A CHASTENED SILENCE by LULU

My names are Trajan Amandladela. Yes, that same Trajan Amandladela. Depending on what era you are from, I am many things, many good things but then again many bad things and yet again many things in between. I was there at the beginning and despite the fact that I have become too, a myth, nay, a source of myths, conjured to explain the beginnings, I know the truth. What is the truth? Lesser minds believe in good and evil, and once I was such, but with no sense of arrogance, I say there is a place that transcends good and evil. I have been there, and this is my story.

 

Many a times in the history of this blessed planet called Earth or Terra as is fashionable now, the history of nations oft begin as the biographies of a single individual. A few examples come to mind. Mustafa KemalAtatürk and Mao Tse-tung are but two of a million examples. The African Complex begins as the story of one man, but it is not as uncomplicated as it sounds. I am not an academic, my father, bless his hoary head was one, but I digress, I am most qualified to write of the man who was born as Asan Tshabilini Maghan. I read somewhere that writers are a people who have something to say and if that is correct I have much to say.

 

Several individuals are identified with one achievement in life no matter how dubious, Albert Einstein, perhaps the most well-known scientist of the 20th century is personalized in the theories of relativity. Richard Gatling is best known for inventing the first machine gun, the Gatling gun. Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky , Ian Fleming with James Bond, you get the idea, but Maghan defies classification. What best can we describe him with? How best can I wrap up his life into a neat labeled pigeon hole? No orthodox label summarizes this giant. Was he the man who first united Black Africa or the first person to use anti matter weapons of mass destruction? Or was he the person that birthed the first interplanetary journey? I am sure you share by now my dilemma.

 

I have asked myself the question a million probably a billion times, why am I writing this? And the answers do not come easily, the easiest or perhaps I should say the least resistant to analysis, is the fact that a record is necessary for posterity. Decades from now on some far flung Fringe world a precocious child would ask his parent some deep history query or some nerdy doctoral student will seek insight into the events that have forever shaped the course of human history. I hope this volume addresses that need. Then again in my old age now, perhaps and I emphasize the word perhaps, I need to confirm and consolidate my legacy, to carve my immodest achievements in indelible ink, hardly academic but personally fulfilling. Then thirdly I want to separate the man from the myth, was he a god, a superhuman endowed with paranormal abilities like the cult that sprung up in his name claimed or was he an ordinary mortal finite and limited like the rest of us?

 

My name again is Trajan Amandladela. Yes that same Trajan who fought and nearly died alongside Maghan. I claim this as my story for I was there from nearly the beginning to the very end. I have deep scars physical and spiritual that till today trouble me. I could tell you about my failed marriage I could tell you about my legs that have been amputated both above the knee but that is a different story.

 

****

I first met Asan Tshabilini Maghan in the year 2022, in the lobby of the stately Abuja Four Seasons Hotel. It was even then seething with the weight of history, a magnificent marble painted edifice with stately Corinthian columns the girth of three elephants, shrouded in riotous greenery. Some of you might recognize its famous profile as one of the UN Terran Culture sights. Our world was going through the pangs of rebirth, like a butterfly from a cocoon and the changes that would eventually shape our future were even then discernable to the wise in the horizon. The Aeinstein Institute that eventually produced the first faster than light ship was a whispered secret, tucked in the back of a campus in Baltimore. The planets atmosphere had begun to be unbreathable in places.China and the US, the remaining superpowers were facing each other down, the European Union had established a livable community on the moon and due to the discovery of alternate energy sources, OPEC was no longer a feared acronym in the capital cities of the industrialized First World. The billions of dollars that would have come to Nigeria as income automatically dried up and precipitated the biggest revolution in African history. The Congo Campaign for want of a better word had just ended and veterans of the bitter wars under the aegis of the fading United Nations were going back to their home countries. The Congo Campaign. With it come terrible memories, like the death knell of all that is Black and African. In the words of Chinua Achebe it was as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming- our own death. I digress.

