by Chike Osita Gbujie
This play, first published in 1979, deals with what I am told is a common bone of contention in Igboland, namely, ownership of land. It can cause bitterness between members of the same family, as the author shows here. The play illustrates the traditional method of settling disputes, in this case validated by what appears to be supernatural intervention.
The author has aptly given the two cousins in this play names that reflect their characters. "Oguamalam" means "May I not be found guilty," and "Ikekwem" means "May strength be with me."
|Brothers who are disputing about land|
|NWAIBARI||Ikekwem's first wife|
|OBIAGELI||Ikekwem's second wife|
|Children of Ikekwem|
|NJOKU OGWUGWU||Chief Ofo title-holder of Ihenweorie|
|Elders of Ofo title-holders of Ihenweorie|
|ULOAKU||Njoku's first wife|
|NWANYIUGBO||Njoku's second wife|
|CHIBUNNANWOLU||Eldest son of Oguamalam|
|JAMIKE||Friend of Chibunna|
|UGOMMA||Eldest daughter of Mazi Nwokoro|
|AHUDIE||Wife of Nwokoro|
|WAPAYI||A mad person|
(In the house of Njoku Ogwugwu, who is Chief Ofo title-holder holding the title of Amadioha. He is sleeping in his house early in the morning. He jumps up suddenly.)
NJOKU: Tufia! Tufia! If it is medicine, it won't work. May Ogwugwu not agree! Lord above, just look at this! (He gets up from the bed, stretches his whole body as though he had fallen from a palm tree, then opens his mouth in a wide yawn. He calls Ukaibe, his servant.) Ukaibe! Ukaibe!
UKAIBE: Master! I am here. (He runs in.) Good morning, master.
NJOKU: Good morning, my son. Quickly, fetch me some water so I can wash my face. (Ukaibe goes out, brings water in a calabash bowl, then goes out. Njoku washes his hands and face. He puts his hand in his pocket, brings out kola nut and pepper, and presents them to his god where he had planted a certain oha tree.) Father Oparaeke, look at the kola. Amadioha and Ogwugwu, who leads me in war, whose heavy footsteps break the ground, come and eat kola. Lord in heaven, God who does things for spirits and humans, come and receive kola from your child Njoku today.
(He then breaks it, throws out one of its lobes before his god, and eats his own. He also brings a pot of leftover wine which is under his bed, pours a little into a cup, and throws it out for his god before he drinks his own.)
Land of Akabo, drink wine. Father Oparaeke, drink wine. God who is in heaven, and whose wrapper drags over the earth, come and drink wine. (He drinks his own, then sits quietly in thought for a minute.) What is the meaning of this dream? (He asks himself.) Thunder struck my medicine bag from my hand! God forbid bad things! This is an abomination! Has anyone heard of a thing like this before? Hmm! Hm! This business of the "Main farmland!" This land wants to eat a person's head. Hm! All right. I will use my two eyes to see where this matter will end. I will stay here, and the one who is cutting my hair will go around me. (Someone knocks at the door.)
IWEJUA: (Knock! knock! knock!) Is anyone here?
NJOKU: Yes! Who is it?
IWEJUA: It is Iwejua. Son of Njoku, good morning.
NJOKU: Good morning, my brother. Please come into the house. Have you all slept well?
IWEJUA: We have slept well.
NJOKU: Please come into the house. Do you want me to bring you wine before you come in?
IWEJUA: Ha, ha, ha! Do you tell an adult to get out of the sun? I have already entered. Have you all slept well?
NJOKU: Welcome. We all have slept well. And your family? (They then shake hands.)
IWEJUA: They are fine. But I almost died during the night. I don't know what happened to me. All my joints were painful, and it made my mouth sour. Indeed, I did not know I was going to wake up today.
NJOKU: Ha-aa! When a sick person says that he almost died during the night, has he forgotten that another night will come? (They laugh.) Remind me before you leave to give you some medicine to drink. What is happening to you is malaria, which some people also call akom. How do you sleep?
