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                                                                He walked into his compound with glee. His goats were bleating. “Oko...

He walked into his compound with glee. His goats were bleating. “Okorie, have you fed the goats this afternoon?” “No papa.  Will you go and fetch some leaves for them now.” “A man is supposed to know his chores and execute them efficiently. You are no longer a boy. You are becoming a man now. You should take initiative,” Oleka admonished his first son. “Now run and go get them food.” “Okay papa.” “We have a lot of lands and trees now. Goats, chickens and sheep; they will be yours someday. Work like a man!” Okay papa.” Okorie scurried out of the compound. “Is my lunch ready Mgborie?” He asked his third and latest wife. “Yes, Nna anyi (my lord).” “Good. Get me something to eat before I rush off to the village council meeting.” “You food will be ready in a moment Nna anyi.” He sat on goat skin which he had spread on the floor in front of his hut. He quickly ate the yam Mgborie prepared for him with ugu (pumpkin) leaves.

“That was delicious my darling wife. I have to rush off now.” “Thanks Nna anyi. Have a good meeting.” “Of course I will. I am one of the largest landowners in the land now. Eze Ikoro now listens to me and takes me seriously. Soon I could be his next in command and we will expand our compound and have our own guards,” he boasted. “That will be wonderful Nna anyi.” “Yes it will. I have to go now.”  He scurried away leaving Mgborie to collect the oku (earthenware) in which he was served yam. “The new yam festival is around the corner. I think this year we should do something a bit different. Mazi Oleka has shared his suggestions with me and I like them. Mazi Oleka, please could you share those wonderful suggestions with the council?” Eze Ikoro requested. “Eeeem!!! Eeeem!!!” Oleka stammered. “Ulumma!!! Ulumma!! He shouted. “What is it Mazi Oleka? Which Ulumma are you talking about?” Eze Ikoro asked. “I raped her...I raped her just like I raped her mother before I poisoned her,” Oleka shouted.

“I think something has come over him,” Iturunna remarked. “Let him speak!” Okata, the dibia (medicine man) replied. “Anaghi ekpuchi afo ime aka (You cannot conceal pregnancy with your hand),” Okata added. “I killed your father too. You think you can get me? Hahaha,” Oleka laughed loudly. “I had to frame him...I had to frame Akirika else, he’d have shared the family’s inheritance with me. His parents were dying anyway, so I did not have to worry about them. I will soon be your second in command, right Eze Ikoro?”  The council was in shock. Oleka seemed to be in a trance as he divulged his evil deeds. Suddenly, he began to have a convulsion. He shouted and cried while rolling on the floor. Black sputum gushed out of his ears while whitish foam flowed nonstop out of his mouth. His face turned black rapidly. His tongue began to grow bigger, stretching out of his mouth. It was bleeding on the edges as it stretched. He tried to force it back into his mouth with no success.

His hands began to bleed too. “Guards! Come and take him out of here!” Eze Ikoro shouted. “Let him die first your highness. Oleka framed up his nephew to inherit their family’s property alone. He killed Ulumma’s parents years back. He threatened her that he would kill her like he killed her parents forcing her to accuse Akirika instead of himself for the rape and incest,” Okata explained. “Nso!” Amanze shouted. “Why did the gods allow all that?” Eze Ikoro asked. “Why did’nt the god reveal these to you sooner?” He insisted.“We will never fully understand the gods. Maybe they wanted Akirika to serve them actually. We may never know,” Okata explained. “I had my suspicions...I had my suspicions about Oleka,” Ibezim said nodding his head. “Aaahhhhh!!!” Oleka shouted as he died. He was quickly buried in the evil forest near Osuala.

She walked quietly into the compound. Her heart was beating fast. She heard someone giggling in Duruji’s hut. She knew that voice. “I can’t wait for the ceremony...Soon, you will be my wife,” Duruji said. Nnenna was lying in his laps. He had his hands all over her. They both jumped up as soon as they saw Eririmma.  They were not expecting anyone. “What are you doing here you forsaken outcast?” Duruji shouted caustically at her. She began to cry. “Nnenna, so you told my husband that I spoke to Akirika. So you wanted to take over right my husband all along?” Eririmma managed to ask her best friend. “You should make up your mind about what you want in life. I want Duruji and here I am boldly with him. I saw how your hands shook and your heart was beating like the village drum when you saw Akirika. Duruji did not deserve that. I stood up for a good man and in case you have not heard, we are getting married in the next seven market days!” Nnenna shouted.

Eririmma was stunned. She stood with her mouth hanging open, staring at the two of them. She had come to beg Duruji to take her back, but now, it was no longer worth the pain and effort. Duruji had been going about telling everyone that Eririmma should be thrown out of Umuaba for talking to an Osu. Most people now avoided her. She looked at them in tears and turned towards the exit. Then she stopped and said, “I am sure you heard what happened to Mazi Oleka. After all, Akirika was not a rapist and neither did he commit incest. He is a good man. Tradition is what it is, but he will live with his good name forever. He is a man...a real man!” She turned and left. When she reached home, she packed a few things and spoke to her mother. “Mama, I am leaving for Osuala. My heart is still with Akirika. I am sorry, but I cannot keep living here while lying to myself. Please forgive me for this, but I have to go.” “No! You cannot do this to your father and I. We will never see you again.” “Then someday when you have the chance, speak against this evil tradition. I am leaving.” Her mother stretched to reach for her but she ducked.

She ran halfway and walked the other half. The closer she got to Osuala, the more afraid she became. She wondered if she was doing the right thing, but she kept going. “Who is there?” She shouted at the boundary between Osuala and the land of the freeborn. Olokoro went to see who was calling. “What can we do for you?” He asked her. “I am here to meet Akirika. My name is Eririmma. I want to talk to him before I cross over into Osuala.” Olokoro regarded her for a moment. “Are you sure you want to do this?” “I think so, but I would like to talk to Akirika first.” “If he comes and you two touch each other, there is no going back.” “I know that.” Olokoro ran to Akirika’s hut and fetched him. “You won’t believe this. Eririmma is here. She wants to see you between the Ujri and the iroko trees.” “What? Are you joking? Eririmma? My Eririmma?” “Yes!” he ran as fast as he could. He was breathing hard when he reached the boundary. “Eri...Eri nkem (My Eri)! What are you doing here? I am so happy to see you though.” “I want to come and live with you...marry you.”

“Are you sure?” “Yes. Duruji threw me out for talking to you. Almost the whole village treats me like an Osu anyway. The only reason they have not physically kicked me out is because of my father who has been lobbying the village council. Did you hear what happened to your uncle by the way?” “What?” Eririmma told him. “I knew the gods would avenge the injustice meted out to me.” “If I cross over, will you treat me well and love me like you used to?” “I will worship the air you breathe Eririmma. I will lick the floor with my tongue for you to walk on. I will...I don’t even know what else to tell you. I will love you more than I love myself.” He was breathing heavily with anticipation. Without a response, Eririmma crossed over the boundary and melted into his hands. He almost grew wings...they hugged tightly as their hearts pounded loudly. Villagers who had gathered watched them in awe.


Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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