Forever Young – An Inauguration Saga
My hope and prayer is that Liberia takes her time to grow up. Do not settle and become full of domestication as the stuffy Brits sipping on lifton not Lipton tea (as the Fullahs say).
Do not grow up so fast and in your maturity end up with a croissant and accordion like the French or wise and predictable as a Chinese or full of sophistication and boring as the Americans.
On the contrary be like a young mare prancing upon the savanna of Africa so that the giraffes who are Kenyans, hunting dogs who are Ugandans and the gorillas of the Congo can say: “yes Liberians, forever young” as we, in a gallop, race across the Serengetti and let the Gators of the Zambezi river marvel. Forever Young.
The day began dressed in the thickest darkness I had seen just before the break of dawn. Darkness so dense I was afraid to come outside and so I hid next to my house and listened for who or what was already up, out and moving. I needed something that said this was January 22, 2018, Inauguration day.
And then I heard the whine of the “pehn pehn” and soon its lights illumined Kebbah Road. A figure dashed across the road. It was Samokai, the fatherless and motherless dog, coming from sowing his useless seed on the well-kept dog Saucy in Pastor Momo’s yard.
I got on the bike and wondered aloud “what kind of country is this, ‘Jor Wia’ Inauguration and no light?” The pehn pehn boy said, “dah ha dey country lookin.” (that’s the country that we find ourselves in). We got to ‘Bend and Stop’, an area along Barnersville road closer to the Freeway. There were no buses, cars nor taxis. No transportation. We headed to Barnesville Freeway Junction.
As we sped through ‘Day Break Mouth Open’, another Barnersville road community, I searched the darkness for Greatest Kojo (Joe Dotu). Perhaps I could get a ride to the Inauguration. His best friend, The President Elect of Liberia, had given him a car which he was still learning how to park. No such luck. We got to Barnesville Junction and there was still no transportation. I told the pehn pehn let’s get to S.K.D.
Fast forward To S.K.D. Stadium. As we turned down SD Cooper Road and ELWA Highway, I saw life and excitement as if God almighty had decreed it. 5:45a.m.: in came the Boy Scouts singing and jubilating. I had not seen the scouts in full formation since the late 60s. By the 70s, because of the lack of government support, they were now being called “Chicken Rogues”.
I heard sirens, turned, and saw the Coast Guard in full regalia coming into the stadium. But what melted my heart was the Girls Guide coming in drilling to: “left, left, left righhhttt, left righhttht.’ The oldest was 12 years old and the youngest Brownie 7. I know because I asked. Folks I was never happier to be a Liberian.
My man when you hungry, you can smell like hell. Some kind of gravy aroma filled the air and disturbed the worms in my stomach. The smell led me across the street to Quiah Johnson’s place, the ‘pekin’ that got the rasta or dada.
One Old Ma was cooking spaghetti and it was kicking. I ordered a bowl but she said it was not dry. The way the police and soldiers were ordering fast fast,I told her to bring my own like that..it will get done in my gut.
My official press tag arrived and I moved into the stadium into the area set aside for the media, electronic and print services. This was the hub for national and international presses.
Guests were arriving and then I heard a roar from the crowd. It was the arrival of Nobel Laureate, Leemah Bowie. Beautiful as ever, skin as creamy as butter from all that cash with no man to spend it on, I moved on Leemah like a leopard catching a deer. She said, “aye you man, let me get my seat first”.
I understood because the stadium was filling up fast. Regrettably, I let our natural beauty go. A second roar went up and it was Mike the Nigerian Actor: Van Vicker the Liberian actor who does not want to be called such, and a Nigerian Actress. They were whisked into V.I.P. and I did not get a chance for them to speak to my audience in television land.
She had on black pants which her legs were punishing. Her white shirt could barely contain her particulars as the wind caressed her long shining hair. My left arm was around her, her right arm was around me and we were oblivious to the crowd at S.K.D. For a moment it was only Jackie Appiah and me and then I was hurled back into reality. And what a sight reality was.
Like a Gbetu (tall country devil from the Kpelle tribe) coming out of the midst at 7’2” towered Dkenbi Jean Jacque Matumbo. I pulled my eyes off of where my hands should have been on Jackie Appiah’s particulars and wondered how many yards of cloth Dkenbi had used to make his pants. I looked down and saw that he was escorted by Mickie Dees, herself a superstar in her own right.
