Our Fathers Didn’t Know
(How they did that, who knows?)
(A drama by Felicia Taave)
[The stage is lit by a single spot light that follows the movement of TOWNCRIER. He is dressed simply in khaki shorts and a white shirt, neatly tucked in. He is wearing black shoes and white knee-length socks]
TOWNCRIER: [Looks intently at the audience]
I see you are comfortably seated. [Coughs] Yes, I see you are all very relaxed. If I may ask, what are you doing here? Why have you come? [Coughs] They have told you already? Owoicho Adam! (*God my father*) Our enemies have begun to rejoice before we announce our loss. [Looks sad and speaks with a lower, heavier tone] It is indeed a great loss, a very great loss. Let me share this with you, it is a truth that certain men have tried to turn into a secret. My people, the truth will never metamorphose into something else. Owoicho Adam! The truth will always be the truth. [Coughs] Now, let me tell you a story, the truth.
[The stage lighting is enhanced. Five young men appear on stage, dressed in animal skin to demonstrate time difference between themselves and TOWNCRIER]
AJAATA: [His voice is enhanced with a microphone to give it a supernatural tempo] Halt! Who is this son of a woman that dares to unveil the mask of the Aleku-afia (*a powerful masquerade*)?
TOWNCRIER: [Startled. Begins to run] Did I hear someone make mention of ‘aleku’?
AOKPE: Silence! No one greets the presence of his fathers with such commotion.
ADIDU: It is as you say. Their fathers before them were devout and straight in all their dealings. The blood from their sacrifices flooded the Okpikor River. Now, sons of women drive the spirit of their fathers to a frenzy of thirst and hunger.
TOWNCRIER: Ewo! What am I seeing? Burn, burn you contrary spirits. Burn!
[AJAATA faces the audience]
AJAATA: What is this cowardly son of a woman telling my people?
TOWNCRIER: The aleku should not brandish a man’s weakness before his rivals.
AOKPE: Silence! You must respect the sanctity of your ancestors. We do not issue threats. Whatever fate befalls you from your persistent insolence is deservedly yours.
TOWNCRIER: Forgive me, my fathers. Gbokeke, gbokeke, gbokekekeke (*a plea reserved for the gods*)
ADIDU: Enough! It is overlooked because you are ignorant.
AJAATA: [To TOWNCRIER] Answer!
TOWNRCRIER: It is the story of the people of Ankpechi, sons of Echoga Ajaata, grandsons of Eboya. It is the truth I have come to share. [To the audience] You bear witness that I speak only the truth, don’t you?
AJAATA: [Looks lost in thought] Hmmm! It is a tale that makes the ears of my father tingle. It is the story of one of my sons. [Looks vividly angry] Unspeakable curses upon the enemies of the right ones!
TOWNCRIER: Gbokeke. Gbokeke. Gbokekekekekekeke!
ADIDU: [To AJAATA] Oine (*brother*), calm yourself. Calm yourself.
AJAATA: [To TOWNCRIER] I will listen to this tale of yours. Speak only the truth. Uncover it or it will find you, and when it does a thousand pleas will not save you from the wrath of my fathers.
TOWNCRIER: Gbokeke! I shall speak only the truth. [To the audience] I promised you the truth.
[A footpath to the stream. Three women are seen carrying earthen pots]
FIRST WOMAN: The things that one sees in this village! It is only the grace of God which permits utterance that enables one voice it out.
SECOND WOMAN: Awanda (*gossip*)! What have you seen or heard that warrants such strong expression?
FIRST WOMAN: Oine (*sister*), have you not heard?
SECOND WOMAN: What? Speak out, or do you want all that talk lodged inside you to the grave?
FIRST WOMAN: God forbid! [Spits on the ground and strikes her right foot] Is this your prayer for me?
THIRD WOMAN: Hah! Sisters, what is this? Are you also fighting in your own little group while a bigger one might burn your yam barns tomorrow?
FIRST WOMAN: Ehn?
SECOND WOMAN: What?
THIRD WOMAN: Exactly! There is conflict brewing in every home. Mind you, it is not domestic. Every house is trying to take the fight to their neighbours.
FIRST WOMAN: God forbid! I will harvest my yams and cassava and take them to Ogobia market in peace. Hah! Holy Ghost fire! They will not succeed!
THIRD WOMAN: [To FIRST WOMAN] Anyway, what were you saying about something you heard?
