Adekunle turned back to look at Titilayo. ‘You remember what I told you about you being beautiful with your head shaven, well I wasn’t flattering you. You are very beautiful. So I want you to remove your gele with the knowledge that I find you very beautiful.’
Titilayo nodded. She knew she had been caught in the web of malice between Adekunle and his former best friend. She gingerly removed her headgear and started to get up. Adekunle held her back down.
‘Wait. Walk with pride. I am the one you are showing off to. Show me you are more beautiful than I think you to be, and you already know I see you as a very beautiful woman. Can you do that for me?’
Titilayo smiled, showing her dimples and her perfectly arranged teeth. She stood up and joined the queue of ladies. She kept looking at Adekunle who never took his eyes of her. She got to the Oba and bowed. ‘Kabiesi o!
She turned and walked back to her seat, her eyes finding Adekunle again. Her smile getting brighter as she approached him. Adekunle stood up when she got to his side and only sat when she was seated. It was sign of respect which everyone understood and agreed she deserved.
Titilayo was one of those few ladies who very looked good with their head shaven.
‘How did I do?’ She asked as the celebration continued and people’s gazes were averted away from them.
Adekunle spoke so that only she could hear, but he didn’t lean too close to her to seem indecent ‘You are the only queen I see’
Titilayo didn’t tie back her headgear to her head through the rest of the celebration.
Adekunle was walking Titilayo back to her village. They were silent, but many things were spoken in the silence. Titilayo was smiling like a Cheshire cat, while Adekunle felt like his tongue was tied.
When he could see her house at a distance, he knew he had to speak up. Clearing his throat, he stopped walking, knowing she would stop.
‘You told me you answered to no one but your father. Can I come and see him with my people?’ Adekunle knew he was being forward, but he didn’t know how to go about it.
Titilayo didn’t make it easy for him. ‘Why do you want to come and see my father?’ she asked, looking at him with innocence.
‘I want to… I… I… When I come, you will find out.’
‘Okay!’ she replied, smiling again.
Adekunle watched her walk into her compound, then turned around. It occurred to him that he could almost walk from his village to her compound with his eyes closed, he knew the journey by heart. The distance didn’t seem as far as it did the day he returned her to her parents.
Walking back home, he made his plans.
Adekunle’s palm wine became the new thing in Alimosho village. Everyone became a salesperson for him.
‘If it’s not Adekunle’s palm wine, it is not palm wine’ became a popular saying in Alimosho.
Adekunle gathered as much money as he could, and put things in place. He told his parents about Titilayo, and before long, she came visiting. His mother loved her almost instantly, his father congratulated him on his good eyes.
In a fortnight, Adekunle and his people made their first visit to Titilayo’s house to begin the marriage rites. When it was time to go home with his wife, he was all smiles. He was the envy of the young men around, both from Titilayo’s village, and from Alimosho.
Titilayo was a rare gem as Adekunle later discovered. She had an enterprising and innovative mind. She brought new farming techniques and brought better seeds which yielded better fruits. Soon, Adekunle’s farm produce was known both in Alimosho, and the neighboring villages.
They had two sons, and a daughter who they named Ayoola and Ayomikun, and Folashade
Adekunle became an influential man. He didn’t need to speak. People just watched his actions and followed suit. Olaniyan never made him a chief, nor gave him any title, but that only made the people love him more. He helped in developing the village for no obvious reason but kindness and goodness.
The rift between Adekunle and Oba Olaniyan seemed to die down as it was obvious that Adekunle had been blessed immeasurably.
Oba Olaniyan also prospered, and all was well.
Decades passed, and Olaniyan and Adekunle forgot the way to each other’s house. The reason of the disagreement between Oba Olaniyan and Pa Adekunle was told and retold, it soon became unrecognizable to the main people involved.
Adekunle sat outside his house on his cane chair and sipped the palm wine Ayoola his son tapped. He had passed down the secret technique on to him, while Ayomikun learnt from his mother’s farming method. Folashade who resembled her mother to the way she walks, helped in the farm, but her mother trained her mainly in the kitchen.
Titilayo’s expertise in the kitchen was one of the reasons Adekunle fell in love with her after their marriage. She was gifted in many areas, he would have said she was no ordinary woman, but for her temper and stubbornness. It turned out to be legendary.
Adekunle, his children, and the rest of the villagers learnt never to get Titilayo angry. Folashade also inherited her mother’s temper issues and stubbornness. Adekunle already warned her suitor, Akintunde, that patience was the only way to work with her.
Adekunle was counting his blessing and thanking Olodumare as he sipped his palm wine waiting for Titilayo to serve his food. She was the only one who cooked his food, not even Folashade was allowed to.
