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Long ago, in the land called Dark, ants lived in anthills. There were various colonies of ants, each living in their own anthill. There were dark and light ants, green and yellow ants, big and small ants, desert and waterside ants. To the ants, the whole world comprised of their anthill and those around. They lived together, fought one another, exchanged gifts and eventually died within the scope of their world. Most were ruled by TYR-ants.
One day, they saw some strange creatures in their midst. These new creatures could do many things they couldn’t do. They could fly, spoke a different tongue, had different food and armor like nothing they had never seen. The ants called them Greenies. They learnt afterwards that their real name was Hoppers. The Hoppers stayed for a while and left, only to return shortly with a small army. They waged war on the ants, and though the ants fought valiantly, they were too divided to win. Anthill by anthill, the Hoppers conquered the ants, until they controlled the whole of Dark. They imposed a cruel rule on the ants, forcing them to cultivate their own kind of food. The ants worked hard all day but the Hoppers got most of the produce, only leaving a little for the ants. In time, the ants began to eat what the Hoppers ate and even began to paint themselves green like the Hoppers.
They ruled some of the anthills through the TYR-ants while they created a new class of SYCHOPH-ants to administer the rest. The rest of the ants were classed as PEASE-ants, and were treated cruelly by the Hoppers and even worse by the TYR-ants and the SYCHOPH-ants who began to see themselves as superior ants due to the few privileges granted them by the Hoppers. This, of course was what the Hoppers intended. They grouped the anthills together for ease of administration, and called them Tenements. It was such that ants originally from the same anthill ended up in different Tenements.
As time passed, some of the SYCHOPH-ants and a few lucky PEASE-ants travelled to the Hoppers’ homeland. There, they saw that Hoppers were really like the ants in many ways. Upon their return, they began to agitate against the Hoppers’ rule. They demanded that Hoppers leave the Tenements and let ants rule ants. After the Hoppers had taken all they could, they began to leave the Tenements one after the other. However, in order to select a leader for each Tenement, they organized a Dance. Ants who wanted to lead were to come to The Clearing. Then they were to get as many ants as desired their leadership to dance behind them. The ants that displaced the most greenery in The Clearing would become the leader. They were to repeat this at set intervals to select a new leader.
Quickly, the SYCHOPH-ants and the TYR-ants geared up for the dance, appealing to ants on the basis of anthill loyalties. The Dance was rowdy, but the Hoppers didn’t care much about the tempo of the greenery displaced. They just announced their most faithful SYCHOPH-ants and TYR-ants as the leaders, ensuring they still had a hold over Dark even after leaving.
Of course the Tenements were shaky. Loyalties were to anthill first, and then Tenement. Leaders began to divert what was meant for the Tenement to themselves and their anthills. Gradually, the SYCHOPH-ants and the TYR-ants evolved into a new set of classes, the ELEPH-ants and the GI-ants. These ants ate so much of the produce; they grew bigger than the other ants in great proportion. Their influence was total, from sharing resources, to the outcome of Dances. They finally occupied the niche that had been left vacant by the departure of the Hoppers.
After a while another class of ants evolved; the SOLDIER-ants and MILIT-ants. They got restless and wanted to “liberate” the PEASE-ant from the terrible rule of their leaders. They murdered the leaders of the ELEPH-ants and GI-ants and took power for themselves. They suspended Dances. Initially, they tried to do lead better than their predecessors. The PEASE-ants were ecstatic. However, in time, they realized that though it was easy to take power by the force of arms, keeping it required much more. So they fraternized with the ELEPH-ants and the GI-ants, and with pressure from the Hoppers, they themselves were transformed into ELEPH-ants and GI-ants. And so the cycle continued, in every Tenement in the land called Dark
For many moons, the SOLDIER-ants ruled, suspending dances and transferring power from one faction of SOLDIER-ants to the other through force, until the ants got tired of them and began to agitate.
One of the SOLDIER-ants was cunning. He took power from a stern faced SOLDIER-ant and tricked everyone into thinking he was different. He announced that there would be a great dance soon. The plan for the dance was long and convoluted, but everyone was happy that unlike his predecessor, he at least had a plan. All the ELEPH-ants and the GI-ants became excited. The sugar was about to be passed from the SOLDIER-ants to them. Finally, after many moons of waiting, they were about to get their chance at power again.
But this CUNNING-ant kept shifting the date for the dance. Finally, a new class of ants with fiery speech arose who did not mind being jailed. They were the COMPLAIN-ants and they became a thorn in the side of the ruling SOLDIER-ant. After one of them was killed suspiciously, they went into overdrive, and finally definite plans for the dance were finally announced. The former anthill based parties of the pre SOLDIER-ant years began to emerge under new names and the ELEPH-ants and GI-ants went into frenzy. The cunning SOLDIER-ant saw this and dissolved these parties. He then commanded all ants who had been ELEPH-ants or GI-ants before not to seek power in the dance. He also formed only two ant parties, to remove anthill affiliations. Quickly, a wealthy SYCOPH-ant who had always been very close to the SOLDIER-ants emerged as the front runner in the buildup to the dance. Normally, the COMPLAIN-ants would have kicked against him, but they were tired of the SOLDIER-ants and would take any ant in their place.
The dance came, and it was judged the best dance ever held in this tenement in the land called Dark. This wealthy SYCOPH-ant was adjudged the winner. But ghosts from his past haunted him. In his dealings with the SOLDIER-ants, he had stepped on the toes of many who were not from his anthill, and they threatened the CUNNING-ant if he announced the SYCOPH-ant as winner of the dance. He had also disrespectfully opposed the most prominent GI-ant from his anthill in the past and hence when his troubles started, the other leaders in his anthill weren’t willing to risk life and limb to claim his mandate. In public, they vibrated, but in private they said “that serves him right” for disparaging our great GI-ant with those ANTHILL OF THE SAVANNAH ants. To the shock of all the PEAS-ants of the winning SYCOPH-ant’s anthill, as well as the COMPLAIN-ants and even the SYCOPH-ant himself, his personal friend the CUNNING-ant nullified the dance and its results.
