it as they raise their son, the future. Old traditions which cripple positive change, are modified to fulfill this task. Halima also illustrates the joys of sisterhood, and brotherhood, as the country Nigeria, the continent of Africa, and the entire world, usher in the new era of Globalization, beyond ethnic boundaries.
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By Mercy Ngozi Alu
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Mercy Ngozi Alu
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBrief Background on the village of Obodo/neighboring clans
It was evening in the village of Obodo. The last rays of the sun could be seen fading gently across the horizon. Women and children were busy preparing the evening meal while the men sat around, drinking palm wine or sniffing ground tobacco. A few stragglers were still returning from the farms in groups, women with bundles of cassava stems balanced delicately on their heads, while the men carried matchets and ropes. Obidiko, the village postman, could be seen on his rickety old bicycle, dutifully delivering letters. He was always properly dressed in brown khaki shorts and a crisp white shirt and tie. "Good evening sa!", the young man greeted as he came in front of one of the houses at the far corner of the village. This belonged to the palmwine tapper, Mazi Obiekwe. "Thank you my son", responded the old man cheerfully, "though it seems to me that you young people of today are beginning to forget how to greet your elders properly. Anyway, what do you have for me today?".
Obidiko extended an envelope towards the old man who quickly glanced at him reproachfully. "So you want to be asked to explain the little marks to me?. Young man, you must have been daydreaming that you completely forget your manners". Sorry Sa", Obidiko apologized and quickly opened up the envelope. "It's from your daughter in Abanta. She is coming in three market days with her husband to see you". The old man's face beamed, "Did you know that my son in law is a dokita?" he demanded. "No, sa", Obidiko pretended not to know. Everybody in the village knew that Mazi Obiekwe's daughter, Ego, had married a doctor. The old man made sure that everybody was aware of it. At this moment, he was certainly in a talkative mood. "My daughter lives in a big house with her husband, who is a doctor. He is a good one who knows the Oyibo medicine very well. He went to the Oyibo people's land and studied it. Did you know my daughter has three sons already? I did not say one, nor two, but three sons, who will grow up to be just like their father, or for that matter, just like their grandfather?". He patted himself on the chest in a bragging manner.
Obidiko kept looking at his watch, feigning interest. He had one more letter to deliver, and he wasn't too sure which direction his destination was. Wondering if he should cut the old man's speech off, as respectfully as possible , he responded, "you are lucky sa. It is a good thing. But I have to make it to Umunnakwe's compound before dusk. Could you kindly direct me on which way to go?" Mazi Obiekwe slowly got up from his wooden stool and beckoned the young man with his right hand, while he motioned with his left. "It is all the way in the other direction, if you like you can have supper with us before you go". The young man swallowed. The prospect of a good meal of pounded yam foo-foo, was quite tempting. Mazi Obiekwe took his silence to be a yes, and smiling knowingly, he called out to his wife, Erinma, to come and welcome the visitor.
It was dusk by the time Obidiko arrived at Ofodiri Umunnakwe's compound. He found him sitting alone in front of his mud hut, gazing reflectively out into the distance. The sounds of pestle and mortar, mingled with women's voices were coming from the back, as Nwakaku, his wife, prepared a late dinner. She was a kind hearted, boisterous woman, who was quite notorious for her late cooking. Rumor had it that one day, soon after Nwaka, as she was called for short, had gotten married, she had gone to plait her hair at a friend's house and forgot about the evening meal. By the time she came back and started cooking, it was so dark that one couldn't tell one finger from the other. Passers-by who inquired of her why she cooked so late were told that the goat had gotten to the dinner before she had a chance to serve it, thus she had to cook all over. The next day, a few older men advised the new husband, Ofodiri, to beat his wife a little, this would help shape her up, they said. But Ofodiri was a quiet man who did not believe in violence, besides; he loved his wife very much in spite of her ways.
