OMENUKO by Pita Nwana - Chapter two - three


    No one had heard about what had happened on the journey because none of the market people had arrived home yet--only Omenuko and his remaining load-bearers, the ones he had not sold and had brought back with him. No one had heard that all his belongings had been lost in the river.  Likewise, no one knew what had happened to his load-bearers and his apprentices.
    Since no one had heard about those events, he summoned his younger brother, the one born next to last, and instructed him to go to the houses of the chiefs of our town and to the houses of the others, the parents of all those young people, his apprentices and his load-bearers, and tell them that he, Omenuko, was inviting them early the next morning so that he could relate to them why he had returned when other traders had not yet returned. He then told his brother to tell them that it would not be wise to let anything to prevent their coming early that morning, because "the toad does not run in the afternoon for nothing."
     His brother went quickly and told them all that he was told to say. But some of the people who had been given this message were impatient and they got up during the night in order to see Omenuko before dawn, so that perhaps he might tell them the meaning of this that very night. When they entered his house, they gave him "welcome back" greetings and he acknowledged them cordially. They then told him that his return had alarmed people. He replied that he himself definitely would set out the next afternoon after he finished seeing people he wanted to see, because his load-bearers were still at Bende, they and his young apprentices. After he finished speaking, he said, "Please, go home tonight because I am very tired." They then went home. After they had left, he murmured, "Those who run to a fight do not know that fighting means death." 
   After all this was over, Omenuko called his next younger brother, whose name was Okorafo, and also called the next one, Nwabueze. He did not call the youngest one because he was too small. He posed some questions to these two brothers, saying, "Suppose that I had sold those apprentices of mine, and my load-bearers--what would be my situation in this world?" They replied that something like this would be very unwelcome news. Then he started to relate to his brothers what had happened to him on the road, how all of his goods, his people, and he himself had climbed onto the tree trunk, and how that river, the Igwu, had broken off the ropes that fastened the tree trunk. They had all then fallen into the river and since God in Heaven saved everyone, no one  drowned, but all of his goods had been lost. Their ancestors and God in Heaven had saved his life, but death would  have been better. He went on to say, "On account of this, death is better than life to me just now, and I will surely die. Therefore, you both must start looking for your own salvation [from the townspeople's anger], because for my part I am prepared to die." His brothers then asked him, "Are you going to kill yourself?" He replied, "Yes, go and see after your own lives." Then they told him that what he had done was no small thing, the way he hardheartedly sold out his people because all his goods had fallen into the river. They asked him, "Was there some person who did you this evil?" He replied, "No one did it to me." He then told his brothers to look for their own salvation, because he himself was thinking about another catastrophe which would be worse than selling out those young people. His brothers kept on questioning him without stopping. 
    Then he told them that he had issued an invitation to the chiefs to come early the next morning, and that what he planned was for himself and the chiefs and the fathers of the children he had sold to die all at the same time, by lighting a fire in two containers of gunpowder and placing them under his loincloth, and then he himself would die, he and all those others. This was why he was urging them so strongly to seek their own salvation. His brothers then cried out in low voices what they should have cried out in loud voices. They told him "No." They shook their heads and said, "Don't do this, even though what you did in selling those young people is a deed that will never end until the world ends--do you want to commit another? No, instead, join us in running away. This would be the best thing for us, because what you did will be remembered forever. This is what our grandfathers described as something grandchildren grow up to deal with. This means that our children will suffer because of it; and our children's children will also suffer as well."
    Because of these things that Omenuko's brothers told him, they changed his mind. They all then consulted together. He and his brothers discussed among themselves the idea of running away to another village called Ndi Mgborogwu. If anyone found that he had done something bad that made it impossible for him to live in our village, that person would run away to another village called Ndi Mgborogwu. Also, if a person coming from Ndi Mgborogwu did something very bad, he would be sure to run away to our village. This is something that began so long ago that I cannot say what caused it or brought it on. A thing like this is what the people of our village call "reciprocity." That is why the people of our village and the Mgborogwu people still honor the reciprocity arrangement.
    So they agreed that they would run away to the house of the chief of that land. His name was Mgborogwu. They went to sleep that night, and when day dawned, those chiefs who had been summoned arrived. Omenuko brought them water so they could wash their faces and hands. After they finished washing their hands and faces, he presented kola nut and a bowl of sauce, then said to them, "It is a very sad thing to relate to you that all of my goods have been lost in the Igwu river." He then explained to them how his possessions were lost, and he told the chiefs that he would surely return to Ezi Nnachi to join the people of that town to search thoroughly for his possessions and find out if God in Heaven would help in getting back at least his gun, because the river would not be very high at that time. He also told them that he would not fail to return home soon, and at that time, the children whom Mr. Oji said should wait until he could give them a few things that Omenuko could fall back on would also reach Ezi Nnachi and those children could help in searching for his possessions.
    At that time, everyone felt sorry for him because of losing his belongings in the river.
    The chiefs then went home, and he called his brothers again and asked them, "When is the escape going to start--today or tomorrow?" They told him, "It will take place tonight." Their sister came too, concerned about her brother's loss.  They then told her the story of what had happened on the trip. She was deeply sorry. They also told her that another consequence was their having to escape to another town. They told their sister that she must join them in fleeing. She agreed at once because she saw that what her brother had done was not a thing that would be forgotten. They then said that each one should take the things that were important to him, and they got ready, waiting for nightfall.


