‘Patience!’ The crowd echoed in disappointment. ‘What a stupid boy! What has patience got to do with sharing a coconut? This is the silliest answer so far. You just want to put your parents in agony. An answer could not be more laughable.’
Even Ukeme’s parents were disappointed in him. The immediately began to grieve because that was the end of their son. The regretted bringing him to the gathering.
The rowdiness and comments and mockery continued until the king raised his horsetail and there was sudden silence.
‘Young man,’ the king addressed Ukeme. ‘Did you say patience?’
‘Yes, Your Highness, Patience is the answer to your puzzle.’
‘It is only a pity that the executioners’ blades don’t have the kind patience you are talking about unless of course you have something else to say. We are talking of sharing a coconut.’
‘Well, that happens to be the answer to your puzzle. The people in this kingdom have so much down played a virtue as basic as patience. That is why no one among them will be able to answer the riddle.
‘If you all have patience with me, It will take me seven whole years or more to practically share this coconut among you all without having to divide it. But you can see how impatient we all are to get out the answer from me even this moment.’
The crowd went haywire with curses. They yelled ‘Execute him!’ ‘Stupid boy!’ ‘Share the coconut now you are talking of seven years!’ ‘Execute this crazy boy!’
The king raised his horsetail and the noise ceased instantly. He turned to Ukeme. His eyes were as red as a live coal.
‘Ukeme, do you now see that the people like the executioners’ blades have no patience at all? So perhaps you may be correct about the seven years duration to practically share this coconut without dividing it. But you should be able to tell them how. Now!’
He left the coconut with Ukeme and went back to his throne.
Ukeme moved with the coconut in his hand to the very edge of the podium. He wanted the crowd to clearly hear him.
‘Once you have agreed on becoming patient, only then can I plant this coconut and in seven years or more, it would have grown into a tall tree and yield fruits which can then be shared among you all.
‘That’s the only way this coconut can be shared without having to divide it.’
The king’s anger suddenly gave way for astonishment. The crowd gave Ukeme a second look; they thought twice about the answer. The priest and wise men of Ikonneme saw the correctness of the boy’s answer and began to marvel.
The king astonishment gave way for excitement. He stood up from the throne and asked Ukeme.
‘Little boy, what class are you? Which school do you attend?’
‘Your Highness, I have never been to school all my life.’
‘Why and how did you get the answer to my coconut conundrum?’
‘My parents can’t afford to pay for my education. As for the answer to the riddle, I learnt it from my father.’
The king was moved by Ukeme’s lack of education as he addressed his people again.
‘Ukeme is now heir apparent to my throne. And because he has made me to realise there are some children who parents cannot afford to send to school, I will ensure he gets the best education in this kingdom. Also the other children in Abey Kingdom whose parents cannot afford their education will be put on scholarship henceforth. Having said that, any parents in this kingdom that fails to send their child to school will be arrested and prosecuted for child abuse.
The people cheered the king and Ukeme. The king ordered his entertainers and they rolled out the drums and celebration started. Ukeme’s father carried Ukeme on his shoulders and danced “etighi” with him. His mother was the happiest of all women.
Ukeme lived happily in the palace and when King Imoh finally gave up the ghost, he was crowned in his stead as king. He sat on the throne even at a tender age and rule Abey Kingdom with compassion and love.