The Great Ponds

The story begins with Olumba as the elected leader to help find the poachers from Aliokoro. The men of Aliokoro had started to claim some of Chiolu’s Ponds, therefore Olumba and his men had to act quickly. The plan was to capture some or all of the men of Aliokoro involved and the ransoms that they would be obliged to pay would help out the people of Chiolu. The man they had captured was Wago, the leopard killer and the greatest of all. He was a well-known man with an uncanny skill of hunting and as the chapters unfold he also has an uncanny skill of escaping. Okehi made the worst choice when he compromised to share the Pond Of Wagaba.

They all had to prepare for a fearful night. The Pond Of Wagaba was to be guarded all through the day against poachers whilst Olumba and other braves were to work out details of strategy. Wago sent out spies to see if anyone was guarding the pond. Olumba’s men waited in the trees for the other tribe. When found Olumba made a signal like a jungle bird. The ambush began. Chiolu had lost four men but although they had won the fight they knew that Aliokoro would put up for another. The next day Ikechi went to visit to the ponds to inspect his fish traps, which by then were full of fish.

As he was about to leave he heard a rustling in the bushes. The invaders started to chase him and as he looked behind him he thought he had saw Wago behind him with other men from Aliokoro. After this incident they evidently began to prepare for a battle as Olumba was giving out final instructions to his men. Unfortunately, the battle was not as prosperous as the first because Chiolu had lost. That same night, Olumba’s junior wife, also the mother of his only son was awakened by a loud bang, which made her sit upright only to find a wide gap where the door had once been.

The next moment two figures had entered the room and before she was able to do anything her mouth was gagged and very soon the village of Chiolu was left behind. The next day dawned upon a miserable Chiolu. In the last battle several men had been killed while many more were injured. Four women were captured, two of which were very important to Olumba and Eze Diali. As Ikechi and Olumba were conversing about ways to retrieve the kidnapped the ikoro sounded. Both tribes were in Eze Diali’s compound by this time. They were all greeted, and then the meeting began.

After realizing that both tribes were neither willing to give anything up the meeting ended. They decided that they must fight until Aliokoro decides to give up. Four days had passed after the last meeting with Chiolu; Eze Okehi sat in his reception hall resting. Okehi went to see Igwu, a proverbial person about ways of getting the women back. Wago and other men went to Isiali. They gave the allies the money but only received two women. Unfortunately Oda and Chisa were the two that were missing; they were sold off. Wago took the two remaining women to Okehi who was surprised at the sudden turn of events.

In Chiolu the ikoro had sounded and the men of Chiolu were now in Diali’s reception hall in which they agreed to negotiate in eight days time but on no account shall the Pond of Wagaba be given up, at no time. At Isiali housewives were bustling about preparing hills of foofoo and lakes of tasty soup to feed the assembly. After the midday meal the main business of the assembly began. The warring villages stated their cases with ancient history but the real matter was The Pond of Wagaba and whom it really belonged to. At one point both villages had fished in the pond but before the present war Chiolu was the owner.

The question being asked was ” Was it established as being rightfully theirs? ” Coming up with a decision was harder tha expected. It was obviously clear that any decision, which was made that was not respected by both parties, war would resume as usual, that was infact the easiest decision anyone could make. They decided to consult a dibia to help in this situation. They consulted Ogbunabali, the god of night, one of the most powerful gods. In a solemn voice Ogbunabali repeated tha the Pond of Wagaba belonged to Chiolu.

He also quoted: “If this is not true let me die within six months” If true, let me live and prosper” One long month was gone. Olumba was under oath and he therefore was not allowed to do most things that he used to. One of them was climbing trees but Olumba being as stubborn as he was climbed it anyway. He could not remember how it had happened but by the time he knew it he was down on the ground unconscious. They carried him to Anwuanwa of Abii who made Olumba repeat a proverbial verse after him. They paid him two manillas and returned to Chiolu.

Five days after Olumba’s incident three men walked into Eze’s reception hall; they were from Aliokoro. The leader of the delegation was Wago and what they had to say was concerned Olumba. He continued to say that Eze Okehi and the elders of Aliokoro had sent them to discuss who the rightful owner of the pond was. This came as a joke to Eze Diali and his elders. Wezume gave them the answer; Olumba was not dead. Eight days from then Wago returned to see if Wezume was lying or not; Chiolu produced Olumba dramatically. A few days later Wago became ill. He needed the help of Igwu but was too stubborn to ask for it.

By the sixth day Wago was dying and was too weak too resist Igwu’s help. Wago was coming around and by the time he was well enough to realize where he was he rose to leave but could make it no further to the door. Igwu was prepared for a settlement; Wago was not. After further consultation the two men embraced each other to demonstrate reconciliation. The next day a few chosen elders met again this time in Igwu’s There he explained meticulously the details of the process involved. There was one important point. A fragment of Olumba’s clothing had to be obtained. Wago completed this task successfully.

