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“Tell us Unuk, we want to know where you kept the child you found in the evil forest. Our oracle has shown us you took it home”, de...

“Tell us Unuk, we want to know where you kept the child you found in the evil forest. Our oracle has shown us you took it home”, demanded the chief Bodgi tribe. Unuk did not lie; he told them truth to save his skin, “I sold the baby to an old woman from across the river. Her name is Sunu”. “You are evil Unuk! You sold a new born baby to a stranger! You deserve to have your head severed and given to the gods!” barked one of the elders. Unuk didn’t take that lightly he barked back, “You are the evil one! The whole lot of you are evil! You threw a new born baby into the evil forest to die and yet you find the guts to call me evil for saving it! If you must know, when I found the baby, it had Senge the black snake of the gods around it and yet it did not swallow the baby. The gods unto whom you gave over the baby to die did not want its blood spilled and so sent Senge to protect it. Senge did not put up a fight against me when I approached it to rescue the baby. It unwrapped itself from the baby and glided into the forest”.
“Where can we find the woman now Unuk?” asked the chief of Bodgi tribe. “She took it to a place where she and the baby would be safe. She went to Bada”. “Bada!!! The land where the white devil (white man) walks freely and makes slaves of our men and women”. “I feared that it was for evil intention that you sought the baby. The woman to whom I gave it has been barren all her life. I did not really sell the baby, Sunu wanted me to have some money for the baby so she could feel the baby was her own. She feared that I might come back some day for the baby and she wanted to make a claim to it. I refused but she insisted. She went to Bada because she feared that you or the river people might destroy her and the baby, and I feared so too”. “Unuk, the baby whom you gave to Sunu shall in the future save our land and this entire realm from the tyranny of the white man, so has our gods revealed to us. We were wrong to have thrown it into the forest. Before you found the baby and took it from the forest, we were already on our way to take it back. One of our palm wine tapers had found Senge protecting the baby; we understood the message. We knew what the gods were saying to us. Now that we know where the baby is we must match to Bada to return it to our land and you are going with us. You are the only one who knows Sunu, so you must go with our warriors”. “I am very sorry elders of Bodgi, I cannot go with your people. The white man kills all who attempt to enter Bada without his permission or worst still capture and sell them into slavery”. “Leave us to worry about the white man. Your business shall be to identify Sunu so our warriors can get the baby from her. We shall hold you here until nightfall when our warriors will leave for Bada”.

“I agree to go with your men, but do not hold me here till nightfall, my people the Zarafi, will look for me; and I bet Bodgi will be their first suspect. When they find out I am being held here they will start war. Let me go I assure you I will return by nightfall; besides I need to find all the charms I can so that I will be able to withstand the fire power of the white man”. The chief and the elders of Bodgi went aside and deliberated over what Unuk said. They knew he was right. They wanted to find the baby and if war was to break out between them and the Zarafi people, there was no way it would help them find the missing baby. “We will let you go like you said. I hope for your sake that you return here by nightfall to leave for Bada with our warriors. If you fail to show up…” The chief of Bodgi tribe rested his palm like a machete on Unuk’s neck and continued, “…your head shall be removed from your neck and offered to our gods. You can’t hide or run from us and you know it”. They allowed Unuk to go back to his village and by nightfall he came to join their warriors to Bada as he had promised. The warriors were fortified with sorts of charms against the white man’s gun powder and were sent out to Bada.

As they journey through the night between the twin mountains of Akula and Ngere, a band of night rogues attacked them with powerful charms and machetes. Kana, the leader of the warriors of Bodgi was experienced in such expeditions and so had included a few surprises in his collection of charms. When he saw his men being cut down by the band of rogues, he reached into his bags and removed chicken feathers which he cast at the raiding band. The feathers transformed into black cats and attacked the rogues. The rogues responded by casting their one spell which unleashed flames of fire against the cats. The black cats were too powerful to be stopped by the counter charms of the rogues; they kept attacking the rogues in spite of the flames. The few surviving rogues fled into the bush when they saw they had been overpowered. In the melee both parties lost men. The mission to Bada came to an end when the warriors of Bodgi found out that Unuk had been bitten by the black cats. Victims of such bites died quickly if the antidote was not administered immediately. The cats were creations of magic spells, once cast they attacked only enemies, so Kana did not bother to bring the antidote along. The warriors of Bodgi were surprised to see that the cats attacked Unuk. However when they began to strip the bodies of the dead rogues they found out why the cats had bitten Unuk. The rogues were actually the warriors of Zarafi, Unuk’s tribe men. Unuk had betrayed the people of Bodgi by planning to have them attacked on the way. He didn’t want them to recover the baby which he sold to Sunu, so he planned with his people to ambush them on their way to Bada. With no antidote to save Unuk, Kana and his men waited until Unuk took his last breath and they cast him into the bush and journeyed back to Bodgi. The elders of Bodgi were angry over the failed mission and had to resort to voodoo to bring back the baby they considered their saviour. After the rituals and sacrifices which were offered they believed that the baby shall return to Bodgi when it grew up.

Back in Bada, Sunu the old childless lady hired a slave to take care of Ha’kamara. She did not know what to call the baby, but she knew that before long she would find a name for the baby. It wasn’t long before she called her relative Samba and the slaves in his house and informed them that she had found a name for the baby. Sunu called the baby Se’mua, meaning “a child of my people”. And so from that day the baby girl became known as Se’mua. When Se’mua had grown to about eight years, she was sent to learn the white man’s language taught by their missionaries. Se’mua had been in the missionary school only weeks when her teachers discovered she was different from every other child who was brought to the grammar school. She was at home with grammar, there was little to show that she was an Africa child born in the bush her people called their village. Her teachers surmised that her ability to pronounce English words and remember their meanings may be due to the fact that Samba her uncle and some of the slaves in his house spoke smattering English. It wasn’t long before word about Se’mua’s prowess with the language of English reached some white slave merchants in Bada. The slave merchants who heard of her became very interested in her. Some had genuine interest to take her out of Africa and expose her to their culture and education; while others became interested for pecuniary gains; they calculated how much pound sterling she would fetch them if she was bought, trained up as their own slave and sold to a plantation owner in the West Indies. They were certain she would be of immense use to a plantation owner, particularly in the area of helping communicate with their slaves in the farm. And so the intrigue to acquire Se’mua set into motion amongst the slave merchants in Bada.

Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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