Ofodiri was jolted out of his reverie by Obidiko's approach just as his young daughter, Nneka, came to inform him that supper was ready. "Tell your mother to bring some kolanuts, I believe we have a visitor, please sit down". Ofodiri motioned towards an empty stool to his right. "Good evening sa", Obidiko greeted as he climbed off his bicycle. He waited till Ofodiri had prayed over the traditional orji or kolanut. The two men chewed for a while in silence, before Obidiko cleared his throat as if ready to speak. Ofodiri waited expectantly. "Here is a letter for you, it seems like it has traveled a long way to get here", Obidiko presented the rusty brown envelope, opening it carefully to reveal its' contents. "It is from the examination council in Ozala and it says that your son Nnanna, has passed the secondary school common entrance examination with distinction. He has been offered a scholarship to go to government college, Ozala. Ofodiri Umunnakwe beamed with pleasure, then asked cautiously, "but what exactly is this scholarship they have given to my son?" Obidiko explained that it meant he would not have to worry about paying for Nnanna's school fees at all, except to give him money for books and food.
At this point, Ofodiri called his wife, Nwaka, to come and share the good news their visitor had brought. As could be expected, the elated woman could not keep the good news to herself, but proceeded to clap and sing in happiness at the top of her lungs. This alerted the neighbors, and soon, an excited crowd had gathered to join in the rejoicing. Questions were asked and answers were given a thousand times. The women had formed a circle with one chosen to lead the singing as they danced, swaying from side to side, and clapping their hands in excitement. Their excitement was indeed justified, for it was quite difficult to get into the government college, and moreover, Nnanna, had set an example for other young people in the village. In fact, other villages like Umukochi, Ementa, and Abanta hadn't produced anybody in the past several years who made it to the prestigious college.
Palm wine and dried fish were brought and passed around, and everybody was happy, until someone asked the important question, "but where is Nnanna?". It was obvious that the primary celebrant was nowhere near the compound, otherwise he would have come to find out what the excitement was all about. "I shall go and look for Nnanna, I think I know where to find him, Ike, one of Nnanna's several friends volunteered. A chorus of voices rang out, "me too", "I shall go too". Within a short time, a company of people made up of a few young men and boys, set off along the dusty road leading away from Ofodiri Umunnakwe's compound.
The forest was calm except for the chirping of the birds among the trees. Tall trees, some of them half covered with green creepers and vines, loomed in the distance. Nnanna could feel his foot steps resounding along the lonely forest path. He crept stealthily onwards, holding his catapult ready to shoot a bird or small animal of some sort. He stopped short for a moment, wiping his sweaty brow with the palm of his hand. He retraced his footsteps to return to the village, then he remembered that he had forgotten to check his bush rat traps. It had not been a very lucky evening for Nnanna, who loved to set traps for little animals or listen to the birds and monkeys in his spare time. He was quite skilled with his catapult, and often brought home meat of some kind. Tonight, all the animals seemed to be in hiding, or else the bush spirits were playing some prank on him. As he went towards his traps, he thought he heard his name being called from a distance, very faintly. A sudden fear gripped him as he remembered his father's warning never to stay in the forest till nightfall. Pausing for a moment, he stood still. After reassuring himself that it must be his imagination, and besides, he had just completed the trying difficult circumcision/initiation rites which made him a man, meaning he mustn't be afraid, he continued towards the traps. Just as he reached the first one, which looked quite empty, he heard his name being called quite loud and clear. Nna-Nna!. This time, Nnanna didn't pause to think for a moment, for who could be calling his name at such an hour and such a place except for one of the Ndimmuo, or bush spirits. He ran as fast as he could for dear life. Puffing and panting, he pushed aside vines and branches as he aimed for the path leading directly to the first row of houses in the village.
The search party, lead by Ike, was heading down the forest path. Ugonna, one of Nnanna's friends, and also the loudest of the group, was given the task of calling his name. A few of the others carried lighted torches. Suddenly, Nnanna burst out as if from nowhere, running with all his might. Before anyone could help it, he collided forcefully into Ike, sending them both sprawling onto the dusty path. "It was a spirit"! Nnanna gasped as soon as he could catch his breath, while everyone stared at him amazed, and speechless. Ugonna was the first one to get his tongue back, "where did you see it, and what did it look like?". Also, what was it wearing, and what did it say to you?". "Shut up,", Oko bellowed out irritably, "Can't you ask one question at a time?". Okay Nnanna, tell us what was chasing you?" Ike sat up slowly, rubbing his forehead as everyone listened to Nnanna's story. At the end of it, someone burst out laughing, hee-hee, haa-haa!. Before they knew it, everyone had joined in the laughter. Nnanna was at first surprised, then angry, "I say I heard something in the bush, and you laugh at me. What kind of laughter is this?". "Maybe, Ugonna was the spirit that spoke to you in the bush today", Ike managed to say in-between guffaws. "Quite right. I always said Ugonna's loud mouth could drive one senseless". Oko added. Ugonna glared at him.