He recognized the two men approaching his house as the Palace guards. He had always thought their uniforms were ugly. That was one of the things he had told Olaniyan he would change about the Palace if he was chosen as the Oba. Olaniyan had laughed.
Olaniyan must have sent the guards. He was surprised they knew the way to his house. He wasn’t sure he knew the way to the palace.
He kept his face expressionless as they greeted him and passed the message, Oba Olaniyan asked that he followed them to the palace immediately. He was tempted to ignore them, but he knew they would stand there until he sends them back with a reply.
‘Tell the Oba that I, Adekunle will not come to the palace.’ He stood up as he spoke. He felt all the anger of the past years return. ‘I will not!’ he shouted.
The guards bowed unconsciously and ran out of his compound, back to the Palace.
Titilayo must have heard his shout, because she ran out from the back of the house. ‘What is it my husband? I heard your shout from the kitchen.’
Adekunle took deep breaths to calm himself down. ‘Two palace guards came here, saying that the Oba wants me to come with them immediately to the palace. I think it brought back all the anger.’
‘My husband, are you regretting any part of your life? We have been blessed. You have to forgive so that you can have peace of mind.’
‘I have peace of mind’, Adekunle lied, ‘It’s just that he chased me out of his house when I went to him when he took Abosede from me. Who is he to now order me to come to his house?’
‘So this is about Abosede?’ Titilayo asked, knowing it wasn’t. She wanted Adekunle to go to the king. He was their king.
‘No! It’s not about Abosede…’
‘I don’t believe you. You are still in love with her, and you can’t face her, so…’
‘What?! I am going to face her now. Who is she?’ Adekunle asked, biting the bait. His hungertotally forgotten.
Adekunle ran into the house and took his Buba. He was putting it on when a group of persons walked into the compound. On closer inspection, he recognized them to be the village chiefs, the Oba, and the Olori with their guards.
Titilayo and Adekunle quickly bowed. ‘Kabiesi o!’
Adekunle couldn’t believe how frail Olaniyan looked. He knew they were no longer as young as they used to be, but it was obvious that Olaniyan was sick. Titilayo brought out their best seats, and brought palm wine, but Olaniyan waved it away.
‘Adekunle my friend’, Olaniyan began, ‘you told me I would beg you to come to my house. Well that day is here. It seems only you can save my life. The Ifa priest said you must come to the palace. We wronged you, please forgive us. When I heard about your blessings, I knew that I was wrong in thinking I was a better man. I am sorry my friend.’ He made to kneel, but Adekunle quickly held him up.
‘You won’t bow to me Olaniyan. You are the king. I have forgiven you. Let’s go to the palace.’
‘It is something you saw from the top of your palm tree will you were tapping. You didn’t understand it, but you knew it was strange.’ The Ifa priest said, trying to remind Adekunle of what he had seen years back.
Adekunle thought hard, then like a flash it came back to him. It was the day Titilayo had sent him back to tap from his abandoned trees. He had tapped until it began to get dark. As he was quietly setting his container at the top of the tree, for the overnight sap, he heard a sound and saw, at a distance someone digging and burying something around Olaniyan’s palm trees. He remained silent, trying to decipher what the person was burying. He then tried to recognize the man. He wasn’t sure, but the person looked like Olaniyan’s cousin, Afolayan. He still didn’t know what the man buried. He saw that he finished up, looked around and quietly left.
Adekunle finished what he was doing, came down and went home. He never gave a thought to it again.
He told the Ifa priest what he remembered.
‘Afolayan, what did you bury there?’ the priest asked. Afolayan was one of the chiefs, but the look on his face was not one usually seen on the faces of chiefs, his look was one of intense fear. He kept shaking his head. Then he suddenly told up and ran out.
The Ifa priest asked Adekunle to lead the way to the spot where the things were buried.
They discovered that Afolayan buried five live tortoises, which were all still alive. As long as those tortoises lived, they made sure that Olaniyan had no son to reign after him. When he saw that Olaniyan lived on, he became impatient and he wanted him dead, so he caused his illness so he could take over the throne.
Nobody ever saw Afolayan again. The Ifa priest commanded that no one should search for him.
When Oba Olaniyan got well, he gave Adekunle a chieftaincy title. He knew he deserved it. The first thing Adekunle influenced as a chief was the change of the uniform of the palace guards.
Slowly, their friendship was restored, and peace reigned in the Alimosho kingdom at last.
Despite his chieftaincy title, Adekunle was referred to as the palm wine tapper until his death because of his special wine.
By JOY Nwankwo
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