How many of us are aware of these opportunities and take advantage of them?
This is the big question.
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The first thing people noticed on meeting this unique individual were his eyeballs. They protruded forcefully from their sockets.
"What an usual shape of head!" people would comment.
"It is like an avocado pear of many sides! Why does he stiffen his arms when he walks, making them look like lifeless objects attached to a mannequin?" they would whisper.
However, when he smiled, his immaculate white teeth always attracted favourable comments. With a respectable height of about four feet, this simple man called ESEGI lived a fairly contented life. His philosophy of life was as simple as the man himself. He was fond of repeating a profound statement he credited to his mother.
"My Mama used to say to me, Esegi-O! A person who has a good teacher, can never go astray and he who asks for directions when not sure, never gets lost."
Esegi took the above advice so much to heart that he made it his life's creed, though in a special way. He always asked other people to either interpret or explain every question that was put to him or about anything he wanted to do. His most ardent adviser, a person with the slow movements of a snail and a neck so firmly wedged between his shoulder blades that head and shoulders were almost joined. This adviser was none other than the famous EWIRI. He was also Esegi's bosom friend of many years and the two were practically inseparable. Esegi would occasionally sigh and wonder out loud.
"What in Ewiri's brain makes him so brilliant? How could someone, who is so ugly that children run away at the sight of him be even wiser than our fat, tall and thoughtful Amanana-owei? Mm!" He would muse, silently vowing not to open his mouth without clarification from his dear friend.
One fine morning, during the dry season when the harmattan winds were at their height, Esegi, still wrapped in his 'cover cloth,' decided to cross to the opposite side of the stream separating the village from the farmlands.
It was just a few feet wide and people on either side conversed without strain. He called to his fair complexioned plump wife Alabata who was already on the other side. Though she was warming herself by a small fire, he wanted her to come over and ferry him across. She asked if he was alone and characteristically he did not answer her immediately, having not consulted his chief adviser Ewiri, who luckily was with him. He turned to his friend and asked,
"What do you think she means by asking if I am alone?"
"What she means is not a mystery, friend. All she's saying is that you should return home to pick up some items that would be of interest to her, including a boat," responded Ewiri.
Esegi immediately left for his house, telling Alabata at the top of his voice.
"I am running home to do your bidding without delay my sweet wife!"
Alabata though confused, responded that she would wait for him.
"Hurry up-O! I have a lot to do in the farm and will start clearing the bush as soon as I have warmed myself well enough," she responded.
Esegi again asked Ewiri for clarification of his wife's response.
"Alabata wants you to go for the items all by yourself. She does not want you to go along with any friend and she says you should be quick about it."
Esegi embraced his friend's waist, thanked him and ran home.
As soon as he left, Ewiri called out to Alabata.
"A'a-a Alabata! Your husband says you should immediately come and meet me for some secret instructions."
"He-ee! Ewiri! Are you sure that was what my husband told you? One can never be sure about ..."
"Yes of course! Do I look like a liar, en! Am I not your husband's best friend?" Ewiri retorted indignantly.
Satisfied that he must be telling the truth, she paddled across to meet him.
When they met, Ewiri confided that her husband was actually a very dangerous man who had sinister plans. He therefore assured her that Esegi was not the type of man for a hardworking woman like her. Many more damaging things were revealed which convinced her of Ewiri's sincerity.
Alabata was very impressed with the way he reasoned and vowed to deal with her husband. Upon his return, Esegi met a very hostile and angry Alabata.
"I didn't know you were such a wicked man Esegi!" She shouted angrily.
"Anyway, thank God Ewiri had the good sense to reveal all the little secrets you told him. You even went as far as telling him to marry me! I can never understand why my own husband will tell his friend to marry me. This is senseless but I am glad you said so. Yes, I will marry him! I am sure he will make a better husband than you. Foolish man!" she fumed.
"What is she talking about?" A perplexed Esegi asked his friend.
Ewiri stroked his moustache and was not forthcoming.
"Aboo Ewiri, please tell me if you understand what my wife saying."
"Err.. I think she means that she prefers to marry me but abeg, don't ask me why she is saying such a thing. I prefer that you settle that between
yourselves." He said, looking at a set of butterflies perched on a cocoyam leaf, while still stroking his moustache.
At this point, Esegi became utterly confused. He scratched his head and looked upwards, then down. He felt like laughing and crying all at the same time! He did not quite know whether the emotion he was experiencing was that of betrayal, fear or anger. On the other hand, his friend Ewiri appeared more interested in looking at the many lizards and frogs scouring around for food. Esegi was disappointed in his wife for suddenly abandoning him.
The trauma was almost too much for him to bear. For the first time in his life, he was forced to think for himself, albeit momentarily. He decided to appeal to his wife directly.
"Alabata my beloved wife, why are you talking of leaving me for this useless, ugly Ewiri, hnn? He is short, has no neck and won't even be able to walk fast enough to catch up with a long-legged beauty like you. A millipede is a racing dog compared to him! Why then attach yourself to such a person?" He asked in a caressing tone.
Alabata was very surprised that Esegi could ask her such a question after all the humiliation she had suffered.
