The two men clink glasses.
‘Cheers, my friend!’
It is like a ritual, the habit of clinking their beer glasses before the first sip. Apart from that, and the fact that they both fancy the same beer brand, these two are as different as ever. One is short, stocky, bald and clean shaven, while his drinking mate is tall, lanky, bearded, with a bushy head. The Staff Club crowd, including the bar maids, fittingly refer to them as Shorty and Lanky.
‘Every nation has a Trump.’ Shorty wipes a little beer foam off his upper lip.
‘You mean every country needs a Trump?’
‘Same thing really in this context. Nation. Country. Needs. Has. If your nation has one, then your country needs one.’
‘I think one Donald Trump is enough for the universe.’ Lanky says, not willing to make an issue out of his partner’s philosophical coinage.
‘I don’t think so, my friend.’ Shorty raises his voice. ‘Actually, I know our country wants one; and you know what? He is out there, just waiting to be discovered.’
‘Then that won’t be soon, judging by our reputation concerning discoveries.’
‘Even better. Then he will burst on you guys unawares.’
‘Are you no longer one of us?’
‘No. I’m certainly not!’ Shorty slaps the wrought iron table for emphasis. ‘I won’t be caught without expectation. I’m already expecting him. In fact, I am like a forerunning harbinger; a sort of J de B.’
‘What’s that mean?’
‘John the Baptist, of course!’ He follows with loud laughter.
They order two more bottles. Lanky waves at two men and a lady entering the bar. Shorty salutes.
‘Trumpism is un-African.’ Lanky says.
‘Yes yes yes. And so is the trumpet, or a car and your glass of beer for that matter.’
‘We are talking ideals here, not things.’
‘Same thing, my friend. Ideas are things of the mind. Today’s ideas are tomorrow’s things and V V.’
They drink in silence for a while. Lanky seemed to swallow his mate’s last statement with a large gulp. The ‘vice versa’ doesn’t seem to make sense but he doesn’t care.
‘And how exactly will your Nigerian Trump campaign? What outrageous things will he say? Whose birth certificate will he ask for?’ Lanky uncoils against his partner like a loosed spring. He drains his cup and fills up again. ‘Will he say our President was not born in Nigeria? Will he say this ruling, anti-corruption party is itself corrupt? Which people will he describe as lazy? Who will he accuse of taking honest who’s jobs? And where will he promise to build a wall, eh?’
Shorty listens without interrupting, his left hand tightly gripping the glass cup.
‘Thanks for helping me out, my friend.’ He begins in an even tone. ‘You know, the beauty of Trumpism is that the Presidential candidate has no ideas of his. All he does is get close to ordinary folks, listen to their grumbling and from there, develop a manifesto.’
‘You mean he is an amplifier for the people’s murmuring?’
‘Isn’t that what smart politicians do? The difference is that when a presidential candidate says the people’s mind, the issues become headline stuff.’
‘Then welcome to a world where rumors and conspiracy theories are elevated to–‘
‘My friend,’ Shorty cuts in. ‘There’s no rumour without fire. But I agree with you. Asking for the President’s birth certificate will be a long shot. He can’t even produce the O’Levels one. And that will be a good starting point for the our Trump. If he has his eyes on 2019, he should resurrect the O’ Level thing now.’
‘But I think a court–‘
‘What courts, eh? Court opinions don’t win elections. Only public opinion.’
‘You goofer! Courts are so important to elections in Nigeria. In any case, despite the certificate issue, public opinion favoured Presido the last time.’
‘Change, my friend, begins with the public.’ Shorty says with a wink. ‘You know, public opinion belongs to nobody.’
‘Don’t bet on that, mate.’ Mutters Lanky as he rises unsteadily to visit the toilet. ‘Don’t bet on that until you witness me change.’
Shorty does not tell his partner today that one of the disadvantages of being too tall is moving like a zig-zag. Well, maybe he still will. After all, the time is only just gone past seven.