All hell broke loose. In the tenement where the SYCOPH-ant was from, ants turned their fangs on each other and it took the SOLDIER-ants killing a lot of the PEAS-ants there before things calmed down. But in the end, the CUNNING-ant had to step down for the most ridiculous government this Tenement has ever seen. In no time, a new SOLDIER-ant known as the TYR-ant who was the second most powerful ant in the government of the CUNNING-ant took power. He had risen to power after helping the CUNNING-ant suppress a revolt of SOLDIER-ants in the past. He was not a largesse type of SOLDIER-ant like his predecessor. He ruled through terror and tyranny, maintaining a team of ants that had scorpion-like ruthlessness to permanently silence every ant that spoke against him. Every ant from every anthill lived in fear of him. COMPLAIN-ants from the resource rich ANTHILL OF THE WATERSIDE were executed in spite of threats and pleas from within the Tenement and even from the Grasshoppers who had colonized them. He feared no one and most COMPLAIN-ants, ELEPH-ants, GI-ants, PEAS-ants and SOLDIER-ants shut their mouths and followed. Older SOLDIER-ants who thought themselves his seniors and untouchable were rounded up by his ruthless scorpions and killed. He locked the SYCOPH-ant who had won the previous dance up and that was it. For many moons, he ruled, until there were rumors amongst the ants that he was going after the only powerful SOLDIER-ant that was left outside his dungeons – the CUNNING-ant.
Whether by coincidence or by some devious design, while this scheme was brewing, the TY-rant died. Fingers were pointed to the CUNNING-ant, that skillful one in the art of underhand dealing with threats. Great was the rejoicing in the Tenement, and riding on the wave, a new SOLDIER-ant took over. It was expected that the SYCOPH-ant would be released, but this did not happen. His release would cause severe complications in the governance of the Tenement, and some time after the new SOLDIER-ant took power, he mysteriously died after taking some honeydew. Suspicion was rife, from the Grasshoppers to the SOLDIER-ants and all others in between. But unlike the earlier time when the dance was cancelled, the reactions were subdued. This new SOLDIER-ant seemed serious about returning governance to the ELEPH-ants and the GI-ants and rather than anger him, people watched. And that’s exactly what he did. A former SOLDIER-ant turned ELEPH-ant who had ruled before emerged from the dungeons of the TY-rant and was gifted the ruler-ship of the Tenement, as a compensation to his person and to his anthill, because he was from the same anthill as the SYCOPH-ant. The ants from the anthill that had dominated the Tenement since the independence from the Grasshoppers and the rule of SOLDIER-ants thought they would be able to control him easily. However, they were very, very wrong. Once in power, this SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant took charge and became his own ant. But trouble was lurking from where everyone was least expecting. For the ants from the ANTHILL OF THE WATERSIDE had not forgotten how they had produced the wealth of the Tenement at the expense of their anthill and had nothing to show for it. They had not forgotten how the peaceful COMPLAIN-ants from their anthill had been murdered by the now dead TY-rant. Rather than make their demands by peaceful means, they decided to follow a more violent path. In the rule of the SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant, the MILIT-ants began to rise.
As the MILIT-ants ravaged, the wealth of the tenement was hit. But rather than deal with this, the SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant tried to do exactly what the terrible TYR-ant that died did. It was probably the soldier in him. He wanted to become the leading ant for life. He share honeydew. He shared sugarlumps. He did all he could. But the ants refused to succumb to another round of tyranny. In a final Molotov cocktail, he gave the ants a sickly ant from the formerly ruling anthill as ruler. Now, the former stern-faced SOLDIER-ant had also transformed into a SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant and probably inspired by the one who was leaving power, he thought he deserved power too. After all, his stern-faced government had been cut short in barely one moon by the CUNNING-ant. And there was born the perpetual dancer in this stern-faced SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant.
The MILIT-ants had one of theirs now as the second in command of the ants. He was called the SERV-ant. By another stroke of luck that Nigeria has come to be familiar with, the sickly ruler died and the SERV-ant became ruler unexpectedly. Before he died, the sickly ruler had succeeded in buying the MILIT-ants over, and with the SERV-ant who was from the WATERSIDE like the MILIT-ants now in power, they transformed from fighting the government to being hand in hand with them.
But the ants of the Northern Anthills were unhappy. The sickly ruler had been theirs and they believed they had been cheated out of the number of moons by the Southern Anthill ants when the SERV-ant came into power. And the Stern-Faced SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant who wanted to be ruler was their man for the position. And so, after the SERV-ant won the dance, there was violence in the Northern Anthills. And there arose a new sect in the Northern Anthills. They did not believe in the anthills, the Tenements, the dances and any ant that had anything to do with is was their enemy. They were the DEVI-ants. And the ran amok, pillaged and plundered, killed and maimed. But the SOLDIER-ants, the ELEPH-ants and the GI-ants could find no means to stop them. The PEASE-ants suffered and the moons passed. Now, another dance looms. The Stern-Faced SOLDIER-ants again wants to dance and the Northern ants are with him. A certain strong ELEPH-ant of the Wstern ants is with him whether fully or as a ploy cannot be told. And the SERV-ant is in the dance too. The former second man in the government of the former SOLDIER-ELEPH-ant too is in the dance. Pulled from all directions, the Tenement quivers. But the ants will dance. That is what these ants do.
Article written by Tunde Leye
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