FIRST WOMAN: [Excited] Ehh-hen! My sisters, there is fire on the mountain!
SECOND WOMAN: [Impatient] Ah, what is it?
FIRST WOMAN: Please don’t rush me o! All I want to say is that aleku is pursuing Ajeonye.
[SECOND WOMAN places her hands on her chest, while THIRD WOMAN’s hands are on her head]
SECOND WOMAN: [In a whisper] Are you sure?
THIRD WOMAN: Hmm!
FIRST WOMAN: [Conspiratorial] He would not swear by Ojor, the aleku of Oglewu, that he is innocent. He just claims innocence.
THIRD WOMAN: That may be because he is a stranger. His people are not Oglewu.
SECOND WOMAN: My sister, we know he is a stranger. Does he not thread his feet on our soil? His sons – eleven sons – were born to him and raised with the produce from this land. [Stamps a foot on the ground] Does rain not fall on his seeds, or sunlight penetrate his fields to extract young, healthy shoots? In fact, has this land refused to germinate anything he buried in it? He enjoys the benefits Ojor grants its devotees, so why won’t he also swear by Ojor?
THIRD WOMAN: Anyway, what requires him to swear innocence?
FIRST WOMAN: [Lowers her voice] Have you not heard? Ajeonye is suffering!
SECOND WOMAN: From what?
FIRST WOMAN: [Pulls their heads together] It is a case of the Rare Disease!
SECOND WOMAN: Hah!!
THIRD WOMAN: Blood of Jesus!
[OLD MAN is seen passing through the footpath to the stream. He sees the three women]
OLD MAN: Awanda (*gossip*)! Will you not take water for your husbands’ baths?
[The women are startled. They fall to their knees]
ALL: Good morning, okpani (*elder*)
OLD MAN: My daughters, ayinya (*a word of greeting*). Now, go home before an ill wind blows your voices to unfriendly ears.
[A village compound. There are two short benches. AJEONYE sits on one, and UKWENYA and OCHAI on the other. A little distance from them is an upturned mortar]
AJEONYE: My sons, our objective may be perceived by some as less than noble. But I have warned you to anticipate opposition, and if possible, resistance. [He chews noiselessly] I have lived here long enough to offer you informed advice. My sons, it is possible.
AJEONYE: Yes, my son
UKWENYA: Is it not true that every settlement in its initiation owes allegiance to a deity sworn to protect it?
AJEONYE: Hmmm. My brother’s son, quick thinking! Ochai, my son, what do you have to say?
OCHAI: Adam (*my father*), Ukwenya has made a good observation. But it is in my opinion and the backing of evidence that times have changed. What used to be diabolism has been redirected into civil law. If the worst happens, we will go to court.
AJEONYE: I do not propose to understand the logic of this generation. I am, after all, an old man. Ajeonye-ogum, who is in the big city, doing the work of those who enforce the logic of these new times, what is it called…..ehn, ehn
OCHAI: Police, Papa
AJEONYE: Yes, yes. Of course! Anyway, he has assured me that our plan bears the mark of success. Because of this, I have employed myself to motivating all those concerned from the oldest to the child.
UKWENYA: Papa, too much zeal is the mistake of a hasty rabbit.
AJEONYE: [Laughs] My son, the technique has never been haste. No. We are slow like the tortoise and in like guise, we command the cunning required to achieve the same results as the tortoise.
UKWENYA: Papa, you seem to forget that the end of this cunning has always been tragic.
AJEONYE: Do not assume that I have left any detail unattended. In the event that what you fear should happen, then as Ochai has said, we will go to court.
OCHAI: I have told Ukwenya here on several occasions that he possesses the tongue of a pessimist.
AJEONYE: [To UKWENYA] Be careful my son, such a tongue has its root in the heart of a coward. Do not take this as a reprimand. It is because of Ochai’s confidence and your equal eagerness to search for any loose ends that I enjoy working with you both more than most.
UKWENYA: Thank you, Papa.
AJEONYE: It is alright. My resounding word of caution to you as always is to be non-committal. Let nothing bind you to these men of Ankpechi. We may marry their daughters, but never release your sisters to go bear children for them. We make take their sons as hired hands on our farms to let their sweat drop on our fields for a wage. But if your brother has no food and you have no land with which to engage him, tell your wife to add an extra mouth to the family pot. We must never work for them. We may listen as they unburden their troubles, but we must never allow ourselves to take news of brotherly strife to outsiders.
