The sky was cloudy and the atmostphere damp. The laterite ground was slippery, making manoeuvre bungling, except an experienced grown up who had mastered the situation each time it rained could walk through the red earth. The memories of the civil war still lingered, being a side that had gone through the conflict, was trying to make peace.
Umudimkpa village was located around the rainforest in eastern part of the Niger.
The rain was dropping heavily this time of the year – in June. Ndu had gone to the forest to fetch firewood with his friends, namely; Nnanna, Ukah and Ndah, when it began raining torrentially. They waited for the rain to subside before proceeding with the affair of fetching the wood and gathering their bundles.
After the downpour, they gathered each one’s bundle which they had fetched and left for their respective homes.
Ndu’s father, Mazi Eke was a palm wine taper. He was tying an empty keg of palm wine to his old Raleigh bicycle when Ndu came back in drenched clothes.
“Good evening, Father,” greeted Ndu.
“Welcome my son,” replied Mazi Eke.
Ndu had two siblings Adanma and Abua. Their mother, Ezinne was a hard working woman from a humble background in Umuegwu. A village renowned for it prominent citizens. She was typical of an African mother who strove that her children could go to school. She taught them good morals. She had gone to the market when Ndu came back.
Mazi Eke left for the evening palm wine taping. Now, on his old Raleigh bicycle which he inherited from his father, Okeke Dikemba, the great hunter. He headed towards the down stream side where he usually began before the ‘ude ngwo’ where the raffia palm trees were plentiful. He was calm in disposition. He fought in the Biafran war, though not as a commander. He was one of the foot-soldiers who really fought it out, toiling and tramping for three year, during that historic time in the East of the Niger dubbed Republic of Biafra.
Okeke Dikemba; during his days was a great hunter in Umudimkpa. He had a great prowess in those days; his name was heard more within and beyond as a warrior. He was a giant of a man with a jut out belly, a bushy hair which had gone grey. His prominent roles in Umudimkpa was the reason Dikemba was attached to his name – the community strength. He had a shrine where he worshipped his chi…
Ezinne came back from the market after she had sold her wares and firewood, thereafter, bought some necessities.
“Welcome Mother,” they greeted their mother in unison.
She wasted no time in getting into the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. Setting the firewood to a point where three big stones formed a stove, she kindled the point and set the aluminium pot on the big stones.
The night was silently falling into a reflective scenery. The food was ready; dished in every one’s respective plate and placed on the bamboo table. The spicy aroma was quite relishing.
“Mazi, food is ready,” she would say each time she was done cooking.
“Nne, you’re through so soon,” he was fond of calling her Nne.
They ate in silence in the hut which faced the entrance and backed the other two huts, where one served Mazi Eke and the other Ezinne and her children.
The family had gone to bed when the voice of the town crier was heard piercing through the night. It was Koko – the town crier, doing what he knew how to do best. Gome! Gome! Gome! “My people, listen and listen attentively, the Royal Highness and his council men have finally resolved and arranged to welcome our great son whom the government of the centre has appointed as the federal Minister of Economic Planning, and also for acquiring Western education from the white men’s land. All the dance troupes the men and women are expected to get prepared. It will be held on the second market day at the village square. You are asked to come out en,masse to welcome this great son of ours.” Gome! Gome! Gome! He hit his gong, announcing his exit.