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ONE AT A TIME, PLEASE!

As I waited for the door in front of me to open and allow me entry into the banking hall, it refused; rather, the door…

As I waited for the door in front of me to open and allow me entry into the banking hall, it refused; rather, the door behind me flung open and a voice, sounding impatient, growled: ONE AT A TIME PLEASE! I turned back and, to my shock and awe, there was a long queue of people waiting to enter the bank after me. What the e-door was saying, I was NOT alone in the cubicle. And wallahi it was a lie. A whole lie. And nothing but a blatant lie.

I avoided the look of the people behind me, but the guard gave me a reassuring look and asked me to not mind and closed the door after me again. The door growled again: ONE AT A TIME PLEASE! I didn’t turn even when the door to my back reopened. I could hear sniggers and chuckles behind me. How embarrassing, how terrible, how unnerving, how illegal to discriminate against people who are challenged one way or the other.

When did ‘bigness’ become a crime? Yes, I am six feet one inch tall. Yes, I am one kilogramme short of two Thailand Rices. Yes, my BMI (Body Mass Index, that esoteric calculative science which juggles height and weight and tells one whether they are of the right weight) says my ideal weight should be 88 kilogrammes. But am I the only one in Nigeria, or in Africa, or the world? Haba!

Is it my fault that a Fulani man like me would be so big, so ‘tubarkallah’, a departure from the sharp and precise form we used to keep when we were nomads? Did anyone consult me, for example, when my ancestors decided to give up the hardy, straight and narrow nomadic life we led for the ‘biggening’, sedentary life I was born into in the middle of Kano City? So how can that door scream at a single me: ONE AT A TIME PLEASE!

And I take particular exception to my Doctor’s prescription on how to shed off those extra kilos: he had suggested, “TAKE UP GOLF!” After trying to make me shed weight through failed experiments such as protein diets, carbs-abstinence, morning jogs, evening walks and the like, he decided to make me into a GOLFER!

My Doctor happens to be a very close friend. We have a mutual thing going on: he takes care of my physical, while I take care of his spiritual, wellbeing. Though neither of us is succeeding adequately, we do manage to muddle along.

Many doctors smoke (mine does, via an ancient pipe and more ancient tobacco) but they tell you to stop smoking. Doctors may be overweight (mine not an exception) yet they tell you to lose weight. Doctors may play Golf (mine does) and so they would want their patients to be Golfers like them. And bill you for the good advice.

So ‘take up Golf’, my Doctor-friend says. By the time I do the eighteen or so holes at Kano Club’s Golf Course, he says, I would have worked up all the muscles and sinews of my body, and would have exercised every bit of me. And that, before I knew it, I would be fit as a fiddle, and the kilos would just melt away. Theory.

I have nothing against Golf, or Golfers. I have close friends who golf (to use a verb). But all my life I have considered myself an academic (despite digressions such as a Deputy to a Deputy somewhere; a radio broadcaster elsewhere; a government bureaucrat, etc), and continue to hold firm to the age-old university belief that wanton displays of surplus must be lambasted. And, to many of us academics to this day, there is no more apparent display of surplus than Golf. So how can anybody convince me that golfing is a keep-fit sport? Sport yes, but a sport of surplus.

I have nothing against Golfers, I say. But when coups d’etat used to take place, it is said they were hatched at one military exercise or the other. And when anything untoward happens to our nation’s economy or social fabric nowadays, many believe it must have been hatched at one Golf club (the venue, not the stick) or the other.

Golfers give no one the impression they are ‘exercising’ and shedding 11 extra kilos. They walk leisurely (while exercise is about walking briskly, or breaking out in a run). Golfers take their time hitting the ball, teeing off, they call it. Then they come back, sit down, and take a drink or two. Then they go back to it. How then can my Doctor ask me to take up Golf? How could I ever lose 11 kilos that leisurely way?

The only real exerciser in golfing is the caddy, the poor fellow who gets to carry the heavy bag of golf sticks around, and at other times runs to retrieve mis-shot balls. I am for the caddy; I feel for him even though, as Malcolm X’s house-negro, he may feel for the master more than the master feels for himself.

No, it is not sour grapes against the Golfing-class. I have never been on the left side of ideas to begrudge anyone their good fortune (I am also waiting, and hoping, for mine). But in the early 1980s when then Kano Governor Rimi wanted to ‘nationalise’ the Kano Golf Club (sitting as it is on prime land) the Kano elite rose against him. The Kano masses rose for him. The courts intervened, and the elite won, and kept their club.

But Rimi made one point: the clientele at the Club was seen to constitute members of then Africa’s largest political party which ruled from the capital, and not one belonged to the small party that then ruled the state.

And neither do I have anything against Polo, or Polo players. In fact, I have watched quite a few Polo tournaments. My one-time boss (when I was a Deputy to a Deputy) had taken me to Polo tournaments in Katsina and Kaduna and Kano and Lagos. So I have nothing against Polo.

But I feel for the horses. True, the wicked Polo horse does cause the death of many a prominent player (a young Kano tycoon; a serving northern Governor; an expatriate; a general). Several years back, it also broke the leg of a good friend of mine. Wicked horse. But I hear they usually killed those killer horses, though the poor animals knew not for what sin they were shot. Yes, I feel for the horses as I feel for the caddy.

So, my Doctor, think of another weight-reduction ruse; I have seen through this one of Golf. Know that I am for the caddy, though not against Golf. I am for the horse, though not against Polo. Or, to quote from Mahmud Darwish, the famous Palestinian poet who died recently, “I am for the small fishes, and against the fisherman’s net.”

And Finbank e-door beware: I may sue you if you ever look me in the head and say ONE AT A TIME! Or else I will hit you with my Golf club!

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