TRIP OF A MEDIATOR
My Dear Mom,
I have seen your hand writing on the
wall. I have seen how you hated your beloved son, just for nothing sake. Each
time I notice the agony in you, I feel like taking the whole burden and setting
you free. My peers called me all sorts of mockery names, because I devoted my
youthful age to assisting you in domestic chores, yet you poisoned me to hate
my rib. To hate one who firmly glued to my life and I have stick to…
I could not continue with my
missive, following a knock on my door. I lived at Umuchikere Hill-view; the
home of the elite. “Come in,” I
responded. Chief Ozor-Eze, the eldest man in Umuezechi clan walked in. He wore
traditional attire with a red cap and walking stick on his right hand. He was a
tall black slim man, who is believed to be over a hundred and twenty years old.
Hardly would he visit anyone, not because he is hated or he hates, but simply a
man full of contentment. For this, his visit to any compound is believed to be
a blessing. Even at his age, many people in Umuezechi clan attested to the fact
that he climbs palm tree to tap wine and harvest palm fruit. Although, his
children would try to restrain him from extraneous energy sapping activities,
but he would rather rebuff their caution, calling them all sorts of names like
killers of tradition with white man mentality.
On sighting him, I got up, bending
forward, “Chief, good morning,” I
greeted. “Very fine morning Chuks, my son, how do-you-do?” he responded. “How do-you-do too?” I replied, as I hurriedly offered him a
cushion in which he sat on in warm relaxation. He kept his walking stick in
between his laps, placed his cap on his left knee, while he was sitting down. “Nnanyi
(our father,) how is your family? How is my mother, my siblings and the entire
people of Umuezechi clan? I hope everybody is fine?” I generously enquired. “They are all healthy and have extended
greetings to you, Chuks,” he replied. I
dashed into my room and presented him with a tray of garden eggs, alligator
pepper and water to seal the welcome.
Chief Ozor-Eze happily received the
tray. Observing that there was no kola nut fruit in the tray, he brought out
one from his pocket and added. In his usual elderly oratory, he went on and
blessed the kola nut. Although, we were in my parlor in the township, I
recollected with nostalgia, the element of worship, ancestral cultural
diplomacy and restoration as embedded have not ended. Having blessed the kola,
he split it into cords, dipped a cord into the alligator pepper and ate. He
stretched out his right hand and offered me one, while he returned the
remaining cords into his pocket, leaving the garden eggs.
“Chei! I have celebrated Christmas
with my eyes today. Is that how town looks like?” Chief echoed in astonishment,
while he curiously examined my parlor like a primitive man that he is.
“Everywhere is tidy. Both roads and houses are all glittering like gold. I feel
like sharing the same throne with God in heaven, even in your own house,
Chuks,” he pointed out satisfactorily, while I smiled simultaneously at his
pleasant gist. “Attractive buildings,” he
continued, “flowers and lights of different colours are all arranged along
the road sides and in…
Chief could not continue recounting
his experiences, following an interruption from a noisy door that linked my
kitchen and parlor. Chigorom Onyeabor emerged from the kitchen with a tray-pan,
containing a cup of tea, ‘akara’ the native cake, fried egg, plantain and
bread. She placed the tray on the dine table, turned to Chief and greeted,
“Good morning, sir.” “Morning, my daughter,” he answered. And to me, she said, “Here is your breakfast,” “Get
another one for our visitor,” I ordered,
as she was leaving the sitting room.
Chief never knew that I lived with
Chigorom Onyeabor. As it was common among the elders of Umuedem community, Chief
became curious about Chigorom’s identity. No elder in Umuedem community had ever
condoled to any form of relationship that warranted living together, between
their children and their opposite sex, if they were not closely related. “Who
is this girl, Chuks?” he enquired. “She
is my house help; the daughter of late ‘Mazi’ Onyeabor,” I answered. Chief marveled. “You mean she is the daughter of Mazi
Onyeabor, the great smith of our time? I don’t believe this. See how you
nurtured this child to become great among her peers. She even speaks English like
‘oyibo’ (Englishwoman) itself.” He
immediately halted discussing Chigorom on her approaching footsteps to the
Chigorom appeared in the sitting
room with another tray, containing a bottle of wine, and a glass cup. “Please
my daughter, come,” Chief requested. Chigorom
drew closer, kept the tray on the side stool close to him. “Please, take this
while I prepare your breakfast,” she said
to Chief Ozor-Eze. Chief continued to appreciate her look, “Your uncle is
taking very good care of you. I thank God oo! Just take a look at yourself and
tell me who you are.” In a shy manner, Chigorom smiled and scanned herself. “From
your head to your toe is oyibo,” Ha! Ha!
