Crafty Pa Tortoise and The Burden of Age

by Afolayan Adebiyi

Long before this ephemerality artificial new age, I think, before the pre-history era, lived the much-fabled old Pa Tortoise. A sharp-witted, calculating, but wily, wise, crafty, dubious, and largely unpredictable character. He simply ‘loved to dominate his surroundings. He courted troubles endlessly, but still always unbelievably managed to outmaneuvered the rest to get out of all his self-created troubles. Pa Tortoise was more than the collections in  ‘Ijapa Tiroko Oko Yannibo* by Olagoke Ojo.

He was more than the many series of fables told in several folklores in Tales by the moonlight. He was more of spiritual creation. He also carried the burden of age. He is old. He is acclaimed crafty and dangerous. But he got entrapped in the cubicle of old age. Old, now almost a vegetable, and the wisdom, almost fading into a part of distant history. Anyway, no one can fault the brutal savagery of age. He is no respecter of no one. He catches unaware, overpowering vital organs, thus rendering them ineffective. Few lucky ones escape the central nervous system breakdown. The unfortunate ones simply go under and become invalid. Pa Tortoise is not immune from the pangs of age and it’s a related invasion of the entire body systematic configurations. Age syndrome is more like military coup plotting.  Few survive its coup attempts.

And so Pa Tortoise. He was caught in the coup plot. Now weak, no more power, no influence, no glamour, no klieg lights, indeed no more coteries of praise singers and hangers-on. Now all alone in the ‘Hill Top Mansion” he corruptly encroached from the King Termites. He had conned the Termites, using the soldier’s ants to build the mansion, also taking a part of the ants’ hills barracks for the purpose. Now Pa Tortoise is alone, all alone, in the superfluous mansion. Devoid of any pomp and pageantry he had planned for his later years. A few days ago, he celebrated his 80th birthday. Unlike in his days, the stars refused to shine. Few jobbers meddled around him. Obviously, he looked tired and disinterested in all the things happening around him. The intermittent flashing of the gap tooth is gone, the smiles have turned wry. Age has plotted a successful coupon for Pa Tortoise. For once, he seems to have lost a coup attempt. One can recollect the boastful ‘i have been part of all coup attempts since 1966’ statement. The magic that dislodged the drunken mad dog from Benue is gone. The charm that pushed the cattle herder from Daura out of power has deserted him.

The swagger that caged the wild hyena from Benue simply looked unrepeatable. Watching from an electric couch is now the invalid Pa Tortoise. His many escapades are too numerous. He had his best friend, the one that married Yannibo for him for super. He ported him homewards on a Good Friday. If that was shocking, the upbeat investigative journalist, sent Sango to him. Even, that Sango struck without rains that Saturday morning. Whatever the traits, whatever the theories, Pa Tortoise soldiered on. He conquered many more foes. Who remembers the tale of the dog and Pa Tortoise’s friendship? Well, it was repeated. Only now between Pa Tortoise and Antelope. Antelope was a rich farmer. He had many wives and children. He was rumored to have solely financed Pa Tortoise’s ascendancy to power. Antelope too could be wise. He thought of upstaging his friend. ‘Hope 93′, Antelope was bleating among the animals’ kingdom. His plans to establish a kingdom not based on brute force and might that presented Mr. Lion as the king was well accepted. And since Pa Tortoise was to be a stop-gap solution, he moved into the jungle with all verve and vigor. The wily and crafty Pa Tortoise dubiously outmaneuvered him, got him trapped in a hunter’s trap, and killed eventually. Pa Tortoise would not look at his dealings with fellows alone now that he is old, weak, and helpless. His brutal assault on several institutions of the kingdom will go down as the most mindless and insensitive in the history of the kingdom. He destroyed the Termites kingdom to that was providing security, the eagle’s kingdom that was in charge of the air defense was demoralized, many lions were chased away to a far strange kingdom.

The dogs that were acting as policemen of the kingdom were denied all means of survival. The kingdom was left prostrate and comatose, by Pa Tortoise, his wife, Yannibo and Oder, before the combined force of the bull, elephant and baboon overpowered him and forced him to ‘step aside. Ever, since Pa Tortoise has made more than three attempts to get the animals endorsed by is coming back, claiming he only ‘stepped aside’, he neither did retired or pulled out. He simply wanted power. No more. Now an octogenarian, weak and lost in his personal shenanigans, all the schemings for power seem no longer interested him. He looked too far away in the few pictures released after the birthday luncheon. Now the thoughts are that of the homewards journey. The last wishes overtook the next maneuvering. He has seen it all. Yet, a lacuna still exists in his head or heart. The void of a national apology. Not for the killings during the civil war, not for the killings in a coup attempt, but the savagery assault on the economy of the kingdom. The conversion of the kingdom’s commonwealth into his family use. The refusal to admit that he destroyed the hope of a great kingdom. He met dollars at 0.80k to one US dollar. By fiat of the Structural Adjustment Programme, he jerked up to three nairas to a dollar. But the time he was chased out by the baboon and bull, a single unit of US dollar was up to thirty-six naira. The chains were loosed. Today that US dollar is exchanged for five hundred and twenty nairas. The beginning was the fraudulent maneuvering of Pa Tortoise. He lost control of the situation and the kingdom was the worse for his greed.

