ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF – ‘This child will be great.’

A short first 3 chapters review:

I’m mightily fond of biographies but I’m the first to admit there is a major demerit of Biographies/Autobiographies of notable persons, fact that we know how the book concludes. So if you’re all about extended suspense & sudden dramatic endings, you won’t enjoy Biographies of notable persons. Biographies are more about information & content.

CHAPTER 1- The Beginning

I will be more elabourate in this chapter because of its foundational place in the story.

ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF starts by telling of the old sage that visited soon after her birth to reveal her title: “This Child will be Great”. It was prophetic as it turns out but living through educational difficulties, marital problems, economical turmoil etc, Ellen & her mother couldn’t possibly see this laughable prediction coming true.

Her initial challenge in campaigning for the presidency was in establishing her indegenious credentials, and not the elitist Americo-liberian that she was labeled with. Her popularity didn’t just hold her in good stead.

Her Grandfather (Jahmale) was a local chief who emerged as a popular negotiator between settlers & indegenious tribes because of his command of local dialects. His abilities was sought after by even the 7th President of Liberia (Hilary Johnson), the first President born in Liberia. Though he was the son of one of the Liberia’s elitist first settlers, Elijah Johnson.

Ellen’s father was sent to the city as a ward, which is a guardianship system that still flourishes in most part parts of Africa. It entails sending grown children/young adults to assist in meeting up with the crucial need for cheap labor. These youth are transplanted into better off families to work at
hauling water, collecting firewood and coal, cooking, cleaning, tending crops & other domestic work. It was also a means by which colonists spread religion & civilization to indegenious folks.

Not all the wards had an easy go at it, but majority of families, regardless of how discriminating or unjust, gave the wards in their care some opportunity for education & in some cases had their names changed to suit their new status. Ellen’s father, who was taken in by a family named McGrity, was given the last name of Johnson, after the president & his first name, Karnley, westernized to Carney. Thus becoming Carney Johnson at 15, a rebirth she called it. He became a ‘poor man’s lawyer’ (an apprenticeship lawyer), started a career in politics, met a befitting lady & married.

Ellen’s mother, had a more thrilling tale. She was half German. Her grandfather being a German who left after German traders were expelled from Liberia at the commencement of WWI. He never returned & Ellen’s mum put it off as a past she never wants to recall. She was almost white & was marveled at for a that reason. After a brief time of bad treatment as a mere servant with a family, she was taken in by a prominent childless woman from an influential family, where she got the best local education, even studying abroad for a year.

Five years after seeing Martha, Ellen’s father; Carney, divorced his first wife, won the affections of Martha & her guardian & married the pretty half-caste. The young family blossomed in Monrovia until they fell down the success ladder. Here Ellen gives us a brief glimpse of old simple Monrovia & the historical background of how separate states & cities in the USA had settled their freed slaves in separate colonies in Liberia. A huge death rate from the malaria that killed alot of the settlers. Some came willingly, most joined unwillingly, as conditions for freedom or as cargo from enforced seizures of slave trading ships. Thus captured ships with rescued slaves were sent to Monrovia. Persons of the most diverse tribes in present day West African countries & beyond were simply dumped as ‘liberated’ slaves in ‘Liberia’.

Ellen’s family settled in one of the posh areas, with a modestly grand house. She is the third of four children( two boys & girls each). She was named after her mother’s friend. She was a tomboy of sorts, climbing trees & playing ball with the boys with discarded tennis balls.

She fell in a pit toilet hole once. She was so tiny, left alone she slipped through the boarded pit toilet. (If you’ve seen ‘slum-dog millionaire’… Well, you get the gist.) She was rescued by a bypasser after calling out for help & washed up by her mum. 🤣

Theirs was an illustrious home, with her father keeping good company & aspiring to be the first indegenious speaker of the parliamentary. A sitting President visited their home. Her father was a socialite & womanizer, which was common place then, with polygamy accepted. Even Christian white folks kept concubines & had ‘out-children.’ with their spare women. Her mother was religious & ran the primary school they all went to.

She writes of her childhood trips to the villages for vacation, where she learned to swim. There’s her proud indegenious roots which her father never let them lose, even though they easily could. She is proud to flaunt this credential of being an indegenious child of Liberia, a clarity she made to distractors during her presidential campaign. Her respect for the unique biodiversity of the Liberian Flora and fauna, is all highlighted in this opening chapter.

CHAPTER 2 – Childhood Ends

Ellen’s sweet Childhood took a tumble with the sudden stroke of her dad in his forties. He was still trying out to be the first indegenious speaker of the parliament. The then President was encouraging & supportive in this regard. The ‘growth with development’ in the nation was being challenged with this drive. The national economic growth was concentrated in the hand of the few American repatriated elite. On the down side, President Tubman was Tyrannical, building a strong security force to fend off dissent. Ellen’s father saw Tubman as the man who ‘opened the door’ to progress for the indegenes but his sudden illness brought an end to his family’s cosiness. In those days (1950s) medicine was still basic. Her dad felt he was bewitched. As he blamed juju, family adjusted to care for his handicapped needs.

Ellen’s sister left for London to become a nurse so she could help, Ellen was in highschool. She was active in sports. Only downside was being teased for her fair complexion by the indegenious people, as they construe her to be of the elitist group of settlers.

She met her to-be husband in her last year in high school. James Sirleaf was of a Mandingo father & an elitist mother. He was also discriminated against for this. As an added pressure, his Mandingo clan are mainly Muslims & they tend not to assimilate into the conventional Liberian community, till date they are perceived as outcasts. Ellen & Doc, as James was known, met via a friend; Clave. The jealous irresistible Doc swept Ellen off her feet.

He was seven years older than Ellen. Without her handicapped dad’s enablement, Ellen opted to marry early, since college wasn’t affordable. 1956 she was married, January ’57 got her first son, Jes & incredibly, by December ’57 she got her second son Charles, while her mates were off in college.