OCHAI & UKWENYA: Yes, Papa. We hear you.
AJEONYE: Simply put, encourage them to trust you, but do not let their dependency weaken you. Do not commit to their ways. Never! Neither should you form any bonds of friendship with them. Remember, your goal is to lure them so we can all prey on them.
[Another village compound. There is a big gathering. People are seen sitting or standing in groups of men, women, youths, and children]
YOUNG GIRL 1: My father o! [Wails and falls to the ground] Adam (*my father*), adolalo (*father of our house*), adah (*father*) ye!
YOUNG GIRL 2: Oine (*sister*), please. [Also begins to cry] Please take heart.
YOUNG GIRL 1: Explain to me why he is dead o!
YOUNG GIRL 2: Calm down. Our father would want you to….
AJEONYE: [Addressing both girls] Take it easy. This is definitely the passing if a great man. Our ancestors receive him with great rejoicing, why, then, should we despair to let them keep him? [Grinds his teeth to show pain] Our ancestors know best. They do not like to corrupt sanctity, stop crying lest they hold it against you.
YOUNG GIRL 1: I’m sorry, papa.
YOUNG GIRL 2 : Thank you.
AJEONYE: I knew your father very well. He was an exemplary elder, slow to anger and deserving of no reproach. [Aside] So he is dead! Okawu is dead. [Nods] The day has come sooner than anticipated. [To the young girls] Be strong my daughters.
YOUNG GIRL 1: Thank you.
[AJEONYE moves to the group of men, head bowed in a show of sorrow. All around there is crying and wailing]
[OKAWU’s compound. ECHOGA, a successful man from the city is seated beside the widowed ELAMEYI]
ECHOGA: This is all I want to talk to you about. I hope it sits well with you.
ELAMEYI: It is alright, my brother. Let me call him for you. [Raises her voice] Raymond! Raymond!
RAYMOND: [From within] Yes, Mama. [Runs in and slows down at the sight of ECHOGA] Good afternoon, sir.
ECHOGA: Thank you, my son. I have been told that you have a very impressive WAEC certificate, is that correct?
RAYMOND: [Eagerly] Yes, sir. Very correct, sir.
ECHOGA: [Nods approvingly] That’s good. I have just concluded talks with your mother about the possibility of your coming with me to the city. Do you agree?
RAYMOND: [Incredulous] Me? Come with you? To stay?
ECHOGA: Yes, to stay. Not just that, but to further your education. You do like the idea of attending a university, don’t you?
RAYMOND: [Overwhelmed] Thank you, uncle! Ayinya (*thank you*)! Thank you very much!
ECHOGA: It’s okay, my son.
[A village pathway in Ankpechi. TOWNCRIER is seen hitting his gong. About him, all activity ceases as people pay attention to his message]
TOWNCRIER: People of Ankpechi village, I greet you. [Hits the gong] Boom. I greet you in the name of our worthy fathers. Boom. It is now thirty days since the painful death of Okawu – our ochalia (*can be rendered ‘’village head’’*) It was neither our wish nor our doing, but he is gone. My brothers, he is gone. [hits the gong thrice] Boom. Boom. Boom. However, we remain. Therefore, we must continue. In the following seven days, the elders will convene among themselves. They will examine worthy men from the family of Okopi. [Hits the gong again] Boom. Why is it from the family of Okopi? [Hits gong] Boom. Let me tell you a story.
In former times, Ankpechi was a name that brought to mind the stream that presently quenches our thirst. One day, a man – Edache was his name, made his home at the water’s side. There he lived for some time before he invited his brothers Oguche and Oloche from Eboya to come and be his neighbours. After some time, there were seven families: Edache, Oguche, Oloche, Adakole, Idoko, Ahmedu and Okopi. These families built what is now known as Ankpechi, a community. Okawu, our former ochalia, hailed from the household of Ahmedu. Now it is time for the Okopi household. As we all know, it is these seven brothers who can decide what goes on in Ankpechi; it is these seven brothers who can rule. [Hits the gong] Boom. Boom. Boom. [Moves further off and begins to deliver his message again] People of Ankpechi, I greet you. Boom. I greet you in the name of our benevolent ancestors…….. [His voice fades away]
[ECHOGA’s office. He is in discussion with ADANU, his brother]
ADANU: We will travel to Ankpechi for the coronation. All of us must go, it is imperative that we do.
ECHOGA: You are right. Besides, Okopi is a brother family to Ahmedu.
