At our village, debates erupted about who would become the next Chief as our beloved Chief passed away. Mama told me at nighttime:
‘A chief was elected to represent his people in the village. The new chief understood that he was elected to serve his people. Before he took any important decision that concerned the village he gathered the elders and asked for guidance. If a person didn’t have food to eat in the village he offered some of his reserve or invited that person to his home to have a meal. The same if the village was starving he refused that he, his wives and children should have food until people in the village have food in their hut. When a family lost a brother or sister, he suffered their loss. The good chief worked like any ordinary villager and dressed in simple manner and an outsider could never guess that he was the Chief. He was a man of the people and his people had great respect for him. He treated each member of the village with respect whether woman, child or man. He was very much loved and respected.
His people called him the ‘Great’. The children spoke proudly of their chief and told stories of his exploits. When they saw him they would ran after him and greeted him ‘Hello our chief!’ The chief rubbed each child’s head’s in a friendly manner and lifted them up. The children were in absolute awe of him. When he joined the ancestors the whole village cried him for many days. Women put charcoal on their face as a sign of their sadness.
A new chief was elected when he died. As soon as he became chief, he became arrogant. He used his gained authority to his own advantage. He mistreated his people and made them suffer and cry. He had no respect for the village elder. When he saw children, he became conceited and shouted at them. The children didn’t like him and only curtsied to him out of obligation. The Chief abused his power. He ordered that tax should be paid to him with the villagers crops of yam. He lazily laid in his hammock all day long; eating and drinking with his wives and friends.
One of his friends who secretly sought his position poisoned his drink. The Chief was sick for many days. The villagers, who had been held in bondage for many years, ignored their Chief’s sickness and celebrated. They drank palm wine praying that the chief wouldn’t make it and that they would be free. The Chief died as was their prayer requests. When he passed away not one villager including his friends, wives and children cried a single tear for him. The villagers threw him in the forest where he was his flesh was eaten by hyenas. In the day of his passing there was a celebration like there had never been in the village. The old people danced just like the children.’
Mama paused and spoke again:
‘Power isn’t to be abused.’
Harmonie Loko (Sade Farotade) Copyright 2010