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The Surviving Twins
By Sunny Oby Maduka
Partridge AfricaCopyright © 2015 Dr. Sunny Oby Maduka
All rights reserved.
The three could not control their emotions anymore as they clung to each other, tears rolling down their cheeks. The tears were not ordinary. They were tears of joy, deep longing, and reunion. Onyeacho, the psychiatrist, who could not believe his eyes, dashed out of his 'Obi' and called all his neighbours who were equally amazed at what they saw, and it was a miracle of some sort. Paul walked out and then brought the Opel car for their journey back to their home. Before Paul and Peter left Onyeacho's house, they gave Onyeacho some money to share among his neighbours, thanking every one of them for their kind gesture. Ukachi, their mother, fear clearly written on her face, entered the car, which immediately zoomed out of Onyeacho's compound. Onyeacho and his neighbours stood transfixed as they gazed in the direction of the car until it disappeared in the distance.
Peter had been promoted to the status of Chief Engineer, and his area of jurisdiction included Afigbo, Umuagu, Akaebe, Uturu, and Isu, with Okigwe being the administrative headquarters. Afigbo roads were cleared and tarred. Afigbo village was also the first to taste pipe-borne water before other villages around Okigwe and beyond. Umuagu and Akaebe villages were closer to Afigbo, but one had to trek almost twenty kilometres to access the pipe-borne water. When it was fetched, it was preserved with all carefulness.
For some people, it became a wonder medicine that could cure all ailments. It was also asserted that a man once nearly killed his son for carelessly allowing a drop of the pipe-borne water to spill on the ground, while giving the water to him as a medication for headache. Also, some traded with the water, especially those who had servants.
Paul, on the other hand, regarded Saturday as his people's day. He had built a maternity home for them at their 'Ama', and the people gathered there every Saturday to receive free medical treatment. The treatment was administered by some European colleagues. The effectiveness of the treatment spread like whirlwind, reaching all the nooks and crannies of all other villages. The twins appealed to the Government, and through their influence, St Andrews Primary School was built. All able-bodied men and women were employed in pensionable jobs established for the community by the twins' efforts. This singular gesture brought about a true sense of communal unity and oneness. There was love and peace. Developments started springing up and light emerged with ebullience. It was one of those occasions when all the able-bodied young men and women of the Afigbo village exhibited their communal sense of bonding and strength.
These two presumably abominable twins became the beacon of hope for Igbo people and exhibited the nationalistic and patriotic zeal of full-blooded Igbo men.
Their first visit home was prompted by a sudden discovery made by Paul while he was arranging and clearing his flat on a weekend. He had a big bookshelf made of fine glass. He was arranging the books in the bookshelf when suddenly a piece of paper dropped on the ground from his old Bible. This was his first Bible bought for him by Mr George Allen, when he was in standard four. He picked up the piece of paper, but he glanced at the Bible first and smiled, shaking his head. He remembered vividly his first day at Okigwe Municipal Primary Academy. He was asked after the morning open ground devotion, 'Who is the mother of Jesus?' and he had answered this question by a show of his right fingers. He thought he was asked, as was the usual routine of the school for each pupil, to show his or her fingernails for inspection; all the pupils had burst into laughter. The teacher too joined in the laughter which lasted for a while. He stood there confused, not knowing why they were laughing, and when he could not comprehend the essence of the laughter, he went back to his position in the line behind his brother, feeling dejected.
He looked at the piece of paper and shuddered. He dropped the Bible quietly and sat down on a cushion chair to read what was written on the piece of paper.
'I am a native of Afigbo. My father's name is Dike and my mama's name is Ukachi.' He picked up his diary and wrote down the information he had found on the piece of paper, and then he hurriedly arranged all the other things.
After the arrangements, he combed his hair without taking his bath and made for Peter's house, which was only a short distance away from his.
At Peter's place, he met three white men. They were deliberating on an important contract, which had to do with the electrification of Okigwe town.
But he ignored the 'knocking before entry' sign. He rushed into the living room in all excitement, panting exhaustingly like an amateur athlete attempting a cross country race for the first time. The occupants of the room turned and stared at him in disdain. One of them found his voice and asked him, 'Hey, man, what's up with you. Why do you have to bump in on us in such a rude manner?'
'My apologies, young men. You definitely will not understand my excitement, but I can assure that from this moment my brother will not be able to continue with this meeting,' Paul replied, still jubilant.
The man looked at Peter, who had now left them and was walking to his brother with a smile on his face. The man then stood up and walked out of the room. Slowly, the other two visitors followed after him.
As the last person was exiting, Peter called out, 'Mr Smith, can we still see on Monday at my office? I am indeed so sorry for my brother's interruption please.'
But this remark was answered with the sound of the door closing as the last of the men made his exit.
For a while, the two brothers sat in silence. Then Peter broke the silence. 'Yes, Paul, what was that you just did? You were supposed to be on duty,' he said.
'I am sorry for disrupting your meeting,' Paul apologised, trying to rearrange the furniture.