Ha! Chief laughed, pointing at the paintings on her lips and toes. “Oga’, please let me be,” as Chigorom got irritated at the
overwhelming admiration of Chief Ozor-Eze. “I am not ‘oga’. I am Chief Ozor-Eze 1 of Umuezechi clan. The only Chief ever
elected since the history and introduction of chieftaincy title in Umuezechi
clan,” he warned politely. Chigorom did not tarry to withdraw her statement and
rendered apology. “Sorry Chief for ignorantly underrating your title,” she
pleaded before leaving the sitting room.
“Mm… Mm…” I cleared my throat,
ready to speak while Chief was still at table. “Chief, I have never seen you in
my house not until today that you appeared like a spirit. I hope all is well?” I meticulously enquire. “There is
nothing to tremble about my visit,” he
assured, “I heard the tribulation that befell you about eight market days
ago. It was the irritable stories I heard concerning the attitude of your
mother – Oyinkwo Chukwuma and her children towards your marriage proposal that
triggered out my unexpected visit this morning,” he paused, sipping some wine from a glass cup. “Chuks,” he said to me, “So, this is the city
men’s palm wine? You would have offered me ‘ogwu
iba’ and call it English wine. Well, you must have heard that I suffered
malaria last ‘eke’ market day,” he playfully said, as he frowned at the
cruel taste of the wine.
‘Ogwu iba’ is a native Igbo
traditional herb, used to treat malaria fever. “Chief, I offered you this, not
because, I do not know the type of wine you cherish most, but because, we
hardly see palm wine here in the city. Please, manage it,” I persuaded. “Don’t mind my wagging tongue, Chuks. It’s all joke,” he said, as he retreated to his previous
topic of discussion.
“Chuks, my ears are filled up with
gossips and pitiable stories from eye witnesses and rumormongers, hence I
decided coming to hear from the horse’s mouth,” he paused again, picked up the cup of wine, sipped, and returned
the cup were it was.
“Oyinkwo has ostracized herself
among Umuezechi clan,” he resumed,
“She alleged that we – the members of Umuezechi clan motivated you to marry a
demonic woman. Please tell me, my son, to know how to address this issue before
it gets out of hand. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine,” he idiomatically concluded.
I had a deep breath, hm… ready to
feed Chief back with the painful story. “It was a traumatic experience, Chief,
but whatever temptation that befalls a man is his equivalent. A man can not
only be identified by his erected manhood, surrounded by hair, neither shall he
be identified only by his performances in the war front nor by wrestling with
winds and spirits, and bringing victory to his community, hence I have seen the
new face of a man. All you have heard from people were all rumors, but now, I
will expose the facts of what happened to your listening pleasure and
Chief picked up the cup and drank
again. He kept the cup back, relocated his red cap on the arm of the cushion and
rested his right leg on the left leg. “Please go ahead, Chuks. Don’t hide
anything from me. I am your father today since your father is no longer alive.
Our forefathers say that a problem
shared is half solved,” he persuaded.
THE DAY DREAM
It happened in summer, the season of
yam harvest in Umuedem community. I sat under a cashew tree near our compound, along
the path leading to the community farm. There, I sighted a pretty hot stuff
damsel, carrying a huge basket full of yams, sweating profusely as if she was
caught in the rain. On reaching near the cashew tree, she greeted, “Good
afternoon, sir.” I was pleased with her greetings and reciprocated immediately.
In a polite and mild tone, she said, “May I rest with you here?” I was deeply
touched, seeing a lady coming back from farm with a heavy load on her head,
under a harsh weather. “You must be a
good girl, well nurtured from a decent home,” I said while assisting her to lower down her load to the ground.
Reacting to my comment, she asked,
“How do you mean, sir.” “The answer is simple, if only you could answer these
questions. First and foremost, may I know your name?” I asked. “I am Ezigbonwa
Onyekwere, though, most people call me Ezigbo,” she answered. “Excellent!” I
echoed, “I said it!” I continued, “Ezigbonwa
in Igbo community means ‘good child,’
and I have never known you before calling you ‘good girl.’ Now, my second question is from which village are you
and who did you accompanied to the farm?”
