By Okolo Chinua 14 months ago


It was a beautiful morning and the weather was cold in the village of Umuoba. Okoro got up from bed and carried out his usual routine. That day was a special day in the lives of every individual at Umuoba. It was the day that their god, Amadioha, the god of lightning was honoured. On this day, culture demanded that every man in Umuoba came out with a fully fed white ram. This ram will be taken to the chief priest by the individual and there he will carry out some cleansing rituals, directed by the chief priest. It had been practised for a long time in Umuoba even prior to Okoro’s birth. Okoro had been taking good care of his ram and fattening it for days to ensure that it was pleasing in the eyes of Amadioha. As he was inside preparing, Mazi Emeka paid him a visit. Chizitere sent Nwokoro to inform Okoro of Mazi Emeka’s arrival. Okoro said to his son, “Go and tell Mazi Emeka to have a seat, that I’ll be there soon” Okoro came out, minutes later with kolanuts which he offered to Mazi Emeka. ”I can see that you have fattened your ram as you have done your cheeks. I did mine to rival yours but seeing this, I’m humbled” Okoro said on spotting his friend’s ram which he had come in with. Emeka laughed and laughed that tears dropped out of his eyes, “You always say this every time this day comes but when you bring out your ram in the end, I am always shocked as it would be the complete opposite of what you said” Emeka added. They both laughed at it for a while. Then Emeka spoke up, ”However, are you sure that that good-for-nothing white man won’t interfere today? You know, with the way things have been happening. It will be a disaster if such should happen as that would bring the wrath of Amadioha since today’s event is not one that should be interfered with.” Okoro looked at his friend and replied, “Indeed you are right to assume the worst as we have seen strange things happen since the white man came, however do not forget that we held this event last year. Was the white man not here? We also did it last two years and years before so do not be afraid, if he wanted to do something he would have done it then. Nothing will go wrong.” They spent some minutes discussing about the changes in the village system and the happenings in the village. At noon, they left for the shrine. They joined the other men on the way and headed for the shrine. On the way, few blocks away from the shrine, the men were brought to a halt. In front of them stood Elumelu, Amadi and ten armed white soldiers. Okoro could not clearly see what was going on or why they had stopped so he struggled to make his way among the crowd to see. Emeka followed suit. He could hear Obum and Ebuka shouting, “Even here? Today is a holy day so let us pass. You are in the way and it is almost noon! The men around were all saying the same thing telling Amadi and the armed men to let them pass to avoid the wrath of Amadioha. Amadi spoke up, “I’m afraid we cannot do that. You see, Mr. Dickson has abolished this act because of its ways that defies his doctrine, the Christian doctrine. The Christian doctrine forbids sacrifices like this, senseless killing of man and animals and idolatry, all of which are practiced today. He had merely left us to find out the way, the real way to life ourselves but we were blinded to it so he had to take action. Hence, I cannot let you pass. You don’t have to worry, Ezemmuo is in total agreement.” This caused murmurs among the people. How could Ezemmuo abandon his god for the white man? It was unheard of. By this time, Okoro and Emeka had found their way to the front. Emeka spoke up, ”Mazi Amadi, what is the meaning of this? Let us pass. You of all people should know the importance of today and the consequences; Ezemmuo would never agree to aborting today’s act or not carrying out his duties. It is either he carries out his duties or he would be struck dead which you know well. So Amadi, in the name of Amadioha whose name you bear, let us pass lest you receive his wrath” he concluded firmly. Amadi watched Emeka and Okoro as they stood in front of him like shepherds of the great flock ready to devour the lion if he touched the sheep. Amadi began to laugh, slowly, then hysterically, “Indeed you are right Emeka, you are absolutely right. However what’s a god without a shrine? Who’s a god without a spokesman? If Ezemmuo refuses to abort his duties, then he has to be made to abort them right?” he said still laughing hysterically. Those words carried the desired effect. The eyes of the men were suddenly lit with terror as they began taking in what he had said little by little. Okoro was downcast. Emeka was terrified, ”Amadi, tell me you’re joking, you did not possibly…”Amadi interrupted Emeka immediately and said, ”Oh yes I did or should I say, we did” as he kept on with his evil laughter. ‘Why? What had made Amadi change so much? This was not the Amadi he used to know. This was a different man’ the thoughts raced in Emeka’s mind. Okoro’s eyes glared with fury, his fists clenched. He let go of his ram but the ram stood still maybe sensing his master’s rage. He walked towards Amadi and as he got closer, the soldiers cocked their guns and pointed it at him. Amadi waved his hands and said, “It’s alright, the fowl cannot harm the hawk even if it takes thousands of her chicks time and time again” the