 

Asan Tshabilini Maghan was then staying at the Four Seasons courtesy of some government agency or the other, for some form of debriefing or the other, my memory of this detail fails me. The date does not. October the nineteenth 2022, when I first met him drinking beer at the lobby as if it were utterly normal after four years in the Congo jungle. He was ebony dark six foot five nearly a hundred kilograms in his socks, had an unfathomable unremarkable face with typical Negroid features, a broad broken nose, wide lips, crinkly hair in a crew cut. I walked up to him studying him as I did all persons I am about to acquaint myself with. He was in full dress exoskeleton armor that had been polished so that it glinted wickedly in the soft florescent light and the numerous campaign badges and insignia that hung from his person were impressive enough to draw even the stares of unlearned civilians like me. He was toying with the flies that jostled for the attention of his beer and killing them with chilling efficiency. I extended my hand.

 

“Major Maghan? Trajan Amandladela.”

 

He looked at my hand then up at my face with cold piercing haunting eyes. Unexpectedly his face broke into a grin and he grabbed my hand in a vice like grip.

 

“The South African? Sit down, you look alright.”

 

I sat. Nervously. Yes I am or rather I used to be from that corner of the continent that has had the indignity over the centuries of bearing several nicknames the last of which was South Africa. I was born in Umlazi, a black township in the Durban area, which till today still labored me with a fear of closed places but educated in Kenya and in England. There back in 2020, I met and married a Nigerian born girl called Tani who turned out to be his twin sister.

 

“How are Tee and the boy?”

 

“Tee and Okigbo are alright.” I ordered a Guinness from the waiter and sat back. Tani and I had just started a family and were planning to settle down in Lagos. I recall several of her friends calling her crazy for abandoning the comfort of England for the relative insecurity of her motherland. I cannot elaborate on her replies without being termed racist. Anyhow, somehow despite our handicaps, we spent hours together and when I came away we developed a relationship. I would not dignify it with the crown of friendship. Over the next several months he became a regular fixture in our small flat in Maitama, an Abuja suburb and I came to know him relatively well. Maghan was an enigma, a strange human being who ran the whole gamut of personalities. He could be unbelievably brave one moment and the next irrationally cowardly, yes that is not a word that the personality cult that developed about him would want to use, but he was that, he was a natural born leader of men, but yet ran away from private responsibilities. It is impossible to even begin to try to analyze his character but in my telling I invite everyone to be the judge.

 

For a soldier he was surprisingly well read: Prost, Hemingway, Kafka, Soyinka and a few of others, and not just cocktail snippets but deep thoughtful insights. Then again this was not surprising, their father had been a middle level diplomat who had practically lived in every country in the world and that exposure had left marks on his children. What was surprising however was that as sophisticated as his psyche was in his teens, he still chose to enter the Army, an institution that had been scandalized and had degenerated into basically an organization for fortune hunters. I asked him once what it meant to him and the man had leaned back into his car and puffed at his Havana (in the early days of what we came to know as ‘the Revolution’, he had acquired a taste for Cuban cigars and the full beards of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro). He answered carefully as if he had thought long about my question and had come with no satisfactory answer.

 

“In the days of Idiagbon and Buhari, there was what was known as WAI, War Against Indiscipline, soldiers enforced civilian laws sometimes brutally, but it worked, the civilian populace for the first time in history, respected queues, shunned corruption and nepotism and generally tried to upright men and women. You have read up our history, we were better off then until the next government scrapped the program and ushered in the most corrupted enabling atmosphere in our history. From there it has been downhill all the way. Obasanjo tried but the cabals got in his way. The Nigeria psyche is eminently teachable but the teachings have to be accompanied by force. This is necessary. Freedom must be accompanied by the respect of law”.

 

He sat up and pointed at the digital map that hung on his wall with a remote control. Within seconds we had zeroed in on the country that used to be known as the United States.

 

“Back in the late twentieth century, several US cities had this police concept of ‘zero tolerance’ where law enforcement officers used maximum force to contain even the most minor of criminal acts. Do you know it worked? But the strangest thing was that they actually stole that concept from us. From WAI, I entered the army hoping that we were disciplined enough to restore civil order. That is what I strive to achieve, the correct balance between chaos and order.” I never did find out if that was original or the product of distillates from many fields. But after Che Guevara, his hero was known as Tunde Idiagbon. That said much. But he could have been anything he choose, lawyer, doctor, engineer, writer, name it.

