Lo and behold the Pigmies gave the Pope the gift of a turtle. I have been thinking about the significance of this gift. I believe in signs and wonders. When the Pope landed at the Nsimalen airport on that faithful day, it took thirteen good minutes to pry the door of the airplane open; my spirit was filled with foreboding. Not just because 13 is an unlucky number but also because the door refusing to open for a guest is a bad sign. Things, however, seem to have gone swimmingly well until the Pigmies foisted a turtle upon the Holy man. A group of 15 Pigmies from the Baka ethnic group descended at the Pope's residence at the Apostolic Nunciature, they built a ceremonial hut out of leaves in the garden of the residence and the Pope came out to greet them.
The Pigmies including grand parents, parents and children sang songs and danced to the beats of drums, in a coruscating performance, then gave the Pope three gifts: a basket, a clothed mat and a turtle. The gift of the turtle was a little unclear at first.
Vatican Officials told reporters that it had been left behind in Cameroon. A Jesuit priest, Father Federico Lombardy, the Vatican spokesman told reporters on 23 March when the Holy Father was going back to Rome that the turtle had been left in Angola because it was decided that an African turtle should live in an African habitat.
It is worthy of note that the Pope's visit to Cameroon was scheduled to be so close to the 24th anniversary of the CPDM party. Knowing how the ship of state is usually fine-tuned to harmonise with certain events it is no doubt that the ruling party wanted a rub-off effect from the visit of the Holy Father. The Vatican is a State within a State. It is therefore not surprising that the Pope did not criticise the State of Cameroon or make any comment touching and concerning any of its noted and appalling policies.
I have it on good authority that among some Cameroonian clans the tortoise which is a half-brother to the turtle is a sign of an ill-omen. The pygmies gifted it to the Pontiff as a mark of wisdom.
Seeing a tortoise in your house in some Cameroonian tribes is akin to killing an albatross. We all know what the acquisition of the plane with that ill-fated name has wrought on the Cameroonian psyche.
Can we therefore doubt the decision of the Holy Father to abandon the turtle in Angola? Should we read any meaning in the Vatican abandoning the turtle in Angola? Was the decision informed by environmental friendliness or is there more to it than meets the eye? Is the Pope dusting his feet from the Cameroon visit and leaving us with our bad luck and our totemic shenanigans?
When we remember the 13 minutes of suspense it took to open the door of the plane and we counter pose it with the gift of a turtle shortly before the 24th anniversary of the ruling party, a shiver goes down many superstitious spines.
The Pigmies are known for their occult powers but indeed the Pope is a Holy man and I am not superstitious. Can the Vatican stop looking at a gift horse in the mouth and please return the turtle to its natural habitat among the Baka Pigmies? I am sure it shall be welcomed back by our brethren of the rain forest. I wager that the gift of a turtle is not a Trojan horse and pygmies carrying gifts should not raise concern.
This brings me to the pigmies. Sometime ago pygmies from Africa were exported to a European country and they were used as a tourist attraction in a most exploitative manner which caught the ire of the western press.
They were quickly withdrawn back home when the civilised world raised a hue and cry. What has the state done for this marginalised and endangered people? After the unbridled deforestation of their habitat is the state now using them to showcase our tourist and exotic potential? And this is not a laughing matter