On a land where the works of men praised them, more than they could ever sing their own accolades; the beauty of the setting sun was yet to fade and time was favourably on the side of the western habitations of tropical Africa. The fields were green and the soils were dark and rich. The birds sang beautifully during the day and the crickets continued the same all through the night. There were no wars and peace reigned like a king amidst the crude dwellings of Otun, a land flowing with milk and honey. Men worked and women talked while, children played. The people of Otun lived as one showcasing an unfeigned barbarism that disregarded the doctrines of western civilization. Though the inhabitants of Otun appeared to have all that they wanted and needed in their seemingly unnoticed lives, their land was without authority’s quintessence.
Supposing our individual lives were structured by forces and circumstances beyond our immediate understanding; what if the only way we can truly fathom the complex design of nature is through the knowledge of a world far beyond quick reach. The skies of tomorrow may not necessarily come dazzling in the same appearances we have today. Good choices made now may not orchestrate a good end in the states of an unseen future. Could it be that we live in a world controlled by another? Can it be said to be true that all human hearts are intertwined in one way or the other? What gives men a sense of direction? How do we inevitably know which way we ought to go? The desires of the human heart are too surplus to gratify and the design of its thoughts and actions are often treacherously corrupt. Disgruntled or contended, it would definitely take a lifetime to alter the course in which by nature human perception is found. In all, life in the real sense is exceptionally premised on time and time alone. Speaking of time, in the last few days left in a sunny year; a period when Africa was still far from the noisy cries of acculturation; a time when the waters of the Atlantic were yet to be expedited, a discovery was made of a little boy who lived in a small beautiful hilly town in the heart of West Africa.
For such a long time, the world of science had searched and found no answers to what could be called the clairvoyance of our present age; a clear pristine understanding of the times and seasons. Though it was profoundly recorded in the chronicles of ancient Israel that the sons of Issachar had a grasp of the times and seasons, where such understanding came from remains a huge mystery. Oriade busied himself in childishness as he always did with his friends in the small village of Otun. They frolicked like they had all the time in their hands. They ran from one hut to another shouting and laughing joyfully, as they played the game of Boju-boju. Oriade was always the seeker and his friends loved to go into hiding during the sensations of Boju-boju, Otun’s way of defining hide-and-seek. Having witnessed twelve years of sunrise and sunset, poor Oriade whose father died before his birth never thought big of life and her predispositions until he found a priceless artefact lying fallow on the dark soils of Otun when he sought his friends, while they played on a sultry day. Otun remained a place of solitude and solace. At the risk of repetition, Oriade never looked beyond the walls and confines of Otun. The beautiful people and the mores and values of Otun were all he knew and understood. He learnt a lot from his mother as every inquisitive child ought to. The culture and practice of Otun encouraged women to work, but not as hard as the men. Though Oriade never had a formal education, his meticulousness was outrageous and his inquisitiveness was clearly over the edge for a child of his age. In all his playfulness and exuberance, Oriade excelled far more than his contemporaries in his knowledge and understanding of the folklore, practices and traditions of Otun. Little wonder, the artefact he found had his undivided attention the moment he sighted it.
The world is full of opportunities as well as choices. Every day presents itself in a very unique way; unanticipated demands and a varied list of choices. The populace of human habitation may not agreeably be the best living entities on earth, but there is no other creature that has altered nature’s fixture the way man has done heretofore. I have gracefully witnessed it, ‘the roads to prosperity could be as punitive as the habitations of poverty’. There had never been contentment on the faces of insatiable humans as it existed on the faces of the dwellers of tropical Otun. The gentle streams of Otun flowed effortlessly and her maidens walked around undefiled with dignity encapsulated in a graceful aura. The trees of Otun’s forests flourished and her soils yielded of her increase to the faithful hands. In Otun, tradition ruled and customs prevailed in the most palatable way. O men were glad and they graciously ate of the fruits of their hard labour. In this obvious blessedness, who could have nursed any such regal thought towards a fatherless child who appeared to be of no significance?
Judges examine stories they never wrote and too often, they make assertions not birthed from their own ingenuity. I suppose it isn’t the duty of a Judge to instate or repudiate what’s true or false, but to advocate and arbitrate in consonance with established facts drawn from precedent. Sceneries transformed into picturesque words could lay a firm foundation for an exceptional tale, so every good story ought to possess a weight of reality and certain evidences pointing to a truthful possibility of occurrence. If truth be told, how do we identify the fictitious tales that sway in every catalogue raisonné? The skies that cover every stage of existence is full of expressions and the underlying paths of every journey is full of words too numerous to be recounted. I really long to know on what account are stories adjudged to be short and fictitious? Could it be the shortlisted sentences and the repressed expressions? Perhaps, it is the vague characters and the abrupt meanings they often portray. The earth is wealthy with words, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. The voice of a child that lasted not more than a sunset before it ceased must have been epitomized in indescribable words too numerous to count. How then can the account of a lived life be utterly expressed in a few paragraphs? Oriade’s journey was yet to be hatched on his skin and his world knew no bounds in a million words when he found the missing royal diadem of Otun.
