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The events in Alaoma had drawn the attention of the elder gods in the underworld; while one meeting broke up in Alaoma, another continued in the water kingdom. The elder gods were expected to mete out severe punishment to Nkelu for her role in the death of Obum, and the consequent event that claimed the lives of Amaechi and Kafor. Much to Nduri’s dismay they had chosen to soft pedal on the matter, choosing rather to pass a meaningless judgment on her sister. Nkelu was to drop her role in the kingdom as the head princess of Iyi Afor for just fourteen market days. Shockingly they accepted the blood of Amaechi and Kafor, whose lives were given in place of Obum. “If really Obum was innocent, and I know he is, the lives of the men given in his place should have been rejected and turned back to Alaoma. Instead only Obum was sent back to the land of the living,” Nduri thought. She wanted to stand up and ask lots of questions, but she couldn’t because she was in the presence of elder gods who wielded great powers. The elder gods said nothing about Ulari’s forbidden fondness for a mortal man, Dike. Nor did they show any interest in her own role in the deaths of Amaechi and Kafor; she feared that she and her sisters may have been caught in a plot greater than their knowledge and influence.  She suspected that it wasn’t because of their mother, Iyi Afor, that they were let go rather easily. Nduri and her sisters had made decisions way beyond the reach of their powers and yet the elder gods chose to ignore them.

When Nkelu demanded that blood be offered to the gods and would not allow Obum to live, the elder gods sent an emissary from the spirit world to Iyanga, an old woman. There were some in the spirit world who felt Obum should live, and to keep him alive, some other human lives had to be given through a sacrifice at Iyi Abadaba. For Obum who had the mark of death to live, someone else had to die in his place. This was the reason Iyanga went to Iyi Abadaba the same night obum died. He had to act quickly and offer the lives of Amaechi and Kafor, two aged men from Ogbede clan, before Obum’s soul was trapped in the spirit world.

There was no one still alive in Alaoma to tell how Iyanga came to live amongst them. He had out lived generations of men and women, and still looked as though he was just sixty years. Iyanga was from Etiti, the land where Igu nmuo wielded much influence, the circumstances that led to his sojourn in Alaoma had begun long before even the elders of Alaoma were born.

Olanma, the third wife of Dimgba, was barren and was maligned much for her barrenness. Olanma was a woman of great beauty. Her beauty had drawn the envy of her husband’s other wives and many women in the village. Some women claimed that Urenma, the beauty goddess in Etiti had given her beautiful looks unsurpassed by that of any woman, but had at the same time removed her womb so she could never bear any child as beautiful as she was. While others said she had a spirit husband who would not let her bear a child to her mortal husband. Still a few others claimed that she was more beautiful than Urenma, the beauty goddess; that out of jealousy, Urenma struck her with bareness. Dimgba, an unrivaled wrestler in Etiti, had won her hand in marriage in a feisty contest against Elechi, a renowned wrestler from Ikwere. At the time of the wrestling match for Olanma’s hand in marriage, the entire Etiti community had given Dimgba their support. They felt it would have been a shame for a man from mba mmiri (land of rivers), to come to their own town, beat their champion wrestler and leave with their most beautiful woman. So to help Dimgba, the villagers sought help in every river and from every dibia.
When Dimgba eventually won the contest, it seemed as though Etiti were having their Ntumaka festival. The drums were rolled out; there were food and drinks for all in every corner of the village. They were happy their beauty had remained in their midst. They believed Dimgba and Olanma would give them children who would bring fame to their village. Many years passed and Olanma did not conceive even for once. When all hope that she would bear a child for Dimgba had faded, many people in the village treated her with utmost disdain. It pained Olanma that she could not bear her husband a child. It made her avoid public places and Ogbako Umunwanyi (women meeting). Some aged women would stop her in the market place and tell her to go back to her father’s house, making silly claims that she had given her spiritual husband all the children in her womb. Olanma’s inability to bear a child did not bother Dimgba. He was content to have a woman as beautiful as she was for a wife. He knew other men envied him and would pounce the very moment he sent her away. Whenever Dimgba was queried about Olanma’s barrenness, he would answer, “I did not marry Olanma to bear me children. I have other wives to do that for me. I married her to love her.” This made his other wives hate Olanma; they knew if they were in her shoes, they would have been sent away. However in Olanma’s case, she was loved even much more.

