THE REIGN OF CHIEF OMENUKO IN THE LAND OF THE MGBOROGWU PEOPLE
The first case that Omenuko judged in court with the other chiefs was the case of a road worker and a court employee. These two men had fought with each other. The chiefs fined them one pound ten shillings each and told them, "Do not fight again." Omenuko was doing the chief's job well, in the eyes of the Mgborogwu people. He was supervising his own house well and also supervising the house of his master, Mgborogwu well. The government people saw that he was a good chief who did his work well, with strength and wisdom.
Whenever he went to court when it was in session, no one had to tell the other chiefs, his fellow judges, that this man, Omenuko, was intelligent; rather, they saw and heard for themselves how he questioned the people who were charged in that court. And sometimes when they had something they wanted to tell the General District Commissioner, while they were seeking the best way tell him about the matter, soon Omenuko would find a way that everyone would say was the best. If you were nearby listening to him talk, you would not have to be told that he was a wise man-- you would discover it yourself. Because of this, people who wanted to learn were approaching him all the time, wanting his advice and his teaching, because he was kind and merciful. He was a friend to the poor and the rich alike. That showed that he had love for his fellow man. Because of Omenuko's good deeds toward his fellow men, no one remembered that he was a stranger in the land he was governing, nor did anyone remember that it was Obiefula's Warrant that Omenuko was using to govern the land. Neither did they call him a stranger, because Omenuko and his brothers married women from there and from surrounding towns.
Omenuko and his brothers had many yams and cocoyams, and domestic animals such as cows, goats, sheep, chickens and others. Some people were selling themselves out [as indentured workers] in various ways without being troubled by it. But in our land a person would not call something like this selling: rather, we would say that the person was pledging himself. Because of things like this, some people were going to Omenuko and saying to him, "Master, please rescue me from my problems, because if you keep silent, my enemies will take me." Then Omenuko would ask the person, "What do you want me to do for you?" The person would speak out and say, "Master, I am kneeling and bowing down to you. Please give me enough money so I can pay my creditors, and I myself will come and live with you and work for you for three days and then will take one day to take care of my own business, until I am able to repay the money."
If it was someone Omenuko did not know well, he would interrogate the person thoroughly about how he had incurred the debt. After he had asked about that, he also asked the person if he was a thief, if he had ever been arrested as a thief, and if he was a tale-bearer.
I think it is obvious what a person who came to borrow money and was questioned would answer. To my mind, I think such a person would say, "I have never been a thief, and I have never been a tale-bearer." When Omenuko finished questioning the person in this way, he would give him the money he wanted. The person would not fail to go and live with him as he had promised.
In this way, borrowers came to live with him and his brothers and worked on their farms. While these things were happening, Omenuko amassed far more wealth than he had when he lived in our town. When he lived in our town he had three wives and his brother Okorafo had two wives. Nwabueze had one wife. But now Omenuko had seven wives, both senior and junior. Okorafo had four wives, senior and junior, and Nwabueze had two wives. Their youngest brother, Ogbonnaya, had one wife.
When Omenuko recalled what had happened to him in the past, namely, his total loss, and then looked at his present situation, he thanked the Lord on High and also thanked his brothers. But there was one thing that saddened Omenuko and his brothers, which was when they thought about a certain relative and about the other people whom Omenuko had sold away. Unfortunately, his two sisters who had fled with them when these things happened had died, but his four brothers had not died.
people of Mgborogwu then held a meeting against Omenuko and his brothers,
The day that they had appointed to confront Omenuko had not yet arrived. Omenuko set out to go and see the District Commissioner and tell him that he wanted to move his house to a certain forest called "Ikpa Oyi." The District Commissioner asked him, "How will you look after the people of your town?" He ssaid, "They and I will move to that place together." The District Commissioner said, "Oh! that will be all right." He then went back and went to look over that forest. He did not realize that the place was considered "bad bush"-- he did not think about it, but just put all his hopes on this forest called "Ikpa Oyi." It was named that because it was a place where they buried those who had died with swollen bellies, those who had hydrocele, those who were killed by smallpox, and pregnant women.