But before the proverbial cock crows before the first housefly meandered around looking to perch on the uncontrollable open lip when the town-criers will break the news of the ‘once upon a time’ of the old man, to be followed by the deluge of the outpouring of hypocritic ephitapherial outpouring of emotive ‘he was this or that, there is this need for self-admonition and purification. Pa Tortoise had lived all his life on betrayers of friendship and self-preservation. He studied the Machiavellian theories of attainment of power and holding unto it heartlessly. He played all manners of games of power.  He toyed with the destinies of the kingdom and its inhabitants. The birds in the air, the animals in the land, and reptiles in the water all felt his brutal savagery. He attacked the treasury mindlessly. He destroyed destinies without conscience. The game was self-preservation. No friends, no foes, just allies. Pa Tortoise was never loyal to anyone and he trusted no one either.

He had dared primordial bonds and established a traditional hierarchy. Frustrated by his unending shenanigans, the old Parrot named him ‘Maradona’. The parrot too was an old dribbler. He understood the game. But this one confounded him. The Sage refused to use the power of clairvoyance. The future was dark. The era of new breeds in the kingdom. Bribery pushed the system. Pushing fraudulent maneuvering, advance fee frauds, hard drugs barons into the top echelons of the kingdom. Life seemed good, but soon the bubble would burst. And it did burst. The kingdom suffered gravely. No food, no water, and the jungle became unbelievably unbearable. His eight years in power left tell-tale signs of his viciousness and brutal savagery.

The fabled Pa Tortoise was all, but no more capable of any ‘Maradonic’ escapades. He collapsed at the onset of his full-blown acute Radiculopathy. He claimed that in the battle in the animal’s kingdom with the wild foxes in domiciling along the coast of the rising sun region. The irrational, but equally wily and crafty foxes, had engaged the rest in an internecine civil war. Pa Tortoise claimed he had a bullet lodging delicately in his left ankle from the war front. The leg first troubled him at the onset of his duplicitous reign. Then his intentions were still hidden from other animals. He had shunned the title of the king of the jungle. Mr. Lion has that. Phyton too had the king of the reptiles. And Peacock was the indisputable king of the birds. Pa Tortoise summarised all the titles and awarded himself, Livestock President. He was hailed. All segments of the animal’s kingdom jubilated. They laughed the former ruler, Mr. Tiger to scorn. Here cometh the Messiah. This one will not have our cubs for dinner, nor launch. This is a most benevolent President. But amidst the hoopla, The old sage, like the equally fabled Pa. Snail had receded into a pensive mode. He warned those who passed through his yard. ‘Watch this young man’ he crowed, but no one took notice. After the fall of Pa Tortoise, after the rigmarole that was the transition program, they knew better. He dribbled all, and when there was no one to dribble any longer, he dribbled himself and scored his own goal.

Today, he lives in a desolate huge mansion atop the anthill. He must be looking back and wondering if all the troubles were really worth it. On his 80th birthday anniversary, he took hired a Parrot and a band of Kennedy birds to sing his praises. To bring to the fore his many innovative inventions. He tried to relive his good old chubby days. He need not all these if he had governed the kingdom well. He now needs to keep explaining his roles in the oil windfall during the Woodpeckers invasion of Squirrels farmlands. Notable for his trickery, but now relies on image launderers and praise singers to tell his story. Poor old man, no more swagger. Now reduced to a life of dependant. The old look is still unmistakable. This is still visible. No doubt. But the charm, the smiles are part of history. We will not wait to write an epitaph. He came. He saw. He conquered. Yes, he conquered. He conquered the kingdom and left it worse than it ever was. The kingdom has not recovered till today. The scions are doing well. Even if the kingdom is worse for their philandering. Too bad Yannibo had long died. She suffered a terminal illness. No specialist hospital to care for her. Because Pa Tortoise refused to build one while he held the kingdom by the jugular.

To Mama Yannibo Tortoise, I say a hearty rest in peace, as they say too many animals who died needlessly, because of want and poverty implanted in the system by their patriarch. The many corruption tales around the family notwithstanding, they soldiered on in total defiance and with blind impunity. The legion of fraudsters that thrive under his reign can rival a complete set of Britannica Encyclopedia. A flabbergasting unending volumes. That cock may soon crow. That housefly may soon maneuver around, looking to perch on the half-open lips. Then next will be the undertaking’s job. An old, uninspired hard, but smiling job. Pa Tortoise needs to reconcile with the kingdom. He needs to seek the families of his best man sent to an early grave in the prime of his youth, he needs to seek the families of the young officers whose flight was believed to have been manipulated to crash. He needs to see the survivors of the late Parrot who was letter-bombed. These aside, he needs to talk to the kingdom in all sincerity. No more rigmarole over the botched June 12 election fiasco. Indeed, he needs to seek the collective reprieve and forgiveness of dastardly iniquities committed against the letter and the spirit of the kingdom. He may need to make atonement. He may require to do restitution. He should choose to close his eyes, firm up the gap tooth, and do all that is needed to assuage the hurt feelings of the kingdom. Only by doing would the land be willing and ready to accept his remains, whenever his creator decides to call him home.


Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Feferity Media Group,

(c) 2021




Photo by Tina Nord from Pexels

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