Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 221

DEDICATION

I dedicate this work to my daughter, Cheutom-


Awasi Benjamin Eshiet and to the glory of God, having to
publish this Novel on her birth month.
ACKNOWLEGMENT

A special thanks to my wife, Hannah Benjamin


Eshiet for co-operating and permitting me the time to work
on this literary piece among others and for believing in me.
Nothing could have motivated me any better. I express
gratitude to Victor Offiong Bassey, Ph.D., for making out
time from his busy schedules to edit my work. God bless
you sir.
Mr. Willougby Eko, Zion Egwu, thanks for reading
my manuscript, page to page and sharing your insights
and portions of your interest with me. I acknowledge Mr.
Okpokam Okpokam for his patience and time in debating a
myriad of my questions that led me into further enquiry.
A big shout-out to my scholarly parents for their
supports while I wrote this literary work and to all those
who supported me in reading and typing this novel while it
was in its manuscript form. God bless you all. Amen.
CHAPTER ONE
In a region of West Africa with its south coast on
the Gulf of Guinea, along the second biggest ocean behind
the Pacific, lived a peculiar people of the Southern area.
With a background of rustling trees, a biting breeze
pressed on the skin of Opezia Baitus clan – Paterki was
passing out on a date he said he would before the sun
went down. The clouds were filled with stuffy wailing lung
powers of the people over their chief struggling with breath
in his palace. It was built with clay bricks, roofed with
bamboo sticks in conical shapes and weaved with raffia.
Amidst their howling and sorrows were a set of
drummers, beating pottery and talking drums in a mourning
classic at both sides of the chief’s palace, while receding
way for the exorcist dancers singing and calling holy
names. Their bodies were decorated with white clay and
they were on traditional beads made and administered by
the Ekpeflu, the chief priest of the clan. They exorcist
dancers wore it on their necks, hands and feet with a
handkerchief on the left side of their arm and a brusque
machete on the other side.
Nine exorcist dancers dressed in white gowns,
danced in snail-like pace as a ritual art of preventing the
chief’s body from being occupied by pestilential wizards
the minute his spirit exited his body. In front of the exorcist
dancers was a masquerade by the name Eyotope, whirling
in a staggering rage with two elongated elephant horns
signifying body and spirit of the departing chief.
A sensitive tense dominated the setting of the
scene. He would die in a moment and many were
mourning him days before he yet died. While they waited
for the sun to go down, the events transpiring in the
interim, translated into a painful good bye. The wind blew
hard at the top of their roofs and the clouds turned darker
and darker by the minute while the sun was still in sight.
Paterki’s council of elders were by him with harrowing
looks. Two of his elders gave him their shoulders as a
crutch to lift him up to his royal stool symbolizing his office
and authority when they espied his departure to the life
beyond draw closer. His heart whistled in his frail body and
howling like a troubled saber-toothed tiger in passing
through the transition isles of immortality, he throve to
speak to his elders but barely uttered a word. The activities
within the palace whipped up like a pause button pressed
to a movie screen, nature signaled the people he had
migrated across the veil.
The fierce breeze blew with grace on their skin,
giving a sense of his last fare-well greeting. The Eyotope
halted like a motionless pole planted to the ground. It
depicted his lifeless body lying in the inner chambers of the
palace and the switch of his spirit to the next world. The
drummers responded to this tip by pounding the drums.
They stroke the instruments with racing speed to the extent
the melody they created was heard miles away while they
sung with vigor:

Our dear, dead but lives in our hearts


Closer to us like the living, you’re here
We need you, stay near
Never cease to speak, we give our ears
We’re your people, you’re ours
Death is dead when we reach each other.

CHORUS

Great one you’re leaving


Spare your spirit to be with us
How much is left without it?
Remain a portion of you
As you leave for our ancestors.
An elder yowled like a wolf in the palace, “the
Etobor is off the hook.” The declaration of his death did not
come as a surprise but as a confirmation of what they
already knew. An outburst of dirge roar bellow from the
gathering like the sound of a violent heavy rain pour, the
people found it hard to accept the loss. It was
accompanied by retarded chants of the exorcists. Amidst
the screeching bereavement of the people, the
masquerade flitted off the scene with elegance, succeeded
by the exorcists and the drummers.
His corpse was sheathed with cloth, a bucket of
water was drawn from a nearby well to bathe him. Part of
his body like his laps were slit open and coated with dry
gin, potash and kernel oil to serve as preservatives for his
embalmment after which he was hid from sight for six
market days. This was done to provide ample time for
every needful preparation to make his funeral rite a
befitting one.
The chief’s rectangular stool was secured for
blackening by the chief’s stool bearers. This ordinance
took place in a grove at twilight. No unorthodox fellow -
women and children were allowed to be part of the
ceremony or to have an eye on it less, they would die
before sun set. All the regal stools the late chiefs ever sat
upon were cleansed and the left-over water was used in
showering the new stool calved from a log called Funtumia
Africana.
Blackening of the stool was done by dressing it with
coal dust and smearing the blood and fat of a bush dog on
it, immingled with five eggs of a hawk, and a white dove.
After a thorough job of an ugly sight, both eyes of the dog
were removed while alive and placed on the mid-point of
the stool. By so doing, it was speculated that all the royal
stools including the recently caked stool were super
abound together with the spirit of the former chiefs.
This episode was important to the people of Opezia
Baitus and brought about a festival which they revered
once in every fourteen weeks. They revered it as a shrine
honoring the spirits of the stool ancestors. The prime
officiate in these ceremonies was the chief whose duty was
to graze the stools with comestibles and drinks, honoring
their past leaders on behalf of his clan members. They
were mediators to the gods of their land like Biosha, the
goddess of rain and thunder, Zetu, the god of war and so
on.
Everyone who had come of age had a personal
stool no other person sat on because it contained the
personal powers of the person. At the death of the person
owning the stool, it was kept in a shrine upon which
sacrifices were laid to appease the deceased.
The day Paterki was to be cremated, he was well-
rapt and put into a canoe in a village shallow river. The
integrated clan assembled at the scene, guided by the
clan’s guards who ensured orderliness. They wore black
sackcloth and hummed burial hymns to their migrated
chief. An elderly woman fell to the earth mourning him. She
kneaded her head in mud like a proud pig in dirt. Few
others were doing things similitude to the mourning woman
in their emotional disarray.
A hand full of other guards from various villages in
the clan were on the watch, guiding the people from
protruding into the round up circle they were called to
contend with by the river bank. The chief priest and his
devotees, the twelve elders of the land along with the body
of the late chief laid in a mat above a base of bamboo
sticks, were the ones allowed inside the circle. Brazen
voices echoed from many lips. “Why leave so soon oh
great one.” “My defender. Who will come to our rescue?”
He served them for thirty-six years and passed away on
his ninety-second birthday, yet the people acted like his
reign was brief.
In the thick of all these dramas, there stood a man
of nearly seven feet tall who stood aloof in the scenario.
He sobbed when he sensed his indifferent attitude towards
the chief’s death attract enquiry attention. He was Delvit.
His organ of vision looked rattlingly like the stern gaze of
an eagle. He reflected over the future of the clan during the
funeral rites. The animated intervener - the chief priest was
by the chief’s corpse with two devotees. He was to secure
the safe transition of the spirit of Paterki to a state of rest.
When a person dropped dead, they believed his
spirit hovered around the environment. They were yet to
come to full terms that they had been separated from the
living because they had not been buried or cremated.
Since they did not go to the world of spirits immediately,
they were vulnerable to the conjuring manipulations of evil
men and wizardry in inflicting misery on the innocents.
Even the kindest of spirits can be made to possess the
meanest guts for a time to deceive and wreak havoc upon
blameless relatives and friends.
With a tender palm frond, the intervener sprinkled
consecrated water on the corpse of Paterki while singing
burial choruses, followed by the mantra of the chief priest
devotees.
The canoe with the corpse was set to sail away. As
it towed down the slope of the river like a nag, Chukudoh,
an elder blurted out of the multitude crying, “Oh Paterki the
great. The desired one of our people, the heart of our
traditions, we bow in depth of anguish before your stake-
boat as you journey into the homeland of our kindred
world,” he bent on a knee and continued - his emotions
choked his words, “Our eyes are withered because we’ve
no more te-a-a-rs to spill.”
He dropped on the other knee and stretched forth
his hands, “If we had powers to extend the date of your
departure, we would tune the hand of time to suit our wish.
Mortal relationship with thee is short but your memories in
our hearts is eternal. We bid thee to watch over the affairs
of the land that confronts us. Paterki Oh Paterki the noble
one. Fare well.” Late Paterki encouraged learning and
commerce in the clan. He taught himself how to read and
write when he came across a few western books from
distant communities.
Those books influenced him in improving the
agricultural technology of his time among which was
animal plowing by castrated male cattle. It replaced the
use of hoes in tilling the earth for planting. This
advancement in farming increased their agricultural
activities and profits, both in subsistent and commercial
purposes. It brought in substantial revenue from
neighboring clans to Opezia Baitus who came into trade
with them and helped in subsidizing the cost of formal
education for every child and interested adult.
Teachers charged to instruct them were not
qualified beyond first school leaving certificates or its
equivalent, many had no certificate at all. There were no
former schooling structures. All learning exercises were
conducted under the comfort of tree shades. With Paterki’s
interestedness in Education and Industry, he later
introduced teachers from far-away rising communities and
towns with higher educational experience and
qualifications like Standard Six to impart knowledge and
skills to interested clan members. Simple structures were
erected to train the natives.
While his body towed down the river, an archer shot
an arrow with burning flame at the edge, about quarter a
mile into the impelling boat carrying his body. The archer
was flushed with excellence; it was set ablaze and tapered
off.
The chief priest and his devotees stood by the tip of
the sand bank and made conjuration and decrees in a
circle they cast. “May Oluze suck thee into her womb and
grant you privileges over your sainted memories?”
“Ezensi.” (Amen). His devotees answered. Whirlwind
shook the dirt patch where they stood. It indicated the
adoption of the chief’s hovering spirit by Oluze, and the
favorite deity of the land.
She was fastened to them than any other in the
underworld and was seen as the goddess of security,
wealth, and karma. The community honored her with a
superb cult – they painted the clan red each time they
celebrated her. They put up a sacred residence, ‘Hossiba’
which was overseen by the chief priest. It housed sacred
sculptures from stones and woods, representing revered
spiritual statues, and between them stood the most
supreme statue of them all – Oluze, demonstrating her
superiority.
Other calved sculptures like men, women, children,
deities, bush dogs, snakes, elephants and few other forest
animals they counted sacred, including figures of armed
men, hunters, images of Africans and Portuguese
interacting, were arranged in the thatched cylindrical
abode with a small story situated above.
They were coated with white paint but Oluze’s
statue was coated with assorted colors in spiral designs.
Red, yellow and blue were used in designing the house
and the items contained in it. They were symbolic and
communicated sacred meanings that turned on powerful
feelings of artistic admiration, giving lasting impression of
cultural beliefs to the people of the clan who understood
them.
For instance, white stood for peace and happiness,
yellow for new beginning and prosperity, red for danger.
With the use of a bird’s feather, they painted an object with
different colors. The materials they used in painting where
simple. Lime stones were many a time used in painting
faces of distinguished set of people in special occasions.
Sedimentary rocks and other colors came from plants,
clays and even duck droppings that gave off blue colors
were also employed.
It was a cherished belief among the people, that
Oluze walked the earth of Opezia Baitus’ soil, a century
before the incidence of chief Paterki’s death. At the time,
the clan was in want of warriors to defend their territory
against terrorizing tribes and insurgents who sought after
their lands to expand their boundaries. She was the first
female warrior who volunteered to join the clan’s troop for
battle. She was like a man in many ways, she smoked
marijuana and had stamina to fall two palm trees with a
machete in a day.
Oluze fasted often and strictly avoided sexual
relations. The pattern of her life gave her discernment, kept
her spiritual mind alert to the spirit of her environment and
people. She had a broken nose as a result of a shield
thrust at her face by an opponent, but she had a flat
stomach and full rounded breasts with a generous height.
Necks turn each time she passed by, but no one harassed
her sexually even in the dark because she was tough and
intimidated most men.
During their war times, she once disguised herself
as a woman from a neutral tribe and sneaked into the
camp of their war enemies at night. She walked around
their famous commander lifting her breasts up and acting
like she had been battered and was helpless. Her entrance
into their midst was timely, she met them drunk and rowdy
with liquor.
It was the same night they celebrated victory over
the clan of Opezia Baitus; they slaughtered over hundred
and thirty-three of their men and wounded over sixty-
seven, claiming many of their lands. They left over warriors
who survived and the clansmen who were close quarters
to their foes in the South region of the clan fled far East.
That night, as Oluze and the commander were set to make
love. After a long romance she pressed his mouth with her
rough, hard palm - abrasive as sand paper and stabbed
him several times on his left chest with a knife without
alarm.
When others woke by dawn, they were disoriented
to find their leader lying in the pool of his blood. “Who has
done this to our head?” The second in command asked.
They sought after the woman who laid with him but Oluze
escaped from them hours ago and alerted her troop to
attack them while they were unprepared. She led a driving
carnage on their enemies and reclaimed all the lands and
properties they took from them.
She was an inspiration to few other women who
later joined their troops in fighting battles to preserve the
lives, liberty and properties of the clan. Though she
suffered several cuts from sharp blades and fatal blows
from pestles, she never gave up her pursuit to ensure her
people were not chased out of their lands or taken captive.
At one time she was hit with a crusher on her head, which
made her unconscious for five days. Later she was
confirmed dead. Her funeral rite was discussed and
planned by the clan. On the day she was to be embalmed,
a knife was thrust into her lap to bury species and
preservatives.
For the first time, a tingling sensation travel on her
skin. The undertaker was about to thrust the knife by the
side of her neck when she coughed. His hand shook and
rested in the air like she was resisting him from stabbing
her again. Was her body charged with a ghost or did her
spirit refused her body to be embalmed? “You’re dead and
gone.” He said and chanted memorized verses to protect
himself and make her spirit yield to the embalmment. Her
chest jerked up and down, she had not crossed the veil.
“Oluze.” He called and she responded, calling him
by his name with a faint voice. She struggled to lift her eye
lids and move her fingers. She was given coconut water to
boost her energy and recovery. During her convalescing
days, she insisted to be taken to the training ground to
witness and give suggestions to the clan’s combatants.
When she was strong enough to stand and walk
on her own, she joined in their training and later led them
in martial exercises. She never lost a single battle she led
against encroaching tribes. She had a frightening
presence. There were times her war opponents took her
unawares and would have subdued her, but they
considered her actions a trap to fall prey for.
For the remainder of her life, she ached from
occasional concussions that were severe but her quick
recovery and undefeated spirit surprised the clan and they
took her experiences and attitude as a divine mission she
had on earth until she passed away in her forty-ninth year.
Toroabi, who was the chief at that time honored her
patriotic efforts with exclusive rights of presiding over the
women of Opezia Baitus while she was alive. She had
qualms for bully and injustice. During her days, men were
trained for the clan’s defense, while the women training
centered on home management even after their rite of
passage. “Mothers nurture the family, training a woman
means training the whole clan.” Oluze said.
She taught about the sanctity of womanhood and
the need to respect it. “We bear greater responsibility in
sustaining life. A man sows a seed and she give him a
child.” She said to mothers, though she did not have a
child of her own. She opined that women were by nature
more brilliant than most men and needed to be instructed
the most. “Don’t you see a female child learns to speak
quicker than a male child?” No man escaped the punitive
pronouncement of a woman whom he raped, the fates of
such men were in the hands of their victims who were
entitled to pass a public sentence on them even if it cost
the life of their predator.
When a woman lost her husband in the cause of
war, the sum of tears she wept, collected by a mourning
cup spoke of the love she had for him. At a time, the
women were all honest about the practice. But as years
went by, those who wept less for their husband, or who
were unsatisfied with the tears they wept, adulterated the
practice by adding water and salt to their cup to compare
and boast of their mourning.
For long, Oluze blew her whistle at cheating wives.
“It’s not the tears that count, it’s the symbol for which it
stands for.” She persuaded but few harkened to her
admonition. On a faithful day, she warned she was going to
fine any mourning woman caught altering the mourning
codes for their late husbands, by recruiting them into the
clan’s military force. Her warning also applied to adulterous
wives caught in the act.
At first, it sounded as a storm in a tea cup, but
when she executed her warning using guilty women as
scape goats, many hated her – both men and women and
called her a murderer. Because of this single act, a gang of
people conspired against her. On seven occasions,
anonymous assassins attempted assassinating her, but
she absconded from them and her strategies to get hold of
any was unsuccessful.
The last swansong was when she rose at mid-night
to excrete in a thatched-pit toilet. A mob broke into her
defense and blast a poisonous strand of leaf to her neck.
The poison was prepared from the back of toads. She was
trapped, she swayed away to escape from them.
Her house was already surrounded by the mob.
They had no intention of harming anyone other than her.
They painted their faces black to conceal their identities. In
seconds, Oluze was light-headed and weak as the poison
ran quick through her blood stream but before it ate deep
into her, she eluded from their grip into the evil forest, there
her strength failed. Knowing she would bite the dust, she
went under an interminable tree where she laid and
experienced a convulsion with an electrical explosion in
her head.
As years went by, the people of Opezia Baitus did
so little to investigate her untimely death but merry and
basked in the glory she secured for them. Rotten hands
befell them. Many of their livestock took ill and died in
numbers. Many too, had difficulty producing their kinds
even when they took in. When hens lay eggs, it takes
twenty-one days to hatch them but in the days of their hard
luck, it took much longer and their efforts often proved
abortive.
“If all our animals can’t breed, what would we
survive with?” The people panicked. The same thing
applied to the mothers in the clan. Childbearing was
difficult and complicated. Many lost their children during
labor and birth. Babies who survived, suffered one
deformity or the other. Unsuccessful fishing was common,
even when they caught them in good numbers, most were
dead or sick.
The import of this experience meant something was
wrong. It was either an act of witchcraft or a sign, ancestral
spirits were offended by them and permitted misfortune to
fall on them. They held a public meeting to enquire of
Ebelito the sorcerer, to clarify the meaning behind their
turmoil. These were his words, “You took the breath of She
that sifted you from captivity, gave you liberty and after all,
forgot her in a hurry.”
Thence, the people understood what he was talking
about. They did not know who were responsible for her
death but they all pleaded for her forgiveness to draw
parallel with them. She became the first female goddess
because of her great mortal deeds while she lived with
mortal men and women. Although, their set foot to the
ground was in abject poverty, many of them went to inter-
tribal neighborhoods and made plea to be lend healthy
kola-nuts, chickens, goats, sheep flitters to appease her.
After six days of constant supplication and fasting,
their entreaties in the end got to her heart. Settling
preliminary sacrifices to her did not cost much in her honor.
Her center of attraction offer were bananas. They
consulted her in major decision-making processes in the
locality.
After the cremation of Paterki, custom demanded
two weeks for a new chief to sally forth in the clan. The
eldest member of Paterki’s council of elders stood up in the
palace and courted them. Mbahada was his name,
“Brethren of this grand council. Our forefathers say a herd
of animals, moves like chaff in the wind when led by an
undirected herdsman. Look at us; experienced leaders yet
we’re undecided of whom we should appoint to lead our
people. Why can’t someone…”
An elder interrupted him, “Mbahada. Mbahada.
Who should that person be? We don’t have to meet with
the Ekpeflu with reference to whom we should crown chief,
you’re the most senior and experienced of us all,” he
tapped his chest, “I know yo-o-u,” he stammered, “can
carry the mantle of leadership and handle it ably.” “Says
who, elder?” Mbahada asked, with a frown. “You don’t
know me any better than I do. I don’t want to slip on a
banana skin?” He said, drawing his chair backwards. “Who
among us, who’re less experienced than you’re, do you
think wouldn’t slip?” The elder asked and both stared at
each other like they found dirt in their eyes.
Esubi stood up and wagged his tongue, “Elders
let’s not be overcome by our fears to serve our clan. May I
be so bold to say I don’t mind being appointed to take from
Chief Paterki?” “You’re talking.” “We’re here by you.” The
council of elders chorused with smiles drawing close to
their ears. “But it’s not been long I was appointed to
occupy the position of a late elder in this honorable land.
To be honest, I’m still struggling to accustom myself with
the duties I owe my village.” “Go straight to the point. What
do you want to say?” Mbahada said squeezing his face. “I
agree with what the elder said. Elder Mbahada is fatherly
and have served longest in this meeting; let him head over
us.”
“You talk as though you’ve taken my circumstance
into consideration or do you think I’m some sort of hero like
Paterki the great. My health will permit me to do no such
delicate job.” Each of the elders had their reservation for
accepting the calling and Mbahada’s fear was not a difficult
proverb to understand.
Four decades ago, a man accused of having sexual
affair with the chief’s wife was ordered in council to be
beheaded in the public. The chief realized years later, the
man was untainted of the blame and the allegation was a
frame up by his wife to get at the man for refusing her
sexual advances. The confession of his wife twisted his
mind. Though she was his favorite among his four wives,
he refused to make love with her nor eat her food for many
weeks and could not trust in his own judgment when
matters of the clan were brought before him.
Even culprits convicted of crimes reminded the
chief that his hands were not clean to pass verdict on
them. One day, while she was asleep at night, he strangled
her by the neck to death with his hands, and in the same
night, he hung himself. Committing suicide was a taboo
and denied one the privilege of a befitting burial. Thus, the
chief was buried like a piece of rotten meat and so did his
good reputation. Since then, tradition had it that a chief
would rather die than mislead his people. After Mbahada
reminded them of the experience, silence permeated the
meeting house as they trudged their feet on the ground
while they sat in unease. Murmurings like, “I’m not ready
for this task.” “This isn’t my nut to crack,” were inaudibly
said.
Tabinoy spoke next to relax the tensed muscles on
their necks. “Honorable men of valor.” “Great.” The
chorused. “Must the power to serve this people, always
come from the council?” he asked. “Please can you repeat
your question to this council uh, I wonder?” Tonfia meddled
in and looked up like he said nothing. “If the people accept
the elders to represent them, they can trust us to
recommend a leader through a standard of merit rather
than choosing the next authority from among us.” Tabinoy
added.
The elders contemplated what he said and nodded
to his suggestion. “Tabinoy. How do you intend us to go
about it?” Mbahada asked. “Have we considered Delvit?”
“Delvit.” The council voiced, no one had him in mind to
propose. “Delvit yes, Delvit. He has tall ideas that can
develop the clan. He shared them with late Paterki, he was
impressed and referred to him as the next big thing.”
“Members of the Ezomde Society is for men of
visions and ideas and he’s a junior member of the Society
whose character I haven’t found questionable.” Mbahada
said and Tabinoy smiled like he was ready for a
celebration.
“Slow down. I know this is the second time we’ve
met to take a decision on whom to crown,” Chukudoh said,
he had been quiet from the beginning of the meeting, “but
that does not mean we must run out of our skin. The
elephant does not limp when walking on thorns. Why
should Delvit be cited here when he’s not a senior member
of the Society?” He was interrupted by Tonfia. “Look here.
If size matters, the elephant would’ve been king of the
jungle. No man governs the affairs of this clan by himself. I
have other pressing family matters to take care of in my
village, other than sit here all day and be rapped on my
knuckles.”
Two third of the elders swaged their hands in
agreement. “Please make no mistake, I have no personal
dislike for Delvit. I admire his enterprising abilities in
farming and making of war weapons. But don’t forget he
caused our last inter-tribal war, after which eleven of our
men and three women were ambushed on their way to the
next neighboring clan by our enemies.”
“Oh, why are you bringing this up again?” Mbahada
asked and placed his face on his palm. “We can’t say with
certainty that he plotted with our enemies to break into our
guard. You know at a time we’re calling Obibua, son of
departed Kwietim, into question, who was one among us
before he was put on exile for opposing the conclusive
judgments of our late Etobor and the council. It’s important
we let the sleeping dog lie in peace while we watch out for
wavering loyalty from any other person.”
“Chukudoh, I understand your fears.” Tabinoy said,
“Still, it doesn’t change Delvit as a good prospect for our
consideration. The floor is open for more
recommendations, but they must pass through our close
examination. We need the best to succeed after the late
memory of our great Etobor.” “I hope so-o-oh. You’ve
spoken well my brother. The future of the clan rest on the
government we appoint. This is a serious matter we
shouldn’t risk to a shallow deliberation.” Chukudoh said,
taking comfort he had somewhat been understood.
“These are what we need take into account,”
Mbahada said, sitting on the edge of his chair and lifting its
legs behind, “we need a leader in good health, with
integrity and vision to protect the rights and lives of our
people.” “In addition, we need an Etobor who can take
corrections without offense. An Etobor with compassion for
his people, a heart that wouldn’t faint in times of
challenges.” Chukudoh said like he was singing his words.
The elders wrapped in thoughts, remained silent as
though their tongues were folded and tied inside their
mouths. A minute in wave, Tonfia rose to his feet and
spoke like a ringing bell. He exchanged greetings with
them to awaken their attention. “Hear me out oh, elders of
wisdom; I’m about to voice without holding back.” “Speak.
the floor is yours.” Mbahada said.
“These qualities we want in an Etobor are in Delvit.
He sets goals and achieves them. I have by honest means
known him to be unrestrained by his fears even in the most
trying times. We’re aware of what happened three months
ago in the middle-belt of our land.” “Was it about that man
caught in the act of witchcraft?” Esubi asked.
“No. A mad bull ran into this village causing
mayhem to people around. Those who were present fled
away for their dear lives; not even our village guards gave
on to it. But he surprised us when we saw him with our
both eyes confront it.” Tonfia said with a spirited voice as
though the action was taking place. “Oh-o-o-oh. I thought I
was the only one with naked eyes.” Tabinoy said swaging
both of his hands. “As a result,” Tonfia continued, “the wild
bull turned his focus on him. He folded his fists, prepared
for a clash. We all thought that was the end of him. How
could he face the mad bull alone? Was he fed up with life?
I asked myself.”
“We called him away to a safe zone many times,
but he refused to hearken to our safety calls. When the bull
drew closer to bang him on the ground, he grabbed the
beast by the horn and flipped over to its back.” Tabinoy
picked from where he paused. The elders listened to him
with keen interest like children do to good storytellers. “He
rode on it like a horse. When the animal bumped all of a
sudden, Delvit lost control on it and fell, the bull came after
him again. He stood to his feet immediately as a real man
and struck it on the head with his bare hand, the bull fell to
the top soil and grunted in pain.” The elders shook their
heads in astonishment.
“I hope no one struggled the meat with him?”
Mbahada asked with a tone of humor. “I made sure no one
did, but I got the head I asked for.” Tonfia answered. The
elders, overtaken by fatigue because of the lengthy
meeting, broke in laughter.
“Delvit also shows qualities of a good shepherd. He
will risk his life for his flocks,” Tabinoy said in a slow tempo,
“For years he tended sheep. It hasn’t been heard for once,
a sheep under his custody got missing or was preyed upon
by wild predators because he fought them away. We’ve
seen and heard of outlaws he single-handedly struck down
and brought before the Etobor who double crossed him to
make do with his flock in his care. Delvit is the man who
delivers.”
“I hope you haven’t said this much about him
because he comes from your village?” Esubi asked, Tonfia
was offended with his question and they both quarreled.
“Brethren, I’m captivated by Delvit’s actions of
heroism we’ve just heard,” Chukudoh said aloud, “but, the
jaws can’t rest as long as there are kernels in the mouth.”
“What do you mean by that?” Mbahada asked. “Delvit is
the only name we’ve spent the entire meeting talking
about.” “What’s your advice?” Mbahada asked with a
volume three times his.
“I advise we cast lot, and any among us upon
whom the mantle falls on, sits on the throne.” “Aw. Why
cast lots when none of us has devoted interest to sit on it?”
Mbahada sighed and shook his head. “How many of us like
this idea, please indicate by lifting your hand?” Esubi and
Chukudoh’s hands went up, supported by two others who
later did. The four were put off with laughter as though they
were lacking in understanding.
“We shouldn’t forget way too soon, Paterki once
said in our meetings that those in the prime of their lives
will take the chair over this council.” Mbahada said. “It’s
true.” “I remember that time.” “I didn’t understand what he
meant.” “The time might be now.” Were the divergent,
enthusiastic responses of the elders. “If leadership in the
land will hence be presided by spotless hearts and capable
bodies, it should be a privilege to watch our children serve
their father’s land.”
CHAPTER TWO

A bellman passed a message high-pitched, beating


his gong, “Kong, kong, kong, kong. The council of elders
bring you words concerning a contest that will hold
tomorrow morning at the clan’s major field after which a
new chief shall be pronounced. You’re expected to be
there; absence will put you open to high fines. Kong, kong,
kong, kong.” He walked around the village several times
like a majestic cock demanding attention as it was done by
several other bellmen in the clan.
On the very day of the tournament, about everyone
in the clan paid homage to the categorical instruction they
heard even though the cloud was pregnant and threatened
to fall that morning. Mbahada slept in the palace a night
before. In the morning, he took a cup of liquor, poured a
portion of it to the ground and offered a brief prayer. “Honor
the ceremony for the crowning of a new chief. Rain, hold
thy peace, go and come again another day.” Minutes
afterwards, the sky became clear and the sun set in with
high voltage.
Many of the villagers upon arriving at the scene
acted like they were dropped from the sky with what they
saw, the field was well-structured with a battling box in the
center. Around the terrain was an elephant, three African
tigers and masquerade trees in the open field of the clan’s
square. By the other side of the battling box were an
assemblage of the clan’s most stalwart warriors.
Their striking sinew was distinct from the tip of their
heads to their sole. Visible veins wiring round their bodies
bore witness from distances as they protruded on their skin
as if to rupture. Youths and adults in the picture stared at
them like tourists in an adventure. The warriors contracted
their muscles, showing a fist of their strength from time to
time.
These men were selected among a dozen of others
by the council of elders whom they deemed brave,
ambitious and industrious. Children were amused by their
impressive physiques, they also caught fun contracting
their tiny muscles in comparison to the trained warriors.
By the sides of the wrestling box was a faction of
virgin maiden dancers. They joined their hands together in
a circle and whirled spirited in a way that outlined an
atmosphere of friendliness and hospitality. The maiden
dancers wore brown beads around their heads, necks,
hands, feet and waist, with a feather on each of their
heads signifying their pride as virgins. The beads on them
made rhythmic sounds as they skipped in concurrence to
the hammering of the drummers.
In the thick of all these, two full-fledged men
engaged in a conversation. The first fellow in an entwined
arm began, “Ehe-e-e! It’s like the elders kept vigil with
these workmen to set up this staging.” “You might be right.
Last night, I heard confusing sounds of people and working
tools, but because I had a tiresome day, I dosed off before
it could hold my attention.” “Who among these elders do
you think have been mandated to lead us?” “I don’t know
but I don’t see these time-worn men passing through any
of these warfare series alive.” He said pointing at the tigers
and the elephant and together they laughed in their puzzle.
“Well, let’s follow with our eyes and see what
package they have for us.” During the trend of their
conversation, a class of songs were sung and danced by
the proud virgins. It was also accompanied by wooden
gongs, resonating pots, flutes, rattles and drums clothed
with antelope skins. The natives had a strange way of
communing with trees, streams and spirits. They said they
had a sort of being in them that could be communed with.
The instrumentalists first sang few songs of gratitude to the
materials they used to create their musical instruments and
solicited them for the finest tunes they could play.
In addition to their traditional standpoint, the spirit in
a man was superior to any other being or creature save
the spirits of their ancestors, many of which progressed to
become gods and goddesses they could still talk with while
in the flesh. A common example was Chukudoh’s neighbor
who owned a piece of farm with pawpaw trees grown on it.
He observed over time, his plants were not producing
healthy fruits at the season they ought to, after all the pre-
requisite nursing, he gave them.
He talked to the plant like a friend would talk to
another and negotiated a fair duration for them to conform.
After the grace period, his plants remained adamant. He
took up his machete from behind his room door and stroke
each of them, threatening to fall them down and plant
another if they would not yield healthy fruits for him. Six
market days later, the man reported a tremendous
improvement on their bearing abilities and had no need to
fall them. Among many songs they sang, this was included:

‘You’re welcome to this occasion (2xs)


Come and merry
Come and watch and match
Who’s the lion of the jungle?
Is it you or me?
We shall know after the game.

The virgin maidens danced bare bodied in front of


everybody without reproach. This kind of entertainment
was referred to as fertility dance. The dance of the naked
virgin maidens symbolized purity, maturity and
preparedness for marriage. Were it not for the ceremony
the clan had at hand, these girls were meant to parade
round the clan singing and dancing nude or on scanting
covering as part of their rite of passage. This they did,
flaunting their youthful bodies to the admiration of many.
Bachelors who took interest in any, asked their
hands in marriage from their parents after they completed
their initiation to womanhood which took few years. This
initiation involved a lot of training that taught them how to
receive visitors, cook, weave and make basic home items
like baskets using reeds, how to make cream and solid
soap with local items using palm kernel oil.
As these maiden dancers moved towards the
center of the field dancing, shaking their hips, waist,
breasts and buttocks in a vibrating order, the people of
Opezia Baitus did not assume a guise of indignation either.
Even the young men present did not gawk at their
gorgeous bodies like esurient salivating dogs, ready to
descend on a large piece of bone.
They practised it every year as a culture. There
were severe consequences for any who attempted to
harass or strip these virgins of their pride. Mbahada who
was sitting under a canopy made of palm fronds and
bamboo stick, signaled the leader of the maiden dancers
to round up their entertainment so they could proceed into
the business of the day. With Synchrony, those taking
active roles in dancing, singing and drumming halted in
accord and were applauded with round of applauses.
“We consider it an honor for holding in reverence,
our calls to be here in this memorable initiatory rite of
chieftaincy. Without wasting time, let us touch the main
item on our list today.” Tabinoy tapped him on his left
shoulder. Elder Mbahada stooped and lean an ear to his
lips. Mbahada readjusted his huge garment on his
shoulders and continued his remark while he harrumphed
seldom in between.
“E-em, so-o-ry for the break in my message. We
shall begin by acknowledging the cherished memory of our
late Etobor, Paterki. How we love and miss him. A valiant
man he was. In honor to his departed soul, may we give a
minute silence to his blessed memory.” He said. After the
silence, came the crowning blessing he gave. “May his
faultless spirit rest with the unblemished ancestors of our
heroes’ past.” “Ezensi.”
“Since the death of our Etobor, we’ve been
contemplating on whom we should empower to assume
the throne. Many have asked I pick off from where late
Paterki dropped off, but I haven’t stumbled on the nerve to
do so nor have any of my fellow elders had the willingness
at the time.”
The people booed at Mbahada’s disgruntling
remark of indecision. Tradition had it that a successor for
the chieftaincy came from the eldest in the council, or by
inheritance or by divine means of mandate. Paterki was
without a son among his children. Mbahada observed the
disgruntling looks on their faces and rippled his right hand
above his head in appeal for order.
Though the multitude kept calm, there lingered a
fidgeting moment of distress of what was yet to be
unfolded. “Change! The only stable thing in our lives.
Today, you will be involved in deciding a new Etobor of
your choice from the options we’ve.” He said raising his
voice. “It’s my pleasure to present to you a man with the
heart of an oak and the first choice of the elders in person
of Delvit.” A reluctant round of applause was given
because, many were taken by their blind sides. A hand full
of the elders were gladdened by the introduction and made
gleeful staccato sounds, “Aha-a-a!” “That’s the main man!”
“We picked him among other candidates through
our unbiased enquires. You too will have the same
privilege to measure each of them fit or unfit for this office.”
Pointing to the direction where Delvit stood he continued.
“He shall be tested with few other notable men who we
know have what it takes to deliver.” He said calling out the
names of the participants. “We shall all be judging their
mental alertness, skills and valor.” He received a
participatory applaud from the people. “May I call on our
brother and brainpower, Abola to open the floor?” He
added. Abola was given an encouraging reception of claps
and whistling.
The stage was set with a stool, a desk, a scroll, a
bottle ink of an inch and an elongated feather put together
for his use. He took to his seat and standing before him
were six men awaiting his quiz. Abola had a reputation of
posing simple riddles, and teasers in a cunning manner to
assay the aptitude of his darers. The way he stared at
them with a smile brought a stomach-turning feeling preys
have before predators.
Five distinctive questions went to each contestant.
Fright led them perspiring as though they began their
physical battles, knowing the heat Abola’s questions
carried. Here were two of the least questions he presented
to them:
“There was a green house. Inside the green house
there was a white house. Inside the white house there was
a red house. Inside the red house there were lots of
babies. What’s it?”
“Who makes it, has no need of it. Who buys it, has no use for
it? Who uses it has neither seen nor felt it? What’s it?”
These men were impressive in their performances but Delvit
had the seediest position and lauds of the public during the quiz. This
was his trick. For riddles he was not sure of the answers, he
questioned the credibility of Abola’s riddles. Abola fell to it by
attempting to affirm the credibility of his question, thereby giving him a
hint unknown to him.
Abola’s hairs stood erect on his skin because of Delvit’s
craftiness. At the end of the challenge, he summed up their grades
and handed it to Mbahada who in turn showed it to members of the
council for appraisal. The people predicted the gem of the game.
The men defied with questions left at once to undress
returning with under wears. They warmed up for a physical trial, their
symmetrical bodies stood out oily and radiant like a mirror reflecting
the blast of the sun. Around their waist were knitted palm fronds with a
piece of red apron tied round their faces.
Delvit on the other side refused to change from his clothing.
He stood calm in the arena with his arms behind him unprepared and
absent minded. His peculiar cheerers were disturbed he might not
succeed the next duel as his opponents surfaced more determined
and able-bodied. Delvit had a huge statue from his waist upward; his
shoulders were broad, his chest stood out but his legs were thin like
that of a chicken.
His referee looked down at him with scorn and ignored his
defiance to make of himself a fool. He positioned them to specific
masquerade trees with heights covering over twenty-five feet tall.
Knotty ropes were interlaced to the mid-section of the trees, there
were seven in number. The referee said to the contestants, “Men of
fitness and strength, pull the tree standing before you to the ground.
The first person to fall his should do same to the last tree, then the
winner will be declared.” The referee drew closer to the contestants
and sounded a note of warning, “you may quit at any time your
strength gives out. Begin.” He blew his whistle and at once they
began pulling like frantic dogs struggling to break out of their chains.
For over five minutes, the contestants were unable to pull
down their own tree half way. The way it went, the people saw no
possibility for their success. The second arrangement portrayed poor
judgement on the part of the elders. Mbahada, beckoned on the
referee to double the participants to each tree. He carried out the
instruction and Delvit was paired with another. But as they were about
to commence the pulling again, Delvit revolted against the order and
returned to his previous position where he stood alone for the contest.
His act of defiance made him look more like a moron.
“Is he in his senses?” Cried out the referee to the elders. The
crowd who were on his cheering side could not bear but laugh at him
with satire. He was inveigled by the referee to return back to his
previous position but Delvit gave deaf ears. Tabinoy, who sat relaxed
from the beginning, stood up from his chair, leaving his niche to talk to
Delvit into the re-adjusted format of the contest. “Delv, I believe you
aren’t drunk.” He said touching his head. “Do you want to miss this
promising opportunity you have?”
“Hell no! This is my battle. Allow me fight it to the end as I
will.” Delvit responded with a cold look, “but you have to follow…”
Tabinoy had not finished his statement when Delvit barked at him
even more. “Leave it for me.” “Don’t say I didn’t tell you now you’re
acting like a little boy.”
Giving a succinct thought to what he said, Delvit left to his
newly appointed place and to his assigned partner. The elders were
tickled pink at his decision and greeted Tabinoy for persuading Delvit
to conform to the rules. The ironical look on the faces of the villagers
waned off as he took a move, they saw realistic. But for the second
time, Delvit returned to his former position, standing alone for the
competition.
Chukudoh burst into belle-laughter and so did the people in a
raucous manner. “It’s himself he would disappoint most when he
realizes this is a one in a life time privilege.” Mbahada said, irritated at
his insolent foolery. Few maddened villagers threw pebbles at him.
Boiling at Delvit’s act up, the referee blew his whistle and
sauntered out of the scene and the contest began. The men turned
red as they exerted strength pulling with their hand gloves. It was not
long the paired men fell a masquerade tree and then another. Delvit’s
tree lifted him above his feet when he noticed the triumph of his fellow
contestants. The people worsened his frustration, scorning and
pointing fingers at him.
Delvit mustard words to himself no one heard, brought out a
set of squeezed leaves from his underwear no one saw and chewed
them. Taking a stationary grip on the rope, he pulled again. He pulled
so hard every cell in his being was involved. He even put the rope
round his neck and bit another part with his teeth to pull.
The sight of it looked funny, his eyes bulged, seconds later,
they were discolored with red linings but he did not quit even though
his body threatened to separate limp from limp. As the tree drew near
to mid-way, he threw his leg across the rope and tweaked harder.
His concerted efforts to pull surprised many. He stole the
show, making the lips of his scorners heavy and their eyes so stiff
they could not turn them away from him as if he was the only one in
the pulling contest. He pulled it below mid-way, surprising everyone
he could come thus far. As time clicked further, they heard a crashing
sound “buf-fi-ti-ti-ti.” “Yea-a-a-ah.” Everyone screamed. Delvit toppled
his alone.
The young men pulled off their tops and waved it above their
heads. The women, children and the elders gave him a standing
ovation from where they sat in the open field. The drummers stroke
the drums hard and fast, it commanded an instant mini celebration.
Palm wine was brought into the four quarters of the arena for more
merriment.
Chukudoh doze his head like one who woke from a
pleasurable sleep to meet reality with nightmare. An elderly man
standing close to the raffia canopy where the council of elders took
shelter, leaned on his staff like he was about to embrace a trance after
what he saw.
Overwhelmed by the power-driven waves of his feelings, he let
down his staff and placed his hands on his head. His great grand-
daughter who stood next to him cried out, “Papa.” He turned to her,
“what’s it?” He asked, “you left your standing staff.” she answered. He
looked straight at her face with contempt. “Are you sure?” he asked
again, “sure papa.” He bent to confirm his doubt. His awareness sent
him staggering until he fell on the arms of his daughter who ran to his
rescue.
In the spirit of competition, the men pulled down all the
masquerade trees in their own good time but Delvit was judged the
winner even though he succeeded in pulling down one while others
who were paired, succeeded in pulling two.
Delvit fell to the ground, panting like he might slip the cable.
He was given drops of water from his twin rescuers. In five minutes,
he got on his feet unlike the other competitors who took longer time to
regain stamina. He walked round the field a proud warrior and the
people chanted for him like he was in a fight, resilient and
domineering. Fifteen minute later, they all showed up recharged for
the next episode.
In the center of the stage, they were given hard prickly sticks
in form of a sword. Delvit hesitated to receive his. A different referee
featured in and addressed the men in a tone that prepared the people
for another heated contest. “Men of war use these sticks for your
defense and attack. Your combative skills are about to be tested.” The
referee said, holding out the weapons in his hands. “You shall begin
by taking turns in twos. The last man standing after his first game
shall have more opponents to combat with until the victor is
determined.”
The referee of the fight called on two combatants with a piece
of parchment he held above his abdomen, “Akan versus Delvit.” He
called in a feverish tone, followed by rumblings from drums.
The two combatants stepped in. Akan looked like a man
without a space for mercy in his heart and at the grunt of the word
“fight,” he took an inflamed strike at Delvit’s defense. Delvit guarded
himself against each strike with his stick sword but Akan’s attack
remained fierce as he forced him to take several steps backwards,
Delvit lost balance and fell. Along the line Akan struck off a lioness
with a stick on his path that was set lose intermittently to attack and
distract the warriors.
Akan’s attacks were dazzling and coordinated like a break
dance. He turned his head proudly to his right and left shoulders,
backing Delvit and giving him time to regroup for more action. This
was a display of his vigilance and confidence in the fight, the people
cheered him. Launching another fiery take by the storm on him, Delvit
rose from the ground and went on his defense anew but this time with
his bare hands for durable minutes. It was hard for anyone to
understand how Delvit could bear his opponent ruthless beatings with
bare hands until his hands were stained with blood under his skin,
whereas he was given a stick for his defense.

26
Akan on the other side, would not relent from his attack until
Delvit surrendered. Delvit made a quick dodge from him and in that
opening, he grappled him by the hand and used his other fist on his
opponent forehead which sent him falling backward on the ring with
ebbing consciousness. Akan was drawn out of the stage to receive
some therapy while Delvit’s right hand was raised by the referee in
outright win at the sheer bafflement of the people; the attack he
launched which brought him victory was quick and unexpected.
At the second round, the referee grunted afresh, “Delvit versus
Udokwu.” The drums rumbled as Udokwu walked into the wrestling
box. He walked round Delvit in the arena like a predator stalking a
prey. Udokwu made deceitful moves of attack with his hands and feet
to confuse and intimidate him. “Fight.” Came the order from the
referee. Without killing time, Delvit put the boot in on him and Udokwu
deterred his attacks with his feet, discrediting Delvit’s ability to break
into his guards.
Along the line, Delvit punched Udokwu’s stick sword with his
hand when he attempted hitting him with it, and fixed his eyes on him.
Udokwu, frightened he would be bumped into if he stooped to pick it,
retreated. Uncomfortable as he was without it, the weapon he had left
was his bodily skills. Notwithstanding, Udokwu jogged round him with
feint threatening moves before Delvit attacked him, but he was not
well-doing in breaking into his defensive guards. Udokwu countered a
blow from him and nodded Delvit’s nostrils with his head causing him
to bleed several drops.
Delvit was stunned at his opponent outsmarting and knocking
him to the ground far more than he was injured. He licked his blood
with his finger and brought the fight to him the third time. Udokwu
wired a slap on his ear that shook his drum, sent him off balance with
a leakage resembling water mixed with particles of blood. The people
waved their hands and raised their voices in cheer to Udokwu’s
domination in the match.
He footed Delvit while he was on the ground but he dodged it,
catching his punch thrust to his face, he twisted his opponent fist such
that he backed him and blasted him behind his neck. The shot of the
blow almost knocked off Udokwu’s eyes from its socket as he
staggered before dropping on his knees and to his face motionless,
stilling the participatory crowd.
Delvit was not satisfied with the viciousness of his action. In
the fury of his anger, he grappled him by the hair, deep his fingers into
his jaws and disjointed it, leaving it to hang down. The attack was a
catalytic recharge to his dead cells which made him leap out of the
wrestling box for help.
The silenced people empathized for him with rowdy
murmurings while others, still silent, opened their mouths like they
were the ones whose jaws were disjointed. Delvit was offended by the
deflated excitement on account of his action and he moved around
the wrestling ground challenging them. “What? What?” He asked. “Did
he not break my nose and burst my ear? Was it nice?”
The elders turned to themselves with blank looks. “He’s
difficult to understand but he’s amazing.” Tabinoy said. “Why is he
indifferent?” Chukudoh asked with a light smile. The rest of the
competitors were discouraged and were no longer interested in taking
part in the later tournaments nor were they willing to stick to their
aspiration for chieftaincy.
“This is entertaining. We must take it to the end.” Chukudoh
said with a lukewarm attitude. “Agreed. Today a legend will be born.”
Tonfia said. Delvit alone was disposed for the next tournament which
was second to the last finals. A new referee walked in and instructed
Delvit. “You have proven yourself worthy among men but your test
isn’t over until we inspect your skill of war against thriving monsters.”
The referee pointed at three different species of tigers. They were
eleven feet long and weighed 300 kg. Their body length and mass
made it easy for them to knock down their prey and kill them with a
bite to their throat.
The referee was about to blow his whistle when Delvit
enquired, “I have no weapon.” “Weapons to fight animals are for
cowards. Are you one?” Delvit nodded. “We-e-e-e-iep.” The referee
whistled putting two fingers in his mouth. The three gigantic tigers
were on hardy cords and controlled by their raiders to raid on Delvit’s
flesh. Delvit wore a look of nightmare looking at their claws standing
out like edges of daggers as he whirled round the tigers that timed his
moves.
A raider let loose of his tiger. As it hurdled on the air to pounce
on Delvit’s throat, he dodged it and landed his iron fist on the tiger’s
head. The smack sounded so loud Delvit spun his hand in pain, but it
caused the tiger to lie head flat on the terrain, losing consciousness to
a degree. At once it was drawn away because Delvit moved forward
to clobber it again. When the animal was examined, Delvit’s strike
split its skull in half. With this trump card, his nerves were fueled with
aplomb.

28
Those manipulating the tigers read it and were hesitant to set
loose the other two. “Attack me.” Delvit said in vain. He picked up a
bamboo stick outside the arena and went after the animals. The tigers
frightened, attacked him by instinct. One mounted on a pair of limbs
and brought him down with its front limbs but Delvit grappled it with its
hands under the belly of the animal. Mbahada rose to his feet and
called on the raider, “This is too much. Take it off from him.”
The sight of Delvit beneath the belly of the tiger seemed like
the animal buried his incisors in his shoulder having missed his neck
as the target. When the raider drew the tiger away from him, the
animal’s neck was stuck in Delvit’s arm. He sustained deep scratches
from the animal, leaving paste of his blood on his body and on the
ground, but he did not let go until the animal’s strength to break free
was faint. When he set it free, the animal ran from him with its tail
between its limbs.
The last tiger was set loose at him. He ran after the beast,
picked up a bamboo stick in the arena and wiped the unruffled tiger
on its limbs several times until it lay incapacitated on the ground
meowing like a kitten. Delvit stood tall and undefeated enjoying the
loud praises and cheering of the people.
“I knew from day one, Delvit is an extraordinary man. It should
come as no surprise that he’s the chosen one the Ekpeflu has been
talking about but refused to unveil it us for more than seven years…
would lead us by the hand to a higher life.” Tabinoy said to the council
of elders in a gentle tone of conviction. “Is that not one of an honest
reason I have no interest in taking from the late Etobor. I will not deny
the chosen one the opportunity to lead.” Mbahada said. The elders
took on a contemplative vein of thoughts.
Approaching the last tournament of the march, Delvit gave
way for the last groundwork. When all the necessary arrangement
was met for the tournament, Delvit was called in by a referee in trial of
the last physical examination that awarded knights with honorable
military ranks in the clan.
As he walked in, he raised his hands to the crowd and about everyone
craved to touch him. He did them a favor running around the them,
tapping as many hands as he could reach, stimulating their admiration
in him as one yet to become the man of the people.
The stage was set; an elephant was fastened to a stalk with
studs on its path clamped to the earth. Delvit took his position backing
the elephant for the last audition. A referee emerged forward and said,
“Once this rope is loosed from the stem, pull it forward through these
studs where you stand. Your ability to go beyond six of them without
letting the elephant drag you six studs to your death will crown your
successes. Play safe.”
The referee untied the cords and fastened it to Delvit’s hands.
A gong was ranged by the referee and the elephant propelled him
three studs backwards to the center of the struggle were naked
blades pointed at his back. The elephant pulled him through another
stud back, “Oh Zetu.” He was left with two more studs to end him in
the game if he did not quit on time. If he did, he would have been
rewarded, but would have lost the chance of becoming chief of the
people. Another contest would have been arranged for another date
or a different plan would have been drawn for the same purpose until
a winner emerged undisputed.
Delvit shrieked like one undergoing a bone-setting as he
exerted more strength in pulling the elephant. The pressure he
wielded on the animal was proportional to the exertion the elephant
wielded on his weaning muscles. The friction suspended them where
they stood. Delvit expelled much of his energy in the previous
tournament and was less likely to succeed his final trial. The people
drew closer to watch him, hoping he would at least be able to draw a
stud or two away from the pointing blades facing him at close range.
They worried less if he failed in the last game, they were impressed
way too much to lose him in the last tournament consequent to his
ambition to conquer and lead.
For seventeen seconds, the opposed force they created with
the cord kept them still. The elephant trumpeted in discomfort, raising
its trunk high to the sky. “Pull!” The people chanted. Delvit’s body wept
with sweat and shook like he was shocked with electric current.
Everyone took mental participation in the pulling sport as they
demonstrated staggering positions in the struggle against the
elephant.”

