WINDS OF CHANGE: CHAPTER SIXTEEN

By Okolo Chinua 6 months ago

CHAPTER 16

The Ikoro sounded quite early the next morning. People were wondering what had happened when the town crier went about beating his gong too and announcing that every villager had to be present at the square immediately to answer the Whiteman’s call as it was urgent. A few of the villagers who had heard the explosion the previous night believed that the summon was for the white man to explain to them the cause of the strange explosion. The rest were confused at the sudden call of the Ikoro barely a day after it was sounded from the anniversary. ‘What again could they want to say or could have happened that could not have been said yesterday’ some of them wondered. Almost immediately, the people gathered at the square. They had passed by the central building and were surprised to see it in ashes.it was unbelievable. The ferocious look on the faces of the armed soldiers present at the square even scared them the more. The troops were suddenly much in number and had not been at the village the previous day so the people believed so seeing them just appear out of nowhere gave them chills. Everyone had his or her own version of what could be wrong. Some were murmuring words like, “where did they come from? Why are they armed? Where is Amadi? What happened to that building?” and there was noise everywhere. The square itself gave off a strange outlook.it was as if it knew what was going on. There was no air blowing and the atmosphere was very thick. The villagers had all assembled and Kosiso too was present. He had met Amadi earlier explaining to him that his reason for not joining them for the drink the previous night was because he had to carry out his pleasured night duties with his second wife. He feigned ignorance of what happened and exclaimed in shock when Amadi told him of how it went in details. “I have contacted Mr. Dickson, all we have to do now is wait for his arrival” Amadi had said.it was not until thirty minutes had passed since the gathering of the villagers that they heard the sound of a car approaching.it was the white man’s. His face had a stern look and did not give off his usual smile. This made them even more tensed as they wondered what was going on. He alighted from his car, ignored the people and marched towards the armoury. Five minutes later, he came out with his hands tucked in his pockets. Behind him were Mazi Emeka, Amadi, with two soldiers dragging the already chained and brutalized Okoro. People exclaimed in horror. None one understood what a titled man like Okoro had done to deserve such humiliation.it drew mixed reactions from the people.one of the men said, “no matter his crime, a titled man bears the honour of the village, he should never be this embarrassed”. A woman replied him, “you are defending him, do you know what he did?” the man who had spoken earlier almost slapped out the woman’s eyes if not for some of his fellow men who held him back. Another man added, “this just shows how much our culture and tradition has been disregarded. The crowd gave way for the white man and his crew and they walked to the Centre of the square. The white man stood, facing the people. He looked at the people with discord and spoke, “I gave you all the best. I chose not to treat you as slaves, as blacks as you should be treated, and this is how you repay me? Do you know what it cost me to build that?” he said pointing towards the direction of the central building. “Look at it, in ashes!“ he spoke with great pain. The people felt his pain too but had no idea what was going on. Amadi tapped his shoulder and said to him, “be calm, easy, I’ll take it from here” and the white man went behind him. Kosiso walked up to them and stood at Amadi’s side. He avoided exchanging glances with his brother to avoid suspicion. Amadi began, “yesterday was our anniversary but it was also something else.it was a day of revolution for some people. There was a coup yester night. Immediately, the people exclaimed in shock, “what? Who would dare?” ”easy” Amadi said as he raised his hands in the air, ordering the people to be silent. He turned and nodded to the soldiers. They immediately brought Okoro forward and dropped him on the ground, then returned to the armoury to bring the bodies of the fallen warriors, one by one.as the bodies were being brought out, the families of the deceased recognized their children and exclaimed, wailing. The mothers of the deceased tried to break through to get to the corpses of their children but were prevented from doing so by the soldiers. Amadi continued, “This coup was spearheaded by Okoro here. He forced these boys to give up their lives for his selfish purpose. He wanted to be the sole ruler of this village.it was by the gods’ help that I was notified of his evil intent by Mazi Emeka here. I called for backup and tried to save the boys but they opened fire on us. The soldiers had no choice but to return the fire.” he paused, letting his words sink into the people’s hearts. There were wails all over the place. ”however,” he continued. “We too had our own share of losses. Elumelu, Ezelu and all the other elders were all killed in that explosion perpetrated by okoro.it was after he blew up the place that we caught him trying to escape. I was very much disappointed because I never expected him, a dear friend of mine, who could have settled whatever he wanted diplomatically, to have acted so childishly. He caused the deaths of our tomorrow by bringing the lives of these innocent boys to an end. I, Kosiso, his own blood brother and Emeka were also targets. We