had to be the food;
“How can you curse yourself and Caro like that?…Nothing will happen to us, she told me…I didn’t put it in the jollof, I put it in the goat meat.”
Calama brought a huge difference to Meme’s compound, he even helped with Abel’s marriage ceremony, which was another crazy event. Almost all the boys in the village had been employed by him, and business was booming, but he was not happy. What finally drove him to the very edge and over was when accidentally, the identity of the midwife who castrated him, was revealed before the entire village. He did not spare them, or their household;
“Tonight, there will be no mistake. And no sleep for the wicked either. If they like, they can run to the end of the world, I’m coming after them. This is one isn’t a matter of bullets finishing; I won’t repeat Pa’s mistake. My body can roast when I’ve finished, but before then I’ll show some people that their past blunder wasn’t an ordinary mistake.
It was a calamity.’”
To be continued.