He was well-dressed, the ape. Black tie, white shirt, blue-black suit and a crowning hat. He took his seat at the witness box. ‘Introduce yourself,’ the senate president said.
The ape cleared his throat. ‘My name is Jons Soto, Grand Ape of the Federal Republic. I am a first class graduate of the Zoo College for Apes and Other Near-men. I was born not in the jungle, but among men, or behind men, so to say, in the zoo.’ This, in clipped British accent.
The senate president nodded twice or thrice. ‘Personally, I will like the nominee to bow and walk away without questions. We have all read his impeccable CV. But I think we should allow him few minutes to make his presentation, if only for the benefit of some Nigerians who still doubt the ability of the first monkey ever to be nominated minister. You may proceed.’
‘Thank you Mr President. I beg to differ, I am not a monkey. I am an ape. Although the monkey and apes all fall under the same family of primates, and have single ancestry, millions of years back. But evolution has since transmutated things. So we now have two groups of primates–the prosimians and anthropoids. The prosimian group is inferior and much more primitive, the lemurs and tarsiers are chief examples. The anthropoids are cut into two sub-groups: monkeys and hominids. The monkey sub-group goes further to being divided into old world monkeys found in Africa and Asia, and new world monkeys found in the Americas; these include over 200 monkey types, plus the baboons, macaques and capuchins. The hominid, on the other hand, also known as Greater Apes, includes gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and man. I am an ape, you senators are apes, together we’re Greater Apes.’
The senators clapped.
‘You are not monkeys. I am no monkey. We can’t be monkeys.’
Applause, dosed with laughter, broken with a few hungover ‘hear hear’.
‘I am closer to man than monkeys are to me. In fact, man is closer to monkeys than apes.’
A more deafening applause shook the hallowed chamber.
‘We apes (by “we” I mean senators, man and I, thank you) and monkeys have little morphological features. Monkeys have tails, we don’t. We walk on two feet, monkeys walk on four, and use the tail as a fifth limb. Monkeys are designed for life in the trees, we apes are made for the home. We are of far more immense body size than monkeys. Only the gibbons, among apes, are of similar size, bodily, with monkeys. Thankfully, gibbons are “lesser apes”. Monkeys rely on smell for survival, we men rely primarily on vision. Apes have broad chest and a precocious avocation, nay, arrogation, dolce so to say, of the cranium cavity.’
The ape paused, allowed the rim of his glasses fall one or two inches to his nose bridge, and gave the honourable senators a learned glance, and took in the clapping and cheering like a well-earned wage. It was like a lecture room, and he knew who the lecturer was.
The ape continued, ‘Having distinguished us from the unpropitious monkeys, I proceed to highlight what make we apes apes, what make we apes superior. We apes are able to use tools and you are all witnesses to the great technological vicissitudes of our age. We apes have the ability of speech. I am not able to speak because I am taught, some of you will patronisingly say trained, to speak. My people, like Africa and the third world, have been ill-colonised. Just as whites colonised blacks so did man, before literate civilisation, colonised and drove common apes (by “common apes” I refer to gorillas and chimpanzees) into the wild. The shock of this inhuman mutilation of the soul, this genocidal assassination of culture, has remained to date. This has robbed my people the use of the vocal cords. It is, in a manner, a speech strike of eternal consequence. As for common apes being naked, Africa too was naked before Western Civilisation. My people in the jungle are without clothes because they have refused to have any dealings with man and have eschewed the so-called Western Civilisation, of which António Agostinho Neto defined in his seminal poetry as breaking rock, shifting rocks in inequitable weather. We apes have an esteemed touch of pride, in the edge of arrogance even. We haven’t found the passion to stoop that low. In this prodigious state, common apes are superior to man. Today the popular culture of nudity is jiggled sky high. This is man trying to imitate his immediate elder brother, the ape….’
It was at this stage that the internet crashed. Twitter, trust it, saw thousands of tweets on the ape per second. Hashtags like #ApeSense, #WeAreAllApes, #ApeNotMonkey and #GiveUsApe began to trend worldwide. The most engaged tweet was one by an ape-blogger with the simple message ‘Ape for president, 2019.’ Something wonderful was happening, and the whole world was interested. Nigeria was proud of her ape. God bless the president for this thoughtful nomination. Unaffected by the hullabaloo in the social media, the ape rattled on. At least, two senators wiped tears from blepharitis eyes.
The majority leader moved a motion that the ape be allowed to bow and walk away, a confirmed minister. The senate president addressed himself to the minority leader. ‘Will you please second the motion?’
The minority leader rose to his feet, gathering his robe in his hands tightly, as if holding to the spotlight he cherished. ‘I will graciously second the motion, but not before I ask a question that bothers so many Nigerians which might have been lost in the excitement of the moment. Mr Nominee, you have always been spotted carrying a bunch of banana in your briefcase, sometimes in your pockets, and you have been seen eating them in respectable places, including the airport. You once hid banana in your hat. Now, Mr Nominee, do you have any explanation for these seemingly embarrassing acts, and what do you suggest against future occurrence?’
The ape smiled like a professor who had just been asked an elementary question in an MA class.
‘Banana,’ he began, ‘is botanically a berry. The name is derived from the West African Wolof language. Although certain sources have suggested it’s from the Arabic word for “finger”. Banana is an edible parthenocarpic fruit that originated from Southeast Asia in the wilds of Indonesia or/and Malaysia. Some of the most commonly consumed species include musa acuminata, musa balbisiana and musa paradisiaca…’
So began the lecture that lasted close to three-quarters of an hour. Mr Soto discussed the early cultivation of banana, the economic importance of banana, the difference between banana and plantains, the farming of banana in Nigeria, banana pests and diseases; etc. He didn’t remember to say any word about the question about his banana embarrassments. He didn’t remember. No one did: the viewers were hypnotised, the senators, those who were awake, were nodding to every word, mouth agape. The fire in social media was inferno high.
‘You may bow and walk,’ the senate president finally got the chance to say this with suppressed sleepiness.
The ape bowed but didn’t walk away immediately. First, he reached for his head, lifted his hat and brought out a giant rich soft red-yellow banana; he took his time to peel the rind off, waved the near shiny white edible part to the camera, allowed a clumsy movement of his lips in an arrogant grin then took a liberal bite.
Tweets to @Oke4chukwu
Update: Read The Testimonies of a Civilised Goat