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COLUMNIST, Omnipossibilities

The Ultimate Cabinet

Posted: Jun 19, 2015 at 2:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

My mind can’t go away from my old friend Chief M.A Kanpa, the amiable carpenter as President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to present his cabinet. I visited the cabinetmaker to give me tips for the president in my column.

He told me he had no other counsel to offer than what he told me some years back when Buhari’s predecessor was coming in.

So, here goes…with some revision.

It’s another season of cabinet forming in Nigeria and our unofficial national carpenter, Chief M. A. Kanpa, has been speaking on the dynamics of installing a cabinet with the human-touch.

“We’re kindred beings, the President and I”, he said, ushering me into a detached capacious workshop that had a snug, lived-in feel about it.

“The President has been talking of the mother of all cabinets…Here; I am also constructing the Mama Cabinet, my opus! Now in my 90s, I can’t deliver anything less”.

He showed me the project: a stately all-wood-limpid-glass contraption holding promise of a portmanteau affair. I examined it closely and found it a prefabricated collapsible piece of furniture. The work had a weighing instrument.

“Great carpentry!” I said.

“No! It’s not carpentry! It’s cabinetry!” Kanpa thundered back.

“You’d observe a number of actions taking place in this woodwork”, he said as he led me to a room where we have our meals when I visit.

Now I noticed the chief walked with a pronounced limp. When he presented the cabinet theory in governance, he had a flawless gait. I wanted to know what changed that.

“In the course of constructing a cabinet, you’d guard against slovenly associates (advisers around you). One of them, a carpenter, who was hired to be part of the workforce on Mama Cabinet, brought into our workshop nails which had been discarded during the nailing of an ex-dictator’s coffin. He was remiss in handling the metal, with one dropping unnoticed and piercing through my flip-flop and heading straight for the big toe of my left foot.

After I had sympathized with Pa Kanpa, he said the tools had no business being at the scene of a new cabinet in the first place.  Their malignant ancient ways, he warned, have a tendency to delay the pace of change.

“For instance, work on Mama Cabinet lingered on account of the injury I sustained in the attack on my big toe by the ex-general’s coffin nail. I had to stay at home for days to nurse the wound. Of course work had to stop altogether on the opus.”

When I protested that it was a routine occupational occurrence that he had been used to with so many decades in the business, Kanpa dismissed my simplistic verdict and continued his diatribe against the union of obsolete and modern tools in cabinetmaking.

“Imagine the 21st century cabinetmaker wielding a 21st century mallet on a medieval wood! Or vandalizing an abandoned housing project and turning in its plank for a regal cabinet! Or lumping rusty old washers, nuts and bolts for use side by side with brand new drills and screwdrivers! This is cross-breed joinery, not thorough cabinetry capable of repelling any termite storm and invasion. Now when you hear news of a cabinet in flames, examine its composition and origin. A joiner or a carpenter must have been at work. He must have been put under pressure to accept fatigued tools that served elsewhere in a flood-lashed halfway house or in the hold-all of a nomadic journeyman. There can’t be harmonious coexistence in the cabinet so produced, no matter how you perfume it with the best in the trade”.

“Chief, you don’t seem to believe in the doctrine of continuity. Why can’t a cabinetmaker call on the services of a veteran tool which was of great use in previous generation? He can draw on its experience so the tool will continue to be a rolling stone gathering moss. Don’t you believe in experience and age? Don’t you believe in the doctrine of necessity?”

“Not if it will create locust-harboring space in my cabinet”.


“Yes, locusts. And termites and cockroaches and rats. They’ll eat up everything you keep in the cabinet. Lilliputs with gargantuan appetites!”

“But there is a new technology of depesting that can get rid of these vermin”.

“Pestology hasn’t worked effectively as a killer repellant. Experience has taught me that it’s better not to allow these elements there at all. Once they move in, they attempt to master the cabinet and its maker. Indeed, after consuming the treasures you keep in it; they turn on the structure itself, chopping it to dust, out of existence”.

“What happens to the cabineteer?”

“The parasites drive him away from the scene so a pliant joiner, who would grab the idea of a mixed-multitude or hybrid cabinet, can step in. That is if the cabinetmaker is lucky. If he isn’t, those he brought into the woodhouse would eat him up. It’s a dog-eat-dog affair!”

Now I asked why Kanpa’s cabinet has a good showing of sturdy glass shelves. Only a few compartments with very low depth.

“It’s for lean luggage and transparency. The cabinet, unlike a cupboard, is no rest home for a battalion of skeletons and ancient scars. The cabinetmaker must not create space for weight-gain or comfort. The glass closets ensure openness so the whole world can watch you”.

“How about the weighing machine?” I asked.

“The sparse rooms and the weighing machine are a statement that the cabinet is customized for stable ambience. You are not allowed to gain weight. You must not develop beer belly, as it were, during your stay there. Nor can you leave the cabinet with bulging baggage you did not come in with!”