Under the Neem Tree

How Now, Mr Wolfowitz?

  • PublishedJune 18, 2007

“Hey you guys. Have you apprised what’s ongoing in Washington? Wolfowitz is being bandoogled!”. The guy who is always saying corruption and bad governance is killing Africa. Well, he has been caught in a commingle himself.

Although palm wine is, generally speaking, quite a nice drink, you’ve got to know about it before you can really enjoy it. Otherwise, it can be dangerous to your health. For instance, if you go to a palm wine bar too early in the morning, you are likely to be sold stuff that has stayed in the water-pot (ahina) overnight. Such stuff is extremely strong, because it has already begun to ferment. It can also emit a relatively offensive smell.

Now, these are attributes which real, dyed-in-the-wool palm wine ‘drinkards’ actually appreciate in their calabashful of the stuff. But if you’re a novice or a city type used to beer and whisky, their combined effect within a mouthful of palm wine may make you throw up when the stuff enters your stomach. Even if it stays, you may feel unwell for some time.

Similarly, if you go to a palm wine bar too late at night, you might find that the stuff you are sold has “thinned” in its “palm wine-ness”, if you see what I mean. In other words, it is thinner than what good palm wine should be. This would be because as the day wears on and the palm wine seller realises that he hasn’t got enough stuff to sell to every customer who comes, he helps the pot to remain always half-full by adding judicious amounts of water to the stuff in the pot.

You see, if you come in at night, the lack of adequate lighting in the palm wine bar – it will probably be lit by a kerosine lamp with a broken mantle, or, if you’re really unlucky, by a smoke-emitting palm-oil fuelled wicker lamp – will make it difficult for you to detect the colour of the palm wine, and you’ll down it before realising that it is diluted stuff. Or maybe, at that time of night, you would have had so much to drink already that your taste buds are gone and you won’t notice the difference between fully rich palm wine and the diluted version.

Much worse, because you can’t see properly at night, you might accept a calabashful of sediment as palm wine. Now, this sedimentary stuff is dangerous – its contents might include parts or the complete body of a bee or wasp; a small chunk of charcoal; a matchstick, and/or the pupa of a big, maggot-like creature called akokon. Or a fully-grown akokon itself, probably not quite dead. Or the creature that an akokon is supposed to turn into at the last stage of its life – an asommorodwe.

None of these ingredients is poisonous by itself, but put them on top of each other in a human abdomen whose digestive capacity is unimpaired, in the company of a catalyst such as fermenting palm wine, and the concoction becomes incendiary. It will send you scuttling to the village latrine several times in the night – no joke. If there is no “small room” in your house and you have to walk half a mile to the communal facility, you might not be able to reach it, but looking first to your left, and then, to your right (to see whether there is any soul about), dart into a nearby bush to do your nature’s business there.

So, to the experienced palm wine “drunkard”, the thing is to wait until the palm wine tappers begin to come in from the bush, shortly after midday. As they walk in, you can tell by the beautiful white froth on top of the pot they are carrying that the palm wine is of such fine quality that it can be trusted to continue foaming even when the pot has been “alighted” and put on the ground. Even the bit one pours on the ground to honour the memory of one’s ancestors before downing the stuff will continue to foam as it creates channels and canals on the ground.

Depending on how much you’ve had to drink, these channels and canals on the ground can be quite eloquent. If you get two or three canals joining together to become a big canal, it means – who knows – that your non-existent but hoped-for savings can grow into a huge sum of money. And that channel that is trying to join the canal – who knows – could represent a huge winning on the Lotto.

Yes, and then the taste of the afternoon palm wine – Ai! Strong, but sweetish; neither thick nor thin on the tongue. Take a gulp; two gulps; three gulps; and then throw the remnants on the ground: ‘Pah’! That’s true palm wine, drunk as it should be drunk. Bring more!

Palm wine is preserved these days and exported to Europe. The exported stuff, which I have tried, tastes ok, but I’ve never been able to cultivate a serious liking for it. Psychologically, my inability to see the foam and salivate over it, takes the thrill out of the drinking process. Also, I suspect that they might have added sugar or some other sweetener to the stuff, and I just couldn’t forgive myself if I drank stuff like that. No, better wait and go home. And then get the real stuff.

