Chief Mgborogwu took Omenuko and his brothers and sisters as his own. Chief Mgborogwu made Omenuko his spokesman, because this Omenuko was no unimportant man. Above all, he was a very wise man. He was a talented speaker, and he understood things very quickly. This is why he was made spokesman for Chief Mgborogwu.
The chief did him various favors so that he would be content to live with him and not have second thoughts about it. By way of pleasing Omenuko and his brothers, the chief did not treat them as strangers. He gave Omenuko and his brother Okorafo a place where they could build their houses near his own. And he gave Nwabueze a place to live within his own house.
This chief, Mgborogwu, was an important and popular chief. He had a lot of money and yams and many cocoyams, likewise goats and chickens. But one thing he lacked, over which he constantly lost sleep: he did not have an adult son. He had male children but none of them was fully grown. He had married several wives but none of them had had a child in time. This caused him not to attach much importance to his wealth, because what the people of our land call wealth is the wealth of one who has money, marries, and has a son who will take his father's place when he dies. This is the kind of man our people consider to be a rich man.
After several years had passed, this chief Mgborogwu fell sick. Traditional healers great and small came and prepared medicine, but to no avail. Finally the illness that gripped the chief was no minor thing. He therefore summoned those of his people who he thought would be able to keep all of his instructions to themselves until his death occurred. He then instructed his people, saying, "This will be so-and-so, that will be such-and-such." He also told them that when he died, they should not allow his Warrant [document of authority issued by the British colonial masters] to be lost because his child, his oldest son, had not yet reached maturity. That first son had been named at birth Obiefula Mgborogwu.
Mgborogwu then said, "I would be very happy if you all would see to it that Omenuko would take the Warrant and hold it for my son, Obiefula, until such time as he is able to govern my land. I say this providing that the District Commissioner will agree." These words saddened the hearts of the Mgborogwu people, because no chief speaks words like this carelessly. Things like this cause our people to quote the proverb, "If a wealthy man makes a will and then does not die, he will suffer the shame of [wrongly predicting] death." But finally the chief died. Omenuko had him buried in a way that pleased everyone.The chief was buried like someone who had a grown son, and so his people did not become a laughingstock. They were not embarrassed. This will show us that Omenuko's residence there was very useful to Mgborogwu.
Omenuko wanted to find out the sentiments of the surviving members of his master Mgborogwu's household. He then bought wine and kola nuts, bought a goat and killed it and cooked it, invited all the people of the community, set this food before them, and told them that all of these things were for them. The community chiefs then thanked him very much. They began to eat and drink. When they had finished eating, he said to them, "Please, brothers, I want to remind you that we should start looking for the black goat now in the afternoon, because when night falls, it gets very dark and we will not be able to find it." He told them that he was referring to what their master had said: "I have no adult son, but my death is approaching now--therefore, if I die, let Omenuko hold my Warrant for my son until Obiefula is able to govern my land properly." Omenuko told them that this was why he had quoted to them the proverb about the black goat and the afternoon and darkness. The gist of the matter was that that very time was a good time to go approach the government officials and inform them about Mgborogwu's Warrant in any way they thought best.
They all said this was a good idea. Omenuko then asked, "If we are going to do this, when shall we do it?" And many of them said, "It is good to strike while the iron is hot." There was unanimous agreement. Then they asked among themselves, "When should the journey be undertaken?" Some said that they ought to have another meeting in four days, which would be in the evening of our town's market day. They all said that would be good, and they dispersed. But they had another meeting when Omenuko was not there, because they did not want him to find out that they had had another meeting, since it was something concerning him that they wanted to discuss.
They then asked each other, "Shall we agree that Omenuko should hold Obiefula's Warrant until he has grown enough to govern the town? There is something else that we should discuss today, so that when the day comes that we have designated to meet with Omenuko, there will be no surprises for us in our face-to-face discussion on that day." This question that they asked each other was, "Omenuko and Obiefula--who will live in our master's big house?" One man then rose and replied, "If we are going to agree that Omenuko should become chief in place of our master Mgborogwu until such time as Obiefula is fully grown, it would be good if we agree that Omenuko should live in our master's big house until that time." But others said, "No, this does not sound so good. Obiefula will live in our master's big house; even though he will not govern the town now, he will be able to change the roof thatches when the house needs repairs. If something is too difficult for him to do, he can call Omenuko and tell him. Also, if we can help, Omenuko can tell us and we will lend a hand."
They all then agreed together on this, that Obiefula would live in the big house. This decision was in their minds before that fourth day that they had appointed for their meeting. When those who had gone to market returned, they met together in Chief Mgborogwu's house. Omenuko told them that something that has been discussed needs only a nod to confirm it. He also said to them, "What comes first now?" They replied, "Is there anything more important to discuss than which day the District Commissioner is to be approached?" They then asked which day it would be, but one of them said that there was something else they should discuss and come to a decision about before they discussed going to the District Commissioner. They told him to say what it was so everyone could hear. He then asked them, "Omenuko or Obiefula--which one will live in our master's big house?"
