By Jaime Yaya Barry
It was in a bright hotel room in the Disunited Kingdom. Thampèreh’s Painter was awakened by the screams of the Nomoli pacing around his room. The object had the numbers “9” and “6” written on its forehead. It flew over his head and took a last scream on his face before disappearing.
The Painter was scheduled to attend a special fund-raising dinner organized by the Palm Tree’s Women’s Wing in the faraway Kingdom. It was part of plans to raise funds for the Painter’s re-election campaign.
Back home in Thampèreh, food and commodities prices have gone over the roof. Villagers can barely afford food to eat. Many have abandoned their construction projects due to the unaffordable cost of cement, iron rods, and other construction materials. The mighty dollar of the Not-so-United States of Amerikkka continues to render the Thampi gold coins useless.
Exhausted from his numerous travels across kingdoms and villages, the Painter summoned his beloved wife, Yidador-Ka, and told her about the Nomoli’s “9-6” message.
“I think some people want to take my PhD from me,” he told her.
“No man born of a woman will take it from you,” she replied.
On the tenth day of the eighth moon in his fourth circle since becoming Thampèreh’s Painter, riots broke in several parts of the village. There were calls from the crowd for the Painter to “go.” The riot led to confrontations between civilians and the N. A. Gbadass, Thampèreh’s version of the police, resulting in the death of six N.A. Gbadas and dozens of civilians. It was the bloodiest riot in the village’s recent history.
Hours into the riot, the Painter thought of the Nomoli’s “9-6” message. Could it be Nineteen Ninety-Six, the same period he obtained his PhD in coup d’Etat, according to Yidador-Ka?
As images of Thampèreh’s warriors marching with rioters emerged, the Painter felt the message was clear. That the Nomoli’s “9-6” was a sign from the gods and some people were, indeed, ready to oust him and take his PhD from him.
Since the beginning of the PhD crusade, many villagers felt the need to defend their PhDs at all costs. And in an effort to protect the Painter’s PhD, the end of the riot became the beginning of tales of extra-judicial killings, public executions, unlawful arrests and detentions, rape, and the sudden disappearance of hundreds of villagers.
The message from the Painter and his cohorts was that what happened in the village was a failed insurrection, and they will, by all means necessary, hunt those responsible and hold them accountable for the bloodshed. This led to panic and fear across the village. Even the 8th moon’s usual heavy rains and flooding couldn’t wash away the fear left behind from the Tenth Day.
The Nomoli’s “9-6” remains the biggest misery from the Tenth Day incursion. The gods are known for sending unclear messages, leaving villagers to interpret the numbers differently, each from where they stood. While some villagers on one side saw a “6-9” representing a bloody protest due to the high cost of living and unbearable hardship, others on the other side of the numbers saw a “9-6” representing similar events from Nineteen Ninety-Six when the Painter first took power in a coup. In the middle of the number is the Special Committee that was set up to investigate the real cause of the riot.
As the committee is busy looking into this issue, one division in the security sector issued another “generic operational orders for policing and monitoring (on a) planned nationwide riot” for the 10th moon. Acting upon intelligence received, the sector instituted an “Operation Vigilance” to quench any planned “massive attacks nationwide.”
Ever since he democratically took over power, the village’s Painter has accused many of trying to overthrow him. It is unclear if he’s hunted by ghosts from his past coups or based on thoroughly vetted intelligence. The events that followed the various coup accusations resulted in the loss of many lives and the destruction of properties.
For a man who handed over power from military to civilian rule, and believed to have paved the way for the start of Thampèreh’s would-be democracy, his heavy-handedness in responding to many issues has left stains on several of the village’s efforts in building and strengthening its democratic principles and institutions.
And with the recent memo from the security sector, it seems there are more stains ahead even as the village is moving towards its elections for either a continuation of the current Painter or elect a new one.