Doc had returned from Alabama with a degree in agriculture before they got married. It was a big deal then because agriculture was the bedrock of Liberia’s economy then, as it is now. Iron ore, timber & Cocoa were the major export, before the civil war impaired these economic trend. Still it took Doc a while to get a footing at the ministry of agriculture. To make ends meet Ellen took Secretarial work with expatriate firms.

This was her first venture into finance. She borrowed trucks from work to lift the sand they built their first house with. They farmed & lived in rural settings. Doc had to work at a teaching job long before he finally got a ministry Job. Ellen’s sister had returned, married & had 3 kids of her own. Ellen believed in herself & her potential.

Doc got a government scholarship for his masters & Ellen jumped at the chance but it wasn’t easy, without her father’s connection like her sisters had it back then. Ellen’s father had passed on, neglected by his political buddies. Finally she got the scholarship, she got in to study business at Madison business college. They left their four kids behind, splitting them among their grand parents. Here she lingers on the support virtues of the African extended family.

America wasn’t all rosy. Doc’s jealousy had not quite abated. He also always had a drinking problem. Ellen worked at a posh store alongside her studies, a job Doc considered demeaning. After a single scene at her work place, he grumbled but back down because they need the money.

She was working the day US President JFK was assasinated. Doc’s jealousy moved dangerously to the physical, with gun threats. There wasn’t much she could do but bear it. Doc finished his course and returned a year before Ellen, who stayed back to finish up. When she returned and started work at the debt office of the ministry of finance, she felt her ambitious streak let lose as she played catch up. Doc grew more jealous of her progress. She threw herself into work.

They quarreled increasing. After an incident with his gun, when their first born sprayed insecticide at the father when he threatened Ellen with the gun, it dawned on her she had to leave him. When they agreed to separate, he kept the boys & she moved in with her mum. She secured a divorce when Doc was out of town. He made a number of scenes at her office later on. They ended up as friends at long last when he remarried. He migrated to Florida & she gave the keynote address at his funeral. He was cremated. Her youngest son stayed with Doc’s brother, a medical doctor. That son is now an MD himself. The third boy; Rob, was returned to her because he was unsettled without her.

CHAPTER 3 – America Again

Don’t blame the man in me, but I like the way she started this chapter.

“Divorce is difficult, even when it is absolutely necessary.” This goes both ways, believe me. I’ve seen it play out countless of times, on both ends severally, to know well. The guilt & adjustment is common.

Ellen’s was more of fitting in with the disrespect & suspicions that female divorcees experience. Her placing in the finance ministry gave her holistic view of the dire economic situation of the country. From the onset, the economy of Liberia wasn’t particularly well off as a colony of sorts before independence. As late as the 1930s, some leaders were still counting on a mass exodus of black Americans to shore up the country and its economy but instead the black Americans moved to industrial northern U.S. cities. Then came World War I—and Liberia couldn’t compete with the more established trade affairs of the British empire or French in the late 1800s & earliest 1900s.

Here I beg to quote a section:

“One cannot talk long about Liberia without discussing the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. It is our largest private employer and runs what is considered the largest rubber plantation in the world within
our borders. For better or worse, no other single company has had a more significant impact on the history and development of our land. Firestone arrived in Liberia, excited about the country’s perfect conditions for growing rubber as an alternative to its single Asia source and intrigued by the small, defunct British commercial operation at Mount Barclay, a lowland coastal plantation of about two thousand acres situated on a former mangrove swamp and jungle about twenty miles east of Monrovia. Firestone and the Liberian government easily reached an agreement for Firestone to take over that plantation; the company was granted a long-term lease for $1 an acre the first year and a flat $6,000 per year thereafter. But Firestone had larger plans. After much negotiation, Firestone was granted the right to lease up to 1 million acres of “suitable” Liberian land for 6 cents an acre and 1 percent of the tax value of
the rubber exported—and to do so until the year 2025.

“By any measure, it was a sweetheart deal for Firestone.
According to the Dutch economist and historian Fred P. M. van der Kraaij. After the draft concession agreement was approved by the national legislature, Firestone suddenly introduced a new clause. This
so-called Clause K made the agreement dependent on a $1 million loan from Firestone to the Liberian government. At the time of Firestone’s establishment in Liberia, the nation’s economy was stagnant and bankrupt. Although the loan proposal and ensuing negotiations raised fierce protests both outside and inside the country—where some Liberians feared the influence such a loan would create on the Liberia government—under pressure from the U.S. State Department and eager for the cash to repay a $1 million debt to
British bankers, Liberian officials eventually agreed to the deal.
Thus Firestone gained—for nearly a hundred years—almost unlimited control over an area equal to 4 percent of Liberian land and nearly 10 percent of land considered arable. And, by virtue of the loan the company’s entry into Liberia served mainly to reinforce Liberia’s financial dependency. For the next eighty years Firestone amassed huge profits and had a strong and decisive say in Liberian politics.”

End of quote.

Firestone had it’s foot on Liberia’s throat. The army of workers suffered & not much was done to ease the burden on them. Firestone didn’t establish industries but carted away resources & paid next to nothing in revenue.

When 1944 Tubman’s reforms took root & foreign investment flowed in, few Liberians outside the settlers’ elite clique truly benefited from the influx of foreign businesses. Thousands of Liberians were given jobs, but almost always lower-level, manual-labor positions, with
little effort made to train indigenous workers so they might move up to technical or managerial slots. Hospitals and schools were built only for workers of the investors.

By 1960s the economy was in another slum. Tubman lost favor & beefed up his security. There was an assassination attempt on him in 1955. He got a scapegoat in Fahnbulleh, a diplomat serving as ambassador to Kenya & Tanzania. He was arrested, charged & convicted for trying to overthrow the government. Not part of any activism, Ellen had simply accidentally started off in that direction when she stood on the edge of disloyalty with a speech she delivered criticizing the Liberian government’s economic policies. Representing the Treasury Department at a conferece by Harvard Institute for International Development. (HIID initiative). Harvard man, the economist Gustav Papanek, later president of the Boston Institute for Development, was concerned for her safety after that blatant criticism of the Liberian authorities. Professor Papanek gained Ellen admission to Edward S. Mason Fellows, Harvard’s oldest and largest international program. Ellen sat for & passed the U.S. Agency for International Development scholarship exam, scoring the highest marks recorded then. While she shores up her undergraduate credentials, Rob went to live with American friends.

