By Hakeem Babalola
In the land of Airegin where my mother born me to my father lived a king. This king was ruthless – he was without mercy or pity. He neither forgets nor forgives every perceived enemy. Another noticeable trait about this king was enchantment for flattering. Oh, this king loved deceitfulness. Flatter him, praise him insincerely and you’ll become his beloved.
And the king of my beloved place of birth expected every kinsman, kinswoman, kins-boys and girls to exhibit a spirit of fawning whether we were around him or far from him. Whether we like it or not, we must draw back – as with fear or pain. No exception!
Any kinsfolk who dare criticise – oh, advice him and you’re dead! So every kinsfolk invented a means to please this king especially the sycophants. Nobody wanted to see the king’s red eyes, for red eyes equals torture – severe torture.
This king simply enjoyed cringing submissiveness.
Every day in the land of Airegin the king would come up with sudden and draconian law to oppress anyone who opposed him. And that’s just one of his habitual.
He also loved playing with his people’s lives. He could be described as a king for himself – himself alone. He often told us: Offend me and I’ll kill you. The only way to be in this king’s good book was to praise him – always. And we have become skilful in that regard to avoid king’s wrath.
One example to sum up the king’s disdain for the truth is this:
One day one of his queens knelt before his majesty. “My Lord, the authority belongs to the king,” she said in a low voice that shows full respect. “In this land of Airegin, people are saying many things about you my Lord. It is more of complain – anguish bemoaning. Most of it is not pleasing to the ears my Lord. They are saying you’re killing the land and its people. You’re making life more difficult for them. Only the sycophants are on your side my Lord. They please you in order to continue to gain a personal advantage. They praise you because they fear you and not out of respect. My Lord if they have the opportunity, they will sell you to the highest bidder and get rid of you. My Lord, please listen to the agony of your people. What shall we do my Lord....”
The king interrupted his queen and in annoyance declared: “You’re a traitor! You belong to my kitchen and the other room and from today I ban you from that other room. You will die in my kitchen.”
And that was the last we saw of the beautiful and courageous queen of Airegin’s land.
Now, there was a particular man in the land of Airegin. His name was Ashsia. He appeared fearless and would tell it to the king’s face the truth as he saw it. Even when the king introduced a new law banning speaking against the king, this brave man would say something like “rather die calling calabash by its original name than live calling it by another name.”
He had once jokingly named the king a naked king being robed by praise-singers.
Ashsia was like the present day opposition. He had been in and out of the king’s gulag several times but determined not to be a crawler. People loved him for that and always looked up to him. Of course the king hated him.
This was the situation in the land of Airegin when three men came to the land. They found the king’s chiefs and explained their mission. “We are here to robe the king in special attire. And the function of the garment is to help the king identifies his enemies. When the king wears the dress, his enemies will see him naked. Only those who are loyal to him will see the king in this special dress.”
The chiefs – five of them – looked at one another and started laughing.
“Here is the deal,” continued one of the three visitors. “If you convince the king to buy this garment, we would rub your palms...”
The chiefs interrupted. “How much is our share? How much is our share? How much is our share?” they shouted in chorus.
And the deal was sealed. Each of the five chiefs would get 10% of whatever price the king bought the dress. And so the chiefs sang and danced to their fortune.
As they were singing and dancing, a thought flashed into their mind. Ashsia would be used as a scapegoat for this deal.
So a day was fixed for the people of Airegin to assess the king’s new robe. The palace was jam-packed. Although we saw the irony in the king’s new investment, none bold enough to tell the king. While we, the people of Airegin were suffering, the only concern of our king was to buy a dress – expensive one indeed – just to identify his enemies!
On that day when the king emerged from his palace, we all gave a contorted facial expression. What we saw compelled us to close our eyes. The king was naked! But because nobody wanted to see the king’s red eyes we kept quiet.
“Don’t you like my garment!” The king screamed rather than asking. “Don’t you like my garment!”
“Our king, your dress is special to the eyes – beautiful and well decorated. We love your garment”
“You better do otherwise you’re among my enemies,” he commanded as he sat on the golden chair.
“People of Airegin...Today is the day you will know my number one enemy. As you can see, I am wearing a special dress. And only my enemy will see my nakedness – that’s the function of the dress. My enemy will not be able to see the dress. Now that you all have seen the dress on me, I congratulate you....”
Someone in the crowd interrupted the king. “But you...” The young boy’s mother covered his mouth quickly and screamed. “You’re fantastic...The robe is fantastic, my Lord.”
The king waved his tassel. “May you live long”
He continued. “Today I will prove to the land of Airegin that Ashsia and the queen are my first enemies. This is what the dress I am wearing is here to prove.”
He nodded to the guards.
They brought in the queen from the kitchen she had been kept ever since that day she knelt before the king to intimate him about the situation in the land.
When the queen saw the king, two large tears formed in her eyes. “Why my Lord...Why...Why are you in this situation... You are naked my Lord!”
“I told you so, the king shouted... Number one enemy”
Ashsia was also brought out from detention. He stood before the king and said. “I am not surprised you’ll end up ridiculing yourself. Who did this to you? Don’t you see your nakedness?”
“Re-arrest them both,” ordered the king
“No, no, no,” chorused the crowd. “Yes, you are naked...You are naked...You are stark naked”
The king was confused. He looked at his chiefs and then to the three men. They were nowhere to be found.