IWEJUA: My brother, it is unbelievable. The rat is the only one I know who sleeps less than I do at night. The bad thing about it is that I dream ten dreams before dawn. But not one of them is good. If a snake is not chasing me, then the spirits are chasing me into the river.
NJOKU: Ehe! What did I tell you? It is malaria. These dreams show that it has gone deep into your body.
IWEJUA: Ehe! Please, my brother, if you know what to do for me, start to do it immediately. One does not poke his eye with the same thing he uses to pokes his ear. And death does not swear innocence before killing.
NJOKU: It is necessary, my brother. It's no trouble. Only remind me when you leave to give you medicine to rub on and and drink.
IWEJUA: May you not die young, my brother. Is there anything else I have in my hand that will make me forget it? If the chick muffles its cry, its mother leaves it in the forest.
NJOKU: Where is this child? Eem! . . . (Someone claps his hands in the compound.)
NWOKORO: (Clap! clap! clap!) Hello to you here.
NJOKU: Who is it? If you come in peace, come right in.(Nwokoro then enters the house.)
IWEJUA: O, Nwokoro! So you have arrived? Thank God that you woke up early this morning. An early morning call is not good for a person who has married a new wife.
NWOKORO: Son of Njoku, good morning.
NJOKU: Good morning, chief. I have not forgotten that your wife is not feeling well today.
NWOKORO: "Tongue-strikes-thorn" [nickname], which wife of mine are you talking about?
NJOKU: I'm talking about the new one. What's her name . . . e-e-em Nwaogazi.
NWOKORO: I know that you all want it straight from me. Her stomach has gotten big. Do you think I'm a ram who is given a sheep for one month but will not ejaculate anything? (They all laugh.)
NJOKU: Strong leopard! You are a person who acts and acknowledges. Shake my hand! (They shake hands in agreement.) (Uloaku then enters and greets the elders. She carries kola in her hands.)
ULOAKU: Mr. Nwokoro, good morning.
NWOKORO: May you not die early, my wife.
ULOAKU: Mr. Iwejua, good morning.
IWEJUA: Good morning, my wife. How are things?
ULOAKU: Fine. (She gives Njoku the kola on a platter.) I heard the voices of guests, and thought that I should bring kola.
NJOKU: You did well, my wife. That's why I speak so well of you. (Uloaku then goes out.) She is my sweetheart. Iwejua, here is the kola. (He gives it to Iwejua.)
IWEJUA: May you not die early, my brother. Nwokoro, kola is here. (He gives it to Nwokoro.)
NWOKORO: Thank you, chief. If water falls into a hole, it breaks its leg. Njoku, a chief's kola will be in a chief's hand. (He gives it back to Njoku. Njoku then blesses it.)
NJOKU: Lord in heaven, kola has come. Amadioha, come and eat kola. Okahia and Uruamurukwa, look at the kola. God finished creating the world, then made it very wide, clan by clan, so that the great and the small should live in it in peace. The life of the stream, the life of the fish: may the stream not dry up and the fish not die. Whoever says that only he should live, when the spirits call, let them call only him.
ALL: Haa! Amen!
NJOKU: The world we live in is like a visit: a person stays a while, then leaves. The only thing we ask from God is happiness, peace, and long life. When we return to the world, let us experience good things right from the womb.
ALL: Haa! You are right
NJOKU: Let our discussion this morning be a peace offering.
ALL: Haa! Amen.(They then strike their ofos on the ground.) (As Njoku tries to break the kola, it slips away from him and falls to the ground.)
NJOKU: Cheei! What spirit or human wants to chew this kola? Please, do it quickly. You know they don't save any chicken for the one who went to Onicha. (Immediately, there is clapping of hands outside.)
OGBUEHI: (Knock! knock! knock!)
NJOKU: Come right in.(Ogbuehi enters.) Ehe, you have come at a good time! Have a chair.