A year later another speech got her into serious trouble. She then plunged into the study of the history of West Africa, learning more about Liberia in Harvard. Returning to Liberia alongside her sister on a ship, Ellen smoked her last cigarette ever. They both learned of the death of President Tubman while eating a meal on the ship. He was 71 & had ruled for 27 years. It was 1971 (& I was just a year old then 😊).

She ends the 3rd chapter with this;

“Jennie and I sat together in that dining room, praying for the soul
of our departed president and praying even harder for our families & our land. We were anxious but not frightened, not really. Like most Liberians, I suppose, we felt in some way shielded from the worst
manifestations of evolutionary struggle and change.

“We always felt that if anything really terrible began to happen, if ever things went seriously awry, America would come to our aid. America was our great father, our patron saint. It would never let us suffer. That’s what so many of us in Liberia thought. But then we found out that EVERYONE HAS TO STAND ON HIS OWN!”

I just wish some of the multitude of violently protesting Black Americans will learn from these words that they are just wasting away in the streets, shouting themselves crazy. At the end of the day, they can only make the white man respect them with what they achieve, not what the white man gives them.

OPTIONAL  SLAVERY (2)

Second part of the series from the collection of short stories…

Everyone Hates The English

Check it out on amazon or Smashwords https://www.amazon.com/Friendly-Foes-Sentiments-Yas-Niger/dp/1530486718?qid=1538349815&refinements=p_27%3AYas+Niger&s=Books&sr=1-18&text=Yas+Niger&ref=mp_s_a_1_18

Enjoy!!!

OPTIONAL SLAVERY

Joe is the last born and just belatedly finished secondary school at twenty. He didn’t look his age and appears to be age mates with Thomas, his fourteen year old nephew and Mammy’s first child. Most people assume they are both Mama Cyril’s final twins and the family gives its tacit approval to that innocent mistake.
Joe is glad to hear credentials wouldn’t be needed for the trip because he has none. He had accidently burnt his birth and basic school certificates with old
magazines after a general house clean up two years back. When the call to leave all documents with Mama comes, he plans to lie that he had misplaced his somewhere in the house. He didn’t sit for his final secondary school exams just a month earlier.

He chose to buy a new iPhone with the registration fee Mama gave him instead. As such, there wouldn’t be a new certificate for him in a couple of weeks either and all hell will break loose when Mama Cyril learns this too, after a futile search for his older certificates. Being far away in Europe when she discovers will be a life saver.

The planned trip to Europe is God sent for Rueben also, he is the third boy and second to the last child. He is the most industrious of the seven, works at almost
everything, everywhere and for anyone. He is hardworking and gifted. He kept getting all sorts of training from various people on diverse technical disciplines.
Rueben is never idle and always involved in something to earn a buck. He also contributes to the upkeep of the large house hold from his meager earnings without
batting an eye. Mama Cyril could always depend on Rueben to do his best for himself and for everyone else. Rueben had worked his way through his five
gruesome years in a federal tertiary technical institute, graduating with distinction.
It is a marvel that Rueben has been unable to secure stable decent employment.

Rueben has big dreams of making it abroad. He has enough talent, ingenuity, training and drive to make it under the dedicated and selfless guidance of those
knowledgeable white men, where his abilities and capabilities will be properly rewarded. That hasn’t been the case back here, where he needs to know someone well placed to get employed. Everyone in the family knows Rueben has the best chance of making it in Europe. If Mama Cyril will have two of her children stay behind to assist her, it will include Rueben. But none were more deserving of the trip than Rueben and his older sister Monica, the only other graduate in the family.

Monica is Mama Cyril’s second daughter and third child over all, her favourite and the brain behind Mama Cyril’s business success. None of Monica’s advices
ever goes wrong, she is Mama Cyril’s right hand and that explains why Mama Cyril refuses to let Monica marry the man she claims to love. The chap seemed
decent enough, with a steady job. But Mama Cyril always found something wrong with him to jibe at. The chap’s effort in chipping in his bit to assist with Monica’s
schooling was of no consequence.

Mama Cyril claims he comes from the wrong tribe and cultural background. She insists he is destined for no good because of his name, Shawulu. That is Saul, the devious man who killed decent folks in the Bible.
Shawulu ‘s eyes were either too large or he squints a lot when he stares at folks, resembling a thief surveying his next target. Shawulu comes to the store too often and disturbs Monica in her duties. Shawulu stays till late when he visits Monica at home, no decent man does that. Shawulu doesn’t even bow when he greets Baba Cyril. Then there was the most unforgiveable act of all. Two years after Monica graduated with a degree in Business management, Shawulu intentionally got her pregnant to force the difficult Mama Cyril’s hand into consenting to the marriage between Monica and the hateful Shawulu. Thus Mama Cyril summarily refused to
entertain any more talk of their marriage when she finally got her best excuse.

There was no reasoning with her from that point on and the sole child Monica added to the house hold was the only grandchild Mama Cyril celebrated with an
official naming and church Christening fanfare, all in aid of wrestling Monica from
the affectionate clutches of Shawulu. The incessant visits by Shawulu’s people to placate Mama Cyril and make amends for their son’s shameful act was unaccepted. Baba Cyril benefited from these many visits because the delegations always
came bearing gifts, which didn’t interest Mama Cyril in the slightest and the crafty old man did as he pleased with, after they leave. Monica respects her mother to a fault and kept appealing to Shawulu to wait and be patient.

Shawulu will wait forever, if Mama Cyril got her way. This trip will seal Shawulu’s fate, that is that. A quick run down on the progress so far reveals that Monica was excited about
the trip, yet not entirely sold on the idea. Not telling her beloved Shawulu about it was going to be exceptionally hard but Mama Cyril will always have her way with Monica, that much is certain. So Daniel, Mammy, Joe, Rueben and Monica were all in. Rose is still work in progress but if many men, mostly with the intelligence
quotient of day old chicks, could persuaded her into bedding them, surely making Rose catch a boat to Europe wouldn’t be as hard as tackling an algebra equation.

