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Nigeria's leading story blog. Love, King, Royal Guards, Beauty, Elders, Crown, Plague

However, not all in Alaoma were happy. The plague that struck Ogbede clan had spread fast. The clan was losing its people in devastating succession, and some amongst them had begun to flee Alaoma by night. Later that night the elder gods from the river kingdom paid Obum their first visit. Obum was informed that his friend, Dike, was the one who had found favour in their eyes. Obum was speechless when he heard that Dike was of royal blood. He wanted to hear more but the gods were not in the mood for lengthy speech. Obum knew what was expected of him, he had to visit korie that night to inform him that he and his family were of royal blood, and that his son, Dike, had been anointed by the gods as the new eze (king) over all Alaoma. When Obum sauntered into Korie’s house that night, the least thing Korie thought to hear was that he and his family were of royal blood. Korie laughed it off and thought Obum had actually come to play his first prank on him and his family as the new chief priest. They were family friends and had been friends for years, so he thought Obum was goofing.

Dike who was in the know sat quietly. Obum motioned at his friend, Dike, and said to Korie, “Your son here is the new eze of Alaoma. He has presented himself to the gods and the gods have proven him to be of royal blood. It was he who entreated them to return the royal crown to Alaoma.” Korie could certainly not believe his ears. He assumed the two friends were in it together to fool him. Korie turned to his son and waited for answers. Dike softly responded, “My eyes have seen the gods and they have tasted my blood. Father, we are royalty indeed.” Korie wanted to celebrate it, but didn’t know how to. He still doubted it. He called his wife and daughter to hear for themselves what he had been told. Odinakachi and Chichi crept out of their huts looking befuddled, wondering why Korie sounded like a man with a knife to his throat. Breathlessly Korie informed the two what he had just heard.

Chichi took offence and fired angry words at Obum, “Look, mister new chief priest, who you are right now gives you absolutely no right to toy with people.” Turning to her elder brother she said, “I thought you had enough sense not to partake in such foolish jokes.” She grabbed her mother to return to their hut, but Odinakachi stood her ground and said, “This is not stranger than Ikonne losing his head nor the gods coming out at Iyi Afor before their time.” Referring to Obum she said, “Tell me my son how did we come to be of royal blood?” “The gods have not revealed all to me, but I understand Dike knows it all already. Very early tomorrow morning, I, Dike and the elders of the land shall be going to Iyi Abadaba, where Dike will show the elders of the land that the gods indeed have chosen him to sit on the royal throne of Alaoma. When we return from Iyi Abadaba; nna anyi Korie, you and your family shall be moved to the royal quarters. You are the new royal family of Alaoma.” The words from Obum’s mouth left Chichi bemused; she couldn’t so much as open her mouth. Odinakachi and Korie did not know how to celebrate so they sat quietly looking from their son to Obum. Odinakachi thought that perhaps the experience the two boys went through must have been a test from the gods. Chichi thought that maybe it was all a dream, and they would all wake from it in morning.

By morning the elders, Obum and Dike went to Iyi Abadaba. Dike went down into the river and swam so gracefully as though he had been using the river all his life. Since the night he met the gods at the river, he had begun to act the part as a king. While the elders feared for him, without a thought he abandoned himself to the river. Before they arrived at the river some elders had called Obum aside to find out if he was sure Dike was the chosen one. Because to go into the river without being royalty would be the last mistake Dike would make.

Ten days after Dike and the elders had returned from the river, the elders, Obum, the royal family, men, women, the youth and some aged people like Nda Ikodiya, set out to Umuopara, where a royal bride had been found for the soon-to-be crowned eze. Umuopara was Ulari’s maternal home in her former life; the elder gods of the river kingdom had sent her there to be married to Dike in her new mission to Alaoma. The entourage from Alaoma drummed from Ogbotoukwu to Okeh na Nlogho. When they got to Onuimo, they met their neighbouring fourteen villages with their various music and dance groups waiting for them; and from there they journeyed down to Umuopara. As they moved whatever town they passed, they painted it red with celebration.