"Quit acting like a bunch of girls and tell Nnanna why we are here, someone called out". Indeed, locally it was believed that only girls were known for such incessant talk and squabble, though this was quite understandable, since their tongues were tied too loosely to the roofs of their mouths. At this, Ike commenced to relate all the previous events to Nnanna, and soon, they all set off for the village together.
The noise at Ofodiri Umunnakwe's compound had quieted a little bit by this time, and people sat around expectantly, waiting for the hero's arrival. As soon as he was spotted from a distance, one of the younger men ran to lift him onto his shoulders and the excitement reached its peak as people shouted Nnanna's name over and over. As Ofodiri gazed at his son, he was filled with a sudden sense of pride surpassing anything he had ever felt before. In him, the split image of his father, he saw the future. A future that would be different from what had existed before it. Men would write with pen and paper and fight with the pen rather than the matchet, and his son, Nnanna, would be in the forefront, leading his people to victory. The general happy atmosphere was interrupted by the sound of a crying baby, and the mother quickly picked the child up, strapping him onto her back in that typical African fashion. "Nwakaku", she addressed Nnanna's mother, "let me go and feed this child, he is getting very restless". As the woman, Udoka, turned to go, she stumbled over something and fell, with her son, Mafo, still tied to her back. Immediately, the laughter died down and new shouts of alarm rang through the air, as people ran to her aid. The child had hit his head very hard on the ground and was rushed off to the local medicine man immediately. As the crowd dispersed, there were mixed emotions, a few attributed the accident to the over excitement of the evening, while a few more shrewd ones suspected that there was more to it than what met the common eye. How else could it be explained that such unrestrained happiness should be dampened so suddenly? If it wasn't an evil omen, what else could it be?
Chapter TwoNnanna Recieves a Scholarship to the Government College Ozala
That night, in Umunnakwe's compound, before supper, the family offered more lumps of foo-foo than usual to the family gods, and Ofodiri thanked the gods, praying for their guidance and blessing. Before he went to sleep, Ofodiri prayed once more to his personal Chi. Just before blowing out the kerosene lamp in the corner of the room, he turned to his wife and demanded, "Nne, how do you think we can raise enough money for the remaining expenses?" Even though he did not specify what he was referring to, Nwaka knew, because the same question had also been on their mind. It was one thing for Nnanna to win a scholarship, but his books and clothing plus feeding had to be provided for. Who would want to lose such a golden opportunity?. Nwaka had been pondering this issue, since mealtime because she knew that her husband would seek her opinion.
That was one of the reasons she admired him. Unlike most of the other men, Ofodiri was not ashamed to ask his wife's opinion when making decisions. "I think we should sleep over the matter", Nwaka responded thoughtfully, "what about your brother Ibeka?, Nnanna is also his son, you know, but it is best to sleep over the matter for now". Ofodiri nodded in the semi-darkness, letting out a sigh. His wife always had an answer for everything. He sat down on the mud raised bed, and blew out the lamp. In the ensueing darkness, he reached across for the end of his wife's wrapper.
It was way past the usual time for the evening meal and the family palaver time when Ofodiri Umunnakwe arrived at the first house on the outskirts of the neighborhood village, Umukochi. He made his way in between the mud thatched huts, returning a few greetings as he met a few villagers, still rounding up their livestock or preparing their repast in various ways. As he approached the big mud hut in the center of the village, he couldn't help marveling at his older brother's good fortune. Ibeka Umunnakwe was a man who knew how to obtain success. Everything he put his hands to was successful. He owned several large farms, and he had several barns full of yams. He also had quite a few herds of livestock. As a result of his wealth, he was able to marry several wives, of whom the youngest, Chika, had been one of the most desirable maidens in the village. Ofodiri could hear the sounds of scraping coming from the side of one of the huts, and he guessed someone was still awake, cleaning up cooking utensils for the night. Very soon, a girl of about fifteen years emerged from one of the huts, carrying a basin of water. Though he could not see quite so well in the dark, Ofodiri guessed it would be Weluwe, one of his brother's daughters by his oldest wife. The girl caught sight of Ofodiri making his way to the entrance of the main hut in the compound. "Ndeewo, nna anyi", she greeted him politely, acknowledging her uncle in the traditional term meaning literally, little father". Ofodiri acknowledged her greeting and questioned her, " Welu, is your father in?". "He is in, but he is not well". "I will tell my mother you are here". Welu disappeared into her mother's hut, and seconds later, she emerged with her mother close at her heels. After exchanging greetings, Ndidi, Ibeka's principal wife, led her inlaw to her husband's Obi. Upon gaining entrance, they observed the reclining figure of Ibeka, silhouetted by the dim glow of the oil lamp in the corner.
