“Take Me To Your Leader!”
I felt very upset and annoyed when I read in a recent New York Times editorial that if a Martian arrived on earth and said, “Take me to your leader” he would immediately be taken to the Kremlin to meet President Mikhail Gorbachev. I am certain that any fair-minded person would find my annoyance and resentment more than justifiable. The editorial was obviously yet another stark example of American ignorance of world affairs and a gross misjudgment of leadership qualities: Even Pravda would never make such a silly claim. Any impartial observer would certainly assert that a visiting Martian would be gravely misled if he was not led at once to see me.
Mind you, my resentment of the editorial did not imply any personal animosity towards the Soviet leader. I would, honestly, readily acknowledge his popularity and potential resourcefulness as a leader. After all, the demonstrating Chinese students had been adulating him instead of the lackluster George Bush, and many world leaders had been falling over each other to be nice to him. Even Maggie Thatcher seemed to have developed a late-age adolescence crush on him.
But it must be realized that as a leader he could not possibly compete with me. For one thing, he was not the first to come to real political power at the ripe age of thirty. Nor could he claim to be a great-grand son of the Romanovs or any other sectarian dynasty.
Furthermore, a man who did not believe in God and the merits of the social contract could hardly qualify to represent the human species before visiting extra-terrestrials. Nor is his country, great as it is, unique enough to rival my domain. The emerging nationalities’ problem in the Soviet Union is kid’s stuff compared to ours and perestroika or not, the country has yet to make it to the list of the most impoverished countries. So neither the man nor his country possessed the essential credentials to play host to any visiting Martian dignitary.
My assessment and line of reasoning was unmistakably and almost miraculously confirmed a few days ago when my Minister of Interior rushed into my office shouting at the top of his voice: “Sidi, Sidi, a very extraordinary thing has happened!”
“A Martian has landed in our country,” I found myself saying with a knowing smile.
“How did you know that, Sidi?” he asked amazed.
“And the Martian told you to take him to your leader,” I added with the air of a man who could read minds.
“That is exactly what he said,” the Minister replied with deepening amazement.
“Where is he now?” I asked matter-of-factly.
“He landed in Abu Genzir Square,” he replied, “I took him to the Ministry for interrogation for not having an exit visa from his country. The crowd in the Square was mobbing his space-craft thinking it was a new vehicle for public transportation. When I left they were still quarrelling whether its route should be al-Kalka-Saturn or Buri-Jupiter.”
“You must stop all that nonsense at once: I told him firmly, “and bring the distinguished visitor from Mars to see me at once.”
“Yes, Sidi” he said as he left hurriedly, I paced up and down the room impatiently waiting for the historic encounter.” I called my secretary and told him to bring in more microphones even if that meant removing some of the furniture in the office. I also gave instructions that the backup generator should be ready in case there was the usual electricity shutdown. It was not every day that one had a Martian visitor and obviously everything possible should be made to leave a favourable impression.
The Minister of Interior returned accompanied by a small creature no more than three feet tall, with a massive head and elongated neck and arms but with almost no legs at all. I immediately noticed that the tip of his right index finger was radiating a glow of light.
My back ached as I bent to hug him. He seemed nervous and bewildered almost frightened as my huge frame engulfed him.
I was about to launch into one of my customary welcoming speeches when I suddenly realized that there might be a language problem.
“What language shall we converse in?” I asked courteously.
“I am programmed to speak any language on earth,” The little creature said in perfect English, “but personally I prefer Latin.”
Since Latin was Latin to me I decided it would be prudent to stick to English.
“I would like to say,” I began expansively, “that it is a great honour to us all that you decided to land in our country.”
“No other country would have me,” the little Martian mumbled miserably.
“How is that?” I asked taken aback.
“It is a long and sad story,” he said shaking his, massive head, “I first landed in a place called Red Square. Before I could ask them to take me to their leader they unceremoniously bundled me back into my space-craft and told me in no uncertain terms that the last person who had tried that kind of prank spent nine months in a Moscow jail and was lucky to avoid being sent to Siberia. That was not hospitable of them, was it?”
I wanted to enlighten him that was typical of those cold-blooded Russian commies. Instead I asked him what happened next.
