Buhari’s silk

Buhari came to me in the night. Yes, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the man who has been both the head of the state of Nigeria and the failed head of state. He came to me in the night with his hands full. He stood beside me and opened his palms, releasing hundreds of weaver birds into my bedroom. From beneath his golden boubou, he pulled out a roll of scroll which he unfurled in his heavy fingers until it was stretched flat to the length of his upper body. Read this, he said. And I read. Silk scarves for sale woven by the weaver birds that were now weaving nests in my ceiling and my bookshelves. There were a wide range of prices, from fifty-nine ninety-nine to one-hundred-and-sixty-nine ninety-nine, depending on the size and the design. The most expensive were those that portrayed Buhari’s beautiful face. I couldn’t remember, though, whether weaver birds can spin silk and weave silk. I lay asleep unable to resolve this puzzle. And then Buhari vanished. I spent the night trying to call Adewale, to ask him whether weaver birds weave silk or whether Buhari was lying. But I couldn’t get through.

Perhaps Michael Peel is to blame. His book, A Swamp Full of Dollars, has been on my mind. Good old Michael: he has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. And you can read a chapter here. I highly recommend it: Michael challenges our complacency and challenges the judgements we, up here in the north, make of governments and peoples in the south. Well done Peely. But perhaps Adewale is the one to blame. I’ve just started reading his Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays (which you can buy signed copies of by emailing adewale@thenewgong.com for just a tenner!), which should be read by anyone who has a serious interest in Saro-Wiwa.

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