The great God roared in the silence of darkness. Only his Royal Highness Swandi Sanneh could hear him. Standing in the dark before Him with blood spatters over his face, he bowed.
“I need your help, the eyes and minds of our ancestors,” said Sanneh. He was addressing Afang Baylong, the great lord of Malibanta.
As he spoke, his offering was ready. A goat struggling the final stretches of its legs lays fore, lifeless.
Sanneh, Nyancho Junkendeh Faala, has just made his offering. He seeks blessings to exercise control over his people. He beseech that everyone is dumb or bows to him.
This very idea of mysticism and power!
The people of Malibanta are weird. Even they know they are weird. Because weird is the only explanation to that which the brain can’t simply fathom.
They understand but the rest of the world don’t and they have no interest in schooling them. So their lives are a mystery.
The tiny nation was a province of ancient Manding Empire but broke away. Since then a self-style republican, Sanneh, imposed himself on them.
However, that royalty would not survive for long. It would fall on the deadly sword of Sanneh, the brutality that sustained it.
Power in all shapes is self-sustaining. Whatever its custodian does with it will determine for how long one will have it. And so there would be a revolution to free the country from Sanneh.
Suti Sanji, a warlord, would be the architect. The break-away from the empire was swift and costly. People died and material lost but the land kept its shape.
In 1960, a peace treaty with Manding was signed and Sanji retired from leading an organized rebellion to ruling. Quite a career swift.
But despite the career stretch, Sanji managed to keep to the core mandate of the revolution. People lived though he was another defacto dynasty.
However, as he passed two decades in power, his power began to wane. Despairs of lacks of basics in everything became widespread and chronic.
Discontent with the system grew bigger. Aware of the opportunities and the need for new hope, Sanji’s general Alipha Hydara overthrew him.
Hydara was right that the revolution was betrayed by Sanji. The goal was to build a democracy but which actually died no sooner than the state emerged from the empire.
And though the state survived under Sanji but it was largely defined by mysticism. Sanity, as it were, began to wane.
But in Malibanta mysterious things happen. They do all the times. Leaders, even those in ancient times, have often manifested huge magical powers.
Powers that helped them overpower their adversaries. That was strange, especially for times when some, schooled in Rome’s ways, were fooled to believe things are as they seem.
Rome’s devotees, even though they too unconsciously were fooled to subscribe to a belief system, think the world is a place of equals.
They claim right to govern and be governed is for all. The unseen powers, for them, are not powers. People who have spoken about them were rubbished by Rome and its disciples.
Hydara was a Rome devotee. For him, Rome is right that power is a simple black and white game and it is available to anyone who seek.
He has put fear of God in us and subdue us to lazy thinking, he said of Sanji, but we must break the chain and liberate ourselves.
The convicted pro-Rome activist was sworn in as president and took oath. He mobilized his men behind the idea of ‘death to the religious and the illusionist”.
However, despite his sharp eyes, Hydara could not see how Suti, who was once a Romist, would turn to be “superstitious”.
Suti has started his crusade as an innocent, pro-Islam African man. He believes not in tradition or the powers of Afang Baylong. After few days in power, he changed.
No one knows why except the Five Tigers or the ones who understand the game. But who are the Five Tigers? For many they exist only in a fairytale. Some scary tale of horror of past warriors.
Yeah, such stories are not rare to come by especially in a society where heroism, as in killing one’s adversary, is canonized as bravery.
Suti would always argue that superstition, treachery and back-stabbing are simply tricks for any serious player of the power game.
But is it? Well, Hydara was also about to surprise himself.
On the first night in the Tatoto, He visited for a truce. “I guard all the custodians of power in this country and you shall bow to me,” he said to Hydara in a dream. It was Afang Baylong.
Except that this was not your normal dream. The encounter was real and physical. It was terrifying too. Hydara was angry and the same time scared.
He survived the night but woke up with blood spatters on his underwear. He sustained a small wound on his neck. He would not understand how.
How could a scary figure appear to him in a dream and give him conditions to fulfill to become president? Hydara thought succumbing to conditions to an unknown figure in a dream means sharing his power.
