Obianuju: “Why did I find love, just when love was beyond my reach” Obianuju asked no one.The priestess came out of the inner room, leaning on a stick.
Priestess: “My daughter, Ohamiri is sad, and I can feel your pain, the sky is crying because you are crying”
Obianuju: “Priestess, I miss my mother”
Priestess: “You have only one mother now, Ohamiri, talk to her, she will give you all you need”.
Obianuju: “The one thing I need is the one thing she has taken away:! Obianuju exclaimed.
Mazi Udo was happy when Emeka, his son, told him he wanted to marry Udoka, the daughter of Mazi Emenike. He was happy because a calamity had been averted, and also Emenike was the richest man in the village, the alliance was profitable. The day for the marriage rites was set for two Eke market days afterwards. During this time, Emeka went to the river bank so as to see Obianuju and persuade her to leave the village with him, but the latter kept away from the river. She tried to forget Emeka, so that her sorrow will not cause rain and flooding. As much as she tried, she could not stop herself from hating Udoka, because of her, she had lost the friendship she had with Emeka.
Udoka was the talk of the village, she was nowhere near the prettiest girl in the village, and she was known to be bad mannered, how she made Emeka fall for her, to the extent of marrying her, was the biggest mystery, since the gods. All the maidens in the village envied her, for Emeka was the most eligible bachelor in the village. In her house, Udoka was pampered like an egg. She was given different fertility herbs, cam wood oil was rubbed on her body, she was told to sit by the fire each time. Her hair was patterned in the most beautiful way, she was treated like a bride. Her in-law sent her all sorts of gift, from velvet fabric to lace materials, bush meat, yams, plantains and palm oil.
When the day arrived for the marriage rites to be performed, Emeka set out very early to the river, for a final chance to talk with Obianuju, but failed, he contemplated going to the shrine, but his heart failed him. He went back home, resigned to his fate.
“How did it come to this? “Emeka asked himself as he walked the long distance home.
Udoka was decked in the costliest velvet, her body shone like polished alabaster under moonlight. Her neck and hands were girded with “Ileke” beads. People had gathered from all around the village to witness the marriage between two great families, there was sure to be abundant food and drink. The best “Ogene” dancers had been invited from the next village. Emeka arrived with his friends from Lagos they had turned up to grace the occasion. The ceremony started with dancing and wrestling. Different age groups came to perform one art, or the other. Then it was time to call the bride. Maidens of Udoka’s age group, and her mothers’ age group carried her in their midst out to the centre. The elders gave her a cup of wine to locate her husband. She carried the wine and walked to where Emeka was sitting with his family, she knelt before him, and extended the cup.
Emeka: “No Udoka, I will not marry you. My heart belongs to another” Emeka said and pushed the cup away.
Udoka: “Emeka, do not disgrace me like this” Udoka pleaded, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Udoka’s Father: “Mazi Udo, did you bring your son here to embarrass my family?”
Emeka’s Father: “No Mazi Emenike, I will talk to him. Emeka you are just having cold feet. You were the one who told me you want to marry Udoka, I did not force you”
Emeka: “She did” Emeka Said
“Ewo”! the villagers erupted into grumblings, some were looking at Udoka with scorn.
“Is she pregnant? Why would she force a man to marry her” one woman said.
“Children of nowadays, O di egwu”
Udoka flung the cup to the ground, her eyes darkened with rage.
Udoka: “You spineless man, I did not force you. You bribed me with marriage. You bought my silence with this”! Udoka yelled.
Udoka’s Father: “Udoka, what is going on here?” Her father asked.
Udoka: “Umueke, a taboo has been committed. Emeka is having an affair with Obianuju, the slave to Ohamiri”! she said, stressing every word.
Emeka: “Yes! I love Obianuju, and it is her, I want as my wife, not this conceited snake” Emeka spat.
Emeka’s Mother: “Emeka, why have you decided to send me to an early grave, what have I done” his mother wailed, as she loosened her wrappers and sat on the floor weeping.
The villagers began to agitate, they wanted Obainuju dead, and their cleansed.