The Lady and I do not use lady loosely, MacDella Cooper. Dikenbi had blocked even Michael Jordan’s shot in his basketball career, but the child had no defense, for when MacDella had the ball in her grasp, the defense was at her mercy for what she wanted to do. Mickie Dees: 2 – Matumbo: 0.
Jackie sat down and I couldn’t find my true love Leemah. Dikenbi was in a leg and head lock and it was getting heated and heavy at the SKD. Several Presidents had come up to the V. I. P. seating area. Jarvis, the Chief of Protocol, floundered as he wondered who they were.
He had called Vice President Boakai ‘Hon. Speaker’. Mary Broh was hustling a new CDC job by hauling chairs to the stage on her head, and the choir was fighting with a song written 2 centuries before by a dude named Handel. When I asked what kind of song it was, as any righteously sardonic Liberian should, one guy said “it is a song fit for Kings and Queens”.
He should have heard Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos and the University Choir during normal days. And then the crowd burst into another roar. By this time, the 40,000 capacity stadium was nearly full.
My man, money sweet o! The mark (money) got Samuel E’too white. The brother knew the people loved him and he was going to love them back. He ran to the crowd and was about to do a victory lap but the security said no, no Sammy Boy. We know you got your private jet and our man got his rental. But it is his day. Sammy said ‘right on brothers, right on” and headed for V.I.P.
The security tapped me and told me someone in the direction of Jackie wanted to see me. Like a frisley Chicken I strutted over thinking Ms. Appiah wanted a second round. However, I was called by young Spenser Harris, younger brother of Toyuwa. Toyuwa had done Oppong’s first web site and was in town to collect. As I left, Jackie slipped me a card and told me to meet her at the Sky Bar in Accra. Another roar went up.
I turned and saw Old Man Olusegun Obasanjo crawling his way up the stage to attend Jor Wia Inauguration. Wow the kid was showing juice. Another roar from a now filled stadium and this time it was ‘Bad Mama Jamma’ Herself, the Master Dribbler who gave Varney a concussion in the second round, predicted a knockout of Tyler and delivered it before the fight got started and played Uncle Joe ‘half field’ all the way into extra time.
Lovingly called Delilah (for she will crack Samson’s nuts) by her haters, ladies and gents it was the one that Liberians had grown to hate; but here she was leading the band, making a dance down the red carpet. All her sins were forgotten and we loved her for the dance. I tell you the hairs on my body stood at attention as our ‘Old Moms’ put on her greatest show. The old Moms held on to power until the constitution said, “aye mehn, let it be so now”!
On the stage her relationship with Uncle Joe was as frosty as an ice cream cone on a wet day at Sharks. As dry as wind blowing out of the Sahel, and as prickly as razor grass on the country rat trails of Bong.
Joe sat with his mouth puckered up as if to say, “ehn you know we Kissi people can file our teeth? When I bite, you will know!” Ellen sat cranked to the side, one skinny, bony, right butt cheek raised off the cushion in Joe’s direction as if to say, “Kiss my behind”. It was rudeness to say butt in our house. We said behind. And, in the words of the Temptations song, “the band played on”. Just as the song says, there was a subtle “Ball of Confusion”.
The President was sworn in. He made a speech that no one really cared to remember. Low on substance, high in delivery. People behind me were saying, “Aye God please don’t let him chop”. Some others said: “aye God let him put Costa to shame”.
The content and substance took a back seat to the high expectation of a relatively flawless delivery. Young people were not looking for any promises as had been the case during the entire election.
“He didn’t promise us anything and so we will not be disappointed if he delivers nothing. All those book people made big promises and delivered nothing” was constantly heard during elections. Well this was the first non-delivery of substance in a speech with negligible and no obvious flaws.
And the crowd loved it. It was as if he heard their pleas. He did not chop. His delivery was smooth, articulate and enjoyable.
In the past, the President’s speech was listened to hear about positive changes made for the country and substances gained, but today, we could care less. “No chopping” was the motto of the day. I wish the previous government had adopted this motto. Their English was great but they still “chopped”.
Right now, if the President pronounces the word “was” correctly, the nation goes delirious. In time, we hope all that will change.
After the speech everyone started to go on their hustle. Jarvis was yelling “the program is still on, the program is still on”.
But who gave a rat’s ass? President Weah made a speech with no mistake then we must push our luck? We will defend that cause “with valor unpretending”.
It was time to find your Dikenbi, Leemah or Jackie, or the next best thing, a cold bottle of club. In the words of Vice President Taylor, “In the cause of the people, the struggle has ended”. Peace!
Henry Mamulu, Contributing Writer