There was this large slightly dysfunctional family, that had come to prominence in Nigeria right after the British left. They had children of all sorts, big and small, rich and very rich. They took turns selecting the family patriarch and although after each selection a few people grumbled, there was no major conflict.
Recently however, there was disagreement when the family patriarch started drinking too much bringing in strangers to destroy family property. He started taking bottles of whiskey out of the general bar and into his private room. And then he married a wife who just would not get along with the family members. The uncles who never became patriarchs but determined who did, had a meeting and decided that, although the duration for which this patriarch was supposed to be head of the family had not expired, they were tired of him coming home drunk, falling asleep during family meetings, and his wife quarrelling with everyone. The problem however was that none of the uncles was ready to step in and become patriarch. No one wanted to be the bad guy and upset the balance of things.
They then decided to look for an older uncle who had been for a couple of decades a bit estranged from the family. He had stopped attending family functions and had stopped even getting invitations because they thought he was too uptight, without a sense of humor. He had once been patriarch for a short while but was forced to leave because everybody did not like the angry way he punished the younger family members. The uncles had felt alienated and decided they could not put up with him. But now, with this alcoholic patriarch with a wife who insulted the uncles at will, they decided that life was better with the grumpy former patriarch.
They met the former patriarch, apologised for everything that had happened in the past and asked him to take over and save the family from humiliation in the community. But they had a caveat: he would have to promise to smile and not be so harsh when dealing with the family members. He had always wanted to be patriarch again. So he struck a deal with the uncles and promised to change. No more harshness, he said. And I will smile a little.
Everyone tiptoed around the alcoholic patriarch because they thought he would resist being changed. But he didn’t. He took his half empty bottles and said: if you all really don't want me to be patriarch then I will leave. Goodluck with running the family he said as he held his reluctant wife’s hand and walked away.
When the new patriarch was installed, everyone in the family rejoiced. Well, almost everyone. Those who used to sit with the now former patriarch and drink from dusk until dawn were scared that the new stern patriarch would stop them all from drinking. They were scared he would make them return all the bottles of whiskey under their beds which they took from the general bar in the living room of the family house.
One of the younger uncles who had quite a few bottles from the bar in his room, was so unruly that the uncles who had brought in this new patriarch decided to discipline him in public. They took him to the local police station to teach him a lesson. Just scare him a little, they told the police chief. You know he is our son. We only want him to change.
Certain passersby, upon hearing that this younger uncle had taken bottles from the bar to his room foolishly decided to intervene, holding up placards, asking the police to take him straight to jail. Another group of passersby made their own placards and called this persecution. They said the uncles were just trying to harass the younger uncle because he wasn't as loyal to the family patriarch as the others were.
The uncles who brought this case to the station laughed at these strangers who decided to meddle but did not stop them. It was great fun, they thought, to have everyone think they mattered when in fact this was an internal family matter. They hoped that perhaps with this public humiliation, the unruly younger uncle would come to his senses and they would all go home and be one happy family again.
“What if we settle and the crowds think we have been fooling them all along?” the new patriarch asked one older uncle.
“No need to worry. They have short attention spans anyway. The snake charmer will soon pass by - he comes every Friday and Sunday - and they will all gather round him and then we can all go home and enjoy some whiskey at the bar.”
The new patriarch nodded and said: “You have a point there.”