My grandmother of blessed memory, Mama Isanlu, was not like Unoka! She was not always owing everybody in Isanlu and looking for corner-corner ways to pay only her big debts first.
I tell her story here. Listen to it:
She was not like Okonkwo either. Yam, the exacting king of crops, was not something whose cultivation she surrendered to the exclusive patriarchal sphere of the men of her generation in Isanlu.
Mama Isanlu had two big yam farms back in the day. Francis Okonkwo, Igbo son born of an Isanlu mother and raised in Isanlu like my sibling, if you are reading this, do you remember Mama Isanlu marching us so early in the morning to her yam farms at Omfun or Oko l'okanla during our formative years in the village?
Do you remember the long trek back home in the evening - one or two yams in the baskets that we each carried on our heads?
Do you remember Mama Isanlu's goats and their relentless appetite for Mama Isanlu's yam barns?
Ah! Those goats! They were stubborn. No matter how much we fed them with yam peelings, leaves, and other stuff Mama Isanlu prepared for them, they always wanted the real deal. They always wanted the haute cuisine and the fine dining that was direct access to Mama Isanlu's raw yarms in the barns.
No manner of ruse was beyond those goats. Francis, It was your duty and mine to keep them at bay. We had to constantly separate the goats from the yams.
But we were barely ten years old. Between village football with other kids, hunting emo, okete, and other rodents, and so many other distractions, the goats always ended up gaining illegal access to the barns behind our backs.
Mama Isanlu would contemplate the wreckage.
Mama Isanlu would deal with you and I first. Generous strokes of the cane.
Mama Isanlu would wait patiently for the goats to retire to their shed for the night. Then she would drag the offending goat to the yam shed, show her the damage, and flog the bejesus out of the poor animal - as if a goat could ever learn to desist from stealing yams.
Mama Isanlu did not just insist on separating the goats from the yams.
She always punished us for letting the stealing happen in the first place.
And she always punished the goats for doing the stealing. Always.
And one thing Mama Isanlu never did after punishing a goat for stealing her yams was to invite the offending goat to be the custodian of an even bigger and juicier barn of yams. And she never pardoned any condemned goat guilty of theft.
What then is this disturbing news I hear with one ear that a strange creature has been talking about yams and goats lately?
Should this creature really be talking about yams and goats?
A goat steals plenty of aviation yams.
The process of crime and punishment is still being determined by his own crime and punishment machinery.
Suddenly he yanks the goat accused of stealing aviation yams from the crime and punishment scene and places the said offending goat closer to his heart in charge of bigger and juicier campaign yams.
And he now goes to lecture people about separating goats from yams? This man - whose moral universe can only think of finding juicier yams for offending goats or pardoning condemned looting goats?
This man - whose instinct is to always condemn the yam for roaming too close to the goat's mouth?
This man - whose psychology is to accuse anybody who warns him that goats steal yams of attempting to bring down his barn by smearing the good name of his goats?
Maybe he should leave goats and yams alone?
Maybe he should just kuku shut up entirely about this stealing business because his record in that department is so awful that every time he opens his mouth, he worsens the situation?