They storm out of student union meetings deriding with much dolor, the effete nature of the assembly.
They appellate foreign beliefs “new-fangled spiritual contraptions” and invitations to such, they judge unbecoming.
“Apostates! What has become of your fathers’ creeds? Why has our pantheon become outcast on their natal soil?” They roar at convert hunters.
They chant elegies to the gradual mortification of the ‘African man’, with a resignation never to bear the designation – ‘cultural turn coats’. These scholars would never prove acquiescent in the palms of colonialists, the imperialists and their colomental* minions. Rather, they’ll act as rebels, insurgents… after the fashion of Robin, the legendary outlaw and avenger of the proletariat.
Birds with akin feather, they say, flock together and indeed justifiable these dissidents proved the primordial wisdom as they unavoidably discovered one another and coalesced in their sojourn for parity, justice, freedom and dignity for Africa.
Like the Begonia, their assembly was an array in diversity, a coalition of natives from all cardinals of the colony. Majority were offspring’s of the affluent however, from plebian roots some spawned. The assembly was a collection of the valiant, the wise, the schemers, the pragmatists, the angry, the brilliant…and the coalition was birthed a fraternity.
‘The Corsairs’ they chose to bear but were sworn to be positive change agents. Corsairs with imaginarily Fo’c’sles, anchors, shores, seas… unyielding convictions, passion and fervor for the emancipation of Africa from the stifling noose of its long nosed desecrators.
Their struggle was not bound within the campus’ walls nor was it solely trained at the erring academia, no; they will also give their quota to the nations struggle for independence and decolonization. They would be a voice for those who would not point out their father’s homesteads with their left hands.
The fraternity launched the dawn of a new epoch, the conception of a novel order in Nigeria’s citadel of highest learning; an order that preached merit, excellence, sacrifice, self defense, tradition … and astutely planned to practice its tenets.
The Corsairs will give a helping hand to the hoary heads in the market. They’ll help ensure toddlers’ do not snap their necks while basking in the warmth and comfort of natal backing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is twilight, a starless one with a crescent and a wide carpet of nimbus. The storm threatening in the heavens was on cue with the one brewing amidst the Corsairs gathered under an udara* tree. It is their fifteenth summit since the inception of the fraternity and an ideological rift was rife amid them. Previous meetings had been milder and at a time they had actually assembled to honour a visiting pan Africanist, but tonight, on very turbulent waters they sailed.
“We have to give up on writing articles and singing songs, brethren. We have not achieved anything thus far neither will we ever achieve anything this way. Our people say when wicked children master the art of dying then their parents will do well to learn the undertaker’s trade.”
Kongo detested riddles. “Bali, tell us what you have in mind.”
“Good. I think it’s time we acted like real Corsairs. Let us follow our words with actions. These bigots and sadists will not loosen the noose they’ve worn for us like their foolish neck ties if all we do is merely writing articles and threatening them. A revolution is what we ought to midwife. The student union can’t start it so we have to bell the cat, even if it’s a mad tiger.”
“Bali, if you do not come out clearly in the next minute I shall anchor this ship by the powers conferred on me as Captain. I think we have completed all pertinent discussions for today.”
“Okay captain. Let’s hit all the erring members of staff in this school. Let’s teach them all a lesson. We talk about emancipation all the time. Let’s actually do it. The French wouldn’t be where they are now if they did not revolt in 1817.”
“So you suggest a revolution, Bali?”
“Yes, I do Kongo. It is time to fight.”
“I guess you will suggest that Herbert McCauley and co should instigate a revolt against the Queen too?”
“Yes I would do that if I get the opportunity. I would.”
“Bali, for goodness sake our constitution clearly spells it out that we would never resort to physical violence! The Corsairs won’t be a party to any such revolution. AOB before we anchor?”
“Yes. Allow a referendum. The constitution says you are a captain not a despot. Let’s vote.”
“We can only vote on issues that are supported by the constitution Bali. If you want a revolution then you’ve got to get it alone.”
Bali stepped away from the covering of the Udara tree and smiled devilishly at Kongo. “If you are tired of mere talk and you really desire freedom, respect and equality for all and sundry in this campus and indeed in this country, come to my side. If you want to fight for all we have wasted so much time talking and writing about, come and stand with me. If you want to add a meaningful quota towards the development of our nation and Africa as a whole, come to my side. If you truly are a warrior at heart come and stand with me.”
Feet began to shuffle and the fiendish smile on Bali’s face grew more evil as the Udara tree began to lose its tenants.
A frown conquered Kongo’s visage, appearing to burrow further with each departure from the covering of the tree. Twelve of the twenty Corsairs stood with Bali.
Thunders clashed violently above and struck the wide carpet of nimbus, ripping it into shreds and shedding its wares upon mother earth. The crescent found solace behind a patch of the shredded nimbus and the resulting darkness enveloped both groups.
“Fellows, Bali is being driven by a demon and I implore you not to fall victim of its inordinate ambitions. I call to you to reconsider your stance!” Kongo pleaded, the rain disguising his tears.
Streaks of lightning momentarily consumed the darkness and presented what was left of the Corsairs with the disappearing backs of the dissenters.
The Captain and the shredded carpet of nimbus wept sourly for the lost souls.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The period of grace had expired and a bulk of the erring academia had flouted their caveat. Some of the malfeasant lecturers had enunciated their defiance during their classes and more blatant ones had tagged the invisible group ‘Spineless Outlaws’. The insolence however, was anticipated and it was time to administer its antidote, a versatile strike branded ‘The Rampage for Emancipation’ by Bali. Yes! Emancipation they indeed sought from the claws and tentacles of the sadists and bigoted lot that formed a chunk of the university personnel. And since they had been labeled ‘Outlaws’ then as such they will act.
