The New Gong
Publishers of New Writing and Images
It was Gideon. The immediate causes of the first coup could not but be replicated many years later. Then another
group of plotters led by another Christian warrior conceived the grander design of reconfiguring the country’s map.
In one second of military intuition they studied the hydra-headed piece of cartography and came to the conclusion
that it broadened too far out in the north; that it needed pruning to be more prepossessing. And how else to achieve
this – they agreed – than by excising the outlying parts?
They succeeded as always in overriding the national radio station and commenced with their well thought out riot
act. But their plan – fond as it appeared – crashed like what it was: a castle built on sand. Everybody denounced
them and their sacrilegious adventure, just as they denounced the earlier adventurers who had announced a dawn-
“And you think you can achieve what your predecessors could not?” he voiced to the wayfarer as the winds steadied
“You predecease him not,” another voice cut in. “Not at all. Mine is – was – ordained and blessed.”
“We are not talking about poetry here, my friend…” yet another interloper interjected.
“Are you both harbinger and last man in this crusade?”
“It is neither crusade nor jihad.”
“Call it what you like,” an altogether different voice said. “We have done this thing before.”
“Please, let us hear from him that will make it back to where we came from.” It was Gideon, leader of the
balkanisation effort announcing his continued presence.
“But I’m not a soldier,” the wayfarer said.
“Does it matter in the end? The important thing is to change the social order.” This was from an obtrusive participant
in the reverse-order curfew group. Their own effort had been botched before it could cast the first stone. Among the
entire rank of sissies paraded for the offence, only he admitted guilt and told his wife to remarry.
“So you still harbour no regrets, even now?” the wayfarer teased, pleased at seeing a kindred spirit.
“None whatsoever. We wanted to change the social order.”
“And the wife, you saw what became of her?”
“No price is too much for changing a bad system.”
“Even if – like you and your bunch – one is heralded out by failure?”
“Success and failure in this median are two sides of the same coin.”
“Even your companion here with you caused more ripples with his group than you and your own guys could
“By excising a part of the country? That is no big deal. We are talking of changing the whole, not subdividing it.”
“Perhaps you and your group were not as forthright.”
“Because they killed the head of state?” the original interloper chipped in.
“And a state military governor, of course,” the wayfarer added.
“Was that the aim?” Gideon asked, unimpressed.
“You people could only take over the radio station like Quiwonkpa and his group in Liberia,” the wayfarer underlined.
“They are the people who give coup-plotting a bad name,” the other said.
“But they pay back in the end,” the wayfarer corrected.
“Oh, yes. Quiwonkpa paid with his balls,” the faceless one opined and fled.
“I heard they were paraded on the streets.”
“Later to be eaten for supper by their former comrade-in-crime.”
“What a fate! Sometimes I think that we who were tied to stakes and shot had a better deal.”
“What of the masses whose lives you gamble on, where do we come in?” the wayfarer asked of no one in particular.
“They were avenged by Johnson – although he only achieved cutting off Doe’s ear.”
“And fled the war.”
“There was someone else to continue, perhaps.”
“The maiming and branding?”
“Call it whatever you like, it is all in a war.”
“Is that how a war should be fought?”
“You all had the opportunity of joining the army and partaking,” Gideon said.
“Must everybody enlist? It is not worth it,” Martin replied breaking his silence. He had remained tongue-tied all the
“Because you couldn’t fit in,” Gideon sparked.
“You that could fit, are we not here together?”
“At least we killed the head of state.”
“They nearly succeeded,” the wayfarer intervened.
“Don’t plead for us. After all, those who killed the head of state didn’t fare any better. What else did they achieve
other than enthroning the Gerald Ford of our politics?” Gideon said in a surfeit of indignation.
“Did they?” the wayfarer asked in all innocence.
“Of course. The problem has only started. When you put the control of the lives of an entire people into the hands
of a man who doesn’t want such responsibility, you only stir a hornet’s nest.”
“I’m confused now,” the wayfarer begged.
“Do you mind him? After all, the present development that brought you here hinges directly on their bungled
attempt. A man who should not normally have been put in charge of his kin has taken over our fatherland. The story
has just begun.” This came from the one surnamed Luther, his reticence broken further still.
“You only end up confounding my confusion. Please, I should be on my way,” the wayfarer said, by now at the end
of his tether.
“All I know is that we removed a tyrant,” Dawn-To-Dusk maintained.
“And enthroned a pussycat,” Gideon countered. “We wanted a total change and nearly succeeded.”
“Nearly cannot kill a bird,” another mocked.
“Which kind of binds the totality of you,” the wayfarer pointed out.
“And you, too,” Gideon corrected.
The wrangle raged on unabated until a wind stirred. Before he could muster a defence, the wayfarer was again
hauled like a ping-pong ball in a hurricane until The Martyrs to a Lost Cause was a lustrous ball of fire in the distant
past of his wake.
He saw the leaflets floating down the auburn sky. It was reminiscent of the time elections were still contestable, as
they should be. Some politicians would hire helicopters and fly about, dropping leaflets with pictures of their smiling
faces on the populace gathered below. From a distance, they looked like money. Then they sailed closer and
became what they really were: pieces of paper.