“I am a native of Umuedem Obinagu
village. I went to the farm alone and did the harvest,” she replied. “My goodness! Can you just see how I spoke like a
soothsayer? All your answers to my questions have answered yours. Now, with all
these responses to my questions, do you agree with me that you are an excellent
girl?” She shyly nodded her head in acceptance. “I want to go home, sir,” she said, as she stood up. “Please,
Ezigbo, I will like to pay you a visit,”I
humbly requested. “No please. He will kill me,” she furiously responded. “Who? I mean, who will kill you?” I asked in astonishment. “My father will
skin me alive. He will accuse me of coquettishly bringing men to his
matrimonial home. He frowns over this ungodly life and never tolerated it. One
certain day, Chinedu, my elder brother tried it and he did not find it
pleasant. My father would have killed him with machete cut for bringing a
strange girl in our compound, if not the intervention of our neighbours. Please
don’t ever request for that at all,” she
I became ashamed of myself, though,
I refused to display shyness before her. To wipe away the insult, I quickly
exonerated myself thus: “But I have said nothing wrong. I only requested to pay
you a visit of which neither you nor I is sure of.” As if she was a prophetess,
she reacted thus: “Visit of any sort is not allowed. Are you paying me a visit
as my uncle, cousin, brother or what? In short, who will I tell Ichie Onyekwere
convincingly that you are? Please allow me go,” she said, moving her legs like one who stepped onto a region of
soldier-ants. She bent over, trying to lift her load, but could not. I held her
hand, preventing her from leaving out of annoyance. “Alright, I’m sorry for
demanding for an impossible thing,” I
paused. “One more thing, please,” I
said. “What is it again,” she harshly
asked. “What if I send for you, will you honour my invitation?” I suggested. “I will, only if you come
when it is not dark,” she responded.
“May I go now?” she asked. “Yes, my
dear. Go home and have a rest,” I
replied, assisting her to lift up her load on her head.
I was carried away by her charming
look, and her foot steps. I lustfully admired her movement as her buttocks
dangled seductively and rhythmically along with her foot steps until she
vanished out of sight.
In a short moment, I remembered
that a core issue had been forgotten. “What a mess?” I murmured. “Why should I be so flexible to forget myself? How can
I start such an important conversation with a lady of that caliber without
first introducing myself to her?” I blamed
myself and continued, “But why didn’t she ask of my name. No I can’t blame
her. It is only those that are sick that seek for a physician. May be my name
is not important to her,” I exonerated.
“If I send for her now,” I continued,
“Who shall I say is looking for her?” I
regrettably soliloquized. At the peak of the intrapersonal discussion,
Oyinkwo called me. “Chuks, Chuks, where are you? We have to go to the farm this
evening,” sluggishly, I went to attend to her call.
My heart was heavy. Half happy,
half confused. “Am I dreaming,” I
In the seventh month of the seventh
year, the four villages in Umuedem community converged at the village central
square to celebrate peace. Peace festival is a festival of culture that permits
only the damsels and dudes to partake in a dance competition among the
villages. It is a festive period full of activities: Marriages, settlement of
disputes between villages, couples, families, just to mention a few.
Both men and women, young and old,
would want to be part of history. On that fateful day, all young men of twenty
eight and above in Umuedem community came to the central square with long
sticks bearing dried grass on their apexes Their women counterpart came out
with handkerchiefs. They would come out in turn, village by village, gender by
gender, in dance competition. The girls squat, while the boys blindfolded them
with handkerchiefs. They put on beads round their waists, and pieces of cloths
round their chests, covering their breasts. Their men counterpart put on
masqueradian skirts and white singlets.
The young men of Umuedem Obinagu
village exchanged their women with the young men of Umuezechi clan, while
Amagunze village and Umuokike kindred did likewise.
The entire arena became lively. The
flutists and drummers played their best parts. Men flamed their sticks. They
raised their illuminated sticks while they dance round the girls. When the last
drum sounded, all men stood at the back of the girls. This provides the
platform for the girls to choose their prospective husbands. According to our
tradition, any woman who chooses a man on the peace festival must marry him. I
stood at the back of a lady with my illuminated stick. She stood up and blindly
There were heavy ovations as cheers
rocked the arena. People rushed to our point to ascertain who has chosen who.
