Buhari’s Cabinet: A Word From A Carpenter | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

COLUMNIST, Omnipossibilities

Buhari’s Cabinet: A Word From A Carpenter

Posted: May 15, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Each time a new government is about to form its cabinet, my mind goes to Chief M.A. Kanpa. He is reputed to have constructed the largest and most expensive pieces of furniture in Africa. The octogenarian carpenter retired from active practice several years ago.

His plan was to quit the vocation completely and settle for a sedentary monk-like existence. But each time some upstart or nouveau-riche established an office or erected a house, Kanpa was approached to kit the place with his skills in carpentry. He couldnít resist their offers. He would plod back into service with a large work-force in tow.

There were now more job bids than the old chief and his workers could cope with. So he decided that he would only undertake the construction of cabinets. Kanpa has since specialized and excelled in cabinet building and designing.

His community has honoured him for services in two areas: the innovations he has so far introduced in the making of cabinets and the role his company has played in bringing down unemployment among the youths.

Top government officials and the wealthy who patronize Kanpa say his products outclass vintage European furniture. Thereís a strong lobby to ban woodwork importation and give way to a policy making Kanpa the Official National Carpenter of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (ONCFRN). A counter lobby has plugged the move, though.

He was startled when early last week I showed up at his end and told him I had come to learn one or two things on cabinets, since this is Nigeria ís season of picking members of the cabinet for the central government and the state administrations.

I visited him as word reached Nigerians that President-elect Muhammadu Buhari had got to a feverish stage in his quest to build a perfect cabinet.

“And what gives you the impression that thereís a link between my kind of cabinet-making and what the President or Governor does”.

“Chief, there must be some connection, otherwise…”

“You donít understand what Iím trying to say. I handle wood, hammer, screw, nails, chisels, the plum-line and so on. You know. But the President or the Governor deals with human beings, men and women”

“Are these tools, hammers, nails, screws ordinary implements? What qualify them to be your choice?”

“Oh I understand. I have a knack for things that endure. Wood that would slit under my hammer when Iím driving through the nail wouldnít do. The chisel I pick for my work should drill holes such that the fittings that follow would settle in firmly for ages.”

“How about the nails?”

“They are of different types and sizes. But the standards for qualification in the army of the tools that find their way into my cabinet remain the same. I donít go for weak, rusty nails. Under the battering of my relentless hammer such nails wobble and break.”

“Chief how about “veteran” tools…tools that have seen action in cannibalized cabinets? Surely they could make an encore in your new cabinet.”

“Banji, you have to watch it here. Cabinet making is a serious business. Itís not like patching up a slit bench or cupboard in the buka of Mama Put. Who cares if the bench gives way under your weight but doesnít topple Mama-Put’s pot of soup? But the cabinet I construct is the flagship of the home. If it has blemishes like telltale scratches and wounded wood, from, as you put it, ëcannibalised cabinets” you would be building a closet of thorns for yourself, not a cabinet.”

“Chief, what did you say? Closet of thorns? What does that mean?”

“You must understand that a cabinet also has closets and drawers and glass-doors and shelves and so on. When you make your cabinet and the hallmark of your activity is to honor jaded tools and gnarled wood itís an invitation to skeletons to move in. These skeletons become thorns that torment you as you live with the cabinet.”

“But there must be good wood and other items like key systems that can make the transition from one cabinet to another? These can do a number of fix-it jobs for you in your new cabinet.”

“Don’t be deceived. If you pass up such butchery as a piece of good job and hand it over to your customer, you are finished. He will detect the farce. Actually it’s not he who will make the discovery. There would be no hiding place for the skeletons in the cupboard.”

Chief Kanpa looked at the giant wall clock. It was 3pm.

I had been there for four hours. Finally he said, as he lifted his short but heavy frame and stretched his arms sideways: “Banji, let’s have lunch together”.

We settled to a meal of pounded yam and vegetable soup in an adjoining room completely kitted by Kanpa and Co. Then, mouthful after mouthful, the old man told me a story.

“One day,” he said, “a cabinet maker was defending his product before his patron. After the carpenter had said sweet things about the furniture, his customer started protesting. He said: “This wood will soon be home to termites. The locker hinges are weak. You have brought in transition keys which may have been duplicated elsewhere. The money and precious things I entrust to this cabinet will be looted. The polish is also smelling imported toxic petrol.” The point the customer was making was that the cabinet he was assessing contained elements of a pernicious past. And he feared the cabinet was concealed tinder…ready for a raging inferno at the scratch of a matchstick. He rejected the cabinet!”