~~~ Night Has Fallen in the Afternoon ~~~
Chapter 13 -- Ezeonyekwelu Takes Charge of the Ancestral Land

The people who were in Ezeonyekwelu's age group among his relatives had all died off one by one. It was then up to him to take over the ancestral land of Igboemesini.

He then called together all his relatives and told them that when something's time had come it was not labeled as greed, and that the young woman who sprouts breasts is no longer a baby.

They then thanked him and told him that when you easily see the face of the yam you don't keep on digging around with the shovel, and that you can tell by looking that the corn is ripe. To go and poke around it is only a waste of time.

They all then agreed on a time when he would kill an ikenga goat for them and appease the land. They said that it would be in two weeks, on Afo day. They all then went home.

When the day came, Ezeonyekwelu went to Zelobo's house with seven pots of wine, and also went to the houses of Mbusu and Agbazi with pots of wine. Every place then filled up. Pots of wine were as numerous as small bits of yam that had been planted in the forest.

People then held meetings in their homes. Ezeonyekwelu dragged out their ikenga goat and went and killed it at the shrine of the ancestral land, killed a hen, and cooked yam stew.

And they shared the goat the way it was traditionally shared when goats were killed in the ancestral land. Ezeonyekwelu took the thigh and one leg of the goat, three people followed him into the shrine and gathered twigs, while those remaining gathered up the meat that was left so they could share it.

One person followed Ezeonyekwelu so the goat's jaw could be divided; they then shared two goat heads, Ezeonyekwelu carrying one and the others carrying the remaining one.

Two other people followed the three people who had taken the lower leg, so they could be given the goat's kidney.

They all then pulled off plantain leaves and heated them over the fire, then carved the meat, tied the pieces up with string, and placed them in a corner.

When the pot of yam stew had cooked, they lifted it to the ground, put it on a platter, and then ate, drank wine, and as each one stood up he rubbed the sand from his bottom, took his package of meat, and went home.

Ezeonyekwelu then from that day on began to be responsible for the ancestral land.

The elders say that the sheep that gives birth only to rams has no offspring. And the foolish person can say that he did not know that the pumpkin was sprouting a head of fruit. But the wise person will say that something that cries fails to come his way, because ''if it is not today, it will be tomorrow'' [procrastination] does not allow a man to take the grasshopper from the chicken's mouth.

Ezeonyekwelu told Nonyerem that he should rub his eyes [be careful], because if he licked all the oil with the chicken's intestines, when the chicken was finished cooking he would not have any oil to eat it with.

He had done his duty, because the elders say that seeing and not speaking is what adults do, but speaking and not hearing causes deafness.

One day, Azukoyi caught a coucal [small bird] with his hands and went to Ezeonyekwelu's house at a time when the weather was cold. When he arrived, he knocked on the door of their compound, and the bell they had hung on the door rang. Ezeonyekwelu cleared his throat, rose from his bed, ground his teeth, came outside, opened the door, and they greeted each other.

They both entered the house. Ezeonyekwelu gave him a piece of kola, and he sat down. He brought water for him and he did the morning hand-washing.

He then lit a candle, stuck it into a broom and set it down. Ezeonyekwelu went to his leather bag and took out one huge white kola nut, and put it on the kola nut platter that had pepper and chalk on it.

He then called Azukoyi by his praise name, which was Ikenwoke; he responded, then called him by his, which was Ikepuru.

Ezeonyekwelu told him that he had kola nut, gave it to him, took chalk and scattered it out, gave some to him, and he scattered some.

Azukoyi then gave him the kola nut and told him to split it because the chief's kola belongs to the chief. Ezeonyekwelu then took the kola nut from him, looked upward, and asked the creator of the world to bless it for them. He then called on the sun and the deity to come and see the kola nut so they could bless it. Azukoyi said, ''ofo.''

Ezeonyekwelu then said that good things had come to them early in the morning, that they should see something good on that day, that when one starts a journey, let his feet not trip him on the road. Let bad spirits and bad people shave their heads and then be destroyed, because the snail uses a smooth tongue to travel on thorns. And they should not seek to quarrel with men or with women. And whoever says that they are not supposed to live, let his palm tree not produce fruit.

Azukoyi replied, ''ofo.''

Ezeonyekwelu said, ''Rather than a person's dog bite mine to death, let my dog bite to death that person's dog, so I pay him the debt.'' [I pay the debt but I have not lost my dog.]

Azukoyi replied, ''ofo.''

Ezeonyekwelu then said, ''Our ancestor Dunu who fathered many children, chew kola nut; Eziegbo chew kola nut; Ichekoku come take kola nut and chew; Ezeajana, Chukukere and Emecheta come and chew kola nut. Ancestors great and small have a conference, because when like-minded people have gathered together, the basket is brought down.''

Azukoyi replied, ''ofo''.