 

It is sad to say but the years he spent in the jungle had more effect on his later outlook in life. I tried to delve behind the veil he covered his memories with but it is sad to say that I never really did. His eyes would become glassy and distant like one of those fake prophets high on controlled substances. But the best one can say was that he must have seen the worst humanity could offer and did not come out unscathed. His rise in the military had been chequered, boosted when he worked with intelligent superiors that recognized his brilliance and stunted when he worked with mediocres who felt threatened by his mind. I know he volunteered for the Congo Campaign basically as cannon fodder, forced there by an ignorant dullard of a general when he refused to be the man’s personal pimp. That may sound quaint now but that was how it was in those days, there were no rules except the ones the strong and the establishment made. He thrived in the jungle adapting to its warfare. Shakespeare once said t is a tragedy if one misses the path that leads on to fame and fortune. If neglected all of life’s journey after that is filled with sorrow and regret. His life would have been less than a footnote in history if he had not killed and killed well there. There are several things he picked up there, shaping his psyche, a love for the reggae music of Bob Marley, a deep distrust, or hatred of all authority but worst of all that most exotic of tastes, the love of killing. Not just human beings but of virtually everything. I read somewhere once that every true soldier has a death wish, there was a rush in going out in a bang, going out in glory, taking all the bastards with you and let God or whoever was the Proprietor of the Universe sort their corpses out. Tani said he changed fundamentally when he came back from the jungle, in more ways than even he knew at that time. He had the wounds and medals to prove his heroism.

 

He was deployed to some secret black ops counter terrorism unit and became withdrawn, bitter, jailed by a great bitterness. He rarely in the later years spoke of that part of his life but I suspect he had something to do with the mysterious extra judicial killings that were common then. The victims were almost always someone who lived above the law, one of the several rich lawless figures who boasted in their iniquity. I had not met with God then so perhaps like all other persons in the country we hailed whoever was doing away with the maggots, the aberrations in our society. Things were rough then, I remember the naira was pegged at six hundred to a dollar down from one back in the early eighties, crude oil had stopped being a sellable commodity and poverty raged unabated. There were no indices left to measure the quality of our life. The word democracy was a bitter disappointment and it was not a surprise when for the first time in almost two decades in true military tradition, we woke up to martial music on all of our numerous FM stations, an old fashioned coup and regime change. When the dust settled, Colonel Asan Maghan was Head of State!

 

2

 

People think in this country when your brother in law is the Head of State, you have it made. Contracts and of course money come rushing in, you live in the lap of luxury, official four wheel drive jeeps, sponsored trips abroad, iron clad connections. Pity, they never came up against Maghan’s mindset. There is nothing furthest from the truth. He first off abolished the use of any luxurious cars by the civil servants and launched such austerity measures that the elite long used to being fed and pampered by the state complained. I would rather not speak of the pogroms that sanitized the populace.

 

People think when he became Head of State; he had a grand plan of annexing the whole West Coast. There is nothing that is furthest from the truth. As silly as it now sounds what precipitated it was when Cameroon beat Nigeria at the finals of the 2029 Africa Nations Cup. I remember the day even though it is now nearly four decades as if it were yesterday. I, Maghan and a few of his friends and ministers were watching the match live via satellite feed on a giant Sony wide screen at the Presidential Villa. Scores at full time was zero all. Four minutes to the end of extra time a Cameroonian player took a controversial dive inside our eighteen box and the Ghanaian referee called for a penalty. Their main striker, the multi-ethnic Cooli who was also known as Beckham converted the penalty and the whole stadium in Yaounde erupted in jubilation. Needless to say Maghan, a great soccer fan was peeved. I recall he broke an elaborate glass side stool and his was among the more restrained of the responses of his countrymen. The whole nation felt cheated out of the Cup and in his subsequent dealings with Cameroon, it showed. Of course, the Bakassi issue had remained unresolved all this while. Gradually since that Cup, a new Maghan emerged, he became aggressive and almost interventionist with the nation’s neighbors. Benin was harassed over the issue of second hand cars smuggled into the country, Niger was harassed for harboring cross country bandits and Cameroon of course was beleaguered over the issue of the now uranium rich Bakkassi peninsular.