The next day Igwu set to work while the others looked on with awe. The elders dispersed and Igwu began a long complicated ritual. Incantations were mumbled and finally a plantain stem carved like a man was added. Before he did this he had to call Olumba’s name three times. As the concoction boiled Igwu poked the invention with a long thin fork poking all its fundamental elements. After his bath, Olumba went in for supper. The rent in his wrapper was so small that he did not even realize it until the next morning. He wondered how it could have happened; he thought it could be rats.

Wogari reminded him that he was still under oath and now Olumba’s mind was full again. The first battle of The Great Ponds; the fight with Wago the leopard killer; the second battle with the snatch parties, the ambushes and the negotiations; Ezes of the Erekwi clan; Ogbunabali, god of night. This was all now a part of him. Olumba tried to concentrate but it was no use. If the god of night did not strike in three months the Pond Of Wagaba must be Chiolu’s. Why would the god wait so long to strike? Wogari was frightened at Olumba’s muttering to himself.

As far as she knew this case was diagnosed as being mentally ill but Olumba showed no signs of it, this worried her the most. Fed up with his mental battles, Olumba went to Diali’s. While on the way a brightly coloured snake crossed his path. It was an azigwo, the snake of omen. Amadioha was warning him to be careful. The single sacrifice was performed that evening. Olumba went to bed with some relief. If Amadioha the god of thunder and the skies were kind enough to warn him, things would turn out well. Near midnight Olumba woke up trembling and sweating. He went into the next room and woke Wogari.

Olumba thought that he had heard his name being called three times. Wogari told him that it was probably a vivid dream but he doubted it. Olumba tried to sleep but he couldn’t. He felt very hot and the air was stifling. He hardly knew when he moved and lay beside his wife. Wogari went to light a lamp. Olumba’s condition was deteriorating at an astonishing rate. Nyoma went to call Achichi. He tried divinations after divinations but nothing worked. They sent for Anwuanwa as everything Achichi tried failed. Anwuanwa arrived midmorning and when he had seen Olumba he let out a mirthless laugh from the back of his throat.

The dibia brought out his divination cowries and threw them hither and hither on the floor and laughed again. He fished into his medicine bag, brought out a black horn and poured some black powder onto his palm. He then went outside, faced the direction of Aliokoro and blew the powder in the air three times. He ran back into the house, picked up a huge talisman and dashed out. One more time he faced Aliokoro and shouted: Taaa! He waved the talisman around his head three times, spat to the left, spat to the right then walked back to Olumba’s room. Once more his cowries rattled and he studied them intently.

He came to the conclusion: Olumba was being cooked also the dibia in charge was working very hard to prevent other dibias from finding out. Aliokoro were the ones doing the cooking. It was finally coming together; the rent being cut; his name being called three times; someone fro Aliokoro was behind it. Anwuanwa could deal with the situation. Throughout the morning he battled for Olumba’s life. In two days Olumba was well again. His recovery was rapid as his illness was unexpected. They made a deal with the dibia to retain him for Olumba for the next three months. Anwuanwa was prepared to work as long as he wanted them to.

A sure way to enhance Olumba’s peace of mind was to find his lost wife, the mother of his only son. Another search party was organized. Olumba gave Ikechi a gift to help him on his journey. Long after Ikechi had left, Olumba still sat in his reception hall rocking Nchelem to sleep and mumbling to himself. Nyoma called him several times to eat but he would not answer. Wogari who had overheard the whole conversation was already in tears by the time Nyoma re- entered the kitchen. They were crying as if there was a death in the family. Olumba tried to shut them up but it was no use. For the first time Nyoma was flouting his authority.

He dumped Nchelem on a sleeping mound and dashed outside in search of a cane. He came back brandishing a weighty one but Nyoma stood her ground. She was not particularly a firm woman, she said yes to everything for her mother taught her that that was the way to go, but in this case the situation was different. Nyoma stood her ground fearlessly ” Beat me and let me die so that you can bury me decently before you kill yourself. Beat me I say, beat me. I prefer to die than to see you behave the way you are doing. In the midday of your life you are turning into a woman and expect us to stay calm.

Chei! Chei! ” Olumba’s upraised arm had fallen to his side long ago. He stood looking at his wife as she stood and talked hysterically. Then he turned and went into his bedroom. Everyone hoped Olumba would revert to his normal self. Wogari was also frightened by the total change in her husband. They always wondered if it was really their husband. The best she could do was to co-operate with Nyoma and whatever schemes she had to keeping up Olumba’s morale. Time was Olumba’s enemy. Some nights he sat on a chair in his bedroom waiting for the day to break. This was when the voice was at its best.

Ogbunabali was a god to be feared, those who took chances with him died most of them at night. There was a belief that strangers from Amazo introduced Ogbunabali into the Erekwi clan, another clan from the north. One could look towards the shrines of Amadioha and Ojukwa. There was much to be said for having a shrine in the village. Ogbunabali was therefore non- directional, isolated, intimidating and omnipresent. He was sovereign of the night; darkness was his driving force. As Olumba was rising from Diali’s hall Ikechi and his party returned waving his hand to signify disappointment.