Udoka’s Father: “Men of Umueke, what are you waiting for, seize Obianuju, she shall be killed”! Mazi Emenike proclaimed.
“Yes! She shall be killed”! the men erupted into war songs and marched to the shrine. Emeka entered his car, his friends took their cue, and they drove out of the village.
Obianuju was learning incantations, at the feet of the priestess, but her soul was not in the shrine. Today was the saddest day of her life, the day she would lose the love of her life forever.
Obianuju: “Life is so cruel” she thought to herself.
Priestess: “Obianuju, where is your mind?” the priestess asked sternly.
Obianuju: “what is that sound?” Obianuju asked. They could hear the war cry, it sounded like a crowd of people marching to war.
Crowd: “High priestess of Ohamiri, a taboo has been committed” the men shouted, as they halted in front of the shrine.
Obianuju: “Oh my chi, what has happened”?Obianuju’s heart pounded in her chest
The priestess went out, leaning on her walking stick.
Priestess: “Umueke, what taboo do you speak of. If a taboo has been committed, Oharimi would have told me”
Man: “Perhaps, Ohamiri is too angry to communicate”One of the men said.
Priestess: “Shut up, you foolish man, do you presume to know about the mind of the goddess I Serve?” the priestess shouted.
Man: “Obianuju is having an affair with a man, I am sure she has been defiled”!
Priestess: “Humph”, the priestess grunted.
Man: ‘She must be sacrificed to appease Ohamiri, the land must be cleansed with her blood”.
Obianuju having heard all, came out, with a resigned look.
Obianuju: “Do unto me, what you wish. For I have no reason to live anymore” Obianuju said.
Priestess: “So, this is true? Ohamiri!” the priestess cried in a broken voice. Thunder clapped above, and rain suddenly began to fall. The men grabbed Obianuju and took her to the market square. Nwokoye had heard of the misfortune that had befallen his daughter.
Obianuju’s Father: “Aneke, the daughter we brought into this world is having hard time, and we cannot even stand by her. What has culture done, except breed spineless men. Where is Emeka? He has fled, left my daughter alone”. Nwokoye lamented as he sat in his house.
The people waited for the priestess to make a pronouncement, but she hid her face from the people, she told them Ohamiri was silent. They took the matter to Idemili, for they were afraid of the gods.
While Obianuju was shackled and kept in the market square, people came and threw things at her, called her names and sorts. Udoka led a delegation of maidens to the market square, to chant mocking songs to Obianuju.
Udoka: “She said she is the most beautiful girl in the village, too beautiful for the gods, now you must forfeit your life, for what? For a taste of a man” Udoka said. Obianuju looked on listlessly, her hair was disheveled, tears stained her face and soot covered her body. In her heart she hated Udoka the more.
Obianuju: “May you never know happiness, may you never have good health, I curse you, I curse you Udoka”! Obianuju said in a loud voice and thunder clapped above. The maidens ran in different directions.
Udoka: “You cannot harm me, Ohamiri is not happy with you, you are powerless”! Udoka said before ruining away.
Mazi Emenike went to visit the priest of Idemili, Obianuju was the cause of the scorn he felt, and he wanted her dead at all cost.
Udoka’s Father: ‘Eye of Idemili, I greet you” he said outside the shrine. The priest came out of the shrine, using his back.
Priest: “Emenike, what brings you here” the priest asked as he turned slowly.
Udoka’s Father: “The slave to Oahamiri must be killed”
Priest: “Do you fight for the gods, let Ohamiri avenge herself, let her fight her fight. if her slave has wronged her, let her kill her” the priest replied.
Udoka’s Father: “How can Ohamiri kill her, when she does not even know. Can you not see, that she is silent” Emenike retorted.
Priest: “You fool, do you now deem yourself wiser than the gods. Take care of your household, for calamity is at your doorstep, leave the gods to their business” the priest replied and went back into the shrine.
As Emenike approached his house, he could see people gathered in front.
‘What is going on here” he asked authoritatively.
“Ndo”People told him, and cleared a path for him. As he got closer, he saw fire bellowing upward, he ran outside the house and to the back of the house, behold, his yam barns had been razed by fire.
