[OPINION] Once Upon A Time In The Animal Kingdom Of ‘Niagra’ By Nkannebe Raymond


Once upon a time in the Animal Kingdom of Niagra, the animals lived together and loved one another dearly. They would cook together and eat together their meals however good or badly cooked by the Chief cook. They maintained good and cordial relationship with their neighbors and wished them all that they wished themselves. Life continued in that manner, until things started falling apart with the centre refusing to hold.

A time soon came, when the lower animals (the domestic ones to be precise), began to grumble and moan. They complained bitterly over how they were being shortchanged by the wide animals who formed bulk of their ruling class. Their grouse lay with their lawmakers more especially─ those who make laws that govern the kingdom of several millions of animals. These lawmakers were their senators and they comprised of 109 animals representing the interest of the different communities that make up the kingdom.

The kingdom was a land blessed with rich agricultural potentials. Their land produced large quantities of economic crops like cocoa, cassava, yam, cotton, rubber, and so many other farm produce like tomatoes, wheat, maize and uncountable solid minerals with potentials of economic returns when properly harnessed.

However, when the foreign breeds of their kind, came upon their kingdom, and discovered the huge economic potentials of Niagra, they refused to travel back from whence they came. They used their brains and brawn to secure a place for themselves in the kingdom and fed from her bounty in a predatory relationship. In no time, they discovered that Niagra all along has huge oil deposits beneath her soil and immediately began to mine and explore these oil deposits on behalf of the animals of Niagra in exchange for thousands of foreign currency. “We have discovered the huge oil deposits beneath your soil. And have accordingly decided to mine it on your behalf. But we shall pay back tributes to the crown which you may use to further impact the lives of the animals under your leadership”, the representatives of the foreign animals told the head of Niagra. He was elated and thanked his visitors dearly. “Please see that you take as much as you can, in so far as we have our returns”, the head of the animals told the foreign delegation.

As time progressed, foreign cowries littered Niagra. The leaders of Niagra kingdom no longer admonished the animals to go to their farms as it had always done. But instead waited until their foreign colleagues brought them foreign cowries after taking as much as they can, unknown to the animals and their leaders. They soon discovered that this was a quicker and easier source of income and over time, the animals of Niagra lost their agricultural prowess which used to be their pride in the comity of other kingdoms. They lost their great groundnut pyramid, north of the kingdom, which it was told almost reached the sky in height and which was an envy of other kingdoms. It was said that it used to be a source of revenue for Niagra as other animals travelled from near and wide just to have a sight of the great pyramids of Niagra. At the western axis of Niagra, their proficiency in cocoa cultivation was lost. To the east, palm produce which used to be the hallmark of the region, soon became a thing for moonlight stories which the older generation of animals told the younger ones.

Many years passed and the animals of Niagra kingdom continued to live the new life their leaders brokered for them, albeit with little agricultural activity, but they depended more on crude oil proceeds for their survival. The activities of oil exploration also destroyed their environment and killed the fishes in their waters, making fish farming a mirage at the region of the kingdom where activities of exploration took place. But doom lay ahead for the animals unbeknownst to them.

One day, the foreign animals engaged in oil exploration paid a visit to the leaders of Niagra kingdom. “We have come to tell you that you may no longer be receiving the exact returns we agreed or that was agreed many years ago between our company and your leaders at the time. We have come to review the contract due to exigencies of the time we live in. So many other kingdoms have discovered the oil beneath their soil and have started to explore same, making the commodity in excess supply at the market and forcing down prices. Due to this development, we are left with no other option than to cut by 50 per cent what we used to return to your government. This is to enable us meet our operations so that we don’t go out of business. We hope to review the agreement to the status quo, when things stabilizes by any chance. Thank you”, the leader of the foreign delegation said.

It was a very sad news. And one which was non-negotiable as the leaders of Niagra know little or nothing about the dynamics of oil exploration. They accepted unequivocally. “There is nothing we can do, we will just fast and pray, hoping that things get better. Thank you very much for the kind gesture”. The leader of the animals spoke through its spokesman, the pig. And their visitors left.