The four men had looked wretched. An unspeakable sign of calamity was on Ikechi’s face. He then told his story to Olumba and Diali. They had arrived at Isiali and stayed there for a night. They interviewed as many people as they could to find out about the women but gained nothing from doing so. They also interviewed Elendu who was the most helpful as he told Ikechi that he sold some women who appeared as though they had come from across the rivers. They met a kind woman who had indeed seen two sad, unwilling women with two men but she was unsure of their direction.

Suddenly Olumba was mature, considerate and less impetuous. His world had acquired new magnitude, sadness and ambiguity. The disease called yaws was very prevalent among children. Nchelem had yaws but not an ordinary case of it. Anwuanwa had been sent for to examine Nchelem. The enemies had invoked the image so much that until Oda was returned Nchelem would not stop crying for his mother. Olumba knew that he ha to find his lost wife or lose his wife. They wanted to create another search party but Olumba wanted to search for her himself after all he did everything he could to receive a son.

Olumba did not go to search for Oda as he had threatened to do for two reasons; Nchelem would miss him badly and Nyoma was sick. Secretly Anwuanwa of Abii was employed to work with his mind. Nyoma had complained of a cough two days before. The cough medicine that Achichi prescribed was not working. When they were alone Olumba tried to instill confidence in her but she knew her death was inevitable. Nyoma was not dead yet neither was Olumba, yet a terrible sense of tragedy pervaded the Chiolu village. The imminent loss of the Pond of Wagaba was very painful, watching a brave man and his family die was worse.

Ogbunabali had a cruel sense of humor. They suggested going to Aliokoro and releasing Olumba from the oath. Olumba refused to hope. Ihunda, Ochomma’s granddaughter was ill with the same cough that Nyoma had. The day after Olumba had visited her she died. Her death shook the whole village, probably because she was attached to Ochomma. The next morning Ochomma died; she died very old after all she was the oldest woman in the village. The gods were angry with the whole Erekwi clan. No individual sacrifices would do. The whole clan must work together to avert any further loss of life.

Adada and Wogari had acquired the same cough, it seemed as though everyone was catching it. Cries rang out through the village; The Great Ponds had something to do with it. In the small hours of the night, an outburst of cries announced the death of yet another villager. Meanwhile three people had died in Chiolu, two in Aliokoro. What made this situation more frightening was that Achichi the dibia could not help and that the only other way out would be a direct appeal to Diali, only this would cause for a joint action between the two warring villages. But of course Aliokoro once again blocked the passage to salvation.

Driven mad by all the cries of mourners Diali decided to dispatch three men to Isiali and explain to the priest of Ogbunabali the situation and bring back his advice. The delegation, which set out early one morning never, returned. Villagers felt that all they had to live for was death and by the next morning Olumba’s daughter Adada and Chiteru, Diali’s second elder in command had died. A sudden wave of loneliness spread over Eze Diali as he heard the news of Chiteru’s death. Gravediggers were called on more and more so much so that they were becoming scarce.

Even without fears the number of gravediggers even villagers diminished as Ogbunabali continued to onslaught. The moral of the village was disappearing. It was a world of dead and dying, sick and suffering, they were changes in people’s attitudes and in the way they viewed life. Olumba hah felt it coming but he did not tell anyone until one morning he told Nyoma. By nighttime Nyoma had died with a never-ending, calm, sweet smile on her face. Towards evening Nyoma was buried and it seemed as though Olumba’s commonsense was taking with her. Oda and Chisa returned; at least this was one happy event in the village until it was no more.

It was also a happy event for Olumba as his sense came back as soon as Oda arrived. Olumba questioned her after he realized that he wasn’t infact dreaming. The one question that he wanted to find the answer from pained her the most; she did give birth to another son but it died. Ogbunabali was working everywhere as he could tell from Oda’s story. Chisa’s story was similar to Oda’s they were both very sad. Chisa told Ikechi that she could not marry him because she was raped and therefore would not be a virgin. Instead of ending his love for her he thanked the gods for bring Chisa back to him safely.

Diali was at his wits end. The joy that he had received the day before from the unexpected return of his daughter was now replaced with helplessness and despair. Why was he still alive? Ogbunabali was cruel to reserve him for the finale. Wonjo Ogbunabali’s messenger took its daily toll. The only person who seemed to still care about the Pond of Wagaba was Wago as he was still around trying to claim the pond for Aliokoro although he too was ill with wonjo. The next day a search party was made to look for Wago and by the end of the evening it had returned bearing terrible news.

Ikechi had acquired wonjo and that Wago had committed suicide and died in the pond. They had lost the Pond of Wagaba. It would be an abomination to fish in a pond if suicide is committed. No one wanted to believe this but during a divination Achichi had infact confirmed that Wago had infact, committed suicide. They hastened homewards as muffled wails announced the death of another wonjo victim. This was only the beginning of “wonjo” commonly known as the Great Influenza of 1918. It was to claim about twenty million persons all over the world and even much, much more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *