BabT

Olorunfemi Babatunde

OHUNDE – THE MYSTICAL STONE

“Mum, I will not believe your story until I take possession of the Ohunde…” said Segun. I knew at this point that it will take a lot of conviction to discourage Segun from visiting his ancestral home. I pleaded with him, “Segun, please listen to me, I am your Mother and care about your safety”.  I continued “Your paternal grandfather had such great powers (pointing at his photograph on the wall) he was feared and respected by his townsmen for his mystical powers – the ‘Ohunde’.  With the Ohunde, your grandfather had the powers to disappear and reappear in whatever part of the world he desired”. The ohunde is described to be an oval shaped black shiny stone possessed by the highest traditional title holder in Iffe, your father’s village. Since the death of your grandfather, no one has been crowned to take his place, it is believed that the ohunde is locked up in his room.

Rising from the sofa and pacing the sitting room, Seguns face was filled with disgust and disbelief, “Mum, not in the 21st Century, I refuse to be fooled”. He turned off the TV and said to me, “I will not believe your story until I take possession of the Ohunde, I will be traveling to Iffe next week”. His reaction was typical of his father, I voiced my thoughts, “you are as strong willed as your father, it led to his untimely death”.

Throughout my marriage to my late husband, I had only visited Iffe once to visit his extended family. He had lost his parents when we met and got married. All I knew about them were his accounts.

Exactly one week after our discussion, Segun set out to the village in company of Femi. Iffe is about 1000km from Lagos. Femi grew up in Iffe before seeking education and greener pastures in Lagos. He spoke the Iffe dialect fluently. He had collaborated my story to Segun and warned him against the adventure; emphasizing that the Ohunde story though sounded like a myth has been passed from one generation to the other as fact.

No sooner than they made entry into Iffe, they could tell it was a closely knitted community. With the help of some villagers and Femi who could speak the local dialect Segun located his grandfather’s hut. Knowing the history of the house, the villagers did not come near the building, they pointed at it from a distance.

“A certain ritual is to be performed before removing the ohunde”, my warning played back in his head one more time (As revealed by Femi). Drawing on his karate skills, Segun broke his grandfather’s door with a single blow. Looking on from the rusty window, Femi warned, “be careful, say a word of prayer and be at alert”.  Following the lead of his searchlight, Segun ransacked the house for over an hour without a trace of the Ohunde. Hunger and Fatigue had set in. Breathing heavily and sweating profusely, Segun was at the verge of giving up his mission but decided to make one final attempt.

“I have found it!” he screamed, a certain strangeness fell over him, his heart beat was audible now. To douse the growing tension, he affirmed, “I am made of steel and cannot retreat now, never!” Pulling himself together, he reached for the shiny calabash located under the wooden bed, removed the lid, then stretched his hands gently to hold the ohunde.

“Segun, Segun where are you…” rubbing his palms over his face, Femi wished it was a dream. Segun was nowhere to be found. The Chief Priest was returning from the Kings Palace when he heard a large thud in the shrine. He smelt the air and sensed that an abomination had been committed. He ran into his hut, picked up some trinkets and began to make incantations.

I was deeply troubled by an incident that happened on the eve of Seguns trip. I was in the sitting room when I heard a crashing sound in Seguns room. I was scared to death but somehow summoned the courage to go to his room. I fainted at the sight of a human figure lying on his bed, a replica of his grandfather, it disappeared within a flash. I silently prayed for Segun’s safety and kept awake all night.

Femi in a confused state dashed to the Obas palace to narrate the event. The King was angered, and baffled how an incident like that could happen under his watch. An abomination had been committed and the land defiled. Something urgent had to be done to appease the gods otherwise untold horror will befall the people of Iffe. He summoned a short meeting amongst his Chiefs and soon sent for the Chief Priest.

Segun laid helplessly on the shrine altar, the Chief Priest continued with his incantations, he stretched out his hands and mystically received a bowl containing some liquids. Using bird feathers, he sprinkled the substance on Segun body, afterwards, he disappeared. He had been sacrificed to the gods.

“Joshua, promise me you will not be like your Father”.  Joshua, my grandson had insisted in knowing the circumstances that led to his father’s death. He nods his head, saying tearfully, “I will always listen to you Grandma”. Whoever said I will lose my husband and only child at mid age will have passed for a prophet of doom. As the years pass by, I find strength in God and Joshua.