barely managed to escape with our lives. If I have said anything contrary to the truth, please tell me” he said turning to Kosiso and Emeka. Kosiso merely nodded, indicating that all Amadi said was right. Emeka spoke up, “I have known Okoro since childhood. I never knew he was capable of such sinister act. That was why the moment I got wind of the information, I rushed to Amadi immediately but we were too late. Part of me wanted to hold it back as he was my friend but I had to uphold the culture and tradition and put the village first. I couldn’t let him destroy our culture and tradition because of his greed.it was painful but the village always comes first” Amadi had gotten what he wanted. The wailing villagers had believed everything hook, line and sinker. Most of them cursed Okoro while the rest picked up whatever was near to them and threw it at him. While the villagers were acting in rage, Emeka walked up to Amadi and whispered, “I did as you asked. Remember to honour our deal.” ”I understand, you shall have all that he owns the moment he draws his last breath” he replied too in a whisper. He looked at the villagers and continued, “We will give our fallen warriors who were misled, a befitting burial. Lest I forget, Dike, one of the warriors was among the victims who lost their lives due to Okoro’s greed. His body was not found but he will be given a befitting burial even in the absence of his body. The same will be done for the elders who have been called home early by our ancestors”. Amadi has assumed dike dead because the soldiers had not found his body despite searching the entire village for him that night. Amadi continued, “However, in accordance to the tradition, Okoro will be punished with death. The punishment will extend to his family who escaped and are still being looked for at the moment.” To avoid suspicion, Kosiso said, “They could not have gotten far so we will find them soon.” he also added, “my brother betrayed the village and he has to pay for his crimes, however, our tradition demands that the traitor be given a chance to speak. Let’s see if he has anything to say” although he spoke with pain, he expertly masked it and no one noticed. Amadi was not pleased with the idea and he whispered in anger to Kosiso, ”what are you doing?” ”do not worry, the villagers will not believe a thing he says. It’s just to uphold the tradition” Kosiso replied. All the while, Okoro had been silent and swallowed everything said against him. He had been brutally tortured by Amadi and the soldiers the previous night and he had no strength left. However, he gained a little strength when he heard that his family had not yet been found. He thanked Kosiso again in his mind. He raised his face slowly for the first time since his entering the square. The soldiers kept him in a kneeling position. He made no attempt to stand because his legs had been brutally damaged. His face was disfigured and he was beyond recognisable. There was blood all over his body and his clothes were soiled. Indeed, he had the look of a wounded lion. He spoke little by little, choosing his words carefully. “How naïve we all are, accepting the viper and rejecting the lion. Whatever your curses are towards me, I have no care for them. I have nothing to say to people who open heartedly accepted the lies conjured to turn you against me. Who would have thought? The spear I brandished for its shine has been used to impale me. How ironic. I did what was best for us, what had to be done. You might not understand it now but you will in the future. Today, the elephant falls because it looked past the snake at its feet. I may not gone down in history as what I am supposed to be remembered for but I know that I will not be forgotten. I, Okoro, son of Igwenagu, son of Umuoba will not fall easily. I have started this race, though unfinished, another will complete it. I have a dream to see us free from the shackles of ignorance and of the white man. I might not live to see it but that dream will not die, neither will my love for this village.in my next life, I will still be Okoro of Umuoba. For now, I will let fate take its course” he concluded and slowly, he looked at all of them individually, beginning with sir Dickson to Amadi ,to Emeka ,to Kosiso and down to the last of the villagers and he smiled.it was a smile of death.as expected, the people were not too moved by Okoro’s words as those of Amadi had already blinded them to the truth. Amadi motioned for the soldiers to carry Okoro. Okoro was lifted up, and taken and tied to a tree, by the right hand side of the square, a little bit distant from where the people stood. The villagers moved closer to the tree but kept their distance. “Today we uphold justice” Amadi said as the soldiers all formed a semi-circle, paces away from the tree but facing it directly. They knelt and aimed their guns at his chest. All the while, Okoro wore a smile. ‘This is how I die, how Okoro the great leaves this world, martyred like a chicken…Fate can be cruel though. Look at the faces of the people I wished to save, all awaiting my death, how ironic. A star shines, a star loses its shine, sun comes up, sun goes down, man is born, man is taken…such is life’ Okoro thought to himself. He gave the sky and the villagers one last look, turned towards Kosiso who was still forcing himself to act like he felt nothing, closed his eyes with a smile on his face, awaiting his fate. At Amadi’s command, the soldiers emptied their slugs into Okoro’s body, sending him to eternal slumber. His body was later thrown into the evil forest.

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