BOOK I: Adda
The white-fox bounded on through crags and brambles. A mighty tree stood erect far off watching with fascination . The tree blinked and strode forward , twilight sky downcast behind.
Hands outstretched clutched the white furred fox. Okotu pondered: “he’s too big to be a fox” . Moonlight, early moonlight reflected something on his hand . “Blood !” The fox scuttled along . Okotu stood up, his long beard and hair dangling about as he gazed at the east where the fox had run from .
Ezza a section of Edda people were at it again . They were waging a bloody civil-war for months now before the Abam/ Ohafia war started . The Ezza warlords were all brothers : Ezekuna, Olodo, Noyo, Eli Ogba and Orokome . Okotu had never been to Ezza region in his life but his brother Umuona who was sent to buy slaves said that Ezekuna as Okpalla reigned like a tyrant . ‘Palisades and earthworks were built high on ramparts linked to forts. Fierce gazing Ezekuna looking on from his oak throne in his exulted palace . The slave-dealer had many many children. They jostled and wrestled with teeming hordes of huge greyhounds. Umuona and his servants feared these people but he ignored what he saw and carried out his father’s business.’
The blood of the dead Ezza warrior still clung onto Okotu’s hand as he strolled back to his hill top home. His dogs greeted him wagging shaggy tails, two of his brothers came chatting with him excitedly.
The compound looked empty. Several long houses, the Obu(Obi) in the centre. Parapet compound walls and pine-trees revolved round him. “Mother where did father say he was going to?” Voice rumbled like waterfall crashing on rocks. Good question the man was gone for 2, 3 weeks. The old woman squinted at her giant son and shrugged. “You know how erratic your father is. He doesn’t tell me anything”. She went back to pounding yam. Okotu glanced round. Umuona and Isuofia sat down discussing battle-plans. They had not noticed Okotu, so engrossed in their deliberations. Okotu coughed. “Ah ha ! Our giant returns . Come, come little brother! Sit down”, Isuofia beckoned. Both were about 25years older than Okotu and his other 4 younger brothers . Okotu had many sisters some already married. They held powerful influence in Ona’s household since Ohafia people were matrilineal. Imagine that?! At least such nonsense does not exist in my big town.
As the three brothers deliberated Okotu watched them keenly. He knew deep down that they hated him especially Isuofia. He was a rich hunter with 2 wives the first was a niece, daughter of Isuofia . People called her Nne-Adazi or Nne-Enu, that wasn’t her name . Her son Adazi-Enu ,first born of Okotu was a stocky boy of 7 . Apart from that the brothers how always their father presented Okotu first whenever visitors came: “My son Okotu -the giant”. Even the community held Okotu’s word in high regard , “what does the giant think”, “let’s clear it first with the giant”, “Okotu give us some advice”. This and more ate them up inside . Never for once in all their lives did Adda people show them reverence or honour though they were great warriors.Men who had campaigned in the fierce lands of the Ekoi, Mbembe and Okoyong . They had danced the braves’ dance “Ite-Ike” in the market square on several occasions. Flutes, xylophones blaring in their ears , blood dripping from severed heads they balanced gracefully on their noble heads. While here was a boy 24 years old, though a Dike was not hardened in war . Besides his heads were gotten through minor skirmishes with Asaga/ Ibibio raiders.
Okotu smiled “Why’re you smiling?” Okotu gazed squarely at Umuona . “Adda intends to surprise to Abam tonight, how?” Isuofia raised his hands . “ What do you mean , ‘how?’ Weren’t you listening? Amadioha save me!” Okotu smiled again : “ Abam town has many villages and they will be heavily guarded”. Umuona spoke: “ We’ve never invaded Abam before . They know its difficult to assemble all our towns for assault . They would probably be expecting an attack from one army Elu, Ebem”-bushy brows heaved, “or Adda. They have spies…” “ So do we!” Isuofia snarled as he stood up to leave. “ Gather our slaves for war. Don’t bring any musical instruments Okotu. Tonight’s battle train must be silent”. Okotu nodded, “ yes big brother”, he got up too.
As the giant predicted the Abam were waiting with heavy force for them. Thousands upon thousands of raffia headgears stood silently in array. Ohafia was surprised , they had to assemble properly each in order of seniority. Okagwe, Ndi Anku, Oboro, Ndi Uduma Okwu, Elu, Ebem, Amaekpu, Nkwoebi, Ihenta, Ndi Okala, Ndi Amogu, Isi Ugwu, Ndi Uduma, Amoke, Ama Nkwu, Ama Ngwu, Ama Uke, Akanu, Ndi Orieke, Asaga, Okoni, Ndibe, Abia, Amuma, Ufiele, Eziafo and Adda. Each army was divided into 3 battallions containing 798men. Umuona led one of them. Abam and Ohafia waited eyeing each other.
