He was a coup-plotter manqué. And as is the case with all failed coup-plotters interred in Wundari Maximum Security Prison, La République Fédérale du Côte d’or noir, his liberty was under indefinite confiscation – pending execution by firing squad.
“Confucius” his fellow internees all called him. When he was brought into the prison (kicking and screaming) months earlier, a guard had reprimanded: “Confucius, behave yourself or there’ll be trouble,” and he did as he was told. As he didn’t query the name at the time (although he probably would have answered to anything with the menace of a gleaming baton hovering overhead), nobody knew if he went by any other name, and they had to call him something… so Confucius it was.
They knew Confucius wasn’t his real name – none of them had ever come across a D’ornoirian Confucius before. Most had heard about the Chinese philosopher who walked the earth all those centuries ago, now best remembered for the myriad of catchy proverbs attributed to him. But clever and insightful as he might have been, his proverbs never really took West-Africa by storm, and subsequently, D’ornoirians typically didn’t go about naming their children after him.
After a few weeks spent observing him go about his business, several of his fellow prisoners concluded that everything about the man was very much at odds with being a Confucius. For example:
(1) Like 99% of the country, he was a black West African – he bore absolutely no physical resemblance to the oriental bearded one.
(2) In stark contrast to all the principled schools of thought The Great Thinker subscribed to, all who crossed this fellow’s path concluded that he clearly had no principles, and probably cared very little for both schools and thoughts. A hint at an ordered mind might have explained the nickname, but the general consensus was that his head played host to nothing other than bleak memories and disheveled plots.
Why in God’s name would they call him Confucius then? Andrew, his new cellmate, wondered for all the above reasons when he first saw him in his element. On the day, he was staggering wildly, throwing himself about, rolling around on the cell gangway and violently swinging a table lamp he had in hand. The Crazy Trinity, comprising: Benny the aggressor, Steve the defendant, and Kenneth the mediator, all lodged in the bizarre mind of Confucius, the accommodating host.
“Get off Benny! I never touched your sister,” protested Steve.
“Get out the way Ken, I’ll smash his head open! I swear I will,” declared Benny.
“Leave it Benny! Go on Steve, run back to the house,” pleaded Ken.
Besides the dialogue which he executed in three different D’ornoirian accents, he also mimed all three parts quite commendably: swinging blows at thin air, retreating from his shadow, and physically restraining himself simultaneously.
All the while the drama unfolded, Andrew was in utter bewilderment. He hadn’t been long in the prison and had never seen anything like it before. How does he eat? he wondered above all else. He wondered whether Benny and Steve argued over boiled or fried yams for lunch; whether there was ever progressive discourse when they mulled over ketchup, mayonnaise or salad cream to accompany their fries.
He turned to the old-timer sitting beside him and asked what was going on. The old timer had seen all of Confucius’s antics before.
“You young people worry too much,” he hissed. “Don’t worry about Confucius, he hungry; soon sleep,” he predicted without even looking up from the chess game he was playing with another disinterested old-timer.
Right on cue, Confucius brought the lamp crashing down onto his own head. He staggered for a few yards before collapsing on the metal gangway floor. Benny, it seemed, had made his point.
Andrew’s curiosity was pushed to its limits. “Why in God’s name do they call you Confucius?” He finally summoned the courage to ask in their cell one quiet evening after almost four months of cohabiting. Confucius had just taken his medication – something he very rarely did – and Andrew knew he would be slightly lucid for a few moments, so he thought it best to take the opportunity to find out the mystery behind the name once and for all. Whereupon, he was able to extract (amidst a lot of the other gibberish he blabbered) that his name was really Funsho (a very D’ornoirian name) but ever since the incident, he really couldn’t be called anything else but Confucius.
Apparently, he used to be a brilliant soldier, and his foray into lunacy was both abrupt and most unforeseen. It all started with him waking up on the day he was due to assassinate the despotic D’ornoirian President, and failing to locate his spectacles. They were eventually found loitering on his face; balanced perfectly on the ridge of his nose; literally right before his eyes; spectacularly composed like all compliant spectacles which do not stray from kilter – and hence, do not make a spectacle of their wearers whilst under wearing – ought to sit; exactly where he had forgotten to take them off from before he retired to bed the previous night.
On announcing the location of the unlost item, the mission commander of the three man Commando Hit Squad, Chiwhue, simply said: “Funsho, today we aim to execute Operation Terminate The Tyrant; it is not a good day to be a confused man.” To which Chiwhue’s second in command, Edimolu, jovially added: “If it was, then today would be the day of confused-Funsho, Con-Funsho, or maybe even Confucius.” Edimolu’s witticism tickled all their bellies.