30
His muscles were not driven to stretch any further than he had
done already. He grew weak and was drawn one stud backwards. If
he lost balance, he would have stepped into the eve of his end.
Mbahada could not stand the tension anymore. He zoomed to him
with the speed of an aircraft. When Delvit saw him, his presence
awakened his fainting mind. “Take it from me if you choose. This is
your chance,” Mbahada said and paused, looking straight into his
eyes, “to reign.” A transition of determination bumped on his facial
expression, his doleful look turned cheeky. He took a firmer grip on
the cord and pulled harder, blistering his palm and skin.
He made slow strides as he went through two studs. The
villagers cheered louder with increasing volume. He progressed to
the fourth and fifth stud where again, he and the elephant came to a
staggering halt for seven seconds before he adopted a tactic of
allowing himself dragged a stud backward to gather more momentum
to press forward. By so doing, he dragged the elephant two studs
forward and so was his trick till he got to the ninth stud before he
called on the referee to untie him.
Delvit’s face was blue and engorged with many veins activated
round it. The villagers ran berserk, they forced their way into the arena
to meet Delvit. He was lifted and flung to the sky as they sang songs
of victory. The elders under the canopy embraced themselves and
traded pleasantries to each other over Delvit’s victory:

Elders: Who is Delvit?


People: He’s the shepherd
The gifted child of our day
The promise of the promised future.
Elders: Does he have the mental breeding?
People: Yes, he does, the type we want in a leader
Row the boat, row the boat.
Elders: I say whom do we know?
People: It’s Delvit we know (2 xs)
The king of the game

CHORUS

May the gods lead you and may we follow


That we may neither fall nor sink in sorrow
Then will the future be ours to borrow
Our posterity may have what it takes to crow
When our children live to see tomorrow
The people sang and danced without taking cognizance of
their twitching intestines they had starved virtually throughout the day.
“Thank you.” Mbahada said to them, waving his hand at them to court
attention. “Thank you for making this occasion a big success.” Smiling
and clearing his throat he said, “today, you’ve chosen your leader and
the only vote we’ve is to honor yours.”
He cheered them again and again and they echoed in vibrating
sounds, tapping their lips speedily with their fingers. “May I take a lean
honor in introducing to you our pearl of great price, Delvit Ozobo?”
Mbahada continued. “The moment boys overcome fears
common to mankind, they lead and others follow. Delvit Ozobo has
confirmed he’s the man. He fell a tree, the tallest of them all, whereas
it took two of our remarkable men to get the job done. He pulled an
elephant nine studs forward when the most any had a bash of was
seven and that was no other than our late and beloved chief Paterki. I
believe he’s proud watching us today at his place of rest.” The people
applauded. “How many of you were surprised by Delvit’s dept of
understanding in resolving those riddles?” Hands rose high going
together with whistling and shouts.
“Through the whole contest, did you see his will-power to
survive and his ability to carry us along? That’s the spirit of
leadership.” He lifted his long gown from his sides to his shoulders.
“Before I give way for Delvit to give his first chieftain address before
he undergoes his initiatory chieftaincy rites, I’ll like to recognize elder
Tabinoy for inspiring this idea when we all had a mix of thoughts.”
“Thank you.” Tabinoy said, with a nod and a smile.
While he spoke, Delvit freshened up behind the scene and wore
a long majestic gown. “I don’t have the right words to express
pleasure over my takeover in the contest you watched.” Delvit said
with all smiles. “My joy is full to justify with this event, that I can lead
this clan like no other as my victory in the sands of this arena stands
matchless. Therefore, if I have your cooperation, we can move to
greater heights of power and successes.”

32
Chukudoh folded his arms against his breasts and listened to
him while he spoke. He turned to Tabinoy with expression on his face
that spoke words of doubt. Tabinoy lifted his face at him with optimism
in his eyes. “In accepting this higher responsibility,” Delvit continued, “I
shall knock horns against any who go up against my authority, that
peace may prosper in the clan.” He said, like he was leading a squad
to battle. “Thank you.” He received a cloudy ovation from the people,
because his vision was not clearly spelt-out, the tone of his message
was more unfriendly than what he said and did not satisfy the
expectation of the people.
Later in the evening, Delvit was led to the chieftain shrine
situated in an enclosure of the palace. All the elders were present in
the initiatory room to officiate and witness his ordinance of induction
into the chieftain authority. Before this time, Delvit washed down clean
with water mixed with sea salt, and herbs for self-purification,
symbolizing a new beginning; the process was referred to as spiritual
bath directed by the chief priest.
His spiritual bathing fell on a Saturday which had connection to
power and protection and was to be done at the waning of the moon
to amplify the energy required to sustain his ordinance. By the sides
of his bath tub were two red candles, dry herbs of incense, black
traditional soap with a local sponge.
These items were present to help channel the energy
necessary to raise his spiritual drive in diminishing his mundane
feelings or experiences of the past and present, for a successful
purification. He undressed, lit the candles, poured the water on his
head, sponged himself downwards while quoting an incantation which
was given him by the chief priest some of which were in poetic
psalms:

Spirits residing in the waters


We give thee thanks
Thou who occupy and take to shape.
Wet, transparent, easy-going,
Poise to wash and cleanse
Rinse me of undesirable omen
That I may be unhindered in my duties
And energized to function in my call to duty
So, mote it be. Amen.
He left the bath tub backward through the burning candles and
covered his nakedness with a clean white gown before exiting the
room. But he was told not to dry himself with towel but to air dry
rather. This was to allow the sacred materials he used in bathing to
absorb into his body for tangible results. He was not to take his bath
again for the next twenty-four hours in order not to interfere with the
effects of his cleansing.
His wounds were dressed and treated and he underwent body
massage with consecrated oil, relaxing his body and spirit to agree
with the notable initiation that would place him in a position of power,
second to the gods and goddesses of the people. Everyone in the
lodge were members of the clan’s presiding society - Ezomde. They
maintained utmost silence during the ordinance.
It was named after a leopard because they saw it as a symbol
of power. The Ezomde society was in nature, legislative and judiciary,
responsible to mete judgment and to exercise political and ritualistic
powers. He was in the masquerade club that inspired fear during
special social functions and ceremonies.
Two main classes of masquerades existed; the first was
Timdalah and the second Eyotope. Timdalah were available during
ceremonies like marriages, rites of passage, and other simple rites.
They represented the ghost of past ancestors hovering round about
the forest of the clan with interest in the affairs of the people.
Attempting to unmask them was a taboo and would provoke ancestral
spirits. However, they were entertaining during festive periods and
they wrecked no havoc.
The second class of masquerades which Delvit belonged to
were involved in more ritualistic ceremonies like burials, New Yam
Festivals and gatherings requiring legislative support. Pregnant
women who stared at this class of masquerade or came in contact
with its ugly countenance, had their child resembling it at birth. If it had
a broad face and long teeth, so did the child, except the mother
appeased it with gifts however small before she put to birth.
In the ongoing initiation, the chief priest put a smoked raffia
lace round Delvit’s waist while he clothed his top body with dried skin
of a leopard. The chief priest wore a raffia top like the elders did. All
had caps on their heads portraying their majesty except for the
prospective chief who was without one. Delvit sat on his new royal
stool before the elders and the chief priest who stood in front of him
during his chieftain installation. He had in his hand a bunch of skeletal
palm fronds tied together indicating the coming together of family units
in each village within the clan unified in strength and brotherhood.

34
“In the presence of our ancestors, gods and goddesses
watching this sacred practice of duty,” the chief priest said, “do you
accept the responsibility of maintaining the customs that comes with
this broom in the oath of chieftaincy?” Delvit nodded his head to the
charge. The chief priest handed the broom to his right hand and
placed a crown on his head with stripes of leopard skin round it. He
chanted and invoked the powers of the gods and goddesses of the
clan to honor the initiation conducted and went further to instruct
Delvit on principles of good governance.

“You shall rule the clan with moral codes of


conduct without fear or favor. Treat the ‘members
of the clan’ alike, serving the people with the spirit
of God Almighty. We’re calling upon all the
goddesses and the spirit of our ancestors to be in
your support. May you have a long life, wealth
and health so as to serve your people maximally!”

The natives had faith in “God almighty” yet practised all sorts of
voodoos. They were not familiar with the belief that ‘God Almighty’ had
a son known as ‘Jesus Christ.’ They believed there was a merciful
creator who took care of the universe and was too sacred to cut
across except through gods, goddesses and ancestral spirits that
were nearest to them.
While in the lodge, the chief priest lifted a basin of water of
which he mixed white clay and anointed it with olive oil. He smeared it
on the face of the prospective chief and around the shrine to sanctify
the spiritual coronation.
Delvit and every other member of the Ezomde society passed
a night in the palace. In the break of the following day, he was led by
four huge body guards under a sizeable almond tree, alongside with
his associates and they walked through seven streets in the clan.
They were accompanied with drums and wooden gongs to make
public notice of the new head of the Ezomde society whom they
crowned chief, the broom in his hand certified his stamp of authority
over the clan.
CHAPTER THREE

Elder Esubi and his family sat in the front yard of their home
discussing events apparent since the death of the late chief in a sober
mood. “Wow. It is surprising,” Esubi said to Tarehan, his first wife who
sat close to him with her palm on her cheek and elbow to her knee,
“how things have turned out since the past eight months.” “What might
be wrong?” She said to herself, looking at plants and vegetables in
her farm yard. “I water them day and night, I make heaps for them, I
fertilize the soil and sprinkle ashes on their leaves to protect them
from pests and insects, yet they grow sickly. What else can I do?”
“Did you put in the ground the better species of plants I
brought back for you last week to end this complain?” “Yes, I did. But I
don’t think the specie of plant is the problem.” She said, pointing to
the other side of the farm. “If you look over there, you’ll find the specie
you gave me to plant the other time, they still have the same
problems.” Esubi rolled his eyes to where she pointed and then he
pointed to another direction. “But dear, are those not healthy plants
over there?” “Don’t forget,” she said, “those were the vegetables I
used in preparing Afang soup yesterday which you complained
weren’t tasty.”
“Oh-o-o-o. I said it. You’ve never cooked my favorite meal in
such an unskilled manner before. I was thinking whether I offended
you in a way that made you chose to cook for me like it was your first
experience.” “No, even my first experience in cooking would’ve tasted
better.” She laughed but he sighed. “This is getting serious. The other
day, I bought groceries on my way from the neighboring clan, their
vegetables tasted normal?” “Yes, it did. Are we going to continue
buying groceries from others when we’ve lands of our own to plant
on? Three families behind us report the same problem we’re
experiencing.”
“I’m confused,” Esubi said and rose to his feet, “how come
elder Mbahada’s farm produces are doing great? Now, he mocks me
saying, I should go find where I lost my skills in farming.” He said,
looking at the ground. “I must consult my Ozibi on this matter.” Ozibi
was the personal god of a person assigned to serve as a guardian
angel throughout one’s life and was seen as neither male or female.

36
Esubi had a reserved room inside, not even his wife went in
there. Inside the room resembled a shrine laced with red clothing, two
earthen vessels filled with ashes of his past cremated ancestors, a
skull of a crocodile, mirrors, a human head carving and his societal
attire. Personal gods understood their immediate needs and helped
them achieve their purposes. They provided insight to daily
experiences and was a huge determinant for their progress or
misfortune. “Please enquire into this matter; our New Yam Festival is
by the corner.” Tarehan said.
During the New Yam Festival, those with the most bounteous
harvest were commended and awarded. In the reign of chief Paterki,
Esubi was awarded the functional title of an “Elder” in a New Yam
Festival. Like a few men in the land, Esubi was acknowledged for the
size of his family under his care, his exceptional accomplishment in
farming, fishing, rearing and marketing of bush rabbits. He was also
honored with a fresh maiden of his choice.
Esubi left off to his yard, plucked kola nuts, bounded the legs
of his native foul and fetched a gourd of palm wine from his palm tree
he prepared three nights ago.
When he came back home with these items, he took his bath
and went to his sacred room to offer prayers to his personal god and
to the choice spirits of his ancestors with the token he brought in.
They were the medium by which their prayers and sacrifices were
offered to God Almighty. Unlike any other day, he spent longer period
communing with them, seeking guidance on how to resolve his
predicament. The next day, he left his house early in the morning to
have words with Mbahada in his compound.
“Please have a sit there,” Mbahada said, “you’re welcome.” “I
hope my visit didn’t wake you from sleep?” “So long as it’s Esubi, it
doesn’t matter.” They cheered each other, stroking their staff and raffia
fan by the sides. It was a special way of greeting by titled men. “You
shall leave long.” Esubi said. They sat adjacent to each other. “One
does not see a frog at day, it’s either something is pursuing it or it’s
pursuing something.” “The snake is never at rest when it is starved,
until it finds a prey to answer its stomach.” “That’s right.” “Yesterday, I
spent a long-time fellowshipping with my Ozibi to answer my cares.”
“It’s a good thing to do. When sickness affects the eyes, it also
affects the noise. We don’t have to wait for ceremonial days.” “You’re
aware in the past month, our stream has been drying up rapidly,
having water fit to drink is becoming a problem?” “I’m aware oh. What
would we do when the only stream we’ve in the center of this village
dries up?” “Aw. It’s good you share in my fears.” Esubi said, sitting up-
right on his chair, “how is your place in the ground yielding for you?”
He asked. Mbahada chuckled, pointing a finger to Esubi’s face, “Elder
Esubi,” he called light-headily, “what happened to your farming
talents?” “You again. As if I knew you’d ask.” He frowned.
“Okay. Since you asked, my garden is doing fine. But I can’t
say same for the yams I planted five months back.” “Why?” “You know
how long the tendrils of my yams grow knotting round my trees. Now,
they barely compete heights with them. The sad part is, their leaves
are fading off before time.” “It’s too early for their leaves to fade, that
means the tubers you have in the ground must be small and
unhealthy.”
“I don’t know what to do.” Esubi kept mute blinking his eyes.
“I’m afraid something is wrong and it will spread to every nook and
cranny of this land before you know it.” “Chukudoh visited me
yesterday and told me how poor his yam farming is doing and said his
kinsmen complain of insect destroying their yams in the ground.”
Mbahada said. “Imagine. And the New Yam Festival is coming up
fifteen weeks from now?”
“Our people say; the reason for a man’s failure is in the spirit of
his hometown.” “What’s your reason for saying that?” Mbahada
asked. “The day the late Etobor’s corpse sailed on the river linking to
our stream, he possessed it and his ashes that sunk to the earth of
the river joined in sharing ownership of our land with Oluze.” “Aw. The
great Paterki now shares authority and power with Oluze? But where
have we gone wrong that they should allow this sickness eating up
our farmyard spread around?” Mbahada sighed, tapping his staff on
the ground. “Didn’t we give our late Etobor an honorable burial?” He
asked again staring at Esubi.
“How often do you consult with your Ozibi?” Esubi asked. “I do
but not as devotedly as I use to. I’m overtaken by the cares of the day;
you know the gods will not do for a man what he can do for himself.”
“That’s the excuse I use to have. I learned my lesson when it became
slow to respond to my petition.” “I agree with you. One should search
for a black goat before nightfall.” “I must leave to tend my poultry.”
Esubi said standing to his feet. “You’ve done noble to visit me, my
regards to your family. We shall hold a meeting with the elders at the
Etobor’s palace to deliberate over this matter.”

38
The New Yam Festival was the most talked about ceremony,
one in which the chief must be present to direct both as a political and
spiritual head of the clan. A lot of preparation and announcement had
been on-going to keep the people abreast and psyched up for the
festival. As it drew closer, each family in the clan ate up their old yams
and disposed the reminders in welcoming fresh and delicious yams to
come. They accorded it the respect because they saw it as the king of
crops.
In preparation for the festival, the council of elders came
several times to hold meeting with the chief without success. Many a
time, he claimed he was unavailable for reasons that annoyed the
elders. For instance, he would ask the elders to wait for him while he
spent long hours playing and resting on the arms and laps of his
concubines living with him. Ever since his installation in office as chief,
women flocked around him in the palace and he was responsive to
their visit and accommodated many he lusted after and who opted to
live under the same roof with him.
On another day, the council met and set-off to the chief’s
palace, pulling long faces. “The Etobor must give us attention today.”
Mbahada said. “There are pressing matters to discuss. Why does he
continue to worry less?” Tabinoy asked. The sun was still setting when
they arrived at his palace and they were surprised to find him sitting
and waiting on the throne to receive them. “Honorable men,” Delvit
said, with a sympathetic grin, “Welcome to the palace. I perceived you
were going to visit me this morning.” The frown on the faces of the
elders faded away at the warm greeting they received from the chief.
Whatever their frustrations were about the chief’s nonchalant
attitude towards them, dissolved upon meeting him. They had respect
for Delvit as they did for previous appointed leaders. His aura shone
bright because of the authority invested in him. They strove in the
notion that they were sons of deity. Committing a crime against them
incurred capital punishments upon the offenders from gods or
goddess.
The elders took to a seat. “How can I make meaning to your
visit?” Delvit enquired from them in a soft tone. The elders did not
respond in a hurry because their minds were plighted with concerns,
they needed the time to construct them with respect in their minds
before airing them.
Mbahada broke the ace. “Your Etobor,” he began, looking at
the elders he continued, “gentlemen of the elder’s council, I greet you.
With thanks to the goddess of our mother earth, we shall be marking
the New Yam Festival some market days from now. Our people say
maize bear fruits once and dies because it isn’t rooted into the
ground.” He paused and continued, “for this reason, we longed for an
opportunity to plan with you a successful festival for the end of the
year.”
Delvit giggled at Mbahada’s statement. “I have everything
arranged already. All you need do is attend and send me reports.”
Delvit said, like he made it easy for them but it came off discourteous
to the elders. “Already?” Tonfia asked, “Already.” Delvit affirmed. The
elders were hard of words. “Your Etobor,” Esubi said, “to be honest,
we’re surprised you can come up with an agenda for a special festival
without discussing it with your elders in the council.” “You know we’re
closest to the people, we can tell you what their struggles and needs
are, so we can take a favorable and sustainable decision.” Mbahada
said. Delvit listened with a look that showed he recognized his erring.
Tonfia breathe deep to fine-tuned his emotions into words, “Anointed
one, our people want more than just a merry-go-round festival. You
shouldn’t take a decision we know nothing about?”
“Be quiet.” Delvit yelled, “your offices as elders is valued to
what extent I permit and I counsel with you only when I choose.” The
elders roared in their stomach. “No disrespect to you, sir. May I bring
to light, two concerns we wish you our Etobor to address?” Chukudoh
asked. “Go ahead.” Delvit said. “We want to work with the vision you
have for the clan, but how about reducing the tax charge on our
people.” The elders nodded, encouraging him to speak further.
“Five percent of our increase was what we could all deal with
and there was so much we did with it and can still do with it. Raising it
to thirty percent is difficult for everyone.” He said with a voice used to
beg. On listening, Delvit crossed his legs and leaned forward with a
look of contempt. “Secondly,” Chukudoh continued, “I wish to plead
for…” “Save it.” Delvit cut him off with sharpness, “don’t even go
there. I don’t know why small minds can’t accept change. And
because you can’t, how can you key into my vision. Do you all expect
me to act like my forerunners in everything?”

40
The elders ducked their heads back like he threw a punch to
their faces. The way he reacted confirmed he had no iota of regards
for them. Mbahada’s face was red and his spirit vexed, “Our crown
head,” he said, “I beg of you in the name of the matriarch of this land,
respect the oath of authority you swore in the day of your chieftain.
We deserve some respect from you in addressing us because we’re
not here to threaten your authority. We’re here to strengthen you.”
His statement leveled Delvit’s arrogance. He wanted speaking,
but the words were not forthcoming. “Anointed one,” Esubi took from
him, “there is a shadowy problem in some quarters of the land that will
spread across the clan if we don’t do something on time.” Delvit
readjusted himself on the throne, “what problem is casting a shadow
in the land?” “It rains freely, we till the soil, sow and nurse our crops,
but they fail to yield as they should.”
“I hear many tubers planted this season show signs that our
harvest will be scanty,” Delvit said, “I’m not impressed to hear this.
The New Yam Festival is near and it’s unacceptable by our tradition to
buy yam for the festivity.” He said, sounding warm and cold at the
same time. “Did he not say he had everything in his control?”
Chukudoh whispered into Tabinoy’s ears. “Before any one says my
brain for farming has gone rust,” Esubi said with wit, “I consulted my
Ozibi together with the spirits of my ancestors, wanting to know why
harvest has reduced. It was as if I was dropping into a coma or maybe
I should call it a trance, I heard clear voices in my head, ‘two of
Paterki’s menservants to continue with him beyond the veil less, the
lands withers.’”
Four hefty body guards stood by the sides of the chief with no
emotion written on their faces. But when they heard what Esubi said,
their eyes quivered in their sockets. “I hope this isn’t a way of getting
back at my fearless men who will not hesitate sending you straight
away to meet your ancestors if this were a set up?” Delvit said
sprawling his legs.
The fear of the armed men got lot worse when the chief
referred to them as ‘fearless’ to a foreign practice. “I know this is hard
to swallow,” Esubi said, “it’s been even more difficult for me being the
one having to uncover it all the while.” “I shall consult with my Ozibi
and hope to fall into a trance too to confirm what you’ve said, but be
warned, where I find out these are all lies, I’ll exchange you for my
men, because I don’t see how this solves the problem when…”
Delvit had not finished his statement when the chief priest
tramped into the palace with a resounding staff and two other
followers by his side who held tiny clay pots of incense burning in their
hands. Their faces and bodies were chalked with spiral designs of
white painting. They wore coral beads on their necks and fasten a red
band of clothe round their faces.
“Esubi’s revelation is true.” The Ekpeflu proclaimed. The chief
priest was an authority in the land, not even the chief in all his powers
could defile his sovereignty as the oracle of the most respected deity,
Oluze. “If the ear fails to hear a piece of advice,” the chief priest said,
“it will go with the head when it is cut off.” He slanted his face to the
chief and said, “The spirit of your immediate ancestor in the
underworld is distressed. The sacrifice must be done in no time before
the festival at the bank of the canal where he was cremated. Be
cautioned, He has an eye in the land.”
Delvit rose against the chief priest, “Who is my ancestor that I
must slaughter two of my men to appease?” “Sacrilege!” The chief
priest said and rose a shoulder to his cheek. “Ignorance makes the rat
call the cat to a fight. May Oluze forgive you? Do you know He whom
you call without reverence is an adopted nephew to Oluze who now
mete out in her authority?” Delvit dropped on his throne like a log of
wood.
“But we thought,” Mbahada said, “he told us as a child he grew
up with his mother who was Ngobi the peasant farmer.” “Ha-ha-ha.
Ngobi was the fourth younger sister to Oluze but what you don’t know
is, she didn’t give birth to late Paterki. Ngobi raised and nurtured him
when his unknown mother gave birth and abandoned him in a thick
bush at two weeks.” “Abomination. How could his mother be so
heartless to her infant?” Chukudoh asked.
“Ngobi was behind his mother across a piece of farm, taking a
nap under a shade after weeding a portion in her farm when she
heard a baby cry for long. She came after it to see what was wrong.”
“His mother and Paterki never crossed part again?” Delvit asked.
“They did only in her dreams wherein, she saw her child alive and
destined to take the mantle of leadership over the entire land as a
‘bastard’ he was called in the far East of the clan where he grew. His
mother wept day and night wishing she had not abandoned him. She
sought for her child as far as she could trek but did not find him. “Why
did she abandon her own blood in the first place?” Esubi asked and
hissed.

42
“The poor girl probably didn’t even know whom her child’s
father was and must have feared she was unable to cater for a child
by herself.” Mbahada said. “She shouldn’t have chosen the easy way
by dumbing her son. She should’ve feared the gods knowing they
could support her from unexpected sources. Children come with
blessings.” Chukudoh said. “That’s why we teach our daughters to
close their legs and stay chaste for crying out loud.” He added. “Many
people scorned her for her sheer negligence and she died of a partial
stroke seven months later, not knowing the whereabout of her son.”
The chief priest said and walked a distance away with his devotees
and halted backing them.
“The time is fast spent, the redemption of your lands and crops
is conditioned on your obedience to the demand of deity.” The chief
priest said and exited the palace with his devotees. Delvit stood and
walked round the path to his throne with a weighty heart sighing. “I
have never seen nor heard the Ekpeflu challenge late Etobor like this
before.” Delvit said, his voice echoed everywhere in the palace. “This
is a hard thing to do but the Ekpeflu never lies.” Mbahada said.
“Paterki who is now my ancestor never went back on his
words when he was mortal, how much more now he’s immortal. But
it’s possible the Ekpeflu must be up to something.” Delvit said, resting
both hands on his waist. “I shall consider his demand but woe unto
him should it fail, he shall live the reminder of his life telling sorry
tales.”
“Your Etobor, if you can consider the Ekpeflu as an oracle, why
not ease the tax charge of our people?” Chukudoh reminded him. “I’ve
had enough.” Delvit roared like a lion. “All you do is tell me what I
should do like I don’t have a good sense of judgement.” He said and
turned to Mbahada. “Do you honor in full the order of tax I laid down?
Do you realize you’re teaching rebellion to my subjects under my
nose?” Mbahada nodded his head side-ways like a child scolded by
an adult. “Imagine. This clan is dividing and you’re all here asking me
how I can please you with roles.” He said on the top of his voice.
“Please don’t misunderstand…” Mbahada tried soothing his
unexplainable anger. “I’m not done!” He refused to be persuaded.
“There’s no role where I don’t rule. Am I clear on this?” In his rash
temperament, the elders kept silent. The leopard society under which
the chief served was a governing body of customs and sanctions
comprising of the chief, the chief priest, the constituency of elders and
the masquerades. The elders could not understand why their chief
had the tendency of monopolizing the authority to himself, exempting
the need for a check and balance.
He stood up and left inside the palace. The elders remained
on their chairs confounded by the chief’s attitude and not even the
spirit of the New Yam Festival in the near future relaxed contracted
muscles of anguish on their faces.

44
CHAPTER FOUR

Three market days passed, which was a week in the calendar


of the Opezia Baitus; Delvit’s guards and twelve of his elders joined
him as they left straight to the river bank where Paterki was cremated.
The chief priest was the first to reach the river and awaited the arrival
of others. Before this time, two guards were selected for the sacrifice.
They were intoxicated with traditional roots and bark stems of trees
and shrubs containing narcotic and sedate ingredients used to induce
deep spiritual awareness and hallucination.
They could not stand on their legs nor raise an arm. At the
shores of the river, two coffins were prepared and fastened on two
canoes. The sacrificial guards were tied both hands and limbs, put
into two separate coffins and shut inside alive. The coffins were
fastened with nails and thereafter set upon the river to sail. As it
traveled on the bed of the river, the same archer that fired Paterki’s
corpse shot burning arrows at the respective coffins. They were set
ablaze; the chief priest raised his hands to the sky and chanted:

May your spirits


travel undisturbed
down the lane of the
underworld, blossom
in the bosom of
Paterki and rubbed
in his glory as you
continue in your
services to him
faithfully. Sail on!
Sail onto the peace
of the worlds of
spirits.

At the end of his chant, the wind blew hard, increasing the
tides on the river. “Rejoice,” the Ekpeflu said, “Paterki has received
your sacrifices.” “I have given to our ancestor the best of his men in
bargain that our land be healed and that we may celebrate in
abundance during the coming New Yam Festival.” Delvit added.
Four days later, Mbahada woke in the morning and left to
Esubi’s house with a chewing stick in his mouth. Esubi was already up
and in his farm working. “Aw. Do you farm this early in the day?”
Mbahada asked him while a distance from him. “Yes oh. The wrath of
the Etobor has been disturbing me. I have been observing the
performance of my farm since those two guards were sacrificed. I
don’t know what he would do if our condition remains the same or
worsen.” “I have been observing mine too, that’s why I came to check
on you.” “Have you seen any positive signs yet.” “I’m afraid I haven’t.”
Mbahada said raising his eye brow.
“What scares me,” Mbahada continued, “the tendrils of my
yams aren’t sprouting at all and are dying.” “Look over there,” Esubi
pointed, ‘Mine is drying up as well. I’m so troubled.” He said walking
towards it along with Mbahada. Esubi rubbed his face hard and slow,
while Mbahada looked up the sky pondering about their predicament.
“But the gods can’t lie.” Mbahada said. “The gods can’t lie but why
has nothing changed. Look at the other tendril,” he said, walking to it,
“no difference. Tell me what I haven’t done? I have tried and I’m tired.”
Esubi said and exited the farm angrily.
Mbahada remained, looking at plant but lost in his thoughts.
He drew closer to the plant, “Come, come.” Mbahada called on him,
“See. A fresh tendril is growing from the old one.” He said smiling.
Esubi drew closer and confirmed it true. “Wait.” He told Mbahada and
went further to inspect five others. “The gods are alive. The gods are
ahead of us.” He exclaimed and both hugged and jumped for joy like
two excited kids.
Day after day, they went from one neighbor to the other to
examine their farms, their yam tendrils grew anew. “Do you know my
wives’ soup taste good now?” Esubi said to Mbahada. “Why shouldn’t
it? The gods are alive.” “Have you also noticed our stream is filling to
its bream?” “Yes I do. I warned my children…do you know my last
daughter nearly drowned in it yesterday?” “She better learns her
lesson.” Esubi said pulling his own ear.
After fourteen weeks, the clan began harvesting yams in
preparation for their festival. The yams they harvested were long and
fleshy. It was the staple food of the people and the number of it a
person had in his barn, the size of family he catered for and the
generous contributions he made to the clan as a whole was a
parameter in determining his status and wealth.

46
For example, if a man met the parents of a maiden and
propose to marry her, among the first thing her parents would want to
know was the size of his yam barn. It indicated his ability to take care
of their daughter and portrayed him as hardworking. The onset of a
New Yam Festival began a new year. It was a time for making
resolutions to improve one’s self and productivity. The feast united the
clan with a bond of love.
The festival began on the first week of September and lasted
for a month. People wed the streets where they lived, wed the path
leading to streams in each village as a sign of invitation to friends,
relations and kin to join them in thanksgiving to Mother Earth for a
period of plenty. There was enough to eat and drink. Different sizes of
stomach surrounding tables were no threat. There was surplus to
carry over after the festival to eat, reserve and plant.
Days before the festivity, the Eyotope played an important role
in purifying and cleansing the clan against effects of witchcraft and
misfortunes for which they gave thanks to their ancestral spirits the
masquerades represented. The masquerade did this in several ways.
This included, cutting the back of sasswood and making a concoction
which had powerful narcotics. It was used to determine who in the
clan was practising witchcraft.
Whenever, a villager was accused of harming people and
wreaking havoc in the clan with black magic, the Eyotope forced the
person to drink the portion and walk around his village. If the person
was a witch, the portion will make him insensitive to holding a lie for
long before he confesses, telling everybody who gave it to him or
initiated him, the atrocities they committed before it killed them
through fits of vomiting. But, if the person was innocent, the portion
may torment them but not to a point of confession and death.
The lodge of the Ezomde Society was decorated with images
of deities. Grave matters like murder, rape, land disputes, and human
assaults were addressed by the chief and his constituency of elders in
there. The lodge was the center of government and a court where
communal conflict was decided and resolved.
The role of the masquerades was to enforce the decrees and
in arresting culprits found guilty. It was common to find the Eyotope
hiding in the farms of the locals to protect it from intruders who would
either steal their yields or try owning their lands by planting on them.
Masquerades were spirits of ancestors with mystic powers to defend
or inflict harm. No one confronted a masquerade to a fight.
In a home where heated quarrels and fighting existed every
now and then among family members or in polygamous homes, the
Eyotope surfaced in such scenes with company of youths to instill
peace by fining them or by other methods that required being
physical. They also had a canny way of catching women in the act of
adultery and bringing the matter before the council for judgement. If a
husband still desired to admit his wife after pleading for forgiveness,
she would first be cleansed through certain rituals, to purge her of
alluring energies igniting excessive promiscuous cravings.
The masquerade also purified the lands by cutting yams into
several pieces and placing them in different areas of their farms a day
to the festival. They did same with fouls by slitting their throats and
spilling their blood on the ground while they offered prayers at
junctions. It was an abomination to feed on a newly harvested yam
before the cultural feast. Such attempts brought curses upon the
person and damnation to the land if several others were guilty. It was
also sacrilegious to sit on a yam tuber because it was king of all cash
crops.
The eldest man or chief in the clan had exclusive right to
partake of the yam with palm oil in the festival before any other
because they had better association with their ancestors. Gun powder
was all over the air as they shot their hunting guns above, beat the
drums for many hours with strong rhythmic sounds.
During the festival, they presented fashion parades, numerous
rehearsed dramas to expose the beauty of their cultures and
demonstrate moral lessons. Youths, men and women were actively
involved in making personal and group presentations which were
followed by choruses composed by the clan. They acted a drama
about a “Turtle and the Leopard.” It was told this way:

“One day, Turtle went to Leopard’s house. He saw Mrs.


Leopard standing at the door. Turtle bowed and said,
“How do you do ma’am?” “I’m fine, thank you,” she
replied, “how are you?” “Well” Turtle said, “I’ve got a
fever and my skin hurts all over. I’m so sick with fever
that I’m going to go to the bush, to look for roots and
make a root tea.”
“That sounds proper,” says Mrs. Leopard. “By the way,
where is Leopard today” asked Mr. Turtle. “He’s out
hunting” She replied. “You haven’t seen him?” “No
ma’am,” Turtle replied, “I’m sorry he’s away far,
because if he had been here, I’d go ride him like a
horse.”

48
This statement upset Mrs. Leopard, so Turtle went
home. When Mr. Leopard returned, Mrs. Leopard told
him that turtle said he was going to ride him like a
horse. Mr. Leopard went wild, cracked his teeth,
growled, and went over to turtle’s house.
“So you said you were going to ride me like a horse?”
“No I did not!” said turtle “I never said anything like
that!” Leopard says, “All right then, let’s go ask my
wife.” Turtle replied, “But I can’t walk. I am sick with
fever all over.” “Okay, I’ll give you a ride.” Leopard
replied.
And Turtle replied “Fever will make me fall. Get me a
little rope. I’ll tie it around your mouth Mr. Leopard. I’ll
hold on to the rope so that when I shake with the fever,
I will not fall off of you.”
Leopard got him the rope. Then Turtle said, “Give me
one little stick, Mr. Leopard, so that I can keep the flies
from bothering either one of us.” Leopard got him the
stick. And off they went, with Leopard carrying Mr.
Turtle, and Turtle bouncing but holding the rope, and
with Turtle flogging Leopard with the stick.
When they reached Mr. Leopard’s home, his wife was
waiting. She pointed at Mr. Leopard and said, “Well, it’s
true. Turtle said he was going to ride you like a horse,
and he’s doing just that!” and she burst out laughing.
Mr. Leopard realized that he had been fooled, and he
grabbed Turtle off his back. He was mad now. He
grabbed the rope and the stick and held Turtle tight.
Then he found a bigger stick, and flogged Turtle
multiple times, and so hard that the shell on his back
had cuts all over it.
So the story goes, Turtle did ride Mr. Leopard like a
horse, and that is why he still has marks from the turtle-
whipping on his back shell.”
“What a beautiful performance?” Esubi said to Chukudoh who
sat next to him where the other ten elders gathered for the feast in the
clan’s major field. Delvit sat on his throne quite a distance away from
them with three of his wives. In front of them was a broad table made
with bamboo sticks and on it were portions of native chicken, long
pieces of roasted yam in a wooden plate, palm oil on another, a
calabash with an infused drink of coffee and tea and a big earthen pot
of palm wine. The chief drank and got merrier by the hour, he spoke
aloud and laughed like the screeching of a tire on a coal tar, drawing
an embarrassing attention to himself. A guard came to him bowing,
“May I save this for your use in the palace?” He asked, acting in his
favor.
The guard placed his hands on the pot to lift it away when the
chief snapped at him, “Thoughtless watchdog, will you leave this
place now?” The guard shook in fear, zoomed back to his security
position and stood at an attention. Chukudoh saw what transpired
between them. In responding to Esubi question, he said with
amusement, “I hope the Etobor awards these beautiful performances
and candidates of the richest yam barns before he gets too drunk to
remember?” Esubi giggled with disdain and concealed it with his
palm.
“You know I’m surprised,” Esubi switched to another
conversation, “Oluze came to our aid in the nick of time when we had
lost hope.” “How shameful and life threatening it would’ve been on us
if we were disappointed. We give thanks.”
The chief rose from his throne and addressed the people in the
feast, “Good people, you may continue the celebration with your
friends and guests, but I must return to rest my head for the day.” He
waved his raffia fan at them. Six able-bodied men carried him on his
throne on their shoulders to the palace. His attitude confused the
people and lowered the high spirits of the ceremony. The chief had
special roles to play he had been ignoring for weeks.
Delvit had exclusive right to confer awards to awardees and titles
to well-deserved personalities to encourage concerted efforts to the
development and honor of the clan in the New Yam Festival. These
titles included: Benikon, the man who feeds many, Apani, an
experienced herbal doctor, Ojide, title for a famous hunter and
Bamzour, an influential man. Esubi and Chukudoh broke into laughter,
“I knew he will overlook these respectable people of the duties he
owes them.” Chukudoh said, “Uh, may the gods have mercy.”

50
The open field where they gathered was a stone stroll from
Chukudoh’s village. Two weeks before the feast he informed friends
from villages outside his clansmen to join him in celebrating the
festival. A band of drummers, youths, men and women especially
those who lived around his residence in the village joined the trail. In
the village, Chukudoh was noted for making each New Yam Festival a
big fashion. He was of the opinion that a generous celebration brought
greater blessings and achievements in the future.
His family spent a week harvesting his gigantic tubers of yams.
They plucked assorted leaves, tomatoes, balls of melons to make
different kinds pastes and delicacies eaten with yam either sliced or
pounded.
Chukudoh was a skilled hunter and adept with the use of hard
wooden spears and arrows for his games. He made traps that
captured animals alive of any size and kind, some of which he sold to
Esubi and others who bought and reared them for subsistent and
substantial use. The means of buying and selling at that time was
through trade by barter.
They exchanged items like cattle, goats, arrow heads, special sea
shells, salt, beads etc., as a legal tender. “The forest is a home of
spirits blessed with all the wealth of life. If you must tap from it, greet
them with openhanded offerings.” He said to his son whom he took
hunting. This was Chukudoh’s secret in gaming. Before the feast day,
Chukudoh caught squirrels, antelopes, grass cutters and a bush pig.
It was fun and a thing of bravery for Wonnieze, his son, climbing
and darting on trees like a chimpanzee in the thick of the forest when
he went hunting with his father. He brought home two full sacks of
cherries, snails and blackberries. His mother, Adaret on the other
hand was a palm oil miller, an artistic craft maker and a spinner. She
made many of the dolls used at homes, public and private shrines in
some villages in the clan. With ply woods, she made art portraits of
flowers, masquerade masks, and human beings.
But she was poor in painting; she either painted the portraits
too deep or she gave them the wrong colors that made them appear
unreal. It was her son who took interest in her craft and gave them a
near perfect finishing. Her major working tools were a petty saw and a
carving knife. She also had talents in spinning dried water grasses for
making mats and hats and cotton for making sweaters with a thin
sharp stick and on a local spinner she devised.
She came in contact with traders from other continents a few
times who arrived with vessels outside the borders of their clan. She
referred to them as ‘White’ men because they were unlike them in
complexion and culture. In exchange for her palm oil which the
western traders used to grease their heavy mechanical machines like
tractors, she received brandy, glasses, mirrors and farm produce like
Irish potatoes, salad, green pepper and stock fish.
Among other items she gave in exchange were palm kernel oil,
groundnut and iron; iron was taken for a precious metal. They were
dogged from the earth or tasseled from sedimentary rocks and
concentrated under high heating temperature of coal in their local
furnace after which they were beaten into shapes to produce; hoes,
machetes, swords axes and arrow heads.
Chukudoh had a crooked voice in singing, but he was a good
instrumentalist and was the first man to frame xylophone and harp in
the clan. “Trees have a way of life.” He taught his son, “strike them in
a language they understand and they will talk and sing in a tone you
can interpret.” “But papa, when will your voice be good as your
instruments?” Wonnieze pulled his leg. His voice sounded as the loud
crow of a cock when he sang. In making a xylophone, he followed the
same process he used in roasting a trunk of wood intended to form a
canoe.
He placed it close to fire until it drained every fluid from it before
carving musical keys on it to fit sofa notes to a pitch. His harp took a
simple form. He developed it from his hunting crossbow. It was oval
and had several strings attached to it with an egg-shaped opening at
the base that resonated when he struck each string. “Papa, the White
men are asking for more.”
During the early contacts the Portuguese adventurers made in
Africa as they sailed through southeast along the Gulf of Guinea from
the early 1400’s, they traded strictly on goods from clan to clan having
a friendly relationship with the locals. They saw themselves as equals
in business. Few decades afterwards, they began trafficking the
indigenous people of the land. Opezia Baitus was an exception
because they lived far way from seaside areas yet to be explored and
exploited down to mid-1700’s when Chukudoh was born.

52
In addition, the area was infested with certain diseases the
locals had immunity such as malaria from mosquito bites, diarrhea
and typhoid. These factors contributed in restricting their entry inside
the land. But towards the ending of the 1400’s, there where instances
the Portuguese raided and kidnapped the indigenes at coastal areas
with guns and ammunitions. The attack and the human
exploitation over them were as a result of the high demand for cheap
labor in the colonies they created. America for example, was a colony
to England.
Indentured servants, convicts and paid laborers including poor
and homeless Europeans who suffered economic hardship in Europe
or who were kidnapped and taken across to the West indies, were
treated with care much better than an African slave and served their
masters for a limited period of four to seven years before they were
set free. They were usually under a contract of service for their free
passage paid by England and on top of that, many received salaries
from their owners.
They were insufficient in number to match the workforce required
thus, it was expensive hiring their services in the sugar, cotton, rice,
and tobacco fields vastly cultivated in the Americas to be transported
to Europe. A vast host of the original inhabitants of the Americas died
due to diseases contacted from the Europeans such as small pox,
measles, yellow fever, gonorrhea tuberculosis and scarlet fever. Many
of the American Indians died in their struggle for liberty against their
colonialist.
Turning to Africa, a place they said was populated with people of
poor identity but having higher genetic resistance to survive harsh
climatic conditions, tropical diseases, with zero knowledge about the
terrain as to plot an escape, was their best bargain for free human
labor. Clothing and feeding a European indentured servant for seven
years was equivalent to owning a skilled African slave for a lifetime.
Raiding unsecured villages in West Africa were dangerous as
some of the European raiders were ambushed and killed by the locals
in retaliation for their invasions, compared to buying them in exchange
for brass bracelets, coppers, down to common items like salt,
adulterated gin, belts, inferior textiles, caps and weaponry like
outdated guns, old blades, knives, axe-heads and sledgehammers,
many of which were manufactured by the locals.
Many Africans had a childish fascination over western produces
and style of finishing that they ignored the durability of their own craft,
and fell for fancier and cheaper wares from the persuasion of foreign
adventurers. This way, Europe made a lifetime fortune out of Africa
trading goods and slaves that stimulated the economic development
and capitalism in the western world.
For example, when they took slaves from Africa to their colonies
in the Caribbean to labor in different plantations, cash crops like
cottons and sugarcane which accounted for eighty-four percent of why
slaves were brought to the Americas, were exchanged for these
products. The products were then taken to the States of
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and
Rhode Island to be processed after which they were transported back
to West Africa in exchange for more slaves.
Paterki and his predecessors limited their dealings with them
and protected their borders from aliens encroaching into it. In 1637,
one of Paterki’s predecessors, decreed that any ‘White stranger’ who
stepped into the premises of his clan must either remain with them as
a native or be hung in gallows for an attempt to return.
He projected into the possible economical and psychological
impact of slave trade on his people and their posterity if he bought into
their offers like other traditional leaders who did and became wealthy
and influential in the eyes of their communities. Paterki and those
before him had slaves of their own, many who were prisoners of war.
Those who were convicted of severe crimes like murder and treason,
served a tenure of servitude to the chiefs.
Paterki and his predecessors were slow to murder people even
if it were their enemies. Numbers in the clan added to their military
and economic strength, many bought their freedom after years of
proving their fidelity and being of good conduct. Unlike most African
slaves in the West Indies, slaves in the clan had right to property,
marriage and their children rarely inherited the status of slaves.
Chukudoh crossed long distances by land and by water to trade
with them and they were surprised when they discovered in his hands,
a gift to music originating from them. Over the years, Chukudoh’s
transaction with them, inspired in-coming foreigners to duplicate the
style of his family industry: clothe making, upholstery, artistic portraits,
and even the harps he formed. With their superb advancement in
technology for which the westerners were known for, they
manufactured these materials at a commercial rate and traded it back
to Africa. Chukudoh’s family wore amulets on their necks and waist to
ensure safety against physical and spiritual mishap as they sailed on
water and travelled by land for these trips.

54
On one occasion, Adaret whispered to her husband. “The
dress on that White man looks like what I made the last New Yam
Festival. You remember?” “Yes, I remember,” Chukudoh said, “there’ll
always be a more excellent way but we can be proud we found ours.”
Chukudoh’s family were identified for their creative prowess in the
clan. Youths clustered when he played the xylophone. It was an
unfamiliar skill in the clan and knowing how to play it with melody,
commanded awe.
Adaret and Wonnieze were busy with the edibles in the kitchen
behind the yard when they got home from the open field. The
traditional kitchen was clouded with vapor and smoke as a lot of
cooking was taking place. Chukudoh’s elderly friends sat clustered
round tables, the young people busied themselves with dancing and
choruses while the spirit of the occasion was graced with
appearances of masquerades.
In the scene, two young people of the opposite gender
exchanged hostile words in a squabble over who danced better. The
young man involved swept her off with a kick to her feet. The
celebration was loud and involving no one noticed what happened,
but the masquerades did. They laid the young man down and gave
him six lashes for assaulting a maiden. “Rabbits lay their hands-on
women, when they should have lost to an argument.” Chukudoh said,
when the issue was reported to him.
Adaret beckoned on her husband from the door leading to the
entrance of the house to receive a plate of kola she had prepared for
their special guest who sat round the table in the sitting room. Inside
the sitting room were five knitted cane chairs he constructed from long
roots of trees growing in deep streams. On the table, he placed a big
clay pot of palm wine Adaret made a week ago.
In making a clay pot, she sourced for white clay at the shallow
bank of the stream where it settled. Other times, Wonnieze helped her
obtain it by digging it many feet under the earth when rain dampened
the ground. After collecting them, Adaret would dry them in the sun for
hours before adding components like dry dungs of dog excreta, white
chalks, and husks of native millet to harden it before putting them in a
mortar to pound until they turned smooth and powdery.
She removed hard and impure materials from them. Drained it
with water and stirred it until it turned into a thick ball before flattening
it to slice spiral coils, which she used in molding her pots to a size and
shape. It required precision to prevent it from crumbling. She allowed
it some time to dry up before adding extra spirals to raise it to a finish.
In the finishing, she will wet her hands in water to smoothen the edges
of her formative pot.
She gave them several forms of design with a thin pointed stick.
They were either aesthetic, ritualistic or both, depending on the
message she wished to communicate. She will let them dry under the
sun for a day or two before firing it with hot flames inside an enclosed
furnace she made with clay to get rid of its humidity. After firing them,
she brought them out and let them cool before use. They were used
to serve palm wine while others used them to store water. This art of
making earthen pots was the means by which they refrigerated water
to soothe their throat for thirst.
The kola nuts Chukudoh had in his hands, was a symbol of
hospitality and good will. They had spiritual connotations because it
was a medium by which they reverenced and communicated with
spirits of their ancestors and deities. It held different meanings to the
people and it was used in ceremonies like marriages, New Yam
festivals and in simpler gatherings, but the ritualistic rites were not
applied during burials.
As tradition demanded, Chukudoh took the plate of kola nuts to
the most elderly. His name was Enenem. He touched the plate to
indicate he acknowledged the offer. Chukudoh took the plate to the
junior members on the table to have a glimpse. It is the sharing of kola
nut that established a guest was welcome. Where a host could not
provide kola nut, he rendered an apology or an explanation to his
guest.
Enenem picked a kola nut and blessed him. “Goodness and
favor shall follow you in all that your hands find to do.” He proceeded
to break them with his fingers after which he bit a piece with his mouth
and threw to the ground as a libation to deities. “Spirits of our fathers
and gods of the land,” he said, “we bid thee to join us as we feast on
the kola that unites men as brothers. Protect thy children from the trap
of the wicked, seeking to destroy our joy.” The kola nut was passed
around with alligator pepper as a confirmation that the host had
served them with good conscience.
The host examined every kola nut he gave because they bore
different meaning. For example, kola nuts with two divisions, were
taken for a bad omen. It revealed the host had evil intentions. Thus,
he was careful not to offer such kola. Kola nut with three lobes was
said to be good and portrayed progress and good social relations.
Kola nuts with four segments blessed both the sharer and the receiver
with promising peace and happiness in every facet of life.

