“You don’t seem to get my point,” Chilungamo said “Under the Republic of Nyika or whatever our independent state will come to be called, the north, sidelined in terms of development since the white man’s rule, will never be the same again.”
Save for the music that was kept at room volume at our request, there was silence in the bar. Nobody talked. Nobody yawned. Nobody coughed. Nobody laughed. Nobody moved a muscle. Everybody was all ears to Chilungamo’s ‘sermon’.
“Roads and bridges will be everywhere, connecting one remotest part of the region to the other,” he said.
“We will have Chikangawa, Mchenga Coal Mine, Uranium Mines and a good part of Lake Malawi to ourselves and the money from these will change the face of the region within a year or two.”
He paused, took a sip and raised his four fingers to the barman. In no time, four beers were on the counter.
As the barman scribbled the bill on a small piece of paper, I remembered how one day my marriage would have come to an end because of a bill my wife found in the pockets of the shirt I was wearing the previous night.
I had gone to work in Karonga and on my way back to Mzuzu I stopped over at one of the drinking joints at Ekwendeni, it being a Fathers’ Day as well.
I drunk like fish that day that I did not notice that the dim-witted barman had included a K50 for the Chishango I bought on my bill.
The following morning I found myself in my wife’s Hague, answering charges that bordered on infidelity and abuse of my Fathers’ Days.
Were it not for the intervention of our church elder and his wife, I don’t know what would have done the trick to have my wife reverse her mind.
It’s been three years now but the incident repeatedly plays on my mind every time I see a barman writing a bill. Since then, I avoid putting bills in my pockets no matter how drunk I get.
“We will also have a modern university here,” Chilungamo returned with his federalism talk, “Not this one which was meant to be a TTC. Our children will go to this modern university on merit, not on some stupid selection system you call Quota,”
He paused to empty his bottle before gesticulating to the barman to give him a cold beer from the fridge and take away the one that had been standing on the counter for close to twenty minutes now.
“This Carlsberg beer we are drinking,” he returned, “will be brewed right here. Why should we drink beer brewed somewhere in the south as if we don’t have capable men who can brew it for us right here? If they want, let them have underground pipes supplying it to us all the way from the south as opposed to transporting it in trucks!”
Everybody laughed their lungs out including the two ladies who had just walked in.
“On a serious note,’ Chilungamo came back, “It’s high time we stood on our own as a state. For how long shall we let these politicians cheat us? For how long?
“Problem is, when we complain of having no good roads and schools, you quickly say the other regions suffer similar challenges. We people in the north will not stay quiet because the others choose to suffer in silence. We will always make noise. It’s our problems and not theirs. If the others have mouths, why not use them as well other than trying to shut ours?”
To everybody’s disbelief, this old man who had been nodding his bald head throughout Chilungamo’s long sermon fished out a fat wallet from his leather jacket.
“Forty beers for this intelligent young man and his friend, please!” he ordered the barman, placing several fresh K1000 banknotes on the counter.
After saying his litany of thanks to the Good Samaritan, Chilungamo took the floor again: “Our friends from the centre and south say we are selfish and regionalistic yet even our children remember how we in the north have voted in our large numbers for people not from this region, is that what you would term regionalism?”
“Noooo!” We answered like children at Sunday school.
“But Ankolo,” one of the two ladies started, “with the growing opposition facing our calls for a standalone state, don’t you see us fighting a losing battle?”
“Not at all,” I now came to Chilungamo’s rescue. “How was it when Kamuzu came to dislodge the white man’s rule? What happened when Chihana and company stood up against the one-party state and called for multiparty? They all faced opposition. Good things ought to face resistance.”
Through the corner of my eye, I saw the young lady nodding her agreement.
“I would have bought you 40 bottles as well if money was not the setback,” she said.
“But you can always pat me on the back in kind,” I answered her, to everyone’s laughter.