With this development, the leaders of Niagra kingdom knew that problem was in the offing. They feared that one day, all the animals may revolt and send them packing as happened in other kingdoms not too long ago. Something just has to be done. They also knew there was no way they could continue with the prodigal and luxurious lifestyle many of them led at the expense of the animals. It was a very difficult time indeed. In no time, the consequences of a dwindling revenue began to bite. Salaries were not paid as at when due. Prices of commodities soared at the market since the animals have since forgotten how to farm and depended even for water from other kingdoms. The animals grumbled and threatened to lead a revolution. They lambasted their leaders for not seeing through the deception of the foreign animals. And also accused them of corruption. It was virtually hell on earth for Niagra.

The time soon came for the animals to elect new leaders. They had an option to vote-in the current government for a second term, or vote it out for a new set of leaders entirely. The race was squarely between the bull, (the current leader who was renowned across the kingdom for his predilection for a fedora hat and his controversial wife; the peacock) and one of the oldest animals in the kingdom─the lion who was also a disciplinarian, but was loved by majority of the animals because of his integrity and probity. He had tried to lead the animals on several occasions, but wasn’t lucky. This time which was to be his last, he threatened the animals that if they refused to vote for him, both the dogs and baboons will be soaked in blood.

At the polls, whether out of fear or otherwise, the animals voted the old lion. The dogs and baboons, were at the forefront of his campaign. They did all they could to make sure old roger wins. He won. All the animals celebrated. But the dogs and baboons celebrated more, for obvious reasons.

The animals also elected new members into their legislative house who would make laws to change their lives that was fast eviscerating. The new lawmakers promised to enthrone change and ensure a departure from the old ways of doing things. In fact, they campaigned on the platform of “change” even though many of the animals barely understood its import. The goat once told the sheep, that he was going to vote the old lion, because he promised to equal the value of their currency to those of the foreign animals. This was the perception across the land and many of the animals worked hard for its actualization. Some of them even came with their under aged offspring and made sure they voted; against the laws of the kingdom. After the end of the exercise, their preferred candidates won under the umbrella of the All Progressive Animals (APA). They rolled out the drums in wild celebration; celebrating the end of a dark era and the birth of a new dawn. One to usher in the “fresh air”, promised by the old order.

Three moons after the elections, the animals of Niagra are still not getting what they bargained for. They are equally divided as to whether they have made the right decision or not with their ballot. Some of them were of the opinion that their new leader has performed well so far, arguing that it was not for nothing that the leader of the strongest animal kingdom invited him over. And even shook hands with him. They further added that he has agreed to even slash his salary by half since the kingdom no longer enjoys the affluence it once did. But while the tortoise took an exception to this, calling it a mere window shopping as their leader has refused to tell them how much he has in his coffers as the laws of the kingdom provides. He had not finished making his observations before the dogs barked him out of voice. The tortoise quietly hid his face under its shell. Some also added that in fact, their new leader has sworn to recover looted funds from all the animals who presided over the last order. Not minding whether the top pastors and imams of the kingdom think otherwise. In a nutshell, they were satisfied to a great length with Old Roger.

But as for their lawmakers, all the animals were in agreement that they have performed nothing at all. Many of them observed that the first time they sat, the lawmakers fought more than their military wing did when their kingdom was under attack. Wondering why they didn’t join the military instead. The cow complained that not even a single bill has been debated, how much more one being passed into law! The monkey whined over the humongous salary and allowances they received for doing almost nothing. And so after further deliberations, they unanimously agreed at a congress to press for action so that the lawmakers can reduce their salaries and other estacodes as a show of solidarity or sympathy to their plight. They resolved to pay a visit to one of the lawmakers who was a kinsman of their former leader. Ten animals were selected to pay the visit. And the tortoise led the delegation riding on the back of the elephant to the lawmakers’ house. At the end of the parley, he agreed to bring up the matter when next the lawmakers convene. Assuring them of his support and willingness not to even receive a single salary.

