‘You are chasing me away from your house today. You never can tell how you will need my help tomorrow.’
‘Get away from here, I repeat! What use do you think you can ever be to me? I will soon be crowned the King. Levels have changed and hence we are no longer mates, you remain an ordinary palm wine tapper, while I become your king. You should behave well so I can allow you tap from my abandoned palm trees.’ Olaniyan bragged to Adekunle.
‘I will leave, but one day you will beg me to come into your house.’ Adekunle turned to leave.
‘Only over my dead body will that happen.’ Olaniyan spat. He was getting angry at Adekunle’s calmness, and fact that he was about to have the last word.
‘No my friend, it won’t be over your dead body. You will be alive, and you will remember this day’ Adekunle said and walked steadily away. He was hurt, but he walked with his head held high.
As he walked home in the scorching sun, Adekunle was tempted to get bitter, but he smiled through the threatening tears. ‘Olaniyan! I never thought this day will come!’ he said out loud to himself, shaking his head. ‘I didn’t know you were a backstabber. Every man will reap what he sows.’ He said reflectively, then he shrugged his shoulders as if to let go of the burden of betrayal, then he walked home, the events of the past weeks playing through his mind.
It started two weeks ago, when the town crier had gone round the village, inviting all the first sons of the land below the age of 30 to the village square early the next morning. The next morning saw able-bodied men, who were a bit confused, gathered at the square. Many of them were impatient, they had work to do.
The Oba and his elders arrived and informed them that the time had come for a new royal family to be chosen. The family will rule for the next seven generations. The impatient men became suddenly hopeful, the possibility of becoming the next king was more important that the farm or palm wine trees they had to attend to. They had to go back home and come back with few necessities, as they will be in the Palace for the next seven days. They will all be taught the ways of and treated as kings, and on the seventh day, the new Oba will be chosen by the casting of lot.
The best friends, Adekunle and Olaniyan walked home together, each telling the other what he will do and how he will display his happiness if he is chosen as the Oba.
The seven days showed Adekunle the true caliber of man his best friend was. Olaniyan stopped moving with him, accusing him of being slow. He never gave him information left for him, and that saw Adekunle as being unserious as he was usually late or absent from meetings. By the time Adekunle recognized what was happening, the seven days were over, and it was time for the lot to be casted.
It was no surprise to many of the men when Olaniyan was announced as the chosen one. They were tempted to think that the lot was manipulated, but since they had no proof, they killed the thought.
Adekunle was truly happy for his friend and was ready to forgive him for all the slights until he saw Abosede at the celebration organized for the men to signal the end of the search, and to celebrate the chosen one. Only she didn’t come to see him. She came to see Olaniyan.
Abosede was his girlfriend. He should be the only reason she was there.
Adekunle couldn’t hide his surprise when she hugged Olaniyan shyly, to congratulate him. ‘Wh… what is going on here?’ He asked, directing the question to Abosede. ‘You should be…’
‘Are you so stupid that you can’t understand what is happening? My girlfriend hugged me, and you are asking what is going on?’ this came from Olaniyan who held her to his side.
Adekunle looked up to Olaniyan ‘Your girlfriend? You did this to me? How? When? Why?!’ he felt his heart breaking and knew he had to leave before more people gathered. He quickly ran home.
That was a week ago. Adekunle had finally visited Olaniyan to ask him the reason behind his backstabbing, and even expecting an apology. Instead, Olaniyan had driven him from his house, saying Abosede knew that she had to choose and excellent man and that was why she dumped him for Olaniyan.
Adekunle walked home slowly, and wondered why all this befell him. He also wondered if it was true that he lived a mediocre life.
‘I know I try to work hard, so why would Abosede leave me for Olaniyan?’ he muttered to himself. He was tempted to think it was because he was chosen as the next king, but he knew that they have been separated from the world for the past seven days, so whatever they had going must have been on before the search for a new royal family came up.
He finally got home and went straight to his room, there he cried his heart out through the night. The next day he rose up early than usual and went to tap palm wine. He had made a decision to move on with his life and forget the existence of Olaniyan and Abosede.
Also he was done with women. He never knew they could be so tricky. He had planned to go to Abosede’s father to ask for her hand in marriage at the end of the planting season. He shook his head as he walked to his trees. They had been abandoned for a long while.
He was about to start his journey up the tree when he heard someone crying. He stopped tying the rope round his waist and listened. He heard nothing.
“Maybe I imagined it” he thought.
As he was about climbing, he heard it again, and knew he didn’t imagine it this time because the sobs didn’t cease this time. He untied the rope as quickly and silently as possible, and traced the source of the sobs.
He immediately looked away when he saw her. She was a young, naked woman trying unsuccessfully to stifle her sobs. Her head was bowed, so she was oblivious to his presence. Though he had looked away as quickly as possible, he saw that she was beautiful, and her head was shaved. She also didn’t look familiar.
‘Why are you crying?’ he asked, startling her into silence. He quickly glanced at her and away again, to be sure she knew he was talking to her.
‘Take this and cover yourself’ he said, offering her his Buba, still looking away.
‘Are you now covered’ he asked.
‘Yes’ she replied with a still shaky voice.
He turned to look at her and time almost stood still. Her body was beautiful from what he had seen in two glances, it was now well covered by his Buba which was very big on her, but her face was exquisite, even with her shaved head.
‘Adekunle stop staring!’ he muttered, mentally slapping himself.
‘Why were you crying?’ he asked, hoping her explanation will also explain why she was naked with her head shaven.
Her story left Adekunle shocked. She was kidnapped from her village by ritualists, and was taken to a very far place she didn’t know. She had no idea how her bonds were loosened up on the night of the rituals, but she quickly removed them and ran away. She ran for so long in no particular direction, since she only needed to get away. She was so tired and sat to rest, and since it was daybreak and she was stark naked, her predicament had brought tears to her eyes.
Adekunle told her to stay put. He quickly ran back home, took some old clothes his married sister left behind, took his breakfast from the kitchen, and ran back to her. He watched her as she ate ravenously, and began to believe her otherwise incredible story.
When she was done eaten, and she wore his sister’s clothes with the gele to cover her shaved head, he started the journey, with her, to her village. They kept asking for directions, until they got to a place she recognized. He followed her until they got to her father’s compound where there were shouts of joy. That was when he learnt her name was Titilayo.
Her father thanked him with so much joy. Blessing him over and over again. He was given some palm wine to drink which was the sweetest Adekunle had ever tasted. He concluded it must be that their palm trees produced better palm wine.
After a while of discussion, he took his leave refusing other gifts. He whistled as he walked back to his village, wondering what kind of ritual the ritualists intended to do that they had to get someone as beautiful as Titilayo. He found himself wondering how beautiful she would look when her hair was grown.
He went straight home forgetting about the day’s palm wine, and forgetting about Olaniyan and Abosede. Saving someone like Titilayo made his day worthwhile.
That night the town crier announced the upcoming marriage ceremony, which was coming up in twelve days’ time, between the next Oba Olaniyan and Abosede who will become the Olori.
It felt like the healing wound was ripped open again, and Adekunle’s happiness evaporated.
CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE 2 >>> PALM WINE TAPPER (2)
By JOY Nwankwo
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