Two more bottles are waiting on the table when Lanky returns. He nods approvingly.
‘Listen to me and wise up.’ Shorty tells his mate as he settles back. ‘You know, one of the problems associated with being very tall is that few people can really have your ears; and that’s bad because wisdom is of average height……That must be why it’s lonely at the top.’
‘You short men may be contented with the wisdom of this earth.’ Lanky smiles. ‘But we giants are connected to heavenly wisdom.’
They both laugh heartily and drink simultaneously.
‘I like that. I like that indeed. You tall ones are closer to heavenly voices.’
‘Yeah yeah yeah.’
‘But I tell you what really outrageous thing the Nigerian Trump will say.’
‘No. Bend me your ears a little bit first.’
Lanky leans across the table towards his partner.
‘Our Trump is going to say Nigeria needs a courageous and hardworking leader, that no one from the tribe of cowards, traitors, area boys and “omo oniles” can solve the country’s problems. Needless to say, he will point out, that rules out the westerners.’
The tall man sits straight as fast as he could manage. His eyes are wide. ‘No! Your imagination is disturbed! That coming from a presidential candidate?!’
‘Worse would have been said about anyone who predicted Donald’s ascendancy a mere year ago.’
‘But even then—-‘
‘Reserve your horror because there’s more. If the Nigerian Trump craves The West’s votes, and he will, you will hear him promise to deal with the greedy, itinerant and boastful tribe that has practically overrun all other lands across the nation. He will promise other tribes, especially Lagosians that the bridge across the Niger will be a waste of money, as what is really needed is a wall. So there you go, the answer to your wall enquiry.’
Another simultaneous draining of the cups.
‘He will rail against the lazy, parasitic tribe that produces nothing in terms of national wealth, yet holding the whole nation by the power jugular, thereby cornering 99% of oil blocs.’ Shorty now goes into the prophetic mode. ‘He will promise to deliver every other section from the clutches of this tribe’s military occupation of Nigeria. Being a master in duplicity, he will, at the same time promise the dominant tribe to help spread their chosen religion to the Atlantic Ocean.
‘Of course he will accuse some minorities of wasted opportunity, of lacking direction and others of having confused identity. You guessed right. He will assist them to recover all.’
‘I think I need to go now. I’ve had enough of these trashy, beer parlour rumours.’ Lanky pours the last bit from his bottle. ‘I guess he will have a word for the National Assembly too, The Chinese, Europe, America, The Judiciary, The Press, men, women, children, adults, the aged and in short everyone? Needless to say, he won’t accept the election results if he looses. Ah! Your Trump must not forget to warn that The Third World War looms due to herdsmen activities.’
‘You guess right!
‘Save me the trouble then.’ He waves dismissively. ‘But one last thing.’
‘If he manages to annoy everyone in order to please everyone, who will vote for him? For a start, The Press will make him into “suya”. There will be unimaginable public outcry. The international community will kick–. Who will vote for such a man?’
‘Save your breath, my friend,’ Shorty raises up his right palm. ‘That is the another wonder of Trumpism. You can denigrate several segments of the voting public all your life and either get them to still vote for you or at least, make them abstain.’
‘Yeah, but only if they hate your opponent like the seven plagues!’
‘And in two years, you guess who that opponent will be?’
Lanky looks around. He bends further towards Shorty and whispers something in his partner’s ears.
Shorty nods and sits back like a satisfied tutuor. ‘You got it, my friend. That’s him.’
‘No!!!! He can’t be that hated!’
‘Not hatred in that sense, but just unloved; pitied, really. Like saving an out-of-depth man from the deep. A sort of saving grace. For him and the nation.’
‘I’ve lost my appetite now.’ Lanky murmours sadly. ‘Such a nice man. I really must go now.’
‘Yeah. Me too. But how about one for the road?’
Lanky considers the offer. ‘Maybe. Not too keen though…. But a man must steel himself against—‘
(Ifedayo Babalola, a writer and commentator lives in Ibadan).