56
The next kind symbolized fruitfulness and fertility in private
organs to perpetuate one’s progeny. It also promoted a person
chances to succeed in social endeavors and the last kind everyone
anticipated were kola nuts with six to seven divisions which were rare.
It signified rapid growth, added importance to one’s standing in the
clan and called for the slaughtering of a goat.
While they ate kola nuts, garden eggs with groundnut paste and
sipped palm wine interim to when the meal arrived, Enenem had been
running his eyes on Chukudoh. “My brother,” he said with a hand on
Chukudoh’s knee. They were not related by blood, but he addressed
him that way because of their family’s closeness. “With all you have, a
beautiful wife, a son and with all the successes you have achieved,
why are you losing weight like a lazy man starving?”
Otipipo, who sat next to him was a plump palm oil dealer and
was popular for his avid appetite for palm wine. “Forget about him,” he
said with closed eyes, “he wants to look like a teenager again.” The
came an outburst of laughter for the manner he said it. Chukudoh
emaciating was obvious though. It was common place to ridicule
themselves to scorn without holding hard feelings against each other
when they sat together to merry. “Fine,” Chukudoh said, “but what do I
do with my white hairs when I become a teenager at last?” “Fine.
That’s no issue,” Otipipo mimicked him, “tell Wonnieze to start
plucking them off, so that by the time you become a teenager you’d
have turned a bald-headed boy.”
Chukudoh shuddered on his chair with laughter like an
electrocuted victim and so did others with the wine they had in their
horns. Chukudoh toasted his horn of palm wine with Otipipo. “You eh,
you don’t like me at all.” He said, laughing as they continued chatting.
Enenem eyes were still screwed on him. Chukudoh cleared his throat
and said, “The goat sweats but his hair keeps us from knowing it.”
Chukudoh had been unease about Delvit’s attitudes towards the
norms of the land. He discussed it with his wife a night ago, fearing if
the norms of the clan were not protected, the foundation holding the
clan in peace will break in chaos.
He restrained himself from talking about it publicly. He did not
want to arouse divergent opinions and attitudinal responses that will
disquiet the discreet murmurings in the clan against a governance he
was a constituent member of. “Enemies lurk around the corner, judge
your words before you utter them. It will not cost me a thing,” he told
his wife the same night before, “to provoke this people to pick up arms
and kick Etobor from sit, but how do I bring a fight to the Etobor the
gods have oiled?”
Silence creeped in and they dropped their horns on the table
as though their appetite in the fresh palm wine ran a low key after he
made a proverbial statement of a goat. His friends and guests
became inquisitive like Enenem was. They wanted to know what
Chukudoh was keeping away from them. “I’m disturbed our daughters
are losing their virginity in increasing numbers.” Chukudoh said,
breaking the ice with a concern he could speak in the open to make
peace to their itching ears.
His intestines rumbled in his stomach, he hoped his guest will
believe the ‘sweat’ he presented, was the one hid by ‘the hairs of a
goat.’ “I was going to talk about it but I wasn’t very sure of the claim.”
Okpokpan said, suspecting Delvit to be guilty of the crime. He was a
member of the clan in Oruk village were Delvit was born. “This is no
rumor. Our daughters are losing their pride.” Enenem said. Chukudoh
was relieved at where he geared the conversation. “Not every titled
man or elder is successful, but a good father is both an elder and a
successful man.” Okpokpan said.
They had a philosophy, it took a community to own and train a
child. It was inappropriate for a child to err unawares of his parent’s
knowledge and not be spanked or corrected by an older person who
was present and aware of the misdeed. “In my house,” Enenem
continued, “I have more than fifteen relatives squatting under the
same roof with me. Eleven of them are females and have all begun
their blood running experiences. Do you follow?” He smiled. They all
conceded.
“Of recent, my wife has been observing funny behaviors from
them. Last week she summoned them at mid-night and thrust an egg
into each of their vagina and found out three from the others were no
longer virgins.” “Oh. What a shame.” Chukudoh said. “Wait.” Otipipo
interfered. “Were they circumcised at the first place?” “Five of them
refused circumcision and one out of them was guilty of losing her
virginity.” “You see?” Otipipo said, “If I were the one, I would’ve shot
them out of my house. There’s no way I’ll let them put my nose out of
joint. Who’s that man that will go for a girl tampered with already? If
only they were circumcised.” He said with gnome, Enenem
countenance fell.
“Otipipo you can take a horse to the stream, but you can’t force
it to drink. Will driving them away do any good for them? How about
the two girls out of six who were circumcised and yet lost their virginity
during my wife’s examination on them?” His experience in his
household provoked a course to rethink the tenet behind circumcision
as a mode of security in preserving the morality and chastity of
women.

58
“This is a slap to the face.” Otipipo said, raising his face high,
“in our tradition, any man who deflowers a maiden before marital rites,
must either marry her with a fine of a goat or pay a handsome fine of
two cattle if otherwise. Who is responsible for this?” “It took two days
of shouting and pleading for my wife and I to have answer from our
daughters and what we heard worries us till today. We need the time
to make sure the answer is beyond doubt before we point fingers.”
“That’s right. I agree with you.” Chukudoh said.
Circumcision formed a separate initiatory ritual for women. Men
were suspicious of marrying an uncircumcised woman because they
accepted as true, that these women gave birth to children who were
spirits of immortal men. Such children were called Obankin. They
lived their lives in circles and inflicted emotional pain to their parents;
they did so by dying during their formative years on earth and
returning to their mothers again and again each time she conceived.
The people also blamed this on mothers they assumed had
spiritual husbands who made love to them when they were deep
asleep at night or at day. The stigma of these experiences made them
take their daughters to a quick flowing stream or river to undergo a
spiritual bath. This was done to disengage them from relationships
with the underworld men and when every effort failed, they were
forced to circumcise.
The manner by which they went about the circumcision was a
difficult sight to behold. A carving knife was used to cut the hood of the
clitoris, bleeding was severe but was controlled with the coating of
palm oil. It was later followed with a concoction of herbal paste
applied to the injury like gum Arabic and Aloe Vera; a spoon or two of
it was also given the circumcised females to chew to soothe the pain,
combat infections and fastened their healing.
Mothers were consoled with the notion that through this
practice, they could have a normal daughter for marriage. Women
were expected to be sexually inactive to the delight of the earthily
aggression of their husbands. They believed female circumcision
helped every woman during child labor for safer delivery.
In the center of their conversation, Adaret and Wonnieze
brought in wooden plates of pounded yam and soup. The soup was
made from yam porridge – called white soup, prepared without palm
oil. The soup had large chunk of porcupines and snails. They needed
to feast on them first, to find access to the soup imbedded beneath
the meats. The drummers and dancers outside, danced and beat the
drums offbeat as tasty aroma of cooked food travelled and settled on
the hairs in their noses.
The beaten yams on each plate were loaded high, so much that
the worms in the bellies of the guests saw shadows of their arrival and
rejoiced to everyone’s hearing. Otipipo’s rumbling stomach was the
loudest, everyone sited round the tables turned to him with
questioning eyes. “Have you listened to your own?” Otipipo asked the
men round the table. Others stuck their tongues out, lubricating their
lips to give a free pass to what was in front of them. “This is the main
business of the day.” Otipipo ran his mouth like he was the one
hosting them.
No one took interest in their initial conversation any more as
they stooped to wash their hands. “The food tastes good.” Okpokpan
complimented. He was the first to see Adaret enter the sitting room.
“Okpokpan,” Otipipo called, “You haven’t tasted the food and you
know it tastes delicious already. How are you able to do that?” “It’s not
difficult. My eyes and nose are well trained when it comes to food” A
uniform laughter broke out, soon after which they descended on the
food as starved lionesses would on their prey in pride. Adaret brought
in more plates of toast meat, roasted yams and palm oil for all to feed
and merry. Their faces bloated because they over worked their jaws,
forgetting their bellies had elastic limit.
Chukudoh ate with them in moderation so he could lift himself
on both feet to meet the youths. After cheering them he spent a while
with them counseling and motivating them to live up to expectation. “If
we lose you to entangling pleasures of vanity, what kind of future do
we make for ourselves and for our offspring to come? To learn from
sad experiences is wise; learning it from the falls of others is
legendary. This is your moment in time. Choose wisely.” The youths
sat on the ground as he talked and walked amidst them.
“We put our trust in you to honor the traditions of our fore-fathers
that makes us a proud people.” As he spoke with a persuasive tone,
he demonstrated with his hands, catching their interest and attention
together. Few people knew how to command the attention of
adolescences. “We must watch out for others. If you see an old
woman eating chicken droppings, take them away from her because if
they give her a cough it will spread to everyone.”

60
It was an act of outright disrespect to challenge an elderly
person while they spoke whether you did not agree with him. Children
were to be seen not heard. In order words, a child who listened more
to the counsel of the wise, became wiser than a child who had an
opinion to everything. Elderly people had the patriarchal privilege to
bless or curse. It was a blatant insult for a youth to extend a
handshake to an elderly people before they did, and even when they
elderly did extend theirs, the younger person was expected to bowed
before them, stretching both hands to receive the hand of the elder.
There and then they elder may bless him for his courtesy.
He modulated his voice to connect with each of them; the
piercing looks in his eyes and the patting on their shoulders, made the
youths listen even more. He proceeded to telling them a tale about,
“The Mouse Trap.”

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the


farmer and his wife open a package. “What food might
this contain?” The mouse wondered. He was devastated
to know it was a mouse trap. Retreating to the farmyard,
the mouse proclaimed this warning: “There is a
mousetrap in the house! There is a mouse trap in the
house! There is a mouse trap in the house!”
The chicken clucked and scratched the earth, raised her
head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave
concern to you, but it is no consequence to me. I cannot
be bothered by it.”
The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a
mouse trap in the house! There is a mouse trap in the
house! There is a mouse trap in the house! There is a
mouse trap in the house!” “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse,
but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured
you are in my prayers.”
The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There is a
mousetrap in the house! There is a mouse trap in the
house! There is a mouse trap in the house!” The cow
said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I am sorry for you, but it is no
skin off my nose.”
So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and
dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone. That very
night a sound was heard throughout the house – the
sound of a mouse trap catching its prey. The farmer’s
wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness,
she did not see it. It was a venomous snake whose tail
was caught in the trap. The snake bit the farmer’s wife.
The farmer rushed her to the hospital. When she
returned home she had a fever. Everyone knows you
treat a fever with fresh chicken soup. So the farmer took
his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main
ingredient: but his wife sickness continued.
Friends and neighbors came to sit with her round the
clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. But,
alas, the farmer’s wife did not get well…she died.
So many people came for her funeral that the farmer had
the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of
them for the funeral luncheon. And the mouse looked
upon it all from the crack in the wall with great sadness.

The youths chuckled and nodded their heads in sympathy while


listening to the fable. “What moral lessons do we learn from this tale?”
Chukudoh asked. The first person raised his hand and was granted to
speak. “No one is safe when we turn our back on a brother in trouble.”
“That’s a wise one.” He commented. “Any other?” He enquired and
these answers popped up: “United we succeed, divided we fail.” “A
stitch in time saves nine.” “Be your brother’s keeper.” Chukudoh’s
broad smile raise his cheek high to his eyes. “I find wisdom in you and
I’m proud of my children.”
The youths applauded him for his compliment. “So, you see my
children, together, we must stand up for our customs, for our integrity,
for our clan, for good governance, stand up for each other. If we do
so, I assure you there’s no height of success we can’t attain, no
obstacle we can’t overcome and no power of oppression facing us
that we can’t subdue.” He said with a triumphant voice.
Adaret and Wonnieze were already by the corner with bowels of
the same foodstuffs the men in the sitting room were feasting upon.
This was the only potent distraction that turned their faces away from
him while he yet concluded. The youths were split in fives for each
loaded bowels of edibles, there was enough to go around for
everybody. Chukudoh returned to meet with his special guest.

62
“Why has the Etobor not celebrated the men with the
wealthiest harvest? That’s the first thing he should have done and I
know you would’ve been the man of the year.” Okpokpan enquired,
holding a lap of porcupine in his hand as his intake speed slammed
on the brakes. “The Etobor has his style of doing things. Besides, the
festivity isn’t over yet, let’s cross our fingers and see what comes up
next.” Chukudoh answered. The men were fatigued with food and
drinks and so were the youths. The moon set in and one after the
other, everyone left to their various destinations. A few used the bush
along the way for convenience before they reached home.
CHAPTER FIVE

The New Yam Festival continued colorfully day after day, the
clan members were eager to hear and celebrate men and women with
the most outstanding performance during the bountiful harvest. But
the chief was not forthcoming with the announcement. Friends and
close associates of the elders met them to enquire why the chief was
negligent of pronouncing those who were deserving of honor for the
end of the year’s festival which they were marking to a near end.
Moments like these were embarrassing for the elders. They had no
reasonable answer to give to assuage this query of the people.
Providing selected people, worthy of salutation at the end of the
year, brought respect to the person, his family and to their respective
villages. It also stimulated a desire for greater productivity and hard
work in others which went a long way annihilating disposition for
laziness. Nobody love to remain at the level of success where they
were the previous year. The people had a common proverb that said,
“he who isn’t beaten by rain and sun will be beaten by the death of
poverty.”
The succeeding day, the villagers clustered in great numbers at
different territorial scenes in the clan. They talked about the
negligence of the chief in awarding individual industry during the
festival. The villagers flocked at the homes of their elders. A crippled
old man walked into Mbahada’s compound, leaning on his staff yelled,
“Why has our Etobor knocked down the thing we cherish since the
birth of this land?” The office of the chief was sacred. No one took
their personal issues to the chief without tendering it to the titled elder
of his village.
In cases were a dispute surpassed the judgment of an elder,
elders from other villages were invited to review it and pro-offer
solutions. It was after when these avenues were exhausted that the
chief was consulted as the highest judiciary authority in the clan.
Delvit was not antagonistic to his subjects in the opinion of many, but
he was feared because he was a sealed book no one knew content
about in relating with.

64
A man who was present in Mbahada’s compound seconded the
old man, “This is willful! If we as a people have done something
wrong, he should have told us while the festival lasted. The thing that
surprises me is that, he breathed no fire and fury at anyone, but
ignored the duty he owes us?” “Dear fathers, mothers and children,”
Mbahada said, “don’t let your disappointments go without an arm of
patience. We shall have words with the Etobor tomorrow.” He turned
to a village crier who stood nine feet away from him. “My son, go and
inform the elders in the clan we shall have meeting with the Etobor
forenoon tomorrow.” “Yes, your majesty.” “Go and bring me words.”
The village crier left to each of their residence and delivered
Mbahada’s message to them first hand and they all accepted to turn
up for the meeting. The elders assembled at Mbahada’s home and
together, they left to the chief’s palace. On their way, they
contemplated whether the chief will like to dialogue with them. But
when they arrived, they saw him sitting on his arm chair like he was
awaiting their visit. Delvit smiled as he offered the elders to take a
seat in the meeting room. “My up and doing men,” he said, “I hope
you bring me good tidings today?” “Anointed one,” Mbahada began,
“in the blessed land of opportunities, good times are bound to come,
but today, we’ve come to speak of the people’s bitterness.”
“You and your people don’t cease to tickle my fancy. Was it not
two days ago we ended a long celebrated New Yam Festival?
Where’s the bitterness coming from or are they asking for another
festival tomorrow?” He laughed, “don’t this people get tired of rolling
out drums and xylophones?” Before this time, the elders psyched up
their minds in preparation for Delvit’s sarcastic humors and hostility.
The elders stayed calm, while the chief laughed on his own.
The elders were unwilling to let their emotions overpower their
intelligence in the meeting. “Sir-r. Our people,” Chukudoh stressed,
“are disappointed you failed to call out their greetings in the New Yam
Festival. We don’t even know what your reasons are, but you’re
keeping the people in the dark and they’re left to feel you’re not
carrying them along.”
“How else were they supposed to feel?” Delvit asked and
paused. “When the black ant stings the buttocks, next time it learns
wisdom. How long do I have to bring home to this people the need to
pay up their taxes, or do I need to tell them everything I set to do with
them before they obey? If they don’t trust me why did they choose me
from the beginning? I don’t blame them anyway; I blame every one of
you.” He said pointing at them.
“If you led this people by example, they would’ve cooperated.
But because you don’t, they don’t and on top of it, you wish I greet
them with praises and sacrifices.” He laughed, altering his sitting
position, he was enjoying the conversation with them, “when a lion
shows its teeth, it will be foolishness to think that he’s smiling.”
Tabinoy tilted his ear to Delvit in the attitude of a father
disappointed in the comment of his son. Tabinoy’s conscience storm
in his heart each time he reminisced recommending him. But like he
did in the past meetings, he stayed calm and wordless. Delvit’s
attitude made him attend meetings late, other times, he stayed back in
spite of the increasing fines he was charged and was yet to pay up.
Esubi reacted to Delvit comment with a smile, “Etobor you have
fed us with well-preserved wisdom, but don’t forget that the very ant
that stings the buttocks also says that anything he sees and run from,
there must be something extraordinary about it. I speak on behalf of
the elders under your roof. There’s none among us who pays less
than fifteen percent of all our proceeds from the sweat of our brow. It
breaks our spirits to know our efforts to obey and work with you
counts nothing.” “I wish it did, but it doesn’t. It has to be complete.”
Delvit said hastily.
“Personally,” Esubi continued, but this time, as though he was
soliloquizing, “I agree with the lizard that falls from an Iroko tree and
says that if no one praises him, he will praise himself. One who chews
does not know the experience of one who swallows.” He then raised
his voice and continued, “your elders, are men of sound experience
as fathers and grandfathers and with one voice we entreat you, don’t
feed our people with calls of duty that will block their throat. The best
way to eat up an elephant in your path is to cut him up in little pieces.”
The elders grunted with several nods, making eye contacts with
each other. What he said, represented much of their minds. “We need
a fair ground to function. If we can’t agree to come together, stay
together and work together, how can we succeed?” Chukudoh took
from him. “I’ll take no more lessons; save them for the children. What
do you want me to do?” Delvit enquired. “Honor your people with the
festive rites we overlooked and bring the tax charge to ten percent,
with an agenda to move the clan forward.” Mbahada said with a firm
voice.
“Is that what you want?” Delvit asked. “Ye-s-s.” The elders
stressed. Delvit nodded his head sideways. “Sorry. I don’t squat low.
Don’t bother yourselves with the people, I understand them better
than you do and I have them under control.”

66
He stroked both sides of his throne with his hands in
provocation as he spoke in an abrasive tone. “But, go tell them my
patience has turned raw. From henceforth, I shall footslog on any man
or woman under the sound of my command who fails to pay up his full
taxes five days from now, beginning from the day the charge was
issued.” “Are you demanding that the…” Delvit waved his hand at
Mbahada to stomach his words. He crossed his right leg on his left
knee and said, “Elders, you’re not helping matters. You may leave this
instance. Leave.” He yelled.
Every one left head down, Tabinoy rose and stood in front of the
chief, staring at him. On Tabinoy’s eyes were shallow tears
unanswered questions floated on. Mbahada broke the battling mute
with a pat on Tabinoy’s shoulder to leave with them. Tonfia on the
other side, rested his cheek on his palm and hummed mournful tunes
while in the meeting room:

Oh. Colorful bird with broken wings


Popular fowl traveling in rings
Leaping fowl, we all lend you a feather
There, you now rise among us a ruler
In the desert you let us wither
Now we limp, you soar the sky
When mother earth burns you with her fire
You’ll know why we’re broom bind with wire

The elders joined in singing with dismay in their voices while


Delvit was full of laughter all through the song until they left the
palace. When they got to their respective villages, the elders
reluctantly ordered the village criers to remind and disseminate the
chief’s order about the thirty percent tax charge he maintained. The
village criers executed the assignment. “Kong, kong, kong, kong.”
They went about beating their gong, “Be warned! The Etobor has
given five days from today to gather your up-to-date taxes and bring
them to his palace or give them to his workmen. Kong, kong, kong,
kong.”
They arrested everyone’s attention with an effect like ripples on
the deep, caused by the dive of a swimmer. This information was
given after mid-day. Many were fishing by the stream side, some were
in their front yards weaving threads into fabric on their looms, weeding
and clearing bushes in their farmyards while others were pruning their
garden and falling trees when they heard the information. It sounded
like Ekpeflu walked the streets of the villages prophesying futuristic
doom on them.
They were all aware of the increase which was five times higher
than what they normally pay before Delvit assumed office. It was an
unthinkable thing to do and being that the elders did not put
emphases on it, the people let it slide away as a misinformation the
village criers gave. Later on, rumors were that the chief reprimanded
the village criers for giving wrong information. They considered it true
when the criers never repeated the information.
“Why has the Etobor chosen to maltreat his people with an iron
fist”? Chukudoh said to Adaret who was washing dishes at the
backyard. He walked to and fro the yard restlessly before he shared
his encounter with the chief to his wife. She dropped the dishes she
washed into a basket she weaved earlier; untied the lace she knotted
round her body from her breast flowing below her knees and pointed
to the sky, “If one plucks with the intention of filling his bag, he falls to
his death at the base of the tree.”
They heard a voice of a woman sobering like a loud gobbling
turkey. He left to find out what the matter was and met with a
company of people littered around his front yard with intimidating
frowns. “What have you said to the Etobor making him prick on our life
wounds?” She asked.
Others reacted with grumbling sounds of agreement. “I’m a
widow! Only a widow,” the sobbing woman continued, “my husband
died two new moons ago leaving behind five children and three
relatives whose parents are late under my care as a tenant farmer.
We haven’t enough to eat to our fill, yet the Etobor is asking for about
half of what we feed. Why? Is that fair on me?” she lamented.

68
Adaret walked and squat where she sat on the bare ground and
consoled her. “My dear, hope is the last thing we can’t afford to lose.
We’re all in this mess, but, shoulder to shoulder,” she demonstrated
with hers, “justice will prevail.” She dried her tears with her hand,
“weep no more and let’s find a way out.” This was coming from the
female group leader of the clan whose peacock carriage was an
inspiration and a beacon of hope to the women. Adaret lifted her with
both hands and they walked into the sitting room. Chukudoh stood still
looking at them in a melting mood. He thrust his head down as flood
of thoughts swayed in, still he did not find the words good enough to
soften the hearts that stood disgruntled before him.
“She’s not the only woman swallowing this empty bitter herb.”
An irate woman said. Chukudoh lifted his hand like he did not intend
to and pointed her towards the direction his wife and the woman who
was sobbing. She walked like a cat into the sitting room and in no
time, every woman walked in there until the room was full and hot with
heated breath coming from their nostrils. The men did not bat an eye
lid. Unconsciously, he raised his hand and pointed to the sitting room
where his wife was addressing the women, their faces loosened as
they beamed a tiresome smile.
Udokwu, one among other contestants who attempted the then
vacant position of late Paterki but failed, got newlywed after the
contest, said to Chukudoh, “Devoted one, is the Etobor in his thinking
mind, calling for thirty percent of our bronze, silver, brass, copper, and
iron, down to our farm grains, cattle, horses and produces of our
farmland?” “You have said it all.” He answered. “How can this be?”
Udokwu said, “that’s like depending on us for everything – thirty
percent of our possessions is too much to ask for. Our past Etobors
worked with their own hands.”
Pointing Far East and North he continued, “Over there is a
long measure of forest he’s entitled to. Therein lies the unused fortune
of this honorable clan. In the last new moon, he should have shared a
slice of it to the most rewarding men to expand their agriculture, but
he didn’t. Why is he beginning to make life impossible for us?” “If the
Etobor insist on thirty percent of all we’ve, let him have seventy
percent and bear the responsibilities of our wives and children and
let’s have thirty percent to take care of ourselves.” Udokwu’s friend
said with an undisturbed look.
But his statement turned into controversy among the villagers
in Chukudoh’s compound. The controversy lingered a while before he
spoke aloud. “With persuasion, a bull can be pulled with a thread and
it will follow. Go home and gather all you can afford for the tax. We the
elders of the clan shall entreat the Etobor on this matter again and we
hope things turn out favorable for you and me.” The informal meeting
was dismissed, “What’s happening to our clan?” Wonnieze said to
himself, while he was breaking palm kernel by a corner in the front
yard of the compound giving ears to all that happened and was
discussed.
He kept away from sight because his father had an eye on his
curiosity and warned him several times of shortening his rubber neck
on matters that had nothing to do with him. In his father’s eyes, it
would take a life time to develop his mind. Had his father laid his eyes
on him, he would not have hesitated to send him on an errand that
would take him all day to keep him absent.
Parents encouraged every child to occupy their mental and
physical being with learning skills, farming, culture and trade while the
formal and informal elders stirred the affairs and politics of the clan.
Before the advent of simple recognized schooling structures in the
clan, boys and girls with developing features of sexual maturity from
about twelve years, underwent cultural training that prepared them to
navigate through the life of adulthood.
A sure sign for an advancing boy who qualified for this training
was his nocturnal emission. This is a period in a boy’s life when his
testicles produce and store sperms for weeks or months after which it
is ejected through sexual stimulation or at night when he breaks into
the dream world of imagery sexuality. Sperm dislodged in gray and
yellow colors, thick in fluid form had a strong reeking smell that
dissolved in matter of seconds after ejaculation.
Boys found their nocturnal emissions embarrassing. It made
them worry if something went wrong in bodies. They were shy
discussing the experience with their parents, thus the rite of passage
for every teenage boy was a must. In it, they were tutored that their
bodily changes and sexual feelings were normal as it indicated fitness
to produce offspring in the future. They were instructed in the way of
adulthood, learning to put up with the responsibilities to come.
Their training was in oral and physical forms. The boys were
taken from their parents for a period to camp in the forest. There, they
were taught to meditate and to suffer all kinds of affliction such as
hunger and pain to discipline the mind. In the forest, they ate only
when they caught prey in their hunting exercises and were
conditioned to eat in moderation.

70
They made fire by clashing stones on dry leaves and learnt to
sleep on unclothed ground outside the comfort and security of their
homes. When the boys were asleep in the cold of the night with their
bodies exposed to insect bites and animal attacks, their trainers
contributed to their plights by striking any with a stick to wake the
others. He would escape from them until they caught him, but should
he abscond from their reach, he posed more threats and inflicted
injuries on them until they became more vigilant, watching out for
each other.
This awakened their combative faculty against fear of darkness
and the unknown, threats from enemies and animals. The training
was needful because the boys were the potential military of the clan to
enforce her decrees and traditions. They were taught to take blame
watching out for each other when any was hurt. They were taught how
to manage their health under difficult circumstances and how to treat
their injuries with selected herbal leaves on their own.
Towards the end of their training, their trainer pricked and
tattooed their bodies with a slim wooden pin to create ritualistic seals
against spiritual attacks from hostile spirits. Though the process was
raw, they were not to wink or show emotions, but it was more biting to
bear when sore leaves with coloring effects, were put on their
wounds.
Swimming was also part of training their stamina. Teen boys
learnt to swim across rivers from side to side covering over ninety
meters. In addition to training their might, they learnt how to fall trees
to prescribed directions. Failure to pass the training and test was just
as shameful to the boy and his family as would a girl in a village giving
birth to a bastard. Everyone treated and spoke to him without regards.
The girls were also as inexperienced in their puberty entry. It
was a common sight for a young unmarried woman to walk around
the village with an underwear or with scanty clothing on their bodies.
The scorching climate in Africa contributed to their inclination to go
naked. Nevertheless, the culture-controlled immorality among the
youths. Boys often related with boys and girls with girls until they
came of age and were ready to take responsibility for craving the
affection of the opposite gender in marriage and child bearing.
Sexual relations were principally for making children which they
took for a precious gift from their creator. A woman married to a man
for a year without taking in could encourage her husband to marry a
second wife. Children often came with good luck to parents and many
had several in their homes.
A girl was fit to become an initiate when she started
developing breasts and experiencing menses. Etombari, a female cult
was designed to educate the innocent girls. These girls were taken
away from their parents into the forest where they learned dances,
songs and sign languages of their occult for three months. Songs they
learnt instructed them on sexual topics and on matters pertaining to
good hygiene. They learnt how to manage and relieve themselves of
menstrual cramp, how to pad their vagina with clean cloth, the
importance of chastity, how to accord respect to elders and parents
promptly, how to please their husbands and why they should not
object to his sexual longings.
During their dancing lessons, they participated in mock
ceremonies that taught them the processes involved in child birth,
roles of a wife at home, agriculture and trade. Throughout their
training, their bodies were coated with fine clay of pale yellow on their
necks and waists. They wore loose beads that swung round them as
they shoved their bodies during their initiatory rituals. Here is a song
they leant and sung with symbolic messages:

My daughters keep in between your frames clean twice a day.


(2x) You never know when he may come in want of visiting
your lady garden. When the breath is purely that of a lady,
empty of rude aroma, his memory of you will be hard to
erase. Fail, he will sigh and have sympathy for himself.

Men rule the clan. (2x) But we manage the men and families
that make up the clan. If our homes crack, the clan shakes
and someday will fall. A man’s heart is difficult, crawls to
understand. Recharge his tummy and his heart is yours.

We grow the kernels they sow in us. How useful is a coconut


if it can’t bear? Don’t play with your gift because when it
wears out, it will bring tears untold. Tarry for the man who will
pay the value to carry.

72
Poetic songs, dramas and instructions with metaphorical
pictures such as proverbs were the main sources used in instructing.
They did not require recording aids because of the repetitive pattern
of their lessons; it stuck to their minds and hearts. With this method of
training, the teenage boys and girls knew what to expect in the real
world and where they went wrong in life, they had the mental
discipline to amend their ways. The clan had many rites of passages
beginning from infancy throughout adulthood, designed to prepare
each person to live with purpose in the eye of their traditions.
Wonnieze had been through his rite of passage as a teen five
years ago and since then, developed interest in communal affairs and
was too inquisitive to conceal information from. He was six feet tall
and slender with a big rounded face, disproportionate to his size and
shape. Many of his friends teased him and referred to his head as a
ball of melon.
They cautioned him to be on the watch so it does not pluck off
and roll down his shoulders. At thirteen he should have been
circumcised like every young man in their pubescent stage of life, but
he was too opinionated on a practice he thought complicated, even
when his parents persuaded him otherwise. “You have fears like
birds.” “You aren’t fit to stand among us.” “How long will you remain a
boy?” “You carry an extra rubber that will scare even the ugliest
woman.” These and more were cynical comments Wonnieze dealt
with on regular bases, accompanied with all the attitudes that
followed.
But he had an annoying way of acting like he did not care
when deep down, he was offended. Male circumcision was a separate
rite of passage done in one’s teenage period or early adulthood, but it
was a thing of social stigma to delay the rite any longer than the onset
of fresh germinating hairs on the pubis of an adolescent.
It was easy to mark out who had not been circumcised
because every village had a stream with sections for male and
female, divided by distance or virgin forest where everyone took their
bath and did their laundries naked. A stream was a place for work and
relaxation, jesting and amusement, all sorts of activities like planting,
laundry, fishing and swimming competitions were done. There was no
escaping for Wonnieze. When he took his bath at home, his peers
accused him of hiding his uncircumcised penis and many parents
used him as an example to warn their little boys ahead of time.
CHAPTER SIX

After Wonnieze finished breaking a heap of palm kernel,


separating the kernels from the chaffs, he left to the village stream to
take his bath. He wanted proving to his antagonistic friends, he was
not concerned about their mockery. They will get tired and let me be.
On his way down the slope to the stream, he met with three teenage
girls climbing up the hill of the stream with water pots on their heads.
Wonnieze had a poor inter-personal skill mixing with people. He was
an introvert and enjoyed company of himself alone. The three teenage
girls approaching him were Ini, Ngoffion and Osobong.
They were no strangers to him but he was going to keep a
straight face like they were. His confidence melted away in his quest
of what to say or do when he got in the circle of girls especially these
three. If by chance he spent time with a girl or a set of girls he secretly
admired, he would spend nights rehearsing the conversation he had
and chasten himself for how poorly he interacted with them. Even
when a girl admired him but acted like she detested him, he took it
personal like it was his fault or he did not major up.
The teenage girls chuckled as they drew closer to him. Was
there something weird they noticed of him? Was it the way he
walked? He acted like it did not matter what they were thinking of him,
he lifted his eyes above their heads as he swaggered pass them. The
girls encircled him, rocked their eyes in their sockets round about his
body like he was a specimen in a laboratory.
When they lifted their eyes from him to each other, they
laughed aloud in a shuddering motion. Wonnieze dropped his
shoulders, fighting an internal battle of feeling relevant in spite of
being taken for a laughing stock. The water pots on their heads shook
and splashed water. He jumped out of the way to avoid getting wet but
it was too late and his reaction got the girls laughing even more. “Eh!”
he said, opening his arms in a questioning gesture, “what’s this you’ve
done? Look at how you’ve messed me up this good afternoon.” He
said, in a way not to offend. “So-o-r-ry.” Ngoffion said, acting
remorseful. “Why are your hands up? Do you want to beat us?” she
asked, yelling in the same minute.

74
Wonnieze let fall his hands by his sides with a sigh. “Are you a
runaway solider? How ugly is your one-eyed monster that you’ve
been away from the stream all this while?” Ini asked. “Yes,” he
answered fast, “do you have a problem with that?” He asked. “We
should be asking you. Your friends say you’re the only person in their
group that’s neither a boy or girl.” She added. The girls giggled in their
stomach. He could not keep a straight face with a red look at the
same time. It was the teasing of the girls he found difficult to
withstand. His eyes sunk in before he attempted to walk away.
“Let’s stop these jokes.” Osobong told the other two.
“Wonnieze is different from every other person,” she said trying to
fight back her laughter, “but won’t you be better off if you were cut like
your friends?” “I have no friends and I don’t remember complaining.”
Wonnieze said, poking his face at her with smooth accent. “My father
told me uncircumcised men get germs easily. I guess you aren’t
bothered about it?” She asked like she was so impressed. He sighed
again, “Isn’t it wrong to concern yourself in the private life of another
person. If someone did it to you, would you like it? Just mind your-r-r
busi-si-ness.” He walked away from them with long fast strides and
the girls went their way chatting and laughing about him.
A distance away, his playmates sighted him and passed
humorous comments about him. Wonnieze had long hands that gave
him awkward movements when he swung them. “Aw, here he comes.
Long last,” Obikan said, “where have you been hiding?” Wonnieze ran
and dived high into the stream. “I have no hiding place.” His answer
came like a fire eater. He tossed his body under the stream like a fish
and when he raised his head above the water, he sung light heartedly
like they did not exit.
He climbed an eight-foot-tall tree to the top that stood by the
side of the stream and somersaulted twice in the air before dropping
head first into the water. It was a move few teenage boys could do.
Obikan and Edema do not back down to a challenge, they went ahead
to try the stunt. They attempted one spin in the air before they fell in
the water. Chiekong somersaulted once and on trying the second
while in the air, he smashed his stomach on the water. A violent
splash caused by the slam divided the stream in halves.
Chiekong intestine tweaked hard in his stomach and
weakened him to rise to the brim of the stream where he sunk.
Wonnieze was the first to see he was in trouble and called unto the
other two who swam closest to him for rescue, together they brought
him out of the stream. When he recuperated from his pain with the
efforts of Edema and Obikan massaging his belly to relax his strained
muscles, Wonnieze chuckled at his flaw and left for the tree again.
“Chiekong will you try again?” he said climbing the tree to the
top, “This is how it’s done.” he said and somersaulted thrice in the air
to their amazement but as the seconds ticked, their surprise turned to
envy. As for Wonnieze, he was catching fun shaming their inabilities, a
stunt he tried several times but failed some time ago.
Obikan, Edema and Chiekong whispered into each other’s ear
while Wonnieze was performing several swimming strokes until his
arms and limbs were frail. He was drawing out of the water to leave
for home when the three boys approached him, “Jump down from the
tree one more time and let’s see if I can’t do it.” Edema said in an
ordering way. “Not any more, we may continue tomorrow.” Wonnieze
said, Chiekong pushed him into the stream and said, “Why were you
laughing at me?”
“What’s that for? Don’t you laugh at me every day in your
youth?” He said and ventured to leave again when Chiekong knocked
him down into the water with his fore face. Chiekong was an irate kid
who smiled once in many weeks and he found it enjoyable
intimidating his peers. He engaged Wonnieze in a fight three weeks
ago. He broke one of his front tooth and stuffed grasses into his
mouth while his back was on the ground.
Edema as opposed to Chiekong, was known for his excessive
provocative laughter. He initiated several fights for their clique. Obikan
was mean in many ways but unlike them, he had a stern daughter of
the voice of god in his heart that interfered in his mischievous
behaviors when they got out of hand. Wonnieze’s back was pushed
against the wall, he lifted Chiekong’s feet up to the sky and crashed
him into the water on his back. Obikan and Edema drew closer to
defend him. They grappled Wonnieze by his shoulders, Chiekong rose
from the depth of the stream. He hit Wonnieze on his belly and lifted
his feet above the stream and together, they pressed him beneath the
water.
Wonnieze struggled to undo their grip but could not. He was
held tight under the shallow part of the stream like the embrace of a
bear for two minutes. Bubbles simmered from his mouth. He wrestled
to no avail till his limbs softened and his heart beat slowed. “Stupid
boy,” Chiekong said, “he must learn his lessons today.” “He wants to
grow wings where we’re.” Edema said, insisting he should still be held
down.

76
Obikan undid his grip. “It’s enough, he’s weak.” Obikan said.
“No. The stupid boy must learn his lessons in my hands today.”
Chiekong insisted. Obikan left them and walked out of the stream. “If
someone’s child dies, do you think you’ll go free?” Obikan said, before
they let go of him. Wonnieze’s belly was bloated with water, he could
not stand on his own and each time he tried, he slumped and slumped
again.
When he managed to exit the stream, he pressed his stomach
and vomited volumes of water suffocating him. He had instant running
nose, his eyes were red and enlarged. It took him time to gain full
consciousness of his environment and what happened as he lay
under the evening sun to recharge his cells. When he sat up, he
looked around to find Chiekong, Edema and Obikan. His rivals left to
their houses lot earlier.
He was shocked at the ruthless attack of his peers on him. The
shock made him look at his sides repeatedly with a readiness to dash
off, as if the was a second attempt to drown him again. As he lay by
the side of the stream in pain; his heart was puffy and heavy inside his
chest. His head ached as it spun; the soothing ray of the sun was all
he had to revive himself, until he was strong enough to walk back
home. He did not tell any member of his household his experience.
Two days later, while he was tilling the soil in his father’s farm
half a mile from home in the early hours of the morning, he heard a
hissing sound nearby which reminded him of a trap he set a night
before. It caught a green anaconda by the tail which was just about an
arm length. It was fleshy enough to take home for meat.
The snake frightened and in pain, coiled and struck at different
directions while it was bleeding at the teeth of the trap until its knack
to attack weakened. The incident occurred just before he arrived.
Wonnieze took a stick diverting the attention of the snake from
himself. He caught it by the neck and clobbered it on the head with his
left hand, put the snake into his leather pouch and headed to the
stream.
He laid in wait on top of a bushy hill on a part trailing to the
stream for Obikan, Edema and Chiekong to pass by. They often came
down together in the morning hours to water their parent’s shrubs
close to the stream. He waited there for them for an hour before he
saw them walking down the path. Obikan was not present with them.
When they drew closer, adjacent to the bushy hill where he mounted,
he reached for the snake in his bag, grappled it by the neck, the
snake stretched erect before he flung it on them. It first dropped on
Chiekong and coiled on him. Trying to get rid of it from his body, he
threw it on Edema’s body which made them run and act like they were
set ablaze.
The injured snake still alive, strove to escape into the bush
before Edema and Chiekong summed up courage and killed it. But
they were still in their nightmares because the snake came from
nowhere hunting them. Wonnieze descended the hill behind them,
jumping and laughing at the way they reacted and screamed in fear.
People down the stream who were doing laundry, including children
playing around not far from the scene these three created, stared at
them. “It’s Wonnieze.” Chiekong snapped, flashing his eyes wide in
anger for making them react like they had no spine in front of
everyone.
When a youth completed his rite of passage, he was seen
brave in the eyes of everyone but in the present scene, Wonnieze
gave everyone a benefit of doubt. “Look at you,” he said,
“Circumcised! I thought you were men but now everybody knows
you’re chicken.”
Chiekong and Edema, fired up with adrenaline pumping
through their veins, chased after him uphill. Wonnieze took to his
heels from his advancing rivals who desired nothing but to lay their
hands on him for a thorough beating to assuage their embarrassment.
Osobong was descending the same path with an earthen pot between
her left arms where he was chased.
He ran on the lane she walked, even when she stepped aside,
he followed her direction like a racing snake aiming at a prey. With the
agility his rivals attained, they caught up with him. Chiekong laid his
hand on his shoulder to hold him down. Wonnieze knocked his hand
off and dashed away, leaving him to run into her.

78
Both collided like clash of the titans and her pot came crushing
down to pieces. “My leg. You’ve wounded my leg.” Osobong cried,
she sustained bruises on the side of her left leg as she fell to the
ground. Chiekong stooped to lift her up, “Why didn’t you exit the
way?” “It’s not her fault. It’s the fault of that uncircumcised animal.”
Edema said. “My pot, you’ve broken my pot.” She kept crying as she
gathered the pieces. “He’s getting away,” Edema said, as he ran pass
him, “let’s get that idiot before he escapes.”
The accident help Wonnieze reach a reasonable distance
away from them though he was still within sight. He diverted into a
vast space of land wreaked with uncontrolled flooding and climatic
hazards. The land was muddy, no one lived there, plants hardly
survived there and the ground split in multiple deeps and broad
halves.
As they ran in there, their feet stuck to the ground and slowed
down the pace at which they went. “Where’s he taking us to?” Edema
asked. “He’s so unlucky; no one will help him here. We must get our
revenge.” In front of Wonnieze was a long hollow were excessive
flood eroded over time; it was twenty-two feet deep and two meters
wide. He jumped into it tossing himself partially by the sides of the
wall down to the base of the hollow in safe landing.
He clapped for his athletic stunt to provoke his rivals who
stood high above him contemplating to jump in. Soon after, they
followed his tactics and landed quite close to where he stood and the
chase continued. “He’s playing with us. He’ll learn his lessons soon.”
Chiekong said and tightened his teeth. “It’s here we’ll castrate him
since he has refused to be circumcised.” Edema said as he ran
behind Chiekong laughing.
They ran half a mile in there and the longer they ran, the
deeper the depth of the hollow. Their sweaty bodies were soiled with
muddy paste of the earth’s crust their feet lifted all over them.
Wonnieze missed a step and fell in the process, giving his rival an
ample opportunity of catching up with him. They aimed hard punches
at him but Wonnieze kept running until he broke their grip and ran
faster in a twist and turn pattern, succeeding in giving a fair gap
between them.
Three years ago, at the expands of the land, three men died
as they plodded into a quick sand that swallowed them alive before
they could be rescued. These young men were aware of the incident
but were not constrained by it, nor will they let their pride be subdued
the second time by fear. Wonnieze found a rope that hung down by
the left wall of the hollow. He sprang to it and pulled himself out of the
ditch. As he did, he swung the rope round his hand so his opponents
will not pull themselves out with it as well.
His rivals did not know prior to that time, he came to the terrain
with a long hard cord, tied it to a strong protruding root of a broad tree
and threw the other end down the hollow. “This is a set up.” Edema
said in a frightened voice. Chiekong overcame by fear, flipped his
palms before he came up with an idea, “Let’s move forward. We may
find a shorter barrier to climb out of here.” “No way.” Edema said, “do
you know if the next step will find us anyway into the soft sand? This
is a trap! Let’s go back from where we came; the walls there are
shorter than these ones.”
“But it’s far away, let’s start climbing from here.” “It will be a
waste of time. There are more edges there to climb than here.”
Chiekong was unyielding and they ended up quarreling. Wonnieze
chortled at them to scorn as he lay at the top of the ditch and offered
his right hand to help pull them out.
“Why aren’t you laughing anymore?” Wonnieze asked Edema.
“Wonnieze can you do the right thing and put down the rope?”
Chiekong asked with a voice blended with frustration and persuasion.
“Just let it down,” Edema added, “and we wouldn’t come after you.”
Wonnieze enjoyed the sight of their sudden softness of their character
in their dilemma. “You were strong enough to drown me two days ago,
what need have you of a rope to get out of here. Do you want to hang
me this time around? How stupid do you think I am? I still like my lif-f-
fe.”
They placed their hands on their waist and shook their heads,
their arrogance was maimed with despair. Chiekong withdrew from
Edema and sprinted forward on the wall of the hollow and began
climbing. Some of the edges that enabled him to climb were rough
and hard, other sides were soft and slippery, but he made progress
mounting up. Edema, motivated, followed suit. “Keep trying you can
do it.” Wonnieze said like a fan to their efforts. Every step forward was
aching and falling was likely, the higher they climbed, their bodies
vibrated like one running temperature, but they did not relent and
Wonnieze continued to encourage them by way of mocking.

80
When they got above mid-way to the end of the divider, their
strength fell short, “prove your men, climb up a little more and I’ll send
down the rope to make it easier.” The teenage boys strove on ignoring
him until they were spent and faced with the risk of falling sixteen feet
to the bottom. “S-s-send the r-o-rope.” Chiekong managed to say.
“Good job.” Wonnieze said and clapped for them. “Please hurry
before we fall.” Edema cried out. “Hang on a little while.”
Wonnieze left and returned with a big round mold of red clay.
“N-o-o-o-o!” Chiekong and Edema chorused in fright. He smashed it
by the side of the wall between them, particles and lumps of the clay
hit their bodies and sprayed all over their faces. They lost their grip on
the wall and fell to the base of the hollow. They were plagued with
sands in their eyes and mouths. “Ah-a-a. You’re so wicked.” Chiekong
said spitting dirt with his tongue and lips. “Ah-a-a. Is that true? Am I
more wicked than you were when you drowned me with an inch to
life?” “Haven’t you punished us enough? Send the rope.” Edema said.
“I’m not sure you need this rope that much.” Wonnieze said in
a light mood. “Be reasonable please. We need the rope.” Chiekong
answered, quaking. “Do you need it as I needed to breathe when
you dipped me in water for so-o-o long?” Chiekong took his eyes
away from him and sat on the muddy ground resting his back on the
other side of the divider and struck his head against it. “Bullies must
be bullied.” Wonnieze said and spun his rope in the air. “I told you
before,” Edema said to Chiekong, “let’s try the other way from where
we came.” “Can’t you see he would do the same thing he did to us if
we try the other side?”
“Help! Please somebody help!” Edema whined because
Wonnieze turned deafer ears than anyone far off. “Help! Chiekong
and Edema are dying. Somebody help! Was I loud enough?”
Wonnieze mocked. “The great circumcised men,” he said, “it’s time I
go home and find what to eat. Good night.” “You can’t leave us here.
Can’t you forgive somebody?” Edema asked, appealing with his
hands put together but Wonnieze walked away whistling.
Chiekong and Edema could barely look at themselves. Shame
and defeat crested on their faces as their stomach tightened and their
throats dried of exhaustion. What were they going to do? They kept
mute for several minutes thinking up what to do. “So, Wonnieze can
be this heartless.” Edema said. “It’s not his fault. Wonnieze I know
isn’t black-hearted. We’ve been treating him like an earthworm. Our
actions have taught him to become a snake. I didn’t know he had us
in mind.” Chiekong said. “I don’t beg. Today that I have, Wonnieze has
the mind to ignore me.” Edema said, screwing his face. “If by chance I
leave this place, I’ll go at length again to show him what it means to
be sorry and not be heard.” Chiekong said.
Wonnieze overheard their conversation. He was not far off. He
had empathy for them and was willing to risk helping after giving them
a taste of their own medicine. “You came back.” Chiekong said with a
pale look. “What goes around, comes around,” Wonnieze said with a
blank look. He turned to Edema, “Go forward, there you’ll find a
second rope hanging down this pit.” He said, and left for the stream to
rinse himself and head straight home.
They left in search of the second rope and found it. “You may
do the things that I do, but a wood in the stream never becomes a
crocodile no matter how long it leaves in water.” Chiekong quoted his
favorite proverb with humor. Edema giggled, understanding he was
referring to Wonnieze.
On his way home, he came across Obikan’s mother cutting lemon
grasses, lemon oranges and some fresh pawpaw leaves in her farm.
“Mama Obikan, good afternoon.” A female friend of hers greeted.
“Good afternoon neighbor. How’s your family?” “Mama we thank the
gods and spirits of our ancestors keeping watch over us.”
“Glory to God almighty.” “Mama Obikan.” “Yes, my dear.” “You
don’t want to invite me to help?” “O-oh no dear. Thank you for caring
enough to ask. I needed a handful of herbs to treat my son who is
suffering from cold chills, but there’s this leaf I’m looking for.” “Poor
boy.” “I have been disturbed since yesterday, you needed to see him
shiver even under the heat of the sun.” “This must be serious.” She
said crossing her arms.

82
“Besides, his neck hurts so bad he can’t turn it, now he
complains his head tormenting him and his stomach upsetting him at
the same time.” “I hope these aren’t signs of chicken pox coming?”
“I’m not sure, although he hasn’t had it before.” The baby she bore on
her back with an apron cried. Hot ray of the sun and buzzing flies that
trumpeted on the baby’s ears distressed the child. “I can help with the
child.” She reached to untie and comfort the child. Wonnieze heard
the content of their conversation as he passed by and changed his
route to check on Obikan.
On reaching there, he saw him lying on a sofa in the back yard
close to burning fire. His body was stiff and ached all over, his vision
was blurred. Obikan younger sister held a cup of water from which he
sipped to reduce his increasing high fever. “My he-a-ad.” Obikan said
as he lay restlessly on the sofa. “What can I do to help you?” She
said, placing her soft palm on his face.
“Let me go to our neighbor’s house and ask for sugar cane so
I can draw out its juice on your head if it might help.” She stood up
and carried an old cutlass. “I don’t know why mama is keeping long,
brother is so sick, I don’t know what to do and I don’t want anything to
happen to him.” She said, frightened she might lose him. Everyone
knows sugar cane is sweet, but it has cooling effects on a head
strained with headache. Sugar cane was used to treat skin infections
like Dandruff, Eczema and ring-worm in the clan. “What are you…?”
Obikan struggled to speak when he saw a faint vision of Wonnieze.
“S-su-h-h.” Wonnieze hushed him.
“He sent me to you. Do you want to come alive again?” He
asked with assurance in his voice. Obikan was anxious and confused,
his eyes said yes but his conscience trounced against his rib cage. He
was not expecting Wonnieze’s visit while on his sick bed. He expected
Chiekong and Edema his closest friends to visit him in the morning as
they agreed a day before, being that his house was nearest to the
stream.
Out of his insecurity he cried out in a low shrink voice, “Mama.”
“Don’t blame me if I fail to help return you back to health as he
instructed me. I have very little time to spend here. Any more noise
from you, l leave.” Obikan retreated in his under-strength but his mind
was not at ease, he wanted to know who sent him to resuscitate him.
He was also concerned why he accepted to do so, knowing the
person in question. While he was wrestling in his mind, Wonnieze
collected two chunks of charcoals lying nearby. He allowed it to cool
before he placed them by the sides of Obikan’s ears.
“What’s that?” “S-su-h-h. Be still?” He stayed calm, not
wanting to provoke Wonnieze with questions, peradventure, there was
a chance of regaining his wellbeing. A repairing surge of vitality
energized him inside out, happening as if it were magical. Wonnieze
wiped Obikan ears to leave no trace on them.
Obikan touched his chest, his heart beat in a stable rhythmic
pattern while his fever faded away gradually. He sat upright on his
sofa, “I don’t feel like vomiting anymore.” He said, with a weak smile
of surprise and clearer vision of sight.
“Who is this mighty one that sent you to me?” “Can you keep a
secret?” He asked with a look of provocation. Silence sneaked in
between them. Obikan responded crossing his chest with his right
hand. “We’ve crossed each other before. I swear to you with my life I’ll
tell the secret to no one.” “If you do, the result of it will bring on us
sickness and death." Obikan nodded his head. “I swear.”
“Yesterday, I had a dream the Ekpeflu called me to a location
at my father’s farmyard. When I got there, he told me you’re sick and
that it will bring you down to the dance of death in two days.” Obikan
folded his arms round himself like he was curdling a scared child.
“He gave me two precious stones and told me to come to you
today so the smell of death will stink no more on you.” “Where can we
find the Ekpeflu around? He neither has a home or place of stay. I
need to meet him and give thanks. How did you get the gem?” “I
thought it was only a dream because of the headache I had after you
drowned me, but when I got to the farm this morning, he surprised me
when he walked up to me and put two fine stones in my hands. He
instructed me how to use them and warned that you should take the
herbal drink your mother would prepare for you today to complete
your healing in seven days.”
“The gods of our fathers have shown me mercy. Am I allowed
to see the precious stones?” “You’re not permitted to see it.” He said
and drew back. “I’m sorry I asked.” “My time is over.” Obikan rose with
him. “If you have a place in your heart to forgive me for the stupid
things, I’ve done to you, I’ll return your kindness a day you might be in
need.”

