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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Parable of Vultures and Maggots

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A flock of vultures in flight is called a “Kettle”; when the vultures touch down to ground or perch upon a tree in descent towards their target, they are called a “Committee”; and when the scavenger birds are feeding together at a carcass, they are known as a “Wake” – ATM editor-in-chief.

By Chidera Michaels

Carcasses do not, by definition, have life in them, and so offer no resistance to scavengers which feast of them. But even some living bodies, before dying, become sickly, traumatized by diseases that prevent a normal functioning of their organs. Such too offer little resistance to scavengers. Vultures typically feed on cadaver, but they are able to recognize when a living animal is on its last legs and so begin to hover in the air above it. Sometimes before the animal takes its last breath, vultures are already tearing at it with their powerful bills. Maggots, however, wait for the vultures to finish gorging, and for the sun to soften the carcass, before they swarm their cadaverous feast.

The carcass in this case is Nigeria. This contraption of a country appears to still have pulse, but in reality it has been long dead and in an advanced stage of putrefaction. The vultures (the politicians, the public office holders, government contractors and the like) are tearing at its purulent parts as fast as they can, as if on a deadline. Meanwhile the maggots (the political thugs comprising jobless youths, political jobbers, and some traditional rulers), in tandem with the vultures, are swarming round the carcass picking off any useful parts left in it.

And of course, because of the putrescent state of the carcass, it is giving off offensive odor. Anyone who has been in the proximity of the carcass or has poked inside its entrails in contaminated by its awful stench. Even if one does not have the carcass’s odor on one, the rest of the world treats one as if one reeks of the carcass’s miasma. As it now, this carcass has further degenerated into a gooey and unsightly mangle. As a result, the offensiveness of its effluvium has magnified tremendously.

A wake of vultures on a feeding frenzy is jostling for position over the decaying carcass that is Nigeria. The greedy vultures mantled over the deceased prey are so numerous that they have totally blocked off the sun with their fluttering feathers. The vultures jostle amongst themselves for better positions as they greedily tear off parts from the carcass. And the maggots, hoping for their own feeding opportunity, are cheering the vultures on. To demonstrate their loyalty and agreement with the vultures’ endeavors, the maggots lavish chieftaincy titles on the vultures and record praise songs in their honor.

But once in a while, a vulture is driven off the feeding frenzy by the strong-arms tactics of the vultures from the North. When this happens, the maggots who are tribesmen of the ostracized vulture frown in disapproval. The ostracized vulture and maggot scream “marginalization” in bouts of self-pity. They forcefully argue that the carcass, fast melting into a putrid mangle, is the national cake of which they deserve a piece. Their vehement point being that vultures from their own tribes possess the rights to feed on the carcass as well. And they argue that the sins of the ostracized vulture are no greater than those of the vultures still feeding on the carcass. The sins of the ostracized vultures, they say, pale in comparison with the corruptions of the vultures from the North presiding over the wake.

It should be noted here that the vultures from the North are considered a sacred kettle of some sort, soaring above the flock. How this came to be is wrapped up in a web of intrigues orchestrated by the Bible-thumbing looters from Europe as they got ready to palm off their colonial contraption to these Northern vultures in the mid-19th century. Ever since that colonial sleight-of-hand, the vultures from the North have held on to power with their vicious talons, wielding the long guns, and lately have added the marauding cows and armed herdsmen to their arsenal  for Southern invasion. And they cruelly assert that the entire carcass of Nigeria is their inheritance; that anything in the carcass is theirs for the taking.

Occasionally an ostracized vulture from the South, which hitherto had shamelessly aligned itself with the Northern vultures in an obvious bid to self-preserve, is allowed back in to partake in the feeding frenzy. When that happens, the maggots from the returnee’s tribe are ecstatic beyond measure. They line the streets and sing songs of praise in honor of the returnee vulture. They thank and praise God for the re-admittance of the vulture which, in a prior stint at piloting their affairs, impoverished them all by looting their resources. Note that this released vulture is part of the reason why the maggots roam the streets without jobs, without hope. But the maggots are just happy to see the vulture released. They say that the vulture may be a thief, and may have robbed them of their future, but that it is their own vulture.

When the maggots bemoan the fact that their roads are without asphalt, and are filled with potholes, they do not blame this vulture. When they cry for lack of electricity, they hold the putrefying carcass responsible. When they realize that the degrees they obtained from their universities are worthless, it doesn’t cross their minds that the vulture’s looting was partly responsible for that. Rather, they put all the blame on the odoriferous carcass.

And of course the carcass, ravaged by the weapon-wielding vultures from the North, cannot be revived into a modern political economy. The Northern vultures know that the maggots of the North have no use for modernity. The Northern vultures and their maggots would rather go back to the tenth century when life was simple but brutish. A time when all they needed to do was tend to their cattle and kill and despoil those that did not share their religious belief.

The re-admission of previously ostracized vultures gives the maggots hope that their own turn to feed on the carcass is imminent. That is why it never occurs to the maggots to condemn the deeds that earned the vulture ostracization in the first place. The dream of every maggot is to have the chance to loot parts of the gooey carcass, their national cake. Avarice is the real religion of every maggot and vulture in this dead and vanishing carcass. Citizens of the carcass throw around gratuitous hatred and kill and maim one another, ostensibly for religious reasons, but their only authentic religion is primitive greed. For the vultures, no amount of money or possession is enough. This is the tradition into which the maggots have been acculturated.

It goes without saying that the maggots are the foot soldiers of the vultures. Sometimes one gets the feeling that the wellbeing of the vultures is the primary concern of the maggots. As far as the maggots are concerned, what the vultures want is what the vultures get, no questions asked. And as long as a vulture is of the same tribe as the maggots, the vulture can do no wrong. The vulture’s “success” is seen as the tribe’s. And to speak ill of the vulture is a taboo. Therefore, whichever way one looks at it, questioning the integrity of a vulture within the vulture’s tribal enclave is considered an unforgiveable act.

The body politic that was Nigeria died a long time ago and its carcass is now in advanced stage of decomposition. It never stood a chance really because the prognosis even from its very inception was always terminal. The body politic is dead, and it cannot be revived. Its remains are now only being picked over by vultures and maggots.

 The opinion expressed in this article are the author’s and does not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Awka Times. Chidera Michaels is an attorney and a Christian theologian based in Baltimore, MD, United States (email: chideramichaels@gmail.com).

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