The sanitary inspector
By Frederick Mordi
“Yee!” he bleated like a goat in labour, “you are aggravating my pains, woman! Can’t you do it gently? Your hands are as coarse as an elephant’s skin!”
“Sorry, pa Favour,” she replied soothingly, unable to tell him that he was partly responsible for her calloused hands. “I was only trying to help. Should I continue?”
She was more careful now as she rubbed the pungent ointment all over his battered body. There was an egg-sized lump on his head, a deep gash on his forehead and inflated balloons on his thick lips. One would be forgiven in thinking that he ran into a bulldozer…Gogo, who runs the local pharmacy, had stitched him up hurriedly yesterday, after some sympathisers rushed him in.
“Chei! pa Favour, these people are wicked o!” she remarked tearfully between short pauses. “Were they planning to turn me into a widow? See what they did to you! They should be locked up in the police station.”
“How do you mean?” he growled, trying to suppress another pang of pain, which shot through his shoulders. He gritted his teeth and tried to sit up but he fell back on the bed again, awkwardly.
“Why don’t you just take my advice for once and apply for re-deployment to another less hazardous department before they kill you for me?” she whined. “This sanitary inspector work that you do is too dangerous for my liking! You could have gotten yourself lynched by that mob, you know. You were lucky those policemen came in the nick of time. Your cowardly colleagues turned tail when you needed them the most!”
“Are you trying to teach me my job, woman?” the man called pa Favour demanded gruffly. “Mind your business!” She did not give him any more trouble.
Having cowed his wife into submission, he sat up on the rumpled bed with some effort. He finally managed to swallow the pain reliever she left for him on a stool beside the bed, with a glass of water. A dark scowl covered his face as he explored his head with his index finger gingerly.
Pa Favour, the new Chief Sanitary Inspector of the district, is a veritable myrmidon of the law. He takes impish delight in following the letter of the law, his diminutive frame, never an impediment in this often unpleasant task.
They posted him to the district last month. Since then, he had launched a full-scale offensive against the residents, having confided in his meek assistant that he would level down everyone. Sure enough, he has been inspecting their rooms, toilets and kitchens—to fish for kpomo, a local delicacy made from cow skin. As Chief Sanitary Inspector, he felt duty-bound to enforce a ban on the consumption of kpomo announced by the government.
He got himself into hot water yesterday when he ill-advisedly insisted on inspecting the contents of Madam Do Good’s pots of soup, following a tip-off that the corpulent lady, who runs a highly successful canteen outside the mechanic village, had smuggled kpomo into the menu.
Pa Favour had his orders: ensure that sales and consumption of cow skin remained prohibited no matter whose ox was gored. It is whispered in some circles that local leather manufacturers had lobbied government to impose the ban, because unbridled eating of the delicacy was depriving them of vital raw materials for belts, shoes and bags. Dieticians had also enthusiastically thrown their weight behind the prohibition of kpomo consumption, as kpomo does not, according to the eggheads, possess any nutritional value.
What Pa Favour did not reckon with was the angry reactions from the hungry mechanics that formed the bulk of Mama Do Good’s customers. Their initial surprise turned into anger as they protested against having their meal time disrupted. But he ignored them and continued his diligent exploration of the steaming pots of soup whose aroma failed to seduce his nostrils.
Stung beyond reason with fury at his effrontery and total insensitivity, the mechanics pounced on pa Favour. They beat him up mercilessly. Someone later hinted at the fact that mechanics and kpomo are like tea and morning to the Englishman.
The brooding sanitary inspector fingered the lump on his head again cautiously and decided that perhaps that woman was right after all: life has no duplicate!
Author’s Note: This piece was written over 10 years ago. On September 10, 2014, it was reported in the Nigerian media that the Federal Government was considering banning the consumption of Kpomo.
Tags: african fiction, african short stories, author of the senator's car, federal government bans kpomo, fiction in africa, Fred Mordi, Frederick Mordi, hides and skin, kpomo, Nigeria, nigerian agriculture minister akinwunmi adesina, nigerian animal science, Nigerian author, Nigerian fiction, nigerian leather, Nigerian short story, ponmo, short stories, west african fiction
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