84
Wonnieze gave a conceding nod. “Till then.” Obikan younger
sister ran into the scene with two long sugar canes and was taken
aback seeing her brother standing on his feet, chatting with
Wonnieze. A sugar cane fell off her hands into the fire she prepared
earlier to give him warmth. “Where you not sick?” “I don’t know,” he
answered and picked the cane, “maybe I’m so happy to see
Wonnieze I forgot I was sick.” “Obikan, where you not the one lying
there like you were going to meet your maker?” She asked. “Let this
your mouth not put you into trouble one day. Would you peel the sugar
cane for me?” He asked smiling.
“Wonnieze.” She called and walked up to him. He dropped his
eyes to the ground as she drew closer. Her excitement did not allow
her notice the close intimate gap between them. “What did you do to
make my sick brother well again?” He thought for a while and
answered, managing to look at her face, “I believe in good omen.”
“Then you must be an oracle.” She said. While he was thinking up
what to say, she embraced him with her sizzling breasts pressing his
rib cage.
The contact ceased his breath and altered his temperature like
one under the weather. “You’ve done well for my brother.” She said,
disengaging from him. Wonnieze’s hormones took time settling in its
tempest, as he stood still like an offloaded property. He smiled in a
way difficult to interpret. “Thank you.” He said, extending his hand for
a shake, “Thank y-o-o-u for y-o-our embrace. No. I mean I don’t need
another but…what am I saying? Goodbye.” He stammered and left
like one walking in the dark.
She saw a bit into his awkward action, “Does he stammer?”
She asked her brother. “Maybe, sometimes.” Wonnieze returned
home past noon day to find Osobong with his mother peeling tubers of
cassava. She must have risen concerns for him to answer. “Mama
Good Afternoon.” He greeted. “Where have you been?”
“Mama I was in the farm. You saw when I left, after hours of
work I went to the stream.” “Your father later went to join you but he
came back and said he didn’t find you although the place was wed.”
“Yes mama, I wed the place neatly. You’ll like it when you see it.”
“After you went to the stream, what else did you go doing?” He kept
mute and turned to Osobong. She took her eyes from him to his
mother. Adaret observed their reactions and spoke on the top of her
voice, “Wonnieze.” “Yes mama.” “Are you responsible for the accident
Osobong had this morning?” “Yes mama.” he grumbled.
“My daughter.” “Yes mama.” “Show him the wound you
sustained on your leg.” Osobong adjusted herself on her stool and
revealed the area her leg was injured. Earlier on, Adaret treated her
wound with liquid from a medicinal plant, commonly called ‘Awolowo’
after which she took the chaff of an unripe plantain and clamped it to
her leg. This was a traditional antidote to prevent swelling, infections
and to fasten healing on her wound.
“Osobong came home this morning crying. She said two of
your friends were running after you up the hill of the stream when one
of them pushed her down, causing her this wound and the loss of her
mother’s pot. What kind of play were you having with them, that you
saw this innocent girl hit to the ground on her way to fetch water for
her widow mother and you passed by?”
“Mama I’m sorry, it was an accident.” “You should’ve told her
that when you caused the accident, and if you were indeed sorry, you
would’ve done something about it. That’s how to treat a woman.”
“Osobong, I’m sorry I caused your wound and made you lose your pot
in the accident. I’m sorry your mother slapped you for it and I’m sorry,
I don’t know what to do to help you.” He said, biting his finger nails.
“Please mama forgive him,” Osobong said, “I’m lucky it wasn’t
my bone he broke. I’ll go home and continue to plead forgiveness
from her.” “That will not do. Wonnieze.” “Mama.” “I took my time to
prepare a meal I know you’d enjoy, but with what you’ve done, you’ll
have none of it until you go fetch a heap of fine clay by the side of the
stream and make a new pot for her today.” She said.
“Ah. Mama a whole heap of fine clay for a single pot?”
Wonnieze asked. “Be thankful it wasn’t her house you knocked down
with your bulls, you’d have rebuilt it.” She said and went inside.
Osobong’s sympathy on herself shifted to him. “See what you’ve
caused? I hope this makes you happy. Does it?” Wonnieze said to her
as she sat quiet like she was giving a minute silence to the labor he
was about to undertake.

86
CHAPTER SEVEN

Osobong left after Adaret went in. Wonnieze went under a tree
shade to relax his nerves for an assiduous task ahead of him with an
empty stomach. Twenty minutes later, he tramped into the garden and
plucked a fresh corn from it stalk. He peeled off the chaffs and ate it
raw to calm agitated worms in his belly before he left for the stream
with a jar to fetch a hoard of clay. Wonnieze ran the hill to the stream
more times than most
of his peers could. But lifting a full jar of clay on the head with water in
it, which was more than quarter his body weight, was a different
episode to contend with.
When he got home with the first jar, his chest stood up like he
did several push-ups. Wonnieze would have appreciated any form of
assistance to speed up the work but could not come up with anyone in
his mind. On his way to the stream the second time, he heard sounds
of footsteps moving towards him behind, then hands hung round his
shoulders and head. Behold, they were Chiekong, Edema and
Obikan.
Out of sheer fright, he lifted the vessel in an attempt to defend
himself. Chiekong grabbed it while the other two went behind tickling
him by the sides of his ribs until he left it. “I can see you don’t like your
pot.” Chiekong said. Wonnieze looked like a prey surrounded by
predators, they laughed at him like hysterical hyenas. “Even you?”
Wonnieze said to Obikan and Edema. “Do you ever relax?” Edema
asked. “No one is pounding on you.” Obikan said.
“Then what do you want from me.” Wonnieze asked,
retreating from them. “After you made us look like geese, we want you
to be part of us.” Chiekong said and palmed Wonnieze by the head.
“Who knows if his refusal to be circumcised makes him more tortoise
headed than we thought he was?” Obikan asked. “Who knows, maybe
we should stop punishing ourselves.” Wonnieze said, joining them in
laughter. Together, they assisted him in fetching the quantity of clay
his mother asked for to begin the job. Later that evening, Adaret left to
their family’s farm where her son captured a life snake earlier.
She went there to plant vegetable seeds. Chukudoh left home
in the afternoon to set traps at tracks he observed small animals trod
upon in a nearby forest. He had a machete in its sheath hanging
across his shoulder, a bow and a set of poisoned arrows hanging in
the center of his back. Wonnieze’s friends left him to water their
parent’s farm after they assisted him with a trip of clay to begin his
work. First, he sifted the clay from impure and hard materials such as
stones, shells and dirt.
He did it for over an hour before he heard a voice calling,
“Mama.” “Mama.” It was Osobong. “Why are you disturbing every
ones’ peace? You mean you left your house this evening to come here
and shout Mama, Mama?” “Mama told me she would be going to farm
this evening. I wanted helping her now I’m chanced” “Why? Did she
tell you she needed your help?”
“She treated and dressed my wounds you caused this
morning. How else can I show thanks?” “Wonderful. How can you also
show gratitude for my punishment?” “See how you’re? So, you’re still
keeping me in your mind? If anything happens to me, don’t forget I
know the way to your mother’s house.” “Since you know all of that,
can you do me a favor and go back to your mother’s house.” “Why are
you sounding like I came to visit you?” She said, placing her hand on
her waist and shoving it side by side. “It doesn’t matter whom you
came to visit. If you’re looking for my mother, she’s out already and
won’t be returning soon.” He said, trying to discontinue the
conversation.
“Okay.” She said and exited the compound, but returned after
a while. “Instead of coming and leaving in vain, I would stay around
and be sure the pot you’re making for me is of quality like the one you
broke. I can help if you want.” Wonnieze hissed and backed her while
filtering the clay. “I’m talking to you. Whom are you forming for?” He
slammed the filter on the filtered clay and squeezed his eye brow at
her.
“What is disturbing you? Did I say I can’t do it?” “Why are you
angry at me? I didn’t ask mama for a new pot.” She said, lowering her
voice. “Do you want to hear the truth?” “What truth?” He shrugged and
continued, “You girls carry a lot of problems. I’m better off on my own.
I would’ve left to meet with my father in gaming, but because of you, I
can’t. Now, you’re here, who knows what problem is on the way for
me again?”

88
“The same thing your mother said. How can you be so rude?”
She said, closing her eyes all through her question. “I’m not doing it
for you; I’m doing it for Mama.” Wonnieze smiled, “Mama said you’re
an innocent girl. What can an innocent, little girl do?” “Not much,” she
said with a mischievous look, “but I fixed your swollen head.”
Wonnieze lost his smiles digesting what she said.
He kept mute and returned to work. Wonnieze was unable to
hold a conversation with a girl because he either bored them with
discourses that were above their heads or drove them away with
questions only the elderly may deliberate on. But he was surprised
how his impolite and disinterested attitude would keep a girl wanting
to stay around and talk more with him. Osobong found a stool in the
yard and sat a distance away from him.
“I’ll sit here and wait until mama returns.” She said and sighed.
He continued with the work he had at hand, paying no attention to her
for more than twenty minutes in malicious silence, during which he
mixed and flattened a ball of clay to a low plane and cut up several
long pieces of ring-shaped coils to build round the flattened plane of
the clay. As he increased the hollow of the plane with more coils,
cracks appeared by the sides, an indication his work was poorly done
and required he began all over again from the base.
He tried it the second time, but the same problem popped up,
he vented his anger, throwing his entire work to the ground. “What
nonsense?” He said, standing still with dropped shoulders. Osobong
ducked her head below her laps giggling. “I thought you knew it all.”
“Little girl,” he said to offend, “you should be sitting quiet, you wouldn’t
have done it any better.” Osobong smacked her palms together at a
slow tempo, paying keen attention to him with amusement.
Wonnieze never made a clay pot on his own even though he
participated in the making process with other hands on several
occasions, he still had not mastered the act. While he was thinking of
ways to build it without cracks, he stumbled on an idea of inviting his
three former rivals to assist him. Ignoring Osobong, he dashed out to
their houses but was told by their parents they went to a neighboring
village to play football against a team.
Disheartened, he went back home contemplating what to do.
This was the first time his mother told him to make a clay pot by
himself. If he did, and it did not come out nice, his mother would have
been kind enough to guide him. Making earthen pots was a craft he
liked to participate in, but did not take to a finish, assuming it required
less of his time to master. His intent was to surprise his parents who
thought he had not perfected in the craft, but here he was
disappointed in himself, his parents’ opinion about his pottery mastery
was holding true.
What added to his frustration was when he arrived home to
find Osobong re-working on what he left off. “Eh. Who told you to
touch my work?” He yelled. “This is what I was saying. Why can’t you
keep your hands to yourself?” He said like a malevolent dog
approaching her with exposed teeth. Osobong pretended like no one
said a word, neither did she turn to him. When he drew close to see
what shambles her hands had done, he was silenced by a nearly
finished work. He walked round the pot, there were no crack linings
and was surprised at how she came thus far in a short time. Oh, how
he wished he bit his tongue with his teeth sooner than he opened his
mouth.
“How did you do it?” He asked, his jaw plunged down like a
shark in a deep blue sea. His bewilderment annoyed her. She
discontinued her finishing touches and washed her hands rendering
apology. “Sorry I’m the reason you couldn’t make a simple pot. I’ll go
home as you warned, I don’t want to put you in more trouble.” She
said and walked away. He stood there a while, taking an inward look
into the way he reacted earlier, seeing his attitude reflected high egos
that hid in his character.
“Osobong don’t be angry at me,” he ran to catch up with her, “I
didn’t know I can be this full of myself at times.” “Do you see the
problems you deal with are the ones you create for yourself?” “I avoid
people because it’s the only way, I know how to stay away from
problems.” “And people will continue to be your problem as long as
you reduce them to a ram.” She said and kept walking. Osobong’s
action preached a sermon touching the center of his heart.

90
He went after her again, his eyes itched to contact hers as
they revealed his tender feelings. He knelt with a knee to the ground
and held her long gown by the base. “Forgive my immaturity. I now
know I have need to grow up like my father use to say.” He looked
around and found people coming afar, “please don’t allow me look
weak in front of people.” He said, attempting to rise to his feet. “Drop
the other knee to the ground.” She said, closing her eyes and twisting
her lips in defiance. He took a shallow breath and obeyed. Osobong’s
face lightened bit by bit, ending with a smile as she shook her
shoulders and waist with feminine grace.
“Get up and go home. I don’t want anybody thinking we’ve
something doing with each other.” “I can’t. More trouble for me if we
don’t go together and complete the work.” “No, I won’t. I must go.” “I
know, but please listen, I don’t want to go back to the work thinking I
can complete it, only to leave cracks on it. Let’s go back and finish the
work at least for the sake of my mother.” “Really? You’re now calling
your mother into this. You’re lucky.” She said, in the pretext that
Wonnieze who was impossible and treated her presence with disdain
at one time, now treated her with regards seeking her assistance.
“How were you able to do yours without breaks?” “Watch me.”
Taking a fine ball of clay, she mashed it with her hands together with
rice husk to remove bubbles while sprinkling water to further soften
and moisturize it until it was smooth enough with the required
elasticity and texture for the purpose. She flattened and sliced them in
pieces. This was the procedure she used in making the first to a near
completion when Wonnieze left in search for his friends.

She prepared a second flattened plane of clay and used the


sliced strands to encircle it, raising it into a spherical shape, making
the top smaller than the middle part. She covered the coils with a
broad bowel to prevent air from hardening it sooner before she used
them.

The coils did not break as she added several of it on each other
to form a perfect hollow. The space inside the pot was spacious in
part because, she used her thumb to press and rob the sides of the
pot outside while supporting the hollow with her other fingers inside.
After this, she used a wooden spoon-like paddle to smoothen the
rough edges to give it a near skilled finishing. “I was mistaken to call
you a little girl.” He said, “How old are you?” “I’m sixteen years.”
“Sixteen? And you’re almost my height. Well, I shouldn’t doubt you.
Your talents maybe taller than me.” He said like he had been fond of
her a long time ago.
“Aw. Do you even think you’re tall? I don’t like telling people
my real age because they’re fooled by my height and I like it. Anyway,
how old are you too?” “Papa told me I’m eighteen years old but mama
says no, I’m nineteen.” She suspended what she was doing and lifted
her eyes on him at the time he was cutting more coils. He sensed a
stare at him and turned to her but she absconded with her eyes to
work. She blinked as thoughts flashed into her mind. “Do you think I’m
lying to you?” “No.”
“I wouldn’t tell a lie to someone I like. No. I didn’t mean to say I
admire you. I mean…what’s wrong with my mouth?” He said in a
tense stand-still gesture as he rotated his eyes to the sides of his
socket, surprised at the betrayal of his lips. She turned to him
unaffected by what he said. “But, if I were to be honest, I think I like
you.” “Wonnieze.” She called softly, “I don’t want to annoy you.” “Even
if you tried, I don’t think you can?” “We’ll soon find out. So, let me ask,
why have you refused to be cut till nineteen years of age?”

92
The question struck a chord in him. “Why is it important you
must know?” She sighed and answered, “trying to understand you
better. Is there anything wrong with that?” She asked, cutting more
coils. “Let me tell you a little gossip. My friends respect you. Do you
know that?” “Why?” “You don’t make any of them look like a big deal.
But they are playful and the funny thing is that you seem scared of
them.” “Respect me you said?” He raised his voice. “Yes.” “How is that
possible when they always laugh at me like I look funny? Do I?”
“Yes, because at least you give them what to talk and laugh
about.” “But you need to tell your friends to stop mocking me. I
wouldn’t tease them if they weren’t cut.” “You’re sounding too nice.
Let’s be real, can you marry an uncircumcised woman?” “Marrying an
uncircumcised woman doesn’t bother me?”
“You can’t be serious.” “No, I’m serious.” “How would you cope
with a spiritual husband sharing your wife with you?” She asked with a
voice of warning. “When love leads, tell me one thing it can’t
conquer?” The involvement in their conversation, slowed the pace at
which they worked. “Uh. You never cease to amaze me. Do you mean
to tell me you aren’t afraid of the scary visits of spirits?” “I think about
it, but what I don’t focus my mind on have no power over me. Don’t
forget you and I have spirits in us as while.”
“Be careful before you blaspheme. Are we equal with the
gods?” “Not at all. They have progressed beyond us into the world of
spirits. But my grandfather told me you can bargain with spirits and
some must be subdued.” “Wonnieze, Wonnieze,” she called in a
dreamy tone, “your thinking has depth, boys of your age don’t pick
interest in topics not related to power, sports, sex and wealth. You’re
different.”
“If you must know also, you’re the first girl I’m relaxed talking
with, I confess. I hope there’s no end to what we can talk about?”
“This is what I don’t like. Don’t try to make me look like a golden
person. Don’t make me shy I beg you.” “Am I that bold?” “You’re, but
maybe not bold enough to face the sting of circumcision like every
other person.” Her answer zipped up his wide smile to a straight face.
“Don’t be offended. I’m not encouraging you to be circumcised.”
“Well, it’s not bad that you care I should be circumcised. True, I
have my fears,” he confided in a whispering tone. “after-all, their
penises stay cleaner and doesn’t hide their heads in an extra skin that
have no use.” Osobong laughed to tears. “Then what’s keeping you
this long?” She whispered into his ears. “I know of boys who are cut
so badly I fear they might have problems in the future making a family.
When I find a doctor whom I trust, then I can allow him cut me the way
I choose.” “Wouldn’t it be more painful then?” “Yes, it will, but I know I
can face it. How many boys would?” “I see you like things the hard
way.”
“Not like that, I have a friend who is uncircumcised living in
another clan.” “Why’s he not circumcised?” She asked. “In his
community, they don’t cut their boys and girls.” “But why is ours
different?” “My grandfather told me four years before he died, what we
believe works for us.” Osobong reacted, nodding slowly. “Wise saying,
but you must be a stubborn person.” she said pointing at his nose.
“I’ve heard that many times from my father,” he laughed, “but my
mother tells him to be patient with me.” “Me I prefer a man who’s
circumcised oh.”
He cleared his throat and spat out phlegm afar, “How about
you? Are you circumcised?” The question came like a hard blow on
her chest stunning her, she coughed with little control. “Sorry. This one
can’t go down,” she said, “please ask another question to knock the
first one down?” “What’s wrong with the first question?” “Do you like it
when a woman’s private thing is cut?” “It doesn’t make any difference
to me?”
“Then why are you asking? Do you want me to show you?”
“Aw. Osobong can you be this raw?” “I hope it’s not what I’m
thinking?” She asked, looking between his legs. “I don’t want to see
your private thing. Why are you taking things too far?” Wonnieze
asked, raising his hands like he was at a gun point. Osobong kept a
plain face. “Are you still angry at me?” He asked. Tears swelled in her
eyes, she fought it with her eye lids as she stood in a reflective mood.
“Your Etobor is a dog. He’s a dog, a dog.” She yelled, “oh my
god. What did I say? Did somebody hear me?” She acted like her
statement would victimize her. She walked a distance around the yard
to check if anyone stood nearby. “Keep calm.” Wonnieze told her as
he walked to her. “Talk to me, no one is listening to us. Did he force
himself on you?” “Don’t say that again. What body do I have that he
should sleep with me?”

94
“Then don’t punish yourself with memories and fears. Stay
calm, you’re safe with me.” She hissed. “The Etobor gets what he
wants. As for me, the only time he’ll sleep with me is when he has my
remains.” Tears encircled her eyes as she lifted her cheek with a
smile. “Osobong dry your tears, Mama wouldn’t believe I didn’t make
you cry.” “He looks at me like I owe him something, that’s the one I
don’t understand. I started taking longer paths going and returning
home. Once I forgot, taking a shorter path home, I passed by him. He
called on me to peel oranges for him in the palace. I didn’t refuse. A
while later he hugged me tight from behind. I was confused and then
his penis stiffened at my back.”
“Is he not ashamed?” “He doesn’t know what shame is. I wish
he did. I was mad. I threw the oranges at him and ran away, forgetting
he’s my Etobor.” “What a man?” He said, lifting and dropping his
shoulders. “What if he wants to make you his wife?” “It’s not funny. If
making me a tool of his pleasure is his first intention, I’m not
interested?” She wiped her face with both hands. “In case you don’t
know I have integrity for my body, I don’t sell-out.” She added. “It’s
yours to keep and you can have me to protect it for you.”
“I don’t want to talk about him anymore. I’m tired and the work
isn’t finished.” They focused on the work at hand for the next fifteen
minutes without talking. The silenced broke when they heard a sound
of a fallen item in the bush. “What could that be?” She asked. “A
mango must have fallen.” “It must be ripe.” “Yes. Ours get ripe early.
Would you like me to get some for you?” “Yes please.” She said and
he left. He plucked a few, put them into a small sack bag and was
bringing it into the yard when he got stuck at the ravishing growing
features of Osobong’s tender body he had not examined before. He
frowned at the awareness that the chief picked interest in her among
others.
As he stood by the side of their thatched house staring at her
in youthful lust, he remembered the affectionate embrace he received
from Obikan’s younger sister, combined with the deep conversation
he had with Osobong in the same day. His body levitated above the
ground in his mind. While he wallowed in his fantasy, there came a
tap on his buttocks that brought him down to reality; he sprang high
with the sack of mango into sight like a threatened rooster. “Mama.”
“What are you looking at?” She asked. “A bush meat. It was big, I was
thinking of a way to catch it before you entered.” He said, giving a
nervous smile.
“Youths! Oh Youths, the heavenly trance of the minds.” She
said, shrugged and walked into the yard. Osobong on the other side,
just finished making and exposing two water pots under the sun
before making fire to bring them close to the flames. Adaret,
impressed with their art of pottery, cuddled her for assisting her son in
the craft. She washed two mangoes her son brought in and gave her,
including three long fingers of banana she plucked from a bunch she
came with from farm. Osobong ate them and went home afterwards.
That night, Wonnieze sat outside in the quiet, chilly weather of
the evening for hours. The moon shone bright with twilight of the stars
sitting on the sky, he sat close to a fire he prepared while he
reminisced over his distressing and sensuous experiences of the day
tickling his body. It was late at night; his father had gone to bed and
his mother lay in a sofa in the sitting room.
He sat humming, and when he was not sitting, he walked
round the yard with his hands behind his back like a serious looking
Scoutmaster inspecting a body of boy scout troop. When his mother
woke up to lay in her room, the backyard door was left open. She
went to bolt it when she saw her son sitting in the yard. “Wonnieze.”
She called and walked to him, “what troubles you that you aren’t
asleep by this time of the night?”
“Nothing troubles me mama. I’m not feeling sleepy yet.” He
said, but from his voice, his mother perceived the wool-like softness of
his feelings. She took a stool and sat next to him without importuning
him with questions. Thrusting her arms around his shoulders, she
asked. “Do you like her?” Wonnieze smiled and rocked his body on
the stool like a worm veering on a soft ground. “Mama-a-a,” he said,
his cares and feelings did a poor job hiding from his mother’s sixth
sense, “what do you want me to say?”
“Be open with me. I’m your mother and a woman – I saw the
way you looked at Osobong this afternoon.” “Mama, don’t mind me
oh. Tomorrow I may start wondering where the beauty was that made
me stare at her like that.” “But she’s beautiful. Isn’t she?” “Yes, she
looks it.” He said chewing his nails. “Eating your finger nails won’t
satisfy you. They’ll upset your stomach.” He spat them out and rested
his cheek on his palm.
“With all the pimples she has on her face, she’s still
beautiful?” She asked, “did you not tell me your dream girl was plump,
full breasted, and dark skinned? Osobong doesn’t fit in any of those
description you listed before.” “Mama I said so, but right now, I don’t
know what is going on inside my head. Osobong wasn’t beautiful in
my eyes like that before, but ever since we worked and talked
together today, I see her differently and I feel the same way too.”

96
“Ha-ha. You look more handsome when you’re sober looking.”
She said with all smiles. “There’s a cross to carry when you desire a
woman. Your father felt same way for me, I wasn’t the first, but he
chose me and has been committed loving me for twenty-nine years
now.” She added. Wonnieze leaned his head on her shoulders, she
stroked his hand with her palm by his side. “Let me tell you a secret
about relationships. To love a person without holding back, you must
accept and love yourself first. Take your time, true love comes slowly.
As a young girl, I learnt it’s better to fall from a tree and break your
back than to fall in love and break your heart my child.” She
proceeded to sing a love song; he sat up and thumbed his stool with
rhythm:

What a woman she’s that amaze


Like a lamb she can be easy
Like fire she sets ablaze
She tastes sweet like berries
But are like those that buries
The brains behind wars
The fountains behind peace
She never aborts pregnancy,
may not be faithful to fantasy.
Tra la la, tra la la.
She makes and unmakes men.

CHORUS

Lovely rose with sharp thorns


Marrying her beauty punctures
At shadow, she gives pleasures
Send her through the window
She comes through the door
Shut your doors and windows
Life’s dull and blue without her.

If you try to replace her


Life becomes a tomb
Virus. No distance she’ll not walk
There’s no depth she’ll not strike
No darkness she can’t make bright
Dear ones afar are near at heart
The misty rain, she comes slow,
flows and then floods.
Tra la la, tra la la.
How she makes and unmakes men.

They sang until they went in and slept at past mid night. Early in
the morning, Wonnieze was first to wake. He went outside to urinate
and heard hurried footsteps approaching him; when he turned to the
direction, he saw Obikan, “Is anything the matter?” Wonnieze asked
contending with dizziness in his eyes. “Why are you here so early this
morning?” “Wonnieze, my mother is about to die.” The news shot his
eyes wide open. “How can it be when I saw her two days ago, strong
and active?” “Yesterday she couldn’t feel her right leg and hand. Later
on, she couldn’t even move them anymore and when she tries to
speak, her words are shaky for us to understand.”
“What have you done about it?” “We were advised to make tiny
cuts on her right leg and hand which we did and applied black pepper.
We laid her out on the sun to see if it will help her body answer to pain
yet, nothing worked. This morning, her left leg and hand is affected,
the only part of her body working is her neck.” “This is too bad to hear.
Let me wake my father, he may have an advice to give.” “Thank you,
but he’s not the one we need now.” “Who’s it you need?” “Yo-o-u.” He
stressed.
“What will you do with me?” Wonnieze asked. Obikan’s answer
niggled his mind. “Wonnieze, no ear has heard the secret you told me.
If you could pull me to life when I crossed a foot to the after world, I
believe you can bring her some life. Please don’t stand here and let
her slip off. Ple-e-ease.”
Wonnieze stood quiet but alarmed, wishing he understood he
did not know how to help. “If she can live in her body like a statue, our
joy will be sustained.” There was nothing Wonnieze could say to make
him think otherwise. “Go home,” Wonnieze said, “receive no one until
I come to see her.” “Yes brother, we’ll receive no guest until you say
so.” Obikan said with relief and hurried back home to comfort his
mother.

98
Wonnieze did not set foot in the house after he had that
conversation with him. He went and took a quick shower down the
stream before going to meet Obikan’s mother. She lay inside her
cabin on a mat with tears gushing from her eyes. When Wonnieze
came in, she lifted her head to speak with him but her words came
half way in her throat. “Mama,” he called in a feverish tone of a
teenage boy, kneeling by her side, he took her right hand into the
clasp of his palms. “Let your heart be troubled no more.” Obikan’s
younger sister sat by a corner of the room crying over her mother’s
predicament.
“Comfort your sister and let the spirit of healing find its place in
this body without hindrance.” Wonnieze said. He encouraged their
mother to breathe in and out deep and gently. He touched her feet
and said, “darkness has no place in this body. No device of the wicked
has no power to temper with your life.” She inhaled deeper, listening
to his affirmation which in turn relaxed her swollen face. He rubbed
palm kernel oil on her joints and gave her a portion to drink. “The
precious stone the Ekpeflu gave me to bring back the passing life of
your son, is the same I have in my hand.” Obikan and her sister’s
eyes glowed in hope.
The belief in special stones prescribed by spiritualist was an
ancient practice in Africa. It was said to have spiritual elements that
were protective and were worn round the neck like amulets, others
placed them in their homes like jewelries. They vary in sizes and
colors mainly green, harsh, red, brown, turquoise or mixed, and so
were their purposes.
When charged with consecrated oil and prayers, they were
used to treat health disorders such as arthritis, high fever, high blood
pressure, heart troubles, poisoning and nervous disorders. Some
treated mental issues and depression; happiness and security were
also associated to it but, these stones were not easy to come by.
Other traditional methods of treating the aforementioned
disorders and basic cravings of human needs were deplored.
Wonnieze, laying secret claims on gem stone from the hands of the
chief priest was a perfect treasure to prompt their hope. “Mama you’re
blessed.” Wonnieze said with a confident tone that instilled calmness
in the room, dispelling rudiments of panic and uncertainty. “I now
understand why the Ekpeflu refused to collect the stones from me
after I used them on your son as he instructed me.” He proceeded to
put a finely shaped stone into her left palm that had mild reflex.
He got those stones from the stream earlier that morning
chanting ‘heal’ over it a hundred times, greeting none on his way nor
returning greetings to any. He hid the stones in his palms, revealing it
to none until he put it into her hand in a way no member in the room
saw it, not even the patient. “Mama, do you believe you can rise
again?” She held his palm a little tighter and tried mustering, “yes.”
“In your hand lies that precious stone your eyes must not see
until I come for it in seven days.” “Mama what he has said is very
important. No eyes must see it or touch it. That’s how mine worked.
You must follow the instruction.” Obikan said. “I have one in my hand
too,” Wonnieze continued, “if you will be obedient, the early sun of a
new day will not meet you the same way.”
Obikan’s younger sister approached him outside while he was
leaving. “You’re a good omen. How do I become your disciple?”
Wonnieze looked at her with a calmness in his inner being that
managed the endearing fire of her character, “begin by letting mama
know each day that she’ll rise again. Then we can work together
someday.” He said, without letting his feelings loose togetherness in
her presence.

“Wonnieze.” His father called, sitting at the back yard of his


house feasting upon a plate of Garri and Okra soup. “Papa,” he
answered, as he exited the house with haste to meet his father sitting
with his mother. His father placed a chunk of goat meat in a separate
plate. “That’s for you.” “Thanks papa, thanks mama.” “Sit with us,” his
mother said, “your father says you’re becoming a man.” Wonnieze
smiled. His father rarely lavished praises on him, he grappled on a sit
as his interest to hear from him turned on. “Do you know the sickness
that killed my step sister after long months of treatments, is the same
sickness mama Obikan is recovering from in the past seven days?”
Adaret stroke a conversation.
“She’s able to stand on her own and walk around with the
support of a walking stick. Soon she may do without it.” Her husband
replied. “Who is the doctor treating her? He must be very intimate with
the act of herbs and roots.” “The person you’re asking about sits next
to you.” Adaret turned to his son. “Are you the doctor we’re talking
about?” Her face changed to a satirical expression. Wonnieze poked
out the meat he chewed with pleasure and gasped for air as though
his tongue was sore with pepper bites whereas – his father was
allergic to food spiced with much pepper and Adaret prepared his
meals in a way that did not upset his body.

100
“I overheard your conversation with Obikan when you woke to
pee outside. What did you do to help them?” Adaret was not sure her
eyes and ears were not playing pranks on her. “Mama I pressed
charcoal in Obikan ears and gave him a little to chew when he was
sick.” He said, trying to sound easy with the question. “Who taught
you that?” She asked, surprised he knew charcoal could be used to
boost immunity, detoxify the body and treat symptoms of health
problems like malaria and diarrhea.
“Grandpa taught me.” Wonnieze answered. “Don’t tell a lie.” His
father said. “Is it charcoal your friend said snatched him from the
hands of death? Are you telling me Obikan came here early that
morning to ask for precious charcoal like he doesn’t know how to
make some for his mother if it was that good enough to undo the
seizure of his dying mother?” Wonnieze was silent. “What he doesn’t
know,” Chukudoh said to his wife, “when he went outside that night, I
also followed him to pee but I stayed put by the door post when I
heard the content of their conversation.”
“Papa he didn’t know they were charcoal. I fooled him like he
fooled me before – I told him they were gem stones given to me by
the Ekpeflu. He believed me and at once his health picked up fast.”
Chukudoh’s hand suspended in the air with a lump of Garri and egusi
soup he was about to swallow.
“Is that the same thing you did with the mother?” Adaret asked,
“No. I gave her a fine stone I got from the stream. I don’t know how it
turns out to work for them.” Chukudoh broke into laughter. It sounded
like fairy tale in his ears ending well in the physical world.
“Oh my god. This trick must stop! What will you do when they
don’t work anymore? What would we do if the Ekpeflu is aware you’re
trifling with his name?” “I told Obikan there was nothing I could do to
help his mother but he kept begging until I gave in. Not anymore. I
won’t do anything like this again in the name of the Ekpeflu to nurse
anybody to health.” “Let me see your palm?” His father asked. He
studied his left and right palms comparatively for a couple of minutes
like one sourcing a book for an information.
Adaret hang on like a patient waiting to hear results of a
doctor’s diagnosis. He had not studied his palms before and
Wonnieze had no idea what he was doing. “Go bring me water to
drink.” Chukudoh said when he was through. “Okay papa.” “What
have you discerned about him?” Adaret asked? “I never really knew
what we had.” “What’s it?” “His life will be a tough one, but his
ancestral protective forces are vigilant. He has an extraordinary
mission. The cares of the people are rested upon his shoulders and
his backbone shall be the pillar upon which his people shall lean.”
“What you’re saying isn’t clear to me. What’s my son’s
mission?” She asked with a quivering voice, “To fill in the cracks.” His
answer left her all the more in the dark. Reading the formation and
crest on a person’s palms to predict his future was either inherited or
learnt from a talented person.
Chukudoh, among a scanty few in the clan was inherited. The
practice involved the study of the three major lines in the palm –
including the length of the fingers, size and texture of the palm. The
three major lines are the life, the head and heart lines. They are
accompanied with other minor lines that have significant meaning
attached to them. The length and thickness of the lines, how they
curve or cross each other, where they are positioned in the palm,
reveal the choices, weaknesses, challenges, fortune, strengths, health
and destiny of that person. However, a person can alter the map of
their lives for the better, by making right choices to crest positive lines
or alter inauspicious signs in their palms.
The right hand of a man was considered to reveal the
potentials he came to earth with, while his left hand revealed how
much he used, abused, ignored or improved them. In reading a
female’s palm, a palmist began with her left palm. “The time has come
to allow him discover himself.” “Here’s water.” “Thank you, sit.” His
father said. “Is your hand is relieving you?” Adaret asked, taking her
son’s left arm into her palms, that was fractured by the chief’s armed
guards. The incident happened five days ago on his way from market.
She massaged it with palm kernel oil she extracted by frying dried
nuts of palm fruits.
He saw an elderly man fighting his way from the chief’s guards
to stop them from plowing into one third of his land, reason that he did
not met with the new stipulation of tax enforcement in the clan.
The old man pleaded for a little more time to allow his farm
products yield so he could major up to the demand; instead they beat
the old man with sticks for resisting them. The man’s face was bruised
with their fist as they pounded on him. “Are you a witch? What makes
you think you can stand on our way of carrying out the Etobor’s
order?” A guard said. When Wonnieze saw this, he ran into the
guards, forced a spear from the hand of one and broke it with his
knee. “Abomination!” He cried, “Give him some time to grow his crops.
Why take his inheritance?”

102
He snapped at them on behalf of the poor helpless man whom
they set free. The guards were seven, they turned their aggression at
him and overpowered him, beating him like they intended to murder.
They used hard sticks on him which broke numerous times until they
resulted in using their fists on him too. His body blistered as they
lashed him. “He’s only a young person. Don’t kill him.” A village adult
cried out.
“You this little boy, can’t you beg for your life?” They relentless
guards asked, but he ignored them. “Abomination.” He echoed at
every blow he took from them, undermining their brutality and
numbers. At last, they took him with them to the palace, dragging him
on the ground for resisting the order and execution of the chief.
Halfway to their destination, they set him free because of the pleading
intervention of the villagers who witnessed what happened and
followed them.
“Papa do you know, Obikan, Edema and Chiekong have joined
the Etobor’s military?” “Why did they join?” He asked. “He’s been
telling the youths through his crafty men that the secret killings and
kidnapping of people in the land were because, enemies outside the
clan are planning to extend their borders into our lands. He promised
many who would join in conquering them in their lands, to enjoy the
spoils of their ruins and sixty percent discounts from their taxes.”
“Oho-o-o-o. What a way to steal the hearts of our people.”
Chukudoh said, shaking his head tenderly, he turned to his son, “Do
you want to join them?” “Over my dead body,” Wonnieze said,
snapping both of his fingers, “I’m betrayed. My friends changed their
minds.” He said in a dim voice.
“Things are changing for the worse in the clan,” Adaret said,
“how much terror will the Etobor bring upon us before his bottomless
belle is filled? How are we sure our neighboring clans are responsible
for the death and kidnapping of our people before we attack the wrong
folks? Wouldn’t it be better we safeguard our borders to bar away
intruders instead of jumping into a circle of war for greed we can
never satisfy?” She said with frustration building in her voice.
“The Etobor has decided to covet lands by force and bring
home slaves and captives. This he said is his vision to empower the
clan.” Chukudoh said projecting his lips in disgust. “May the gods
intervene in our calamity? We’re once a people with a voice, not only
have we lost it; we’ve become a toothless dog. Our youths have
sworn to the secrecy of brutality and are now a blood thirsty people.
The Etobor is blind. If he had vision, he would see that to have no
enemy is the same as having wealth.” Adaret said with tears tangling
in her eyes.
“I foresaw all these from the beginning and though I
forewarned the council, my voice was drowned by the cowardice of
honorable men. The man who desires power like the deer thirst for
water, isn’t worthy to be master.” Chukudoh said looking up.
“May the soul of our brother and father rest in peace?” Adaret
said with empathy, referring to Tabinoy whom the chief executed. The
chief accused him of practising black magic and for inflicting illness of
Obikan’s mother. He charged him with two life cattle and quarter of his
landed properties in his absence. When Tabinoy heard the judgement
passed on him, he went to the chief’s palace the next day to plead his
innocence against his false witnesses so he would drop the sentence
on him.
He listened to his plea without interrupting, called on a
manservant and whispered into his ears. The manservant left and
returned with a jar of fermented cassava water. “Why are you standing
there and watching him? Is that what I asked you to do?” The chief
asked. The manservant emptied the jar on Tabinoy. The chief covered
his nostrils and mouths with his hands. The stench of the polluted
water hovered round the palace. Even the guards who stood like
monuments squeezed their faces as they tasted the soreness of the
unpleasant smell in the air. The manservant’s hands and jar hung in
the air like his action froze him to ice.
Tabinoy tightened his jaw at the man who assaulted him. He
loosened his face to a smile, collected the jar from him and shattered
it to the ground. The chief retreated into his throne like an unprotected
soldier whose sentry was entered by a dreaded traitor. “You will not
bask in your glory today if not for me. You’re sited on that throne
today, but do you know what you’re doing? Do you know our families
perish because you worship your stomach above all things?” He said
pointing his staff to his abdomen. “How dare you insult the throne.”
Delvit rose to his feet, “Don’t tamper with my patience. Get lost this
minute.” He said pointing to the exit door.
Tabinoy obeyed. He walked to the door and returned. His
actions confused the chief. “Is your mind sick?” Delvit asked. Tabinoy
drew closer to him. His guards by his sides came forward to restrain
him. “Guards.” He made a fist raising his right hand and they returned
to their positions. Tabinoy used his staff to drop his arm, “If you must
know, abusing the authority given you by the people doesn’t in
anyway make you powerful. It shows you have no power of your own
and if you’re not mindful, you’ll be stripped of this power in a way you
never imagined and watch your reign come crashing in your face in
the same way I broke your pot.”

104
Delvit was silent trying to face the reality that Tabinoy’s
audacity to his face was not daydreaming. “Guards. Cease him.”
Tabinoy fired Delvit an immediate slap and spat twice on his face. The
guards were taken aback and stood still in disbelief. His action
reduced the relevance of the chief in his own eyes, for a moment, he
forgot he was the chief as he withdrew from him like one without
power and authority, he so exercised. Tabinoy spat again on his
throne before Delvit’s armed men pinned him to the ground.
He was convicted for assaulting the chief and desecrating his
office, an unpardonable crime he did not refute. The chief condemned
him to death in a cell underneath the palace. The council of elders
could not intervene on his behalf because he told them in the ending
of the last festival, they were from hence ceremonial leaders and
could not make or question his decisions. He denied them the rights
and privileges of their offices and elected youthful men of his choice in
their stead, placing the former elders in an infinite probation, claiming
they were impotent working with his ideas to transform the clan into
sovereignty.
It all began when the chief’s former council of elders met with
him and solicited on behalf of the people, the council’s willingness to
give up thirty percent of their belongings and increase but appealed
he should reduce the tax charge to ten percent for other clan
members. “That wouldn’t support my vision to a finish.” Came his
reply to them.
Conversely, they did not agree on a plan to execute and in the
same meeting, the chief replaced them in a reproachful manner as
they gave up their seats for youngsters who were waiting in a room for
the beckoning of the chief in the palace. These men, going by the
standards of their tradition, would not have been eligible for such
honorific title of an elder in the clan, but they were the choices of
Delvit and no amount of murmuring could undo their authorities.
Throughout the petering days of Tabinoy in the dark cell, he
yelled in an ebbing voice. “The straw in the wind is rotten!” He
moaned as though he sniffed it with his nostrils. A few times, he was
brought out to be examined and was scoffed at. During those times,
the chief and his newly constituted elders sat in front of him chewing
fat fleshes of meat, drinking gin and palm wine and piping marijuana
as the old man’s afflictions made their hearts merrier.
For eight days, the chief deprived him of food and water; his
eyes dried, sunk inside his revealing socket, his tooth gum shrank, the
hair on his scalp plucked off, even his pinkish finger nails turned
brown. Each day made him sicklier and frail until the eleventh day
when he expelled his last drawn-breath into his feeble sung words.
“The straw in the wind is rotten.” He died living behind four wives,
children and grand-children to weep on his corpse exposed to lie
outside despite the plea they made to him and his elders for mercy…
they would not listen nor set him free and take them in his stead as
indentured servants.
“Now you have killed him, why not you eat him?” The youngest
pale wife of Tabinoy said to a guard. “You still have the daring to talk.”
An elder who heard her said. “If he wouldn’t fill you up, there’s still
more of us for your belle.” The second wife added. “Chase these
unstable minded fools away before we set another example with
them.” He said, and they chased them away with wickers. The elders,
in the mood of their high, laughed non-stop. High tension in the clan
loomed around for three days, no one left their premises to go about
their normal duties as they mourned the ugly passing away of an elder
whom they respected. The chief with his newfangled elders were the
most dreadful sight to behold.
Adaret was still massaging Wonnieze’s body when he
implored his father, “Papa.” He said softly. “If the Etobor can step
upon the elders like ants crawling on the ground, no one is safe. What
if we take some important things we’ve left and travel to another clan
where we can begin life again in peace?” “The Etobor has mounted
guards around the borders to restrict movements and eyes to report
any attempt to flee the land.”
“Leaving isn’t even the problem. The problem is our safety in
other lands the Etobor have disputed with.” Adaret said. “Running
away will not solve our problem my son,” Chukudoh said, “an ant hill
continues to tower no matter how many times it is trodden upon by an
elephant.”

106
“The Etobor is too hard on us. How long can we endure?”
Wonnieze asked. “No elephant complains about the weight of its
trunk. Our fathers labored to preserve our land. We must defend it.”
Chukudoh said. “When life takes a sharp turn,” Adaret said with a tear
drop, “shall we be blended in cold blood by cold hands and do
nothing?” She asked and leaned her head on Wonnieze’s shoulder. “I
swear.” Wonnieze said, placing his index finger to the ground and
then to his tongue, “I’ll chop off that hand to pieces if they bring it
anyway close to us.” “Let not our heart faint in the days of our
distress. Darkness shall give way to the break of a new day.”
Chukudoh comforted his family.
CHAPTER EIGHT

After the death of Tabinoy, the chief disposed his body to the
birds of the air to feast on in the evil forest, denying the deceased
family the right to bury him with dignity, but he preserved his head in a
chamber inside the palace. Delvit’s extreme actions popped up in the
minds of the clan on a regular bases with a supernatural imagery of
mysticism and absolute power.
His name loomed larger than life, traveling from clan to clan
and no one dared to challenge him. It was rumored among the people
of Opezia Baitus that the chief and his new cabinet of elders
worshipped a secret god of darkness, it fortified them against bodily
harms and ensured victory over their enemies. They shed their
victims’ blood on the altar of the god which was a practice outside the
activities and custom in the Ezomde Society.
Delvit became immortal among them in coercing them to
submission, even the gods gave the impression they were by his side.
He got everything he wanted from them in ways repugnant to natural
justice and contrary to their laid down traditions. “What kind of Etobor
is this? Why does he bully us to have his ways?” The people
complained. Yet, there were those whom his governance favored and
they supported him.
He formed an Association of banking the resources of a hand
full of persons. This, he did not impose on any, it grew gradually in
numbers and popularity earning him reputation of honesty. People
who contributed items such as silvers, bronze, iron, beads, manila
and cowries which were all forms of currencies they used in the
1800’s, yielded higher returns at a given time, encouraging many
others to join of their free will. The more members in the Association,
the greater the returns each person benefitted.
In the space of two years, the chief amassed tons of
properties, cattle, lands, farm products and timbers of wood. He
rebuilt the palace to give it a more majestic appearance and planned
to build high walls around the clan to protect it in times of war and
crises. But he was not satisfied with materials he gathered nor with
the labor he had at hand. Having met with his appointed elders, they
reached a consensus to embark on a war they previously deliberated
on against the clan of Akwaino.

108
He gave charge to his elders to call on the youths and prepare
their minds to give battle to them. “Tell them that these people,” Delvit
said, “are preparing to take over our lands and resources. Tell them
they want to chase us away with our wives and children because they
have an eye on our ever-growing sedimentary rocks. Since they have
decided to wake the sleeping dog, tell them when we battle and
conquer them, their lands and belongings becomes ours and each
warrior shall be rewarded with unending favors from the throne for his
patriotism.”
Delvit was generous in parting gifts to people who executed
his orders or pleased him. The elders went about winning hearts of
the youths to Delvit’s agenda. He made promises of a better future for
them and gifted their families with domestic items of great value many
could not resist. “Our Children shall survive and return to us with glad
tidings.” The elders told their parents.
Youths whose parents declined to heed to the chief’s demand
and pleasant offers, were surprised that behind their backs, they
joined the chief’s troop of warriors for intense physical training on war
strategies. Many gave Delvit’s intentions the benefit of the doubt
because of the integrity he established for himself in the Saving
Association and in his altruism.
The elders were much like the chief in character. In a council,
they agreed to seek the willing co-operation of the people by
persuasion from time to time as regular discord would make the clan
ungovernable to achieve their mission.
Before then, an incident occurred when the women revolted
against the trend of giving up thirty percent of their belonging as tax.
The women took arms such as hoes, cutlasses, bamboo sticks and
damaged the buildings, properties and animals of the elders. A band
of women inflicted injures on four elders and on members of their
household. Their farm lands were set ablaze even though they were
later restrained, twelve women were killed and many injured.
The action of these women astonished the chief and his
elders. They wondered what will happen if all the men, women and
children rose against them. From that time onwards, they adopted a
strategy of appeasing the people to get what they wanted but after all,
Delvit and his elders never dropped or reduced the stipulated taxation
charge.
Wonnieze joined the troop because Delvit held his mother
accountable for the women’s revolt against his elders and breathe
threats at her for being insurgent. Adaret was not guilty of organizing
the riot that took place nor did she partake in it but she lived in fear of
what Delvit would do to her. The chief’s wrath softened when he
learned her son enlisted into the troop without invitation and took
active roles in the training exercises. Though he had no interest in
joining them, he had to. He did not want a situation where the chief
would use his mother to set an example for others. Unlike other
parents, Wonnieze’s parents were not honored with gifts of any kind.
The troops were taught how to fight on horse’s back and
trample on an enemy as they rode it. They carved out canoes from
logs of wood with which they were to sail across a river to their
opponents. They were taught self-defense and how to fight in a
systematical order. “When you fight like scattered flocks,” the chief
orienting them said, “you give chance for your rivals to defeat you.” He
participated with them occasionally to instruct.
“To stay alive, you must be present minded in your
environment. The bow and arrow men form a full square and take
cover under your shield, those with javelins and lances stand round
the square, when you thrust your weapons at your rivals, take cover
and give way for your brothers to fire again at them.”
Horses were few because of poor immunity to tse tse fly bites.
Great care was taken in caring for them and those cavalries who
perfected fighting on them without risk of being thrown off where given
muskets like flintlock and matchlock for their use. These were old
rifles that were muzzle-loaded but were not as efficient as rifles that
came with cartridge.
After several weeks of hard training, the chief hired the
services of a native doctor to provide charms and amulets to protect
them against blows from mortars of their enemies. “Wear this charm
inside your garments and let it rest on your skin. Doing so will activate
it to work for you.” The native doctor instructed. “When you’re about
leaving for battle, come in contact with no woman, for her virtue will
spoil the strength of your talismans.”
He wore amulets on the necks, wrists, waists and right foots of
each combatant. “Your charms will ward off evil plots against you,
commune with your mind below your consciousness on the way to
safety, protect you from sicknesses and fatigue.” He taught them
prayers and chants to offer before embarking on a war. “These sacred
and consecrated symbols must not be touched or shared with another
person else, it will fail you in time of need.”