"I cannot believe my ears!" she screamed.
"Did you not see his ugliness before telling him to tell me to marry him, because you have found a more beautiful woman than me? So why are you now questioning me? Look, I know you have a head that has three bulges like Mama Tare's akpu but surely, your brain too cannot be out of shape?" At this point, Esegi became totally discouraged and lapsed into his old mind-set. He reluctantly turned to Ewiri and sought explanation of what Alabata had just said.
"Abeg Ewiri, I still consider you a friend. Do not abandon me." He pleaded.
"Can you explain in detail, what my wife is trying to tell me?"
"With pleasure!" responded Ewiri smiling.
"What Alabata means is this," he began, then paused and started removing some invisible particles from his head. Esegi was getting impatient and started fidgeting.
"Ewiri, sisei gbaa!" He appealed, almost tearfully.
"Look at Alabata very well, will you?" Ewiri ordered.
"Yes, yes! I am looking at her now," nodded a slightly hopeful but baffled Esegi.
The extra strain of opening his eyes wide produced reddish spots in the man's distended eyeballs.
"She is a very beautiful woman and one would have thought that eyes as big as yours, will see beyond her outer beauty which ..." "Hey, hold on!" Esegi interrupted, now completely lost. He pointed a finger at his wife, who was still standing at the opposite bank of the narrow stream.
"Explain what you mean by what you just said and also what Alabata said last time."
"Okay then!" Ewiri said with a determined nod.
"What I mean is this. A woman like Alabata, is special. Her inner beauty is even greater than the outer one. That is the precise reason for the confusion she is causing in the hearts of many men. As for the meaning of what she said, it is simple. You should go to the market place and tell any old woman you find to come and beg her for you, then ..." Even before Ewiri finished speaking, Esegi was already running.
"Aha-aa!" he exclaimed.
"I knew she would make such a request. That is my Alabata speaking! My lovely wife, I love you-ayy! Thank you Ewiri! I will go about the assignment immediately!"
He sped off to the market without a backward glance, tripping and falling in the process, as his feet got entangled in some palm fronds.
'Nasty palms!' He murmured. 'You think you can stop me? No way! I must come back with an old woman to beg my beloved Alabata. Yes! She will then smile, sing and dance for Esegi, her husband forever!CHAPTER 2
THE EKINE PRIEST
Many cultures believe that the creator of the world always provide intercessors for mankind in the form of unseen but felt deities. The advent of Christianity and Islam in West Africa has however, changed attitudes to some extent. While some communities embraced the new religions with enthusiasm, others were slow in incorporating it into their daily lives. The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is one such place, where change has been slow. Many call themselves Christians but still fear the unseen deities or forces. A number of communities still respect the intercessory deities and actively worship them. We are going to meet one man who took his job as custodian of one such deity EKINE, very, very seriously.
"A-a-boo! The clouds frown when he is angry! Lightening warns before he sets foot in his battle canoe and thunder shakes everywhere when he raises his head!"
The above statement was made by the Bebe-are-owei of Ekine-ama, when a stranger asked him to describe the Ekine priest.
"What about rain? Does it not follow the great priest? I was told that. ..."
"A-aa!" The Bebe-are-owei interrupted the stranger.
"When the Ekine priest asks the rain to dress the earth with showers, all in the vicinity run to hide. What comes with the rain is not for ordinary eyes. My sister, the mere mention of Ekine's rain makes my body shake."
"But why are his eyes always bloodshot and ..."
"Please, please let us discuss something else," he pleaded, frowning slightly.
High Priest Karekarebo, embodied all the attributes of the Ekine deity. He alone occupies the inner chambers of the Ekine shrine. The outer spacious room, usually open to all, looked like a scene from a horror movie. Blood stained palm fronds, animal and fish related ornaments and two red and yellow carved giants, adorned the four corners. It was the duty of the High Priest to present the human face of Ekine and he did this by organizing colourful masquerade festivals once a year.
Karekarebo was as short as a tree trunk, with a belly that was round and distended. His shining baldhead adorned a thick neck. This respected priest customarily wore dresses highlighting the deity's colours of orange, red, black and blue. A two-feet high straw hat made of birds' feathers, completed the regalia. His face would usually be painted in four equal parts of red, black, orange and blue. He was awe-inspiring and few dared look him in the eye. The man was even reputed to have the capacity to transform himself into beast, reptile, tree, water or any other material he so desired. With its legendary reputation for dealing decisively with guilty persons, the Ekine deity was revered and feared by both adherents and non-adherents alike.
One fine morning, when the sun came out early to greet its children and the tide was high, the High Priest visited his good friend Amatare.
"I am thinking of visiting the forest to a brief interaction with our friends in that kingdom. Would you like to join me? What say you my friend?" He asked.
"Haa! No need to ask twice. You know I can never pass up an opportunity to show my hunting skills!"
"Very well then. We shall see who the better hunter will be, this time!" Amatare was excited at the prospect of a lively expedition with his friend.