SERENDIPITY

[Phone Ringing] “Hello Ngozi, how are you…. What! Dead! Mazi is dead!” Lekan hurriedly reached for his wardrobe, got dressed in a black shirt and black short as he set out for Ngozi’s house. He could hardly contain his thought, “Mazi is dead, I still have the yam tubers he gave me when he returned from the farm yesterday.  What a life…”

Stepping into the Okafors living room, his heart sank sighting Mama Ngozi pitiable look. He sighted Ngozi at the far left corner of the room, her eyes that shone bright about the same time yesterday had turn red and swollen. He got uncomfortable when he noticed a stern look from a chocolate skinned middle aged man. His looks matched Ngozi description of his father’s younger brother. “This must be Mr. Obiora”, he thought.

He walked to Mrs Okafor’s, knelt by her side and said in a low voice, “Take heart Ma, May his soul find rest with God”. He proceeded in Ngozi’s direction, held her to his chest and was generous with comforting words, “tears will not bring papa back, doing him proud by upholding all that he stands for will make him a proud father wherever he his”. He recalled the last words of Mazi to him on his last visit, “Take good care of Ngozi, don’t let her suffer”. He pondered what Mazi meant by, “don’t let her suffer”.

Lekan’s service year had largely been defined by Ngozi and her family. Her transformation from a gloomy and sad faced student to a happy and lively student made this possible. The turning point was initiated during a biology class where he asked her to sketch the female reproductive diagram on the board, her caricature attempt turned the classroom into a comedy show of sort.

She turned out to have a very friendly and respectful persona. The Corpers lodge soon became her second home while her home became Lekans favorite abode. Their friendship ended Lekan’s poor feeding habit. Ngozi’s mother treated him to different sumptuous Igbo delicacies. Nkwobi soon became his favorite delicacy.

Exactly one week after Mazi’s burial, on returning from his place of primary assignment to the Corpers lodge, Lekan found the painting of a pregnant school girl hanging in the living room. He found it amusing and intriguing at the same time. There was no need to guess who made the drawing, he confirmed from Chuks what inspired the drawing, “nothing” was his response. He could read the expression of unspoken conspiracy in the eyes and lips of Chuks. He later found out the truth from Tina, the talkative in the lodge. Her revelation came to him as starling yet amusing. “Ngozi, is preg what?” “Pregnant?” she scoffed, saying, “you want to flinch ignorance?” Bemused, Lekan affirmed, “Ngozi can only be pregnant if pregnancy now jumps at females”.

Later that evening, Lekan visited Ngozi and her Mother. Shortly after his arrival, there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Okafor left to open the door. Lekan could place the voice of the visitor as Mr. Obiora. They spoke in Igbo language, the only igbo words he had learnt during his 7 months stay in Imo state were “Ego–Money” and “Ihunanyam- My love”. The tone of their conversation grew from hush tone to fierce and threatening. He became alarmed when Mr. Obiora shoved Mrs Okafor out of his way saying in English, “This is the bastard that impregnated Ngozi”.

Lekan looked around for an escape route, there was none except the entrance where Mr. Obiora stood brandishing a shiny cutlass. Mr. Obiora ran forward in his direction and swung the cutlass in a cyclic motion.

“What am I doing here?” Lekan queried, looking around to what seemed like a hospital ward. “Uncle Obiora cut you in the shoulder” replied Ngozi. “Mum, I and others in the neighborhood rushed you here for treatment”. Lekan probed, “You are pregnant Ngozi?” She nodded in affirmation. “Who, where, how and when?”. “It’s Chinedu, Chidera’s elder brother”, Lekan interjected, “you slept with your best friends elder brother, where is Chinedu?” he saw agony in her eyes as she pulled herself together. “He has fled to Lagos” she replied.

Ngozi put to bed on August 15, 2015, Lekan got a call from her mother, “Lekan, your Ngozi just went into labour this morning, your attention is needed at the hospital, she needs you around”. He hurried to the hospital and was just on time to witness the joy that follows a successful delivery. His joy was mixed with disbelief, before him was a baby boy whose eyes, nose and nails were a replica of his. Smiling, Ngozi muttered, “He looks like you”.

Against his parents wish Lekan tied the knot with Ngozi. They have been happily married for a year now. He accepted his FATE in good faith.

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