A certain man whose name was Uba then said, "Omenuko will live in his own house and the eldest son of our master will live in this big house. He will be given tasks that are a bit difficult, so that he can develop common sense; if we keep on treating him like a child all the time, everything will be difficult for him to do. Let's agree that he will have duties in our master's house, such as changing the roof thatches and sealing the corners of the walls and attending the hearing of cases in our master's house and in the community. But we leave to Omenuko the matters that are outside of the household, because they are matters for a mature person to struggle with."
Then they asked Omenuko, "What do you say about this?" He replied that what they said was fine. They also asked Obiefula the same thing. He replied, "When my father quoted a proverb saying that water was the life of the fish, I heard it. Because of this, you are my strength." Everyone then thanked Uba.
They then returned to the matter of their master's Warrant. They decided to approach the District Commissioner in a few days to find out what he would say. They agreed to go to the District Commissioner in Awka on the first work day (Monday). Omenuko then bought a sheep, a cock, chicken eggs and groundnuts while waiting for Monday to arrive. Then the day came when the townspeople and Omenuko and the boy, Obiefula, went to see the District Commissioner.
When they reached Awka they did not find the District Commissioner at home; instead, the one they saw was the Paymaster. The Paymaster asked them, "What do you want?" They said they wanted to see the District Commissioner. The Paymaster told them that he was not at home but would return the following day. They then consulted among themselves, not letting the Paymaster know what they were saying. Finally the Paymaster asked them, "What have you decided?" They told him, "The main reason for our coming now is that the District Commissioner told us that when we had finished burying our master, Mgborogwu, and had completed the chiefly rites, we should come and tell him how things went."
The Paymaster then said to them, "It will be good for you to wait; tomorrow he will be in, because the General District Commissioner will be coming tomorrow or the day after." They agreed, and returned to town and stayed there to wait for the next day. While they were in town, they said it was fortunate, as it was said that the General District Commissioner was going to come to Awka the day after tomorrow. At that time the District Commissioner and the General District Commissioner could consult together and give them some word concerning the matters that brought them there.
Day dawned and the [lower-ranking] District Commissioner returned, but Omenuko and his friends did not want to go and see him because they had decided among themselves that it would be to their advantage if they saw him when he and the General District Commissioner were together, so that the two of them could tell them the same thing. The day came when the head man was to arrive. He came as it was said he would. The District Commissioner then put out a message to be given to the court clerk, so that he could send out court messengers to tell the chiefs of the courts that the General District Commissioner had come, and that he was also wanting to see the chiefs the following day. The court clerk then did as the District Commissioner had told him.
Omenuko and the people with him then found out that the General District Commissioner was expecting all of the chiefs on the following day. They then said it would be good to tell them their business on the following day--the consultation then would take place tomorrow.
At dawn, the chiefs went to see the District Commissioner and told him that they had come. He said to them, "All right--wait a little while." After a little time had passed, the District Commissioner, the General District Commissioner, and the Paymaster all came out, greeted the chiefs, and the chiefs greeted the Europeans in return, saying, "Morning, morning." The District Commissioner then took the book where the names of all the chiefs were written and began to call the names one by one. When he reached the name of Chief Mgborogwu, Omenuko told Obiefula to answer, and he did. The District Commissioner then told the General District Commissioner that that boy was the son of Mgborogwu, because that chief had died. The General District Commissioner said that he was very sorry. Then he began to tell them why he had summoned them. I do not know what he told them, but I think that it was something concerning work to be done.
When the General District Commissioner had finished seeing the chiefs, Omenuko told Obiefula to tell the District Commissioner that they wanted to see him. After Obiefula had spoken, the District Commissioner asked them, "What do you all want?" Obiefula then told him that it was to tell him that they had finished burying their master. He then told the General District Commissioner and the District Commissioner, "Another thing is that my father said that you should give Omenuko his court paper so he could keep it until I am able to govern the town."
After he had said this, Omenuko took out the sheep, the chicken, the eggs and the groundnuts and gave them to the District Commissioner. The District Commissioner went and called his boss and the Paymaster and told them what they had given him and what they had said. They then thanked Omenuko and Obiefula and all the people with them.
The District Commissioner then asked the chiefs who had come, "Do all of you say that Omenuko should be given your master's Warrant to hold until Obiefula reaches manhood?" They said, "Yes." The District Commissioner then said that they should go home that day and return on another day. They went home with joy in their hearts.From that time on, Omenuko began to go to the court once in a seven-day week when the District Commissioner sent a message for them to come. He and the chief's son would go. The District Commissioner told them that Omenuko should start attending court beginning the next month. He also told him, "You must have bearers and workers to send me yams." Omenuko told him, "Don't worry about these things. I will do them without someone to remind me." The District Commissioner said that was all. People were calling Omenuko "Chief," shaking his hand and saying, "Congratulations." The General District Commissioner, the District Commissioner, and the Paymaster did the same. Omenuko then greeted the Europeans, "Morning, sir," and they went home. Omenuko then became chief in place of Mgborogwu and his son, Obiefula.