What really prompt me to volunteer as a delegate to witness the burial of our mate was not really known to me until I went to Opume community, the origin and burial place of the body of our brother and friend.
The night before the day I volunteered, saw myself at the burial ceremony in a dream. Then I knew it was a journey I had to be part of…
The journey wasn’t quite a pleasant one, though no accidents nor breakdowns, but it was a lengthy one, with a slow driver and traffic on the way, one terrifying moment was when a vehicle of same liner drove off the road and fell into a deep ditch just minutes before we got to the spot (thank God no life was lost), we stopped for a while to tend to the wounded and sympathized while arrangements were put in place to get the stranded passengers to their destination by our driver and others of his colleagues who had numbered about 4 with their vehicles parked…
Not having a direct vehicle going to Bayelsa, I was merged to travel with those going to Uyo, Owerri and Onitsha. Being the only passenger going to Bayelsa, I wasn’t so comfortable. But knowing that Uyo is further got me relaxed.
We left the park some 15mins after 8am and eventually arrived Owerri some 11hrs later, where I was transferred to another vehicle to take me down to Yenogoa; a journey that lasted another about 3hrs. I had no idea that Yenogoa was still that further off, I thought I was going to pocket some “change” when the driver gave me N1000 to take a vehicle, beside NNPC filling station, telling myself that there’s nowhere Yenogoa fare can cost N1000 after spend what seem like eternity from Lagos to Owerri already. On getting to where the vehicles are I was told the fare was N1500, I looked around for the Lagos driver but he has already zoomed off…
It was quite disappointing to see that most parts of the city of Yenogoa lacked central power supply (up to when I left).
Not knowing how far Ogbia LGA was from Yenogoa, going to a village unknown at night (even though the earth is the Lord’s) and the doubt of getting a vehicle going there at that time (having asked a few persons); I gladly lodged my aching body for the night.
By 9am the next morning, I was up and ready for the last lap. I located the car park, got a vehicle, off we went and arrived in about 40mins.
Opume Community is actually an island in Ogbia LGA, with 2 bridges (one under construction) connecting to it. A peaceful, neat community with concreted walkways (barely wide enough for a vehicle).
Graced with the presence of a church (though no name, it looks like a Baptist Church); a community primary school and a library. The people seem friendly and flow freely in Pidgin-english (even saw an Hausa man doing petty trading there).
This issue of electric power supply prevailed still. For some unknown reason my phone battery did not charge all through the night in the lodge at Yenogoa. So I was faced with the worries of charging up. I later got a phone charging outlet, the only in the community, after walking around for sometime…
There’s about 3 bamboo structures in form of a hut by the river bank located separately around the community, I thought it was for relaxation since it had a good view of the river. I went into one, it has 2 benches, I noticed some partitions, an opening on the floor and a ladder fixed to the floorboard of each partition straight into the water. I presumed it was being used for lowering selves into the water for swimming (though the water is brownish). A man’s wears (trousers, shirt, wrist watch) were laid on one of the benches but I couldn’t see anyone (owner must have gone swimming). I sat on the other bench and brought out my Bible as I meditated on some verses. Then I heard the sound of water being bailed and shortly a man in early 50s came through one of the partitions and put on the wears. I greeted him, he responded with a smile and left without any question.
I took a more comfortable position and continued. Shortly 2 other men came to perform a similar ritual like the first, not minding me, they went into different compartments; then it dawned on me when they dropped their bombs. This is the community’s loo!!! I vamoosed immediately, consoling myself that it is kinda sophisticated and neat (the thought of having sat there all these while got my stomach rumbling)…
After going around the community thrice (maintaining only perimeter that appears safe), I decided to take a rest under a tree (by now I had located the family house and noticed some preparations towards the burial ceremony) in front of a small isolated hut. I brought out my companion and meditation continued.
Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice that asked,
“Ben, na only you waka com?”
I jumped to my feet ready to run, but I saw a young man in wrapper and shirt with half the face painted white and half in red standing close-by.
He asked again,
“Ben, na only you waka com?”
While still wondering how such a person knew my name and in this place of all places, the voice and the face connected; spontaneously I asked back:
“Alex, na you be that?”
“Yes”, he replied.
“Wetin you dey do here”
“Na me be their chief priest here”
“Jesus!!”, I exclaimed.
“You mean no be the burial you come for?”
“I say na me be the CP here, I dey shuttle 5 villages including Lagos”
“You looked very tired, make I tell them make them prepare food”, my former classmate whom I’m sure is based in Lagos said…
“Em e get wetin I wan ask CEO (our late mate that was to be buried), dats why I walka this walka, but I don forget wetin I wan ask am o”, I said.
“Mhmm, CEO no want make you ask am the question that’s why he make you forget the question”, said Alex.
“Wetin be the question?”
“Me too I no know, but I go give you wetin go make you remember”
He brought a small jar, “This palm kernel oil go make u remember, just apply small for your head when you wan go see him face during the laying-in-state”.
“But I no get plan to see him face nau”.
“How then you wan take ask am the the question?”
“Mhmm, Ok I go try”.
I collect it and was about putting it in my bag, when he said.
“Your money na 3k oo”.
“Bros why nau, make I give you 5h”.
“E be like say you wan craze go back to Lagos”, he said angrily.
“Guy you hash o! Who come make you CP for here self?!” I asked
“Leave that story for another day”.
“Ok make I give you 1k”.
“How far the food neva ready?” I asked.
“Remain small oo” female voices from within the hut.
“Alex, the chief priest!!” I hailed.
“Those na 2 wives the community take honour me”.
Two lovely ladies came out with the meal, and we ate…
At the laying-in-state one of the relative whom I have met earlier, said I would be expected to make a presentation shortly.
“What kind of presentation!” I asked.
“Normal presentation, you’ll say something about him and drop wetin you bring come for the family from Lagos”.
“O yes, that’s normal presentation. No problem, that would be in the morning before I leave”.
“Ok, my friend” he replied smiling.
If I see collect for your hand, I go collect. No juju go make me sleep for this village this night, I said to myself…
When I noticed that the room where CEO was place got empty (apart from a man who never seem to left the room), I applied the kernel oil given by the CP, my friend, and stepped in.
Tears gathered at the corner of my eyes as I looked at the lifeless, wrinkled and deformed face of our mate who died of Hepatitis B some two weeks ago , I said a short prayer. And before I could bridle my tongue the question poured out of my mouth.
“CEO, where the bottle of wine you promised to give me after our last election?”
I was shocked at the question myself?
Immediately I got an answer, but I didn’t believe it came from him (at least the lips didn’t move). So I asked the man in the room, thinking he said something.
“Sorry, what did you say sir?”
“Him say “‘Benji, your fada‘”
Then he looked at me with wide eyes full of fear and I glazed at him with the same expression, immediately it dawned on us that the spirit of the deceased just spoke. We almost knocked other sympathizers off as we ran out of the room after successfully squeezing ourselves through the door.
A tribute to Mr Ebiene Boro Beredugo; born Nov. 30th 1974; burial Nov. 16th 2018.
Safe Journey Bro.