In Umuopara, Ulari could not wait to have the festivity over and done with. The few days she had not seen Dike had left her pining to see him, not just that, but to abandon herself in his firm embrace. When she heard the sound of music and a roaring crowd approach her grandmother’s house she stood up intending to run outside to meet Dike. She had to be restrained by her maids. According to tradition she must remain in her chamber until Alaoma people request to see her.  That time did not come as soon she had hoped; there was so much ostentatious dancing and singing that it was too hard to control the crowd. One village had not come to find a bride in Umuopara, but fourteen villages. In such weddings there was usually a time to serve food, after much of the wedding protocols and rituals had been observed. But in this wedding the fourteen villages had come with their own food and drinks and had begun to eat before the wedding rituals would even begin.

The crowd was drunk with joy. The affluent men from Alaoma and their surrounding villages bragged to Umuopara to name the bride price for all their virgins. They boasted that they would double the price and leave with all of them. When eventually the crowd settled down, the wedding rituals began. It surprisingly, was not interrupted by the joyful crowd. It was as though the crowd mutually agreed to let the wedding proceedings move fast so they could see the bride. The people in Umuopara and even in the villages around had not heard of Ulari. If there was a woman of marriageable age still left in Nze Ugoji’s house, they did not know it. Nze Ugoji’s ancestors had for ages helped the gods place brides from the spirit world amongst mortals. And that art did not die with Nze Ugoji’s ancestors. Eventually when the bride’s presence was requested and she came out, the crowd went dumb. Not a word was heard among them.  She excelled in beauty more than the moon and shone almost as bright as the sun. No such beauty had been seen in all of Umuopara. When the crowd had recovered from the spellbinding effect of gazing upon Ulari’s beauty, they spoke in whispers as if afraid the sound of their voices would blemish her beauty.

When she was asked to speak, some men in the crowd remarked that her voice was like the sound of music. Dike could not believe his eyes. He leaned closer to his mother and said, “Tell me this is all a dream and I will soon wake from it,” “No my son. You are not dreaming. This one is for real.” Iyanga rubbed his eyes several times to be sure he wasn’t being deceived by his eyes. He could not believe it that the same woman who stood before him in beauty like his mother, Olanma, was the same woman who had fought by his side at Nwangele. The locks of her hair that took on life in battle had been transformed. Her skin glowed nearly like the mirror and her smile softened the hardest of hearts. Korie spotted his daughter, Chichi, shedding little drops of tears. She was overwhelmed by the ravishing sight of her brother’s new wife.

The singing and dancing back home was different. Everyone did their best to impress their new queen. Even Chichi who all along had carried herself with a new air of importance danced so much that even the royal guards could not restrain her. Korie was simply air-borne. Odinakachi was the only reserved person in the crowd. She had heard some of Dike’s dreamy conversations; she knew that the lady they were bringing home was the one in her son’s dreams. She couldn’t explain it but she was sure of that.

On the day of coronation, it was as though the whole Igbo race had gathered to witness it. People came from as far as Ikwere, Odenkwume, Umuopara, Etiti and the surrounding villages. Before the coronation ceremony began, the heads of the fourteen villages around Alaoma, came and made known their intention to have the soon-to-be crowned king rule over them as it was in the days of old. Obum who had seen the coronation in his dream convinced the elders that it would be best if the eze was crowned early in the day. If they were to wait for all the masquerades and dance groups to perform, and to acknowledge all monarchs who graced the occasion, the coronation ceremony would last for three days.

By midday, the elders, Obum and all the chief priests present, the royal guards and members of the royal family moved to the ancestral shrine where the royal crown was lifted by Obum and placed on the head of Dike, after many decades. When this happened, those at Ogbotoukwu, the venue for the coronation ceremony knew, because Elile spirits came in a whirlwind, and danced into the village square chanting, “Omasila m eh! Elile! Omasila m o! Elile!” The words of the song said, “I am pleased, Elile, I am pleased Elile.” Also the sound of Osu ngwodongwo was heard, the fountain that dried up when Ezeugo, the last eze of Alaoma took his last breath. While celebrations swept through Alaoma, the surviving members of the Ogbede clan were seen with their loads heading into the forbidden lands of Ocha baribari.


Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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