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Tame your cronies

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With Tsibweni Chalo:

The world has many folk tales whose motifs remain relevant today.

An example of such stories is one from the Yoruba of Nigeria titled ‘Why Babies Can’t Talk’, which many a learner in English language has met in P.A. Ogundipe and P.S. Tregidgo’s Practical English (Book One).

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The gripping read goes as follows:

‘Long ago, babies were able to speak as soon as they were born. They did not cry when they wanted food, or when they were too hot or too cold or uncomfortable in any way, they just opened their mouths and told their mothers what they wanted. This made it very easy for their mothers to look after them, easier than nowadays when babies just cry, and their mothers have to guess what the babies want.

Unfortunately, the babies were not very wise. Wise people do not talk about everything they see. But foolish babies did not know this. If a man with only one eye came to the house, a baby would say, “Go away, one-eyed man!” The man would be angry and the baby’s mother would be ashamed. She would begin to wish that babies did not know how to speak after all. They caused a lot of trouble with their foolish talk.

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One day, a newly married woman wanted to make a fire. She went to the next house to take some burning wood from their fire. She would use this to light her own fire.

The owner of the next house was not in, but her little baby was lying on a mat in the room. The woman saw some meat which was roasted over the fire. She said to herself: “How nice this meat smells! Let me look at it and see if it is rabbit or not.” She went nearer and touched the meat. “Yes, it is rabbit. It smells just like the rabbit my father brings home from our farm. Let me taste it and see if it is as nice as my father’s meat. There is only this little baby here. No one will know that I took the meat.” She took a fore-leg of the meat and ate it. It tasted very nice, so she took a hind-leg, and put it under her clothes to hide it. Then she quickly went back to her house.

When the baby’s mother returned she shouted, “Who has stolen some of my meat?” The baby at once told her. He said, “Mother, I know the thief. She is the woman in the next house.” He described how the woman took a fore-leg and ate it, and then hid a hind-leg under her clothes and took it away.

Everybody came and heard the baby’s story. They clapped their hands and shouted “Thief! Thief”! at the woman who had stolen the meat. She was very ashamed.

Orisa, Maker of All Things, heard the story. He also heard that babies often said rude and foolish things because they were not old enough to be wise. He knew that he must do something to stop very little babies from talking. So he took some water-yam, cut it in two, and scraped some of the raw yam with a sharp knife. He put this scraped yam into the baby’s throat. Since that time, little babies have been unable to talk. Whenever they try to say something, a little white stuff like scraped raw yam comes out of their mouths instead. As they grow older and wiser, and the white stuff becomes less in their throats, they begin to talk little by little. Finally, when they are old and wise enough, they can talk as well as their parents.’

Surely and precisely, the moral of this fairy tale sums up the current President Peter Mutharika’s and Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s stance in Malawian politics.

Unfortunately, it has extended to their cronies.

While, of late, there seems to have been some normalcy in how these two act, there is a lot that their supporters and cronies need to work on to ensure Malawians do not judge them harshly.

The two leaders are supposed to tame their cronies. They are even supposed to allow public agencies like the police do their work without any interference.

But it appears, they are learning from their masters how to act waywardly.

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