OGBUEHI: Elders, good morning. (He sits down.)
NJOKU: We are holding kola.
OGBUEHI: Ihenweorie, god who owns me! Do I speak ill of anyone? Go ahead, take care of it [the kola ceremony]. My hand is in it. (He touches a bit of kola, then leaves it to Njoku.)
NJOKU: When this kola started falling to the floor, I realized that if a sacrifice is made but no vulture is seen, one knows that something big has happened in the land of the spirits. (He passes the kola around to them and they eat. He also pours wine for them in their cups one by one. They throw a little out on the ground and then drink.)
NWOKORO: (Clears his throat.) Son of Njoku, thank you for the kola. May you not die early.
NJOKU: May you not die early, elders.
NWOKORO: We remembered among ourselves to come and wake you from sleep this morning. What brought us is the matter concerning the territory of the "Main farmland," over which the children of Okpuruka and Okemkpi want to spill the blood of their brothers in this town. We are the elders. We will not sit by while the tethered goat gives birth. I want to ask you if we should be silent about this. Son of Njoku, you are the chief of the land. If blood should be spilled in this town, our ancestors will question you about it. If you all do not know what is happening now, let me tell you that the household of Ikekwem Okpuruka and that of Oguamalam Okemkpi will commit an abomination in this town. Also, there is a snake in the palm-leaves. They are going to fight the spirits. That's all I have to say.
OGBUEHI: Son of Njoku, clearly you have heard what Nwokoro has said. We agreed among ourselves before we came here. What we mainly want now is to find out what can be done, so that this thing that is boiling in their hearts can cool down, so that this trouble can be settled before their dispute grows into something worse. If it is ignored like this, there will be unheard-of consequences. My brothers, is that not what we said?
NWOKORO and IWEJUA: That's it exactly. You have said it right.
NJOKU: My fellow ofo-holders, may you not die early. May things go well with you. I have used the eyes of maturity to see things and found out that what makes the toad run out in the afternoon is no small matter. I should not decide alone how it should be handled. If it is unanimously agreed to push a grandchild into a pit, the earth will not want to accept the white cock that is used to memorialize him. When we all urinate together, foam is produced. What do you think should be done? I have nothing in mind right now.
NWOKORO: To my mind, we all know very well who really owns this land. It is Oguamalam's farm. There is no dispute about it. It would be good if we sent someone to go and warn Ikekwem to withdraw from this farm immediately.
IWEJUA: I don't support what you say, Nwokoro. Do you think that Ikekwem will listen to any warning? You know him well, and you know that his ears are used for decoration. He is a person who does whatever he pleases. Why do you think that he will abandon it just like that?
OGBUEHI: Iwejua's words are true. There are no ears in Ikekwem's head. He will not pay any attention.
NWOKORO: No! No! I am not saying that he will agree with it easily like this. The chicken says that the reason it cries out is not that the thing that is holding its child will let it go, but so that people will hear its voice. That's why it is good for us to escape blame. After I am dead and gone, people will ask questions, saying: "What did you all do when these things were happening?"
IWEJUA: All right. It wouldn't be a bad thing to go to Ikekwem's place and warn him. But who will go? Let me tell you plainly that I will not set foot in Ikekwem's house: let me use my life to do something meaningful.
NJOKU: Wait. It would be good to warn him first before we start to think of other things we can do. It is not good to plainly see the chicken's mouth and still ask what it uses to eat with. The only thing that doesn't sound right is going to his house to warn him. Because nobody knows what is in the mind of a person who is being held to the ground.
IWEJUA: Yes! If he is to be warned, it should not take place in his house. I myself am thinking that the two of them, Ikekwem and Oguamalam, should be invited together and then warned before the ofo-holders here. We will order Ikekwem to withdraw from that land. If he refuses to withdraw, we will decide which one should swear an oath. If that person swears, he takes the land.