'There is nothing to be sorry about, my brother, after all the deed has been done. I will try and get them back somehow because we really need to get this electricity into Okigwe as soon as possible,' Peter said, rubbing a finger he had sprained while at work the day before.
Paul could not utter a word, and he felt a sense of guilt as he apologised, 'I am deeply sorry for disrupting your meeting, my brother. I really did not mean to do that, but ...'
'Apology accepted,' Peter interrupted him. 'Now what was all that excitement for, my dear brother?' he asked, now a bit anxious about what it could be.
'Check this out ... and ... you ...,' Paul mumbled, tossing the piece of paper into the right palm of Peter. Peter hesitated and quietly unfolded it, unperturbed. He slowly read through, released his grip on Paul and let go of the piece of glass he was holding, which fell to the ground and shattered. He strolled to a seat and sat down with great ease to ruminate over what he had just read.
'This my writing and I remember this paper explicitly.' He exclaimed in joy as he jumped to hug his brother.
'You remember what?' Paul asked.
'I wrote this,' Peter explained. 'There is another piece of paper that bore our Igbo names, didn't you see it?' Peter asked, grinning happily. He stood up as he continued, 'This calls for celebration, my brother, and let's start the celebration with a drink. This is the foundation of our earthly existence and the beginning of the search for our origin.'
Paul ran into Peter's open arms and they held on to each other for a while in a great joyous bond.
After some glasses of wine together, they went to Paul's apartment in search of the other paper containing their Igbo names. They ransacked every nook and cranny of the house to see if they could find their gifted names but to no avail. The search took their time and energy. They were so tired that they slept off on the double settee in Paul's sitting room. Still sleeping, Paul continued with the search as he dreamt of a man who gave him a torch. The man led him to a forest and pointed towards a direction to him. As he was about to ask the man a question, he woke up. Confused, he told his brother Peter about the dream.
'Maybe God has given us a lead to search for our people,' Peter said. Paul nodded as he replied, 'I can't agree with you any less. Maybe we should start from Mr Adams in this inquest?'
'Great, Adams! We will start with him,' Peter concurred.
Mr Adams was the local preacher and interpreter for Reverend Father Neil. Father Neil was a devout Christian who indulged in several humanitarian activities. He had been in charge of St Theresa's Catholic Church, Okigwe, for the past ten years. The only snag in his ego was his seemingly insatiable quest for chicken and eggs. Father Neil, as it was said, had once sacked his chief cook for stealing some eggs. His appetite for this combination of food gave him a name in the town as 'Father Chicken and Egg'. He weighed about 150 kilograms and was bulky and about seven feet tall. His congregation believed that his huge frame was responsible for the large quantity of food he consumed in a sitting, but above all, he loved God, his work, and the people. He had a likable personality and sought everybody's good. One thing about Father Neil was he did not condone wrongdoing and did not lie against anyone, especially when it affected Mr Adams.
Mr Adams, who hailed from Isu, was a local preacher and interpreter. His academic education had stopped at standard six, and he was drafted into the church ministry mostly because of his interest in the Bible. He had made the Bible his best book and he never stopped reading it. He organised Sunday school programmes for the children, conducted choir practice, and was also the accepted lay preacher referred to as 'Catechist' at the church, whenever the parish priest was 'out of station'.
Married with four children, Mr Adams was a highly disciplined person and strictly infatuated with the customs and tradition of his people. He attended and participated in all their festivals and was a member of the Nze society of his village.
'Listen, my dear brother, I have read the Bible from cover to cover, and there is no scripture that indicts our traditional religion and customs. If it has escaped your memory, let me remind you again that Jesus himself said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. Is this statement not a pointer for you that culture and tradition is still okay as long as it does stand against God's command?" He had answered a zealous young man who asked him to stop mingling Christianity with tradition. He continued, 'Then use your tongue to count your teeth. Can't you perceive that the "Oyibos" value their brand of tradition very highly while making us, the blacks, to look down on ours? Anyway, that's by the way, you see ...' The newly converted Christian closed his ears and left the compound, feeling dejected and unconvinced.
Mr Adams looked at him and shrugged his shoulders, unconcerned, as he muttered to himself, 'You can't understand, my boy.'
Mr Adams had extraordinary protruding teeth that made him look a bit strange. But in the face of it all, Adams' wife was the most beautiful woman in the town. How he had got married to such a beauty was a question for history. Paul quickly told Peter about Mr Adams and his wealth of knowledge.
They left for Adams' residence immediately. He gave them the entire necessary clues they needed to get to Afigbo. It was Christian ministry evangelism that had taken Mr Adams to Afigbo and several other villages within and around Okigwe town.
The twins left for Reverend Father Neil's office, who thought the young men had come for confession.
'Hello, my Christian brothers, Peter and Paul, I hope there is nothing amiss?'
'Oh, nothing, Father,' Peter replied cheerfully.
'Then are you here for confession?' This time the priest removed his silver-rimmed eye glasses and placed it on his table.
'No, Father, nothing to confess,' Paul responded carefully, trying not to betray their joy.