ADANU: That’s right! [Chuckles] Then we have to show some brotherly love.
ECHOGA: [Smiles] I know what you mean. Giving Okawu a befitting burial was no easy feat to accomplish.
ADANU: [Nods] Of course, my brother. He was a great man. It gladdens my heart to know that he was not buried in shame.
ECHOGA: All praise to God!
ADANU: [Nods thoughtfully] I look forward to the day that would lessen the burden on our shoulders.
ECHOGA: I know what you mean. This is why I have embarked on the undertaking to see as many young ones as I can through school. The newest is Raymond, Okawu’s son. He is presently in the university, pursuing a career in engineering.
ADANU: Excellent! I admire your spirit, my brother! Is this the fifth person whose university education you are sponsoring?
ECHOGA: [Laughs] He is actually the seventh. Unlike the others, he lives in my house. Oh! I mean he and Samson, my wife’s nephew.
ADANU: Excellent! Well, I have three people in the university and five in polytechnics.
ECHOGA: I dare say, we can lift Ankpechi from its backwardness by arming as many youth as we can with adequate education.
ADANU: Yes, of course. It makes me happy that the younger Ajeonye is now a police sergeant. He could see to the education of a couple of youths. This will continue to spread, and before you know it, gbam! Ankpechi would become a haven of education.
ECHOGA: Adanu, my brother! Always the optimist!
ADANU: One can only expect good things to happen!
[An inconspicuous clearing in the bushes. OCHAI and UKWENYA are crouching on the ground, digging a hole. Beside them is a lead briefcase]
OCHAI: We must act quick-quick if anything is to come of this.
UKWENYA: [Irritably] You’ve said so already.
OCHAI: [Pauses in his digging] I know. I just keep repeating for emphasis.
UKWENYA: I totally understand why you are compelled to repeat how important, not to mention risky, an undertaking it is to take tradition by the horns and expect no consequences.
OCHAI: Why are you so angry?
UKWENYA: [Looks up] Why am I angry?! Did you just ask why I’m angry? Frankly, no reason! Why should I be angry when the two Ajeonyes are taking advantage of the fact that I am a young and helpless young man to coax me into taking the birthright of others?
OCHAI: [In a harsh whisper] You shut up! You know how important it is to stay focused, don’t you? Now, tell me the problem.
UKWENYA: [Remorseful] I am sorry. It is simply frustrating to be unable to have a drink to one’s satisfaction. If we are going to take the whole village, we should be able to afford to drink to here [touches his throat]
OCHAI: You should have said so. You’ll drink whatever you want this evening, I’ll see to that. [In a harsh tone] Never speak a foul word about my father again.
UKWENYA: I am sorry. I don’t know what got into me.
OCHAI: [Motions toward the briefcase] Open it.
[UKWENYA opens it to reveal guns and daggers]
OCHAI: Take half home with you and put half into this hole.
UKWENYA: Where are you going?
OCHAI: I have to meet with my brother, the police officer.
UKWENYA: Extend my regards.
[The outskirts of Ankpechi. The YOUNGER AJEONYE is in police uniform, leaning against his car. Opposite him, OCHAI stands at a respectful distance. There is nothing in sight but the road]
YOUNGER AJEONYE: I hope you are all ready. Whenever I make the call, you begin. Understood?
OCHAI: Yes, sir.
YOUNGER AJEONYE: Very good. There are a few changes I want to inform you about.
OCHAI: Yes, sir.
YOUNGER AJEONYE: Firstly, we have to strike earlier than planned. I learnt that arrangements are presently ongoing to select an ochalia.
OCHAI: Yes, sir. From the house of Okopi. There are a handful of capable men there to fit the profile.
YOUNGER AJEONYE: I’m sure there are. The time is now down to five days, is that correct?
OCHAI: Yes, sir.
YOUNGER AJEONYE: We petition the elders tomorrow. Our aspiration will be concealed no longer. My father must get his last wish.
OCHAI: Yes, sir. He is, however, of the opinion that we strike without letting them know why.
YOUNGER AJEONYE: He does not understand. We must have a fall plan, you know, just in case of failure. By informing them ahead of time, we can testify anywhere that they started the attack.
OCHAI: [Nods vigorously] Yes, sir. You’re right.
YOUNGER AJEONYE: The next dispatch is coming tomorrow. Meet with the elders. I’ll divulge the next stage in subsequent contact.
OCHAI: Yes, sir.
