This one is somewhat long and some patience might be required but I believe it would be worth the read. Please, your feedback will be invaluable.Thank you.
It was written that there were three rivers. Two had shrines lined along their banks with well-formed trees forming shadowy groves. Their waters were so crystal clear that one would think they were rippling glass. Within, tiny, silver hued fish could be seen darting about in playful exertion. The rivers had the most scenic ambience, the most picturesque settings.
Conversely, the third river was muddy with overgrown trees, roots jutting from the banks in unfashionable disarray. An aesthete was not needed to know it was not the most beautiful sight in the world….
…The skies were russet as sunlight with feeble fingers, finally parted the foggy curtains of dawn. Its rays courted dark green foliage of overarching trees with a riot of colours. Gold caressed emerald, topaz kissed jade. However, the beauty of this romance was lost to the frenetic paced early morning risers in the village below.
“Abike! Abike ooooo! Where is this girl?” a woman asked askance, arms akimbo, a broom of palm fronds at her feet.
“Iya, I am coming, I quickly rushed to the stream to get some water,” replied a girl in a halting sing song voice. Beads of perspiration lined her forehead from the early morning activity. Pot of water balanced delicately on her head, she walked briskly into the compound.
“Oya, put water on the boil for Oloworimi (my lord)! Quick! There is meeting of the village chiefs with Kabiyesi, king this morning and he will be setting out soon.”
The biggest thatched hut in the compound had smooth walls instead of the cracked red clay of the other buildings from which lizards and geckos scurried endlessly playing hide and seek. The inside was cool and lined with the skin of almost every famous and dangerous animal of the great forest. Elephants, lions, tigers, hyenas, name it. A shrine in which a black ikoko (pot) resided with some metal bars occupied a huge corner of the room. The grotto was dedicated to Ogun the god of war.
The man within balanced in a battle stance, cut his machete through the air, here and there chanting incantations of worship to his god. The sharp blade caught some errant rays of the sun and glowed golden. He smiled ruefully to himself. Many heads had rolled by the reason of the trusted instrument he wielded. He sheathed it and started tying his amulets around his neck, arms, wrists and ankles. All his activities were punctuated by periods of intense and vigorous scratching.
“Balogun, Ekaro (good morning)!” A sing song voice called through the thatched curtain of his living room.
“Drat! It was Abike the slave girl that his men had captured from a neighbouring village some months back. She was quite pretty and bright, so his men had given her to his wife as a maid. The slave was a really good girl but had the bad habit of appearing at the most inopportune moments.
“Wole, Come in,” he said quickly scrambling into his clothes.
“Balogun, I have brought your morning meal,” She piped, genuflecting.
“You can leave it on the floor, ose omo dada (thank you, good child),” he answered.
She almost ran out of the room. The girl was always in awe of the man despite his good natured ways. He was the greatest warrior in the land and a close friend of the Kabiyesi. Huge and tall with rippling muscles, he walked with a spring that could paralyse the stoutest foe. With a huge appetite for life, he could drink and eat any man under the table. His voice was loud and his laughter rang out like gun shots. However, in recent times, he was more withdrawn, quite subdued. The colossal man had a mountainous issue on his mind.
He sat down to eat but suddenly found he had no appetite. The meal was just as he liked it. Aduke, his beloved wife always got it right. She knew her way to the mysteries of a man’s heart, he surmised silently, shaking his head affectionately. The yam was steaming hot, white and soft as wool. The palm oil was fresh and garnished with pounded, farm fresh ata (pepper). Tiny bits of smoked eran igbe (bush meat) swam in the oil. He also noticed that Olamilekan, the palm wine tapper had already made his rounds. A gourd of palm wine frothing seriously at the lips accompanied the meal. It was a feast but his tummy was heavy, full of worries.
He, Balogun, omo Akinrinde, the greatest warrior in the seven lands had a problem. He, the greatest hero since Obatala poured the earth into existence had the pox!
In the last chief’s meeting, he noticed some of the chiefs sneering at him. If not for the track record of being the saviour of his village countless times, by now he would have been banished from the royal court. He had furtively visited some of the greatest priests of Soponna to no avail. Their cowry shells yielded nothing! Their divinations rang empty of promises! He was at the end of his tether, completely lost. For the first time in his whole life he did not know what to do. His glorious existence was crashing to an ignominious end. He needed help badly! Tears stung his eyes and ran down into the palm oil.