Outlaws! How Bali and his company loved and revered the appellation.
Yes, the Outlaws would prove their spines incredibly existent and also one and same with Ogun’s cuirass. They will make Robin Hood turn over in his grave and bless them.
After all, isn’t the man who toys with a scorpion like he does a spider akin to the wall gecko that deems the crocodile his mate?
The Corsairs would learn the difference betwixt talk and action. Like the belladonna, the Outlaws seethed oodles of venom coursing amid flaming rage after the heels and chattels of their tormentors.
It was time to roll out the battle drums. The drummers’ palms are itching and the dancers’ are becoming restless. The one who wants to die has met he who wants to kill.
A professor who was well known to trade marks for a roll in the hay was ambushed and beaten to a pulp on his way back to his quarters after an evening of schmoozing and arguing about Rhodesia, the soviet Union and Hiroshima at the staff club. Another egghead who often described Africans as barbarians and the West as the continent’s only saviour woke up to find his windshields smashed, his tires slashed and the body of his Mustang badly scratched and dented. Others who shared his views also had their offices ransacked and the louvers in their quarters smashed. A type written note which read “THE OUTLAWS WILL VISIT AGAIN” were found at all the scenes but the randy professor was made to chew his after it was read to him by the leader of his masked assailants.
Bali loved the rhythm his battle drums threw at the school but the gyrations he got from academia and students he loved more. The outlaws were the toast of the campus and indeed what specie of orange would not ripen at the advent of a prince?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Its midnight and twenty-three undergraduates are gathered under a full moon in the heart of a thicket on the outskirts of the university town. It is the inaugural meeting of the Hackers confraternity and they’d just completed their oaths of allegiance to the confraternity by sucking on each other’s bleeding palms.
“Those who volunteered to scratch our itching backs have wrapped thorns around their palms. We have also asked them to help blow the speck in our sore eyes but haven’t they lined their tongues with alligator pepper?” Ladan –the only son of an igbo herbalist and self appointed leader of the fraternity whose heartthrob had just deserted for Balli’s right hand man growled in a sonorous voice.
His audience nodded gravely and scowled at their feet. They had all been stepped upon one way or the other by the Outlaws and vengeance was all they sought. The very ills the cult had set out to abolish had become second nature to them and someone had to ground their marauding fleet.
The randy men folk in the academia had learnt to be subtle in satisfying their proclivity but the Outlaws had transformed into savages as their constitution now allowed forced sexual relationships as long as the male concerned was an Outlaw.
The cult’s repeated strikes on the bigots in the academia had drastically reduced the incidence of bigotry in the school but the Outlaws themselves were fostering a kind of stratification amidst the students. The corner where the air conditioner was situated at the student union hall had become ’the Outlaws corner’ and all of a sudden, queuing etiquettes no longer applied to them. Back benches were reserved for them in all classes and they invited themselves to any party they cared to attend. The school had put obscene prices on their heads but no one was willing to come forth with concrete information on the Outlaws. At first, this was because the students regarded them as their messiah but in recent times their silence emanated from fear as their supposed saviours had turned captors.
“We must quit folding our arms. We must stretch them out and hack at every evil in our path. Balli has enjoyed a free run for the past eight months and I believe his time is up.” Ladan continued and managed the gravest look he could come up with as he raised the axe in his grip towards the full moon.
“The outlaws have chosen to act like the proverbial masquerade who insisted on crossing a single log bridge on one toe. They have chosen to unmask themselves but we shall help them a step further. We shall hack their exposed heads off! We will show all and sundry the filth the Outlaws have under their cloaks. The Hackers confraternity will have no mercy!”
Balli and his right hand man were ambushed on the school’s tennis court and whipped with their racquets until they passed out. Kongo was the first word to come out of Balli’s mouth when he regained consciousness at a hospital and he was ready to swear by his mother’s grave that the Corsair was the leader of their masked attackers.
The Outlaws fought back like a snake whose tail had been chopped off but Kongo escaped with a broken knee, his aide with a fractured arm while a floor member lost his life to an Outlaw who was too enthusiastic with his hockey stick.
Ladan wished he could kick himself. He’d spent weeks working on annihilating the Outlaws only for the Corsairs to reap the glory. They had to strike again and this time they stuck the painting of a huge axe and a human skull to the severely injured bodies of the Outlaws who fell to their axes and hockey sticks. The Outlaws finally realized they had more than the Corsairs to worry over and the school authority discovered that the consummation of the Corsairs and the Outlaws had birthed a much more sinister monster.
Retaliation followed retaliation and the cults set aside their initial intention of protecting fellow students. Values and morals plummeted and violence escalated. The festering malaise laboured and birthed more confraternities and the decadence rose stealthily. Inequality and iniquity prevailed and souls perished by the thousands in Sheol.
The military with its noose on the country’s raggedly neck preached that power laid in the barrels of a gun and who but students should be the quickest learners?
The fight for supremacy grew messier and the malaise spread to all other citadels of higher learning.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Years have rolled by and the men in Khaki have given way (though some merely swapped their khaki’s for agbadas) to Pot bellied men in flowing Agbada’s who swear on their mother’s graves that they would build bridges and dams in deserts.
These new breed of leaders always had ballot boxes to snatch, some nuisance or the other to silence and so on and they found more than enough willing hands amidst the throng of cultists in the Nation’s campuses.
The plunge continues today, taking more and more into the abyss along with their glittering futures.
A vital lesson has been learnt. As the deliverance of a people must never be left in the hands of outsiders so must it never be left solely to a fraction of the group.
All must build the society and whilst delegation is inevitable, checks and balances must be fashioned and monitored by all.
Now, only the unity of the grass beneath the brawling beasts can be relied upon for salvation.