[The council of elders in the household of Okawu, the late ochalia. There are eight of them, each wearing a thoughtful look]
ELDER 1: In four days, we must ensure that our council moves to another hospitable household, whose wisdom matches its generosity and whose foresight equals its enterprise.
ELDER 2: You are right; we must move to a worthy house.
ELDER 3: In that case, I bring forward the son of Akpa.
ELDER 4: That is very thoughtful of you.
ELDER 2: We must not forget that he did not grow u among us.
ELDER 5: That is more reason why we should consider him. He knows how to carry us all into these new times because he grew up in the new ways. Because he knows the new ways and has not forsaken our ways, I strongly concur that he is deserving to be the next ochalia.
ELDER 6: I agree with you that we should consider the son of Akpa, but I strongly think that the son of Ngbede is more capable. He has returned from a successful sojourn in the city and his children are all of exemplary character.
ELDER 3: Are you just putting in a good word for your in-law?
ELDER 6: His son may have married my granddaughter, but I recommend him because of my desire to see our Ankpechi progress.
ELDER 5: The son of Akpa is younger and we will benefit more from the decision to make him ochalia.
ELDER 7: [Turns to ELDER 8] What do you think of all this?
ELDER 8: If the sons of Akpa and Ngbede are the only ones in consideration, then I suggest we vote amongst ourselves.
ELDER 1: Thank you!
ELDER 4: Who is for the son of Akpa?
ELDER 2: I
ELDER 3: I
[A noise is heard outside. OCHAI enters and bows in greeting]
ELDER 7: [Rebukes him] My son, you are definitely old enough to know that it is wrong to interrupt a meeting of elders.
OCHAI: [Bends his head] I am sorry. I have a message for the council.
ELDER 5: Yes? Speak.
OCHAI: It is about the pending issue of a new ochalia.
ELDER 5: Yes? What about it?
OCHAI: We want a man from the household of Ajeonye.
[There is shocked silence. Slowly, the elders begins to look at one another]
OCHAI: The other people who are not from the seven families want a man from the household of Ajeonye.
ELDER 7: My son, the other people have no stake in Ankpechi.
OCHAI: They send me here to make known their wishes. My fathers, we have lived here long enough to belong. There is no law against our desire to have a say.
ELDER 7: [Shakes his head] This is not your land, my son. You live here, you feed from here, you get your livelihood from here, but you are not a son of the soil. You have no right to demand a say in the affairs of the land.
OCHAI: [More boldly] I have relayed to you the wishes of my people.
ELDER 8: Then you better pack your belongings, start your own settlement and make yourself the ochalia. In fact, our brothers from Eboya, where we’re originally from, cannot come demanding to be our ochalia.
ELDER 3: [Angrily] Leave! Get out of this house and do not return.
ELDER 7: Be calm, my brother. He is only a child speaking out of the inexperience of children.
[OCHAI leaves. There is heavy silence in the room]
ELDER 8: [Sorrowfully] Okawu lived in fear that this day might come. Now, a few weeks after his passing, it has come upon us.
ELDER 1: [Bitterly] So this is how Ajeonye has chosen to repay us for giving him a farm so that he does not starve, and a home so that he does not wander.
ELDER 4: Perhaps age is toying with his perspective. Any community that is hospitable to strangers deserves gratitude, not malice or any ploy to take what belongs to them.
ELDER 7: It is the evil in the heart of man that inspires such unwarranted greed. The forces of good are always stronger than the forces of evil.
ELDER 8: It is so. My brothers, let us vote. Who is for the son of Akpa?
[The village pathway to the stream. The three women are discussing discreetly]
FIRST WOMAN: Hmmmm! My sisters, there is something wrong with the world as we know it.
SECOND WOMAN: You have started again! What is it this time?
FIRST WOMAN: The family of Ajeonye have petitioned the elders to…
THIRD WOMAN: Don’t utter that profanity! Owoicho Adah, take pity on us and save us from the goodwill of our ancestors.
SECOND WOMAN: I don’t understand what both of you are so agitated about.
Then you must be the only living soul in this village who doesn’t understand. [Hisses]
SECOND WOMAN: Please, my sister, this is no time to give me a complex. Tell me what is going on.
THIRD WOMAN: The stranger wants the right of sons. [Shrugs and spits disdainfully]
SECOND WOMAN: Ehn?
FIRST WOMAN: They want a portion of our children’s libations.
