The stomach, ministers and parliamentarians

The stomach, ministers and parliamentarians

Sikaman Palava

My bosom friend Kofi Kokota­ko had the ‘impudence’ of a dead cock- roach. It was at a food-eating competition where he surprised the devil himself. Yes, Mr James Lucifer was awed because Kofi ate like a demon and won the com­petition hands down.

He started with six hefty balls of kenkey and palmnut soup. Soon after, he followed it with eba and okro soup which he swallowed like a hungry Yoruba carpenter.

The quantity could have satisfied three famishing construction labour­ers.

He relaxed a bit and requested for ten pieces of cooked cocoyam with kontomire stew when all the other competitors had long retired. Like a savage, he crushed the large pieces between his jaws and ev­ery- body applauded. Presently he announced that he was not half-sat­isfied.

He ordered one big loaf of but­ter-bread and four large cups of a popular beverage and finished it all in record time, as spectators gaped at the spectacle. Everybody began wondering whether Kokotako was some kind of food-god.

He now relaxed completely and of course, everyone thought he was done with. Then he surprised all when he took hold of a tuber of yam and started peeling it, saying that it was for dessert. Soon the yam was cooked and it all disappeared down his long throat with garden egg stew.

Not long thereafter, a small boy was eating kokonte and groundnut soup nearby and Kokotako collect­ed it from him amidst laughter: He devoured it gleefully while the boy cried for the loss of his food.

Kofi Kokotako won the competi­tion and was honoured with a trophy and ¢300 in those days when the cedi was powerful. But it was not too long after the presentation ceremony when he confided in me that he was feeling dizzy. I suggested to him that he should order mashed kenkey to clear the dizziness and he retorted that I was a fool.

“Do you want to kill me?” he asked. “This is a killer advice. Mashed kenkey on top of all these?”

It was then that I realised that my good friend was not a food-god, after all. Before I was aware Kokotako had crashed to the floor. Collapsed. There was an uproar! The champion was dying! Someone said his hernia had come, and another said that the food was boozing him like akpetesh­ie.

Anyhow, he was carried to the hospital and the doctor gave him an emetic which made him throw-up. The doctor’s report stated that it was unbelievable a human being of the stature of Master Kokotako could consume such quantity.

He added that the dangerous boy probably vomited more than he ate, a miracle of a rare kind.

When he recuperated, the doctor interviewed him. Asked why he ate so much, he replied that he wanted to win the contest hands down and stomach out.

“Under normal circumstances, how many balls of kenkey can you eat at one sitting?”

“Only about six balls at a sitting.”

“Is it a family disease or is it pe­culiar to you only?”

“Sir, it is not a family disease. It is a gift from God.”

Yeah, Kofi Kokotako was and is a trencherman, with an unusual capacity for food. That is why when he wakes up from bed and has not taken his almighty break- fast he would frown and not respond to any greeting.

When he was in Form Three, his father called him at dawn and advised him. “My son,” he said, “I’ve realised that you’ve got talent in dealing with food. In fact, you are more than a bush-pig. So I’ll advise you to take your Agricultural Science studies very, very seriously. Don’t joke with it at all because it is the key to your future happiness, since you have a problem with your stom­ach.

“I want to be a cook instead,” Kokotako suggested.

“If you don’t produce food, how can you cook it?”

If Kokotako had been a parlia­mentarian in the Fourth Republic, he would have been dozing all through­out the daily sessions after having breakfast weighing several kilos. And I hope that none of our parliamen­tarians is following in the footsteps of my friend as far as matters of the stomach are concerned.

Parliament is a place of serious legislative business and there is no room for dozers. At the moment, parliamentarians are vetting minis­terial nominees who, when approved of, will become ministers plenipoten­tiary of the state.

And I guess they have started do­ing a good job, and not dozing. Now, to vet somebody means that you should be able to know him inside out.

During the revolution, secretaries of state were not vetted because where was the parliament to vet them? They were simply appointed and didn’t even undergo medical exam before they took post.

But this time, it is becoming quite different and I urge, the Committee to employ the use of spirito-elec­tronic X’rays which can bring out past moral activities of the nomi­nees.

We want our ministers to be men of proven integrity and high moral standing. Some of them have one wife but three concubines. As for the girlfriends, no way; they don’t even know the names of some of them. They just come and go.

A minister of such reputation will obviously not be putting up his best because he would be pre- occupied with grabbing money to satisfy his numerous women.

Nominees should also be tested for alcoholism because any minister who imbibes more than the alcoholic equivalent of four bottles of beer a day will not be a responsible person as far as diligence and hardwork are concerned.

Their hands should also be exam­ined to see if they’ve been tainted with stealing state money or misap­plying it. They should also be exam­ined for their food habits. A minister whose capacity is comparable to that of Kofi Kokotako and eats heavy kokonte at six o’clock in the morning is certain to doze all day long and therefore cannot handle ministerial affairs.

What about parliamentarians? They have already been vetted by their people, and what is now at hand borders on their salary. And I think they are aware that their job is sacrificial and not of luxury.

They must, however, be paid well so that they can afford coffee and toasted bread at breakfast to make them smart at the assembly. If not, a majority of them will continue eating heated left-over banku and when the Speaker of Parliament asks one why he has been dozing regularly, he’d reply:

“Mr Speaker, I ate yesterday’s banku early this morning and I guess the corn dough fermented a bit too much. Please, pay us quickly and then we can avoid fermentation and take oats, milk and jam before com­ing to the assembly.”

Yes the salary of parliamentari­ans. Anything between ¢180,000 and ¢250,000 will do for them. If they are fighting for more than that, then it means that they have no feeling for the country.

They must know that because of the rise in the salaries of civil ser­vants, the country is broke. Also, some workers are earning ¢20,000 a month and so ¢250,000 for a parlia­mentarian who is doing sacrificial work should suffice.

I wish the parliamentarians a hap­py term and urge them to deliberate on issues very objectively and me to good conclusions to avoid the legis­lature being labelled as a one-party parliament.

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