A Tribune At The People’s Tribunal By Ifedayo Babalola

‘How are you keeping these days? It’s been quite a while.’ Lanky queries as his stocky pal sinks in the semi-cushioned chair opposite.

‘Acting out all my security tips, bro….. Don’t talk to strangers, stay away from animals, don’t stay out beyond 5pm, inform no one of your movements, inform ten people of your movements at all times……bal bla bla….You know the whole works.’
‘Good boy, good boy-‘ Lanky nods
‘They can’t silence us!’ Shorty explodes.

‘They can’t cage us! It’s a free country. They can’t tie us down!’
Silence. Lanky is unsurprised at his friend’s outburst. They sip from half-filled cups.

‘That reminds me.’ Says Lanky with a stolid face. ‘We have missed matters of national importance. Do you know they have been trying to silence some important personalities?’
‘You mean our tribune? A fighter for better society and defender of the plebeians of the earth?’
‘You are right on the money, buddy. The man with the mighty pen.’
‘They can’t silence him, they dare not. We, the people, won’t let them. Otherwise, we are all lost.’ Shorty declared.

‘Methinks though that the plebeians of this nation missed an opportunity to have them represented at the highest level by the incorruptible tribune.’
‘Third to the highest level, you mean?’
‘Fourth, actually-‘

Shorty called for a bottle of Alomo.
‘He did not want the job anyway,’ He sneezed dismissively.
‘That’s what he went to tell the senator at the interview?’
‘He attended an interview? I thought he was consulting with friends and family…you know, …to determine if to accept or reject–‘
‘He attended and performed excellently. Brilliant man. I’m proud of him.’
‘Yeah…… But I’m confused.’ Shorty frowns.

‘No one attends and performs well at a job interview they don’t want…unless he went there simply to see what kind of man The Senate President is. I hear he is full of praises for the seasoned senator.’
‘Typical of his tribe, you see?’
‘What is, you tribalist?!’
‘I mean no harm.’ Lanky said defensively, both palms laid forward to prove his mind was clean. ‘I mean spokespersonship for men in power is the stock in trade of his tribe. Remember the big uncle of Babangida era?’
‘Yeah. History.’
‘Then there was The Guardian Angel?’
‘Yeah. History book 2
‘Ok. How about this for current affairs….. Mr. Your Land or Your Life?’
‘Alright! Alright! Point of correction. His tribesmen are masters of spokespersonship for and against men in power.’

‘Well. The ”against” bit always precedes the appointment, or should I say cultivates the appointment, and ends with the appointment.’
‘Take it or leave it. They were all seasoned professionals.’ Shorty continues his defense of the tribune’s tribe.

‘I suppose so, and I suppose no seasoning is ever complete till one’s been garnished at Abuja. It’s the final transfiguration, the ultimate silencer.’
‘That’s so uncharitable, you incurable cynic! It’s unfair. Imagine if you have fought for a people all your life, yet starved yourself the ownership of political party membership cards.’
‘No party card, but ready to work with every party. Great sacrifice, I should say.’ Lanky said with a cynical smile.
‘Yeah. Keeping his options open. What’s wrong with that, eh?’
‘Oh yeah? Is the bat a bird or a rat?’
‘A cat it is, Mr Wise.’
‘You siddon dia.’
Shorty swallows a big gulp and looks thoughtful for a while. ‘ You know what?’
‘No. I don’t know.’

‘I can murder some seasoned beef right now, except our tribune would have none of that. In fact, I’ve been boycotting beef since I read one of his powerful essays. That’s another reason we won’t let him go to Abuja. How will we know what he’s being served over there, hmmm? Abuja ke? The suya capital of the world. Home to twenty-four-hour barbeque, seasoning and garnishing. No prophet will put me on a dry fast and jet off to Las Vegas. No! We’ll stay here together and boycott all boycottables!’

‘Calm down, mate. He is not here to witness you breaking fast. As for me, my lips are sealed. You can take some orisirisi pepper soup, if you want. The shaki, liver and intestine are no cow beef anyway.’

‘You may be right, but I’ll take a bite only because your wish is my command.’

Lanky calls for two plates of orisirisi pepper soup and two more bottles of their favourite drink.

‘I still believe in him though, whatever you say.’ Shorty mumbles through a mouthful of bovine entrails. ‘He is a man of the people, a tribune for the plebeians. That’s why we, his teeming fans, stopped him from going. Thrice beaten, a million times shy. Once we prevented him from taking the job, that translates he doesn’t want the job. Same thing.’
‘We can’t silence him then?’
‘No. They can’t!’
‘Power to party then.’
‘No. Power to the people.’
‘Yeah, buddy. Power to the party people!’

(Ifedayo Babalola, satirist and social commentator can be reached at [email protected]).

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