After a breakfast of steaming fresh fish beribe okodo, they paddled leisurely down the river. Counting the water lotuses floating by was a practice they
enjoyed, right from their childhood days, while cheerfully greeting the women on their way to farmlands or fishponds. They waved to some men standing by the riverbank.
Suddenly, the priest turned to his friend.
"Amatare, we must make a brief stop at the burial ground. It is very important that we do so immediately!"
"Apoo-iye! That was not the plan. I refuse to listen to you this time.
Benebene! I am not going to any burial ground when there is no corpse to bury!" Amatare protested.
In a tone that sounded like the beat of a gong, the priest spoke calmly and deliberately.
"I shall point my finger to a particular spot and that's where you will anchor the canoe!"
Like a stubborn child subdued by a parent's threat, Amatare nodded.
Shortly thereafter, they anchored and went ashore.
The priest moved swiftly into the dense forest, closely followed by a hesitant Amatare. They walked in silence for about fifteen minutes, then Karekarebo stopped abruptly. He quickly pulled out his cutlass from its holster and cut the grass around an area, about seven feet in diameter. Thereafter, he drew two circles with white chalk and told his bemused friend to occupy one of the circles, while he got into the other. He further instructed Amatare to be calm and not to be afraid, no matter what happened.
"Fear will attract unpleasant consequences." He stressed.
"Hm! I hear you iye!A blind man knows when it's harmattan by the harshness of the wind blowing against his face," Amatare replied.
"Just observe events without displaying any emotion," Karekarebo advised.
Amatare nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
Then as he looked on, Karekarebo, laid on the ground and stretched until he became as stiff as a dead body. All breathing ceased completely. The body started to swell until it became so bloated that it bust open at several places spewing worms, pus and blood mixed with water! The circle he occupied was now overflowing with a mixture of all the above in a messy slimy pool. The stench was unbearable but Amatare remained calm. Only his luminous eyes, betrayed the anxiety he felt inside. As all this was going on, the ground suddenly split open and Karekarebo's entire body was swallowed up!
At that very moment, a huge python moved into Amatare's circle, wrapped its slippery self around the man's feet and started leaking his hands and feet. He did not flinch but his body was as rigid as a concrete electric pole.
After a while though, the python slithered away, only to be replaced by a horde of mosquitoes. They covered every inch of his body, buzzing merrily.
Their 'visit' was only momentary, paving way for two teenage white boys!
White boys, appearing in the dense jungle of Izon-ebe! Amatare must have been astonished beyond words but then, who wouldn't? The duo proceeded to present him with a note pad and pen in a ceremonious manner. Just as he was telling himself that the boys certainly did not know he was a functional illiterate, the power of literacy was instantly conferred on him.
He was asked to write down everything that was dictated by them. The boys also showed him all manner of herbs and roots and their uses. The 'lecture' continued for several hours. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the boys disappeared!
As if by signal, the ground opened with a roaring sound and standing before him was Ekine Priest Karekarebo, in full regalia! He had a secret smile on his face. Words were unnecessary. The two friends merely nodded at each other and quietly continued their journey.
Amatare eventually became the greatest healer of his day. Needless to say his incredible knowledge of herbs and his ability to heal even the
'incurables' was a surprise to many and debates about how he acquired these gifts continue to this day.CHAPTER 3
THE GOLDEN BIRD
Toke-ere was tall, willowy and born dumb, while her sister Ebi-ere was short, beautiful, outgoing and had all her senses intact. Together with their parents, they lived in a three-room mud house, plastered with cement. The family had a highly treasured gold coloured pet bird, which was kept in a tiny bamboo cage in the centre of their living room.
Whenever the parents left home, Ebi-ere would let the bird out of its cage and allow it fly all over the place. After a while, she would call it back with a song.
"Dee ofoni korobo atangbala-ange fe!" and it would happily fly back and eat rice out of her palm.
But one morning, while the golden bird was out playing, it saw other golden birds and flew away with them. Ebi-ere sang its song several times but there was no sign of the bird. No matter how sweetly she sang, it refused to come back. When it dawned on her that the bird had flown away for good, she was horrified. Crying loudly, she ran into the kitchen situated behind the main house. Once there, she crawled into a corner of the fireplace, scooped a handful of ash and rubbed it all over her body.
Toke-ere, who had followed her sister and witnessed the rubbing of ash frowned and made a sign asking,
"What is the matter with you? Why are you sitting by the fire place with ash all over your body?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Esegi's Mind and Other Stories"
Copyright © 2018 Gesiere Brisibe-Dorgu.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Esegi's Mind, 1,
The Ekine Priest, 7,
The Golden Bird, 12,
Gold Everywhere, 18,
Otou The Hunter, 22,
Three Muturus, 29,
Human Faced Bird, 36,
Nikpi Maiden Of Sacrifice, 44,
Yaya's Child, 51,
Life's Turns, 67,
Three Brothers, 80,
Unlikely Hero, 87,
Tiger And Goat, 91,
Ewiri And Ledene, 96,
Rope Around Oyinbra, 100,
The Swimming Head, 116,
The Dog, 131,
The Hand Of The Dead, 138,
Fatu And The Tail Of Elephant, 144,