As a school boy, my mates and I relished the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. It was one of the stories in Grimm’s Fairy Tales whose reading served to introduce us to character moulding experiences depicted in the tales that always ended with didactic imagery.
This particular story was translated into the Hausa language as ‘Labarin Sarkin Busa’ in Abubakar Imam’s wonderful travelogue ‘Magana Jari Ce’. Let me tell it.
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Long, long time ago, the people in a town called Hamelin were faced by a very big challenge. From nowhere they knew, rats had invaded their once beautiful town Hamelin. No gimmick they tried would rid Hamelin of the tormenting rats found in all shapes and sizes in every house.
One day, the King of Hamelin raised a meeting in the town hall and there, offered rewards in gold to anyone who could save their city and it’s people from the rats.
And it came to pass that one day, a Pied Piper on hearing this arrived Hamelin and sent word to the King that he could take all the rats out of the town.
I recall how the story book had a coloured depiction of the Pied Piper which Magana Jari Ce copied, only that his pipe was the “algaita” commonly found in Northern Nigeria.
A colourful feather sticking from one side of his hat, he held his pipe with an enchanting smile on his face. The agreement was reached for him to take the rats out of Hamelin.
He was assured of his reward of gold and once ready on an appointed day, the stranger played beautiful sonorous music with his pipe.
Surprisingly out of every corner of every street in Hamelin, all the rats in the town on hearing the music, danced out of homes and followed him in their hundreds, in their thousands, in their millions.
Through the streets of Hamelin people watched as he played his pipe, with more and more rats following him.
The Pied Piper played his music into a river, and all the rats of Hamelin followed and there, drowned. At last, not one single rat remained in the city of Hamelin.
With the job done, the Pied Piper approached the King to collect his reward in gold as promised. But the King changed his mind now that their challenge had been addressed.
After waiting many days in vain, the Pied Piper became very upset and made up his mind that he would teach this greedy King and his people a lesson.
After a last warning without being given his reward, the Pied Pipe took his pipe again playing a different tune, and this time, out of every home in Hamelin came every child that heard the music.
This time, all the children in the town who heard the music ran after the Pied Piper as he played his enchanting music. Boys, girls, every child danced after the Pied Piper as he led them all to a large cave on the distant outskirts of Hamelin.
There, he sealed the cave door with a huge boulder. Only a little boy who broke his leg and sat by the roadside and a little deaf girl remained in Hamelin to tell the people of the town what had happened.
The people missed their children. In fear and shame, all citizens of Hamelin gathered gold in twenty sacks and caused the King to call the Pied Piper and apologising profusely paid him all that was due to him, even doubling the sacks to fourty.
And the children were let out from the cave to return to the once again, happy city. Lesson learnt.
Every promise made is a word of honour never to ever be reneged upon once terms are met. The Pied Piper left with his gold, and every family inthe city lived happily ever after.
Why have I woken up today with the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin for my column? I had taken time to reflect on the Nigerian situation and how the story of the Piper is actualised only in reverse form.
Politicians go to the electorate to seek for votes. They promise everything good under the sun until the vote is secured and they are safe in their political posts.
Then ordinary citizens soon discover that they have all chased promises that were empty even from the start. Year in year out through all of our experience of democratic governance, the common folk are committed into caves of poverty, hunger, and disease.
The national treasury is looted for high sounding schemes which are never delivered.
Our pied pipers are not taking it out on us for any reward for services rendered that our Kings failed to fulfill. Our pied pipers seem to come into this world just to wickedly exploit.
Do I generalise? It is one bad apple that has spoilt all the rest. And our youth are worse off for it in these climes.
For a cheap android phone and money for data, our politicians pursue their ambitions funding youth to engage in destructive social media activities without showing them the right path to their own advancement and self actualisation.
For a small amount of money, the youth waste valuable days writing libellous and seditious trash on innocent victims. And in the end they are dumped after the politician has served his elected term and purpose, and has amassed his wealth for no tangible contribution to the national dream.
These politicians sponsor clandestine youth movements, ostensibly for good but in reality only lead the youth to ruin.
This is the type that gave Gombe State the Kalare, and for Borno State, the Ecomog which though countered by Boko Haram at the start merged and now both torment Borno State, giving the country its template for banditry, kidnapping, and full blown insurgency.
I think the National Assembly should devote time to read stories like that of the pied Piper in Grimm’s Fairy Tales for a reorientation towards commitment to the national good.
I thus reflected as I watched the unfolding saga of the legislative probe of emergency contracts of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Nothing could have been more disgraceful as to have the members of the National Assembly cajole ministries and departments that they have oversight functions over for contracts which even after collecting huge mobilizations end up not carrying out the jobs. Sad story of Nigeria.