But this time it was different. They turned out – indeed – to be the nation’s currency. There was another surprise.
The dead heroes were still alive. Blinking their eyes against the sun, they struck different poses as they filed past
the astounded wayfarer. The breeze tugged respectfully at the hairpiece of a turbaned one. Another still wore his
military mortar and bled from where his assassins’ bullets had ruptured the crankcase of his grey matter. He wore a
grin. A smirk, to be exact, conveying a feeling of disenchantment. He must have been wearing it as he parted from
the earth before his time. He appeared to have some unspeakable axe to grind with the authors of his demise.
“So where have they left us? You just talked to their spokesperson,” one of the turbaned characters asked instead.
Elevated to the exalted position he occupied by mere chance, he still appeared to be showing his gratitude to his
mentor by being a kind of mouthpiece. “No doubt you see what I mean”
Mind reading was de rigueur here.
“They said they had to strike for …”
“And now that they have, what was the result?”
“Those that make peaceful change impossible…” This came from the other noble face in the assemblage. He wore a
pair of conical spectacles on the end of his nose. It made him peer across the face of the currency down to his toes
while his upraised fingers flashed a victory salute.
“We have been equalised,” he continued: “Northerner and southerner, Christian and Muslim, majority and minority,
freeborn and slave. All we do now is sail about till peace reigns in our nation. The search has been for the one that
will un-bell the cat.”
The wayfarer was at a loss. One does not easily know what to say to two of the standard-bearers of one’s country’s
tripod of tribes, the more so when the avowed representative of your own leg has refused to make the crossover to
Then the one that bore the cross came sailing by. He had been hiding in the foreground, it seemed. Perhaps
because of the election he had lost to his own son back then. He had been so ashamed that he had lived the rest of
his life as a petulant recluse. Even the posthumous honour this granted him was not as well received as those of the
other tribal icons.
“Why must they always send one of us?” he opened up. “Are their brothers not around to do the job? When the odd
job comes they remember us. Poor child…you appear strong though. But be mindful that many have tried and failed
at the very first step.”
Again he disappeared backstage, leaving the wayfarer with the strange company he had been with before his
arrival. But the wayfarer felt more at home now than ever before. The correct words must have been dropped on his
behalf at the appropriate quarters. He was that reassured.
As his erudite companion went off on another tangent in his many theories of national emancipation, the long-drawn
hour dawned. He saw the approaching mass of people. From their various attires he could see that they were his
compatriots, all right. Though they amounted to a near-multitude, he could see that each represented a unit in their
multilingual creel of a nation.
There was no agitation between them, which was unnatural. They made a circle around the stunned wayfarer who
could believe neither his eyes nor his predicament. The next instance – at the behest of their spokesperson – the
wayfarer knelt down and undressed. By a unanimous declaration each of the representatives of the tribes of his
nation brought the best element of their dress code for the decoration of the wayfarer.
Nobody argued while it lasted. In the twinkle of a lid, the wayfarer was fully clothed. From footwear to headgear,
bracelet to armlet, bangle to leg adornments, the wayfarer got it all. Even getting more than a fair dose of feathers
stuck on a manifold cap that had no space left for any extras. His face ended up a riot of colours that made him
resemble both a spirit and a lunatic at one and the same time.
Satisfied, they sent him forth in a ritual of chants – a veritable Babel of echoes filling the open-ended space. As the
music faded, the wayfarer was borne by the wind once more. This time, though, he could – more than at any other
time previously – adduce a quaint reason to his peculiar circumstance.
It couldn’t have passed for another dream. Not with his eyes so wide open. Although he couldn’t tell where he was,
the wayfarer knew with undisguised certainty that an earth-shattering experience was in the offing.
What stillness! Perhaps he had been transmuted into space. He took a step forward. His weight was still intact. He
made to remove his shoes only to discover that he had neither feet nor hands. He had become a spirit indeed. It
then dawned on him that he had made it back from where no mortal ever returned – whole or in part, in coffin or
Of course, there were other spirits about. They usually came surreptitiously. Even when they took possession of
human bodies they entered when they were least expected. Mostly in the middle of the night, while men and women
conjugated away from the wary eyes of children, neighbours and house helps. While the man sowed the revered
seeds of humanity in the deep recesses of his woman’s cavities, each returning spirit claimed whom they were sent
The wayfarer emerged to behold the Great River. A multitude of people were scattered all over its banks engaged in
all manner of activity. Evidently nothing was taboo any longer. There was temptation aplenty. He discountenanced
the overtures of two blue-eyed damsels wooing him with their overabundance of milk and honey, upstairs as well as
Next to them a group of men drank from a golden urn. They exuded the good life from every pore. Observing them
more closely, he noticed they all had the same splendid skin colour. They were, indeed, one mass of humanity.
Nothing subdivided them.
Disregarding them all, he headed straight to the opposite shore – the land of the living. He walked across the Great
River and de-resurrected to save his people from more than their uniformed messiahs.