The second market day celebration was already in full swing. The kingly sun blessed everyone with its rays at the village square. In the midst of the festivity, Ishai noticed that Ogha was sleeping with an open mouth. It was obvious that he was extremely hungry. With a smile on her face, she danced towards him with two covered calabashes of steaming akpu and egusi soup. She kept them near him and went away to get water. She rejoined him and woke him up. When Ogha saw the food offered to him, he salivated. He pounced on the food after washing his hands with the water.
The engine of the Benz Ajaj Hashur was in suddenly stopped functioning. He was on his way to his office, chauffeur-driven. He had a standby Benz that followed him, so as soon as the first Benz parked, he jumped out and entered the other one. He was in an awful hurry. An Alhaji Bature was already waiting for him. And Ajaj Hashur was in a mysteriously sour mood.
He got to his office and, ignoring the musical greeting of his attractive secretary, met the Alhaji in an expensive lace agbada, carrying a cellular phone, sitting cross-legged.
“I am so sorry,” Ajaj drawled, taking his seat behind his desk. “I was trying to make sure my containers were safe in the wharf.”
The Alhaji’s face was bloated with lividity. “I can no longer do business with you,” he barked.
Ajaj was puzzled. “What is the problem?” he asked.
“I cannot give you that two billion naira contract,” the Alhaji said.
“Why? I don’t understand. Yesterday, you and I made a heartfelt agreement. I told you I had a worthy buyer who wants it for twelve billion naira. You and I will then split the gain equally.”
The Alhaji shrugged his shoulders. “Kai!” he grunted. “I have changed my mind.”
“What!” Ajaj Hashur suddenly got up from his seat. “How can you change your mind overnight like that, eh?” He was very angry now. “Were you sent? If so, I will show you that I am an Arab! You better stop this game you are playing.”
Alhaji Bature also rose from his seat and pointed an angry finger at him. “You are the one who is sent!” he shouted angrily. “You hear? Sege koweh! Barawo! I will look for a better deal.” With that, Alhaji Bature gathered his agbada and stormed out of Ajaj Hashur’s office.
For a moment, Ajaj couldn’t believe what just happened. He stood rooted to the spot as if stung. The opportunity to make the biggest cash in his life eluded him like wind. As he slowly descended to his seat, his secretary barged into his office.
“Oga, your containers in the wharf were seized by custom and the boys were arrested by the police,” she announced and dropped a file loaded with papers on his desk. “Here are some documents requiring your urgent signature,” she said and waited.
With his elbows on the desk, he held his head with his hands. Another big cash going! “Get these papers out of my sight!” he screamed angrily. “Yes, sir,” she said curtly and obeyed. She left his office. Ajaj got up and went to the window. He looked out into the ever-busy streets of Akwa City and silently assured himself that within a month, things shall be alright.
Although my eyes were closed, the rays of the sun found their way into them. I opened my eyes and the brightness of the rays made me shut them again. I decided to leave them half-closed and I raised my hand to completely cut away those blinding rays. I was at my home in Ofia – the iroko tree. When the second market day celebration was over, I came back here to rest. There was no other food for me after that satisfying meal of akpu and egusi soup I was given.
I had placed my head sideways on my drum I had clutched beside me when I heard tiny piercing giggles. My ears pricked and I raised my head in attention. The noise was coming from that big river. I rose and went towards the noise carrying my ikoro drum. When I got there, the sight of three young girls beheld me (I recognised one of them). Their only item of clothing was beads, made of terracotta, round their necks and round their waists covering their buttocks and pubic regions. I was mesmerised and I came closer with caution.
They were standing by the river bed, obviously sharing a joke. At first, they didn’t see me. But suddenly, the girl I recognised saw me and ran towards the river. The other girls followed her. They ran to the shallow part of the river and splashed themselves with water. Then, they began twirling. I gradually sat on a big rock beside the river, my eyes zeroed on them. I could not take my eyes away from them. It was as if they were answering the call of a water goddess. As they twirled with great vigour, the beads round their waists rose up. It was a captivating sight.
I dusted off the top of my drum with my breath and hit it. Gradually, they stopped twirling, eyes closed, mouths open, at the single drum sound. One by one, they stepped out of the water. They formed a semi-circle in front of me and gradually opened their eyes. The girl I recognised spoke, but I didn’t understand her. It must have been Ofia language. I looked at them, puzzled and confused.
She approached me and placed a hand lightly on my shoulder. With a strange smile playing on her lips, she said, “One day, you shall see a snake with a crocodile inside it. Please play for us. You are here.”
I got up slowly. We were inches away from each other, but my drum was between us. Her water fragrance sensuously tickled the hairs in my nostrils. “Thank you for the food,” I mumbled. She made as if to walk away, but I dropped the drum and embraced her. I don’t know why. Our lips touched, our eyes closed, our mouths opened. But we never kissed. Why?
A moment passed before Ogha sat back on the rock as if shook off from a trance. He scratched his head a couple of times as Ishai returned to her company of the other two virgins. She turned and gave Ogha a sensuous look as the other two girls walked up to him.
He caught his breath and swallowed nervously. He wanted to get away but was rooted to the spot by some unknown force. He closed his eyes as the girls touched him everywhere. Slowly, he picked up the ikoro drum, his mouth ajar. The girls kissed him everywhere and pressed their wet bodies against him, moaning in blind, quiet ecstasy. Ishai watched Ogha with eyes like an eagle’s and mouth ajar. Something that looked like love came up to her and dwelled within her.
Some metres away firmly stood a small coconut tree, where an unarmed muscular Ofia warrior was hid. He espied upon this peculiar pornotopia with mouth wide open in disbelief. Quickly, he left and headed towards the Okigbo’s hut. The Wise Men and the Okigbo himself were seated in a semi-circle outside the hut. The warrior arrived and dropped to his knees. “O eye of the village,” he panted in Ofia language. “Something never seen before has happened.” The Wise Men went into slight panic. The first one asked him, “What happened?”
“A man is with the three maidens left in Ofia,” was the reply. Anger flashed into the eyes of the Wise Men. “What man?” asked the third one gruffly. “A man with an ikoro drum,” was the answer. Slowly, the Okigbo arose from his seat and looked heavenwards. The third Wise Man turned his contorted face at him and barked, “Yes! It must be that man from Akwa City. I have always had a bad feeling about that stranger ever since I saw him with your daughter.”
“Me, too,” said the first. But the second one rebuked the first, saying, “Hold your swelling tongue there! I caught your own eyes on Ishai myself when she passed us by to go and change after the Ibom festival. That day, I discovered that not only do you want to add to the five wives you already have in your household, but also that you are a hungry old man with a manhood flapping up and down.”
The first Wise Man got up a moment after that insult was slapped at him and charged at him and barked, “Hold your own decayed tongue!!”
“Wise Men of Ofia!” roared the Okigbo. “Do not blind the eye of Ofia with your pins of personal discord, or else I will no longer look up to you for wisdom. You were the ones who made me resurrect the maiden dance. And now, see what has happened. A man goes and defiles it! A stranger for that matter! I thank the gods that it was not one of us. Warrior!” The warrior got up and stood erect. “You may go now.” The warrior bowed again and left. The Okigbo returned to his throne.
The third Wise Man said, “Eye of Ofia, you later considered the decision we made without a reason of your own.”
“Something strange is going on in Ofia,” the Okigbo muttered thoughtfully. “I can feel it.” The Wise Men looked at themselves, puzzled.
TO BE CONTINUED…