Last week the Ondo State House of Assembly sitting in Akure the state capital had an unlikely and most unexpected visitor: a snake in the form of a python came tumbling from the ceiling right into the chambers while the day’s legislative business was going on. The reaction to the august visitor was epic. They all took to their heels, some with ‘agbada’ or coats flying in different directions, getting stuck to furniture/chairs and unwelcome barriers and obstacles. Others left their designer shoes or iPhones or designer glasses to the elements as they fled for their dear lies from the scary and scared eyes of the unfortunate reptile. It is possible one or two of the legislators suffered some injuries to the feet or groin or arms while escaping the visit of the slimy one! While dashing in different directions one or two of the great legislators may have confirmed the ‘prophecy’ of a pastor that something strange will happen from the enemy’s camp but that they should not worry because ‘God is in control’. Later that evening the pastor would receive a gift for the accuracy of the prophecy and everyone would be happy!
A snake in parliament! A good title for a play or a poem, you know, with all the allusions and archetypal references of the snake as a sneaky reptile that could live in the same house with humans for weeks or months without being discovered. The poor thing! I remember “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown” from Hamlet by Shakespeare. I also recall the role played by the serpent in the Garden of Eden story- “the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field.” The snake does not have a good image at all! We are commanded to bruise its head any time we encounter it just as it is designed to bruise our heels!
But it is possible that this huge reptile climbed into the ceiling of the House of Assembly in search of rodents for its lunch or dinner and had stayed there for some days before the gap in the ceiling gave it away to the eyes of well-fed legislators who had been sneakily making laws for the good people of Ondo State.
To some mischievous Nigerians, that snake in parliament was indeed in distinguished company, because birds of identical plumage flock together and the legislators need not fear their kith and kin in slimy ways. These mischievous fellows have also compared the opaque huge allowances and financial benefits of legislators with the ways of the snake. Well, I do not subscribe to such arrogant and puerile nonsense meant to cast aspersion on the impeccable integrity of legislators, whether at state or national level. One extremely rude fellow wished that the snake had landed right inside the National Assembly chambers at the time the visit to the Akure parliament took place! One of such fellows argued that millions of naira changed hands to induce legislators to vote for some principal officers in the National Assembly and that some displayed their ballot so that the real deal would be concluded. How wicked can our people be! Our legislators are not capable of such snaky behaviour, else the python would have landed in Abuja and not Akure where there is not so much money to fritter away anyway!
Legislators are indeed representatives of the people, the voice of the people crafted into the constitutions to check the excesses of the executive arm of government. Never mind that some legislators move no motion nor contribute to any bill in four years. All fingers are not equal. Is that not why we have First class or Second or Pass degrees in the universities? Some legislators are there for clapping or agreement and support activities.
Most Nigerians really witnessed the theatrics of Nollywood happening right inside the chambers of the parliament in Akure. Very dramatic. Very colourful. It was a classic case of ‘juju’, a remotely controlled vendetta object or warning visitor sent to pass a message to some fellows who had stepped on the toes on a powerful fellow by way of dispossession of a seat or a position or whatever. Hahahahahaha! You know, this is very real in our environment. It resonates with the African imagination, still so steeped in ritual and fetish nonsense. I do suspect that if that reptile were to show up in the chambers in some parts of the country, it would end up inside the soup-pot of workers around as juicy meat. In Akure, because of the fetish connotations, the reptile is likely to be burnt after powerful prayers and incantations by equally powerful pastors or imam or Babalawo! No one would like to eat the meat of a messenger of fear and death. What if the meat contained deadly spiritual poison?
Picture this scenario in a government facility or the legislative chambers of a state in America or London! Snake experts would be invited to arrest the poor thing and shepherd it into the bush or zoo. This would be followed by fumigation and the matter would be debated and the legislators would ask why and how it happened and steps would be taken to avert it in future.
In the aftermath of the snake in parliament experience in the sleepy town of Akure I cannot say what exactly the legislators would be doing or saying now. Some could now use the opportunity to impress it on the governor to release funds to renovate the building. Some fellows in the executive branch could now say that the snake was sent to dramatize the point so that the government will release the funds. Yet others may be asking why the snake landed near the mace, the symbol of authority. The ritual imagination is very powerful and potent all over Africa. It is very present in the fervour of the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria where every occurrence is given the perspective of ‘spiritual attack’. I remember once when a swallow bird flew into my bedroom in from a hole in the ceiling one night about 11pm in my days in Asaba and how somebody saw an ominous sign, killed and burnt the poor thing to ashes with enough petrol to set up a fuel dump. As for me I saw it as a natural occurrence because the birds nested in the roof and must have strayed into the sweet confines of my room. Well, I took no chances with stray birds or birds from coven. I sealed up the failed part and took all security measures.
A snake in parliament! Portents are a strong metaphor in all societies. The 13th floor of any high rise building in the West is associated with some myth. If we agree with this universal interpretation the legislative houses across the country must wake up to their duties and make laws to end the level of uncertainty, suffering and hunger in the land! More snakes are coming!