NWOKORO: Good. This is also our tradition. It fits exactly with what I said at first.
OGBUEHI: Yes, exactly what you said. Iwejua, you are a great man. It is as though God created you on the day he created judgment.
NJOKU: We have all agreed. When shall we invite them?
NWOKORO: It would be good to invite them together. It should not be left pending. You know that if you keep allowing your dog to follow at your feet, it becomes too sluggish. We will invite them the day after tomorrow in the morning, which is Orie-Ikpa market day.
OGBUEHI: Let it be that day. We will come early, at the second cock-crow. Son of Njoku, don't forget to put aside kola for us on that day. (They then get up and prepare to leave.)
ALL: Let's go. Son of Njoku, you have done well.
NJOKU: Good. Go well. May you not die early. (They go out. Iwejua then turns back.)
IWEJUA: Ehe, I forgot that medicine.
NJOKU: Yes, where is my medicine bag? (He brings it out, then takes out various roots and medicinal leaves that have been wound round like a head pad. He first gives him the leaf parts.) Look at this. You will cook it in one cup of water. Add three pieces of pepper, dried fish, and salt. Don't put any oil in it. Cook it twice, before its power fades away.(He gives him some roots.) Cut these roots into small pieces, put them into a small pot, and fill it up with gin. Drink a little of it three times a day. If you drink it for about three days, you won't have to be told that something strong has touched your body.
IWEJUA: May you not die early, my brother. Let me see if this illness will allow me to take some food. I am going.
NJOKU: Good. All right, go well. (Iwejua leaves.) (Njoku is closing his medicine bag when Ukaibe runs crying into the house.)
UKAIBE: Oh, oh, I am dying.
NJOKU: Ukaibe! Who is chasing you? Eh? What happened to you?
UKAIBE: It is Madame Uloaku, oh, oh!
NJOKU: Close your mouth! What did you do? Did she beat you?
UKAIBE: Oh, oh! Madame Nwanyiugbo told me to get her some oha [leafy vegetable] to use to cook soup now. I then climbed the oha tree which is near the yam barn and Madame Uloaku then chased me down and beat me.
NJOKU: Close your mouth right now. If I hear another peep from you I will cut off both your ears this morning. Do you people think that my house is a madhouse, where everyone does as he pleases? Leave here immediately. (He calls Uloaku and Nwanyiugbo.) Uloaku! Uloaku! (Uloaku enters. She has a stick in her hand.) Throw that stick away before I raise my eyes. Are you mad? (Uloaku throws it away immediately, then kneels down.) Where is Nwanyiugbo? Nwanyiugbo!
NWANYIUGBO: Master. (She enters.) Master, good morning.
NJOKU: (He ignores her for a moment.)
NWANYIUGBO: Master, good morning.
NJOKU: It is not a good morning, hellish women. Will you two let me start the day? Uloaku, bad woman, what did Ukaibe do to make you beat him severely this morning? Eh? Am I not asking you? What did he do?
ULOAKU: Ukaibe is really a goat. Nwanyiugbo and I share all the oha trees here. But every time she sends Ukaibe to get her some oha, the place she insists on his getting it is mine. Why does Nwanyiugbo leave hers alone and gather mine? Who has ever seen this type of cheating?
NWANYIUGBO: Master, please, I sent Ukaibe to get me some oha to use in cooking soup this morning. But I didn't know that he went and gathered Uloaku's.
ULOAKU: You knew very well. What you are jealous of is . . .
NJOKU: Hey! Shut your mouth. What a mouth she has! Now let me tell you, this is the last time I will get up in the morning like this and hear all this quarreling in this house. If I hear it another day, I will show you all that this house is mine. Ukaibe! Ukaibe! (He calls him.)
UKAIBE: Master! (He enters.)NJOKU: I know that you are someone who has eyes but can't see. Okay, let's go, so you all can show Ukaibe how you both share these oha trees. (They get up and go out.)