In between the withered sheets of broad leaves laying rampant on the soiled base of papa’s doings, within the heart of the skyscraper we called ‘achara’, there I sat, backing a capsized palm frond which hadn’t for once escaped the fast encroaching harmattan. I sat on the fleshy bark of uha tree. It was my father’s place so I should follow in his stead for that is how it should be. A son should strive to be higher than his father and fathers before him. I should participate in the invites he had recommended before time duped him, before his loving memories faded with decades and centuries.
Before all these instances and insidious trendy shifts in the easy swayed balance of the numerous African cultures and contradictory tales we are born to, before the inception of the developments of the Western beliefs in the soul of African diaspora, even before they knew their faces had certain features, they applauded my sincerity. Before those foreigners set anchor on our shores and brought forth their holy books and their religions, I was the only one they listened to and conversed with.
There are few occasions when perseverance diminished from their soiled and filthy nails and from their hearts; strong as rocks and hardened before fire. I was the one they called to. I could say I beheld the endings of their days but still the proximity to truth will be distant, far from their emancipation, not even an inch close as the knots binding our fates know not joy.
Rest assured I still inhabit this spot within this shade. The ones who worshipped me are gone. Oh they adored me, they praised my names. They called me ‘Ofor eji agamba‘, they traveled with my staff, they clothed me, but as you are aware time is an enemy of consistency. They have been scattered in the winds like dusts of a decayed carcass, one pertaining to the feline. They still do not know they are in oblivion and being introduced to their archaic ways cropped streaks of frozen smiles on my carved face. Profound ones I must say.
Ogidi carved me. He also carved papa. He used his tools as he gave me life – breathing in my dormant nostrils breaths from his lips. Up until this hour, I still can’t cling to a reason but the fact remains he did us. My father had reminded me of it again and again.
“Do you know we came from the forests?” he would ask me. “Do you know the hands of men gave us life and gave us these eyes and these nose and ears. Are they well shaped or should we bless them for the arms and body they included while they chiseled us out from the iroko timber?”
He was wise. He taught me wisdom, he taught me to bargain. Humans bargain but I bargain more. Being stolen from my top position has been the most indelible scratch on my back. This one being poked by the root of this uha tree of which the leaves remain fresh each day.
These days, I lay witness to their unawareness, the dangerous journey they embark. They do not see the dangers the way I see them. They detest my words but really they strive to journey to places, dangerous places where my grasp cannot reach. I tend to signal to them, I want to carry them and grip them around my back the way their mothers and sisters do – with this red garment that covers me when I am so cold that my feet trembles and my teeth quivers but my abode they know not and time and the western cultures has caused the drastic decline of the handful of awe their past heritages devoted to my father and to me.
My father designed the four market days; the Nkwor, Orie, Eke, and Afor. You see, he did not lack sagacity but their eyes have been blinded and have been plunged out the sockets. Their beliefs have receded with the downfall and collapse of our ancestral monuments; an edifice for true tribal devotion and traditional activities, not excluding the homages they paid me during the aftermath of bountiful harvests.
Things are now as abacha under prolonged ferments – as water and time pierces into the tiny skins of the sliced cassava tuber : gone from the manageable to intense severity, from the obscure to awe-inspiring ; not from my stand but before the eyes of the commoners which now are gauzed ; they envision precisely nothing tangible. They are confused and few regret abandoning me, they regret leaving behind their hereditary.
I am greatly aware of the things they call secrets. Those imminent irresistible speeches they say to each other in the dark alleys, in the deep nights cuddling each other’s back, the worms of lies they tell each other, the preys they scavenge, the wicked false testimonies they bear against each other. I should probably jump to the highest hills and the tallest trees and scream it aloud, “I know everything you do! I am not a stranger to them!” The ones who required my audacity to search the truth became acquaintances as I likewise their confidant. I had always resided within their abode for decades as I soon regarded their abusive nature as unpure and sub-standard before my now squeamish self. Disregarding the solemn existence of their little hearts, soft as the leaves of ede, as soft as the touch of warm water bathing a naked body.
I am in full awareness of all these because I dwell amongst their abodes as I am the only invitee before their premises. Whilst there are few good hearts, I have invested in the ugly. The wicked think wisdom is in my bosom; this is true but I will convince you less that I have been lending out false indications in the absence of truth.
From the very onset, skipping the little unimportant details that are not embedded in this story, my transfer from Ogidi’s carpenter shed to this place has made me palpable. They carried me from that place; that gritty piece of crap, where my father had survived the dusts of time and the hardship associated with shrinkage, they carried me and set me down in this little coven shelled by this tree. They fed me, prostrated before me, they prayed to me, they sang to me, they even recited chains of words which I barely could understand. Their mouths moved in rhythm as there chalked bodies shook back and forth in my presence. They poured me libations which was the best part.
Whenever Okeke came to exhaust his words, the following usually transpired: at first he would arrive with his bottle of schnapps and a keg of Palm wine. ‘All this for me?” I would flicker my tongue and question myself. I must think my father did the same things. Okeke would then pour the drinks before me. I chew softly on my lips once again. The bottled one peppered my chest as if it half burnt it down, even the incense it aroused on top the brown soils diminished with every second. The other was sweet and juicy like nothing I have never tasted before. He would drop seeds of kola also on the bare earth before me. Those were times when being this way paid. After all, they say you don’t watch a masquerade from a spot; you pace around with it as it pursues and as it dances and shakes the beads that dangle on its neck and on its waist and on the ankles. After the libations were concluded, Okeke Mbali would divulge his escapades to me, both the ones I cared and others which weren’t my place. I would reply in a croaky voice, “Your deeds are canceled, go in peace my child”. He would beam up like a flash, his chest will bulge then he will leave the offerings for me to digest.
They made me mortal with those gifts and their requests for whichever way you kept yourself, others followed.
An earlier day came when words hit me like surprise. I was sound struck. So I asked papa “gini mere”. He shared with me a lukewarm smile and his ridiculous answer was “ehee… You have tapped it from the source… Ehe nwam igbaligo”. He smiled at me maybe showing affirmation.
I shuddered too easy and pretended to comprehend his reply. You can barely visualize me move but indeed I did. I shook my static head and I held my waist with my palms. Papa understood but he never explained further anyway.
Recently, my looks are nothing to behold. My little arms and short legs have begun to wither. The harsh seasons deal me against my looks. I’m the only survivor of all the other beings. I am the last to be entertained by the demise of my folks – those ones that held me in their arms when my father lost his strength and his abilities in the deceitful hands of men. Men are sabotages and they only seek nothing else but supremacy over their fellow brothers and neighbors.
Do you comprehend the curse behind prolonged solitude, the ordeals encompassing my accomplishments and name. My father was called the Supreme. He ruled the Ibo lands. He ruled with his rage of thunder and his followers were similar. I am the son of Amadioha. I am the only son of the god of thunder. I’ll never cease to exist because the spirits of the land are me. So in this backyard of Mazi Okeke whose generation refused to pay their shares of respect I’ll live, I’ll still watch over them because unlike others, I am not malevolent in nature.
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