 

When on the 20th December 2030 AD, gendarmes occupied a small Nigerian village in the Bakkassi region, the whole world was surprised at his reaction. Where here thereto we would have played the understanding big brother, Maghan sent in the elite 301st Battalion armed to the teeth. Despite French and UN opposition, we overran the country in six short days. On the 26th of December a day normally referred to as Boxing Day, Cameroon was annexed by Nigeria when Jean Paul Biya surrendered at Eagle Square in Abuja. World outcry was unprecedented; nothing remotely like this had happened in the regional conflicts since Bosnia, but Maghan stood his ground and redrew the maps. We became instant pariahs in the international community and now for certain we know how Iraq must have felt when the comity of nations faced it down. If the UN resolutions concerning our invasion had any effect, it was the fact that even conservative polls agreed that upwards of ninety per cent of the populace solidly backed Maghan. He tried in his immitable way, philosopher and king, to explain this.

 

“What we called Nigeria is actually an amalgamation of several hundred tribal communities with no shared experiences, no basis for alliances, and we grew up like that with nothing to hold us at the middle, what we need now is a war or something drastic like that to cement the things that hold us together.”

 

By the time sanctions were lifted in mid 2032, we had set our sights on Benin. Togo, Ghana (I suspect it was because of the Ghanaian referee) was annexed in by early 2034. Senegambia fell after that. Historians have said much about why the United States then in decline as a world policing nation did not interfere in our expansions. I have new theories, while it is true that the problems the US was having with China then an emerging mega power prevented it from focusing too much attention on the Black Continent, I know for certain that Maghan spoke with the US president Chelsea Clinton-Jordan and she privately hoped that the strength of the Africa Complex could bring hope to the millions who had languished under the neo colonial policies of different dictators. How did the conglomerate come to be known as The Africa Complex? I have no juicy anecdote, and I remember no brainstorming sessions with PR firms. I must confess that it must have been thought up by some forgotten journalist and it eased itself into public psyche. How romantic it sounds now, without any allusion to the blood, the sweat, the tears.

 

3

 

The apotheosis of Asan Maghan into Number One was imperceptible. One has to understand the ‘African’ mindset. First there is nothing like a typical African. The continent has over four thousand distinct ethnic groups alone discounting dialects and subgroups so the descriptive term African is a misnomer. Although there are threads of similarities. One such thread is respect even veneration of elders and senior citizens. Several communities address elders with special differential language. Cosmopolitan Africans have maintained this thread and that is honestly how the cult started. I will not lie and disclaim that sycophants launched the first wave but knowing Maghan, they quickly withdrew. The next wave was by a cult of religious fanatics claiming him to be a descendant of Emperor Haile Selasie. This too passed away to be replaced by genuine veneration. He found it amusing even comical and it would have passed like a fad until people started pricking their thumbs to use their blood to vote for him during one of his numerous referendums a la Saddam. I expected him to shy away from that but no he smiled and said he would find a way to use their love to his benefit. He then began to be elevated above all men. He was human and to be human is to be flawed. The end had overtaken us and sadly we knew not.

 

Why was the Africa Complex so significant? It was an African Renaissance made tangible, the very first time in history that black Africa took its fate into its own hands. Next the upheavals it generated precipitated the second most important epoch in human history. Heavy words but the truth. Had the Complex not invaded the European Union in 2043 the use of faster than light hyper drive ships that enabled us to colonize the moons of the Outer Planets would never have been attempted. Anti matter null bombs, potentially several times as destructive as nuclear bombs but without the radiation fallout would never have been created. The billions of lives that it improved are legendary.

 

In many quarters today many who would have been great curse at the mention of my name and brand me traitor. Why did I do what I had to do? Knowledge and wisdom are a burden to the wise and trouble them at every turn for with a great enough store house one can say that history repeats itself and only the wise can create alternate realities where that which has been need not be again. In the words of Isaac Newton if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. And there have been many giants before me, men of timber and caterpillar in the words of K O Mbadiwe. Men who through exercise have learned to recognize evil from afar, men of courage who have defied not only death but damnation, men of purpose who will not let iniquity triumph while it is yet in their power to do something. Giants both named and unnamed. I am not one but I have stood on their shoulders and what I saw was bleak. It is a thread in Africa too that we get caught up in our own omnipotence, we run from the feeling that we are ever missing at the center of relevance and we plod on dry and devoid of ideas unwilling to relinquish the reins to another perhaps a better and take our place at the pantheon of heroes. This is what democracy teaches and it is as much a pillar as any taught in any history lesson, the old must give way to the young that the circle of life must go on. It is a natural law from He that will one day be worshipped by all.

 

Then why did I take a variable cartridge variable caliber hand held cannon and blow out the brains of Asan Maghan? My answer is a chastened silence.

………………

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