110
He dipped his hand into his mini-bag made with antelope hide
and brought out a tiny blade. He sharpened it with a stone and made
incisions on their chest and backs and took a black kite he bound, slit
its throat and spilled its blood on the tiny multiple cuts he made on
their bodies.
He pounded a variety of herbal leaves in a mortar and
prepared a portion he smeared all over their bodies. Each combatant
brought a red piece of cloth as instructed earlier, with these red
materials he bound their eyes. He brought out a mini sharp axe he hid
behind his waist and struck each of them on their bodies repeatedly
and no harm was inflicted. They all felt they were hit but they were
neither hurt nor wounded.
Untying them, he brought a goat in front of them. “Imagine this
goat represents you.” He wore the goat the amulets and charms like
he did to them, made incisions on it and rubbed the leftover portion on
the animal. “This goat isn’t aware I’m about to throw this knife into its
belly to kill it. We shall know if the goat is fortified or not.”
After he thrust the knife at it, they came together and
examined the animal. It sustained no injury save a scratch where it
was hit by the tip of the knife. Ritual fortification was possible, but
most people were not apt with such ability to carry out the rites.
People who could, were venerated as wise. “Be warned,” the native
doctor told them, “these rituals I have done on you doesn’t make you
unbeatable, if you must live you must fight for your life like everything
depends on you, then you will survive all odds.”
The combatants learnt secret signs and symbols from their
respective commandants in maneuvering over their enemies with
signals from drums, whistles and horns from elephant tusk. They
communicated with these instruments to control their movement in
spreading out and regrouping, signaling troops in strategic hideouts to
consolidate efforts of combatants present in the battle field. It was
also used to indicate when they needed to cease fire or retreat.
The management in training these combatants appealed to
many, and more youths including thirty-two females enrolled and were
admitted. “Listen, the best form of defense is attack. If we need peace
in our clan, we must prepare for war.” Delvit encouraged them into
launching unpremeditated attacks on neighboring territories. “Ready!
Ready! Ready!” The combatants responded. His voice stimulated the
gland pumping adrenaline into their bodies.
“The strange killing and kidnapping of our people who fell
victim to the men of Akwaino clan are in love with our table lands and
long streams.” The combatants murmured upon hearing this piece of
news. The people wedged no war with them in the past three
decades. “Ye-e-es. Don’t be surprised. Don’t mind their pretense.
They would destroy us while we’re unprepared and take our
possessions while we are relaxed or busy with our daily cares of life.”
This was not true. The people of Akwaino once assisted
Opezia Baitus to reclaim their lands and properties many years ago.
And the clan in return, gave them armed men to battle and chase
away their foes in times of crises. They had a good and long social
working relationship over the years, but all that was about to crash.
The day the chief and his elders gathered to fix a date for the
troops to leave for war, the Ekpeflu arrived in the middle of their
conversation. He came alone on a red gown. He tied a red cloth round
his fore face and on the upper part of his right arm, bearing a clay pot
his palm encircled with incense burning in it. The stench from it was
harsh and unusual, the chief and the elders rose their lips against
their noses.
“What brings you to me?” The chief asked. “A message.” “I
didn’t ask for a message from you,” the chief said with a harsh voice,
“but since the message drove you all the way to my palace, what is
the message?” “The war you’re about to embark on will be
triumphant.” The chief turned his unease look to the elders and
smiled. The elders were delighted with the news. “Wow. This is a
confirmation to what the priest-doctor revealed to us.” After the Delvit
made this statement, he turned to the chief priest.
“You haven’t brought us glad tidings before except doom.
What happened today?” He said and the elders laughed at the chief
priest as though he was entertaining them with jokes. The chief priest
laughed with them until their laughter dwindled to an enquiring pause.
“The teeth are smiling, but is the heart?” His question prolonged the
silence.
“The purpose of serving war to Akwaino is dark as your
interests.” He walked closer to the chief, struck his staff and stood still,
“These are the words of Zetu – disembark from the war. If you dig too
deep for a fish, you may end up picking a snake that will stink you.” “Is
the snake fat and long enough? Tell me, I want to capture it and serve
it to my elders for a meal.” The elders broke into laughter again. But
the palace was cloudy with incense, causing them to cough
noisomely.

112
“A day will come when your excessive laughter will choke your
throats with the wrong you serve my people?” “Don’t provoke me.”
The chief said, pointing his short staff of authority close to his face,
“How have I served injustice to my people?”
“The straw in the wind is rotten. Tabinoy, whom you slew cries
from the ground till date. Why are your hands soiled with the blood of
those entrusted into your care? Why have you coveted the lives and
possessions of your people to ornament the palace and to feed your
elders and concubines in their idleness?” “Did I hear you call the
noble men of this clan lazy?” An elder asked.
“When was the last time your hands tilled the soil? Why do you
sit on high places to rip off the labors of your subjects as you please?
The assassination of Oluze by a secret band of people brought
calamity to the clan. This time around, if you don’t refrain from your
wicked ways, Oluze’s wrath will fall on you individually.” The chief
priest said in a rebuking voice.
“Have you come to pass judgement on me and my elders?”
“Go to war if you may, but be warned, the ruins of a nation begin in
the home of its people. Don’t be misled. You can do no good if your
seats are corrupt. The gods aren’t blind. When your neighbor’s horse
falls into a pit, you shouldn’t rejoice at it, for your own child may fall
into it.”
The chief pulled a long face and his elders remaining quiet,
looked up to him, anticipating a punitive reaction to the chief priest
pronouncement of Doomsday over them. He shook his staff again,
backed the chief and exited their presence. Delvit’s emotions were
scattered, but when they settled in his mind, he sent his guards to
bring him back believing he had not exited the premises but he was
no were to be found.
Later that evening, Wonnieze was returning home from the
farm with a gourd of palm wine he tapped from his father’s palm tree
plantation when he ran into Osobong. “How did you get all these
wounds on your belly.” She asked. “I slipped while fetching wine on
top of the tree.” He opened his legs and showed her additional bruises
he sustained as he held fast to the tree while gliding down. She held
him by the hand as a little child and crossed to the other side of the
street under a shade.
“I have fears for you.” She said, tilting her head to her
shoulder. “Why? These wounds aren’t serious. It’s a mistake.” “I know,
but what if you were in a battle field, slipping before an opponent can
take your life just like that.” He dropped his gourd and machete on the
ground and drew closer to her. “You have fears of losing me?” “Yes. I
don’t trust you in a fight. If I found a way to make the chief listen to
me, I would’ve stopped you but who am I?” His attentive look turned
to a big smile. “What’s making you smile at me?”
“It’s good to know somebody doesn’t want to miss me.” “You’re
not serious, I think you’re not man enough for war.” His smile
broadened more. “Osobong what would you say if I ask you to share
in my future?” “Why should I, when the war you’re preparing to fight
may take it from you.” He reached his hand into his garment and
brought out his amulet that hung on his neck, “Look, with this I’m
covered. But truth be told, I have more confidence in you than I do in
this amulet. If I should become the cat that never lets its back hit the
ground to see you again, I will.”
What he said paralyzed her lips. “I don’t have a brother, I don’t
have a sister and I know you wouldn’t believe it, coming into my life
covers up that need. I liked you before we quarreled, I like you even
more when we talk and if I need become a servant to serve my love to
you, I don’t mind.” “Why are your feelings firing up before me?” She
asked putting her face down and lifting her eye brow at him.
“Mountains have no hiding place.”
While they stood together, Esin, the chief’s newly instituted
elder approached them and from a distance he stared at Osobong.
His stare touched her from behind like a hand. “Good evening your
majesty.” They said to him with a bow. “Good evening my children.
How are you?” He asked resting his palm on her naked shoulder and
acted like his response was directed to her alone.
Wonnieze bit his lower lip and began chewing his finger nails.
“We’re fine.” She answered. “Eh-eh are you waiting for somebody?”
“No.” she said with unease like she meant ‘go’. “Young girl, you’ve
grown into a beautiful woman. You’re an asset to your parents and
only men who matter would not bargain your bride price with your
kinsmen.” She turned to Wonnieze but he dropped his face down and
looked away.

114
“Young man, aren’t you a member of the clan’s troop?” “Yes,
your majesty, I am.” “Then what are you doing close with this fair
damsel?” “Nothing. Ask her sir.” “Are you related to her?” “No, your
majesty.” Esin sighed. “Go behind the palace, you’ll find where I
instructed five boys to peel off shafts from my coconut. Tell them I sent
you to bring the finished nuts when they’re done.” Esin said to him like
he was talking to his manservants. He picked up his gourd of palm
wine and off he went sprightly, but inside him, his feelings were
bartered. These men would not allow us rest. I don’t trust them; does
he want to take her from me?
Esin left with her, “Be careful with these warriors trained for
war. Not all come back alive because of their own carelessness.
That’s why they go about impregnating every girl they come across,
leaving behind single mothers and numerous bastards. Is that what
you want?” She nodded her head sideways. “If you need a man in
your life, go for somebody who’s dependable. I can take good care of
you.” He said and raised his unshaved arms across her shoulder as
they walked.
“No.” She placed her palms together in front of him. “Don’t
hold me like that on the street.” “Okay.” He said and took off his hand
from her. “Come and visit me in my house. You have nothing to worry
about. I would make you a proud woman among your peers.” “But
you’re married” She snapped. “No, I’m not, those women you know
are just my friends but they don’t have what I want in a woman. I see
a star on your face and if I get to know you more, I would want to
marry you.”
“Thank you for wanting to. I’ll use this way home to prepare
dinner for my mother.” Esin was surprised what he said did not lift her
spirit. He forced a smile on his face. “You’re homely. I’ll see you some
other time.” He said. She left hopping like an antelope on a chase
while Esin stood looking at her until she went out of sight.
With the promiscuity of Delvit and his set of elders, the
tradition and pride of moral conduct in the clan lost taste to the young
and old bit by bit. When cases of immoral acts or sexual harassment
was brought to the table of the elders, they trivialized over it because
they were guilty of licentious behaviors.
For example, Delvit married four wives. A dispute of infidelity
where two men caught in the act of adultery was brought before him.
He settled the dispute by taking in the wives of their adulterous
husbands to keep the men under probation but their wives never
returned. Another issue arose where two married women were caught
in the same act and were rejected by their husbands.
He did so little reconciling them, rather, he accommodated
them for long in the name of investigating the matter for so long until
they became his concubines and the women willingly conceded, in
addition to the seventeen others in the palace. He also took in six
young married women because, they were unwilling to leave with their
husbands – claiming that they were not well taken care of, some
leaving behind toddlers in their hands to care after.
Why would anxious women not give their consent and how
much can you blame Delvit if these women chose to give up their men
for the chief who lavished his wealth on beautiful females? His
influence shone on them. He was the chief and he adorned his wives
and concubines with money cowries, bead jewelries and provided
them fabrics of rare and expensive wrappers.
To the families of these women, he gave bronze, brass, iron
and lands which he had in surplus and to a few he exempted them
from paying taxes altogether. His elders also had wives and
concubines and because they did not object to any decision he
decreed, nor did they oppose any instruction he delegated to them,
not minding how partial they were, he developed a close-knitted
relationship with them. From the great amount of wealth, he amassed
from his people, he sustained them, their wives and concubines in
their wasteful lifestyles. The elders enforced the order of tax, knowing
from where their support came from.
In the evening of the same day, Wonnieze sneaked into
Osobong’s compound and found her peeling cassava with her siblings
and relatives. He exchanged pleasantries with them and offered to
help in grating the tubers they were to use in making cassava flake
(garri) and fufu, a stable food in many parts of West Africa, eaten with
soup or sauce. For the most part of his stay there, he chatted with her
relatives, paying little attention to her. But in her mind, she knew he
came because of her. He made bashful eye contacts with her and
later summed up courage to talk with her when they left a few meters
away to wash the tubers they peeled.
“That man isn’t honest. Don’t fall for him.” He said. “Is that why
you came to check on me?” “He played on me to separate us today.
When I went to the place, he sent me, those men hadn’t plucked the
coconut. I waited until they plucked the numbers he wanted. I waited
again to help peel the shafts with them before I took it to his house.
He couldn’t say thank you. He took it from me and looked at me with
an unforgiving eye that makes my stomach turn.” He said, appealing
to her empathy.

116
“You should have gone home and rested.” “I’m concerned for
you.” “Why?” “Elder Esin is interested in you.” He said like an
entrepreneur whose business was going bankrupt. “Would you be
worried every time a man is interested in me?” She asked, tightening
the muscles on her face. “If it’s elder Esin, yes, because that man
wants you in his nest to corrupt you with his body and means.”
“Wonnieze stop it? I don’t have any commitment with you and
you’re already owning me. This is childish.” “You can call it whatever
name you want, but please for goodness sake I want you to be
careful.” “I should tell you that, everybody knows in the next five
market day, you’ll go to war against Akwaino.” “Is that your problem?”
“I don’t want to put my heart on a person I may lose.”
Wonnieze had instant chills. Had he said a word in a hurry, he
would have lost it. “I’m dead in your eyes already and elder Esin is the
man alive.” He said, almost like a whisper. She stared at him
wordlessly without remorse and stooped to peel her cassava. The
silenced stirred hard emotions between them. Osobong ignored him
and conversed with his siblings who were still washing peeled
cassava on two broad basins. Wonnieze acted calm like he was not
boiling but ended up scraping his thumb and excused himself to
leave.
The conversation with her gave him a running nose on his
way. He put his hands behind his back as he walked home at the
pace of a tortoise. Is this how women are blown away in the face of
fortune? He regretted why his feelings revolved round about her like
she was the sun and he the earth. He tried taking his mind off her, but
in the compound of his thoughts, he failed disconnecting from her.
Five days passed, it seemed like forever for Wonnieze, still, neither of
them dropped by to check on each other at their homes. Wonnieze
continued his training practice every day.
Osobong visited his training ground twice within those days
and watched him practise on his defense and attacking skills without
his notice. She was impressed at his fair mastery using assorted
weapons on assumed foes. It softened a big part of her doubts in him
to survive in war front. On one occasion, Esin sighted her and walked
to her. He slowed his steps when he found her gazing at every move
Wonnieze made. He grinned and tapped her by the shoulder.
“How do you find my men of war?” He said stretching his hand
at them and adjusting his look to appear robust. “Good morning your
Majesty.” She said with a curtsey and tilted her body from him. “Good
morning pretty girl.” I hope that boy isn’t pestering you?” He said and
turned to the combatants. “Just look at him,” he said with disdain, “he
has been taught how to counter an attack with his shield for ages, but
he’s still doing it the wrong way. Men like this fall in battle because
they’re too stupid to learn things the right way.”
“I’ve been thinking the same way too, sir. Please, why not use
your authority and withhold him from going to this war. Who doesn’t
know him for his clumsy actions? He’s only adding to the number.” “O-
ow, how soft and sweet your heart is.” he said looking into her
pleading eyes. “You know his mother escaped the wrath of the chief
when she drove the women into riot. This is the only way he can
ransom his mother from his hands.”
They both turned their attention to him again. Wonnieze raised
his sword to strike his opponent, he was bashed to the ground with a
shield and took seven seconds to rise. “I warned you,” his
commandant said, “don’t get too close to your enemy so you can see
how he raids on you and prepare a counter-attack.”
Esin burst into a fit of laughter. “you see,” he said, “I don’t
blame you for the sympathy you have for him but if you must help him,
I advise you keep him far from you like you do with your waste. That
way, he can stay focused and survive. But the boy is beginning to
provoke me, instead of tying knot to his war rehearsals, he seeks for
the body of a comely damsel.”
Osobong shook her head, curtsied and walked away. “No
dearie, don’t go yet. I say things as I see them but I don’t mistreat
women. Have you ever heard women complain about me before?”
“No, I haven’t.” “You’re thoughtful and pure, that’s the more reason I’ll
treat you even better. You have a heart worth more than gold and I
know I need more than I do have to enchant your heart. Give me a
chance and see how much I can give?”
“If only you can do me one favor?” “Just mention it.” “Set him
free from this war.” Esin sighed and stiffened his upper lip. “I’ll do it
because of you,” he said fondling her fore-face with his hand, “but it
may call his mother in for questioning by the chief. Would it still matter
to you?” Osobong tilted her cheek to her shoulder, gazing at
Wonnieze. Esin watched him take further corrections.

118
“The same thing, he almost fell again.” He laughed in a way to
reduce him in front of her but by the time he turned to her, she fled
away. Wonnieze and Osobong crossed path on the street later that
day. Their eyes were stiff when they caught sight of each other and as
they drew closer, they waited on whom will be first to greet or at least
wave. They were clumsy and passed each other like strangers.
Walking a fair distance away, they turned their heads at the same time
to peep behind. They caught each other in the act and she hastened
her steps forward.
Wonnieze scratched his head hard for long like one with ring
worm whereas he had none. He was disappointed in himself for
passing by her without saying a piece of his mind. Worse still,
Osobong passing by him without a word damned him in such a way it
numbed his mind. Would she have listened to me if I wanted talking
with her? Is she fed up with me already? He contemplated in his mind,
what will I gain loving her when she doesn’t believe in me? If she’s
happy settling with an accomplished man compared to me, what can I
do? But she may be right. I may not return alive. What if I do, she may
not come to me because I’m uncircumcised.
These thoughts would not set his mind free, leaving him stuck
in his head. He stayed awake for the most part of that night wishing
he did not have to leave for war two days from then. He wished he
reconciled with her when he saw the chance. He still couldn’t imagine
what it might mean to him losing her.
Esin sent for Wonnieze’s commandant. “I called for you to
make a little adjustment on your preparation for tomorrow’s match...I
want Wonnieze in the front of the battle.” “It’s a little thing to do.”
“Good. The Etobor has provided food items for the men of war we
hope would be enough. We can’t tell how long it may take to launch
an attack on these people to bring them down.”
“Not to worry. Our hideout will be in the forest were our men
can kill wilds to keep them fit if we stay longer than we plan.” “Have
you and the other commandants agreed when in the day you plan to
leave?” “We plan leaving at night. If we leave undetected, we may
meet with little resistance.” “Good strategy. I trust your all-round
military capacity.”
“Sit up. Sit up.” Chukudoh quaked his son at about mid-night.
“Papa. Papa.” He woke to his feet staggering, his eyes wide and red.
“Calm down my son.” His mother said with a soft voice and with tears
swelling in her eyes. “Mama what’s the problem?” Her face turned
blue. “Evil has swept the land.” His father said. “Over our dead bodies
would we bury you before we cross over to our ancestors.” “Mama,
papa, my spirit is at peace. I may go and return alive.”
“Go down on your knees and let me bless you.” Chukudoh
said. His father placed his right hand on his head: “As the patriarch of
this household, from your bosom shall seeds spring forth like fishes of
the ocean.” “Ezensi.” His wife and her son answered. “May the blood
of those whom you’re forced to shed be upon the heads of the Etobor
and his elders.” “Ezensi.” “I bless you with safety over the watch of our
forbearers.” “Ezensi.”
“I bless you to overcome your oppressors, fight an honorable
cause for our people and victory shall be in your hands.” “Ezensi.”
After the prayers, Adaret held her son’s face with both hands. “Hold
on to the peace that you do have. It will go well with you. You’ll make
us proud and our cares will dry up like waters on the ground in the
face of the sun.” Chukudoh hugged them in an interlocking embrace.
Early that morning, Wonnieze set out to the stream to wash a
few of his clothing, take his bath and leave to the training ground.
“Wait for me!” Came a call behind him, it was Osobong. “Why are you
avoiding me?” She asked. He kept mute looking at her. “Am I your
rival? I thought it was Akwaino?” “You’re not my rival. But what can a
living skeleton do for you?” He asked. “Don’t misunderstand me.
Great men fall, don’t they? How would you feel if I were the one
leaving you behind for war? You should understand it’s not easy for
me handling your departure.”
Osobong did him a world of good approaching him without
knowing. “There is an innocence in your character I fall for and in it I
find your true beauty.” A current of glee sparked her countenance.
“But my mother taught me, when you love a woman, set her free…”
“Ss-us-h.” She hushed him. “Don’t be overwhelmed by elder Esin.
Though he hates you for having interest on me, it’s you my heart
beats for.”

120
“Osobong. Do you mean what you said or are you trying to
play with my heart?” “That’s my fear. You claim you like me but have
doubts about me too.” “No. I don’t doubt you at all. I fear losing you
because I don’t think I can handle it.” “Why would you fear losing
me?” “Osobong I don’t have all the answers. You may not be the
finest girl to have been born in this clan, but I know if I lose you, the
finest me might not be born.” He breathed softly as he spoke these
words. “I wish elder Esin wasn’t involved in our lives. I’m afraid he
might make life more difficult for you because of me.” “Let him go
ahead and make my life more difficult. As long it’s me your heart beats
for, I can take every other beating.”
On their way from stream, they met with Ini and Ngoffion who
were coming down the hill to fetch drinking water. “Osobong so it’s
true,” Ngoffion said, “you have something doing with this
uncircumcised boy.” “I wonder where he has the gall to fight in a war
and lack the courage to be circumcised.” Ini said. “Friends, tell me one
thing he has done to deserve your insults this morning?” Ini and
Ngoffion laughed until their stomachs hurt.
“Do you like yourselves at all?” Ini asked, “I haven’t known you
to be a desperate person. You’re looking for a boyfriend, is it in him
you find one?” “What can he do for you?” Ngoffion asked. “Maybe
nothing, but I know I’m not desperate as you do when you open your
legs for titled men to tour around.” Ini and Ngoffion’s chin hung down
at her statement. Wonnieze flashed a smile at their bashful
countenance. Ngoffion adjusted her top she tied across her breast,
acting unaffected. “I accept. You can keep on listening to rumors but
mind you, it’s out of style keeping your legs crossed for low grades
like him.” Ini said.
“It’s clear,” Ngoffion said, “I can now see you reason from your
anus. I can also see that bride price is your concern? Don’t you know
of men who will give you more than your parents can ask for even
when they’re not married to you?” “How about our Etobor who
received wives of unfaithful men into his matrimonial palace? Do you
mean to tell me they were virgins?” “Please ask her?” Ini said and
stroke her palms at Osobong.
“I’ve been wanting to advice you. To survive in this clan, you
must be bendable. If not, with what’s happening around here, you’ll
break to pieces. Leave this boy alone. I wouldn’t have said so if he
weren’t going to war. Besides, how are you sure he wouldn’t forget
you if at all, he becomes a titled person tomorrow? Wake up from your
sleep my sister.” Ini said, sounding persuasive. “Did I tell you?”
Ngoffion said lowering her voice, “Elder Esin is making advances at
her and she’s been turning him down.” “How could it be true?” Ini said,
folded her hands under her breasts and lifted her shoulders up. “It’s
true.” Ngoffion affirmed.
“Why are the dumb girls the lucky ones?” “How I wish it were I,
my family’s story of hardship would’ve changed once and for all. Wake
up.” Ngoffion yelled at her. “I wasn’t sleeping before.” “No, you’re. If
the full moon is in love with you, what are you doing with a star?” Ini
asked her. Wonnieze laughed at the question. “You girls are so clever;
the only ambition you have in life is in a man. What if he falls like I and
others may in the field, the clan becomes open to captivity just like
your future may be open to poverty.” His illustration silenced them. “I
don’t have the time for your noise making.” He said and walked away
from them.
Osobong dusted her buttocks in front of them and left with him.
They two hissed at her, dusted their buttocks at her too and went
down the stream. “Wonnieze, you, you talk like you can’t talk.”
Osobong said and pushed him from behind. “Your friends are funny.”
He said laughing. “Do you know I’m already missing you?” “I’ve been
missing you since we stopped talking.” “Ehe-e? So, you’re just a
pretender.”
Close to the exit of the stream, Osobong cornered him to the
side of the pathway, holding and squeezing his top garment like she
did not want him to escape from her. Her actions were impulsive, he
shot his eyes to hers in the silence but in their minds, were an
affectionate conversation going on between them without words. “I
should ask you straightaway, are you a virgin?” He asked.
“You like to know too much.” “Just tell me.” He said, tapping
his feet on the ground, indicating he had little time left to report at the
training ground and a little nervous Esin may pass by and see them
together. She understood his reaction, but his question was too
personal to reveal. Still holding on to his hand and top garment at
proximity, she smiled, blinking several times to withhold her emotions
from melting through her eyes. He stood still like the moment had the
highest priority to him when he sensed emotional crises storming in
her heart.

122
“Would you still take me to heart if I’m not?” “I know you’re not,
I wasn’t attracted to you from the beginning because you were a
virgin. I saw you as a woman I can tolerate and deserving of my love.”
Tears dropped from her cheek as she could fight them no more. He
brought her face to his chest and dried her tears with his top. “I know I
can’t stop you. Go and return. I want to see you again and hear your
heart beat and if you settle in your soul, to be the man in my life, you’ll
know if I have known a man before.”
He caressed her hair, examining her face like he found more
answers than her lips uttered. “I give you my word, I’ll return back to
this land alive, but while I’m away, stand in my place for my parents
and promise me, when I return, I shall find a more loveable person?”
She nodded her head and they left to their respective homes in low
spirits.
On leaving to the training ground from his home, he used a
pathway he would not come in contact with her, his departure
sickened his mind and meeting with her again would have worsened
it. On his way, he saw a snake crossing his part. He was stunned. In
the clan, certain snakes were revered as sacred animals representing
newness of life, fertility, power and prosperity. He was not sure what
omen it stood for as it also represented death in another instance.
This animal among others like, monitor lizards, crocodiles and
bats, were thought of as gods, goddesses, and ancestors manifesting
to deliver subtle message of either doom or good-will. Killing them or
maltreating them were sacrilegious and required rituals for cleansing
and appeasement, which could call for the sacrifice of a goat or even
higher offerings like a cow. These animals possessed no threat to
anyone and were allowed to roam about.
CHAPTER NINE

In the last field training, they made burning torches to light


their paths at night. The chief and elders mobilized a total of four
thousand guerillas. Those who were given burning torches led in the
raid against the people of Akwaino. It was an arrangement Wonnieze
did not see coming nor did he know he would be one among others to
frontier. In the evening of the day, while they were camping for
darkness to cover before commencing their journey, a yellow python
passed by the side of the field.
“Why is this python passing by us at this time?” Obikan asked
Wonnieze who sat in front of him. “Is this not a sign,” Chiekong said,
“Zetu doesn’t support this war and our mission to spill blood?” His
answer spurred a lot of opinions from other combatants leading to a
rowdy and contentious atmosphere.
The commandants asked them all to sit down. “What’s this
quarrel all about?” A commandant asked. “Can’t you discern that
snake is a sign of rebirth for our clan? Have the Ekpeflu not declared
we shall be victorious in the task ahead of us?” His rhetoric quietened
their loud debates and murmuring. “Victory is ours.” The commandant
exclaimed. “Victory. Victory for our people.” The combatants
trumpeted. They matched to the major stream in the clan where sixty-
one long canoes to sail across to a forest bordering on the outskirt of
Akwaino were anchored.
The military troop of Akwaino were more organized and four
times the size of Opezia Baitus troops. “Don’t fall into the temptation
of weighing your martial skills against them. Your mission is to pass
them to death before they see you open your teeth. How we win isn’t
important. What’s important is that we don’t loss.” An orientation they
often received from their commandants. Most members of the troop
had not killed a fellow before. But, with the charms and concoction the
native doctor prepared for them to wear on their bodies and drink, the
fear of blood was absent in their minds and the palms of those who
had little control over their drive to fight, itched to end lives of their
said enemies.

124
At about mid-night, the guerillas arrived their destination.
Wonnieze and a few other men were told to spy on the people and
bring back reports to help them device a suitable method of attacking
them. They left and several hours afterwards, returned, “The clan is
asleep, but their vigilantes are awake guarding the palace and the
main entrances in the clan. In the palace of the chief we found a store
of weapons protected by armed men.” Wonnieze told the
commandants. “How many of the armed men did you find?” A
commandant asked. “They were fifty I saw, but I’m sure they’re more
than that around the palace. I couldn’t gain access into the inner parts
of the land without being caught.”
“Interesting. Our Etobor has less than twenty-five men
guarding his palace and here is theirs,’ maybe over a hundred.
They’re a powerful people.” A commandant said. “If we set their
weapons in flames in the palace, we would disarm them from
overpowering us when we attack.” Chiekong suggested.
“Your idea is good. But right now, we shall rest from the labor
of our journey, tomorrow we break-in on them.” His commandant said.
They pitched their tents in the forest, prepared garri and soup for
dinner with roasted meat. Others ate fruits and slept till dawn.
Wonnieze’s commandant split the large troop into five sub troops and
selected twenty men to go into defenseless areas of the clan. “Find
your hideouts, take cover on trees, hilltops and underground. Ambush
anyone you find be it man or woman. Hit and run as I’ve taught you
and bring me heads as evidence of your invasion or I would take
yours instead.” The commandants warned.
The rest of them remained in the forest vegetation to lay wait
for further attack. Wonnieze, Chiekong, Obikan and Edema were
included in the numbers to launch the attack. The men hid themselves
in secret places as instructed and when a person or tiny group of
persons walked by an isolated area, they struck them with clubs,
battle axe and machetes in a way that did not raise alarm for anyone
to come after them. At the end of the day, they killed twenty-eight
people.
Nineteen of them were men, four were children and five were
women. Five victims were struck to comma while three were badly
injured but escaped. Two members in the set Wonnieze led, were
caught where they hid on a hilltop covered with thick bush. They did
not know a hunter had set a trap for an antelope which caught a
combatant by the leg. He screamed in excruciating pain.
A fellow in Wonnieze’s set undid the trap intersected into his
leg from one side to the other. He took off his top garment and tied it
round his injured leg to stop it from bleeding like water from spring.
In an attempt to lift him up on his shoulder and run away, they
were surrounded by a gang of men with javelins and machetes. The
other eighteen combatants long fled away through unconventional
tracks, while the two were captured and probed of their identity but
they refused to reveal themselves or their mission. Many clan
members of Akwaino gathered and beat them along the way as they
took them to their chief.
They were beat up to the point of breaking their rib bones
which made breathing difficult for them. Their faces were re-arranged
with their fist in such a way, if a mirror was put in front of them, they
would not recognize themselves. They threw pebbles to torture them,
but in a way that would not kill them in a hurry. The man who got
trapped in the leg fainted in the course of the beating before they were
executed by lynching.
The people of Akwaino were unable to tell from where and
from who the attack came from. It created a psychological impact on
them by raising high tension and depleting the morale they had in
defending their territory against premeditated attacks.
Among the twenty-eight people killed and arrayed before the
chief in his palace, three were beheaded. It made it all the more
difficult for them to know whether a clan or community wanted to
wedge war with them or if a group of people were attacking them for
ritualistic purposes and gains.
“Your men aren’t complete. Where are the other two, I
attached with you?” Wonnieze’s commandant asked him with flashes
of anger in his eyes. “Here’s a head we brought back with us.” He
answered. “You’ve not answered my question.” He drew out his sword
and kicked off the male skull Wonnieze held in his hand. “None of my
men fell except those in your squad. For the last time, where are my
men?” Wonnieze chest swelled, his heart beat hard and the rhythm of
the beating raised his arms wide and wider by his sides.
“Do you want to fight me? I can drop you down with this sword
right now.” Wonnieze brought out his machete he hid behind his back,
“I swear if you come closer, I’ll take you down with me.” The men with
Wonnieze came between and separated them. “Sir, it’s no fault of his
or any of us that two of our able men were captured.” A member of
Wonnieze’s set said and narrated the whole incident.

126
“He was the first to escape the trap. After we fell six men and
beheaded one to show for it, he directed us to an escape route to the
left of the hilltop. Eighteen of us took left, Uduak took right and got
stuck in an antelope trap. The men of Akwaino spotted where he was
when he cried in pain. Nsinika came to his rescue. When we saw their
men far out-numbered us, we ran away, before our brother undid the
trap, they were bounded.”
The commandant put his sword back into his sheath. “After all
these stories that touch the heart, we’re finished if our tortured
brothers are forced to expose us?” He asked. “We’ve sworn an oath
never to reveal the secrecy of our operation. Our brothers will not
betray us.” Chiekong said and everyone kept silent in hope. “We
wouldn’t strike them again for the next three days to observe their
next line of action. We must stay vigilant until we know whether to
retreat or advance at them again.” In the same day, the chief of
Akwaino ordered his messenger to deliver a message to a chief of a
rivalry clan they once feuded with for four years.
The clan was sixteen miles away from theirs. “They’re killing
our people for want of our trade routes but it will not happen. Go and
let the chief know we’re coming for them in three days’ time. Tell him
to prepare his men for war because we’re coming to crush them and
take from them what they refuse to be content with.” The chief said.
His messenger left that same day on a horse to the assumed
rivalry clan. On arriving and intimating the chief of the warning, he
ordered the arrest of the messenger. The clan gathered their troops
adding up to ten thousand to protect their territory against an
impending war.
The people of Akwaino were dreaded by many clans and
tribes because they had direct contact with the Portuguese and the
Great Britain in trading on a range of merchandise including rifles and
horses through their coastal area where cargoes sailed on. The chief
and elders of Akwaino waited for the return of their diligent messenger
but to no avail. They took it as a sign that their rivalry clan took their
messenger hostage and opted to clash with them. They also took it as
an evidence that they were responsible for the series of attack and
vicious killing of their people. The chief ordered the assemblage of his
military and psyched them up for war two days from then. The decree
went viral and they were responsive.
“Leave. Study the area and bring us words.” Wonnieze’s
commandant said to him. “I can go down with him.” Obikan
suggested. “No way. Two persons will build suspicion.” The
commandant collected Wonnieze’s bow, arrows and machete. “Go in
there as a man on the street, put your ears to the ground and bring us
words.”
Wonnieze could not make sense from the order. Why should
his commandant who chastened and spoke of his incompetence
every minute, entrust him alone with such delicate and risky
assignment? Chiekong, Edema and Obikan stepped out from the
troops buoying him up. “Do what you can brother and be sure you
come back to us breathing.” Obikan said. They four shook hands with
him in a firm grip. “Don’t forget Osobong waits for you.” Edema
whispered in his ears.
Calling Osobong in his ears fired up his mind and brought him
to laughter as if the charge he received was casual. He left them and
sneaked into the land from one farm to the other. He came across a
palm wine tapper who climbed to the top of a palm tree. The farmer
left a hoe on the ground as he ascended the tree. He tip-toed and
absconded with it without the tapper knowing.
Wonnieze could perceive a stream with his nose more than
one hundred meters away. His skill came handy as he perceived one,
a hundred and forty meters away. He hung the hoe on his shoulder
and walked the street like he was returning from farm. The sun went
down - bringing evening shade across the clan. He whistled as he
headed down the stream to wash the tool and make-believe to
everyone, he was a farmer. As a stranger among them, he acted
dumb to avoid questioning from any person and to distract
questioning looks at him. Later, he displayed his swimming acrobatics
in the stream to relate and impress the youths around him as though
he was familiar with them.
Through these tactics, he heard latest gist in the clan
regarding their preparation to leave for war the succeeding day
against their rivalry clan as a result of the recent attack that took place
in the clan a day before. Wonnieze swam close to the conversation
using his acquaintances to take cover. When they were about to leave
the stream, he left with them through open streets, giving him the
opportunity to observe the happenings in the terrain before he
diverted from them into the interior forest to meet with his fellow
guerillas. His arrival excited the entire members of the troop, many
saluted him, raising their weapons in the air with cheers and praises.

128
His commandant rested his hand on his shoulder behind his
back. “Glad you’re back. What did you spot out there?” He asked in
an abrasive voice that exposed his bitterness ignited by the salutation
accorded him. He backed his commandant and gave the answer to
his fellow members. “They will go to war tomorrow against another
clan.”
“Wow. That means they don’t know where their death count is
coming from.” Edema said. “They don’t.” Wonnieze affirmed. “How
many men will go for this war?” Chiekong asked. “The rumor in the
clan says eight thousand warriors.” “Eight thousand. What a number?”
Obikan said. “They wouldn’t be much left in the clan to defy. If we
match in there around this time when they go for war, we can conquer
the land.” Chiekong said to Wonnieze’s commandant. He twisted his
lips, closed his eyes tight, shook his head and walked away uttering
no word. “What’s the problem?” Chiekong asked Wonnieze. “I wish I
knew.”
Early in the morning, the combatants of Akwaino gathered.
“Take with you five thousand combatants of men. Bring ruins upon
that clan and its people and by tomorrow, I’ll send you more men,
weapons and food.” The chief said to the leading officers and armed
them with rifles twice the number of their rival’s firepower. “I’ll include
more firearms for you by tomorrow if need arise. I want those people
leveled to the ground.”
The Opezia Baitus’ troops in their interior hideouts were not
sure of the numbers of armed men they would contend with upon
reaching there. They mellowed until darkness covered, many
combatants in Akwaino retired to their respective villages in
preparation for the next day. The commandants in the forest arranged
three thousand guerillas to move into the territory of Akwaino while the
nine hundred and ninety-eight others, remained in the forest until they
were signaled on how to back the other combatants confronting
Akwaino.
“We would fight them tooth and nail. If their men try to escape,
the rest of you would surround them. We must take them home
hostage.” They wanted to evict villagers living around the chief’s
palace to possess their seaside areas and trading routes present in
the same village according to the order of Delvit.
“Wonnieze.” His commandant called. “Sir.” “You will lead us
through the track you passed in spying these people undetected. We
must meet with no resistance along the way.” The commandants gave
every member of the troop soft stems of plants to bite, connoting they
were not to talk on the way.
“Stay focused on the plan we’ve and do nothing to gamble with
it either by your folly or your carelessness. Our lives are on the line.”
He added. Wonnieze led them through muddy and swampy areas
leading into farms of the locals. With this maneuver, they dodged five
check points where the village vigilante groups mounted in guarding
the clan. But in front of the chief’s palace were another set of vigilante
group patrolling round the vicinity of the palace, keeping vigil over the
chief and the clan’s major arsenals in the premises of the palace.
Notwithstanding, the troops separated into smaller groups
outnumbering the village guards. They took the village by storm
attacking the chief’s palace first. They set ablaze the building housing
their different weapons and fought with the men securing the place.
The fight drew the attention of their vigilante but they were confronted
by Opezia Baitus’ combatants who took cover in dens.
The vigilante had long rifles, bows and arrows and machetes
with them, but as they fired at the troops, the bullets and arrows did
not penetrate them. Instead, it sounded like items dropped in a river
as their arrows and bullets fell to the ground. This terrified and forced
many to run for their lives.
The guards of Akwaino knew their foes had fortified
themselves through unworldly powers while they were not prepared
with divine backing to bout with them. The troops showed no mercy
and slaughtered them in tens as the came in and outside the palace.
The pestilential noises of firearms and yelling from fighting awoke the
villagers in their cabins and thatched houses to fight back or flee.
They were overpowered and made to surrender. Eleven homes were
lit with fire. There was a deafening turmoil of cries from helpless
mothers and children, some lying in their bloodbath.
Wonnieze, Chiekong, Edema and Obikan invaded the inner
chambers of the palace and captured the chief while he attempted to
disappear chanting to a wooden doll which he held to his face. He
was brought out to witness the fight and fall of his people. “Stop. Stop
the killing.” He cried out with stuffed nose raising his both hands when
he saw they were subdued. “Why have you ensnared us and drowned
us in our own blood?” His voice pitched as it echoed and ushered in
retreat from both sides.

130
Wonnieze’s commandant drew out his sword from its sheath
and walked to the chief. “What do you want?” He asked in a shaky
tone. “Your head.” The commandant answered and stroke his neck,
severing his head to the ground. Blood gushed out between his
shoulders like water shooting from a broken pipe, his head rolled to
the feet of the commandant and he stepped on it. The villagers of the
late chief buried their faces to the earth as they could no longer bear
the horror sight.
“Sir, what have you done? You told us we’re to take him with
us to our Etobor alive.” Wonnieze said. “Shu ru-u-u-up.” The
commandant shrieked. Wonnieze and Chiekong left the chief’s lifeless
body to the ground but his head beneath the feet of Wonnieze’s
commandant, still made irregular movement of expressions even after
twenty minutes of being dissected from his body. The commandant
picked up his head and lifted it high, “This day, by reason of the blood
of this ruler, we’re a great people of power and belongings.” The
commandant said. The guerillas thrusted their weapons saying,
“Great! Great! Great!” “Be quiet,” Chiekong said in Wonnieze’s ears,
“let him have the glory he didn’t earn.”
Wonnieze’s countenance fell. He left where he stood and
walked into the midst of his fellow guerrillas. “Bind this people.” The
commandant said. The villagers were fastened with cords to restrain
them from escaping when matched to the forest. Both men and
women were arrested, but their young ones were separated from
them. Mothers shed countless tears for their children they were forced
to forsake, eight fainted even before they were matched out and their
throats where slit with knives to confirm them dead.
Valuables from the village and from the palace of the late chief
were looted by the guerrillas which were basically gold and ivory
supplied to the clan by the Gold Coast Empire which is today Ghana.
It was done in exchange for slaves from clans they subdued with their
military. With these slaves, they provided labor to distant neighbors
who were into mining of gold, production of iron and other forms of art
and craft.
Cocks crowed as the day showed signs of breaking. “Move
them.” The commandant said to the combatants, pointing his blood-
stained sword to a different route they had not used to avoid being
waylaid by secret enemies who may have been tracking them. The
male captives were made to bear the precious items they stole
including rifles they disarmed from them – two hundred and sixteen of
them, excluding the ones destroyed by fire outbreak.
The guerillas with talking drums signaled the remainder of the
combatants in the forest to advance towards them.
They were to go take custody over the village to ward away
the left-over military of the clan from taking back the land they
violently claimed, supported by one thousand five-hundred extra
combatants. They were given the two hundred and sixteen rifles to
arm them, plus twenty-five more rifles from the forty-seven rifles they
came with to empower them in retaining the land. “We’ll send you
more combatants upon our arrival.” The commandants encouraged
them.
The troops worked with the information Wonnieze provided
them. They could not spend another day to seize another village
knowing that the military men of Akwaino could return to the land after
a few days or even in the same day if they got the information that
they were attacked back home. A day before, Wonnieze’s
commandant sent message to Delvit, requesting for a minimum of one
thousand five-hundred armed men to strengthen their numbers, but
he sent three thousand which included many young men below fifteen
years who just completed their rite of passage.
Along the way as the captives trod, many of the women fell to
the ground because of fatigue, thirst and hunger. The food stuffs the
commandants had could not feed all the captives and the sun was
unhospitable at noon-day making their long journey more tedious. The
goods laden on their backs, made their feet and ankles swell as they
trekked, and they were forced to keep marching with a few short
breaks.
Captives who resisted the order to keep marching were wiped,
thirteen of them collapsed, two died along the way before they got to
the river where the combatants anchored twenty-five long boats to
convey them to Opezia Baitus. Coming close to the border of the river,
they sighted from afar, a band of men advancing towards them. They
were gripped with fear. “Betrayer! Wonnieze has put us in an
ambush.” His commandant said.
Wonnieze was wordless. They were frightened, thinking it was
the military men of Akwaino returning from war. Our weapons are
limited. What a mistake I made. If these people combined with our
captives fight us, we’re dead. Wonnieze’s commandant thought.
Wonnieze walked up to a member in his troop, “Give me the Idiomaa.”
He snatched it from him. “Would our men hear you all the way from
Akwaino or from our clan?” The combatant shrieked at him, but he
paid no attention to him

132
He pressed forward with the drum alone, standing between the
advancing men and his troops, he played the drum. The sound he
created was tonal as their language. He passed a message across
with it, that they were people of Opezia Baitus who came against the
people of Akwaino, seized a land of their captive and were returning to
their homeland.
The armed men who were advancing at them, lighted their
arrows with fire and were about to unleash it at them. The
commandants and the troop members at the other end, took to
defense - taking cover under their shields. When they heard the
beating of the talking drum, they ceased fire, hung their bows on their
shoulders and reacted with songs of jubilation.
“How could I have forgotten I asked for more men, trained and
untrained to sustain our mission?” Wonnieze’s commandant asked.
“How would you remember when you said we’re ambushed?” Another
commandant asked. “Wonnieze has been so helpful to us. Imagine
how many of us would’ve been injured or lost our lives or taken
captive and these people freed from us, if he didn’t break out of the
fear you created to hold us bound?”
“You like to magnify little things.” Wonnieze’s commandant
said with an attitude that portrayed his opinion as irrelevant. Both
squads greeted with pleasantries but Wonnieze was in the spot light.
Hundreds from both sides of the squads shook hands with him until
he hardly felt his palm. At a point he shunned every other from
shaking him and took hugs instead. Their gratitude was he saved
them from an imminent battle. They would have clashed. The squad
heading to Akwaino masked their faces and painted their bodies with
charcoal mixed with palm oil to make their bodies slippery so that
capturing them by the hand would be difficult.
None of the commandants were lauded with praises so much
as Wonnieze. His image and importance grew larger than his
commandant was willing to permit. Many of the troop members gained
confidence in him as he served in every onus he was called upon. But
all the while, he was troubled, the strides he made on their mission
was causing a vendetta in the mind of his commandant against him.
“My men have made me proud.” Delvit said to his council of
elders when they gathered at the palace. “We’ve served and
protected the interest of Akwaino long enough. We made them what
they were. It’s fair we balance the equation in making a great Empire
of our people with their means and people.” Delvit said nodding his
head at every word.
“Etobor you’re enlightened, that’s why we’re here to back your
vision. I don’t know why our people find it difficult to understand the
future in front of us.” An elder said. “I’m not concerned about the
people. They’re too short-sighted to be visionary as we’re. They like
comfort and safety. But we’re like butterflies. We fight our way out of
the cocoon and fly into the open sky where others below look up to
us.” Delvit said.
“We’re saddling the power within us that has been lying asleep
for long.” An elder said. “With just six thousand men of our force, we
outsmarted the great Akwaino of their choicest land and took captive,
nearly two thousand of their infallible people in less than seven days
of our arrival, losing only two of our men.” An elder said lifting his
shoulders in a curved posture. He was cheered by other elders with
applauses. “We’ve just begun my people. We’ve more strategies to
take up, more lands to possess, more outlanders to take hostage,
more powers to exercise and more victories to record.” Delvit said
with a collected voice.
The elders took their titled caps off their heads in homage to
his pronouncement. “No pain, no gain. The gods are with us. With
more captives, we can boost the strength of our military, farming and
labor in building good husbanding for our material and human
resources.” Another elder said. “That’s very true. We’ll become a
famous people. Now we’ve the trade path in our control, we’ll supply
slaves to those by the Benin river, to those in Calabar given their love
for farming and to the people in the Gold Coast for use in their gold
mining industry in barter for their p-u-u-re gold.” An elder said.
“Suppose we sell each slave between eight to ten manilas of
bronze and copper…so much wealth is coming our way.” “My joy is
great, my hand-picked elders have foresight,” Delvit said, “but the
victory we celebrate today is only a trial of greater victories to come.”
During the meeting, they drank dry gin and boasted with loud laughter.
“I don’t know if the rest of you are observing?” Esin said,
clearing his throat, “This boy Wonnieze has a criminal way of taking
public glory upon himself.” “People say he was the key person in
spying and providing secret information that made them ambush
Akwaino successfully.” Delvit said with sarcasm. “Yes, and the praises
are getting into his head. His commandant said he was most
rebellious to his command and was behind the death of our choice
men under the watch of that boy.”

134
“I’m not surprised. Like father like son. His father opposes my
authority in cunning ways. He was one among the former elders who
resisted my positioning as Etobor in this land. Two market days ago, I
bargained with him to give up his swampy plot of land by the stream
to plant rice but he refused. I gave him another descent plot for his
planting with sixteen manilas of pure copper, but this man still turned
me down saying it was his inheritance passed to him by his fore-
fathers and all sort of none-sense.”
“You can’t trust that family, they’re a silent threat.” Esin said.
“Leave them for me. I know how to take care of stubborn animals.”
Delvit said and snapped his fingers.
Before the combatants and their captives returned, Delvit built
a fort to detain his prisoners. The captives were locked up at once
when they arrived and from day to day, they were tried and examined
in different areas of labor and skills to identify their areas of strength.
He incorporated the able-bodied men into the clan’s troop, he sold
many to his fellow clan’s men for domestic chores such as splitting
firewood, falling trees, cooking, farming etc.
He eight-hundred and thirty-five captive men for building and
labor, those who were skilled, he shifted them into craft-making and
treated them with more care because he saw himself making a
fortune from them.
Those who he considered less relevant, he sold them out in
slave markets which had routes pointing to North Africa. He did not fail
to remind his people of the promise he made regarding the safety of
their children in the war front as only two casualties were chronicled
and their families compensated for the loss.
Apart from captives forced into the clan’s military, more people
were recruited voluntarily until the military rose to nine thousand. The
services of the captives were not voluntary. They dealt with the
depression of being separated from their families, hunted out of their
lands and properties to do the biddings of their overseers.
The living conditions of a slave in the African setting was such
that they enjoyed certain rights that protected them from being treated
as chattel slaves. According to their custom, - slaves must be clothed,
fed, accommodated and settled for their services. They were more
like children in the hands of their masters.
The custom ensured that masters who had slaves did not
inflict undue burden on them and though slavery was termed for life,
many slaves were granted full liberty after a period. As a slave, one
had the privilege to marry and procreate. There were many instances,
where their children did not take up the standing of a slave too.
Faithful and hardworking slaves rose to position of leadership
among the Hausa-fulani, the Igbo, Efik, Ibibio and Ijo land. It was
common in these areas to find slaves who were made chiefs and
kings of where they served while others were made to inherit lands
and properties of their masters. Being a slave anyway in Africa was a
thing of stigma but they were not treated any less than a human in
most cases.
With the resourceful inputs and contributions of these slaves,
Delvit exported thousands of leather scandals and hides through the
shores in the first few months of putting the slaves to work. Slaves
also attempted running away. “Any slave caught trying to escape from
this territory will be buried alive.” His warning brought terror upon the
slaves because they heard stories about his ferocious nerves when
provoked or whenever his decree was altered.
He used the slaves to build a fortress round about the land of
Opezia Baitus. The slaves went into vast pace of land corroded with
flood and climatic ruins. One of such places included where Chiekong
and Edema chased Wonnieze on the muddy divided earth – there,
they fetched a rampart of clay. Delvit chose that area because it had
clay and sedimentary rocks in abundance with large amount of chalk
and limes growing on them which were useful as a binder, to erect
and support long towers and citadels for the clan’s security. They
made rammed earth and built tall walls with a square meter covering
more than six kilometers.
From the sedimentary rocks, they chiseled gravels and large
chunks of stones to strengthen the walls against climatic changes.
When they ran out of sufficient chalks and limes as a result of lack of
rain fall on the rocks or because of slow chemical weathering, they
resulted in using dried cattle dung, dog dung, straws and dried leaves
as hardeners to build the clan’s fortress.
Mudbricks were filled into empty wooden frames and removed
to dry under a tree for several hours or a whole day. This was done to
allow it dry slowly to avoid cracking before and after use. After raising
a segment of the walls, they used mortar of these organic materials
excluding straws and twigs to plaster the inner and outside walls of
the fence for durability against rainy days.
They built two narrow towers having two story buildings in
them with conical roofs for each village in the clan. A tower was also
erected within the compound of the palace. Watchmen took shift
mounting on them day and night. The men at the towers were armed
to the teeth and carried with them a tusk of an elephant they used in
trumpeting to create awareness in time of crises.

