ACT 2: SCENE 2
CAPTAIN MOLONEY’s office. MOLONEY, fully uniformed, stands by the wall, issuing out instructions to an armed native soldier. Every now and again, he points at a map hanging on the wall with a swagger stick.
MOLONEY: This is where they are most likely to attack the travelling merchants and their caravans. You and your men must not allow that to happen. Man some of our men at the north-eastern route. Did you get what I am driving at, Sergeant?
SERGEANT: [salutes stiffly] Yes, sir!
MOLONEY: Good. Have a couple of our men stationed by this river towards the south, out of view, of course, to watch every suspicious movement by the natives. If possible, we can plant some moles among them there. [Pauses reflectively] Back to Nasarawa, well, let me see …
[Enter PETER, also in uniform. He comes to stiff attention and salutes]
PETER: Magaji Dan Yamusa say can he go?
MOLONEY: Oh, no. Let him in right away. Goodness gracious me! It nearly skipped my memory.
[PETER turns smartly and strides to the door and exits. He re-enters shortly with YAMUSA. MOLONEY comes away from the wall to meet them]
MOLONEY: You wait behind, Sergeant, for further briefing.
SERGEANT: Yes, sir. [Exit PETER]
MOLONEY: Do please have a seat, Yamusa. [Gestures YAMUSA to a seat while he seats himself. There is a pause] I’m sorry for keeping you waiting for so long. Actually it was an oversight on my part and not a deliberate attempt to slight you in any way.
YAMUSA: That is all right. Why do you want to see me?
MOLONEY: Ehn, well, I just felt it was about time you and I had a talk. A kind of a tête-à-tête between two good friends and not anything so serious. I can see that you’re a highly respected personality among your people here in Keffi and far beyond. That was why I thought it expedient to get you involved in our security arrangement. As you’re well aware, the security situation in this area and its environs is nothing much to write home about.
YAMUSA: What security situation, Kafutin Maloney, that I am not aware of?
MOLONEY: Incessant slave-raiding and highway robberies of travelling merchants along major trade routes. These things have got to stop with immediate effect.
YAMUSA: [calmly, slightly amused] Says who?
MOLONEY: His Imperial Majesty, Edward VII, the King of the British Empire.
YAMUSA: [chuckles mirthlessly] When has it come to the level that your king now makes laws for us here?
MOLONEY: It’ll begin somehow, Yamusa, and that time is now. When we first came here as your friends, we assured you that we’d not interfere with your Mohammedan religion so long as it is not repugnant to our ideals of humanity and justice. We believe strongly that as a people, you have a right to worship in whatever form you choose provided it is within the accepted precepts of respect for human rights and the dignity and sanctity of the human life. Slave-raiding and highway robbery obviously negate this hallowed respect for one another. On behalf of His Royal Majesty, King Edward VII, I hereby proscribe it henceforth.
MOLONEY: What did you just say?
YAMUSA: God is great.
MOLONEY: I see. That is why I’ve called you here. Those crimes are against humanity and they’ve got to stop. [There is an uneasy silence]
YAMUSA: White One, can I ask you a question?
MOLONEY: Why, sure. There is no harm in a little clarification here and there.
YAMUSA: In the place where you came from, across many seas and deserts, is it the custom among your people that when a stranger visits your house and you offer him a seat to sit on, the next moment, he turns round and begins to dictate for you on how you should rule your own house?
MOLONEY: [deeply hurt, but tries to rein in his emotions] I’ll answer your question with another question. Yamusa, have you a brother?
YAMUSA: What kind of a question is that?
MOLONEY: Have you? Yes or no?
MOLONEY: Good. Let’s say that this brother of yours intends to commit suicide. If it is within your power to stop him, will you not avert it?
YAMUSA: Yes, I will. Why not?