According to legend the towns of Okagwe to Nkwoebi were the original 8 towns founded by Uduma-Eze’s descendants who migrated from Ibeku. Elu been a strong decisive man led the Ohafia horde through thick and thin and founded Elu town on a hilltop away from the fens and swamps. The children of the other 8 founders such as Anku, Oboro and Uduma Okwu migrated from Elu and scattered their new settlements. The towns like Adda and Asaga were founded many generations later by descendants of the original 8towns. These later 19 towns were considered second class citizens. They could not even speak in the council of the 8. And to insult anyone from the 8 was considered sacrilege against the ancestors. So apart from the caste system of freeborn/slave and Dike/Ujo there was “Fathers/Sons”. Fathers were the 8 while Sons were the 19. Of course the 8 were the highest caste in Ohafia society. They danced the Ite-Ike war dance before anybody and were given more respect in the Okonkon and Ekpe societies.
Sunlight burst dimly from fading clouds . “What’re they waiting for?!” A Elu warrior snarled. Other Ohafia warriors started shouting shaking axes , spears and raffia-shields. They had no crossbows, bows and arrows , such weapons were considered unmanly. Abam started chanting war songs invoking the name of their ancestor, Onyerubi brother of Uduma-Eze. No one knew who was elder since these 2 fellows lived long, long ago beyond human remembrance in Ibeku .Legend also ststed that these brothers were the greatest warriors of their day and were among the Ibeku people who migrated from Umunede. Then Umunede was dense jungle filled with hippos, alligators, crocodiles, leopards, tigers and all sorts of vicious creatures. Some even say that Uduma-Eze actually led the Ibeku migration from Umunede, but who knows?
“Odogwu Abiriba Oho!
Odogwu Abiriba Oho!
Odogwu Abiriba Oho!
Oku Abiriba O-h-o-o!”
Both clans chanted beating round shields with spears and axes. Abam swerved, rushed forward then danced. They did this several times howling like diseased dogs . Some waved spears menacingly eyes flying about wildly. Red kites shrieked above , Okotu looked up. Others gazed at him then looked up as though he were their leader. Isuofia frowned with envy, his beard tightened, even his own sons worshipped Okotu. Chanting went on as Abam archers unleashed 3 quick volleys. Dying men shrieked, Okotu’s shield caught 3 arrows. He looked round, several others sprawled about shrieking and clutching sides. Brain fluid seeped out a dead man’s eye-socket. Ohafia laughed taunting Abam. Chanting echoed from both sides as the warriors yelled: “ Uduma-Eze!” “Onyerubi-Abam!” and shuttled into each other. Okotu’s pike-mace ate through flesh and bone.
“When is your father coming back?” A Ohafia warrior asked Umuona while they parried in the heat of battle. Umuona dodged an axe blow. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the oldman”. He puffed sweating , he’s supposed to be here leading our battalion. “Yes Umuona- but I hope he’s not dead”. “Ah!” Umuona shrugged, “let the old fool die . Taking off like that without a word to anyone !” The other man lunged his sword into an Abam belly , screwed his face and twisted the sword . “Let’s hope he comes back”. “Yes , Umuona grunted . His eyes widened as though recalling a thought. “I wonder why he took five bags of cowries and manilas”. “What”. “Bags of cowries and manilas !” Umuona shouted above the din. He glanced at Okotu crushing heads with shield and pike-mace. “Your father has being buying many slaves from the Ezza and Okoyong?” Umuona lifted his lips . “Well he’s a very rich man”. Rich man my foot! Many people wondered what entered Ona’s mind . Was the man senile or mad? His compound walls were expanded to accommodate the ever growing number of slaves. He even announced through a town crier one sunny Nkwo morning that Ona’s House was a refuge. “A place where runaway slaves and criminals could come and settle . Ona would surely repay their masters of debts and other financial obligations”. Dispossessed Ujos and relatives were even invited. In the past 6 months hundreds of Heads male and female trooped to Ona’s house. Adazi-Enu found this very amusing. Women and girls of the family were busy cooking and feeding this flood of new comers. Lazy, greedy in-laws also arrived in their droves luggage on head and in hand. No one knew what to make of these funny developments. Apart from that Ona and his eldest son Umuona visited all the ezeogos of Adda. The village-chieftains were happy about their gifts and liked the idea of Ona becoming an Nze chief. “After all the man has contributed bountifully to this community” the Ezeogos discussed among themselves. However, more consultations had to be made. And they were.