136
They drilled holes by the side of the tusk as mouthpiece used
in making audible sounds that traveled distances to communicate
danger…alerting the guards who were below. It was also referred to
as an Ivory because of the royal status of power they attached to it.
Every chief, elder or noble man was given one or had several and
with it they could either bless or curse their subjects.
Ivories used by those in authority were decorated with hides,
sculpturing designs and were elongated with wooden attachment.
Members of the clan who had Ivories in their homes were recognized
as wealthy persons. Delvit had several in the palace of different
shapes and sizes. Smaller Ivories were gotten from the incisors of
animals like tigers and gorillas and were worn as pendants.
Delvit also brought down the palace the second time and
rebuilt it with his workforce while the building of the clan’s fortress was
on going. He ornamented the walls of the palace with embroidery and
weaving of leather materials and mats of different colors. The doors in
the palace were solid with appealing carvings on them that were
symbolic of power, military victory and rituals. He decorated his inner
chambers with different ceremonial head masks of various forms.
He made the interior of the palace more majestic than it ever
was before with fine works of gold, silver, brass, copper and bronze.
Chairs in the palace were made with both canes and mature woods,
covered with twigs and dried leather skins of animals. Many of the
precious items he used in gracing the palace where from the palace of
Akwaino and from the taxation of his clan members.
In the exterior part of the building, he adorned the walls with
shreds of rocks and mica and inserted tablets of bronze on the pillars
of the walls. On the plain walls were carving of weapons, images of
chiefs, armed men and animals. Hundreds of people from respective
villages in the clan came daily to the palace and around the borders of
the clan, admiring the works on the walls of the fortress and towers in
progress.
It was unlike anything they had seen or imagined. “So fanciful,
but how can I be pleased with these works when the Etobor hasn’t
given me returns from my savings for the past twenty-one market
days?” Chukudoh asked, stressing the period to Mbahada while they
took a long walk within the walls of the fortress.
“The thing surprises me-o-oh. How long does he expect us to
be patient, taking nearly half of our properties and all our savings?”
Mbahada followed up with his question. “No way. I’ll not die because
of the Etobor’s greed. If he doesn’t account for my savings, I’ll pay no
more tax.” “From where have you such boldness old man?” Mbahada
asked giggling. “It’s high time we stood up and defended our rights.”
Mbahada held his breath as he spoke with grit. Along the way, they
met with Esubi who left the chief’s palace before their arrival.
“Greetings my fellow honorable men.” Esubi said with a
brightened countenance when he saw them. “Greetings my brother. I
can see you’re impressed by the works of our Etobor.” Chukudoh
said. “Uh, what can I say. The skin of the lion is beautiful, but not his
heart.” Esubi answered. “Wise words. It’s only a stupid cow that
rejoices at the prospect of being taken to a beautiful abattoir.”
Mbahada said, they all laughed at length until their eyes dripped with
tears.
Together, they went to Chukudoh’s house. “These people
never cease to amaze me. They still come around here when they
know I’m no longer a titled man.” Chukudoh said referring to the
villagers who from time to time clustered at his domicile to receive
counsels and encouragement him and his wife.
“An old soldier never retires. In my village, the elder in the
Etobor’s council bethinks me a threat to his authority because our
people come around me for words of relief.” Esubi said. “Oh. Look at
whom we’ve here.” Chukudoh said, referring to Tonfia who was sitting
in the front yard of his house upon their arrival. “It’s been ages, so
glad you visited.” “Thank you, the honor is mine. You know, one does
not see leaves lying about and scoop up feces with one’s bear hand.
It’s always my pleasure meeting with you.” Tonfia said. “Good to know.
If you didn’t say it, I wouldn’t know. One does not do a favor and then
camp by it. All the same, you’re welcome to my humble home.”
Chukudoh said, extending his hands towards all present.
Wonnieze went in and brought out a long bench. “Gentlemen,
our clan gained victory over Akwaino recently, and with all the
beautiful works going on in the land, the future looks promising. In
fact, some of our people are wealthy with the developments you can
see. But if you ask me, I’m not moved. It’s the calm and silent water
that drowns a man.” Chukudoh said to the three former elders but his
voice was heard by all who came around. “The Etobor disappoints
me. I regret every day why I pressed for him to lead us. We talk about
our victory in war like it may not run out of luck one day. If you can’t
resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war.”

138
“It’s too late to regret that he sits on his stool of authority, but I
have made my personal decision,” Chukudoh said tapping his chest,
“I’ll not taxes anymore. It’s that simple. The Etobor has to account for
my savings in his care. We’re not fools to be treated improperly. One
does not collect water from a spring to dump in the deep.” “Yes! You
speak our minds, that’s why we love you.” Udokwu said among other
villagers as if Chukudoh was speaking to them. Their murmuring was
loud, it disrupted the informal meeting of the four former elders.
“This is one reason our wives and daughters’ rioted before.”
Mbahada said. “It wasn’t a pleasant experience for us. Greed losses
what it has gained.” Tonfia added. “Exactly. The problem is we’re not
united. Tabinoy’s demise pains me till today. You can’t pour water into
a basket and expect the water to remain. When those arrogant tax
men come to intimidate us, if we all come out to ask questions after
their unfair undertaking, the Etobor will be forced to give us fair
hearing as a people.” Chukudoh said with veins lining on his neck.
His words stirred up the hearts of the people in his compound.
They clapped and sang songs as though they were given charge from
a recognized authority over their one-sided situation which
discontinued the meeting. Chukudoh left them to bring more kola.
Tonfia stood up almost immediately to meet with him. “See, these
people are willing to co-operate at anything you say,” he said, clearing
his throat, “you agree with me the Etobor is a big obstacle on the way
of our people. Is there no way we can put him to sleep once and for all
to end…?”
Chukudoh’s shrill look froze his Tonfia’s lips. “Don’t stare at me
like that, please, please; these people will start suspecting me.” Tonfia
said with a meek voice. “Far be it from me that my hands be soiled
even with the blood of my dreaded enemy. How much more the
anointed of the gods or have you forgotten they still keep watch over
us as they did with our fathers?” Chukudoh said tilting his face to him,
wondering if he were the one coming up with the suggestion.
Tonfia smiled. “May the gods forgive me. I’m thinking too much
and it’s tormenting my mind to stupor.” He said with remorse revealing
on his face. “I’m worried as you’re. But we must not allow our fears
bury our rights and we can trust the gods to finish whatever job is left.”
He said with relaxed eyes and a calm voice.
CHAPTER TEN

Wonnieze sat on a stool by the side of the front yard, listening


to the conversation of the people. He heard the resolution of his father
and witnessed how those in the compound reacted. A land where
people are suffering without a voice. He said to himself with a sigh
and left on a stroll. On his way, he wanted checking on Osobong but
was unable to make up a reason in his head, so that those in her
compound would not think he came because of her. As he
approached the front premises of her compound, he heard a yelling
voice. It was Osobong’s mother.
“You’re a stupid child. You want to keep alive the shame and
misery of our family. Your father was a debtor and served another
man as an object of disgrace before he died. Because of him, we’re
looked down upon as a nobody. Now the gods have looked upon us
with pity and brought a wealthy and an entitled man of this village to
cover our shame, what do you do? You have the nerves to return
those six pieces of manilas he gave you, to tell me that noble man
isn’t whom your heart beats for. Who is feeding you with all this
rubbish?”
“Mama, mama, the gods can’t have pity on us by selling me to
a man who will put me under his armpit. I don’t want to continue from
where papa stopped.” Osobong said aloud, bursting into tears. “Would
you shut up you little brat? What do you know about marriage? Is it
that good for nothing boy you stole my soup to welcome his return
from Akwaino that will afford you a better life?” “Mama please stop
doing this to me. I’m tired, I’m tired.”
“My dear, you haven’t seen anything yet. Don’t you know you
should count yourself lucky that an elder, second in importance to the
Etobor desires your hand in marriage. He would’ve chosen any other
woman from a wealthy class but he humbled himself in choosing you.
What finer character can you find in a man than this? Listen. You
better return to his house today and plead for your rudeness else this
house will not contain us. Didn’t you see how those bangles
transformed and added dignity to you? The other time you told me it
was the Etobor himself who was interested in you, but because of
your childish rashness, you ran away. Has he not dumped and
forgotten you? Now again…oh I’ll kill you.”

140
Osobong’s mother parroted at her for hours until Osobong ran
out of the house, crying and burying her face on her elbow. “Let me
see that boy anywhere around you, he will tell me why he’s the enemy
of my progress.” She said walking around her compound. Wonnieze
leaped behind a tree situated in front of the house. She said many
things and passed by the tree without seeing him. She loosened her
wrapper and adjusted it round her waist, clicked her fingers and
tramped inside. He left and waited at a junction suspecting she would
pass by and she did. “Osobong, Osobong. It’s me Wonnieze. Come.”
He said, in a whispering tone.
She ignored him and kept going like an unstoppable train.
When her temper mellowed a little, she stopped and wiped her tears
with her cloth. Why did Wonnieze call her in an enclosed space in the
bush? She went back to check if he was still there and found him in
the same place, he called on her. His look was disoriented, seeing her
aroused his emotions even more, he placed his fore-face on his
palms.
There was sustained silence between them, she tried keeping
a neutral face like she was not sobbing, but it did not break the silence
nor improve his countenance. He stretched his right hand in an
unhurried motion towards her, she placed hers in his and they went
into a quiet open field inside the bush. No voice was heard there or
from a distance.
Birds chirped, supple weather crammed on their skin and the
tall green trees filtered the air they inhaled, giving them a soothing
relaxation as they sat facing each other. Osobong could not hold back
a smile, she did not know what Wonnieze had on his mind nor did she
know where she was, but she was not concerned about anything. It
looked like all the cares in the clan had no power to penetrate into the
environment to rob them of peace and quiet.
She re-adjusted herself and sat in between his open legs,
leaning her back on his chest. “What are you gazing at?” She asked,
as he stared at the sky. “What do you see in the heaven?” “I see a
beautiful, gold and full evening sun.” “I may not have gold in a lifetime
to give you, but I have gold up there in the evening sun to bring
sunlight in your life and I may not have silver to crown your beauty,
but I do have them in the stars to twinkle for you when darkness
shelters your days.”
He did not plan to sound flowery but his pile of feelings
assembled into a lyrical expression. He looked drugged with euphoric
pills after he said those words and the atmosphere changed into a
romantic scene suitable to make an oath and swear to it. She did not
feel any less different. Her body was light connecting in a deep
emotional bonding with him without pressure to do so, despite the
odds that laid in front of her. She turned her entire body on him. He
leaned his back on a fallen tree. Osobong’s rested her thighs and
belly on him, with her breast crowding on his chest.
A direct eye contact was inevitable, Wonnieze’s body grew fat
goose bumps. “What if the sun falls and the stars stop twinkling?” She
asked, breathing into his ears and looking into his eyes to find
answers. All his eyes could do was beg that they never fell and as he
struggled to put them in words, she spoke in his stead, “The sun and
stars may fail to rise and twinkle, but I trust your spirit man to live
through my darkness with me, that to me is better than gold and
silver.” Wonnieze held her by the waist and squeezed her tenderly, it
was not long, a bird shat on his head. “What fell on my head?” She
wiped it off with a leaf and showed it to him, “You’re a king! A king!”
She said sprouting to her feet.
“What are you saying?” he grinned, “three days ago, a bird
dropping fell on my head. Chiekong and Edema saw it but didn’t tell
me all day. All they did was laugh and the next day, I had rashes on
that spot.” He pointed to the center of his head. She jumped on him,
he grappled her on the air and swung her around several times until
they came crashing lightly on the field. “My late father was a titled
man with several titles in my village. He told me anytime a bird shat
on his head, a title of leadership was bestowed on him.”
Upon hearing this he sighed. “I told you my rough experiences
I had at Akwaino. My commander made me head the most dangerous
assignments on our mission, yet I survived and we conquered. What
was my reward? Hatred. In this village, elder Esin has taken me as
his core enemy because of my longing for you. It’s as if I attract top
people to stamp on me. I have no wish for leadership. All I want is a
quiet life to enjoy.” He said with a numb look.
“My father once said to me while we’re farming, where you sit
when your old, shows where you stood in youth. The gods will
preserve you and no unholy hand will close the door of your destiny
from opening.” She said rubbing his chin. “But there’s nothing holy
about my hands.” “Holiness isn’t in the hands to say, it’s in the heart.
Our leaders have made you a tool of bloodshed. The blood of the
dead will cry on their heads.”

142
“The power in your words heals my wounds. What will I do
without them?” Wonnieze said. “I learned it from you. What was my
mood before you brought me here?” She asked giggling. Wonnieze
sat upright while she rested her head on his thigh. “Osobong you’re
beautiful and you look so good on those precious bangles you wear,”
he said in a slow pace, “I wasn’t angry at you and I didn’t ask you to
return them to elder Esin.”
“Are you afraid he might think you told me to do so?” She
asked sitting up. “Even if he knew I didn’t, it wouldn’t make him hate
me at the lowest place of his heart.” “I haven’t been given anything so
valuable as six pieces of manilas before. But it’s unfair I make myself
a queen with his belongings when my heart feels nothing for him.” “I
kno-o-ow, but I loved seeing you put on those bangles. They fit you.”
“You’re naughty. If you need it that much, go get it from him.” She
challenged.
“I got it from him already.” “Eh? What did you say?” She asked
sticking out her neck like an ostrich. “You don’t believe me?” He
asked, but she said nothing in disbelief. “Relax.” He said and walked
away from her to where he hid a pouch of leather skin and emptied it
on her laps, twelve bangles.
Osobong sprang from the ground like a hen thrust a stone at.
A minute later, she stooped to the ground, counting and observing
them. “Twelve manilas.” She exclaimed. “None of these has the
bangles elder Esin gave me.” “How are you sure?” She picked up
three of them and stroke them with a stone, listening to the sound
they made. “These are of more worth. I wouldn’t want to believe you
stole these priceless jewelries for me. Please tell me this is a dream.”
She said, popping her eyes on them.
Wonnieze shook her by the shoulder. “Wake up. This is no
dream. These manilas aren’t dear as you’re. If any man or woman
claim that it’s theirs, tell them I’m the thief and they should come after
me.” He said with a look of a warrior prepared for a fight. She
embraced him multiple times and sobbed on his chest. “You behave
like a spirit. How did you know I returned elder Esin’s bangles?” “I’m a
spirit but in a body. When your mother poured her wrath on you today,
you came into my mind and I appeared at your house and saw the
drama between two of you.” He said, picking the rest of the manilas
from the ground and putting them round her wrists, six bangles per
hand.
“No girl in the clan I know puts on twelve manilas…” “Quiet.”
He said with a faint voice, putting his index finger on her lips, she
smiled refusing to be silenced. “Why are you loving me this much?
Isn’t this too much to give?” “Quiet I said.” “I hope my mother can
learn, a patient person eats the ripe fruit.” She said dangling her
manilas. “Let’s leave, it’s getting late.” He said, leaving. She stood still
dangling her bangles and dancing to the rhythmic beatings she
created with them before she ran and jumped on his back. “See this
woman, thinking she’s a baby.” He said and ran with her far as he
could.
Osobong jogged home making sure every move she made
went with the sound of her bangles. Many of her peers and friends
stared at her manilas while some called on her for a conversation and
enquiry, but her excitement only permitted her to wave at them until
she got home. Her mother heard her singing with high pitch and came
out to find the source of her happiness.
When she saw her on those bangles, she reached out to her in
dancing and singing. She lifted the top of her garment exposing the
folds of her sagging belly and beat it as a drum to lengthen the
merriment. “My sweet daughter you’ve soften my heart at last. I’m so
happy you listened to me. Elder Esin is so kind. He forgave your
ignorance and gave you more bangles?”
“You’re wrong mama. I didn’t go to elder Esin. Wonnieze gave
them all to me.” Her mother opened her eyes wide and dimmed it at
her and at the bangles. “Osobong be serious in your life? If you know
the wealth that’s hanging on your hands, you’ll not call that name
Wonnieze again.” Her mother said flipping her index finger at her face.
“I’ve told you the truth.” She said tossing her bangles with both hands.
Her mother walked away from her thinking of the possibility of her
daughter’s claim.
“Where could Wonnieze have stolen those manilas to please
my daughter? But the family of Chukudoh have no account of
stealing. I can’t be sure.” She crossed her stomach with her hand and
rested her chin her knuckles. “Young men of these days. All of a
sudden, he’s grown up and a warrior many talks about, now my
daughter has fallen for him. Wonders shall never end. Wonnieze!”

144
She tapped her daughter by the shoulder and whispered,
“Osobong. Did he say he wants to marry you?” She asked, tilting her
neck to her shoulder. “No mama.” “And he gave you a fortune?” She
raised her voice. “Mama do I have something to eat?” “There’s
enough to eat inside but first give me my share.” “Mama.” “Yes-s-s!”
“No mama. These are for me alone. Tomorrow morning, I’ll go to elder
Esin and collect back the other six manilas for you.” Osobong said in
a playful tone. “Aw. Small madam so-o-ory.” She wore her bangles all
day and night. If any went into her mother’s hands, she would not
have gotten them back again.
Manilas were more than jewelries and accessories for
dressing, they were also very valuable in trade as money. The women
wore them on their hands and feet to show how cherished they were
by their husbands as manilas were found as bracelets on the bodies
of the wealthy. It has been in use since 1500 in West Africa and a
single manila was worth hundreds of cowries and beads put together.
They were used in paying dowry, bride price, fines and in purchasing
goods in local market.
Most people in the village heard the information that Wonnieze
gave Osobong twelves manilas she wore everywhere she went. He
became a topic on many lips, from his exploit in Akwaino to his private
affairs with Osobong that outshined Esin’s efforts in wooing her to love
him.
Many girls who ignored Wonnieze as a plague including those
older than he was, picked interest in him but his emotional responses
to them were shallow and they envied Osobong for being able to
claim him all to herself effortlessly. But the girls kept coming around
him, seeking friendlier ways to court his attention; some laughed at
everything he said that were not funny, others were hostile and
snobbish at him to calve his attention but to all, he was lukewarm.
Some who were not interested in a relationship with him,
stared at him like a faraway foreigner they had not seen before
whenever he passed by. “Your relationship with Osobong is more
serious than I thought. How could you have given a girl so much when
she could scrape you out of her life for another man tomorrow?” His
mother asked him when she heard the whole story. “I have nothing to
lose if she leaves me for another man tomorrow, she’ll be giving way
for the right person to come in.” “My son has become a man,” she
said shaking her head and staring at him, “but what’s come over you?
You gave a girl, twelve manilas when your own mother has only four.
Is this madness or do you call it love?” “Mother don’t bother, that’s the
least of what I can do for you.” He winked at her.
In the same day, Esin went to the compound of Osobong with
three of his body guards. Osobong was out weeding her mother’s
garden outside the compound. She heard fast trampling steps
approaching her door post, she went out to see who was coming.
“Aw! His Royal Majesty. You’re wel…” “Hold your greetings. Don’t
royal me.” Esin said foaming. “Where’s your daughter?” “She went to
the farm not long ago.” “Your daughter brought back those jewelries I
gave her like she wasn’t in need of them. Is she not going around
showing off a different set of wristlets, saying it’s that earthworm
Wonnieze who gave them to her? People are talking - saying all sort
of things and comparing me with him.” He said and took off his cap in
rage.
“Your Majesty, please don’t be angry at our household. I
warned her but she wouldn’t listen…” “Woman, have you seen how
these children are dragging my name on the mud because I choose to
care about your daughter?” “I’ll talk to her. I’ll bring her to her senses.”
She went down on her kneels, resting her palms on her chest
pleading.
“How does she see herself? I would’ve slapped her if I saw
her. It’s not as if I don’t know what to do to put an end to these insults
but you had better warn her for the last time.” He said pointing at her.
Osobong’s mother was still on her knees pleading for his mercy. Esin
and his body guards left, leaving terror behind.
What if he makes us poor with a fine, who’ll defend us? What if
my daughter ends up risking her life with this love of a thing she’s
playing with? “Osobong you’ve killed me o-o-o-oh.” She lamented.
That evening, Esin sent for Wonnieze’s commandant. Esin sat in an
open space in his front yard. A table was placed in front of him and on
it was a full calabash of palm wine he drunk half-way. “I must ask
again, why did you disappoint me-e-e?” “Sir, that boy is a thorn in my
flesh. I did everything to wind him up without suspicion. I don’t know
how he overcame them and bought the hearts of the troops to the
extent he confronted me to a fight.”
“My spirit hated that boy from the first day I saw him standing
joblessly with that girl.” Esin drank another horn of palm wine. “I’m the
man of this village,” he said belching, “he doesn’t even respect that
fact, not even the slightest regards. Listen. We’ve been playing all
along with that boy. I want us to end his life fast. This game has to be
over.” He said and slammed his horn on the table.

146
“Your Majesty, I’m at your service. How do you want me to go
about it?” “I want you to go about it using your head. Do I have to tell
you everything? Ambush him. Can he withstand six men with blades?”
“Of course not.” “There must be no trace. Mask your men. I don’t
want to answer questions from the Etobor. When you kill him, chop off
his head, arms, legs and discard his bodies at different locations so
no one knows where he was murdered.” “Consider it done. We’ll put
him to rest and they’ll be no mistakes.”
He filled his empty horn with wine again but allowed it sit on
the table. “Killing him? Osobong is sensitive, she’ll know in her heart
that it was I. I don’t know what she does to me, everything I have
achieved is meaningless without having her.” The commandant stared
at him with sympathy and reacted. “Your Majesty, talk with her mother,
be nice to her. Promise her lands and metals of pure worth. Tell her to
persuade her daughter to give her hand in marriage. Show no fury at
Wonnieze’s silent daring to eliminate all mistrust, so when we strike, it
wouldn’t be difficult for her to fall for you.”
“Very clever. I’ll breathe no threat at him. In fact, I’ll hire him to
do some works for me and I’ll pay him generously. I want eyes to see I
have nothing against him before he bites the dust.” “In that case, let’s
spare him for seven weeks to give you the time to relate with him.
Osobong will remember after he’s late, you couldn’t have had a hand
in his death and with time she can get over him for you.”
“I accept. After the deal is completed, all you need do is name
your price and I’ll grant it to you. After me, it’s me.” “When it comes
down to you, sir, I have no doubt.” “Good. In the next New Yam
Festival, I’ll see to it that a title is bestowed on you. You merit an
honor to live long after you die.” Esin said and gulped the horn on the
table at once.
When the sun went down, Esin and a guard left with him to
Osobong’s compound. They found her mother sitting under a quaver
tree sobbing, a few neighbors sat close consoling her. When they saw
him, they rose and greeted him with a bow. He was in a light mood,
giving brisk smiles and clearing his throat.
Her neighbors interpreted his body language to have meant
‘leave the nest’ and they took permission and left at once. “His
Majesty,” she called, “may I go in and bring you a comfortable chair?”
“Don’t bother.” He said, waving his hand. “Is your daughter back?”
She nodded side-ways, looking like someone guilty of numerous
charges. He took his eyes from her to lower her fright as he sat on the
low stool sprawling his legs.
“Mama Osobong, our people say, no matter how hot your
anger is, it cannot cook yam. I counselled with myself. It’s in my best
interest to allow my emotions relax and let things be, when matters of
love are involved.” He said in a calm expression. She rubbed her
palms, feeling like one whose debts had been cancelled. “Don’t put
any pressure on her again. If it’s Wonnieze she chooses over me, let it
be. This isn’t to say I love her less. I’m still open to her in case she
changes her mind, but what I don’t know is how long.”
“May you live long your Majesty for speaking to me kindly. As a
mother, I have a say in my daughter’s life. Our people also say, the
stone that you see coming shouldn’t blind you. It’s unfortunate, my
daughter can’t see Wonnieze is a distraction. They two are carried
away by their youthful puppy love.” Esin laughed.
“I know what’s best for her. I’m amazed you can stand up for
her not minding your title and I’m pleased at the mercy you have at
heart. That’s a true marking of royalty any good mother will like her
daughter to make family with.” “Ha-ha. I wish she could see all that in
me.” “She will. If it means plucking off her eyes and replacing them
with mine, I’ll make the sacrifice for her.” I owe you many things if
Osobong changes her mind and accepts me into her life.” “Ezensi.”
She affirmed.
In the main while, Wonnieze was in his father’s farm making
heaps for planting the next day when Chiekong, Edema and Obikan
stalked at him from behind with machetes and iron sticks. He was
unaware when they approached him. Chiekong boot Wonnieze’s
buttocks with his foot which made him lie by his side on the ground.
Wonnieze held on to the hoe on his right hand but, before he rose to
his feet in defense, Edema kicked it from his hand leaving him
defenseless while Obikan thrust his foot on his chest. They rest of
them lifted up their sticks and machetes at him.
The spectacle of his friends stalking at him made his heart
pound so fast Obikan felt the vibration beneath his foot. Obikan broke
into laughter followed by the two as they dropped their weapons to the
ground and gave him a hand to his feet. Wonnieze was red, he picked
a machete but used his elbow knocking them on their chest and face.
“What’s all these rough play for?” He asked on top of his voice and
touched the side of his face, feeling a bruise smeared with his blood.
“What if I used this machete to waste your own blood?” Three of them
spaced from him.

148
“Calm down my friend.” Chiekong said, flapping his hands at
him, like he was conducting a car on motion to slow down. “Is it now
you want to prove you’re a man?” Edema asked. “What if we’re sent
to drop you dead? We need to talk.” Obikan said, stepping forward.
“Drop me dead? What are you talking about?” Obikan statement
weakened his joints and the machete fell off his hand. “This
conversation is private,” Obikan said, turning around in search for an
ideal place to let the cat out of the bag, “up there,” he pointed to a
broad orange tree.
They climbed it to the top. “I passed by to check on Edema
when I saw elder Esin’s manservant in his farm with a big grass cutter
caught in his trap while harvesting unripe plantain. He begged me to
assist him search and uproot some creepy wire vine plants to bind the
animal while he went to free it from the trap.” Obikan said, while they
listened.
“In my search for the plant, I saw and listen to elder Esin and
your commandant calculating to kill you with six men on mask. You
needed to hear what they were saying…they planned to cut off your
body in pieces and dump them in different areas in the village to cover
up their actions.” Wonnieze developed cold feet and leaned hard on a
soft branch unconsciously and almost fell off. “Hang on!” Chiekong
said. He held on to a firmer branch. “Don’t panic,” Edema said, “when
Obikan came and told us this secret plan to nail you, we came to warn
you not to walk alone.” “You’re going through hell, that’s the price you
pay when you fall in love.” Chiekong said with satire.
“They agreed they were going to play nice with you so you will
have no clue of their intentions. Be careful.” Obikan said. “Osobong
told me yesterday she dreamt a tooth of hers loosened. Any time she
dreamt something like that, someone close to her dies. Would my life
end like this? What wrong have I done?” Wonnieze asked. “The crime
you committed was shaming elder Esin by giving Osobong Twelve
manilas.” Chiekong said, dozing his head.
“How did you get all those treasures to lavish on a gir-r-r-l?”
Edema asked. “Twelve manilas for a girl? You have mind o! Don’t you
know you can’t trust a woman? She can espouse someone else
tomorrow after all you’ve done for her.” Chiekong said in a quarreling
attitude. “If your fear to lose is greater than your urge to win, you’ve
lost already. I was in a relationship with her before he came to
separate us. Did I ever come to take his title from him? He takes my
love for Osobong as a taste of his own medicine. How is that
supposed to be my fault? As if that’s not enough, he wants my life as
a payback. Is that fair?” “I think you have a lot of courage but two of
you are no equal for a fight.” Obikan said.
“It’s not fair. I didn’t call for a fight. I got those manilas from the
riverine area of Akwaino while I was fishing close to an abandoned
sunk ship belonging to the white men.” “You’re lucky, but it surprises
me how people can have more than you do and still be jealous of
you,” Obikan said with a sigh, “we’re all brothers. A fight against one,
is a fight against all. We must stay close and walk together to keep
Wonnieze out of harm’s way.” He said and stretched his right hand
with closed knuckles. They rest of them joined their knuckles together
as a pledge to watch out for each other. They hid knives and machete
inside their garments wherever they went and stayed close day in day
out.
However, there was a state of unrest going on in the clan. It
began with Chukudoh’s refusal to renew his tax charges every seven
weeks because of his unexplained losses in the Saving Association.
When the chief’s tax men petitioned him for his fees, he demanded
his savings from them in dramatic ways. He beat his gong, sounded
his ivory and neighbors gathered at his compound to enquire as to his
alarm. “I will not be ripped off of the little I have left. Ask these
gentlemen where they kept my savings? If they don’t have answers,
please tell them to use my savings to balance my tax charges until it’s
spent. What can’t they understand?” He said with defiant body
gestures.
Chukudoh’s protest against the order of the chief, spurred his
neighbors to support him as they returned empty handed. Several
weeks passed by and he made no payment for his tax charges until
they refrained from visiting his household. Many who were exploited
of their own savings, bought into his defiance. They would not pay
taxes unless their savings were remitted to them in full. This was the
condition they gave for co-operation. The strategy was effective in
keeping their belongings. Tax men who insisted in extorting or in
carrying out the chief’s command in savage approach were beaten up
as people took out their grievances on them.
The men charged with the assignment of executing tax orders
became reluctant or persuasive in going about their duties, but it still
yielded no positive result to the chief and his elders in council. The
work in progress slowed down and the riotous living of these men
were significantly affected. How can we subdue these people to pay
up, the elders thought? How can we move forward if they refuse to
pull together? More than forty-five percent of people in the Saving
Association in the village of Chukudoh declined from the obligation of
paying taxes, spreading to other villages in the clan.

150
Tax men were employed to operate in different villages. In
other words, if you came from Esitong village, you’ll be employed to
serve at Oruk village in order not to compromise the charge. The
arrangement this time, failed the authorities and the resistance
continued to spread across the clan. The name Chukudoh rang a bell
on every ear and was accorded a lot of respect for the initiative of
breeding liberty.
His words had more potency in the head and heart of the
people than did the orders of Delvit. He did not have to beg for
audience. His words were magnified by many quoting him with
praises, for relieving them from the burden of high taxation at that
time. The chief withdrew from compelling them to part their resources
for fourteen weeks following his indecision over the matter.
During those times, the chief and his council deliberated on
how to make Chukudoh guilty of a charge worthy of death, but they
found none and they could not lay hands on him because of the
popular support he had from the people. The chief did not want further
division among them. There were more wars to fight, lands and
resources to claim. Consequently, he was diplomatic in his tactics to
allow serenity in the clan.
But it did not go well with Chukudoh either. His farm was under
attack by a wild bush pig. The animal had brains of an unkind human
being. It visited when his farm crops were about to yield or were due
for harvest. What was strange about the animal was, it never fell into
any of the traps planted in the farms by Chukudoh and his son and It
did not drop in on the farm of their neighbors that were close quarters
to wreak damage.
They hung rags on many plants to give it the semblance and
presence of a human. This they did to scare away predators, but it
failed to deter the beast from ruining their efforts and farm produce.
Chukudoh was concerned. Wonnieze and his friends hid by day at the
farm, lying quietly in wait for the animal, but it sensed when someone
was close and kept off for as long as it took.
If the day was not safe for the animal, it came at night making
sure it flawed Chukudoh’s cultivation. These experiences gave him
sleepless nights, lowered his lifeline in relating with people and made
his heart feeble. A number of people thought the movement he led in
the clan was unwarranted and thus, his affliction in the hands of the
Oluze.
CHAPTER ELEVEN

One sunny evening, Chukudoh sat out in a pensive mood till


late night, thinking about the repeated damages the cruel animal
inflicted on his crops. “My husband, too much thinking can send you
to an early grave. I hope you know I’m not ready to be a widow?” His
wife said, walking to him in a staggering way. She awoke from sleep
when she found herself lying alone on their straw mat. Wonnieze was
determined to stay awake outside until his father went in. By the side
of the building behind his father, he stared at his father with empathy.
“If I shouldn’t be thinking about this mysterious animal that has
brought misfortune and disgrace to my home, what else should I be
thinking about?” He said, folding his arms.
Adaret could not come up with an immediate response but
after a while she suggested. “Why not we find a way of contacting the
Ekpeflu to interpret the cause of our misfortune, then we can know
what to do.” “Go-o-od. I hadn’t thought of it.” Adaret was gladdened
her husband had a glimmer of hope in remedying the problem. A dark
owl flew and landed on top of their raffia roof and hoofed in a
mourning tone.
Wonnieze pulled out his catapult behind his waist and aimed
the bird. It fell from the roof to the ground injured by a side of its foot.
He ran to pick it but the bird but it managed to leap on the other foot
and flew away. “Kieh! You should have hit it again. That’s an evil bird.
Who is bewitching us with death in our family?” Adaret asked, flipping
her hands like a winged bird. “Quiet. No harm will come near my
family.” Chukudoh said, standing on his feet.
He pulled out his clay amulet hanging on his neck and pointed
it towards the direction the owl flew. Wonnieze waded through the
bushes in the yard to find where the owl would perch to hunt it. He
used the screeching sound of the injured owl to trace it when he lost
sight of the bird. There’s nothing ordinary about that bird, he thought.
Several market days ago, he sat out at mid-night in the quiet of
the dark, an owl flew and landed on a palm tree opposite the window
where his parents lay and made wavering sounds for a brief duration.
The next morning, his mother took ill and was on sick bed for several
days receiving treatment before she recovered.

152
At long last, he found the owl he was after, flying into the
palace of the chief where it made no hooting sound again. Should I
still go in? What if I get caught what will I say? While he contemplated
on either going in to satisfy his curiosity or retiring home as a safer
option, he heard a distant groaning voice, “My le-e-e-g!” The voice he
heard shut down his thinking mind and he did the unthinkable, walking
towards the palace at past mid night.
Drawing closer to the palace he sighted five vigil guards
watching over the premises. He tried sneaking in but stepped on dried
leaves that signaled attention to his direction. “Who’s that?” A guard
asked aloud, not sure who or what it was. They reached out to their
burning torches, Wonnieze tip toed and shrouded behind a heap of
clay in front of him. The guards passed by him to the area they heard
movement. They went outside the palace premises to investigate
what funny undertaking might be going on at an odd time of the day.
Wonnieze’s heart was at the end of his throat. By the side
where he took cover, two guards came backing him while they were
urinating. He rose and walked straight into the open palace like a
manservant taking his shift at night in the palace. “Akumo.” A guard
called among the two assuming he was a worker. When he received
no response, he followed him into the interior of the chief’s palace to
confirm whom he saw.
Wonnieze’s hands and legs writhe against his will when he got
in and heard fast approaching steps towards the entrance where he
was. Two huge drums of clay pot filled with water stood in front of him.
He stretched his leg and submerged himself into it, littering splashes
of water on the ground.
“Who is that person who doesn’t know how to scoop water
without messing the whole place?” A maiden walking in from another
entrance in the palace said as she entered the chamber after he
buried himself in the pot of water. She dipped her mini clay vessel into
the drum he was inside, fetched water and walked in before the guard
who was alert arrived. He assumed the maiden who walked into the
inner chambers of the palace recognized whom he saw as an insider.
The guard did not leave at once, he walked around the interior of the
palace inspecting the place to make sure it was free of intruders
before he left to his assigned station.
Wonnieze stayed calm at the base of the drum for more than a
hundred second. When he sensed no one was anywhere close to
him, he rose to the top peeping before he leaped out of the drum and
tip-toed outside hoping to find a way to escape out. Who sent me? But
again, he heard the groaning of a male voice inside the palace. What
must I do? Is Osobong’s dream coming true here in my life today?
Outside, he saw a flexible tree and climbed it to the top without
noise. Up there, he planned his escape, studying the corners each of
the guards were set off, but the moaning sound he heard again
appealed his mind to investigate. He discerned the spot-on top of the
roof from where the sound came. The room was not far off from where
the tree was.
He climbed the tree a little further holding a firm branch, he
tilted it downwards landing quiet on the roof. Placing his feet on the
wood network of the roof, he walked to the spot where the moaning
sound was loudest and loosened a small portion of the roof.
Wonnieze bit his lips at what he saw; it was Delvit lying and groaning
in pain on a goat skin mat, his left thigh was injured.
You’re the demon in human flesh, he said in his mind. When
he recollected the damages, the wild pig had been wreaking on his
father’s farm, he pulled out his long-pointed stick to thrust into Delvit’s
belly as he lay. “This boy. Who’s this boy to put me in this pain and
make me a weakling? Aw, today I’ll bury him alive at day break.” Delvit
said, groaning.
Wonnieze raised his lance higher to strike but thoughts came
flooding into his mind. What would become of me if I take the life of
the god’s anointed? Anointed? But why will the gods anoint a man to
become the downfall of his people? Delvit struggled to lift himself from
the mat into his bed which was a raised level surface of hard clay and
on it was a stocky base of straw and twigs. In doing so, he saw tiny
shreds of palm fronds on it. He lifted his face and saw a hollow above
his roof with someone in the dark trying to zero on him with a lance.
He fell on his mat and pulled himself away from the pointing weapon.
“They have come o-o-oh. They want to kill me-o-oh.” He screamed on
the top of his voice, but he did not recognize the traitor.
Wonnieze retreated and pranced back on the tree, springing
himself to the lower section of the tree’s trunk before jumping eighteen
feet to the ground. The chief’s guards were alerted by his cry and by a
loud tumbling on the ground behind the palace they had just patrolled.
They split themselves in threes to the four corners of the palace to
fetch out the invader. Wonnieze targeted the woods to escape but
came in contact with four guards in front of him. “Hold it there!”
He slowed down as he approached them. Another blew his
whistle to alert others where to converge for an arrest. Wonnieze took
off his garment and tied it round his face. As the three guards walked
towards him with burning torches to put a name on him, he ran at
them with full might, knocking and trampling three of them to the
ground before others arrived to cease him.

154
They chased him, firing their arrows and lance at him but he
fled away from them into the woods, no one identified him still. Six
guards went after him, others went after the chief to ensure his safety
against traitors that may be lurking within the palace and its premises.
The chase after him was marathon and he was still within sight in the
woods. The guards were armed with knives, machetes, lances and
arrows. Many of the vigilantes were signaled by the chief’s guard to
join them in going after the fleeing fugitive which they did.
An arrow was shot aiming at the back of his head. He dashed
from it when he turned his face to see how far he distanced from
them. But it injured him by the side of his head, peeling off his skin
and leaving the spot whitish for seconds before his blood discolored
the surface red, giving a sensation of salt put on a biting wound.
He screamed inside his stomach to conceal his voice from
them or else, he would have been known by his voice which would
have endangered his parents even if he was not caught. The guards
were bent on catching him alive or dead. They did not want to face the
wrath of Delvit losing his assassin when they had numbers to their
advantage, coupled with their regular martial training they received to
protect the throne from miscreants assaulting it. Blades of grasses in
the bush slashed his flesh as blood and sweat rolled down his face
and itch his entire body. There was no time to slow down and relief his
scratches nor was the time to catch some breath as he would wish to
because arrows and poisoned darts kept firing at his life.
He spun his legs as a tire on quick motion against his stamina,
then he ran on a zigzag pattern to duck away from their arrows and
darts. The chase continued until he exited the woods into the streets
of the village and into several compounds. They lost tract of him. He
hid himself in a hoard of firewood. The guards and vigilante searched
for him from compound to compound, they even passed by him but
did not observed he covered himself partly with logs of pieced
firewoods
While he was there resting to regain his strength, strange
things happened in his body, he could no longer maintain his
composure. Good enough, his attackers retired back convinced he
would die from the poisoned darts and arrows shot at him and by
dawn, they will find his body wherever he hid. Wonnieze’s mouth
lathered with saliva, he shook his head involuntarily, his body was
rigid and his breathing shallow because of the pressure he felt in his
heart as it beat. He had little time to survive. Of a sudden, he felt like
vomiting.
Turning to his side, he saw an open cooking room with burnt
fire woods. He crawled on his belly into the traditional kitchen in
search for charcoal. He ate and swallowed a piece that relieved him
from the effects of the poison minutes afterwards. His rigid limbs and
other parts of his body gained some life and flexibility. Home is far and
I may get trapped along the way.
He left for the stream, showered and rinsed his mouth but was
still feeling some effects of the poison. It will help if I drink coconut
water. He had seen his mother treat a patient poisoned with food with
ordinary coconut water which neutralized the poison and helped the
patient recover fast. He recognized a coconut tree in the dark by
touching the edges of its trunk and climbed the twenty-four feet tall
tree without aid of a climbing robe. His attempt disturbed the squirrels
at the top of the tree as they ran down on his body. With his teeth, he
tore the flesh of the coconut and broke its shell on the tree’s trunk. He
drank the water from it and poured the rest on his head.
High up there, he saw sighted six vigilantes with burning
torches coming towards the stream still in search of him. These men
are following my foot print. The men plunged into the stream and
swam from one possible hiding place to another until they crossed
over to the other side of the stream on dried ground. He remained
there even though he was worn out and risked falling contending with
ant and drowsiness. Later that morning, he descended from the tree
when people started coming down the stream. He took his bath again,
plucked ‘Awolowo’ leaves by the sides of the stream, squeezed and
applied them on his open wounds to dry and heal them and all over
his body to ease his itching.
“The gods of our fathers be praised, I’m alive. I must hurry
home before my parents ask too many questions in search of me.” He
said to himself. When he got home, he met the front yard in disarray.
Usually, before sunset, his mother would be up, sweeping the yard
with a broom, leaving behind beautiful spirals of symmetrical designs
and she alone did it best. Instead, the ground was ruffled. Did a group
of boys come play football early that morning? But I would have met
with them, he thought. He walked to the entrance of the house and
found the curtain of the door pulled out, lying on the ground.

156
Not able to relate with what he saw, he dashed into the house,
“Mama! Papa!” He called out in a shrinking voice. From the sitting
room, to his parent’s room and to his room, he sourced for them,
calling without response. Everything in the house was intact save his
parents who were not in. His eyes swam in his still tears and his
confusion grew his head so big and heavy on his shoulders. He
ransacked the house again turning everything upside down combing
for his parents.
Until he lifted up the mat in his parent’s room and called,
“Mama. Papa,” he did not recognize his foolery. Anything was possible
in search for his parents. He ran out of the house to ask questions
about his parents’ whereabout but on a second thought, it was unsafe
to do so, he resolved to look for them on his own. If my parents are in
trouble, I might get into the same trouble too. He headed to his
parent’s farm through bush tracts, hanging a machete inside his
garment behind his back.
Along the way, he heard people clamoring. “Bind him!”
Sounded like Delvit’s voice he thought. He was adjacent to the palace
in the bush. Who are they binding? Well. This one doesn’t concern
me. He went forward with intent of reaching the farm to look for his
parents. His mind was dense. He did not want to witness any more
drama or be part of one. His eyes were swollen haven stayed awake
the previous night on a fugitive course. “Go back.” A voice hammered
on his mind. He sighed, dropping his shoulders. He went back to
where he heard the noise loudest and climbed a palm wine tree to
peep into the scene, checking if his parents were among the on-
lookers. “Papa.” He cried on a low-pitched voice wishing his eyes told
him a lie.
His father was bound with robes and made to sit on the ground
like a common criminal. He lost grip on the tree and slide partially
from it. It was an unconscious attempt to step down and rescue his
father from the emotional assault. But, how would he? He cried in his
stomach and shivered when he saw a rope hanging down on a tree in
front of his father. I hope that rope is not for him? His heart bumped.
He screwed the crowd with his eyes looking for his mother.
She was in a circle of women who gathered around her to hold and
console her from taking thoughtless actions in her grief. Earlier on,
she plucked an unripe orange and threw at the chief but missed. How
affectionate she was with her husband? He was happy marrying her
alone and was faithful to her though she was barren for ten years.
When she gave birth to Wonnieze and was unable to take in
for nearly two decades, he did not bother her for another but praised
her for giving him a child. His kin’s men and family relations pointed
accusing fingers at her and encouraged him to marry another but he
challenged them to silence, saying he was content with a wife and
child. They were not in a boring relationship, they were friends indeed
and looked alike in character and in appearance.
Wonnieze clung tighter to the trunk of the tree when he saw
his mother in distress. Her hair on her scalp were rough and untidy.
Her tears and sweat soaked her gown like she had been beaten by
rain. “No. Have the gods taken their eyes from us?” Wonnieze
questioned.
“This man has brought upon himself a just tragedy with his
own hands.” Delvit said, wobbling in the center of the crowd. “Take no
pity on him. He has been running with the hare and hunting with the
hounds. The peace of this clan is unsettled because of his hasty
judgements over matters under discussion by the council. He’s an
enemy of the clan and an enemy to every step forward. Have you not
heard, when there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot
hurt you?” He said and turned his attention to Chukudoh. “Why are
you causing division among our people? Your offense has gone way
too far to plead for mercy. Tell this people that you’re not guilty of
arranging a deathblow on me today at midnight?” Delvit asked,
ordering his guards to lift Chukudoh to his feet.
He looked him in the eyes like he had sympathy on Delvit and
refused to respond to his question as if pleading for his life in his
hands was trivial. The silence in the air was tense, his calmness over
his allegation spoke volume the integrity of his character enlarged.
“Speak and let this people know if you’re worthy to be set free.” Delvit
said, pointing his index finger in the air. “When someone accuses you
of doing something you’re not doing, it’s usually because they’re the
ones doing it.” Chukudoh said, smiling at each word.
Delvit withdrew and pointing at him, “You’re a green snake in a
green grass. A dog will look down when they have done wrong, but a
snake will look you right in the eyes.” He limped forward to the people,
lifting his robes and showing his fresh injury on his thigh to validate his
claim. “Does this look like I’m telling lies? The attack that nearly took
my life began from the time he took a stand against me.”

158
There was an indistinct emotional response exuding from the
people. If they all bought into his claim, many would have cast stones
at him before his lynching. A quarter of the people did not doubt the
chief because of the movement Chukudoh led. Delvit read the
clouded feedbacks from the people, making his heart sink in his belly.
The mental picture of what he imagined did not match what he was
experiencing.
He left them and went back to Chukudoh. “I give you the last
chance, be honest to these people. Did you have a hand in the plot to
kill me?” He asked, his eyes bloated red. “When deeds speak, words
are nothing.” “Ha-ha. I’ll shock you.” He said to the hearing of
everyone and walked to Tonfia. “There’s nothing hidden under the
sun.” He called out Mbahada, Esubi and Tonfia to step into the inner
circle the crowd formed and asked them to reveal the discussion they
had, prior to the attempted assassination on him.
“People were present when we conversed in his compound.
We had no secret talk to hold a private meeting. There was no inside
job to kill you.” Esubi said with a stifling tongue. “He didn’t exclude
himself from paying his taxes. He only said he’ll continue to pay his
taxes when his savings were provided. Those in his compound who
heard him, said they would do likewise.” Mbahada added. “I support,
that part happened the way he said it.” Tonfia said.
“Okay then, tell us the other part that happened when he took
you inside his house?” Delvit asked Tonfia. He cleared his throat and
gawked at Chukudoh with preying eyes. “He told me to plan a plot to
kill you.” “He-e-y.” The people roared like he was hung already. “You
see!” Delvit stressed. “This is a former member of my council I unseat
like the others because of their two-faced attitude in working with me.
I’m a man without guile.
This man,” Delvit said stroking Tonfia by the shoulder, “was
my strongest defender before I was initiated Etobor in this clan, but
unlike the rest of them, they are angry at me for all the wrong reasons.
Today only him has a living conscience to expose the unforgiveable
plot of killing your Etobor.” Chukudoh laughed like he was cracking
jokes, everyone present was confused. Soon, the glee on his face
dropped as he broke down weeping and wailing.
“Tonfia,” Mbahada called him with indignation, “how could he
have arranged with you to kill the Etobor without our knowledge?”
“Ashes fly back into the face of him who throws them. Tonfia I have
eaten with you from the same plate in my house, why didn’t you allow
them hang me quietly than bear false witness against me in my dying
hour? What could be worse than the betrayal of one I thought a friend.
Curse be the remainder of your days on earth. It would’ve been better
for you if you were still born.”
“Guards take him to the tree.” Delvit said. “Wait Etobor,”
Mbahada persuaded. “Tonfia plea is questionable. Let us consult with
the Ekpeflu before the death sentence.” “No way. The Ekpeflu himself
is questionable in his callings, that’s why he’s been hiding from me.”
Chukudoh was lifted and placed on a high stool.
His wife cried with a piercing voice, she fell to the ground and
heaped sand on her head. Chukudoh dropped his face down upon
seeing his wife grieving for him. “Hold your peace my dear. Neither
the Etobor nor death can separate us. Hold your peace my dear. All is
well.” He said, when he lifted his eyes on her. The rope was put
around his neck and at the signal of Delvit, the stool was taken off his
feet, leaving him hanging. Many could not watch him strangle to death
until his corpse was dropped but to the surprise of everyone, the rope
loosened from the tree and Chukudoh fell to the ground alive.
“Why can’t you get anything done right for once in your life?”
Delvit said and slapped the guard he assigned to prepare the rope for
his execution. Adaret stood up and ran to her husband but she was
barred by the guards. His major disappointment came as a result of
trying so hard to make the people see eye to eye with him over the
justification of Chukudoh’s execution, yet the people were jubilant,
shaking their hands in the sky in gratitude for his survival.
“Be quiet.” Delvit hollered, while his guards and armed men
contended with the noisy crowd. “What kind of people are you? Why
do you delight in a criminal?” Delvit asked in a pitched furious voice
that calmed the commotion in the scene more than the efforts of his
armed men.

160
“Even your robes testify against you.” Chukudoh said, still
wearing that ironical smile of pity for Delvit. “If the ropes loose again,
your neck will go for it.” Delvit said to the guard he slapped. The guard
tied the long rope multiple times at the top of the tree while Chukudoh
watched. “My blood shall be a testament of better days ahead for our
people and a witness against you in this life and in the world of our
ancestors.” Chukudoh said, sniffling. “The straw in the air is rotten.”
“I’ve heard that before. Hang him.” Delvit ordered. “Weep not for me.
It’s well with you my people.” He said, while the guard put the rope
round his neck. “Ezensi-i!” The people answered.
Chukudoh’s collected disposition strengthened his wife to
endure the inevitable death pending over his head seconds away. The
stool again was taken off his feet. The rope neither loosened nor
break. He hung in the air, salivating like his mouth was stuffed with
detergents. His face swelled like an inflated balloon as air was cut off
his trachea. In the course of struggling with the strangling, his neck
snapped and he died.
Silence broke into the gathering as his lifeless body hung still
on the rope above the ground. When it dawned on everyone he was
no more, they turned their attention to Delvit as though he owed them
a life to restore. Bitter vibration emanated from the people as
Chukudoh’s words replayed in their heads while he was alive and
bound in the palace.
They were words no one had the gumption to spill out. First,
he told them, the high walls and extensive project Delvit oversaw did
not reflect the development of the people in bettering lives when their
rights to property and other collective human needs were infringed
upon by the wimps and caprice of his authority. He talked about the
moral decadence sweeping the clan as he and his elders were guilty
of numerous acts of adultery.
How they deflowered teenage girls before and after their
initiatory rites, leading three of them to committing suicide after losing
their virtue. He talked about how scores of peaceful marriages and
families were disintegrated because of their promiscuity. The one that
made Delvit mad as a hornet was when he challenged him for placing
a band on individual exportation of goods through the coastal area of
Akwaino.
Delvit and his elders bought both processed and raw local goods
from clan members at take-away prices, monopolizing the market
exportation. “People of Opezia Baitus, can you see you fight wars in
the interest of your open-mouthed leaders. This is their weakness and
would be the reason for their fall.”
“Papa-a-a-a.” Wonnieze echoed as he ran close into the scene.
The fear of being apprehended left him when he saw his father dangle
on the rope. Delvit left his lifeless body dangling on the tree for
several minutes, wanting to be convinced he had not an ounce of life
left. In that minute, Wonnieze became a ravenous vulture that could
not be scared away from a carcass lying nearby. As he drew closer,
the crowd split in half, giving him a dignified entrance. When Delvit
recognized he was the one, the tusk in his hand fell.
The presence of Wonnieze amidst the people gave a puzzling
feeling of hope as he appeared as a reincarnate of his father when
they witnessed the awkward reaction of Delvit. Adaret supported her
chest with both hands as her heart thumbed between her ribs when
her son sauntered with a subduing influence, staring at Delvit who
was yet to put his acts together. At the same time, she had fears
Delvit might as well waste him as he had done to her husband. Still,
Delvit’s tongue was spell bound, he did not have enough sense at that
time to order his arrest. “How dare you? Have you come to defy the
Etobor you little monkey?” Esin said.
His words fueled Delvit’s nerves with vim. He picked up his
tusk from the ground and walked to him, applying restrain like
Wonnieze was a naked wire with current on it. “This face,” he said
pointing his tusk at him, “is this not the traitor that came attacking me
on my roof top?” Wonnieze’s face softened as everyone turned at him
and softened even more when he saw his mother in tears watching
him like a paralyzed victim of circumstance.
“This boy is shady.” Esin said flipping his hand at him. Three
vigilantes who were present suspected him, having observed the
wound by the side of his face. “You.” A vigilante said, pointing at him.
“Bind him at once.” Delvit said.
The crowd reacted, breaking into the circle and making a
rowdy setting in the palace. “Don’t let him get away.” Delvit said, as he
fought his way in the crowd to find him. Mbahada caught Wonnieze by
the hand and said with intensity in his eyes than did his voice, “run like
the crosswind.” He ran out of sight and none of the guards knew
which way he ventured.
They searched for him in every nook and cranny of the village
and clan without success for days. Wonnieze escape was like a plot
by the villagers who were present in the palace. They confused
Delvit’s armed men who chased after him by giving false directions
where they claimed they saw him run pass.