    When that special time they were waiting for arrived, namely, the night time, they made all those who were going to retire early go and close their compound gates, so that no one would come to their houses that night, since some folks were disgruntled. When they thought that everyone had gone home to sleep, they told their brother, Nwabueze, to follow the main road that ran through the middle of our town up to the end of the town. He did this and returned quickly. They asked, "Did you see anything or hear anything?" He told them, "I didn't hear a sound, nor did I see anyone; not even a lizard's cry did I hear, except that Ibe Ofo was shouting. (This Ibe Ofo was a madman who had been put in jail and restrained hand and foot.)
    After he told them these things, they went and opened their compound gates. They then talked about how they would carry their small children. When they finished this, they all proceeded to go out in front of the house that we call the obi, the place where Omenuko lived, because it had been their father's house.
    Then they started out for the town of Ndi Mgborogwu, and while they were crossing our town they did not meet a single man or woman on the road. When they began their journey, the sky was very dark. Afterward, a heavy rain fell that night. From our town they had traveled more than seven miles to the place where it began to rain.
    When day dawned, the children, who were not their own but those living in the houses of Omenuko's extended family, awoke from sleep and looked all over, but they could not see anyone--only the abandoned, empty houses. They started to cry. The neighbors heard their cries and came to find out what had happened to them. There was nobody in their houses except the crying children. They came in and asked the children, "Where are your masters?" They told those who had entered  that they did not know where they had gone.
    The people went in and ran all around the compound and the houses, but did not see anyone. They cried out, "Come and see with us what has happened here!" The shouts reached the ears of many people. They came running, and saw that Omenuko and his brothers had run away. Some youths were then selected to find out which road they had taken. When the youths returned in the afternoon and reported that they had heard gunshots in Ndi Mgborogwu, our people decided to send out some others and told  them, "Go and find out if it is Ndi Mgborogwu  that they have run to." The messengers went and discovered that it was to Ndi Mgborogwu that they had escaped, to the house of a chief there called Mgborogwu. The chief and the people of his village were rejoicing and shooting their guns. The chief was delighted because Omenuko and his brothers were numerous, and also appeared to be good people.
    Omenuko had three wives. Two of them had each borne him one son and one daughter. Okorafo had two wives and one of them had borne him a son. Nwabueze had a wife, but she was still a young girl. Their younger brother and their two sisters and their mother had come with Omenuko. Since there were so many of them, the chief was very happy.
    Those who had been sent out returned the next day and reported to our people what had happened, that it was to the house of the chief, Mgborogwu, that they had gone. Then there was commotion everywhere. Our villagers from that time on began to wonder about the people whom Omenuko had led to the Bende market--those who were learning the market trade from him and his load-bearers, some of whom he had sold. Our people then selected several strong men to go and make inquiries about the people he had led to the market. But some of his load-bearers who had returned with him from Bende market told them what they knew about those people he had left in Bende. They said that when they were preparing to return, Omenuko had told those people that they should wait for other travelers, and that Mr. Oji was going to give them things to carry back.
    But these reports of some of the load-bearers did not stop the people who had been selected from going to see about the situation of those he had left in Bende. After four days had passed, a message came back from those who had been sent out to Bende. They reported that Mr. Oji said that Omenuko had sold all of those people to them.
    When the people of our land heard the news that Omenuko had sold  his young apprentices and his load-bearers, some of them were dumbstruck, and some were like mourners unable to cry on account of what had happened to their children. The cries in our town on that day and the cries heard in the homes of Omenuko's relatives on the day they escaped to Ndi Mgborogwu were very great. The tears that ran from the people's eyes for two days seemed enough to form a small river. The parents of those who were sold cried, but crying would not bring them back again. Omenuko had left our land and gone to another one to stay as a guest.  His relaives continued to cry, but crying could not bring him back. Omenuko did not want to go on living after the things he had done to people. Rather, what he wanted was death, but his brothers did not allow it, because the method of dying that he chose did not please his brothers, as it would have been a case in which "the broom that swept the compound swept the house." This was something that could cause a man and his entire family to be wiped out. So they decided to run away and they fled to Ndi Mgborogwu.  If Omenuko had known that he would still be alive up until that day, he would not have sold those people. He was constantly thinking about what he had done. His conscience bothered him greatly, and even though Omenuko was no longer in our town, his heart could not rest and he had no peace of mind on account of what he had done.

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