SECOND WOMAN: Ehn?
FIRST WOMAN: They want a place among our ancestral aleku.
SECOND WOMAN: Ehn?
THIRD WOMAN: They want our children to pay them homage.
SECOND WOMAN: Ehn?
FIRST WOMAN: [Exasperated sigh] It is no wonder you don’t understand.
THIRD WOMAN: [Scornfully] Simply put, they want to preside over us. They want to produce the next ochalia.
SECOND WOMAN: Ele-le-le-o!!!
[The city home of ECHOGA. The atmosphere is tense. He is discussing with ADANU and RAYMOND]
ECHOGA: [Clears his throat] This is the news I’ve received.
ADANU: [Shakes his head slowly] I find it hard to believe. This is outrageous!
ECHOGA: Our people live in fear in their own homes. The elders have requested some money. It appears that conflict requires arms in the village now.
ADANU: We must not encourage a fight. Though they tempt us, we must not partake in a move to spill blood.
RAYMOND: [Cautiously] Uncle, if our people cannot defend themselves, then they will die.
ECHOGA: What are you suggesting?
RAYMOND: I think we should be able to defend ourselves if a fight were to break out.
ECHOGA: You think we should send them the money?
RAYMOND: Yes, sir.
ADANU: This is heartbreaking! Simply heartbreaking!
ECHOGA: [To ADANU] Do you agree?
ECHOGA: The earlier the better, then. Raymond, if you won’t mind leaving early tomorrow…
RAYMOND: [Eagerly] Yes, sir.
ADANU: [Irritably] This is not a friendly visit, my friend.
RAYMOND: [Quietly] I understand, sir.
ECHOGA: Warn them strongly that we want no fight. We should be able to resolve this issue amicably. [To ADANU] I think we should pay a visit to the oche of Oglewu. That way, we can put a speedy stop to all this.
ADANU: I agree. We will take some of the elders and petition our case before him.
[ The village pathway that leads to the stream. The three women are silent. They fill their basins and make their way back without a word. UKWENYA, hiding in the bushes, is peering at them. As they come close, he jumps into view, startling them]
FIRST WOMAN: [Sounding relieved] Please, be careful. You should not add more fear to restive hearts.
UKWENYA: [Scowls] What are you doing here?
SECOND WOMAN: [Scoffs] Na wa o! We’re fetching water, of course.
THIRD WOMAN: Please don’t encourage him. Let’s go.
UKWENYA: And where do you think you are going?
FIRST WOMAN: My son, have you no sense of how to treat a woman? Don’t you have a mother?
UKWENYA: [Angrily] You want to know if I have a mother? [Looks around and picks up a stick] I’ll show you. You should never speak to me that way. [He begins to flog FIRST WOMAN. She runs, allowing the basin full of water to fall. The other women look on, stunned. He gives them each a stroke on the back] What are you looking at? [He flogs them again. They flee, abandoning their basins] Don’t come back here again! [He picks up the three fallen basins and saunters off]
[AJEONYE’S compound. He is sitting outside with OCHAI and UKWENYA]
OCHAI: Everything is falling into place into place. Very soon, we will take the land.
UKWENYA: Are you sure? That Raymond from Okawu’s household came from the city yesterday.
AJEONYE: [Thoughtfully] It may not be as easy as we planned.
OCHAI: It is true that they boast of rich and influential men. But those men cannot come and live here simply to foil our plans.
AJEONYE: That is true, my son. If they are able to provide arms for the people, we may have a war on our hands.
UKWENYA: Is it not a war we want?
AJEONYE: It is not a war we planned for. We originally have the intention of coercing the people into accepting our rule. We expect resistance, that is why we have weapons to persuade those who are more headstrong than others.
OCHAI: Now these headstrong people might also have knives in their hands.
UKWENYA: Is it not a fight we want?
AJEONYE: Only if we have the upper hand.
OCHAI: There has to be some other way.
AJEONYE: There is something else we can do.
UKWENYA: What is that?
AJEONYE: Start a fight!
[That same day. Sounds of gunshots, children crying. Mothers are seen running around in search of their children and carrying them off. Men are fighting. Sounds of guns and clashing metals]
[AJEONYE’S compound. Three figures are huddled together, talking]
OCHAI: What happens next, father?
AJEONYE: You say two are dead?
UKWENYA: Not from our side.
AJEONYE: It is a new turn of events. We must be ready to fight every day. They might attempt to avenge those two.