When the lawmakers finally convened to discuss the reduction of their salary and allowances or otherwise, they chose to do so behind camera so that none of the animals will be privy to what transpired inside. But the squirrel somehow caught wind of this ploy and was smart enough to sneak into the chambers where they met, before the doors were closed to members of the press; parrot and friends. But the squirrel was not too good in English language. And would not get virtually everything discussed by their greedy law makers. He hid under the table, where the chairman of the law makers sat and strained his ears to listen to deliberations.

The member whom the animals had paid a visit, rose and told the lawmakers, of the grumble and disaffection in the kingdom over their salary and how it is affecting the kingdom especially now, that their economic fortunes were very dim. “It would please me, if we can reduce what we take home. So that we can save the excess and pull it back into our purse to see how we can affect the lives of those whom we represent and who elected us to do so, on the platform of change. It would please me, if the house adopts this motion. We cannot continue to feed fat while our people continue to die of deprivation. Please let us lead our people with their welfare our focal attention. Thank you all”, he concluded and sat down. Meanwhile, all the while he spoke, murmurings on the floor of the house almost drowned his voice. Dissenting murmurings.

The squirrel was very happy after the presentation. Knowing that they were not betrayed by the lawmaker who had assured them of his support. . But to his chagrin, he later discovered that the lawmakers who never agree on a single thing, would unanimously agree against the member who raised the motion for reduction of their salaries. Many animals took their turns to give series of reasons why their salaries should not be reduced. But the leader of the house finally made it a wrap thus: “we have so many newspapers to read every day so that we can have a full grasp of the plight of our people to give them qualitative representation. We have to change the furniture in our houses virtually every week as we receive hundreds of visitors who sit and wear them out weekly. Our cars are always on the move, as we travel the length and breadth of this kingdom to see things for ourselves affecting the animals. And we must maintain these cars at exorbitant sums. We have a retinue of aides assisting us in our daily activities which we must pay every week. Our clothes are always torn due to excessive siting and standing almost throughout the week in this house during plenaries to discuss issues that border on the development of Niagra. Do our people expect us to represent them in tattered clothes? “NOOOOO”, the senators chorused. He concluded by saying that in all fairness, their salaries deserve to be increased, but at worst , left where it is currently”. He thanked the house and with this concluding remarks, the session came to a close.

When the doors were opened, the squirrel who managed to hear some of these things due to his poor grasp of the English language, managed to sneak out by some luck and narrated all what transpired to any animal he saw on his way back home.

The animals of Niagra kingdom after having heard all these, refused to agree with their law makers and called their bluff. They were of the opinion that all what the lawmakers have been doing have resulted in no positive development of their livelihood and survival. Some even proposed that since the lawmakers expend so much to produce little, it was better they be disbanded and dissolved so that their leader, the Old Lion can carry on the task of ruling the kingdom alone; after all he has led them for three full moons without ministers, yet the kingdom have not imploded, and that in the same manner, they can also continue to exist even without the lawmakers. They finally resolved to lock horns with the senators in the fullness of time.

Information somehow got to the head of the lawmakers about this development and notifications were hurriedly sent to all the lawmakers that the house have decided to proceed on a “statutory recess”. What they suspected, many of the animals would not understand. They did this to allow for time to placate the emotions of the animals and divert their attention from their salaries to something else as it has always been their maneuvers in times like this. The break would last for two moons, and while it lasts, they would receive the same contentious salaries for doing nothing, to the astonishment of the animals. It has been three moons of no legislative output, but with hundreds of thousands Niagra shillings, stashed in their pockets. For the animals, nothing can be more ridiculous.

All the animals of Niagra kingdom swore not to allow the purloining of their commonwealth to continue any further. They assured themselves that their lawmakers would not get away with it this time as they have gotten used to their antics. They promised to lead a protest to the chambers whenever they reconvened to cut a bargain. Without which, they would occupy the residence forever. But however, many of them feared that members of their population may be compromised while the lawmakers holidayed and which may defeat their good intentions. Panic and discord lay in the kingdom while their lawmakers travelled outside with their families to distant kingdoms.

With the battle line drawn, the animals prepared for war against their lawmakers.

The writer is a Lawyer and Public Affairs Analyst. [email protected]
Follow me on twitter @RayNkah


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