“I took off and landed near a place called the Lincoln Memorial,” the Martian said, “and I was immediately told that the place was off-limits. I begged them to take me to their leader but they told me that for the time being they didn’t have any because the President was visiting abroad and a guy called Dan Quayle was ostensibly supposed to be in charge. A secret service man sternly told me to take off unless I intended to assassinate Quayle. 1 didn’t want to assassinate any one so I asked them where I could go. They laughed and suggested 1 fly to the Tiananmen Square in a place called Beijing.” The little creature paused and added sadly, “they seemed to think I am the biggest joke since ….”
He stopped again looking nervously at my Minister of Interior. I reflected on the inconsiderate arrogance of the Yankee Imperialists. But I was becoming completely engrossed in Martian’s extraordinary tale.
“Did you go in Beijing?” I asked.
“Yes I did,” he replied, “but the Tiananmen Square was filled with thousands of young people yelling and shouting. When I heard the crack of what sounded like fireworks I took off without landing. I didn’t even get the chance to ask them to take me to their leader.”
I wondered whether the cheering students and the fire-crackers were not part of an oriental reception party but I did not tell that to the Martian.
“What did you do after that?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “I tried over a hundred other places but everywhere I went I was met with the same hostility. Nobody seemed to take me seriously.”
I could see that tears were swelling in the poor creature’s eyes. He continued in a choked voice: “Then 1 landed in a place not far from here called Addis Ababa. When I asked them to take me to their leader they told me he was busy entertaining some of his would-be successors. They told me, however, to come here assuring me that your country is very famous for its hospitality and that any stranger can come and go as he pleases.”
The Martian looked at me through misty eyes and said: “they also mentioned something nice about you.”
“What was that?” I asked my face brightening up with eager anticipation.
“They said that by the time you made up your mind what to do with me my mission would already be acc6mplished.”
“And what is your mission?” I demanded feeling a bit disappointed.
“I only wanted some children to play with me, that’s all,” he said looking forlornly at the glowing tip of his finger.
I felt a spasm of compassion for the poor creature. “I think that can be arranged, after the necessary consultations, of course.” I said smiling, “and in the meantime I can assure you that you will be very welcome here.”
“I thought so at f’irst,” the Martian said uneasily, “When 1 landed the crowds In the square rushed enthusiastically to me, but I soon discovered that they were more interested in scrambling into my space-ship. I kept pleading with them to take me to their leader but no one took any notice of me. Why Is everybody in suca hurry to leave this place? Don’t you have your own space-crafts?”
“Well,” I said trying to put on a straight face, “we seem to have some fuel shortages at the present.”
Fortunately the creature from Mars did not seem to comprehend my lame excuse. He fumbled fretfully with his hands. “Then this person came,” he said apprehensively pointing to the Minister of Interior, “and demanded to see the exit visa on my passport. I did not know what that is. But he kept shouting about someplace called Ambo and threatened that if there was a travel ban on my passport he would never allow me to leave this place.” The Martian wiped the sweat from his brow and said as though muttering to himself, “I wish I never took the advice of those people in Addis.”
I looked darkly at my Minister and then turned with a smile to the visitor from Mars. “You don’t have to worry about anything,” 1 said reassuringly, “and as to the conduct of my Minister I will form an investigation committee to look into that.”
The Minister turned pale and pleaded with me to be kind to which I responded: kindly: “All right, I will make that a fact-finding committee.” The Minister looked relieved.
I put on all the charm 1could muster and said to the Martian visitor: “and now, honourable guest of ours, what can we do to make your stay with us a pleasant and memorable one?” The little creature lowered his head and said almost inaudibly, “I want to go home.”
His words struck me like a thunder-bolt. For, at that very moment I was thinking of what funds 1 could divert from my booming economy to pay for the satellite link-up that would beam to the whole world the Martian historic visit to my country.
For a while I remained speechless. The Minister of Interior shuffled his considerable bulk to lean over and whisper to me, “I am not sure his spacecraft will still be there, Sidi. The way that crowd was scrambling, it could be half the way to Saturn 3 by now.”
The Martian must have overheard that. He lifted his head and said, “you don’t have to worry about that.” He paused sucking at his finger and added, “all you have to do is to call a certain Mr. Steven Spielberg explaining to him my present predicament and telling him 1 promise never would I leave the Hollywood studio on my own again ….!”
SUDAN TIMES Wednesday 21 June 1989