To all, it was a thing of joy, but to me, I was somewhat myself. It was
something I had never thought of. I was accompanied home together with the
blindfolded lady with traditional songs and music. As it’s always the case, the
people would cheer as someone hooks to what they describe as a golden fish. So,
I was followed like a king to my house.
On getting to our compound, she was
diverted to my mother’s hut to pass her night. I was filled with tension and
emotions through out the night. I was neither asleep nor awake, contemplating
on what has happened to me. “The gods of our land, how can I explain what has
happened to me tonight? Why me?” I
rhetorically asked. “Why should I be the only man that was chosen among the
men of Umuedem community as a whole?” I had a deep breath, hm… and continued
with my thought, “The gods of our land, am I too old to be young? Where have I
gone wrong to be compelled to marry even
when I am still feeding from my mother’s pot? What a culture that you stick to
a blindfolded woman? Why should it be me, gods of our land?”
It was a new day. A heavy knock on
my door that could be liken to that of a landlord to a tenant, interrupted my
dosing eyes. “Come in,” I said. Oyinkwo
entered, filled with excitement. “Chuks, my son, the gods of our land have
visited us last night. They have shown me that all my sacrifices and
supplications have reached them. The gods need to be praised. Unbelievable!
Among all the men of…” Before she could finish her words, I quickly vanished
from the house to the back of our building. Knowing the cause of my action, she
rushed after me with a joyful song.
“Why are you kidding, mama? Has it
not occurred to you that you are the bread winner of this family? You feed me,
clothe me, and even carter for all the financial needs of this family,” I interrupted. “Yes, I know. That is my
natural responsibility as your mother,” she
firmly replied. “Mama, how do we cope? Where do you think we will get money
for her bride price?” I asked helplessly
with a defective voice. “Chuks, common, be yourself? Don’t ever annoy the
gods who gave you a wife. Many families went home sorrowfully because they were
not chosen, but you who were lucky to have one…”
A sudden smooth ear-piercing voice
from my mother’s hut sundered our conversation. It was the voice of the
blindfolded lady, announcing the arrival of the elders of Umuedem Obinagu.
Oyinkwo ran back to welcome them.
The elders appeared in native wears. Oyinkwo came in and greeted, “Ndi nze na ozor, ututu oma nuoo;
meaning: Title holders, good morning all.
“Ututu oma (good morning); how is your family?” the elders responded. “We are fine, my
elders,” she replied, smiling. “Emm…
woman, where is your husband? We have come for our daughter,” said Ezeoba, the elder who led the
Ezeoba, a white beard stunt man is
known for his usual honesty. His lineage is believed to be people of trust. A
story had it that his father, Oshimiri, returned a box of gold that fell off a
moving vehicle of an ‘olaedo’ trader.
The trader in appreciation had offered him his daughter as a wife, who became
the most virtuous woman in Umuedem Obinagu. Since then, the name of the lineage
has been written in gold. Ezeoba, the grand son of Oshimiri has been a shining
replica of his father’s transparent disposition.
“My elders, my husband is no longer
alive. As for my daughter-in-law, may I inform other members of the family that
you are here to bear witnesses to this great rite?” Replied Oyinkwo with great joy registered on her face.
“Hei woman, you are already
addressing our daughter as your daughter-in-law even when no dowry has been
paid,” Okaibe jokingly castigated. “I have seen nothing ungodly to embrace and
give favour seat on a high table,” she
replied, leaving the hut, while the elders burst into laughter.
The elders of Umuezechi clan, and
the elders of Umuedem Obinagu village assembled in our compound, facing each
other in opposite direction. The blindfolded girl sat on a local mat, in
between the villages representatives. Ichie Nnanyerugo came in with palm wine
filled in a calabash. He was the eldest among my father’s siblings. He was well
known in Umuedem community in general and in Umuezechi clan in particular. He
was a hero in wine tapping, and had never returned from market with his
Beaming with smile, accompanied by
a firm happy voice, he addressed the elders, “People of Umuedem Obinagu
village, do not be angry with me. I left my hut at first cock crow to tap my
wine and come back home before your arrival. It is very unfortunate that I was
unable to meet up as I forecast. Please, bear with me,” he paused for a while
and continued, “There are no much sermons in evening mass. We all know the
purpose for this gathering. We also know the traditions and norms of our
community; I mean, Umuedem community, but I view it wise to refresh our
memories in those traditions and norms. Umuedem community is made up of four
villages: Umuezechi clan, Umuedem Obinagu village, Amagunze village, and
Umuokike Kindred. These four villages have common traditions and norms. That is
one of the reasons we celebrate peace together every year. One more thing we
should remember is that there will be no formal introduction among ourselves
until the groom unties the bride,” he
Ichie Uzodima picked up, “You have
spoken like the son of the soil, Nnanyerugo. As you rightly said, ‘there are no
much sermons in evening mass,’ please, where is the groom to play his part in this
marriage acceptance rite? We have no much time to waste.” Ichie Uzodima was one
of the elders of Umuedem Obinagu village.