'We are here, sir, to inform you that we will be going to our people tomorrow and as such will not be available for tomorrow's service.' Obviously, the priest was moved. He picked up his pair of glasses and put it on. It rested squarely on the bridge of his nose. He looked at the two men and asked intently, 'Ahm ... come again, Paul, ... what did you say?'
The young men cast a casual glance at each other and then at the priest. Paul, who all the while had been studying the priest's reaction, repeated, 'We are here, sir, to inform you that we will be going to our people tomorrow and as such will not be available for tomorrow's service'. Father Neil sat straight in silence for a while and suddenly blurted out to his inner self, 'Does this mean that these boys are not from this place? If so, where are they from? And all these years, nobody had ever brought this to my knowledge that these boys were from a different clan.' The reverend ruminated to himself in total confusion.
'Gentlemen, where is your place?' the priest asked, fixing his gaze on both men.
'We are from Afigbo, a clan of ever happy people,' Paul quipped happily.
'But it has never crossed my mind for a day that you are not from here,' Father Neil emphasised.
'We know this is a big surprise for you, Father,' Paul said. Continuing, he added, 'But it is the truth.'
Again, the priest drifted into his usual silent moments as always when he was faced with a tough issue like this one at hand.
'I can see my people as mighty men of valour,' Peter chipped in. The two brothers smiled at the humorous way Peter had described his people with whom he was yet to be reunited.
The priest managed to give a smile.
'Well, Father, it's a long story, but we are glad to say that we have discovered our roots and we intend to leave tomorrow in search of our people,' Paul briefly narrated, standing up.
'Okay, gentlemen, God bless you,' he said, placing his big arms on their shoulders as he prayed. 'May the good Lord bless you two and also bless where you are going.'
'Amen,' chorused the twins.
'May God's interaction and ever presence be the illuminating light in your quest to reunite with your people. God will guide and protect every step of the journey, and at the end of our gaze, you will both reach your destination as destined by God from your mother's womb. It is well with both of you and may God cause people to favour you in the course of this search. Go in peace and may the Lord be the entity of all about this new process. God bless, you two, in Jesus's name, Amen.'
'Amen,' chorused the twins. Gently, they opened their eyes as they stood up from the kneeling position they had assumed for the prayers.
'Do not forget to extend my sincere regards to your happy people,' Father Neil jokingly said as they exchanged parting pleasantries.
'Goodbye and go well, my sons.'
As soon as they had left Father Neil, he started thinking again, 'How could they have suddenly known about their place?' He dashed out of his office and called out to Mr Adams.
'Yes, Father?' Adams hurried to answer the call.
'Did Peter and Paul tell you something about their origin?'
'No, Father,' Mr Adams replied. The priest stared at him intently and Adams continued, 'But a few minutes ago, they came to me asking about a village called Afigbo and I directed them.'
'Is there any particular problem, Father?' Mr Adams asked. The priest nodded negatively in response and prayed again.
'May the Almighty Father help them in their search for their real place of birth.'
'Amen,' Mr Adams responded.
The priest had not expected any response from Mr Adams. He turned sharply only to discover that he was kneeling down. The father gazed at him but said nothing to him as he stepped out of the office. Mr Adams rose slowly and left as well, lost and confused.CHAPTER 2
The following day, Peter and Paul got to their 'Ama' clan amidst mixed feelings and reactions from their people. While some that were excited rushed out to welcome them home, others maintained their distance and only watched the events from their half-opened windows but came out to call their children into their houses. Some courageous children defied their parents' warnings as they clustered around the twin brothers' car. A few elders summoned up boldness as they surged forward curiously to see the 'mobile house car,' as it was called by the villagers.
Peter and Paul were at the 'Ama' for over thirty minutes, but nobody was willing or had the confidence to question them or answer their questions. When they alighted from the car, some parents who had gotten closer before, carefully picked up their children and quickly ran back to their homes.
Each time the horn of the car blared, some children whose parents had not called them into their houses would run away and those inside would recheck their locks to ensure safety.
This behaviour lasted for a while and the twins couldn't communicate to them. They had spoken to them in English, so the villagers did not understand them. Later, a few brave men came to ask them questions in Igbo language, but the twins replied in English. The villagers left, frustrated.
Excerpted from The Surviving Twins by Sunny Oby Maduka. Copyright © 2015 Dr. Sunny Oby Maduka. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
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
Chapter 1 The Climax, 1,
Chapter 2 The Search, 9,
Chapter 3 The Introduction, 23,
Chapter 4 The Outcasts, 31,
Chapter 5 A New Beginning, 40,
Chapter 6 The Invasion, 48,
Chapter 7 The Other Side, 61,
Chapter 8 Elevation, 74,
Chapter 9 Tracing History, 89,
Chapter 10 Dirge, 105,
Chapter 11 Traditions, 119,
Chapter 12 The Surge, 133,
Chapter 13 Confrontations, 141,
Chapter 14 A New Season, 151,
Chapter 15 The Best and the Worst, 157,
Chapter 16 The Purpose, 177,
Chapter 17 The Revelation, 191,
Chapter 18 A New Dawn, 200,
Chapter 19 Home Sweet Home, 213,
The Cycle of Life, 221,
Glossary/Major Characters, 223,