soldiers obeyed and brought down their guns. Okoro ignored Amadi and made to pass but Amadi blocked him with his arms. “Let me pass, Amadi I need to see for myself” he said, annoyed. “Very well, since you want to be stubborn, go on.” He brought down his arms and moved aside for him to pass. Okoro approached the shrine and the sight he beheld moved him to tears. The shrine had been torn apart, the red clothes around it torn to pieces. The statue representing Amadioha had been shattered and its head stood at his feet. He eyes trailed to the position where the chief priest lay, his body bullet ridden, his Ofo far away from his arms. His eyes were still open and they seemed to curse the very existence of the one who killed him. Okoro, refusing to believe the spectacle before him, moved to the chief priest and shook him vigorously, calling out to him, ”Ezemmuo! Wise one! Ezemmuo! ”but the body did not budge nor was there a reply for his calls. It was then that he realized the obvious and took in the surroundings for a second time. This time he exclaimed, ”Hei! Hei! Amadioha I nozikwa ya? Where are you? Kedu ebe I no ihe a emee? O na inoghozi ya? Where were you when this happened? Or do you no longer exist?!” the men outside had heard his scream and they all rushed their way into the shrine to see for themselves. Amadi let them pass on purpose. They too saw the sight and were astonished. The shouts and exclamations of ‘Aru! Abomination!’ were in the air. Some went out to confront Amadi but were chased back by the men’s guns. Others rained curses and abuses on Amadi. A few were pondering on what such action could bring as punishment to the village. Emeka beheld the sight too and saw his friend weeping like a child. In all of his life, he had never seen any situation that ever made Okoro weep, not even when he lost his mother. Looking at him, he seemed utterly broken. Emeka went to console and raise him up. Okoro exclaimed once more. It was too heart-piercing for him to bear. Okoro was a man who believed so much in the gods. He had a hundred percent faith in them, in Amadioha. That was why it was even more difficult for him to comprehend the fact that a mere human had done all that and was still left standing. It seemed to him like everything he knew and believed in was a lie. Nothing more could break a man that such realization, that everything he had believed in, taught and stood for was a lie. Okoro used his left hand to hit away the comforting hand Emeka had placed on his shoulder as he stood up in full rage, headed for Amadi, machete in hand. Emeka held him back saying, ”Okoro, do not be reckless, think! Do not waste your life, think of your family” Okoro looked at him fiercely and broke free from his grip, marching towards Amadi who kept smiling sheepishly. Amadi spoke up, “In case you plan on taking my life Okoro, remember that these black sticks these white men wield are not for fancy. They’ll blow off your head before you have the chance to use that machete. What do you think will happen then to your widowed wife and family” asked Amadi, coyly. At this point Okoro was directly in front of Amadi. Looking at him made him feel worse as he gripped his machete tightly, the soldiers too, prepared for whatever action Okoro would take. Most of the men in the shrine including Emeka had come out to see what was going on. “Kill you?” Okoro said fiercely as he spat at Amadi’s feet. “The gods forbid will not touch one who has committed such abomination, such sacrilege. Look at you, prided as the eldest in the village, here you are behaving like the youngest. The white man has bought you over and you have forgotten the hands that fed you, your roots, a man of your caliber! Tufiakwa! if this is the aftermath of ageing may I die young” he said as he spat at Amadi’s feet again. Emeka, shocked by Okoro’s statement spoke from behind, ”Okoro, do not say things like that, the gods might…”but was interrupted by Okoro, ”what gods! The dead ones?” he said as he laughed like an insane man. Emeka was taken aback, his friend had indeed lost it. Amadi stared at Okoro and said to him, ”Ooh do not be troubled, my friend, I guarantee that you’d die young.” ”Is that a threat?” Okoro fired back, “clearly you won’t dare kill me in front of all these people, how many times will you shoot before the men get to you?” Amadi flared up, “Will you like to try? Then dare me Okoro, dare me!” he shouted. The men watched in both amazement and horror, not knowing what next would unfold. Suddenly, Okoro’s expression changed; even the white soldiers and Elumelu were taken aback by the sudden change in his expression. He seemed like a bull, like a god, they could not really explain it. Okoro spoke, ”A man daring a child to dare him, the lion asking the mouse for a battle, how times have changed. A river does not flow in the forest without bringing down trees and trees do not fall without destroying animals and crops. It’s all right, Amadi. This is the last straw that broke the camel’s back. You have challenged me and have made it clear that you are an outsider that wishes to bring the winds of evil and negative change with you. I will be the wall that stops that wind.” Okoro concluded and walked out in anger, leaving the people in awe and not minding Amadi’s rantings behind him.

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