Udoka’s Father: ‘Ewo, what is this” he yelled hysterically.
“It is the fault of Obianuju, she has brought the wrath of the gods on my house. She should be killed” he said to the crowd.
At that instant, some women came, carrying Udoka, big boils covered her skin from her head to her toe.
Udoka’s Father: “Why is Ohamiri punishing me, is it not Mazi Udo’s son who ate the food meant for the gods” he lamented.
In anger, he mobilized men to burn Obianuju alive, or behead her, and use her blood to cleanse the land. They chanted war songs on their way to the market square, with their machetes, sticks and stones.
Obianuju heard their war cry as they approached and knew that this time, she would not escape death.
“finally, a welcomed respite” Obianuju resigned to fate. The men finally reached the market square and pulled Obainuju, tossing her from one man to the other. They shredded her loin cloth, leaving her almost naked. Obainuju thought to herself, how swiftly her lot changed from the most beautiful girl who had many suitors, to the most abhorred.
“Kill her! Kill her”! they chanted.
Obianuju: “I am happy though, I felt what it was to love someone” Obainuju whispered to herself as she watched the men construct her a dais with woods.
“Burn the cursed woman! Burn her!”they continued chanting as they carried her, and laid her on the dais . They poured kerosene, all over the dais, and lit the lower part. The fire licked at the kerosene, creeping up towards Obianuju.
Obianuju: “I longed for death, but I did not bargain for such painful one” Obainuju thought, as the fire began to burn under her, the heat engulfed her, and she screamed in excruciating pain, as the flames touched her back.
Udoka’s Father: “Yes, feel the pain and suffering you unleashed on innocent people”Mazi Emenike said through clenched teeth. He had lost all his yams, no seed yams for the new planting season, he was as good as poor, all because of Obianuju, or so he thought. As the pain became great, Obianuju felt herself swallowed up by a dark tunnel. She longed for death, for life without Emeka held no meaning, but when death came, she cried out for help.
“Won’t anyone save me? “ she cried softly through parched lips, before giving in, to the darkness. She tried to hold on the tiny dot of light, but the darkness pulled her in. just before her mind finally went blank, she heard a loud sound like a crack.
A police van drove into the square and policemen dressed in combatant gear began to shoot their guns upward, some of the men ran for their lives, but some were ready to do battle with the policemen. They brandished their machetes, as they chanted their war cries. Emeka, while the men were engaging the policemen, went to the dais, and extinguished the fire with an extinguisher. He carried Obianuju’s body in his arms and raced to his car. Some of the men noticed and tried to cut him off from his car, but the policemen opened fire on them, they began to drop to the ground. Emeka dumped her in the backseat and drove off in a puff of dust.
The police began to arrest the men they could find, they entered into the village, and banged on doors, they carried anyone found with a machete, almost all the men in the village were arrested. Nwokoye, prior to this time had fled the village to his maternal village. News reached him that his daughter had been burnt alive. He took his cloths and went raving mad.
Emeka drove Obianuju to the next village where they had a standard medical centre.
Emeka: “Doctor! Doctor! Somebody help me”! he ran out of his car shouting. The emergency unit staff wheeled, out the gurney and strapped Obianuju to it.
“It is like she is dead oh, should we take her to the mortuary?”
“No, she cannot be dead”!
“Take her to the theatre, if she is dead, the doctor will pronounce her dead on arrival” A nurse instructed the staff and they wheeled Obianuju to the theatre. Emeka went after them, but he was blocked off at the door to the theatre.
“We will take care of your wife, go to the front desk and settle all that needs to be settled” one of the doctors said.
Emeka went as he was told, where he was given forms to fill, including a police statement form.
‘God, even if it is a miracle, make it happen” He prayed in his heart, as he paced up and down the hall way, looking for news about Obianuju.
Question: Is Obianuju dead, what is the fate of these lovers, what is the lot of Udoka and her father. Find out in the next episode.
…. SEE Episode 4 Below (You don’t want to miss this!)
SEE Episode 13
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