Though Olanma was well loved by her husband, she was not content with that, she wanted to end the ridicule fellow women often aimed at her. So one night, during the Ntumaka festival, Olanma took an offering and paid Urenma a visit at her famed river, Nwangele. She made a deal with Urenma to give her a son and to take her life when the child becomes a boy. Some months after the festival, the unthinkable happened, Olanma got pregnant. When the news of her pregnancy reached the market place, some women out of excitement abandoned their wares in the market to go see if it was true. From the day it was heard that Olanma was pregnant to the day she put to bed, Dimgba’s house was besieged by visitors from all parts of the village. Even Elechi came all the way from Ikwere to see if the news was true. There was festive mood around Dimgba’s house until the day Olanma gave birth to a male child. Dimgba gave the new born child the name, Ezenwa, meaning, a child king. In his joyous mood, Dimgba offered to wrestle two men in a celebratory match. Ikenga and Obika, good wrestlers in their own right, took his challenge and promised to make it quite a fight for him. Like the legendary Ojadili, who never lost a fight and whose back never touched the ground in any wrestling match, Dimgba knocked his opponents silly and threw them to the ground. He fought like the lion and moved very fast like the gazelle. He was possessed, but not by the spirits, but with the joy of seeing the love of his life, Olanma, give him a child and a boy at that. Olanma’s mother came for Omugwo (a mother visit with her daughter who had given birth to a child) with music and a dancing train, and brought with her Uda, Uziza, Ugbada, Opkokwa, Okporoko, Azu Oji, Loiloi and yam. It was a feast in Dimgba’s house.

Celebration in Dimgba’s house continued months after the child’s birth. As the child grew, it became clear to all and sundry that he possibly was the most handsome boy any man had seen in all the villages around them. Women would pretend to be visiting with Olanma, just to look at him. As many as his admirers were, so also were the gifts his parents received. About the time Ezenwa was ten years, Olanma collapsed in her farm while harvesting cocoa yam. Dimgba sought the help of the best dibias (native doctors), and sadly, there was nothing they could do for her. Slowly, Olanma slipped away from Dimgba’s grasp and faded until she was no more. Her death was not only the end of her own life; it was also that of her husband’s. Though Dimgba lived on after her death, he was nothing but a shadow of himself. He held unto life because of his son, Ezenwa. Twelve years after Olanma’s death, Ezenwa was brought back dead from Nwangele river where he had gone to harvest clay to make earthen wares. He had mysteriously drowned in the shallow waters of Nwangele. When Dimgba who was resting in his Obiri (a resting shed) saw his son dead, he went into shock and joined his ancestors from there.

Urenma, the goddess of beauty played a callous trick on Olanma. When she saw how handsome Ezenwa was, she became envious and wanted him for herself. She drowned him in Nwangele River so he could be with her forever. She broke her deal she made with Olanma and took her son’s life. Years later, when Ezenwa who had become highly positioned in Urenma’s court, discovered how the beauty goddess had deceived his mother, he sought means to return to the land of the living, so that Urenma would never have him. Ezenwa sought alliance with Iyi Afor and Elile, spirits who had grouse against Urenma, for her role in the killing of the royal family at Alaoma. Ezenwa took Urenma’s Udu ocha (white earthen vessel), which held the souls of men and women who made covenants with her, including that of Olanma his mother, and sought refuge under Iyi Afor, queen of the river kingdom, who helped him enter the land of the living and dwelt among the people of Alaoma under the name, Iyanga.     STORY CONTINUES...

Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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