While shelling egusi seeds that day, the girl said, “Maami, mother, Balogun is not feeling well. I have a solution to proffer but it is not a palatable one.”
With a crest fallen face, followed by a gigantic sigh, Aduke replied, “Please, speak, omo mi, tell me little one.”
Abike went closer to her benefactress and whispered into her ears. The woman’s eyes opened in shock. After the girl had carried the utensils they were using away, she sat still for long hours, shaking her feet and batting flies away with a raffia fan.
Later that evening, Aduke carried a meal of lafun, white yam flour and egusi soup to her husband’s room. She sat beside him until he had eaten to his satisfaction, drunk the ubiquitous palm wine and belched contentedly. “Aduke, your food makes me feel like I have no care in the world.” He said, stroking her corn rows.
“Oloworimi, I have something to tell you.” He sat up. Over the years, he has come to know when she had very important news to break.
“Kilode, Aduke mi, my sweetheart, what ails you?”
“Oloworimi, the maid is so sure she has the answer to your infirmity. She said you should visit her village to see the Priest of Oba-orun, The King of heaven.”
“What! Aduke! Have you gone mad?” Balogun roared!!! His eyes flamed red, reflecting the flames from the atupa, the lamp, which danced to the drums of the evening wind.
He hated the girl’s village, the villagers and all they stood for. Their arrogant monotheistic ways got his goat every time. There was a river of bad blood that had existed between his village and Abike’s since the dawn of time. One of his life’s missions was to wipe the people out. Aduke knew this, yet her preposterous suggestion.
“Oko mi, ma binu, Balogun mi, please do not lose your temper. It is just that we have tried every solution possible without any visible success. Even Soponna’s best have failed us abysmally. Do not let my night come swiftly my warrior. If anything happens to you, where else would I get succour for my soul? Life would be a comb devoid of honey and sweetness. Only stings and the bitterness of ewuro, bitter-leaf will prevail. Desperate times require desperate measures! Please!!” she held on to his feet and wept.
Her plaintive petition broke through the barriers of his heart. “Oya, dide, aya mi, get up my love.” He told her and helped her to her feet. He hugged her close and her tears soaked through his clothes, softening his heart further.
Thing is, he loved her to distraction; he would do anything for the woman he had first laid eyes on at a village dance years ago. That fateful day, her movements were poetically African, a rhythmic dance that stunned his senses. There was an intuitive chemistry between her and the talking drum, a connection that had him mesmerized even to the point of not blinking. She had danced her way into his heart, had remained and would be there forever.
The next morning, before the sun roused to the cock’s crow, he set out towards the girl’s village with a couple of his men. His Kabiyesi had given him a letter to the Monarch of the settlement. He set out carrying sacks of cowry shells and bales of colourful Aso oke.
Thinking it was a ploy for Balogun and his soldiers to start a war, the Monarch was totally terrified. However, the priest of the land heard of the situation and asked that Balogun be sent to him. “The warrior would come to know that Oba-orun is the Oba awon oba, The King of Kings. It would finally be proven that He, Oba-orun is The One and true living God amongst other ones,” said the priest.
When Balogun got to the Priest’s homestead, the man did not accord him the privilege of coming out to see him. Instead he sent his underling to tell the warrior to go wash himself in the most unglamorous river around. To achieve the reason of his quest, he was asked to dip himself seven times.
Balogun was consumed with infuriation! How dare he??!! For starters, he did not come out to see him. Secondly, he did not ask him to go swim in the two most prestigious rivers dedicated to Oshun and Oya that his village boasted of. Instead he was asked to go bath in a cesspool. “This was arrant nonsense!
He went away in a rage. However his men reasoned with him that he had nothing to lose. So he obeyed.
After bathing seven times, his obedience was rewarded. He came out reborn! His skin was healed and as smooth as a baby’s buttock. He was astonished beyond words as he looked himself over. The senseless instruction finally made sense. He kept looking himself over, caressing his arms, beside himself with joy and inundated with thoughts.
“What if he and his wife had been mean to the slave girl? What if he had not obeyed? His pride would have led to his destruction. He kept shaking his head thinking there was sense in the senseless after all. All it took was obedience and humility.
….BUT GOD CHOSE THE FOOLISH THINGS OF THE WORLD TO SHAME THE WISE; GOD CHOSE THE WEAK THINGS OF THE WORLD TO SHAME THE STRONG…..
This a re-telling of the story of Naaman. 2 Kings 5
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