That leaves out Cyril, first born of the house. Mama intentionally left him for last because he could easily scuffle the whole thing before it even started off, if he
so desired. It was her plan to hear all the others before Cyril. He was the only one she earlier told why she wanted to speak with everyone that late at night. She asked him to keep his thoughts to himself, until he hears all the others. Cyril will keep his word, if he can be convinced to give it. She convinced him and now it is his turn. Mama Cyril had already decided that if Cyril isn’t going, he will have to deal with not being able to stop the others from going. There is never telling before
hand what Cyril will like or will not like, he is that unpredictable, even to his mum.

Cyril is not a social retard, he is just simply too blunt. His mind and mouth had merged into the same cognitive organ and he quite innocently doesn’t think things
through before he speaks. Words just come gushing out his mouth like piss as soon his lips part, just as he would when he opens his fly to ease his bladder. He doesn’t
consider the implication before making a statement, even for the briefest second. Cyril is well aware of this shortcoming of his for years and he had simply come to one conclusion about it, without making the slightest attempt to change it.

Cyril concluded that he can not lie and get away with it. As a direct result of this, he actually doesn’t lie casually. It soon became so obvious that he didn’t lie as
often as those around him. Everyone needs to steer other minds wrongly once in a while, to deflect hostile reactions at least. Cyril struggled to socially relate with the people around him. But for someone who is considered a social nerd of sorts, he is still relied on to be sincere in all his dealings. Everyone listened to him keenly.

“Don’t you all see the news?” Cyril started. “People are dying every day in the Mediterranean sea, that is if they make it that far.” Mama Cyril was ready for that.
“That is if you rely on smugglers and we are not,” Mama Cyril returned.
“Besides it a risk worth taking,” Daniel quickly added.
“Risk our lives and die in a strange land, like wild animals? You call that risk
worth taking?” Cyril returned, but Daniel didn’t answer. Unlike Daniel’s carefree attitude towards life as a whole, Cyril’s approach to life is much less mechanical.
He trusts the human nature to disappoint and this is solidly based on his proven notion that human beings will only bend their nature as far as their joints allow.
“Mama, I suggest you forget this plan. Use the considerable amount you plan to spend to either improve on your business or build the house you have planned.”

Cyril had said his honest mind and that was good enough for his mother, who ignored the audible snicker from Baba Cyril. She was well aware why her husband
chose that moment to insinuate his disapproval. The man couldn’t stand the thought of all that money saved in the bank, out of his reach to squander away on hard liquor drinking and frivolous gambling. To hell with him, Mama Cyril thought.
“Are you contented being the long serving Head master of a private primary school with a rarely paid salary? You are not paid on school holidays, that is a quarter of the year. You can hardly meet just your own personal needs. You have worked there for ten years, with nothing to show for it. You are thirty years old, still with only a lowly teacher’s diploma and still living with your parents. You are unmarried, you can’t save or improve your education, can not get another job and fully dependent on your family for your needs because you earn close to nothing.”

Joe had only meant to sum things up nicely for Cyril but he had by extension touched the minds of all the other too. It had hit home to the others that what was different about Europe was they could have a fighting chance at making their lives better. Cyril knows better than to stand in the way of their dreams, if he was not going to do something about his. He didn’t have to say it, they just all knew he was not going to be difficult, if all the others were decided on leaving for Europe. Though Mama Cyril couldn’t predict her first son, she maneuvered those she
could predict into shackling his unpredictability, such that it is of no consequence if he reveals to be difficult. The simple truth might not ever change, but it can be
ideally shaded. Mama Cyril was spot on in her assessment and reeled in her catch.

Rose was still undecided, she is not sure she will get as much attention from white men like she is getting from black men. She couldn’t possibly compete with
those elegant looking European women out there, with their classy clothes, delicate make up, sophisticated way of walking and sexy way of talking.
“They may not even take us to England and Europeans only speak English in
England,” the stupid Rose was telling herself. She was terrified she wouldn’t be able to cope in Europe and was getting increasingly worried that her siblings will not let her off. Rose didn’t like the uncertainty that came with life in Europe, not to
mention the dangerous difficulty of getting there. Daniel intently watched Rose stiffen her back, without relaxing her stomach
muscles. Rose always has this expressively suggestive manner of carrying her elegant body. Her emotions are clearly revealed in her body language. Initially
Daniel couldn’t appropriately decipher her exact thoughts, then he figured out she was planning on not going with them. But Daniel wanted Rose to come along more than any of the others and for a good reason too.

A month or so earlier the elastic string holding Rose’s under pants suddenly snapped beneath her flowing gown, just as they started the long walk back home from church. With nothing to keep her panties from falling down to her ankles, the silly girl had tried to hold her loose panties in place without using her hands. As a
result, she had to walk with her thighs clamped up. Daniel had noticed something was wrong, inquired and Rose told him of her predicament. He offered her the use of his belt and had to wear his trousers up just that once, in her honour. Every male eye trailed her every move that day too. She had dropped four children already and yet every man still drooled over her. She had to come along with them to Europe.
They will need her out there. The others don’t know it yet but Rose might just hold the keys to their success in Europe. Rose is suited for the role Daniel had in mind, more than the cagy Monica with her proper ways or the aging Mammy, who looked every inch a mummy. Rose could quite easily sustain the lot of them in
their earliest days in Europe, until they can settle in later. She only needs to bat her eyes or wiggle her fanny a couple of times. If they are lucky, she could bloom into a fruit for some unsuspecting rich white dude and settle two thirds of their worries.

As if on cue, Rose batted those thick eyelashes of hers and looked straight at Daniel with eyes like glittering dark brown gems set in white marble. He smiled
and winked at her, urging her with a nod. She smiled back, like some strange inter-galactic alien in a beautiful female human disguise. Rose is his favourite sister by far and she is most fond of him too. He knows how to play her and get favours off her. He was certain she will play this ball and many others too, later in Europe.