As far as he is concern, for Malibanta, he is the all-knower and the all-doer. It must only be because he said, that kind of self-entitlement. So he passed his first three days refusing to listen to the demands of Afang Baylong.
On the fourth night, he knew again he was going to the Executive Building but there would not be any sleep for him. The figure would come again, each night with a different technique of intimidation.
Fed up, Hydara got onto his phone. “How do I get rid of this figure in my head,” he said to the guy on the other end.
Sanji was not surprised. He was only waiting for the call. It is a ritual that only those who go to the Executive Building knew about. Or at least it should be.
Those on the outside knew not, the price of power. “Power is an illusion,” said Sanji. “People share most of it to gain all of it. There is simply no alternative.”
“So I must spill blood? He is demanding I slaughter a ram and bow to Him with absolute loyalty in return for his protection,” Hydara said.
“Do what everyone in the world does,” Sanji hang up the phone. He was surprised and the same time annoyed. The old man he has overthrown and put on house arrest has hang up on him. This is not a good thing.
But for a minute, he began reflecting on what Sanji said. Behind any deal or consensus there are many compromises, often things that will not be acknowledged in public.
Power lies in powerlessness, in weakness. Strongmen don’t get it. Meanwhile, following a day of reflection, Hydara conceded. He slaughtered a ram and bowed to the King of the Land.
Afang Baylong was pleased and shared his secrets. At night Hydara saw places to visit and offer prayers. This, he was assured, was the contract with the unseen hand of the ancestors.
From then on, he has their back until he broke the truce. But before he did, he survived 30 attempts on his life. He was given both mortal and immortal soldiers.
After two decades, he broke the truce and lost it. He was dethroned, at an election. Afang Baylong refused to send voters to vote for him as it used to happen.
His main crime was to subscribe to a smaller god, an inferior might that can do nothing. He took on an idol and ditch Afang Baylong.
He was arrogant and too selfish. Afang Baylong did not also appreciate his often unkindness to humanity, for which, and quite charitably, he was warned to stop.
His refusal to obey cursed him. His crown was seized. His successor, Tulumbali Keita, was some sort of a calm fellow.
Tulumbali is some guy who pretends to not want anything even when he wants it. Hydara was more mysterious though. He knows things that Tulumbali can only pretend to know.
And while the normal anointing to become president is done by man, Afang Baylong must anoint one to rule from the Executive Building.
And there, there was a problem. Hydara left an animal head at the Executive Building. Both Afang Baylong and Tulumbali cannot go pass the night at the seat of power unless they remove that animal head.
The gods do not like that cursed animal and they cannot go near it. And they can’t remove it either because they do not know where it was exactly buried. Hydara, knowing how vital his cooperation is, now resorted to blackmailing Tulumbali.
The new leader who could not go to his new office had to find a new space. A new Executive Building was created.
This presented a special challenge to the new leader. Hydara was not cooperating and Sanji did not know a thing about what was happening.
Thus, there were only two options. It is either that he grants Hydara immunity and he tells him where to find the Animal Head or finds the only one who saw him burying the head.
Hydara buries the head in the cover of darkness on a Friday night. He is a Friday person. Tulumbali was told that there was one person knew about it but he could not find the person.
And he was not mysterious like the predecessor. So there was not a possibility to figure out the spot.
So Tulumbali can actually visit the place but can’t sleep there. And to be anointed to get the protection of the ancestors, he was to have an encounter with Afang Baylong at the Executive Building.
So Tulumbali decided he would reach a truce with Hydara for immunity in exchange for information on location of the head.
He did. No one but one knew about it. Tulumbali got to remove the animal head and moved to EB for the blessing of the ancestors. This custodian of power…
After the truce, Afang Baylong who cursed Hydara, was not happy. Gods are arrogant. They do not want an equal and by having a truce with Hydara, Tulumbali has submitted to his inferior and gave vote of no confidence to Afang Baylong.
He did not appreciate that. The Great Lord now abandons the land. Afang Baylong is on the run… And now Hydara controls Tulumbali…
May the God return, prays Malibanta.