UKWENYA: Fight every day?
AJEONYE: Yes. Someone has to win, until then, no side will rest. Lives have been claimed.
UKWENYA: They are only two.
AJEONYE: Even as you and Ochai are.
OCHAI: This cannot be the ultimate resolution.
AJEONYE: Indeed, my son, it is not. Contact your brother Ajeonye. We must be heard by the Oche of Oglewu.
[The sound of sirens is heard from a distance. UKWENYA rushes outside. Later, he rushes back in]
OCHAI: What is it?
UKWENYA: Police people are here.
OCHAI: What do you mean ‘here’?
UKWENYA: They have come to stay. They are now here. [He slumps]
[The village. Five policemen are gathered round a fire eating roast yam and palm oil. They are chattering and laughing raucously. A little distance off, a man is seen chasing a woman, who has a child tied to her back, with a big cane. Enter OCHAI]
OCHAI: [Laughing] My brothers!
FIRST WOMAN: Ochai, my man!
OCHAI: My brothers!
SECOND POLICEMAN: Anything for the boys?
OCHAI: Of course! [Hands him a bundle of money] More will come.
THIRD POLICEMAN: Better o! You don’t want us to start curbing your excesses now, do you?
OCHAI: Ahhhh, my brother! It hasn’t gotten to that extent.
FIRST POLICEMAN: That all depends on you.
OCHAI: I assure you it won’t get to that extent. [Laughs] My brothers!
FIRST POLICEMAN: Ochai, my man!
OCHAI: My brothers!
FIRST POLICEMAN: Police is your friend, my man!
[The palace of the oche of Oglewu, a lavishly furnished room. The king is listening to the complaints of ECHOGA, ADANU and two elders from Ankpechi]
ECHOGA: This is the situation on ground, your majesty.
ANPECHI ELDER 1: What the mouth cannot speak of, it must invite the eyes to see.
OCHE-OGLEWU: This is indeed a serious issue. It is unjust that your people are suffering great pain because of their kindness.
ECHOGA: We plead that you exercise all within your power that this may discontinue at once.
OCHE-OGLEWU: Indeed, I will not preside over you and watch as you suffer injustice.
ECHOGA: Thank you, your highness.
OCHE-OGLEWU: It is well. [He nods slowly]
[There is noise coming in from the outer courts. OCHE-OGLEWU gestures towards ATTENDANT]
OCHE-OGLEWU: Check what is going on there.
ATTENDANT: [Bowing profusely] Yes, your majesty. [Exit]
ADANU: We considered the whole issue a childish joke in the beginning. Now that we have lost two people, we know better. [Shakes head sadly]
ATTENDANT: [Bowing] Some men are asking to see you. They say they’re from Ankpechi. May you live long, your majesty.
OCHE-OGLEWU: You say they’re from Ankpechi?
ATTENDANT: Yes, your majesty.
OCHE-OGLEWU: They must be Ajeonye’s people. Let them in! We may just sooner put an end to all this.
[Exit ATTENDANT. He returns with a delegation of six men]
AJEONYE: [Stooping] Agaba-idu! May you live long.
OCHE-OGLEWU: You are welcome.
[The other five men bow low in greeting in like manner, saying ‘’agaba-idu’’]
OCHE-OGLEWU: It is good that we are all here. What is this I hear about you taking the birthright of others by force?
AJEONYE: Agaba-idu! It is true that we have expressed certain desire to be part of the system that rules us. However, we did not create the conflict that has now claimed two lives.
OCHE-OGLEWU: You are an elder, far more advanced in age and experience than the men that accompany you. [Rests his eyes on the company and returns his gaze to AJEONYE] Are you not an Idoma man? Are you not a thorough-bred Idoma man? [AJEONYE bows his head] Speak!
AJEONYE: It is as your majesty has said.
OCHE-OGLEWU: Then you know our laws, our customs, our traditions. Not even I can go and be ochalia over Ankpechi. Why? Because I am not one of them! Because tradition forbids it! Even natural law forbids it! Why are you stirring the wrath of our fathers?
AJEONYE: Agada-idu, things are changing. This is a different time from the time of our fathers. Surely, they could not have foreseen this day.
OCHE-OGLEWU: You are right. No father ever foresees the day a stranger would come and claim the inheritance of his sons. If ever a father lived who foresaw this day, he would keep visitors at bay and lock his doors against the need of tired and hungry travellers, he would not welcome strange men or offer them water. You are right, Ajeonye the son of an Idoma woman, our fathers did not contemplate that such a day will come.
