“What was it you said, Mazi Ogbu?” Mazi Udezue asked contemptuously.
“I know you are not deaf,” Mazi Ogbu replied, “but incase you are suffering from the ailment of Ukpana the grasshopper, that was eaten by Okpoko the bird, I will repeat my statement. I have noticed that you are not satisfied with your success as a dibia. I can see that you have forgotten that life does not believe in the equality of ability—”
“Stop running around the cycle, come into it and make yourself clear,” interrupted Mazi Udezue. “Whatever you have as a man, I have it; and whatever you think you know as a dibia, I know it.”
Mazi Ogbu cut in, “Ehn, is that it? You have even made things clear and I think, without mincing words, that the battle line is drawn.” And he threatened, “Let us see who is the greater. I have dealt with your kind; and Ala and Igwe, the great spirits, know you won’t be the exception.”
Mazi Udezue burst into laughter intended for mockery, and replied, “When a dog grows big, it thinks itself a wolf.” But Mazi Ogbu had already walked out before he could finish his statement.
The first dibia to challenge him died
of a tumor that grew in
his neck. The second, a renowned
dibia from Afikpo, ran mad. The
third, from Nkanu, was eaten by
a leopard in his very bedroom.
Though Mazi Udezue laughed, he took the threat seriously; for this was the fourth time Mazi Ogbu made such a threat, and he always lived true to his words. The first dibia to challenge him died of a tumor that grew in his neck. The second, a renowned dibia from Afikpo, ran mad. The third, from Nkanu, was eaten by a leopard in his very bedroom. Knowing all these, he resolved not to be counted among them.
The time was so short, he couldn’t believe how easy it was. He decided to walk past the house where the mourners had gathered in preparation for the burial. As he walked past, he stretched his head to look at the raffia mat where Mazi Udezue lay lifeless.
“Never again would any rat raise a hand at me,” Mazi Ogbu said to himself. “I am yet to see that person born of woman who can challenge me; even a spirit would think twice to stretch his arm for a bet,” he enthused. One seeing him go home would wonder what made him whistle merrily in a village where one of its greatest men lay cold.
On getting home, he called Orienma his eldest wife and requested for his meal. Fortunately for him, she had prepared his favourite dish. So, he was set to celebrate his victory quite merrily. Before starting at his meal, he went in to bring the jar of palm wine he bought that evening. Thus, he was set to indulge himself for self-satisfaction.
It was not quite long, the dish was empty and the jar of wine halved. He was sipping from the gorge the umpteenth time and had become so light-headed that every weight of reason floated. And like all in his state, his vocal chord was set loose for the loftiness of his mind to be revealed—and he stopped at nothing, even profanity.
Soon a man walked by and stopped by him (the mirthful gratification he was having was in front of his house). The man cautioned him to be mindful of his words lest the spirits become angry.
“Even if Amadioha, of thunder and lightening, should rage, not even a strand of hair of mine will stand for fright,” Mazi Ogbu thundered.
“What pushes you into these vanities seeks to destroy you; and one wonders what goads you thus to seek power,” the man warned.
“My little one,” Mazi Ogbu answered, “remember what the plantain told the banana; it said, ‘Food that despises being raw is vulnerable to anyone passing by’.”
The man replied, and said, “Forget not what the banana retorted, ‘Food that makes itself too raw must needs be cooked.” The man turned from him and walked away.
“Let the gods do their worst, Mazi Ogbu is a sure match for them,” the Mazi boasted.
As he slept that night, he dreamt. In his dream, three men walked into his hut, and one of them he recognized as the man he saw in his drunken state. They came and made for his barn and store, and removed every food stuff there. All his effort to stop them was in vain. The next morning, he woke up to discover his barn ravaged, as if by a herd of goats. Moreover, on getting to the farm that morning, his youngest wife discovered that the entire farm has been destroyed by rodents.
The very next night, the men appeared in his dream again. This time, they took his children and younger wife. Within the next few days, seven of his fifteen kids died mysteriously and his younger wife fled from fear of what next might happen.
Mazi Ogbu was however unrepentant, rather, he intensified his fight back; but it seemed all futile, for the next time they appeared in his dream, they tore down his house. He awoke amidst a burning house, and before anything could be done, his house was razed. At this point, his remaining wives and children fled; and Mazi Ogbu was not without fear.
No one allowed him into his house, for all feared that whatever has befallen this great dibia would sweep them off in a moment. And so it was that he stayed in the market square or, when caught in panic, near people’s houses. He strove to avoid sleep lest his dream visitors appear again. He couldn’t keep up with that for long, and soon he was dreaming again.
The three men appeared again, but this time Mazi Ogbu pleaded with them. From fear, he prostrated and wept all the more when it dawned on him that there was nothing left to be taken except himself. And as if to confirm this, they made it clear that they came for him. As they dragged him away, he screamed in panic and struggled; but nothing could save him.
It seemed he was not to
recover from his last dream, for
all he did stemmed from the
fear of that and he suspected
everything to be an agent for
fulfilling the dream.
He awoke with a startle to discover that a rat just entered the stall he slept, and he ran out screaming. The first comers to the market were so sure he had gone nuts. Bearers of that opinion soon grew, for Mazi Ogbu appeared to be running from anything that moved. His body, unwashed for days, didn’t help matters; and, more still, hunger forced him to pick from the heaps of dirt when no one was sympathetic enough to reward his begging.
It seemed he was not to recover from his last dream, for all he did stemmed from the fear of that and he suspected everything to be an agent for fulfilling the dream. A day came that as he ran from a barking dog, he came underneath a breadfruit tree to calm his nerves. As it were, a monkey played on the branches. Soon it leaped unto a branch from where hung a ripe breadfruit. The impact of the jump detached the breadfruit from the branch; and so it descended. Mazi Ogbu heard some whistling noise approach from above, and just looked up on time to allow the massive breadfruit land on his face.
After two days under the tree, by when he had added weight, the villagers, now convinced he was no more, made ready to throw him into the evil forest; for to them, another madman has died.
Copyright © Aik, ‘Lord ElNik’ Eluigwe
Presenting a diverse and dazzling collection from all over the continent, from Morocco to Zimbabwe, Uganda to Kenya. Helon Habila focuses on younger, newer writers – contrasted with some of their older, more established peers – to give a fascinating picture of a new and more liberated Africa.
These writers are characterized by their engagement with the wider world and the opportunities offered by the end of apartheid, the end of civil wars and dictatorships, and the possibilities of free movement. Their work is inspired by travel and exile. They are liberated, global and expansive. As Dambudzo Marechera wrote: ‘If you’re a writer for a specific nation or specific race, then f*** you.” These are the stories of a new Africa, punchy, self-confident and defiant.
Includes stories by: Fatou Diome; Aminatta Forna; Manuel Rui; Patrice Nganang; Leila Aboulela; Zoë Wicomb; Alaa Al Aswany; Doreen Baingana; E.C. Osondu.