The vicious shrine, Akitikete was as ferocious as the reverberating pronunciation of its name. Covering about a thousand square metres of virgin land, Akitikete was home to the revered god of Otun, Orisa-oke. Time and time again, the precepts and tenets of tradition have appeared to have lived just as long as humanity. Wearing the facades of spirituality and divinity, sorcery and idolatry have wrought more havoc than they had done any good. Akititkete couldn’t have been an ideal place to have a swell time. Other than its characteristic foul smell, the shrine harboured many despicable items. From the bones of slaughtered animals to the reeking bleeding stone altar, Akitikete was home to all sort of undignified and melancholic objects and domestic animals. The animals that roamed freely within the perimeter of Akikete were said to have been consecrated and set apart to Orisa-oke. And the same was said of the objects found at the shrine. Upon what pillars does the plinth of man’s destiny rest? Whose words are potent enough to prod his fate into goodness garnished with mercies? In whose hands lies the measure of his days? Who knows the exact length of his time? What eye hovers to and fro upon humanity? What touch leaves men satisfied with a good sensation? Life can’t be all an issue of choice and existence cannot be totally exemplified in distinct resolutions. There must be more to know than can ever be known and more to understand than can ever be understood about life and daily living. In Otun, Orisa-oke was adorned as the alpha and omega of all practices.
Words have been invented to describe women like Abike, Oriade’s mother. One of such many words that match the characteristic beauty and physique of Abike is pulchritude. Abike was married to a farmer. As the ceremonies of espousals demanded in Otun, Abike was betrothed to Adekunle when she was barely eighteen years of age. Adekunle was very much comfortable compared to his counterparts and he had more prospects than any one of them did, while he had time in his hands. Adekunle worked hard to own a cocoa plantation before his untimely death. True stories are often told with precise words; uncoated words that do not portray any semblance of exaggeration. But what exact words can be said to be true and unfeigned? After many years of matrimony, Abike and Adekunle remained childless. Though Adekunle had affairs with several other women including Abike’s maidservants, he still couldn’t father a child. This problem of his did not only leave him worried, it spurred him to pay Orisagbemi the witch doctor a visit. Just as his name translates, Orisagbemi was feared and revered as a son of the gods. Like his ancestors before him, Orisagbemi lived, moved and had his being in Akitikete. Marked with several skulls, bones and painted calabashes, at the risk of repetition, Orisgbemi’s home was not an ideal place to visit for aesthetic comfort.
Expectant Abike was not comfortable on the day Adekunle dragged her to Akitikete. Of course, Abike had taken in before now, but all had died prematurely while in the womb. Owing to this, relatives and friends perceived Abike to be a witch and kept a distance from her. As though he knew her before her husband dragged her to him, Orisagbemi told Abike of her predicaments even before she spoke a word. The gods of Otun didn’t demand much from Adekunle and his wife Abike. All they asked for in Orisagbemi’s words were two black goats and a white fowl to offer an appeasing sacrifice to the spirits of the land and the goddess of fruitfulness. Two black goats and a white fowl to salvage the life of his child were not expensive in Adekunle’s thoughtfulness. He understood and knew better than not to return to Orisagbemi with the items. Adekunle returned again to Akitikete and granted Orisagbemi’s request. There are many things I do not understand about rituals and sacrifice, but to the people of Otun, it takes a life to redeem a life. I suppose it is true ‘a different Sun that rises and sets in Africa’. Are men to be judged by the colour of their skins without ever looking into their eyes? Would there be an end to the disgruntled fixture that exists unhindered in nature under the guise of godliness? The humming bird keeps singing while, the butterfly keeps to fly; stars go out each night and the moon constantly rules the night. Nature can be easily understood. It is as simple as knowing that wood comes from tree trunks. However, the appraisal of men and their frailties in discernment and judgement cannot be overstated.
A lonely heart speaks louder than a heart where excitement resides. A haunted house is more revered than the dwellings of tranquillity and the habitations of serenity. The Stone Age had a more hospitable air than what is obtainable in our present age. Our forefathers may not have utterly failed us, but what good did they do that is measurable enough to be considered equivocal to the menace and havoc that left behind in the world. No! This isn’t just a story; it is the cry of a bleeding heart and the inclinations of a weary soul. In a bid to conceal the truth, Orisagbemi deceived Adekunle and Abike. Though Orisagbemi never mentioned this to desperate Adekunle and expectant Abike, it was true that the child in Abike’s womb was an Ologodudu’s incarnate. Ologodudu was the powerful deity Abike’s forefathers vowed to give their first daughters to in return for assured longevity and vitality within their clan. Abike’s father broke the vow by not sacrificing Abike to Ologodudu eight days after her birth. Oriade was never to have been born unless his blood was shed, while he was still in the womb. When the gods become impervious, the shaman demands an impossible sacrifice. Orisagbemi understood better than anyone else in the whole of Otun that heavy ties with the gods initiated with the shedding of blood can only be broken with the shedding of the same.
The witch doctor knew a life had to be taken if the child Abike was carrying in her womb was to see the light of the day. But he wouldn’t demand for a human sacrifice, rather he cunningly asked for a white fowl and two black goats to appease the celestial spirits responsible for Abike’s ordeal. Even if Orisagbemi had told Adekunle and Abike that a life must be taken before they could have their child, what could they have done? Who would have been the quintessential sacrifice? It couldn’t have been Abike because she was carrying the baby in her womb. Would Adekunle have willingly yielded his life for the sins of Abike’s fathers and for the birth of his child? These were the questions Orisagbemi answered for Adekunle and Abike. One thing was sure and two things were certain; Adekunle died and Oriade lived. Surrounded by a host of unfriendly in laws, Abike was compelled to relinquish her stake in her husband’s holdings. Life became difficult and the times grew hard for poor Abike and her child. They lived each day as it came their way. They had no tasty meals and their home was not lavish. Oriade was too young to have understood that life could have been better if his father, Adekunle were to be alive. As for Abike, she toiled hard day and night selling pods for a living. In very honest words, Abike and her child were impoverished until the moment Oriade found the missing royal diadem of Otun.