It was very late, Baba Cyril yawned and shifted in his seat. They weren’t asking for his consent as usual but he realized he could still get paid if he played his cards right. He only needs to insinuate some subtle threat that could throw spanners in their works. He is not as stupid as his wife makes out. So without minding that his sudden contribution doesn’t relate to the discussion, Baba Cyril shuffled his cards.

“Davido is expecting payment from me tomorrow,” he disclosed.
“Who cares?” Mama Cyril returned and glared at him. Baba Cyril’s stare didn’t waver. His wife knows him very well, he can be cheap when his silly threats are
nipped in the bud. But when ignored and not appeased early enough, he could cause enough stink to attract unnecessary attention. With this important plan for a mass European trip, it is better not to risk it in calling his bluff. The stakes were too
high and he just might do something stupid. Just telling Shawulu before hand will
be distraction enough. Baba Cyril had to be settled and Mama Cyril backed down.

She nodded at Monica and the smart girl responded appropriately. The best
leaders never reveal when they concede, subordinates do it for them so they will never appear weak. Mama Cyril is never weak, rather it is her forte to feed on other people’s weakness and Baba Cyril represents a steady promising field for her most
influence. Once his meals are on time and his daily gulp of medicinal gin is within reach, he rarely makes trouble at home. But the most quarrels the couple have is over his weekly heavy drinking and gambling at a local shack, ran by the respectful Davido. The sly Davido sells locally brewed gin and also doubles as a bookie.
Baba Cyril will run one silly scheme after another around the house and in the community, to fund his weekly evenings at Davido’s. But when there is nothing to be had, Davido is willing to extend some credit to the elderly fellow because he is
confident one of Mammy, Rueben and Monica will always pay up.

Mama Cyril never does, she would rather die, like she repeatedly says at the top of her voice. This is just his latest scheme and a highly lucrative one at that. Monica left the sitting room briefly and returned with a number of crisp money notes of the highest
denomination. Baba Cyril never had it this good. As soon as he received the money from Monica, in full view of everyone, he inspected the notes in the faint candle light. Satisfied with the illuminated imprint of the inserted hidden silvery security
components, he put the money in his pocket and grinned. A metal picture of Judas Iscariot receiving payment for his kiss of betrayal flashed across Cyril’s mind, but
not even the devil would dare to wrestle this hand-out from Baba Cyril now. He will be contended for a couple of weeks and if this hyped European trip is still pending after then, who will deny the old man’s right to have another go at the golden goose. But this night he played along as expected, sang the tune paid for.
He nodded and retire for the night with a spared parting good word to aid his wife.

“You children listen to your mother, she only means well for all of you.” Cyril willingly accompanied his eager mother to the hotel this time around. It
was unanimously agreed by everyone that Cyril should get fully involved in every aspect of the arrangement from then onward. His good eye for probity will come into very decent use to ensure there is no foul play or the family is not taken for a ride by dubious fraudsters. The elderly white man Mama Cyril had met the first time, instantly recognized her the moment she entered the hotel room with Cyril in tow.

When they exchanged greetings, Cyril got his first of two pleasant surprises of the night. In Mama Cyril’s narration to the family about the details she got from her
earlier visit, she said Mimi had called the elderly white man in charge, Mr. Bill.

Cyril already had established suspicions of the whole arrangement, so he had
expected to meet some bossy north African, a sort of middle man for his Arab brothers, taking full advantage of the confusion in their nation to make a fast buck
by smuggling sub-Saharan Africans into Europe. But there was no chance of a mistake in identifying where Mr. Bill is from, he looked it and his accent said it.
“You are English?!” Cyril’s querying remark was laced with his surprise.
“Who did you expect to meet, some ancient Roman?” Mr. Bill responded with a smug grin.

Cyril didn’t acknowledge the joke but he looked more relaxed as Mr.Bill offered them seats. Once seated in one of the two armchairs in the sparsely
furnished hotel room, Cyril faced their elderly European host sitting on the side of the only bed and started off his questioning, with Mama Cyril quietly looking on.
“What is the country of entry?”
“Depends on where the boats arrive or where the intercepting joint European Naval forces take migrant boats to. It is likely Italy or Greece,” Mr. Bill explains.
“You’re sure about this?”
“Nothing is certain in this business but nine out of ten times, the task force is involved and take the boats to Italy or Greece, where the migrants are processed as
legal refugees. But surely you know that once you enter one European country, you can enter all the others?” Mr. Bill fished, hopeful Cyril doesn’t just look educated.
“I do,” Cyril replied but clearly he was not done yet. “And the safety of the trip across to Libya, is that guaranteed?” Cyril asked.
“Yes it is, as well as accommodation and security, up till the point of departure
from the Libyan coast. That is what you will be paying for. Extensive arrangement
that involves seasoned transporters, senior border posts officials, top military brass and government officials in all the nations involved, is in place. I came here after setting it up and I assure you it is working faultlessly and I can prove it now.”

Mr. Bill reached for his cell phone and called a line. From their seats, Mama Cyril and her eldest son could hear the other line ring and a female voice answer.
“Mimi, how are doing?” Mr. Bill spoke into the cell phone resting on his right cheek. Mama Cyril smiled at her son and her eyes almost said: ‘I told you so.’
They already knew Mimi left just three days earlier and hearing it had rushed things for their family. Mr. Bill handed the phone to Cyril, electing to satisfy the son’s more pronounced doubt ahead of his already convinced mother’s.
Cyril accepted the phone, placed in on his right ear and spoke. It was certainly the excited voice of Mimi. No doubt it was Mama James’s little girl at the other end of the line. The notable delay in their exchanges was further prove that Mimi was indeed in a very distant place. She had only good things to say about the efficacy
of the whole arrangement. Mimi said her boat trip has been paid for and she will be heading across the calm Mediterranean waters very early the next morning.
Mama Cyril had her turn. She incredibly managed to scream out enough pleasantries, prayers and information in a single minute to last the girl’s lifetime before reluctantly handing back the phone to Mr. Bill. She withdrew her chubby arm, which looked rather like an enlarged midget’s sinewy arm. The fold of fatty
flesh casing sort of shrunk her arms and completely hid her elbows from view.

What stood out for Cyril was that Mimi still had her phone, but he didn’t say it out loud. He reasoned that after money, phones are the first items lost or taken away from persons either held against their wishes or in any kind of difficulty.
Mama Cyril was elated to see her son’s nod of approval and the rest was routine, handled by Mama Cyril and Mr. Bill. Cyril watched his mother make full cash payments for six places on the next available vehicle leaving for Libya. Mr. Bill apologized that the next four buses leaving the next day were already full, but he assured Mama Cyril her children will leave in a couple of days.
Mr. Bill emphasized the need for urgency because the situation wouldn’t be the same for much longer. Once the puerile panic that greeted this rapid unprecedented flow of predominantly economic migrants into Europe has subsided, the European nations will most certainly device some expedient international law to revert to the status quo. Mr. Bill stood up to see them out, paused to reassure the silent Cyril that he and his siblings will safely be in Europe before next week.

It was Mr. Bill’s turn to be surprised. He was stunned to learn Cyril is not traveling with the others.
“Why?” Mr. Bill asked.

“The world is full of loud commentators, with deceptive commendations their many willful listeners obviously find admirable and not coy. But I am an exception to the general norm, among the few appropriating critics who equate affirmation of
evidence and the clearly advertised ruse with serious concern,” Cyril started.
“You and I know that getting into Europe is the easy part. But living in Europe, in the most sub-standard conditions, a far cry from illusions perceived, assumed, created and forwarded, is the real tough part. Africans integrating into evidently
hostile economic and social European societies that segregate against foreigners, as they increasing learn to abhor migrants for clogging their systems and worsening
their already precarious situations, is the reality of things. I will rather accept the fair situation I can manage right here, than pursue an elusive pot of gold at the end of some European rainbow.” Cyril was assertive and Mr. Bill was impressed.

A fellow intellect, the English man thought. The elderly white man tarried at the door to explain further. He felt Cyril has earned the right to understand why it
is only fair that Africans escaping war torn regions or economic difficulties or simply seeking to better their lot, must get a chance to pursue a life anywhere they
desire without any hindrance from those who seek to make choices for them, yet
again.
“I am not doing this for the money,” Mr. Bill said. “I am doing it because it is the right thing to do. For centuries European slave merchants own Africans and
traded them across continents as they pleased. Everywhere they took them, the prosperity that was gotten through their unpaid work for centuries funneled into
making these European nations the model economic and social communities they are today. Then there was colonialism, when European nations arbitrary syphoned the wealth of African nations for free and incessantly bullied them with the same
effect, which resulted in making large economic powers of European countries.

“A lot of people consider the abolition of slavery and subsequent independence
of the African nations as an act of charity, a favour granted the most belittled and unjustly treated people in all history. No it is not and any thing that remotely offers
a whiff of reparations should be encouraged and milked till it is drained. What do you think the world’s racial history will be if the black man was styled as the clear
antagonist? Just consider that before you write off your siblings.” Mr. Bill ended.
“You should consider that most of those going over will end up as liabilities.”
“Then it is only fair that they do.”
“It is fair to unsettle the living standards and security of Europe?”
“Certainly! Centuries back it was the superior Europeans that felt they had the God given right to come to Africa for economic reasons. Now it is only fair that
the African have their civilized right to come to Europe for economic reasons too.”
“The long established tedious ways for Africans to legally get into Europe ensured only the best Africa has to offer do migrate. The new trend only dumps from the dreg of the continent. At this rate Europe will be full of the sort of people that it needs the least. It is like allowing locusts to rest on your farm because they
also have a living right to feed. But maybe the English do not really care and it is a continental European problem, since England is still an old independent island, still on it own and just playing to be part of Europe. Still with its own currency in place, as the presence of a Queen imprinted on it.” Cyril remained every bit as steadfast.
“Good people do bad things for good reasons, my friend.” Mr. Bill appeared offended at the insinuation that he is just being more malicious to his European
brethren than helpful to Africans.

Mr. Bill looked the way of Mama Cyril before continuing. She was already near the stairs and screaming into her phone, eagerly
informing Monica of the good news about their trip to Europe in a couple of days.
“It is the least honourable thing I can do to follow in my ancestor’s foot-steps.

An Englishman was instrumental to ending the brutal carting away of Africans from their homes and it is only ideal that another Englishman is instrumental in the
civilized migration of Africans to Europe as an act of reparation. I should have properly introduced myself. My name is William Wilberforce, the Sixth.”
A stunned Cyril gawked with renewed respect as he assimilated this second pleasant surprise. He accepted the grinning white man’s farewell hand shake and watched as the Englishman shut the hotel door behind him, before hurrying to meet his bulky mother, breathless at the foot of the stairs. She had ended her phone call
and was singing her favourite church hymn out loud, in the most jolly of moods.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” the aged woman hollered at the top of her happy voice, with a spring in her step. “I once
was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see. Was blind but now I see!”
Mama Cyril sang as she led her eldest son through the hotel parking lot that passes for a bar and also the launching pad for yet another compelled economic
migration from Africa to Europe. Cyril only had thoughts for yet another symbolism. He smiled at the irony of one William Wilberforce ending the old
compulsory slavery and yet another William Wilberforce fueling the new optional slavery. It is somewhat fitting and quite English in its concept, Cyril thought to himself as he resisted the urge to hum along to the tune of his mother’s singing.
Like the song, the general mood is infectious, spitefully civilized and English.

THE END OF THIS SHORT STORY

READ MORE FROM THE FULL COLLECTION

Optional Slavery ( 1 )

Today I start a series from the collection of short stories…

Everyone Hates The English

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Enjoy!!!

OPTIONAL SLAVERY

“GET INTO EUROPE NOW!”
That is the bold catchy caption on the face of the small sky blue complimentary card, with those unmistakable loose cluster of tiny white stars of the European Union logo at the top right edge of it. A closer look at the card reveals it also has a specific time and hotel address printed on it, with a room number inscribed on it as well. But that is all, no name or anything more, just the all important promise for a better life, where even African cattle know the grass is surely greener.