162
People were injured for getting into the way of Delvit’s
securities while eight people were trampled beneath the feet of the
populace, fracturing their bones and spraining their muscles. In spite
of the casualties, there was no incidence of death. Wonnieze ran till
evening fall, taking a few breathers in his sprint before hiding on top of
a cave in the outskirt of the land. Why do I keep running away? This
time, he felt chased out on exile, leaving behind the people he loved
in a vulnerable state of power abuse.
His heart reached out to his late father whom he lost in a
shameful and painful manner before his eyes. Death by hanging or
suicide was a taboo and was not worthy of a burial ceremony. He
tossed himself against the woods for being unable to rescue his father
from the hands of Delvit.
The next minute, he was mad at his people for saving him
from Delvit’s arrest. “I committed the crime but papa took my sentence
and died in my place.” He cried, throwing fierce punches at the
woods, his fingers turned sore with wounds and swelling. Thoughts of
his mother and Osobong who were still alive were the only ones in his
mind stopping him from terminating his life when he picked up a long
sharp stone along the way. He flung himself hard on the ground,
hating what fate made of him.
“What am I living for?” He said in a quivering voice to the
ground and clung his fist to it like he was squeezing the life out of it.
He could not imagine an iota of safety for his mother in the clan
without his father and himself. He was troubled he might lose her or
she may just die on her own having lost her husband and knowing
nothing about her son’s whereabout.
“If she were here, maybe she’ll help me get out of my head.”
He said to himself, thinking of Osobong as he rubbed the ground
tenderly. Will I ever see them again? How could life deal so badly with
me? he cried salivating until he dozed off. Insects and mosquitoes bit
him while he slept but he felt none of it. Darkness covered, crickets
chipped, the weather was icy but he was still unable to relate with any
of these events.
Even when a cold-blooded cobra crossed his bare legs, it did
not wake him until morning at about five. He heard a sound of a flute
playing a calm melodious requiem down the slope of the cave where
he lay. He sprang to his feet, frightened that Delvit’s men might be
camping around in search of him.
Ready to start another fugitive race, he sneaked forward to
observe the area. Soon he got to a brusque door in the solidary area.
He was in the domicile of a spiritualist. As he listened to the music
coming from there, a soothing feeling caressed his heart and made
him interested in meeting with the person inside. He stretched his
hand to knock, “Wonnieze don’t bother knocking. Open and come in.”
Came a strange voice from closed door. “I knew a day will come, you
will come looking for me.” The chief priest said when he came in and
directed him to sit on a stool.
He did not plan meeting with the chief priest, he ran into him
by chance as fate had it. Meeting with the eye of the gods one on one
was a privilege many did not have. His cares and worries stood still as
he set foot into his secret residence. He was able to focus his
attention on the beating of the iron gong the chief priest stroke to
invite benevolent spirits into the solemn meeting.
Half of the chief priest face was stippled red and the other side
black. Palm prints of white clay were pasted on his top naked body.
He hung fledgling palm fronds and red beads on his waist and in front
of him were items he used for invocation: a mask of human head,
beads, mirrors, bones, clay pot with spring water in it and a wooden
doll of Oluze.
He chanted in an unknown language and proceeded to say,
“your heart isn’t at rest over the untimely death of your father and the
misfortune befallen you and your homeland.” He cast beads and
shattered bones on the ground and touched each of them with tail of a
bush animal. “Yes, wise one. The Etobor killed my father yesterday…”
“Hold your breath. The gods know it all.” “The war you fought
was unjust and based on a lie. Your Etobor and his elders are the
ones killing members in your clan one after the other to sustain the life
of their personal charms. They’re blaming it on neighboring clans to
initiate war. The Etobor and his elders are the tyrants you know, but
more tyrants are on the way and together they’ll feast on the people of
your fatherland as games to their claws.” Wonnieze recalled that
victims in their clan who were lost, were never seen or heard about
like Otipipo.
“Ekpeflu who are these tyrants to finish off the left ruins of our
people?” The chief priest beat his gong again. “Oluze. Sweet mother
of Opezia Baitus, unravel the answer to your child’s question.” He said
and rose, holding the doll in his right hand, he jerked like a fish out of
water but did not come up with answer to his enquiry. His curiosity
stared up his slumbering tension, breaking into sweat on his body that
chilling morning.

164
“It’s not given you to know until you return back to your people
and find it out yourself.” He said standing still. Tears gathered in
Wonnieze’s eyes. How he wanted to go home and meet his mother
and Osobong in one piece. How he wished he saw Osobong before
leaving. But then, what was good about returning to the lion’s den
where his father was strangled and his life sought after? What was
good about returning home to meet more tyrants? However, he could
not get his mind off home - two women he held closest to his heart
were in the den he was chase out from.
“Wise one. I have seen enough rule of terror in my life and
have no intention to meet with more bloodsuckers.” He said and
lowered his head. The chief priest remained quiet, knowing he had not
completed what he saying. “I’ll return back to my fatherland because
of my mother, but may I have your blessings to break free with her
and my best friend into another land where we can stay safe?”
“Let not your heart be troubled my son.” He said and touched
him by the cheek. Being addressed as a son brought fond memories
of his family into his mind, Delvit took from him. “The gods will not only
give to you your mother and best friend; they will give to your people
the promised Tyrannicide to take the heart out of the monsters
prepared to destroy the clan.” His statement carried a sheering impart
that straightened the wrinkles on his face marked by his griefs.
“I and other men in the clan fought and conquered the land of
Akwaino. I was forced to fight to save my mother’s life, but the Etobor
ended up killing my father. Now she’s a widow. Please tell me who is
the Tyrannicide, I’ll go find him and pledge to fight a just war with him.”
He said tightening his fist. “Eha ha ha. He’s not far from here, the
problem is convincing him.” “I can try. Trust me wise one.”
“Many years ago,” the chief priest said, looking up to call to
mind the past event, “I remember when the Tyrannicide was born, I
knelt on my knees knowing the future of that child and lifted it up to
the heavens and made pronouncements.” Wonnieze drew his stool
closer to him.
“‘A time will come when dusk will encase the soul of the land
and dust from thousand miles shall curtain the windows of her folks,
unto you a Tyrannicide is born for a wedge.’ Not even his parents
understood the weight of the prophesy. Behold the time is now.”
“Where can I find him?” He asked with a ready look of get up and go.
“You need not find him. He’s here with us.” Wonnieze turned to his
sides and rubbed his nose, not understanding what he said. “Great
one. Is he still alive or spirit?”
“He’s alive and breathing. The Tyrannicide is you.” That was
like pulling out a machete to threaten his life. Wonnieze leaped out of
his stool like a frog with a force that broke a leg of it. He stared at the
chief priest with a waned look of trust. “Impossible. Don’t mistake me
for another person. Maybe the Tyrannicide was my father, he was
wise and full of courage but they killed him like a fowl for wrestling
with the iron-handed rule of our clan. Right now, they’re after my life.
Do you want me to die like my father?”
“A person who is stung by a bee fears a big housefly. I
understand what you’re going through, but you can’t turn away from
your mission. Return to your clan and save your people from sinking
in oppression.” He said in an ordering tone and pointed to the door.
Wonnieze shook his head in defiance and ran away from him as
though he was a foe. He ran far away like a ship sailing the deep
without a compass crossing nine villages.

166
CHAPTER TWELVE

When the sun dimmed, he came across a woman in her


eighties. She was carrying a fat bunch of palm kernel, cut and heaped
in her plantation. Wonnieze had compassion on her when he saw her
struggling to lift a bunch on her head. “Grandma this is too hard for
you. Don’t you have people to help?” “I’m a widow and I’m use to this
work.” She said, and walked away like a tortoise. She had been lifting
and carrying several of those back home and did not want to spend
time talking with a stranger.
He allowed her walk a distance before he carried two bunches
of palm fruits where they were stacked and followed her behind. The
weight of what she carried on her head swayed her body from side to
side. Her determined look showed there was no stopping on the way
until she brought all the bunches back home. On getting to her house,
he dropped his on the way and went to relief her of hers’. “Grandma
this work you’re doing is for the youths. You should call for help when
you need it.” He brought a stool from the yard and offered her to sit
under a shade where she milled palm fruits to prepare palm oil.
She had to trust her guts that she was safe in the hands of a
stranger offering assistance as she took to sit. He picked up a deep
large basin and off he headed to the plantation and gathered several
more, two conservative times. “Who’re you?” The elderly woman
asked with desperation. “I’m Wonnieze from the clan of Opezia
Baitus.” “Have you known me before?” “My late father taught me,
‘kindness is a language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.’”
“May his soul rest in peace.” “Ezensi.”
“My child, take two bunches for your kindness.” She said,
pointing to the healthiest ones. “No grandma. I don’t have need for
them, but I may return tomorrow to help you pound them.” He said
and left. “May the gods we serve reward you.” She shook her head in
awe. He hanged about the village until it was dark and many had
gone to sleep. “I think I’ve found a new place to call my home.” He
said to himself and retired back to the compound of the elderly woman
where she lived alone.
An old trap lay close to the palm fruits that had not been used
in a long time. He dusted it, set it where it was positioned and covered
it with leaves. He sat on a short wood trunk, resting his back on the
wall of the battered thatched building, gazing at the stars, hoping to
find the urge to sleep. His head was stuffed with memories of his
father’s terrifying death and words of the chief priest.
“How can I be the Tyrannicide? What kind of message is that?
How’s my mother? My father and I withdrawn from her is enough to
push her to an untimely death. How I wish she knows I’m alive.” He
said quietly. Being hunted gripped his body with fear of the unknown.
Finding it wearisome to contain his state of mind, he walked into the
street. There he found a fallen palm wine tree in a nearby bush, he
took a pointed stick and punctured the tip of the tree between the
kernels and waited for hours to fill his four-liter gourd with the sap.
He had not eaten well for the past few days to replenish his
spent body neither was he with appetite. In fact, the idea of eating
disgusted him. Coming a long way from his clan, he passed by many
wild fruits in the bush like: Apricot, pears, watermelon and Avocado.,
but none appealed to his stomach. Wonnieze had a modest appetite
in drinking palm wine like his father and mother. It had medicinal
benefits that improved sight, skin and hair, and was good in breast
feeding mothers for lactation among others, apart from the euphoria it
produced. But that day, he was out for the euphoric high to reduce his
tension causing him regular electric shock all over his body.
He sipped from the gourd of palm wine many times on his way
back and was light on his body. When he got back to the compound,
he sat and drank more. The drink was antidote to his worries, the
more he drank his muscles loosened and the more he lost focus on
his cares. His father’s calm composure registered on his mind – how
he smiled in the face of death. He questioned himself why he
Wonnieze, could not smile while he had life in a safer zone.
Thinking about his mother, he was moved at how much she
feared losing his father when he was arrested and imagined the
feeling of becoming everything to Osobong. His perception about his
bitter experiences came to him in a different light. He was comfortable
in his own skin and gulped more wine until his highness intoxicated
him.
Afraid to wake the old woman with laughter, he staggered away
to enjoy liberty and space. He convinced himself if he drank more, the
better he would feel as he laughed and played with himself like one in
company of others. In no time, he finished the four-liter gourd of palm
wine and wished he could get more but his joints grew so weak he
could not balance on his feet. His eyes were glossy, he saw objects in
twos as they rotated round his head, his breathing slowed and his
head hammered like a rung gigantic bell hung on a tree. His sweaty
body smelt palm wine and his bloated stomach tempested as a violent
ocean.

168
Afterwards, he vomited again and again before his body
tempest dropped. He laid and slept in the open of the front yard on
bare ground. Before the sun set in early that morning, he was
awakened by a squealing sound at the backyard where the palm fruit
bunches were hoarded. Surprised at where he lay, he dusted himself
before anyone saw him and went to check on the trap.
It caught a big grass cutter that lived in the bush for more than
four years. This will make a good pepper soup for grandma. The effect
of the wine he over drank a day before still affected him. An idea of
filling the earthen drums with water to work out his body entered his
mind. The problem was, he did not know the way to the stream.
In the meantime, he picked up a broom and swept round the
vicinity of the compound until the morning sun shunned brighter. A few
persons in the neighborhood went out with their containers to fetch
water. Wonnieze caught sight of them and joined them with a deep
basin he used the previous day in carrying palm fruits from the
plantation.
The old woman was not up yet when he filled up the drums with
water. In returning the basin to the position he carried it, he saw a
shovel lying by the side of a heap of firewood the woman used in
cooking. Afraid of staying idle for fear of over thinking, he picked it up
and went into a nearby bush around the premises of her compound
and began digging.
He dug four feet deep before she woke up. On coming out to
ease herself, she found her properties outside were neatly arranged
and her environment swept. She heard tilling sounds behind her
cottage and went to see what was it. “You again?” She asked in a
crackling voice and giggled with sparkles in her eyes. “Good morning
grandma.” “Where do you live in this village?” “I’m a stranger, I don’t
know anyone here.” “Does that mean you slept outside here
yesterday?” She asked and he nodded. “What a human being
you’re?”
“I’m not a bad person ma, I lost my way and my spirit is at home
here.” He said and leaned on the shovel. “Uh. You find a home in the
shell of an aged woman. What a human being you’re?” She said and
walked away. “Has she gone to her neighbors, wanting me to explain
myself? What will I do and what will I say? I’m tired of running.” He
said to himself, trying to interpret the woman’s response.
Notwithstanding, he resolved to go back to work not minding
what might follow. The elderly woman took a tour round her
compound. Her three large drums of earthen pots were filled to the
brim with water, which had not been done in ages. “Could this be the
spirit of my husband working in the body of this stranger?” She asked
herself, folding her fragile hands under her armpit.
She met with another surprise hearing the squealing of a grass
cutter. She hurried into her house, brought out a knife to prepare the
animal for breakfast, but on reaching there, she saw her water gourd
in a wrong place. The smell of palm wine oozed from it and as she
looked around, she saw traces of spew on the ground suggesting to
her someone threw up, drinking palm wine from her gourd.
After Wonnieze dug out a substantial amount of clay from the
wet ground, he came out and met her seasoning the chopped grass
cutter. His mind settled and he took it as a sign he was received.
Walking and passing by her, he carried a condemned container to
scoop the clay, with which he used in plastering the outside walls of
her shelter. “Son,” She called in the tone of a child, “what do you want
from me? Why are you paying me all these services I didn’t ask for?
Do you owe me anything?”
“You’re a loner just as I can see. It can be lonely staying that
way all the time. I want to be someone you can call your own.” He
said. She opened her mouth to respond but words failed to come
without her tears accompanying them. “What can I do for you in
return?” Was a question easier to ask. “Time will tell.” He said and
continued plastering her red hut.
She brought down the meat from fire and scooped three cups of
rice into an iron tray. She selected the sand and husk from it and blew
the chaffs away. The rice was prepared for boiling and after thirty-five
minutes, a sumptuous meal was ready. She scooped the rice into a
big round bowl and the meat into another and called on him to freshen
up for breakfast. They sat on a mat and ate from the same bowl inside
her hut.
My spirit never lies. This is my new home, he thought, enjoying
her reception. “Only a damaged soul can reach down to the bottom of
his character in the ugliest place and time.” What she said surfaced to
him like she had an insight of his traumatic experiences. Wonnieze
took the time to narrate all that happened to him in his clan and why
he ran far away for his life.

170
“How did they know you were the one who came hunting your
Etobor?” “They saw the mark of the arrow shot at my face the night it
took place and they came after me.” He showed her the dying injury
by the side of his head. “I feel for you but you need to know, no matter
how much palm wine you drink, it can’t drown your worries. You must
face them.” She said, tilting her wrinkled face to his. Wonnieze busted
into laughter knowing he failed in concealing what he did. “My people
say if you cut your chains you free yourself. If you cut your root you
die.” She said, after he finished his laughing session.
With a sober look, she shared with him her personal
experiences of how she lost her husband in a heart attack because
her children persistently called them witches for losing their youngest
brother in a premature death. “What killed him?” “Malaria. But they
said we killed him by a spiritual attack to prolong our lives. Can you
imagine what my own children can say to our faces? It didn’t stop
there. Our daughters also blamed us for their inabilities to conceive
few years after their marriages.”
“How many children do you have?” “Four males and three
females.” She placed her thumb and index fingers on her eyes to stop
tears from dropping. “When I took in and bore them in labor, I wasn’t a
witch. When they suckled my breast for years until it flattened as my
palms and my nipples almost fell off, I wasn’t a witch.” Wonnieze
smile. “You needed to have seen me when I was much younger. Many
girls today are no equal to my beauty back then.” “Grandma you have
the height, so I can imagine.”
“When we nurtured and raised them up into adults having
nothing to call our own, we weren’t witches, but now that they can
stand on their own and look after their time-worn parents, we
suddenly became witches. Isn’t it sad, a mother can take care of
seven children, but seven children can’t take care of a mother?” She
dried her tears with her top, until it was soaked with tears. Wonnieze
washed his hands, comforted her with an embrace by her side and a
pat on her shoulder.
“They’re hardened in their hearts. My loneliness and difficulties
as an aged woman all these years mean nothing to them. Do you
know none of them attended or supported in the funeral service of
their father? It’s as if I have no child of my own. I have refused to
allow my grief kill me because I know if I drop dead today, it wouldn’t
be well with them. I’m still believing my grandchild is on the way into
my arms before I go to my grave.” “Aw. Mother’s love, can go so-o-o
deep.” “When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind.”
She said with a smile. Wonnieze stared at her like a man engrossed
by the good looks of a damsel.
He admired her sense of hope and willingness to forgive her
children even though they had shown no remorse. Thinking about the
loss of his father, he felt he owed his late father a favor of seeing to
the safety of his mother and to compensate his father’s life with a
grandchild. For this reason, Osobong twinkled more on his mind every
hour of the day.
What if she forgets about me, he thought without missing a
day? Somedays, he felt guilty he conceived her more times than he
thought about his mother. What if I plan a successful escape for my
mother and Osobong into this land, would I have succeeded on my
part as the Tyrannicide the Ekpeflu said I was? Or would that be
cutting me off from my root? Everything the chief priest and the elderly
woman told him pointed directly and indirectly to the mission of the
Tyrannicide, but he was unable to see how he was the one fitting into
the picture.
As a consequence, he gave into drinking heavily at night and
returning late, giving the old woman a pain in the neck having to open
the door for him when he returned. He formed a strange habit,
laughing more than was normal when he got high.
He would laugh over the old woman’s chastisements calculated
to correct. His unreasonable behaviors put the elderly woman into a
situation of talking and talking in the short period he was with her than
in the past six years she lived alone. She warned him of his
unbecoming attitude and threatened sending him away if he did not
curtail his drinking habits and late night keeping.
His co-operation to her warnings were erratic, but his generous
serviceability and mutual closeness with her made it difficult for her to
stand on her words. She ended up giving him a virgin space within her
compound to build a room for himself. After he completed his
structure, he lived in it, month after month unable to resolve within
himself what line of action to take.
Back home, his mother was going through high distressing
challenges in her life. Delvit confiscated her husband’s compound,
properties and lands, saying they belong to the clan – leaving her
stranded with nothing of her own. Out of sheer pity for the afflicted
woman, Osobong persuaded her mother to take her in the first day
she was evited from her house.

172
Since the death of her husband and the departure of her son
who became the most want in the clan, combined with the forceful
seizure of her husband properties, Adaret has since been on a panic
attack. She starved for days and refused to take her bath. She was
appalling to behold, her hair grew wild and twisted, her finger and toe
nails grew long and dirty and her clothes worn out. Nothing in life
interested her anymore and she could not be consoled to even take
care of her personal hygiene.
Osobong was at home most of the time watching over her. She
no longer could help her mother that much in house hold chores and
errands. A woman of high reputable standing in the clan was debased
into a look of a poor lunatic. Her intense sorrow and fears made her
forgetful and absent minded of happenings in her environment like
one developing a mental illness.
She could pay attention to you in a conversation and in no time
lose track of what you were saying and break into tears when you try
to remind her. Somedays, she mistook Osobong for her son and
asked her where she could find her husband. Osobong treated her
like a patient in the hands of a kind nurse. At nighttime she would
damp a piece of towel in warm water, wipe her skin and place another
towel on her fore-face to calm her shockwaves before persuading her
to have a bite for the day.
Esin took the advantage of Wonnieze’s absence and Osobong’s
refusal to set foot outside to visit her, but she would not honor his
visitations with her presence nor accept to talk with him. “My
daughter,” her mother said, “I’m afraid the way you’re ignoring elder
Esin would bring problems for you one day. Don’t forget he’s our
leader and we’re all his subjects.” She said, drawing her own ears. “I
know what he seeks, when it comes down to my affection, mama, I’m
no subject to his leadership.”
Osobong could not bear to see Adaret suffer for a jiffy from her
tragic memories. She sang and danced Wonnieze’s favorite songs
she was familiar with and told sweet tales and fables her husband
was famous for to her. Osobong’s obsession in caring for Adaret in
part was because, being around her jogged her memory of
Wonnieze’s unrepressed love for her while they were dating. Being
with her resembled a bit of a moment with him, she could hear his
voice in hers.
When thoughts of him gave ran chills on her spine, Osobong
took it as a signal he was in need and she could assuage his pain.
Each time she mulled over of him, she went and comforted Adaret, in
doing so, she was comforted herself and prayed, hoping both of them
will find him again. Four months went by, nothing was heard of him
neither was there a trace of where he was. Wonnieze’s absence for
that duration made her heart sick to the back teeth but she hid it from
Adaret. What was most frightening was her uncertainty whether he
was alive.
Her mother already told her to forget about him. “If you were so
important to him, he would’ve at least sent words to you. Who knows
what may have happened to him? He hasn’t even come to check on
his mother. How much more you?” “I know Wonnieze. Maybe he
hasn’t seen anyone he can trust to send words across, maybe he’s
alive but afraid to show himself in this land so that the Etobor does not
hold his mother ransom to catch him.”
She resolved within herself to go in search of him. When the
sun went down in the afternoon, she combed every interior corner of
the village, hoping they would meet themselves in secret places. But
for days, her efforts were fruitless and rose the suspicion of her
mother and Esin who came checking on her in the evening. She was
nowhere to be investigated neither did her mother know anything
about her outing. She was adamant and would not reveal to her
where she went every evening.
Her mother stopped her a few times, but there were days she
prowled like a cat stalking a rat and did not miss her target in her bid
to leave the house. She often went to that uncharted area in the thick
of the bush where Wonnieze once took her on a romantic thrill. The
experience she rehearsed in her mind, raised her anxiousness to see
him again. When hope sunk down in her heart and drilled tears from
her eyes, it teleported a sad message in the same minute to
Wonnieze’s subconscious mind. He began to sense when his mother
was sobbing for him which affected how he felt every day.
He regretted his daily drinking episodes, but every time his
mother and Osobong stroke a sensitive cord in him, he resorted to
drinking in the evening and if it happened during the day, he slept for
long hours. “I still have life in me. I’ll come for you though I don’t know
how, I promise.” He said, communing with them in his heart. One thing
that comforted him was that his mother was in the land of the living
and Osobong still had craving for him.

174
Esin took Osobong’s disinterestedness in him personal. How
can I keep failing to have Osobong by my side when that youngster is
away for good and forever? He sent for Wonnieze’s commandant. “I
want you to put an eye on her, track where she goes every eve and
tell me.” Esin said. “Wonnieze must have told her I was a traitor when
he was around. I would arrange boys to get the job done so she’s
clueless of who’s monitoring her.” “Whichever way, get it done. He
may be hiding around us and she goes to see him. I want him fetched
out from his hiding place, that animal needs be hung like his
thoughtless and toothless father too.”
One faithful morning, Osobong woke early before everyone else
and left the house dedicating the whole day to look for him. She wore
a red gown Wonnieze considered his favorite on her. She combed
every secret hideout of the village and went outskirt. Along the paths
she charted, she tore pieces of her cloth and left it where she trod with
intent that if she passed him without knowing, he would recognize the
pieces and get a hint of where she was.
By noon-day, she arrived at an eighteen feet rocky hill and by
the side of the hill was a shrine barricaded with red clothing. The track
on her path led to a destination away from the terrain of the hill.
Wonnieze is a lone wolf. He could be up there hiding and noting
everyone passing or trying to climb up, she thought.
She dared to pass by the shrine which was a restricted area,
bearing in mind it was a sacred ground and anyone defiling it could
suffer an untold incident. What’s unluckier than losing Wonnieze? She
took chances, looking behind and by her sides to see if she was under
surveillance, before proceeding to the hill. The hill had roots on them.
She pulled herself up with them but as she got towards the steep end
of the hill, her hands and legs wobbled in strain. Lacking the stamina
to pull upwards, she suspended high on the hill and attempted to
come down and regroup.
The attempt posed a threat of falling on the stony ground.
Contemplating what to do, a flying insect stunk her by the neck; she
held fast to the root for several seconds with the biting sensation
before another flying insect came buzzing on her ears. Losing grip on
the roots, she slipped and fell from the top of the hill.
Good enough for her, she had no idea an Osu, known in the
clan as an outcast saw when she passed through the shrine and
monitored her every move. He came handy as she fell onto his hands
and landed on his body. The Osu felt the most pain as they landed.
Osobong lay on top of his chest, she could not rise immediately
because her feet were numb. By the time she recovered from the fall,
they were surrounded by three men from her village whom she knew.
“Is this how cheap you’re? You prefer a leper to a ruler.” The
first person said. “This is what she does. She comes all the way here
to make love with this Osu on top this hill.” Another said. “The Etobor
must hear this.” “Is that a joke?” “This is no joke. We’ve caught you
red-handed today.” The first man said like he was raising an alarm.
“Red-handed meaning what? Why are you accusing me falsely?” She
asked retreating from them. “When we get back, you’ll explain your
action to the elders.” The second man said, the third person bonded
her hands with a cord and they brought her back to the village,
ignoring the Osu.
Reasons were, an Osu was seen as an inferior individual
compared to those they referred as sons of the soil. Their residence
where in the market and shrines where they were dedicated to
different deities whom they served. They were not permitted to have
any form of relationship with members of the clan, as such action
would contaminate the real born.
In social gathering, they were neither to have bodily contact
with the real born and were not to participate in social events as it
would spell doom to the clan. The real born could not marry an Osu
else, the stigma and curse going along with them would transfer to the
person and his family until death wiped them off the earth within a
year.
According to oral history of the clan, a particular large family
were stricken with a curse. It made them swell one after the other
without a cause. They died being unable to treat or control the
inflammation. A man, not inflicted took his family into the evil forest
and prayed to its deity, if his family did not suffer and die from the
curse, he and his children’s children will worship it. Hence, they were
preserved but treated with contempt as unclean things in the clan.
When Osobong was brought back to the village, the men did
not report her to Delvit. They took her to Esin’s compound. “Why do
you have the brains of a chicken?” Esin asked her. “It’s not your love
that I need. Why can’t you understand?” “I can’t understand how you
keep choosing a nobody over royalty and power.” Esin said, dazed
with amazement.

176
“My father taught me before he died. If you marry a monkey for
its wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains.” She said. “From
where have you the guts to talk to me in such manner?” He said,
sliding forward to the tip of his chair. The men who brought her stared
at him, waiting for an order to report and witness against her to Delvit.
“I give you three market days to rethink your foolish decision, except
you want ears to hear your awful action and wish to perish in exile.”
Esin said, waving his index finger at her face, he ordered the guards
to set her free. “If I don’t have her to myself, nobody will.” He said
when she left.
Wonnieze’s commandant came outside from Esin’s house
smiling. Osobong went home narrating her ordeal to her mother while
she was outside pealing dried melon. “You want me to go to an early
grave because of the stupidity of your heart,” she said, rising to grab
her but Osobong took to her heels and in the process, the melon on
the tray tripped from her mother’s hands to the ground.
“I warned you as my daughter but you wouldn’t listen. Now
you’re going to swear before the evil priest of the Etobor to bring
undying shame and calamity on us before the eyes of our people.”
She said squawking like a cheese flying across a river. “Mama but I’m
innocent. I never slept with the Osu. Elder Esin wants to set me up.”
“Who cares whether you’re innocent when your life is his hands.
Don’t you know when you’re sent out of this land as an outcast, he
can kill you by the way to cover his deeds?”
Adaret heard their conversation from inside the room where
she was convalescing from her mental and emotional wounds. What
again? Have I been cursed? What will I do if Osobong is no more?
Would her mother not blame me for the rest of her life? No. I wouldn’t
live to endure this curse anymore. If my daughter dies, I die and go to
rest with my husband. She thought with looks of self-despair.
Osobong was troubled and indoor for days. Esin did not pay
her visits, she took it as his determination to execute her if she did not
comply. Her mother doubled her worries with nagging on her ears.
“Your days are numbered!” Osobong visited Esin in his house,
pleading her innocence and begging in tears that he dropped the
charge. Esin in return, demanded she marries him. This was the bone
of their contention.
What kind of life would I live marrying a man who makes enemy
with Wonnieze – the love of my life? If I accept to die, for him to come
find my grave, would it make me happier in the afterlife? She gave no
direct answer to his proposal? Esin, seeing her struggles in making up
her mind, tried to please her with acts of understanding, giving her
three more market days. A day to the third market day, she visited him
again looking like a fowl standing on one foot.
“Osobong I love you. You’re the only girl in this village whose
eyes isn’t set upon my riches. Nobody will love me more than you do.
Accept me and tell me what I wouldn’t give up for a priceless jewel?”
He said, looking like one down to earth. Osobong remained
undecided, but it did please him she came visiting on her own accord.
Wonnieze’s commandant encouraged him to be easy-going with her,
there was a likelihood she would yield to his persuasion.
This continued for the next twelve market days. “Get out of my
sight! You’re a waste of my time.” Esin said to her and the following
day, he took the matter and reported it to Delvit. Throughout her
period of grace, she had sleepless nights. The tables turned on
Adaret, she became the nurse and Osobong the patient needing the
most care and attention.
“Your happiness is precious to my son. Marry elder Esin and
save your life.” Adaret told her before Esin reported her. “You’re not
getting it mama. There’s no happiness between me and elder Esin. If I
marry him, he takes my happiness and there’s no life without it.”
When she came home from Esin’s compound the last time, she
entered into the room where Adaret sat waiting for her return.
Osobong went to the edge of the wall and dropped like a loaded bag
of garri.
“My days are running out. The search will continue in the
unseen world. Mama, I’ve tried all I could.” She said and smiled
exposing only her top open teeth. Adaret rose and sat by her, taking
her hand to her navel. “My son’s heart beats.” “Have you seen him?”
Osobong asked, re-adjusting her sitting position to jump out of
excitement. “No, my sweet daughter. When we think of him and want
to see him so badly, his grief tightens my navel.” Her claim made
Osobong’s lips shudder. She knelt in front of her, pulled up Adaret’s
top and looked at her navel closely. Tears gathered in her eyes, they
were tears of joy picturing Wonnieze returning home.

178
She dropped a tear on Adaret’s navel. “My love, don’t let your
fears and your pains separate us. You told me love defeats all. Come
to us and together we shall live through the storms.” She said and
place her face on her navel sobbing, until she cried less. Adaret
stroked her head, “He hears you. He wants to comfort you with a
touch. My son will come for us and the gods of our land will see him
through.” “Ezensi.”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Six months passed since Wonnieze left the clan. The fortress
Delvit was erecting was close to a completion and his attitude as a
ruler and a prominent merchant was a daily topic of discussion among
members in the clan and beyond. He continued to rule over the
people with absolute power, applying some tact and diplomacy to
make his manipulative strategies subtler, disarming chances of
rebellion against his dominion as a result of the death of Chukudoh.
Never a time had a chief in the clan ruled his people with such
control, inspiring fear and obedience like Delvit. He made so much
wealth and acquired lots of foreign possessions monopolizing the
trade in the coastal area from the Portuguese and British merchandize
who sailed through the port with their gigantic vessels. Silencing the
resentments of the people in the clan who he owed monetary
belongings was not a difficult challenge for him. He manipulated them
as though they were children yet to come into terms of understanding.
Many villagers read into the selfish and secret agendas of the
chief and his elders, how it robbed them of their social and economic
privileges but they were not articulate or they were too afraid to voice
out for fear of being victimized by the chief. Delvit fought more wars
with his people, conquering lands and territories, people and their
possessions.
Chiefs in the neighboring territories and kingdoms in their power
and control were no match to his sovereignty and economic status.
Chiefs and rulers across the clan paid tribute to him with slaves,
lands, goods and chattels periodically and voluntarily. His personality
stroke fear greater than any shrine did when he was at proximity or
involved in any matter of concern.
His successes in wars were in part because, he had thousands
of trained slaves in his military. He compelled them to fight with local
and imported weapons he amassed in transacting business with the
western men. These men found it easier and safer purchasing slaves
from rulers like Delvit in exchange for rifles than slave raiding
because, they met with stiff resistance in certain areas that cost some
of their lives in direct confrontations.

180
Many clans and communities in need of defending their
territories and fighting wars, could not reject the offer of buying rifles
and horses from them in exchange of condemned slaves they referred
to as criminals, prisoners of war and debtors. The introduction of rifles
into African military for inter-tribal wars was a core factor that
supported the apprehension of slaves to the Americas, ranging over
thirteen million in four centuries through the Transatlantic slave trade
to work in sugar, cotton and coffee plantations. Forty-eight percent
were taken to the Caribbean, forty percent to Brazil and only five
percent was taken and sold in North America, very much the same
way farmhouse animals are examined for auction.
Inter-tribal wars fought with local weapons like bow and arrows
in West Africa, triggered casualties and death in tens and hundreds,
but with the use of imported fire-arms, thousands of lives were wasted
in carnage. The dispersion of people from their native lands across
the Atlantic depopulated Africa of their abled bodied men rapidly,
making it defenseless to future colonist conquest and imperialism.
This created such an undesirable impart in Africa that has made
it nearly impossible for it to develop beyond a limit. Though the Arab
slave trading and slaving in Africa was mainly domestic, it was a
violation against the dignity of a human being. Still, it did not lead to
the downfall of African kingdoms and Empires apart from a region of
Tanzania referred to as Zanzibar.
Both the Moslem Arabs in North Africa and Western Europe
brought tyranny on each other by kidnapping their people for slave
trade and into slavery along the coast areas beginning from the
fifteenth century. The Europeans sought out slaves in West Africa
while the Arabs targeted women in East Africa, raided slaves in
Portugal, England, Italy, Spain, Iceland and other countries in Europe
at their unguarded beaches and remote villages at night. They also
extended their raids into Western Asia and in some areas in North
Africa as did the Europeans on their fellow Europeans who were
called the Viking thralls.
Most of the slave kidnapped in Europe were Christians. Names
of these Christians who got missing were read out in their respective
churches. Their families mourned for them in what often appeared as
a funeral service because they hardly ever returned. The fear of being
captured drove an enormous number of Europeans from their sea
sides into hiding. Moslem raiders also enslaved around seven
hundred Americans along their coast while they sailed across the
deep between 1785 and 1815.
Exportation of material goods at the time were the lifeblood
economy of these countries. The Moslem Arabs depended heavily in
attacking their ships and making do with their cargoes, crews and
passengers to boost their economy in the Barbary Coast of North
Africa which included Algeria, modern-day Morocco, Tunisia and
Western Libya.
The people captured were sold as slaves in the above Barbary
States or were held at high ransom to families and friends who could
negotiate their releases. These Moslem pirates who traveled on the
Mediterranean Sea, stole thousands of ships along with their sailors
across to Africa where they were auctioned in slave markets like in
Ceuta and Morocco which was the largest in North Africa.
European slaves were taken as laborers in mines, construction
companies, and were forced to row the galley oars while chained to
their seats and whipped on their bare bodies by the Moslem Arabs to
propel their galleys at the speed they wanted when the wind was not
favorable to their sail. Many of the white slaves were made to paddle
the Arab’s galleys for years without setting foot on the shores. The
female slaves were used for household chores and subjected to
sexual slavery especially if they had good looks and that included
male slaves.
Many historians agree that about a million or more European
Christians were taken slaves to North Africa before the 19 th century.
The Barbary States posed a big threat to Europe and America to the
extent that they paid tributes to Northern countries in Africa as a way
to persuade them from attacking their merchant ships in the
Mediterranean and Atlantic. While Moslem countries in Africa seized a
multitude of Europeans as slaves, some countries in Europe turned to
West Africa to exploit the manpower of their men in colonies they
created in America.
Traditional leaders like Delvit were parochial to foresee the
consequences of their ill-gotten wealth. They had no idea of the cold-
hearted treatment these slaves were subjected into in their various
exoduses to the vessels they were shoved into and their heart-
rendering experiences after they arrived at their destinations. More
than fifteen percent of them did not reach their destination alive.

182
Slaves caught in the interiors of Africa were made to match on
foot in coffles as long as one hundred miles and sometimes over a
thousand miles to the coast. One of the most distressing part of this
incidence was the separation of people from family ties, communities,
religions, cultures and friends, never to meet again. One out of four
slaves died because they were physically and emotionally exhausted
along the way. Before loading them into the vessel, their hairs were
shaved to avoid fleas.
The male slaves were made to lie on a wooden floor chained in
twos or threes within a maximum space of four-square feet below a
ceiling of about four and a half feet tall, sometimes shorter, in the hot
and dark apartment below deck in infectious sanitary conditions. They
were cramped in this manner to maximize profit as more slaves meant
more money and labor when they arrived the New World.
Many developed dysentery and transmittable diseases like
measles and chick pox which devastated slaves and many died
having to live on their sweat, blood, urine and feces because they
were no plumbing facilities for their convenience. Many slaves died
awhile ago while chained to another captive who was alive without
knowing. More than a staggering number of one million slaves died
before arriving the ports of the Americas. Some slaves died because
of poor nutrition as their regular food was rice and beans and a piece
of salted meat sometimes.
The condition in the ship was so horrendous that many slaves
took to a starvation strike. To cut down on slaves dying as a result,
slaves were forced to eat by savage flogging with a whip – cat of nine
tails. It was designed to rip the flesh apart and the use of a speculum
oris, a brute scissor-like tool was used to force their jaws open, so a
plate of food could be passed through their throat. Male slaves were
brought to the top deck of the vessel to enjoy some ventilation for
some hours on days that the weather was favorable.
Olaudah Equiano, who was kidnapped from his village at home
along with his sister in Imo State, Nigeria, at the age of eleven, were
separated and sold to slave traders who took take them across the
Atlantic Ocean to Barbados, an island country in the Caribbean.
Ten years later, he bought his freedom from his savings and
became a writer and a famous member of the ‘Sons of Africa’ who
made crusades for abolition. He wrote his experience being taken
away on a slave ship. “I was soon put down under the decks, and
there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never
experienced in my life: so that with the loathsomeness of the stench
and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to
eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything. I now wished for the
last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white
men offered me edibles; and on my refusing to eat, one of them held
me fast by the hands, and laid me across, I think the windlass, and
tied my feet, while the other flogged me severely.”
Above deck, they were made to exercise their bodies that were
literarily hard-boiled by the infectious heat below the ship and
because of the liberty they lacked in moving their bodies freely. Their
backs and the sides of their hands wore out as their skins rubbed on
the wooden floor and as their legs cuffs and handcuffs drilled into their
flesh, making any form of body movement more painful. They were
also forced to dance and sing to entertain the crew members who
treated their wounds to make them marketable when they arrived the
ports of the Caribbean and Brazil.
Female slaves were kept above deck usually without shackles
while children were allowed to walk around the ship, but the women
were abused sexually and impregnated by the ship’s captains and
other officers, many of them bearing children of their assaulters upon
their arrival. Slaves who could not bear the separation from their loved
ones and the hostility of some crew members, jumped above deck
and died believing in their watery grave, their spirits would return back
to their native lands.
Because of the awful state of slave ships, crew members did not
like to work in them, but they did not have a choice, given that many
of them were ex-convicts who found it difficult to find paid jobs. Slaves
and crew members were often rated the same. Most of them could
neither read nor write. Sometimes, slaves were treated with more
preference because of the monetary gains they could make from
them. The crew also faced the peril of slave insurrection, though there
was hardly any instance that the slaves did prevail. The ship captain
whipped the crew at will whenever their services in the ship were not
satisfactory.

184
The unsanitary conditions of the ship infected many of the
sailors with gastroenteritis, influenza, scurvy and some tropical
diseases like yellow fever and cholera which they had no immunity
and cure for at that time. The crew were much smaller in numbers
compared to the slaves confined in the ship, but up to twenty percent
of the crew died before arriving their home seaports. Their wives and
children, many who were dependent on them were left stranded to
weep for their demise without compensation from the ship’s captain.
Diseases on a slave ship was rampant, affecting both the slaves
and the crew. But because slaves were taken for cargoes, crew
members in a British slave ship that went by the name Zong, met and
initiated an idea of killing sick and dying slaves by drowning to control
the spread of diseases in the vessel. The ship left modern-day Ghana
on the 18th of August 1781, with 442 slaves on board when it ought to
have carried about a hundred and eighty of them.
Slaves were covered by insurance if they died by drowning, not
by injuries, negligence and sicknesses. The ship captain, Luke
Collingwood conceded to the plan because he mistakenly navigated
the ship and passed their destination in Jamaica along the Caribbean
three-hundred miles away, spending extra three weeks on the Atlantic
when they ran dangerously short of fresh water to survive on.
On 29th November through 1st of December, 1781, the crew
threw more than a hundred and thirty-one slaves overboard through
the cabin window. The slaves shook as leaves at the sight of their
fellow captives forced to drown in the deep. They pleaded to be
starved of food and water to death rather than being thrust out of the
ship. Their suggestion of dying that way was not going to protect the
captain from financial losses, so they went ahead and drowned as
many slaves as they choose.
When the Zong owners of the ship from Liverpool sued the
Insurance company to compensate them for their lost slaves on the
premise that it was legal to terminate a slave’s life to protect the
health and lives of other slaves and sailors as they would to a sick
animal in a poultry.
The Lord Mansfield’s Court of King’s Bench in London
eventually agreed to it following the appeal of solicitor general John
Lee: “What is this claim that human people have been thrown
overboard? This is a case of chattels and goods. Blacks are goods
and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honorable
men of murder. They acted out of necessity and in the most
appropriate manner for the cause…The case is the same as if wood
had been thrown overboard.”
When Equiano heard this tragedy of slaves in the Zong slave
ship and the judgement passed on the Zong owners and the crew, he
met and informed Granville Sharp who was the first English anti-
slavery activist. He made publicity of the brutality of the Zong crew
members to prove that other slave ships across the middle passage
were facing such catastrophe and that the men responsible for this act
of massacre should be prosecuted. The men were not prosecuted
after all, however, it stirred various active movements against slave
trade.
Africans slaves saw the western men as cannibals hunting
human flesh for sale as they were treated with cold-heartedness.
Equiano narrated his experience when he arrived a port of the
Caribbean not knowing what to expect. “We thought by this we should
be eaten by these ugly men, as they appeared to us; and, when soon
after we were all put down under the deck again, there was so much
dread and trembling among us, and nothing but bittern cries to be
heard all the nights from this apprehensions, insomuch at last the
white people got some old slaves from the land to pacify us. They told
us we were not to be eaten, but to work, and were soon to go on land,
where we should see many of our country people. This report eased
us much; and such enough, soon after we landed, there came to us
Africans of all languages. We were conducted immediately to the
merchant’s yard, where we were all pent up together like so many
sheep in a fold, without regards to sex and age.”
Upon the arrival of the slaves in the Americas, they were again
shaved of their hairs, washed, treated of their wounds and oiled with
palm oil to look radiant. Slaves were given healthier food in small
quantities to revive their health and stamina for a life of slavery that
awaited them shortly. They were held in ‘seasoning camps’ where
they received orientations on how to be a good slave.
The orientation was a form of conditioning in breaking the spirit
of a slave to give total submission to their masters. They gave African
slaves Christian names or names with ancient Greece origin, teaching
them a new language, civilizations of the land and how to comport
themselves when their body parts, including their genitals are
examined for a price.

186
Some slaves who objected their new names where tied and
flogged until the answered to it. They were also branded with a piece
of hot iron on their backs to prove slavers ownership on them even
though they had been branded by their enslavers before living Africa.
Few days before they were sold, families, relatives and bonded
relations that manage to survive the horrendous voyage were
separated again and sold directly to plantation owners and to
wholesalers who bought slaves at auction prices to resell them at
higher prices. These practices were the ‘seasoning’ treatment of
breaking the will and power of a slave who was to live his life
dominated by his masters.
Life outside the slave ships did not get any better for many
slaves. Many committed suicides and over the years, five million
slaves died of dysentery, the number one killer in these camps. The
death rate of slaves in Brazil and in the Caribbean were so high that
female slaves, giving birth to a generation of slaves could not replace
the mortality rate without capturing more slaves from Africa.
Delvit also traded slaves with the Arabs in the North. He traded
girls and women as domestic workers and sex slaves or concubines.
He also married three Arabian light skin girls from Mecca. The male
slaves he sold to them were used in Moroccan Sultan for military
services either as soldiers or servants.
Christians who bought slaves used the Bible as a backing to
justify that Africans were destined as slaves from Genesis 9:18-27,
implying that Ham, whose son Canaan, was cursed to become ‘a
servant of servant…unto his brethren’ together with his father,
populated Egypt and Africa as a whole. This theory gave a moral
position for the dehumanization of African slaves to whom they were
sold. This was in contrast to the form of slavery practised in Africa
centuries before the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch
and the Spanish merchants and explorers arrived Africa’s coastal
areas.
The diaspora of slaves within and outside the continent through
the Transatlantic and the Sub-Saharan slave trades were both
gruesome. Higher percentage of death took place along the Sub-
Saharan desert as it lasted for more than ten centuries compared to
the Transatlantic slave trade that lasted for about four hundred years.
Slaves matched through the Sahara Desert to the Swahili coast, and
some sailed across the Red sea and the Indian ocean to places like
China, Turkey, India and Saudi Arabia, taking more than ten million
Africans through these routes.
Many of the slaves died of thirst and strain of the journey.
Instances of slaves drinking their urines to survive were common, still,
many died of thirst. A British explorer that goes by the name, Henry
Hamilton Johnston said. “Many slaves would be able to just reach the
drinking place and would sink down and die before the water reached
their lips.” Thousands of human bones and remains still lie across the
desert as evidences of their extreme sufferings as early as the
seventh century. The duration it took the Arab slaves to cut across
their destination was as long as it took the Transatlantic slaves to
reach the Americas.
Arab slavers castrated their male slaves to watch and protect
the wives and concubines of the Muslim men in the Middle East. The
operation was careless and rough which accounted for the high
mortality of slaves. Ten percent of them survived due to infections and
uncontrolled bleeding. This inhumane treatment revealed the value
they placed on male slaves over the female counterparts.
The westerners readily bought and captured male slaves than
they went for female slaves. The ratio of buying slaves by the Arabs
were three to one while the westerners were approximately two to one
slave. Their interest varied because, the western world needed
manpower in cultivating fertile lands to boost their economic
production in massive scale.
In the Arab world, farming was not of great importance because
they had limited fertile soil for planting. Male slaves were employed
into military and civil services, building, mining, transportation
businesses and as eunuchs in the harems of the Muslims. The future
of these slaves in the respective continents were determined by the
purpose they were captured or bought and how they were viewed.
In the Americas, Africans as of that time were not seen as
human beings by their slavers. Slaves were deprived of fundamental
rights making a person human. In the fairest term possible, they were
seen as sub humans who were socially dead, incapable of intellectual
and emotional cleverness to think and act for themselves except when
directed and acted upon.
Yet, it was strongly discouraged to teach a slave how to read
and write, doing so was a sure means of making them both equal.
Slaves were seen as properties of their masters. They were branded
and their ears cut to show ownership before the horrendous voyage to
the Americas. Because of the harshness in the treatment of these
slaves, life expectancy for an average African slave in the Brazil sugar
plantation for example, was twenty-three years. They were worked to
death in their respective plantations under a whip.

