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The Man Died

By Yomi Habib (Nigeria)

 

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THE MAN DIED

It was a morning of hell; a glowing darkness had invaded the land. The elephant had departed and the land was left in a world of strangers that had come to make them look like slaves. Okonkwo, a man of the people had left them to the great beyond. In the process he left the land to the white men. 

Okonkwo was a great wrestler and defender of the village, the girls used to call him “Ozidi”   a name after a powerful god in the village. The Igbo land was thrown into utter confusion as the people cried in disbelief as the sun set.

A Crowd of villagers and other well-wishers gathered at Okonkwo’s hut to console his wives who were mourning, dressed in black clothes, pensive and visibly stricken with pain and sorrow. The atmosphere was so eclectic as if it was a death of a monarch.  

For the first time, they prayed to the Almighty God, a situation strange to the land, as the people were used to deity worshipping.

Okonkwo’s children, though sober in outlook never shed tears, crocodile or otherwise; they just prepared themselves for their initiation into the clan of chiefs with a He-goat sacrifice for the gods.

As the king arrived, the atmosphere became tranquil, a sign of great loss. There was a plan by the market people to immortalize him by consecrating a festival in his name. At the other end of events, his detractors and avowed enemies rejoiced that the iron landlord had passed and they planned a takeover of his wives and farmland that was left him by his grandfather.
 
At the burial, the chiefs told the people that a doomsday occurrence was fast approaching and their land would be overran by the will of “Umuaro”, a village that had a determination of taking over Oguta land and proclaim supremacy as sworn to through an oath in their fetish cult.
Later in the day, the body of Okonkwo was buried with treasures as customarily demanded.

The local oraclist and diviner told the congregation that Okonkwo’s body would resurrect and be worshipped as an invisible deity by the people. The rites were performed as a mark of respect as required and a recognition mark was placed on his grave and an ancestral palm tree was planted on it for posterity.

On their way home from the burial ceremony point, a strange old man, worn out from exhaustion and walking with sluggish demeanour walked up to Okonkwo’s youngest wife and said, ‘Young woman, can you give me some water? I need to quench my thirst.’  The woman obliged him and he held her hand slightly and said, ‘Take heart, things shall be okay’ and disappeared into thin air. At that moment, the portion of the ground where he stood was enveloped with smoke. It then dawned on his beloved wife that Okonkwo had shown himself in this wise to prove that even though he was physically dead his soul as a fiery wrestler will never die.

As this event got to be known to the villagers, they whispered and discussed privately Okonkwo’s prowess even in death.

Out of confusion, Okonkwo’s wife went to the church missionaries who had brought a vigorously rejected form of worship of the Almighty God which was at variance with their ancestral worship of deities. In rejecting the God of the church missionaries, the people had reckoned that it was a ploy to throw overboard the gods of their land. As Okonkwo’s wife introduced the missionaries to the chiefs they vehemently stood against the move regarding it as an abominable act in the land that might have grave consequences for the village. As the chiefs read her body language they knew something strange had come to be.

Many years after Okonkwo’s death, things had gone down gravely in his home village; ritual killings which the missionaries derided as barbaric had become the order of the day as people were variously kidnapped. However, a new dawn had arrived in the village with the introduction of a foreign God in their midst. The new God’s people had introduced education and a justice system for the people as a new way of life.

On one particular market day, another beloved wrestler named Nnamdi emerged and danced his way through the market square to the ululations of his people. As usual, rumour mongers started their main preoccupation by spreading the falsehood that Nnamdi was set to overthrow the King in a coup.

To forestall the invasion of the land by foreigners, the chiefs organized a wrestling contest. The catholic missionaries’ influence continued in the land unabated.

Also, the deities in the land continued to demand all forms of sacrifices that required mostly human blood, palm oil and alcoholic drinks, illicit or otherwise.

Nnamdi was part and parcel of the atonement to the gods for his personal benefits of attracting more powers and fame in the land. The rumour regarding the gods’ anger towards the land as a penance for a sectional acceptance of the white man’s God. At different times, he would pour libation of red oil to the gods to empower him and avert the promised apocalyptic destruction.

Just before anyone would suspect, there was a band of invaders that had sneaked into the village. They brandished spears, arrows, and all forms of war paraphernalia. Part of their plan was to overrun the village and also abduct Chioma, Nnamdi’s betrothed. Cornered and unprepared, the men in the village ran helter-skelter for cover. Many of them were taken prisoners or killed. Nnamdi and the lucky others who managed to escape thanked their god, Ogballa for the miracle wrath on their behalf.

As the hurly-burly was concluded, the free ones made a decision to organize a counter attack by the next open market day. It was also agreed upon that if the King and the missionaries were not positively disposed to their plans they would be deposed.

Several days later, a cleansing ceremony was organized to disabuse the land of all forms of negative influences. The ceremony’s agenda also included a wrestling match between various wrestlers culminating in a match between Nnamdi, called “the hurricane” and Amadi “the Lizard” who was relatively unknown and unpopular.

For what Amadi lacked in physical outlook he augmented with the magical portion he obtained from the cultic masquerades. At the wrestling match proper, he effortlessly defeated Nnamdi and brought an irreparable damage an d qualified sham to his person and also an end to his inordinate ambition regarding women and the chieftaincy in the land.

Unable to bear his loss and the accompanying disgrace, Nnamdi eventually committed suicide. On hearing of Nnamdi’s death and all other factors militating aginst him, the King under huge pressure decided to venture into exile in his mother’s village. And an era came to a close.

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