He said, ''My life, Azukoyi, your life, the lives of my family and your family. The lives of all people.''

Azukoyi agreed, saying, ''Life for all of us, o.''

Ezeonyekwelu then said that he had finished the blessing, because when the diviner starts his divining and then starts chattering about the dog's teeth, you know that what he has to say is finished. Azukoyi then burst out laughing.

Ezeonyekwelu split the kola nut, took the tongue of the kola and threw it outside, took one piece of the kola nut and broke it into two pieces with his fingernail, took one and put it on his ikenga platter. They then ate the remaining ones.

Ezeonyekwelu then called Azukoyi's name and he answered; he told him that the elders said that if you are careful, a good child will be born, but if you do things hurriedly, a prodigal will be born.

Azukoyi told him that what he said was true, then thanked Ezeonyekwelu for the kola nut he had given him. Ezeonyekwelu responded.

He then told him that he had come to let him know that he was going to gather food for their ancestor Dunu on the following day, after the morning wine-tappers had finished.

Ezeonyekwelu nodded, and told him that he would start informing the others who would join in going to the Dunu shrine, because a matter that has already been discussed needs only a nod of the head for agreement.

Azukoyi then thanked him and got up and told him that he was leaving, that he would go and tap the morning wine, and he thanked him. He then went waddling out and left for home.

That afternoon, Ezeonyekwelu went to tell Osuinyi, Osugwo, Anene, Eseluenuaku, Oragunye, Mmoro, Chiekebe, Akueche, Obujulukpa, Igbobuchi, and Agba to meet at the Dunu shrine after those who tapped the morning wine had finished it the next day.

On the next day when the sun had risen and those who had gone to tap wine at the stream had returned, Ezeonyekwelu went and carried out the Dunu deity to a place where he set it down in the shrine. Nwoyeiyi then carried the deity and went to the Arodunu village square, and also carried other images and set them down there.

Azukoyi then brought out a he-goat, a pot of wine, a basket of yams and ten small kola nuts, and a bag of shredded cassava and a pot of sauce and fish.

The bag of cassava and the pot of sauce and nko fish and the pepper then were taken to the Arodunu shrine. Ezeonyekwelu then approached Osuinyi and told him that one did not kill a tortoise and store it the next day because it is not the titled people who will cut it up. Osuinyi then called Anene and Mmoro and Oragunye, and they all invited some others to meet in the village square. As each one came out he had his leather bag slung over his shoulder, wore his shoulder-cloth, and used his walking-stick.

They all then spread out their leather mats and sat down. Several of them ground their teeth, and others told stories. Azukoyi then got up, called them each by name, they responded and called his name in return. He then called Ezeonyekwelu and told him all the things he collected in order to thank their ancestor Dunu, because a certain person was said to have been caught by thieves and beaten badly, robbed of everything he had and left naked. The man hastily climbed a tree, called to the thieves and struck his hand on his head, telling them that he owned more than they had snatched from him. They all then thanked him and told him that he had done something like a good person.

Ezeonyekwelu then rose and went to the shrine of the deity and told it to look at what Azukoyi had brought in gratitude to him, but a rock does not sprout mushrooms. [No response from the deity.]

He took a kola nut and went to the shrine of the deity and prayed, then cast some pieces on the shrine, came out and split the others, and they all chewed it with the alligator pepper. He took a pot of wine and went and poured one cup onto the shrine. Everyone drank all those pots of wine.

Ezeonyekwelu went and untied the goat that had been tethered to the shade tree, took a knife, and dragged out the goat so he could kill it at the shrine of the deity.

Chiekebe and Anene and Osugwo then went and took hold of the goat and killed it. They burned off the hair completely and cut it up, peeled yams, and cooked them together in the same pot.

When the food was cooked, they took it off the fire; they all went and surrounded the platter of stew and ate it all.

Ezeonyekwelu then dished out some yam for each person and gave him his piece of meat, those who wanted to eat abacha [boiled and sliced cassava] ate it, and they then packed up the leftovers and went home. Each one left rejoicing.

Eseluenuaku then took his pot of yam stew and left. He tripped as he approached Ichekoku, and the pot fell and broke to pieces.

He looked around but could not figure out what to do. He then entered the cocoyam farm that was on his right, pulled off a plantain leaf, and picked out the meat and fish that was there,but left the cassava and yam stew and went home.

Upon his return, he called his daughter, Ekwutosi, and told her that she should take a light and go to Ichekoku and gather up the cassava and yam stew that was spread around there. Ekwutosi did as she was told.

When Eseluenuaku went to the cocoyam farm and defecated, he saw Nonyerem using a long stick to pluck three heads of kola nuts from the Icheoku kola nut tree. He then went home and told Icheoku what he had seen, because it was against the law.

~~ *TO CHAPTER 14* ~~


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