188
Many even died within a year of arrival. Slaves were often
worked from dawn to dusk in the fields and factories with little rest,
poor accommodation, clothing and feeding. It was not uncommon to
find pregnant and breastfeeding mothers forced to follow the
assiduous daily routine of a slave agenda. They were not spared from
lashes of a whip from their master’s overseers when their services
came short of expectation. Slaves were tied to a tree and whipped on
their backs without clothing until it peeled off their top skin, leaving
permanent scars. While tied to a tree, lime juice, salt, pepper and
other prickly substances were smeared on their backs to intensify the
pains.
Slaves who attempted running away from their ill-fate but were
caught, suffered the most inhumane treatments. Runaway slaves
were worn a metal albatross or collar weighing between 6.0kg to
12.0kg on their necks, with three thick spikes of about 24 inches long
attached to it. It made it impossible for them to escape through the
woods without get hooked or slowed downed.
If a slave fell with it, he risked breaking his neck. He could not
sleep with it except he lay on a log of wood on his back, but sleeping
and turning freely was restricted. A slave with an albatross was forced
to work just as much and effectively as other slaves in the plantations.
Putting on such a collar for an hour could sprain your neck and
shoulder for two days. Yet, many slaves were forced to wear it night
and day on hard labor for months.
Not all slave masters were inherently cruel to their slaves and
there were many USA and European citizens who did not support the
act of slavery and slave trade. Some masters allotted a small piece of
land for their slaves to grew vegetables for their consumption, clothed
them, provided them a seemly fair working condition to truncate
chances of insurrection by slaves, food poisoning, deliberate
damages to properties and harvests of masters by provoked slaves,
running away and acting dumb in carrying out instructions as was
characteristic of abused slaves.
Such misdeeds did not go without a price. Body parts of slaves
such as arms, feet and private part were amputated with a knife or an
axe. Slaves were burnt to death on low flames. Lynching stubborn
slaves on a tree to serve as a warning to slaves revolting or
attempting to do so, was not a strange practice. It was illegal for
slaves to marry but even when they were permitted and had children,
their kids belonged to their masters as goods to further expand their
investments in different plantations. Some children were forced to
labor in the fields for their masters before they turned seven years.
Their work chores included tilling the earth for planting, watering the
fields and tending to animals.
Children of slaves scrambled for food put on racks used to feed
animals. Their foods were scanty and had low nutritional value which
often made them so sickly you could see the complete structure of
their rib cages, yet, they fought for those crumbs to stay alive. Wanton
masters flogged children to have sex and forced many into sex
slaves. Girls as little as twelve were impregnated and before they
exceeded their teen years, many had three to five children. They also
sold them at will to available buyers between North and South
America so that chances of slave families reuniting, would be slim or
impossible throughout a lifetime.
Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave wrote in her journal, “I can
remember the scene as if it were yesterday,” she reflected, recalling
her father’s last caress, “his wild straining of my mother to his bosom;
the solemn prayer to Heaven; the tears and sobs – the fearful anguish
of broken hearts.” After the separation from her husband, the hurting
memory of the experience remained with her long after she bought
her freedom and that of her son in St. Louis in 1860. “Stop your
nonsense…your husband isn’t the only slave to be sold.” Her slave
master who bought her said. It is hard to imagine the constant fear
and anxiety enslaved fathers and mothers including children lived
with, knowing they could be separated and sold with or without notice
at the slightest provocation of their masters who they served.
However, some masters freed their slaves to gain freedom after
a duration of time. Others were able to buy their freedom or were
ransomed with a fee from other freed slaves and families. About
319,599 slaves were liberated out of over two million black slaves
existing at a time in the United States. Some freed slaves had slaves
of their own. It’s been estimated that out of these millions of slaves,
3,776 free slaves owned slaves of their own.

190
Forty-two percent of these African or African-American slave
owners had one slave and some had so much as ten or more, many
of which were wives, husbands, children and other family relations.
The intent of reclaiming them was to protect and provide them paid
jobs however menial, to allow them enjoy some degree of
independence and liberty. This is not to say all freed slave owners
were humanitarian, some owned plantations, carpentry shops,
businesses, and used slaves to support their economic interests. But
these slave owners were not popular for notorious treatments on their
slaves as did the western slave masters.
African and American Indian slaves were not always passive
to the mistreatment they had to endure. Slaves revolted against their
overbearing masters occasionally, picking up arms and ending the
lives of their oppressors in hundreds. But slaves suffered dire
consequences for their actions when they were overpowered which
was the case in most instances. Slaves adopted subtler methods in
breaking out of their oppression. The most common of them was by
running away to freedom into Portuguese and Spanish colonies and
States where slavery was banned or into dense jungles to form a
community of fugitive slaves protected by their joint securities.
In these outlaw communities, they ran their own government,
religions, cultivated lands and shared cultural values without intrusion
from the Europeans. These communities were found in Spanish
Florida and Canada, some slaves left the United States altogether to
Mexico and Canada for the fear of being caught and returned to their
masters.
Slave owners feared to penetrate into these outlaw
communities because of the united force of the African and American
Indian slaves who had increased in the strength of their number.
Historians estimate that about a hundred thousand slaves escaped
successfully into this communities in spite of the traveling codes that
was passed to restrict slaves from leaving their environment without
their master’s authorization.
This explains in part, why we still have tangible African cultures
and traditions preserved in the Americas. An example is the Ekpe
society and masquerades that can be found in Cuba and Brazil,
playing ceremonial roles as it does in Nigeria today. African tales,
songs, juba dance – a group dance that involves stamping and patting
your feet, chest, cheek and legs in a strong rhythmic style still exist
there today. Afro-American beats, songs and spirituals have traces
from Africa. African music and rituals imbedded with codes inspired
hope and provided a sense of mental relief to slaves dealing with their
sufferings in foreign lands.
Among the Arabs, it was legal for them to capture slaves when
they were in a fight against enemies of their religion like Christianity or
those with a lineage, whose ancestors were traced to have
descended from a generation of slaves. But in Islamic laws, slaves
were protected and granted some entitlements. Slaves were
recognized as human beings and their teachings encouraged kind
treatment to slaves, granting them freedom was regarded as a virtue
worthy of praise.
Slaves had legal backing when they were mistreated and could
own properties of their own. But Arab slaves also suffered the heart-
rending experience of separating a child from his parents but not
under the age of seven. If an Arab Moslem impregnated a slave, that
child took after the status of his father which granted the child’s
mother some privileges a slave could not enjoy. It was legal for a
slave masters to have sex with their female slaves but they could not
force them into public sex to make money.
Slavery in the Moslem world was intended to be more like the
services of an indentured servant the Europeans practised in Europe,
than was the services of chattel slavery in America. But it was not
always the case with the Arab masters. At a time, slave trade and
slavery were the backbone to some economy of the Arab countries in
North Africa. Maximizing profit on the business required harsh and
extreme treatment on slaves such as the Quran condemned.
David Livingstone, a British Doctor and a pioneer Christian
missionary in East Africa, shared his experience of the Arab slave
trade. “We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body
and lying on the path. On lookers said an Arab who passed early that
morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her,
because she was unable to walk any longer. We passed by a woman
tied by the neck to a tree and dead…We came upon a man dead from
starvation…The strangest diseases I have seen in this country seems
to be broken heartedness, and it attacks free men who have been
captured and made slaves.”

192
Altogether, African slave trade and slavery in the different
continents was a great injustice to humanity and the demography of
Africa its generation yet unborn would suffer, many African traditional
leaders share in the blame. They took active participation in selling
their brothers and sisters from neighboring clans and towns through
conquest for personal gains that did not improve the economic
development and stability of the continent. Africans then, did not see
themselves as one people from a continent because of the diversities
of their cultures and languages. They placed importance on tribe
demarcation and anyone outside it, were more like an outsider than a
brother.
Leaders like Delvit convicted and sold his clan members into
slavery for misdemeanors he should have fined or punished as
customs outlined rather, he erected spacious slave ports where he
locked them up and sold them as stock commodities without
investigating what circumstances they would encounter in diaspora for
prices that were mere insults to their humanity. He taxed slave
merchants purchasing slaves from him, a market price for passing
bought slaves through his coast and also charged war taxes on lands
he conquered on the threat that he could pounce on them again.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Wonnieze could no longer allow self-doubts resist his urge to


return home and reunite with his mother and Osobong. Even if
Osobong is betrothed to another person he thought, I need to do
myself a favor of finding out myself. He had been hearing inaudible
voices ringing his name in his head, mimicking the voices of his
mother and Osobong in desperate situations. It happened to him often
when he was asleep and a few times even while awake.
“Call no more, tomorrow I come. If I live, I live, if I die, I die.” He
said, lying on a mat in his shieling he completed few months ago. He
came outside with a stool to gaze at the full moon. The urge to stroll
out for a drinking interlude dropped by half as the moon shone on his
body. He had been resisting his urge to drink palm wine in the past
three days.
He was afraid drinking might make him trivialize the call in his
head to come home. The call sounded more than a call to rescue, it
sparked a willingness in him to risk everything in his mission to rescue
and be rescued. Each breath he inhaled filled his lungs and heart with
courage occupying more space than his fears. He later went into the
hut of the elderly woman to tell her his intention. She was silent,
starring into his eyes and smiling, knowing he was not delusional
under the influence of palm wine. His body and breath were free from
the stench of alcohol.
“Why haven’t you gone out drinking today?” She asked. “I want
to be guided by my heart.” He said waving his hand like he was
rejecting a wine offer. She dropped her face to the ground and for
several minutes, neither of them said a word. When she lifted her
face, she blinked several times like his face was the sun facing her
directly, tears fenced her eyes. She cleared her throat of phlegm she
did not have earlier. Wonnieze’s eyes turned sore red like shreds of
dirt stocked inside.

194
He drew closer to her and leaned his head on her sagging
arms. Words were not forth coming; their emotions spoke words only
their hearts heard in silence. “Kneel in front of me and let me bless
you.” She said, spitting on her palms and placing them on his fore
head. “As light banishes darkness, so shall your star tear down every
opposition standing on your way to succeed. I bless you with divine
protection to cover you in your youth, no trick of the wicked shall have
power to tamper with your life.” She prayed. Wonnieze spent the
entire night chatting with her like it was his last. He never could tell. By
the break of the next morning, he left for Opezia Baitus unbridled by
his fears.
It took him the whole day to reach the outskirt of his clan, there
he camped and continued his journey into the clan the next day. He
bundled sticks together and made a broad nest with leaves to place
on his head. It covered part of his face as he set the bundled sticks on
it and headed to Mbahada’s compound, a village next to his. He
passed by people he knew but none recognized him and he greeted
no one on his way until he got into Mbahada’s compound.
He was at his backyard peeling a stick of sugar cane to chew
when Wonnieze passed by him without greeting. “Who’re you?” He
asked with contempt as Wonnieze passed and deposited his load on
top of Mbahada’s stacked firewood. Mbahada rose and walked to him.
Perceiving he was coming towards him and afraid he would call
people’s attention to him, he covered his face with the nest on his
head and stood by the door entrance.
“Wait there I said. Who’re you?” He asked, pointing his three-
inch knife at him. Wonnieze unmasked his face and stood still facing
him away from the sight of any other. “I said who…” Mbahada
swallowed the rest of his question, gazing at him as if he ran into a
ghost. His hand shivered as he held the knife with a loose grasp. He
walked a little closer to him, touching his body frame and his face,
“Wonnieze are you the one?” Wonnieze nodded, Mbahada led him
inside and shot the door behind.
That same morning, Mbahada and Wonnieze were not aware,
Osobong was brought to the palace to swear an oath before a priest
under an accusation of having sexual affair with an Osu. Tears
streamed down her face. Many people gathered around her as they
would for a thieve, to beat and shame. She could not so much as lift
her face up to the clamorous crowd. “We thought you were a virgin,
we wanted our daughters to walk in your step.
“Look at what you’ve done. Little did we know you’re low and a
hypocrite.” A mature woman told her, rebuking with a snap of her
fingers at her face. Behind her, was Osobong’s mother whom Adaret
crutched to the palace as though she was paralyzed. Acting like one
beside herself, most people believed the accusation was true and had
nothing to do with the interest of Esin over her daughter.
“Osobong have you seen what you’ve done to me? Can you
see what you’ve done to yourself? Why are you the stubborn fly that
will heed to no advice?” “Don’t you have faith in your daughter at all?”
Adaret asked like she disapproved her question. “Why wouldn’t you
say so? If it weren’t for your son, would we go through these
problems?” She said, exposing her teeth like an irate dog ready to
bite. Adaret kept quiet.
My son, where are you? If anything happens to Osobong, you’ll
lose me too, she said in her heart. “Osobong did you do it?” Ini asked
her while they were walking down to the palace. “I’m your friend.
Would you believe I can do a thing like that?” “If you can choose
Wonnieze over elder Esin, my sister, I don’t know what to believe.”
She said and shrugged.
“I’m more ashamed of myself to see something like this
happening to you. Everyone is pointing fingers at me, saying you’re
my friend.” Ngoffion said. Osobong stood before the priest in a shrine
within the premises of the palace, holding a plate of concoction, she
swore before Delvit, his council of elders and the people. “If I’m guilty
let me die a shameful death after the next New Yam Festival, but if I’m
guiltless of this charge, may the gods of our land avenge my
innocence.”
Esin giggled as she drank the bitter concoction from the plate. “I
hope you’ve put everything in place?” Delvit asked him. “Yes, your
Etobor. Everything is under control.” “That’s what I want to hear. I
don’t want her wondering around when I can make profit out of her.”
Delvit made arrangement to arrest her along the way and sell her to
the European slave traders, so the people would say the gods struck
her dead on her way because of her abominable deed.

196
Delvit’s men brought in a culprit and when they saw the person
tied and brought before the palace was Wonnieze, they chanted for
joy. It was as if he left on a war and returned as the only surviving
warrior in the battle field. Both young and old greeted and bowed
before him like they did to his father when he was living. He was
glass-eyed at the reception he received from them. The presence of
Delvit and his elders did not intimidate him even though he fell into
their hands. Osobong fell on her knees and joined her palms together
when her eyes came in contact with his. Adaret’s lifted her hands to
the heavens when she saw him.
Osobong’s mother wiped her tears and stuck her tongue out,
gazing at him like she saw the weirdest creature she had in her life.
Esin’s arms clenched like one suffering from spasm. Delvit rose from
his throne gnashing his teeth and his eyes pressured to bulge out
from its socket as he watched the excitement of the people at
Wonnieze’s return. “This people betray me.” He shrieked.
The drama in the palace reminded him of Chukudoh’s
commanding impart on the people; the very kind he saw Wonnieze
imposing before him which was the same reason, he executed his
father to discourage such magnitude of audacity from the people he
ruled. Though he was chief, he had not enjoyed such warmth and
reception in a long time.
He foamed in his mouth like a ravenous beast when he saw
four of his armed men whose arms and feet were fractured in what
must have been a fight as they limped into the premises of the palace.
Two others came in with bloodied faces and broken skulls. Wonnieze
was responsible for those casualties. “Look at how cold these people
are. What do they care about?” He said to Esin, pointing at them.
Delvit was not prepared to meet with this type of drama. The people
were noisy and out of control in a way showing no respect to him.
When he saw seven people among others cast pebbles at his
injured men, he ordered that Wonnieze be stripped of his clothing and
tied to a tree. He assigned two men to whip his bare back with long
cowhides taking turns together. Each stroke peeled his top skin and
shaded lines of blood all over his back until oil fat dripped. Wonnieze
groaned in pains, he could not support his body on his feet but he
shed no tear and refused pleading for pardon. “This criminal is
hardened.” Esin said to Delvit, stunned at his resilience.
An orange plucked off on its own in the palace and everyone
observed it because, the more lashes he received, the more silent
they were. The people twisted their bodies at every lash. Wonnieze
sweated like he was under rain. His sweat and blood mixing together
gave a sensation of bees’ bites all over his body. He panted like his
exhaustion will fail to hold back his spirit from exiting his body.
“No!” Adaret cried at every stroke of the whip. “The gods
rebuke you. You’ll not kill my only son as you killed my husband.” The
men kept lashing on him until he could react no more to his
excruciating pains and bartering. His mother backed the sight of the
brutality on her son and covered her ears from the deafening lashes
that hit her brains with sharp pains like a bad tooth ache.
Delvit signaled his men to retreat from flogging him and
enquired from them how he was caught. They reported they saw him
in his late father’s land Delvit confiscated and gave out for rice
cultivation. “We saw him with a machete chasing away the workmen
clearing the bushes for planting.” “How many were with him?” “He’s
the only one we saw.” “Continue.” “We tried to stop him but he would
not be stopped. This is what he did to our men.” An armed man said,
touching their individual casualties. “He would’ve been guilty of
murder if we hadn’t subdued him at last.” Another said. “The young
man is like his father. If we had many of his kind in this land, we
wouldn’t be dying in silence.” A person in the crowd said after listening
to the narration.
The story inspired the people’s empathy for Wonnieze in low
tones. The information that he was captured and tortured circulated
round the clan and increased the size the crowd by twenty percent
every hour. The space within the palace filled to the brim and
overflowed outside, many climbed trees to have a view of what was
transpiring. “What’s the meaning of this? I don’t call for a general
meeting in my palace.” Delvit said, looking like he was let down.
“None of us called for a meeting today.” Esin answered. The
more members of the clan turned up, the more uneasiness he felt.
Those coming were affected by the contagious emotions of those who
saw when Wonnieze was brought in and whipped with an inch to his
life.
Delvit wanted executing him at once but he worried about how
they would react, maybe they would swing from empathy to being
violent. He sent for Wonnieze’s commandant and ordered him to
organize his military to control the crowd. Wonnieze was still fastened
to the tree for several hours until it was passed noon-day, but the
scorching sun lacked the potency to dissolve the gathering.

198
Adaret and Osobong joined their hands and said silent prayers
for Wonnieze to stay alive. Delvit was not impressed with the turn out
of the assembled combatants as he anticipated. Thirty-five percent of
them took sides with Wonnieze and hid themselves amidst the crowd.
This included Wonnieze’s friends. “Your Etobor,” Esin called,
standing to his feet, “this wretched boy we’re punishing is still making
history like his father before we drooped him. If we simply kill him, it
will give us all a very bad name and cause an internal fight that will
disturb the peace of the clan and destroy all our investments.” Delvit
listened and closed his eyes to calm himself from making a quick
decision. “These people are stirring me to anger.” The chief said, like
he was begging to be ruthless. “Flogging him isn’t enough. This boy
has bewitched the people’s hearts with a spell. If we bore holes on
them, we can bury him in peace.” “Elder Esin, will you speak in plain
terms so we can understand you? As far as I’m concerned you
haven’t said anything.”
“You’re the Etobor and a warrior with no match. Fight this boy
and earn again, the respect of our people. Let them be reminded in
total submission, you’re the destined conqueror of our time.” The
council men nodded their heads to the idea. Delvit thought about it
and dropped his head. “You’ve made a point. In that way, I can earn
the respect and loyalty of the clan while their fantasy for him dies a
natural death in my hands.” He said giggling.
“Get me my garbs of war and let us begin.” He said to a guard.
Wonnieze was untied and made to stand on his feet. Delvit stepped in
with Esin at the rear. Osobong deep her palms into a mud pot behind
the palace and brought water to quench Wonnieze’s thirst. As he
placed his face on her palms to gulp it, Esin knocked her hands,
splashing the water on Wonnieze’s face. “Get out of here.” He said,
pointing out of the palace, but she went behind Adaret in the crowd.
Udokwu started clapping his hand at the tempo of a second, a
big part of the crowd joined him and a smaller group chanted for
Delvit, having to put up a scene with himself in the center. Wonnieze
was spent and every fit he made with his body irritated his wounds.
“How would you like to meet with your father?” Delvit asked, when
they came close facing each other. Wonnieze’s weary looks
straightened as memories of his father’s death by hanging popped up
in his head. Wonnieze took steps back and forward, raising his hands
in readiness for a fight. “Please stop this, my son can’t fight the
Etobor.” Adaret cried out to Delvit’s chief guard but he pushed her
away, she fell on Osobong.
“Mother can’t you see the hand writings of the gods? If they
weren’t with your son, the Etobor would’ve killed him like an insect
instead, he leaves his throne to fight him.” Osobong said, with fever in
her eyes. Delvit punched his face at the distraction of his Wonnieze’s
mother, leaving a print of his fist. Wonnieze’s feet wobbled a while
before he stood still. “Only a blow and your brains are shaking.” He
said. Wonnieze threw two punches targeting his face but Delvit barred
the first with his palm, dodged the second and wired a kick at
Wonnieze’s thigh, taking his both feet off the ground in a somersault
that landed him nearly on his head.
He sustained deep bruises on his kneecaps and shoulder
blade. The crowd kept clapping in the same pattern while the
assembled combatants leaped in the air at their chief’s shrewdness in
the fight. Adaret’s lungs closed when she saw her son fall so high and
rough on the ground like lightening thunder. She held unto her neck,
fearing he broke his. She breathed again when she saw him rise to
his feet, but the fall was so hard he fell to the ground the second time
on his own. The assembled combatants tittered at him as he rose
limping on his feet. “O-o-oh poor boy. Which of the bones did you
break?” Delvit teased him.
“None. You have to try harder.” He answered, like he
appreciated his concern. Wonnieze stood still like a motionless statue
with his hands by his sides. His eyes alone followed his moves. Delvit
skipped on the ground and lobbed a kick aiming at his neck,
Wonnieze ducked low and before Delvit balanced on both feet,
Wonnieze hopped like a frog and ran his knee on the back of his
neck, making a crackling sound on it.
The fight went backward and forward. The canny thing
Wonnieze did was focus his bone sandwich on his neck. Delvit lost
quickness in his defense and speed in his attacks. His elders rose to
their feet because their chief exuded weakness in the fight, he came
across as intimidated and took to his defense guards more times than
he launched attacks. Who would not if your neck did not cling tight on
your shoulders? The crowd clapped with a little more intensity.

200
They neither sheered for Wonnieze nor Delvit. They attached
little emotion to their clapping, but it did resonate a spiritual energy
that passed an unclouded eye on them. The villagers, both men,
women and children were affected by the vibration of their clapping as
they swayed like a tree facing a tempestuous wind. “Are you still
standing and watching me? Arrest this traitor.” Delvit bade five of his
hefty body guards who stood behind him. They came forward to arrest
Wonnieze but met with Chiekong, Edema and Obikan who backed
Wonnieze at the risk of their lives. They were not in their right-thinking
minds; it seemed their action was won over by the ritualized clapping.
“Go back my friends. This is my fight.” Wonnieze said, pointing
his palm at them. Delvit’s jaw dropped when he saw them resist his
order with no penitence. His elders were speechless and blank.
“Chase away these people! Crush any who stands to defend him and
arrest that traitor. He’s worthy of death.” Esin said to the assembled
combatants. They lifted their javelins, spears, lances and shields to
coerce the crowd out of the palace premises. High commotion arose.
Two elderly men, a child and a woman in the midst of the crowd fell to
the ground and were trampled upon to death while some were injured.
“Don’t let him get away. Bind him.” Delvit ordered Wonnieze’s
arrest including his friends who were surrounded by seventeen armed
men. “Get the rope out and prepare it for his throat.” He said to
another guard while massaging his neck. “What do we do with these
other men?” An armed man asked. “I’ll decide the price of their
rebellion after he’s hung.” In no time, a cord was brought out of the
palace and tied on the same tree Chukudoh was hung. They tied
Wonnieze’s hand behind and lifted him up as a log of wood on a stool,
the cord was placed on his neck. “Send my greeting to your father in
the clouds.” Delvit said to him with sinister smile and a sigh.
Wonnieze looked around in search of his mother and Osobong,
but did not find them. He closed his eyes and lowered his head. “Take
it off.” Delvit said to his executioner. As he proceeded to remove the
stool from his feet, a total eclipse of the sun took place, lasting for
over three minutes. Terror covered the face of the clan as the moon
passed behind the earth. The last time the people witnessed a lunar
eclipse was thirty-five years ago and when it occurred, they took it as
an omen of warning to reconcile their internal disputes, believing that
an eclipse was a fight between the sun and moon.
“My eyes. What’s happening to me?” Delvit said, soon after the
sun was restored. He could feel the bright ray shining on his face but
saw no one at all. The people rejoiced at the setting of the sun as an
indication of the spiritual intervention of their ancestors against the
violent rule of Delvit. “The gods be praised. Oluze have forbidden my
son to die in the manner of his father.” Adaret said, running to him
together with Osobong.
Osobong pushed the executioner guard to the ground. She
climbed the tree and untied the cord from it. Adaret supported her son,
brought him down and untied his hands. Osobong untied Chiekong,
Edema and Obikan. The blood running in the veins of the guards and
combatants dried up as they stood like electrocuted palm trees.
Delvit’s council of elders took off their feathered caps from their
heads after witnessing the eclipse and the sudden blindness of their
chief who was thrusting himself about seeking for help, yet no one
came close as though his blindness was contagious. Wonnieze, his
mother and Osobong interlocked themselves in a warm embrace.
“Mama, Osobong, don’t cry again. The gods are here with us.” He
said. Esin’s powers melted like ice laid before the sun when he
witnessed their re-union and took to heels out of the palace.
The chief priest who had been out of sight for a long time,
walked in with an empty calabash pointing at Delvit. His action meant
that he abused the powers and privileges bestowed upon him and
must face the capital punishment by committing suicide. He was guilty
of shedding unblemished bloods he could not restitute save by his life
blood.
The people pointed to the tree where he executed Chukudoh.
Chiekong bound him with cords, hung him and left his body dangling
on the tree long after he died. The chief priest requested for the neck
beads, wrist beads, staff of authority, crown and other chiefly apparels
from the palace. He called on Wonnieze to come forward. He moved
towards him like a hen from a depth of water with chills.
“Wise one, I came to my people as the Tyrannicide you
prophesied of me at my birth. The gods have seen me through and
I’m done. What’s this you’re about to do?” He asked, starring at the
long neck beads like they were cords brought to bind and lynch him.
“To grind down coming vultures in the future, you need permission.
Today let it be known, you have the permission of the people and of
Oluze.” The chief priest said and the people sung in unison in
acceptance to his mandate.

202
The combatants lowered their weapons and genuflected before
him. Wonnieze turned to his mother who was startled as he was. His
look sought for her personal approval. She wheeled her body to
Osobong like she had no opinion of hers. The words of her husband
flashed into her mind. “The cares of his people are rested upon his
shoulders and his backbone shall be the pillar upon which his people
shall lean.”
Her expression lightened and both nodded at him. Wonnieze
brought down his head and was crowned chief of the people.
Osobong’s mother folded her hands, buried her neck in between her
shoulders and dropped her face in shame. She wished she hid in a
corner to peep at all that took place. Wonnieze embraced his mother
and Osobong together, like he wanted hugging them forever.
“May the gods be with you as I leave and hope to return.”
Osobong said like an apology. “Would you marry me?” He asked. “Did
you hear the priest say I must leave on exile after drinking the portion.
How can I marry you?” “Did you commit the crime they said you did?”
“Who will believe me if I say I didn’t? We would know after the next
New Yam Festival.” She said.
He looked around, the priest was not present. Rather, he found an
attentive crowd engaging in their conversation with their minds and
expression.
He drew closer to her and held her by the shoulders, “marry
me. If you’re guilty perish before my eyes, but if you’re innocent, serve
with me side by side as queen of the land. Would you marry me?”
“What if I’m an Osu?” “Do you love me?” He asked and turned his
face from hers. “More than I did when you left the clan.”
Wonnieze looked at her with a stern look in silence. Her eyes
wondered at his face. “Me too, but I trust you more and I have no
question about your promise. Would you marry me?” His face
softened as he spoke. Silence creeped in and lingered long.
Wonnieze looked up, thinking how he will deal with a ‘no’ for an
answer. “I’ll marry you.” She said, nodding and a tear trickled from her
nose.
“Trust? Who does that?” Ini asked Ngoffion. “He who loves you,
loves you with your dirt.” “Ngoffion are you wishing you were the one
trusted this much?” “Ini do you have Osobong’s patience?” She
asked, offended by Ini’s question. They leaned on each other’s
shoulders and sobbed, saliva dripped from their mouths. Osobong’s
mother came and patted them on the back. Nine market days after,
Osobong and Wonnieze were wed in a grand style in the palace.
Ngoffion and Ini supervised all the cooking and guests who were
served, including relations and friends that turned up.
On the first night of attempting to make love while Osobong was
off her clothes, he found that her vulva was scarred but her clitoris
that hid in-between was intact. “You weren’t circumcised?” “They
couldn’t pin me down, that’s how I was wounded but I escaped.” She
said. “How come your friends said you were circumcised and your
mother allowed you to be uncircumcised?” “Why don’t we stop talking
right now?” Wonnieze untied his wrapper. “Where’s your extra skin?”
She asked like she gave it to him. “Didn’t you tell me you prefer a man
whose is cut?” “I don’t believe this. You need to go down first and let
me see if your skin will drop.” She said, lifting her eye brow.
Wonnieze shared his ordeal with her after he was chased out of
the clan. “I started drinking heavily after I lost my father, my mind was
never at rest, being parted from you and my mother as well. As if that
wasn’t enough, I went to the stream early one morning with a knife
while the weather was very cool. I sharpened it and cut off my extra
flesh.” “Oh no. How could you do that on your own? What if you lost
your life?” “I did it to focus on my pains, I was losing my mind because
of thinking too much.”
“Wonnieze I wouldn’t have forgiven you if you died. How did
you control your bleeding?” “I tied my penis with a tiny piece of cloth
above my wound and stayed under the icy water until I bled less.
When I came out of the stream, I wetted it with palm oil every day until
it healed this far.”
He went in between her legs. “Why are you so tight I can’t
enter?” “Be careful, it hurts. I haven’t been broken before.” “What a
night of surprise! Osobong, you’re a virgin?” He asked, touching her
hymen with a finger. “That’s why my mother didn’t force me. I also
promised her, if my husband to be, asked that I should be cut, why
wouldn’t I?” “No, I won’t. If you were faithfully uncircumcised, there’s
no need for circumcision.”
A day after, before Osobong woke in the morning, Wonnieze
with three of his armed guards took three live goats to Osobong’s
mother. “My Etobor,” she greeted with a bow, “have I done anything
wrong again?” “You have done one thing, to right everything wrong
you may have done before.” He said, but she could not come up with
anything right she had done of lately.
“I brought these animals to greet you for allowing my mother in
when she was driven out of my father’s house and because of your
daughter.” “My son,” she said, wringing her face, “you’ve paid my
daughter’s bride price in full to my kin’s men. You don’t need to do this
much again.” “My gratitude to you isn’t over, no price can substitute
the virginity of your daughter.” “A-a-are you talking about Osobong?”
“Yes.” “Was she still a virgin?” She held her nose and wept.

204
“Mama you shouldn’t cry, you should rejoice with me.” “I cry
because when she was accused of lying with an Osu, I believed it.
She refused to allow me inspect her vagina with an egg.” “That’s all in
the past. I know all you did was in her interest. I know Osobong is
naughty but that’s the part I like about her. If you didn’t oppose her, I
wouldn’t know how far she can reach down to the dept of her love for
me.”
After three market days, he threw another feast for his wife
declaring she was a virgin upon marrying her and showed off blood
stains on her cloth and bed sheet, the first night of having sex. The
feast he organized was virtually as big as his wedding with many in
attendance in honor to her and as evidence of her innocence against
her untrue charge.
The chief priest was present in the occasion. Wonnieze
requested him to perform a rite to blur the veil between his wife and
any spirit man interested in her. After the ritual was performed and
confirmed, he outlawed the circumcision of women in the clan. The
ritual done by the chief priest in blurring sexual relations across the
veil while Osobong was uncircumcised, justified Wonnieze’s
proclamation and was welcomed. Osobong persuaded Wonnieze to
take no vengeance on his oppressors including Esin and his former
commandant. “The evil that men do live with them.” She said.
Esin, Tonfia and Wonnieze’s former commandant did not turn
up to honor their marriage and feast ceremonies. Esin’s house
became his prison since Wonnieze was crowned chief. He lived in
terror not knowing what Wonnieze might dish out on him. Delvit’s
council of elders including Esin lost their pride and reputation built
around ill-gotten wealth which was not forth coming. They met with
the aggression and rebuke of angry clan members whose resources
they misused and because they could not maintain their lifestyle any
longer, their servants, wives and concubines absconded from them,
parting away with many of their properties and leaving them destitute.
A year after the feast, Esin developed red patches in many
parts of his body that did not itched him or felt sore when touched. He
chewed the bark, roots and leaves of Bauhinia Thonningii Schum
which they commonly referred to as ‘Abafe’ and applied them on his
patches but did not respond to treatment. His situation worsened as
his joints suffered deformities, his fingers and toes twisted and
shortened over time in a way that looked like his body was decaying,
yet he was insensitive to pain. He once stepped on a broken bottle but
did not know a piece stuck in his left foot, until that part of the area
swelled up and popped it out to the surface. The villagers concluded,
Oluze plagued him with leprosy. He was cast out of the land to live as
an Osu in the evil forest.
Tonfia had an infection in his eyes that swelled and itched non-
stop. It caused bumps under his skin and rashes all over his body and
over time he was unable to see at all. Before he died, he confessed
bearing false witness against Chukudoh. Within the same year, Esin
died of leprosy and was buried in the evil forest.
It did not take long for Wonnieze to re-organize the council of
elders after his installment. He called on the previous elders of late
Paterki to assume office with him. “Why are you asking for the
services of your fathers and grandfathers when you have friends of
like mind and strength?” Mbahada asked. “These are the words of my
father, ‘The youths may be stronger and faster but the elders know the
way.’ I need your second sight in fulfilling my duties in making this
land a better and safer place for us to enjoy.” Wonnieze suggested
Enenem and Udokwu to become members of the elder’s council
replacing Tabinoy and Tonfia. The elder consented. Three market
days later, a coronation to confirm them elders of the clan was done,
falling in the season of a New Yam Festival.
He dropped the high taxation charge Delvit instituted and
maintained the administration of levies they were accustomed to, but
he maintained tax charges from lands they conquered. He barred
members in the clan from hunting elephants and other gigantic
animals to pull out their tusk and teeth for sale to the European
traders, because it was leading to the extinction of those animals.

206
Forming alliance with clans, tribes, communities and other
regions they had had rivalries with, he spoke and reasoned with many
traditional rulers that the destiny of their people was interwoven –
pointing out many similarities that they shared in common and
together, they protected vast arches of lands and people living in the
interiors vulnerable to slave raiders, including endangered animals. In
1803, he captured a European slave trader with his raiding squad who
sneaked into a neighboring clan at night to abduct more slaves for
their voyage given his refusal to trade slaves with them.
Five days later, they promised to release all the men and women
including children they kept hostage whether they were from his clan
or not. He released them giving them a charge to take to England,
they would kill their men who encroached into their territory to raid
slaves, slave trade and covet their lands. “These white men aren’t
harmless doves! They’re knocking our heads with our fellow brothers
and taking us slaves to their countries because the problem with
some of our leaders is greed and we as a people are not united. Have
we asked ourselves why they don’t sell their own people, slaves to us
for what we can give? We need to look out for each other to survive
and prosper in our territory. When brothers fight to death, a stranger
inherits their property.” He told his clan members and several other
clans he contacted.
The following year, he wrote a letter to the king of Portugal
explaining how human trafficking and slave trade adversely affected
the demography of his clan and surrounding communities and
demanded he ended the criminal offence of depopulating his people.
Wonnieze arranged with his military and destroyed three large
European forts along coastal areas, where slaves from different tribes,
speaking different languages were harbored for the voyage across the
Atlantic. He charged Chiekong, Edema and Obikan to lead in these
attacks and counter-attacks.
He also met with several chiefs in different clans to discuss
strategies to resist slavers from invading their lands. “The problem is,
they have what we don’t – guns. We need it for our defense too.” A
chief told him. “What stops them from producing these weapons here
for us to buy? But they wouldn’t. I have wasted much of my time
discussing the idea with them, they only want to exchange us with
guns. It’s not worth it.” Wonnieze said. Hundreds of lives were claimed
in resisting the European slave traders with firearms, but the locals in
their lands were uninhibited in their defense and disarmed them of
their weapons a few times.
They avoided confronting them directly, but ambushed them in
areas where they trod. In vulnerable areas where raids frequently too
place, they allowed grasses to over grow there, six hundred and
seventy people of Opezia Baitus moved into the forest and others
made maze in an attempt to ensnare them in traps to terrorize them
out of their territories.

208
CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Slave trade and abduction was brought to a minimal level in the


clan and in many of the neighboring towns and communities through a
collaborative effort of traditional leaders. They also recorded some
unsuccessful attempt in guarding against slave raiders. Twenty-seven
members of Delvit’s nuclear and extended family members were
captured and loaded into different ship like sardines to North, South
and Central America. Wonnieze’s former commandant was injured
with two bullets that shattered his flesh on his shoulder and kneecap
in the cause of working as a team under the troop leadership of
Chiekong. By the time he was brought to the clan for proper
treatment, he lost volumes of blood and died at night.
There were reputable men and women, born citizens of Europe
and the Americas that did not only detest the slave trade of Africans,
but fought tirelessly to abolish the practice around the world. One of
such notable figures was William Wilberforce who was five feet and
three inches tall with a smart and trimmed body formation. He was a
British politician and a philanthropist who was born into a wealthy
merchant family in Kingston upon Hull as the only son of Robert
Wilberforce. He was an eloquent orator and at the age of twenty-one,
he was elected into Parliament. In his childhood years, he listened to
a sermon preached by John Newton in London, who in the future, was
going to be his senior mentor and friend.
The message prepared the sickly-sweet child with bad sight for a
Christian conversion in the forthcoming years. But when he returned
home to Hull, he was carried away by the fad of life; attending clubs,
gambling, including gambling in horse racing in which he had
particular interest on. At twenty-years, he became a fervent Christian
in public life and gave up his old life to champion many social reforms.
But paid greater attention to the fight against slave trade and
slavery with the persuasion of Thomas Clarkson and other persons in
a group of anti-slave-trade at the time slave trade and slavery was
treated with pettiness in the House of Common and in the House of
Lords. He once wrote in a journal entry in 1787 about his mission in
life, “God almighty has set before me two great objects, the
Suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of manner.”
In 1789, he presented a bill to stop the trade on human beings
but lost the debate by 163 votes to 88 but was not discouraged. He
introduced several others, yet his standpoint was not passed into law.
In the same year, on the 12th of May, he gave a lengthy Abolition
Speech in an authoritative tone in the House of Common:

“…I mean not to accuse anyone, but to take the shame upon
myself, in common, indeed, with the whole parliament of Great Britain,
for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried under their authority.
What should we suppose must naturally be the consequence of our
carrying on a slave trade with Africa with a country was in its extent,
not utterly barbarous, but civilized in a very small degree? Does
anyone suppose a slave trade would help their civilization? Does not
everyone see that a slave trade, carried around her coast, must carry
violence and desolation to her very centre?
What a striking view of the wretched state of Africa does the
tragedy of Calabar furnish! Two towns, formerly hostile, has settled
their differences and by intermarriage among their chiefs, had each
pledged themselves to peace; but the trade in slaves was prejudiced
by such pacifications, and it became, therefore, the policy of our
traders to renew the hostilities.
Having now disposed the first part of this subject, I must speak
of the transit of the slaves in the West Indies. So much misery
condensed in so little room, is more than the human imagination had
ever before conceived. I verily believe therefore, if the wretchedness
of anyone of the many hundred negroes stowed in each ship would be
brought before their view, and remained within the sight of the African
Merchants, that there is no one among them whose heart would bear
it.
Upon the whole, however, here is a mortality of about 50
percent and this among negroes who are not bought unless (as the
phrase is with cattle) they are sound in wind and limb. How then can
the House refuse its belief to the multiplied testimonies before the
Privy council, of the savage treatment of the negroes in the middle
passage? Nay, indeed, what need is there of any evidence? The
number of deaths speak for itself, and make all such enquiry
superfluous.

210
As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of a
slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so
irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was
completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and
carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it
might, let the consequence be what they would, I from this time
determined that I would never rest till I have effected its abolition.
I could not therefore, help, distrusting the arguments of those,
who insisting that the plundering of Africa was necessary for the
cultivation of the West-Indies. I could not believe that the same Being
who forbids rapines and bloodshed, had made rapine and bloodshed
necessary for the well-being of any part of his universe…Having
heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can
never again say that you did not know.”

We also had iconic characters who were of African origin. They


fought for the emancipation of slaves and for the promotion of African
civil rights in Europe and the Americas. Harriet Tubman was one of
them. She was born a slave in 1822 in Maryland county and worked
as a maid, a cook, a nurse and a woodcutter. Tubman was strong and
fit, and could do just about anything a man could in physical strength.
She had sad tales as a slave under her master. Her mistress’s son
sold three of her sisters to faraway plantations and was whipped
regularly; ridges and scars that survived decades afterwards on her
body testified of her torments.
One day, a heavy metal was thrust at her head for refusing to
restrain a runaway slave for his overseer. She fainted instantly and
ever since then, she experienced seizures, severe headaches and an
uncontrollable desire to sleep from time to time all through her life.
Consequently, she had frequent dreams and she took them as
revelations from God. At twenty-seven, she left her parents and
siblings and escaped from slavery to Philadelphia covering about
ninety miles undetected.
Most slaves would have been content having fled alone and
survived, instead, she risked her life returning to Maryland to rescue
her family members and other slaves in their cabin quarters at night
through hideouts and depots to guide runaways of all races and faiths
to freedom. Tubman adopted different strategies, sometimes she
disguised herself like a mad woman on rags or a pauper to spy on the
slaves and their masters at day, giving signals to slaves on the way to
escape through coded traditional songs. ‘Heaven’ for example meant
‘Canada’.
She went through thirteen missions to rescue about seventy
slaves at a time when people were paid and promised ransoms if they
caught her as the most wanted. Harriet conducted them through a link
of safe and trusted homes like the home of famous Fredrick Douglass,
a former African-American slave who later became a political
abolitionist and founded an abolitionist newspaper titled ‘The North
Star,’ published from the Talman Building in Rochester, New York. He
accommodated slaves and transferred them to multiple other homes
until they were safe and out of reach. She was so resolute in
delivering slaves that they called her ‘Moses’ of their time.
Working with a few American abolitionists like John Brown who
was born in Connecticut, a military abolitionist, popular for his raid on
slaveholders at Harpers Ferry in 1859, today known as West Virginia,
he planned launching a liberation movement for slaves that will touch
areas in Virginia and North Carolina by attacking the United States
Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Tubman supported the attempt
to destroy the establishment of slavery by violence and recruited
some slaves for the raid. Fredrick Douglass determined that the plan
will fail, withdrew from it. Tubman was determined to join him and
recruited some slaves for the attack, but took ill at the time of the hit. A
small band of men joined him in the revolt. John Brown succeeded in
seizing the armory, but ten of his men were killed including two of his
sons, himself injured and caught.
He was tried, declared guilty of treason and taken to the
gallows to be hung. Brown gave a piece of paper to his guard before
he was executed which read, “I John Brown, am now quite certain that
the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with
blood.” During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, a spy, an
armed scout and led the Combahee River Raid that freed seven-
hundred slaves in South Carolina. She once said, that she would have
freed thousand more slaves, only if they knew that they were slaves.
Some Free slaves like Ottobah Cugoano wrote a powerful book
on the, ‘Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of
the Human Species’. He was captured from the modern-day Ghana
and shipped to Grenada in the West Indies into slavery at thirteen
years to work on a Plantation. Kind enough for him, at fourteen, an
English merchant bought and took him to England where he was
taught to read and write. He was set free according to the ruling of the
Court of King’s Bench that did not support chattel slavery by the
common law in England.

212
He was the first published African critic that wrote against the
transatlantic slave trade and encouraged its abolition. In his work, he
wrote of an experience. “Every day I saw the most dreadful scenes of
misery and cruelty. My miserable companions were often cruelly
lashed, and as it were cut to pieces. I saw a slave receive twenty-four
lashes of the whip for being seen in church on a Sunday instead of
going to work.”
Cugoano argued that slavery was a criminal offence. “If any
man should buy another man and compel him to his service and
slavery without any agreement of that man to serve him, the enslaver
is a robber. It is as much the duty of a man who is robbed in that
manner to get out of the hands of his enslaver, as it is for any honest
community of men to get out of the hands of rogues and villains.”
In his book, he rebuked the practice of slavery as an improper
relationship with another human. “Is it not strange to think, that they
who ought to be considered as the most learned and civilized people
in the world, that they should carry on a traffic of the most barbarous
cruelty and injustice, and that many think slavery, robbery and murder
no crime?”
Several slaves who were freed and schooled, wrote and spoke
against slavery and slave trade to a wide extent that their message
went viral from country to country in the West. Some English men
sponsored their works and encouraged them to deliver speeches on
their circumstances, write stories of their lives as slaves in books,
newspapers, articles, public letters and journals to the public and to
prominent personalities in a bid to expose and suppress the ordeals of
poor and helpless Africans.
Because of the decline in trading slave, Wonnieze took to iron
molding and terracotta as additional source of generating revenue
apart from extensive farming. They heated rocks and melted iron from
it which they used in making more sophisticated weapons, plows,
cooking pots and other metal household tools. Using clay blocks, he
built furnaces for mining and firing clay structures, ceramics and
sculptures of human and animals., in part and in full images. The
human sculptures were made and decorated with intrinsic designs of
hair styles and dressing apparels on varied body postures and motion.
They made thousands of food bowls, funerary vases, flower pots and
cooking vessels, including brass casting.
Wonnieze contracted the youths with talent in sculpture making
into the art. The clan developed a reputation for it and many from near
and distant places came purchasing them. Merchants from Spain,
Portugal and Western Europe purchased them in good numbers and
many also got missing when they were not guarded jealously.
One morning, Wonnieze woke up to inspect the works he had at
his disposal and upon coming outside during the soft beam of the
morning sun, the first thing he saw was the tree his father was hung
on. It’s unfair my father raised me to become what I am and he did not
live to see it, he thought. “I hate these feelings.” He said to himself
and sent for three of his workmen to fall it. Where the tree stood, he
erected an elegant sculpture of his father and planted a beautiful
garden round about it. The sculpture personified his presence in the
palace.
When Wonnieze counselled the people over certain matters, he
stood in front of his father’s status and his impact on the people was
doubled. Many paid respects to it. They talked to it, talked about
Chukudoh’s honorable deeds and the memory of him they stimulated,
brought him to life in their minds. Wonnieze, his wife, their two
daughters and Adaret sat close to the status in the cool of an evening
for dinner from time to time.
In one of such evenings, Adaret sat in the garden alone,
fascinating over memories she shared with her husband until mid-
night. “Give to me a grandson to make a comeback stay of your
departure in my life and to your people while I live.” Wonnieze also
made an earth-ware of Tabinoy in the palace and the sculptures were
honored as ancestors of the land.
On 25th March, 1807, Osobong put to birth a baby boy. Adaret
was happy like a child with a new toy because her anticipation came
through. She planted Osobong’s placenta in her plantain farm,
believing it would blossom and yield better than any form of manure
applied to them. Before Osobong put to birth, Adaret had been
weaving tread into fabrics on her loom. “How are you sure it’s a baby
boy?” Wonnieze and his wife often asked. “I just know it.” Came her
answers.
She put to birth on the same day slave trade was abolished
throughout the British colonies. Several months passed by, slave
raiders did not threaten their security to take them captive. It became
clear to the locals in their respective clans and kingdoms, that the
English Parliament and the U.S Congress outlawed the importation of
slaves into their countries.
The House cheered for Wilberforce with a standing ovation for
promoting the abolition for eighteen years. The last debate that
eventually won the victory lasted for ten hours with a vote of 283 for to
16. Millions of Africans in West Africa celebrated the abolition. But
some African slave traders and rulers were disconcerted with the
news they took it as a great spoil on their business deals.

214
Secret slave trade continued on a scanty scale in Africa even
after the abolition, but the number of victims continued to drop. After
the Slave Trade Act 1807 was entered into the statute book of United
Kingdom, fines were levied on ship captains who kept smuggling in
slaves for sale. In the late 1600’s, slaves were cheap as three pounds
but rose to thirty pounds by the 1800s.
However, when these captains came across the United
Kingdom Royal Navy in the deep, they were charged one-hundred
pounds per slave in the ship. The losses on the captains who refused
giving up the trade was so frightening that they were instances a
captain would sink as many as two-hundred to four-hundreds of
slaves overboard to avoid those fines and their ship impounded.
Sharks swam close to many of these ships in their voyage, certain of
human flesh to feed on.
The Royal Naval also established the West African Squadron
to tour round the West African Coast to seize slave ships. They
apprehended about 1,600 slave ships and released 150,000 Africans
overseas. More than fifty African Leaders entered into agreement by
treaty not to sell slaves and actions were taken against some African
rulers who violated the treaty. The king of Lagos for example, was
dethroned in 1851 for refusing.
Some chiefs and African slave traders were tricked by the
Spaniards still smuggling slaves, believing they were boarding slave
ships across to the Americas on a visit or on a business trip. Little did
they know they would be captured, chained and taken slaves to Cuba
in the northern Caribbean. This increased the doubts Africans had on
the English men and repelled the interestedness in Africans trading
slaves with them any further.
Though slave trade was brought to a near non-existence in
West Africa, the Arabs continued the trade for years in East Africa
especially the in horn, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia
throughout the 18th century. The United States and Europe paid
tributes to the Arabs to persuade them from attacking their vessels,
enslaving their crew in ships and their people at coast areas.
But in the 19th century, both nations invested more in naval
warfare to fight the barbary pirates more seriously than they ever did
before. Britain and America frequently bombed Algiers – the capital of
Algeria, while France invaded Tunis, the capital of Tunisia in 1881
until they were forced to agree to the slave abolition. The Dey of
Algiers released around 3,000 Europeans slaves under their custody
and signed a treaty to stop enslaving the Europeans.
Wilberforce health failed him with what was thought to be
stress related. He wrote his last petition for the abolition of slavery to
the British Empire. Slavery in Europe and America continued legally
even though the trade on slaves ended 1807. The struggle against
slavery lasted for twenty-five years. The Abolition of Slavery bill was
passed in its third reading in the House of Commons and in the House
of Lords. 28th August, 1833, Slavery was abolished and three days
later, William Wilberforce crossed the great divide. By July 1865,
around 3.9 million slaves were freed in South America.
Wonnieze made peace talk with clans and communities his
people contended with and there was peace and stability in his reign
over Opezia Baitus year after year like they lived in a sanctuary.
He paid visits to the elderly woman who housed him when he
was a fugitive twice every year and spent three nights with her. “I
didn’t ask you to fill the drum with water.” Wonnieze said to his guard
while he was sitting on a bench with the elderly woman at the front
yard of her compound in the evening. “Your Etobor, I didn’t mean to
act against your wish. This clan know who you are. It is dishonorable
to fetch water for mama, we know you love her but we’re here at your
service.” The guard said like one harboring vexation at him for some
time.
Wonnieze stood up and went in. The guard was beside himself
for challenging him and as if that was not enough, he went behind the
woman. “Why are you acting like a child? Have you said anything
wrong? How I wish he could listen to somebody. But today, let me see
what he wants to do to you while I’m here.” The elderly woman said in
a jerking voice.
Wonnieze came out from the hut with a large basin, dressed
on an old apparel of a common villager. “Those whose palm-kernel
were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit,” Wonnieze said, placing
his hand on the shoulder of the concerned guard, “should not forget to
be humble.”
The guard squat where he stood speechless to comfort the old
woman who was in tears already. “Don’t cry nah! What can we do?”
“Let me cry dear. His love for me is my painkiller, what I don’t
understand is why the gods gave me a son that is not my blood?”
“He’s your son at heart, blood could not be any thicker.”

216
The information spread like a disease-causing mechanism in
her clan, that she was honored with visitations of a chief who did
household chores for her such as sweeping, tilling and watering her
garden, because she once accommodated and blessed him as a
stranger from a distant clan. Her children got to hear about it and were
intrigued that their mother’s blessing could transform a life from
nothing to a ruler in a foreign land.
Early one morning, her children came together and left to visit
her with yams, punches of plantain, kegs of palm oil and money. They
wanted to obtain forgiveness for their unsupported accusation of
labeling and treating both her and their late father as witches behind
their barrenness and death of their brother, so she would bless them
as well. When they got to her house, they found her lying straight, and
cold. The old woman passed away during the early hours of the
morning before they arrived.

THE END