Each person that receives the card or merely sees it and can memorize the easy to remember address printed on it, could go over for more details. The time on the card is nine in the evening, well after working hours. Anyone can go and everyone who has considered going to Europe did, that is almost everyone. Even the bulky Mama Cyril, a middle aged mother of seven mostly jobless children and the added responsibility of providing for the nine grandchildren they gave her, wanted to know more. She had intentionally closed her shop late one evening so she could look in on her way home. She liked all she has heard so far and sought more information.

The hotel premises was full and busy. The open air bar shared the parking lot but there were no cars in it. It was packed full with all sorts of people, young and old, looking healthy and well fed, many of them looked obese and rather well off.

They sat everywhere and chatted purposefully. If only the rich drive cars, then some here had deliberately left theirs at home before coming, Mama Cyril thought.

Those wicked rich sorts always want more at the cheapest rates and Mama Cyril was certain they were here too, set on depriving the poor of this God sent charity.

Only a few were drinking and everyone seemed to be talking to someone else.

Mama Cyril ignored them, snuck round the back and up a short flight of stairs.

Good elderly Christian women like her shouldn’t be seen in ungodly places at dark hours. Idle gossipers will love to give Baba Cyril a new excuse to start yet another fight. The old fool loves entertaining neighbours with his drunken wrestling shows. Allegations of sleeping around will be an effective excuse for her husband of over thirty years, Mama Cyril concedes. So far the two decades long jobless buffoon
relies on claims of being disrespected as the head of the family to ignite quarrels.

The door into the specified hotel room was ajar and surprisingly, there was no queue outside it like she had expected. Mama Cyril looked in and was encouraged
with what she saw. Seated on the side of the bed, attending to two young girls, was an elderly white man. That was a huge relief for Mama Cyril because everyone
knows white people are honest and do not need to cheat poor black folks like rich black people do. Mama Cyril recognized one of the girls as Mimi, the pencil thin
Mama James’s youngest child in their Church choir. Mimi curtsied and greeted Mama Cyril properly and from then on it was simple really. The details Mama Cyril sought came in fast waves and she was soon contented. An hour later, she was hurrying home, singing her favorite Church hymn.

She was happy she came and thankful for Mimi’s assistance in understanding the white man’s explanations. Mimi has always been a smart girl, a very sharp girl. She is the youngest girl to
graduated from the university in these parts and only returned from her mandatory year of national youth service last month. Now little Mimi is soon going away to Europe. If Mama James’s smallest baby goes to Europe, no one will hear the last of
it in the whole community. That shapeless old stick will brag about it forever. Mama Cyril strongly believes wicked angels in God’s heavenly court had conspired to curse her with the worst possible litter of puppies, with most of them inheriting their useless father’s beastly moronic genes. She doesn’t ever heed her own advise on cursing her children.

She only remembers not to, after she does and then forgets to bless them often enough to neutralize the curses. But God knows her thoughts and forgives her words, regardless of their effect. She is reassured.

Her three girls are only good at repeatedly opening their knees to conceive and retrieve off springs for the worst possible fools, while her four boys are a bad mix of gain less dreamers and doers. Half of her children are too selfish to care about anything other than their stomachs and their appearances. It is a nightmare to get most of them to do anything constructive for themselves, let alone somebody else.

This once it looked like the odds were stacked well in Mama Cyril’s favour to get them all to do her bidding. But she could only hope and pray they even listen. Mimi had already paid for her trip to Europe, if anyone in his right mind can call the amount involved payment. The entire cost is incredibly low by all known
reckoning. It costs ordinary folks an arm and leg to travel to Europe properly and the remaining limbs too, if it is legal. Then every bit of pride and dignity goes with
staying on in the white man’s land. This all inclusive offer is as cheap as God’s air.

Candidates don’t need to be educated or have travel documents and if they have
international passports or are graduates, they are advised to leave their certificates behind. They could easily lose them on the long tedious trip to get into Europe. They can always send for the credentials later, when they are safely inside Europe.

Relatives can easily send them over by registered post, when addresses are gotten. The middle aged white man had explained that the low charges only covers
transportation for the long land trip through Niger and Mali, into Libya and onto the Mediterranean coast. Travellers are expected to hold fares for their boat rides
across the sea, which is nothing much. Accommodation in Libya is guaranteed, where the travellers are known as pilgrims. The pilgrims are kept safe in Libya
until their ride across to Italy or Greece is arranged within a week after arrival.

The Libyans play a key role, ensuring Europeans get the impression they hold back the
pilgrims. But they simply keep them safe while they wait for their paid boat rides.

Then what happens next is completely legal and facilitated by the Europeans themselves. Once the boats are halfway across the Mediterranean, the European
patrol boats must rescue them and help them all into Europe. If the pilgrims’ boats make it near the European shores they are advised to disable their motor boats or puncture their rubber dinghies and wait to be rescued. It is essential they are rescued so that they get treated with more compassion. All the pilgrims are simply welcomed with warm clothes, food and medicine. The cutest Europeans girls welcome them with flowers and hugs at the ports. European governments will give them official documents to classify them as refugees and no one will reject them or deport them because it is against international law to send refugees away. The timing is just right and the public opinion in Europe is still favourable towards the
pilgrims. The world is in turmoil and an opportunity is there to take advantage of.

Mimi helped the much older white man explain things to Mama Cyril. It has never been this easy, cheap or legal for Africans to get into Europe, not since the
abolition of slave trade many centuries ago. With the estimated amount needed by each person, Mama Cyril could easily afford to send all seven of her children, and
she is just a poor trader in the local market. Praise God for all his bounties. She just needs to secure the hefty loan she is eligible for, from her market thrift
and credit cooperative society, which she had been putting off.

She had originally planned to access the credit, combine it with the money she has been saving and buy a plot of land to build a house for her large family. But sending her children to Europe is a bigger and better investment, multiplied into seven places.

For thirty years the family had rented cheap accommodations and a few more years of doing so will make no difference, when a huge mansion, to be financed
with funds from this European trip is assured. Since Mama Cyril started her grains wholesales business just under two decades ago, the quality of life had improved for her family. They paid their bills and live rather well by local standards. Rent is paid, no one went hungry, every school fees and every hospital bill settled. All her seven children still live at home, with their collective nine children added to the
family’s sum. Yet the family is poor because it lacks the official world average and the plenty they see flaunted around them. There is no crime in wanting much more.

“Who will take care of my children if I go to Europe?” That was Rose’s very first query. Her visibly angered mother eyed her with disgust and contempt.
“Shut up,” Mama Cyril snarled. “Who is taking care of them now?”
Rose hissed and looked away, a usual response in her case. Rose ever struggles to talk to her mother. She is the third girl and fifth child, with attractive looks that didn’t help her much. Rose appears to blossom with a new child every spring. Her good looks tripled the amount of romantic advances she gets, with the appending material favours from men of all ages and calling. Rose is not smart, with her intelligence well below average. Coupled with her inability to exercise restraint in romantic settings once she was of age, Rose had popped out four kids in six years. Baba Cyril’s niece called him with news of the last of Rose’s four pregnancies.
He had laughed and asked her to call his wife instead, to tell her directly.

The long banter over Rose’s fourth pregnancy at home went on for months and hasn’t ended over a year later. Mama Cyril had to put her foot down, the trend simply got out of hand and that is the last child yet. No doubt all four girls had their mother’s fertility
rate. Mama Cyril had seven children in ten years and a doctor had to surgically end her ordeal when everything else didn’t help.

Baba Cyril wasn’t consulted, as usual. Rose turned her attention back to her expensive iPhone, same type the female federal minister of finance has. Baba Cyril saw the badly dressed minister caress hers when she came to make more unfulfilled promises to retrenched employees of the defunct government owned telecommunication company after twenty years of not paying their benefits. Baba Cyril couldn’t make sense of why Rose found it ……… or anywhere really. It never makes sense why children are named in this manner, when their names wouldn’t be optimally used. Mama Cyril expectedly turned to Mammy next. Mammy shrugged and looked down at her well chewed finger nails. Mothers always have the most expectations for their first daughters and the shy
Mammy never met those Mama Cyril had set for her. Mammy was the pioneer, she had the first of Mama Cyril’s nine grandchildren and that was considered her first
of many failings to follow.

Pregnant at sixteen and the favourite child of her father,
the roof rose to heavenly hell and back down again. Back then it felt like the worst possible disgrace for a teenage daughter to have a child in her parents’ house. Then
Mammy’s parents incredibly relived the same scenario over again repeatedly, eight more times over. Now it is the expected norm for the girls in the family.
“I will go with Steve,” submitted Mammy. Steve is just two, Mammy’s second
and last contribution to the haul of grandchildren Mama Cyril caters for, alongside her seven children and their hopeless father. Steve has autism and is a handful.

Mama Cyril nodded, proud to see that Mammy is finally living up to her expectation. Mama Cyril hastily interpreted Mammy’s decision to mean she is actually thinking about the difficulty Mama Cyril will have with Steve and it is not just the act of a loving mother towards her challenged child. Mammy always had her uses as the family’s somewhat junior mother. She earns some money and contributes to the family’s upkeep. She fries beans cakes and sweet potatoes at the
top of the street, did so every evening for a decade, except Sundays. Mammy will make a wonderful wife yet for some strange reason none of the her numerous courting male customers ever comes forward for her hand in marriage.

* To be continued …

OPTIONAL SLAVERY (Excerpts from Everyone hates the English)

refugees

“The world is full of loud commentators, with deceptive commendations their many willful listeners obviously find aptly admirable and not coy. But I am an exception to the norm, among the few appropriating critics who equate affirmation of evidence with the clearly advertised ruse with serious concern,” Cyril started.

“You and I know that getting into Europe is the easy part. But living in Europe in the most sub-standard conditions, a far cry from illusions perceived, assumed, created and forwarded, is the real tough part. Africans integrating into evidently hostile economic and social European societies that segregate against foreigners, as they increasing learn to abhor migrants for clogging their systems and worsening their already precarious situations, is the reality of things. I will rather accept the fair situation I can manage right here, than pursue an elusive pot of gold at the end of some European rainbow.” Cyril was assertive and Mr Bill was impressed.

A fellow intellect, the English man thought. Then the elderly man tarried at the door to explain further. He felt Cyril has earned the right to understand why it is only fair that Africans escaping war torn regions or economic difficulties or simply seeking to better their lot, must get a chance to pursue a life anywhere they desire without any hindrance from those who seek to make choices for them, yet again.

“I am not doing this for the money,” Mr Bill said. “I am doing it because it is the right thing to do. For centuries European slave merchants own Africans and traded them across continents as they pleased. Everywhere they took them, the prosperity that was gotten through their unpaid work for centuries funneled into making these European nations the model economic and social communities they are today. Then there was colonialism, when European nations arbitrary siphoned the wealth of African nations for free and incessantly bullied them with the same effect, which resulted in making large economic powers of European countries.

“A lot of people consider the abolition of slavery and subsequent independence of the African nations as an act of charity, a favour granted the most belittled and unjustly treated people in all history. No it is not and any thing that remotely offers a whiff of reparations should be encouraged and milked till it is drained. What do you think the world’s racial history will be if the black man was styled as the clear antagonist? Just consider that before you write off your siblings.” Mr Bill ended.

“You should consider that most of those going over will end up as liabilities. The long established tedious ways for Africans to legally get into Europe ensured only the best Africa can offer do migrate. The new trend only dumps from the dregs of the continent. At this rate Europe will be full of the sort of people that it needs the least. It is like allowing locusts to rest on your farm because they also have a living right to feed. But maybe the English do not really care and it is a continental Europe problem, since England is still an old independent island, still on it own while playing to be part of Europe. Still with its currency in place, as the presence of the Queen imprinted on it.” Cyril remained every bit as steadfast in his opinion.

“Good people do bad things for good reasons, my friend.” Mr Bill said.

EVERYONE HATES THE ENGLISH - Small
EVERYONE HATES THE ENGLISH

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