MOLONEY: There you are. You’ve answered your question yourself, Yamusa. When this stranger you were talking about finds himself among a most turbulent and backward people who indulge in self-hatred for themselves and others, whose pitiable lives are one long night of savagery, debauchery and cannibalism of the highest order, will he not do everything within his power to save them from themselves, to stop them … to … to wreak civilization among these savages … these barbaric, ill-tempered and intransigent people with the intelligence of the lowest primate?
YAMUSA: [slowly but pointedly] Even if it means, Kafutin Maloney, killing them like wild beasts the way you and your men did to the Emir of Abuja and his people? [Venomously] If that is your civilization, then I spit on such kind of civilization that does not hold other human lives dear.
MOLONEY: [stung, raises his hand to strike YAMUSA; rather chokingly] The cheek of it! How … how dare you … [with superhuman effort, he quickly restrains himself at the last minute, fuming]
YAMUSA: [unruffled, with a sly, condescending sneer] And I thought only a while ago ill-temper was only associated with the black race, the savages.
MOLONEY: [in a convulsive anger, unrestrainedly] Get out! Out, you bloody and impertinent black monkey!
YAMUSA: [in a slow but menacing manner] This is my land, ghostly one. I am the one to tell you to get out because you are a stranger in our land.
[The SERGEANT, piqued beyond words by this heated exchange, goes threateningly with the raised butt of his rifle to hit YAMUSA who glowers at him with much loathing]
SERGEANT: [stammering] You … you … cannot talk to Massa like …
MOLONEY: [sharply] Hold it, Sergeant! [The SERGEANT’s hands freeze in mid-air] I didn’t tell you I needed your protection.
SERGEANT: Sorry, sir. [Withdraws reluctantly to his position]
MOLONEY: [to YAMUSA] I’m sorry about that, Yamusa.
YAMUSA: Your dogs are known to have done worse than that. Is that not the civilization you have brought to us? Before you came to live among us, uninvited like a leper, a low-born slave like that would not have dared to look at me in the face. Today he threatens me with a gun! Allah be praised. [There is a pause]
MOLONEY: [dismissively] You may go.
[YAMUSA gets to his feet and turns to go. Almost as a reflex action, MOLONEY suddenly springs to his feet, enraged]
MOLONEY: Just a minute, Yamusa.
[YAMUSA stops in his tracks]
MOLONEY: I’ve heard your name mentioned several times in connection with all the slave-raiding and highway robberies around this area and beyond. [Wags his finger threateningly at YAMUSA] Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Good day.
[Exit YAMUSA with his shoulders held high, head erect and unbowed. Agitatedly, MOLONEY paces the room]
MOLONEY: Damn it! Goddamn it!
[Presently, WEBSTER rushes in to meet an irate MOLONEY, pacing]
WEBSTER: I hope all is well, sir?
MOLONEY: [shortly] Yes.
WEBSTER: I ran into Magaji Dan Yamusa at the gates while coming here. The manner of his departing is not too pleasing, I must confess.
MOLONEY: We had a little argument and that is all. You came in the nick of time, Mr. Webster. The hour that we are in really calls for extreme urgency. Why are we standing? Please do have a seat. [He goes and sits down in his seat while WEBSTER seats himself opposite him]
MOLONEY: [after a pause] You’re right about Yamusa. I’ve never seen such bitter defiance from a native. Not in all my years of service in Native Administration in India and the Gold Coast.
WEBSTER: He’s a most dangerous man, sir. A hard-line Mohammedan bigot.
MOLONEY: You can say that again. A bloody pain in the arse. And that’s why we have to keep our eyes peeled for any unusual moves by him. Monitor all his movements with great circumspection. We need to have our ears to the ground, Mr. Webster. Plant our spies among his bodyguards, among the palace boys and, if possible, among his harem of wives. A twenty-four-hour surveillance on all his activities. We’re ready for him this time around. And God help him, let him dare make one slight mistake and he is in for the nastiest shock of his life!
[Lights fade out to darkness]
[End of Excerpt]