"Nna anyi", Ndidi addressed her husband, "Our brother is here". After a brief silence, the sick man spoke, "greetings, my brother, but I hope your feet are well, since you have come to us at this time of the day?". "My feet are well", Ofodiri responded, as he sat down on one of the low stools proferred. "In fact, I bring good news". "It is well then, my brother, Ibeka rejoined," although as our people say, the chicken does not pick a race in broad daylight for nothing. I will listen to what you have to say in the morning. Ndidi, please bring us something to eat. Ibeka's wife appeared almost immediately with what was left of the evening's pounded yam with okra soup. She had been busy warming the soup in the back kitchen, waiting for the men to pause their conversation. "We shall wait until morning to discuss, my brother". Ibeka continued. After the warm meal, the two men retired to Ibeka's Obi, while the woman cleared away the empty bowls and retired to their hut.
Excerpted from Halima by Mercy Ngozi Alu Copyright © 2010 by Mercy Ngozi Alu. 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.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: Brief Background on the village of Obodo/neighboring clans....................1
Chapter 3: Ofodiri visits Ibeka in Umukochi....................18
Chapter 4: Nnanna's school life....................25
Chapter 5: An Introduction to the Debating Society....................31
Chapter 6: Eke Market Day....................39
Chapter 7: Dawakin Girls Attends the debate in....................47
Chapter 8: Nnanna meets Halima....................54
Chapter 9: Nnanna goes home for the holidays....................60
Chapter 10: Storytime: The story of Adamiro....................67
Chapter 11: Nnanna meets Ihuoma....................76
Chapter 12: Visiting Kano....................84
Chapter 13: Halima's big secret revealed....................91
Chapter 14: Mr Emereonye Jude Nnamdi visits home with Nnanna....................99
Chapter 15: Meeting Mallam Musa; Nwakaku goes to the Dibia....................105
Chapter 16: Halima's Dowry....................111
Chapter 17: The Son of the People....................118
Chapter 18: Nnanna's graduation; Halima comes home....................126
Chapter 19:The Traditional Marriage Ceremony....................135
Chapter 20: Madam Aku Oyibo....................141
Chapter 21: The wrestling match....................149
Chapter 22: Meeting Mallam Musa; "Son of the Soil"....................154
Other works by this author: Prelude; "Yes We Can", Africa Sings and Other short poems....................161
Glossary of Ibo Words and their meanings....................166
Hausa Words and their meanings....................167
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is for Naija, and beyond. I read this book, and said what brilliant writing. This woman is telling the truth. We have a lot of things in common as human beings, and should try and promote peace. I like the story very much, and it brings Africa to life.
I totally enjoyed reading this book. I think this is one of the great literary accomplishments coming out of Africa, by an African woman. It is global in perspective, but it is also very entertaining, and brings the African cultures to life. Being from Europe and having lived in the United States, I had a chance to read "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. I also read a book from an author called "Mariama Ba', who I think was from another African country. I tell you, this book, "Halima", is funny, interesting, and holds you spellbound till the last page. It isn't too long, about 188 pages altogether. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to read great African literature, pick up this book. If you are a student of culture, literature, African studies, African American studies,History, world cultures, Education, Women's Studies, etc, etc, pick up this book. Also, if you just want to relax with a good story, pick up this book. Great Book altogether, all year round!!!!!!!!!!!
It did not take me long to finish this book, but I love it! I love to read, but mostly books that are engaging, and good stories. This book has adventure, romance, and is very funny. I like the way the author describes the characters in the wrestling match. I can picture in my mind the day to day life in an African village. It is so interesting what happens, when Western Culture and African Culture meet.
Enters the Romance room