AJEONYE: We have lived among them long enough. It is only fair that…
OCHE-OGLEWU: [Voice slightly raised] They have let you live among them for that long. Now tell me, have they denied you or your own a means to scrape livelihood off their land?
AJEONYE: No, your majesty.
OCHE-OGLEWU: Have they awarded you or your own the status of outcasts or misfits?
AJEONYE: No, your majesty.
OCHE-OGLEWU: Have they exempted you from the benefits of their sons’ prosperity?
AJEONYE: No, your majesty.
OCHE-OGLEWU: Then if I am also to you ‘’agaba-idu,’’ you must cease this foolishness. I do not want to be told again that you or any of your own are unsettling the waters of peace in Ankpechi. If you must be ochalia, you can return to your father’s village. Do not attempt to rob anotherman’s son of his father’s safe keep.
AJEONYE: [Looking totally ashamed] It will be done as your majesty has said.
OCHE-OGLEWU: [Turns to ECHOGA] You should forgive them. Treat them as kindly as you always have, without hate or contempt. There is conflict everywhere, even among brothers. Forgiveness is what separates us into the distinct class of men.
ANKPECHI ELDER 2: We will do as your majesty desires.
OCHE-OGLEWU: Indeed I desire there to be harmony among us all. We are, after all, Idoma men, each one of us. Our land was not bequeathed to us without guidance. Therefore, we must abide by these rules lest we become known as a people without culture.
OCHE-OGLEWU: [Turns to AJEONYE] You apologise to your host brothers and put this malicious desire out of your thoughts. [Turns to ECHOGA] And you, embrace them once more as your fathers before you have done.
AJEONYE: I realise now that age has toyed with my head. I fear that others stand guilty for something that is really the crime of my too long years. [Turns to ECHOGA’S company] I am sorry, my brothers. I have led those who follow me astray and have caused them to fall out of favour with you. I do not imagine that I have time enough to make restitution; my time is drawing near. Accept the apologies of the old and frail.
ANKPECHI ELDER 1: [Clears throat] It is no more than a quarrel between brothers. We forgive you. [Murmurs of assent from the other men. Silence]
OCHE-OGLEWU: It is settled then. Return home and set your people’s minds at rest. Mourn with the families of those who mourn.
ALL: [Rise and bow] Agaba-idu!
[They pay their respects and begin to file out. As AJEONYE rises, a big bundle of money falls off his clothing. He falls over it to conceal it and hands reach out to help him to his feet]
[That same day. Dusk. The police have been recalled to their division. There is settled calm in the atmosphere. Piercing screams rent the air from a distance, followed by the sounds of running feet. A thick cloud of smoke billows upwards.
UKWENYA is seen looting houses amid the commotion; people are running helter-skelter. OCHAI and some young men are setting houses ablaze.
A long file of people, carrying what little they could salvage, are making their way out of the village. The cries of little children fill the otherwise tranquil night air.
AJEONYE is gasping for breath; the smoke is affecting his respiration. There is an evil glint in his eyes as he weakly vocalises a wicked laugh]
[The spotlight rests on TOWNCRIER, who is looking intently at the audience. He shakes his head sadly]
TOWNCRIER: That is how they left- in the darkness of night, having neither the means nor the opportunity to stop greedy men from stealing their property. It is sad. [Coughs] Some of you may have been expecting a dramatic story, full of excitement and intrigue. [Pause] This is it. It may not be exciting enough or intriguing enough, but it is the truth. It is real enough. [Murmur from the audience] What is this I hear? A hiss? A grumble? [Looks sternly at them] You are still children, children, I say! Truth, as the experienced well know, is harsh and crude, reserving no time to be delicious and appealing only to the appetites of the wise. [Shrugs] Anyway, I promised you the truth and I have delivered. Now you know.
[The stage lighting is enhanced to reveal the presence of the five aleku]
TOWNCRIER: My fathers, this is what you asked for. It is the truth.
AJAATA: [Over microphone] Who can know the heart of his fellow man? It is a place rife with treachery, pretence, deceit. Nobody can tell who his neighbour really is inside. The heart is dangerous. [His gaze settles on the audience] They have pillaged our houses and our farms, but our hands are still capable of rebuilding. Go tell our enemies that though they push us, throw us down and plan to run us over, we will rise again. We will rise again! We will rise…..