Well, recently, some friends and I had just downed our first calabash in our local when the ‘By-heart’ man entered. This man’s speciality in life was to “chew” things by heart and “pour” them out to show how “learned” he was. He not only liked to discuss what he called “current affairs” but he liked to pile hyperbole, tautology and bombastic words together in the same sentence. So, instead of saying “That girl is beautiful”, he would say, “That damsel has been endowed with superfluous pulchritude to such an elevated extent that she has been rendered beautifully beautiful”.

Well, you can’t cure Mr “By-Heart”, and as soon as he joined us, he started: “Hey you guys. Have you apprised what’s ongoing in Washington, DC? Wolfowitz is being bandoogled!” We all cheered at that. But then we sighed, for we realised a lecture was coming.

“You know that guy Wolfowitz who is always saying corruption and bad governance is killing Africa? Well, he’s been caught in a commingle himself. When he was leaving the American Defense Department to become president of the World Bank, he surmised that it would be impolitic for him to maintain his liaison with a woman in the organisation, so what did he do?”

Someone offered: “He got her to resign?” “Simpleton! Nope!” “He sacked her?” “How he could sack her when he was in the sack with her? Nope!” We all laughed at this.

“He got her to go on indefinite leave?” “Nope! Nope! Nope! You guys haven’t got the thagathity of a World Bank president. He got the World Bank to second her to the State Department, and to increase her pay so much that when she reached the State Department, she was earning more than the secretary of state, Condy Rice, herself! The woman was raking in over $200,000 per annum, I tell you!”

“What? And the Wold Bank agreed?” “Of course, the World Bank concurred. Who at the World Bank would dare to countermand an order from the incoming president of the Bank? You demonstrate any feefee (over-prying) antics with such a man and you’re dead meat yourself.”

“But what about the US government? Didn’t Bush jettison Wolfowitz to the World Bank after Wolfowitz and his Neocon friends had botched the Iraq war for Bush? I would have thought that Bush would now knife Wolfowitz?”

“Hahaha. But Bush – or rather Cheney – is so Nicodemic, isn’t he? He – or they – wanted to kill two birds with one stone. They wanted to kick the ass of the World Bank, and at the same time, they wanted to make Wolfowitz a sacrificial lamb for the Iraq war. They knew Wolfowitz shared the Neocons’ pathological antipathy to the World Bank. Q.E.D.”

“So they don’t care what the Wolf does so long as he decapitates the World Bank?” “Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. You barked up the right tree. You assimilated the facts correctly.”

“So what’s going to happen now?” “Ho – what happens when these powerful men break the rules? Let me tell you: Bush himself fixed things so he wouldn’t have to serve his full time in the US Air Force; there are issues regarding Cheney’s continued relationship with companies like Halliburton and some of its subsidiaries, whilst working for the US government; there are issues regarding the secrecy that surrounded the relationship between Cheney and some of the companies he consulted in order to determine US energy policy.

“Hey, and another thing – one Neocon, also formerly an influential figure in the Defense Department called Richard Perle – was allowed to leave the government quietly after his “association” with a company that dealt commercially with the Department, had been exposed; and the US attorney-general, Alberto Gonzalez, is hanging on to his job, though it has been eminently evident for some time that he sacked attorneys within the Justice Department because their decisions on the prosecution of wayward politicians did not accord with the wishes of Gonzales and his Republican bosses in Washington.

“If you conglometise these kerfuffles with those of other powerful Conservative Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, Antonin Scalia and Spiro Agnew, you won’t be surprised if Wolfowitz too gets away with it. It is the nature of their game – preach virtue and practise cupidity.” At this, we all shouted together, “A powerful conservative in America does no wrong”! Mr “By-heart” was happy at our reaction. “Give me five!” he yelled. “Q.E.D!” he repeated.

Ha – there is nothing like afternoon palm wine to make you see the world clearly.

Written By
Cameron Duodu

Cameron Duodu (born 24 May 1937) is a UK-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a notable novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a distinguished career as a journalist and editorialist.

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