The arena became quiet while
Nnanyerugo whispered to Oyinkwo to fetch me.
All men were eager to know who is
to engage who. The elders of Umuezechi clan were keen to know who their
daughter-in-law is, while the elders of Umuedem Obinagu village were patiently
waiting to see their son-in-law.
Oyinkwo brought me before the
elders. Ichie Nnanyerugo turned to me, saying, “Chuks, we are waiting for you. You
were the only lucky person that was chosen among the glut men of Umuedem
community during the peace festival last night. You know the culture and
tradition of our community. You know the consequences of violation and
compliance as well. Our people say that marriage is like a wrapped paper which
its content is known only when it is untied. So, we are waiting for you to
untie the wrapped paper you brought home last night to see its content.”
In admonition, Uzoechi Ezeudo added,
“In addition to what Nnayerugo has just said, I would like to inform you that as
soon as you unwrap this paper, you will never reject it again. It is better you
did not untie the paper than to untie it and reject its content. Also, remember
that no wrapped paper brought home on the peace day was left untied. The gods
of Umuedem community are patiently watching and listening.” Uzoechi Ezeudo is
the spokes person of the Umuezechi clan.
I was drown in thoughts. Series of
rhetorical questions embraced my mental reasoning, yet I was unable to draw
conclusion. Should I accept or reject? I do not want to disappoint my dear mom;
neither do I want to disgrace the elders of Umuedem Obinagu village who came to
bear witnesses to this great occasion; nor to bring shame upon the elders of
Umuezechi clan who came to honour my mother’s invitation.
I do not know whether the blindfold
girl is blind or has any physical or mental deformity. This engagement is so
strict that no one defiles, when it is established. Those who tried it did not
found it pleasant. Some died, some became mad, while some turned to imbeciles. Should
I try it and become dead, mad, or imbecile? “God forbid,” I shrugged and rejected.
Ichie Nnanyerugo cut in, “Chuks, we
are waiting for you, or have you forgotten that today is your day? ‘Ebine’ the ram says that when music is
staged in its home, it jumps from one pavement to another to shun away shyness
and mockery, since it does not know how to dance. Why can’t you be yourself, Chuks?
Our throats are dried up as you can see the palm wine beside me. It may lose
its taste if more time is wasted. Are you not worried that if this palm wine loses
its taste, you will equally lose your true taste?
The words of ichie Nnanyerugo
pierced my heart. With an overflow of energy, I summoned courage and spoke to
the elders: “My elders, there is no going back in this journey to my home. The
journey may be slippery, thorny or gully. It may also be honey, but whichever
one it may be, I must see its destination.” High ovations rented the air, as
elders were clapping, smiling and murmuring, while I unveiled the blindfolded
Facial and oral expression of joy weren’t
enough to express the gravity of my happiness; hence, I allowed tears of joy to
cascade down my cheeks. “This is lost but found,” I pronounced in a high tone. “Found
in a right place at the right time. This is Ezigbo Onyekwere who I met and lost
contact with. What an incredible?” I
puzzled. “I have taken risk to conquer fear; I have conquered fear to
embrace happiness.” I held her tightly to my chest.
Chief Ozor-Eze could not believe
what he heard. He wondered while such celebrated engagement should be aborted
in its matured stage. “Chuks, you mean that was how you were hooked up with
your fiancée, and all these people you mentioned including your mother took
part in the engagement ceremony?” he
shockingly asked. “Yes, Chief,” I
responded. Then, what prompted the sudden change of Oyinkwo’s mind,” he curiously asked.
_I hope, you enjoyed the part one of this story book? read part 2 and 3 at okadabooks.com/book/about/desperatespinster/14477