However, it soon became apparent to the other two members of The Commando Hit Squad that Funsho’s confusion had taken a turn for the dire. Shortly after Edimolu and Chiwhue had successfully completed their mission tasks (sabotaging all government security vehicles with pursuit potential – giving the team a ten minute escape window) they took to their pre-planned positions and began waiting for Funsho, the squad sniper, to do his duty. But no sooner had they relaxed into anticipatory mode did their earpieces begin crackling. Funsho, the voice on the other end of the crackling earpieces, sounded heavily burdened with grave puzzlement, apologetically slurring out the words: “Delta India Zulu Zulu Yipee. Sorry chaps, Funsho here, which one is the target again? Roger. Sorry, over,” into his two-way radio. He asked this as he peered through the scope of his sniper rifle at three very different looking figures less than four feet beneath him – who were facing a large media gathering in a conference hall – whilst he perched in a ceiling ventilation duct above.
A distraught Edimolu – lingering in the shadows of a corridor outside the same conference hall – on the lookout for any trouble rousing scenarios – simply declared: “Oh God! Oh God! We are finished!” and began sobbing out loud.
The mission commander, Chiwhue, who was tactically placed in the front row of the press line-up – barely six feet from The President – became shell-shocked, and initially failed to respond to Funsho’s query. As would be expected, his head was suddenly besieged by a cacophonous ensemble of whats, whys, and hows, and it was this rapid onslaught of introspective critiques, like: “What is happening to me?” “Why is this happening to me?” and “How in God’s name could this possibly be happen to me?” which stunned him into silence.
However, faced with the dilemma of the key member of his elite squad having misplaced his motive, but still hovering with a lethal weapon in a mechanical duct above him, what Chiwhue failed to comprehend above all other incomprehensibles, was how even the most alien of aliens to Côte d’or noir (the country with the highest population of black men on the planet) could not identify The tyrannical West-African president to be terminated during operation Terminate The Tyrant, out of a three person line-up which included: A hefty black army General with more medals than camouflage on his attire; a young pretty petit oriental woman, with a facing label on her lectern clearly identifying her as the “North Korean Ambassador”; and the gaunt, whistling, mop and bucket wielding albino janitor (who nobody ever accused of having any sense of timing or presence) lurking in the background, smiling, and waving to the camera whilst mouthing out the words: “H-E-L-L-O M-O-M,” to the world’s press.
A couple of moments passed by before Chiwhue recovered from the shock of Funsho’s query and regained the gift of speech, whereupon he calmly and stealthily responded into his covert shirt-sleeve microphone, saying: “Discharge your full consignment upon the orator. I repeat, discharge your full consignment upon orator. Over!” At which point, The President requested The North Korean Ambassador say a few words to the press, and she promptly copped a lot of lead to terminal ends.
The abortion of the mission was successful; the slippage out from the blockaded perimeter was commendable; and even under the most inhospitable of conditions – with hostile soldiers randomly accosting all and sundry in search of would-be tyrant terminators – all three coup-plotters managed to rendezvous at the pre-arranged getaway destination. However, Funsho condemned himself and his fellow conspirators to incarceration and eventual execution when they were discovered: Loitering with Intentions of Elusion, and subsequently convicted of: Crimes of High Treason Against Distinct and Honourable Fellows of La République Fédérale du Côte d’or noir” because their due escape was in an unenviable position of thwart, as Funsho forgot where he parked the car.
News of the imbeciles – who spent three whole years strategising a coup d’état with the ultimate aim of ruling the country, but instead, only managed to assassinate the North Korean Ambassador, blow an albino janitor’s ear off, and completely lose themselves in an empty car park – spread like a savannah fire across the whole of West Africa, and so Confucius arrived at the prison as something of a celebrated, anti-institution celebrity… albeit one with a curious name tag.
It was this celebrity status which saved him enduring the wrath of his fellow inmates for the nuisance of his ways, because along with having to put-up with Benny, Steve, and Kenneth’s disrupting antics during the day, their peaceful nights were also almost always interrupted by Confucius’s nightmare howls; screaming – amongst other things: “I’ve found ‘em!”; “Anyone seen my specs?…I’m to shoot the one doing all the talking, yes?… I never took ‘em off?…” shortly before smashing the closest object to hand on his own head. Doing this presumably, to aid slumber resumption, or more plausibly, because Benny had never been the most civil of chaps.