Not long after that, the people of that town held another meeting against Omenuko and his brothers and swore an oath that no one should go back on the decision concerning the return of his father's Warrant to Obiefula, the son of Mgborogwu. Some of those who swore the oath came and spoke with Chief Omenuko, saying, "A matter that has been previously discussed is confirmed by a nod of the head." They used a proverb so that the oath they had sworn should not kill them. But since Omenuko was a wise man, he understood what they were telling him.
When the day came that they had appointed to tell Omenuko of this decision, they met together and went out to meet him early in the morning. When he opened the door of his compound, they entered and exchanged morning greetings with him. Omenuko then summoned a small boy who ran errands for him and said to him, "Bring me some water for washing hands." He also told the boy, "Go and bring me two kola nuts and a bowl of sauce." The small boy complied. Omenuko then told them that kola had arrived. They said, "Chief, break the kola." The chief then gave them one for them to break open, and he himself broke open the other.
A certain man named Uba then took the bowl of sauce, stirred it and began an invocation, saying, "Let the earth eat kola, let our master Mgborogwu eat kola, let God in heaven eat kola, let our guiding spirits eat kola, and the one who says that mine should not be for me, when he takes his own let it not be for him. I affirm that the hawk should perch, the eagle should perch, and the one that says the other should not perch, let his wing break." Everyone present assented, saying, "That is right, wo-o-o." Omenuko then took the bowl of sauce, stirred it and also began an invocation, saying, "God in heaven come take this kola and eat, our master Mgborogwu come and eat kola, may good things happen, may bad things not happen: may things be good for me and be good for my enemies as well, may the morning take away evil, may anyone who says I should die go to sleep before the chickens." Omenuko and his people also assented, saying, "That's it, amen!!!"
They then said to him, "Chief, we have come to tell you that you should return our master's Warrant to Obiefula, the eldest son of our master, because he has now grown to maturity." He replied that that was all right, but added, "There is one thing you have done that is very bad. I believe that you had a meeting to inform me of this decision." They said, "Yes." He told them that was not good to hear, because they had done a forbidden thing, in that one town held a meeting against one person. He then told them that he himself could put them in prison because of what they had done. Then they said to him, "Please, master, do not imprison us, but master, tell us how it should be done to end the matter quickly without any quarrel." Omenuko then told them, "The simple way is to go to the District Commissioner and tell him what you have said and how you had a meeting behind my back, and then the District Commissioner will tell you if you have done something good or if you have done something bad."
They said all right, they would think it over and return and tell him what they thought about it in a few days; then they went home. At that time they had another meeting without telling Omenuko. When they came back to him again, they said, "Our master, we beg you to forgive us, because we came to say that it would be all right whenever you yourself think that our master's eldest son has matured sufficiently to become chief for him to do so."
Omenuko then asked them, "Why did you not say this at first?" They replied, "This is what we discussed when we met and we are still seeking your forgiveness." Omenuko then said to them, "While still talking about the first meeting that you had against me, you went and had another meeting against me. Stupidity or foolishness will be your undoing. Can you tell D.C. that you did not know that having a meeting concerning someone behind his back was against the law? After I told you that you had broken the law, if you did not know then, did you also not know after what I told you? Go home." They then went home.
From that day on Omenuko and his brothers really prepared in to move to Ikpa Oyi. That place would not have been considered Mgborogwu land because one had to cross one other village to reach Ikpa. Because of this, Mgborogwu people could not go there to start any quarrels with him. He then summoned the Mgborogwu people and told them that he did not want to live with them as they formerly had lived. "Although you are my master's people, you went behind my back and had a meeting against me and my brothers; therefore, this is no longer a place of refuge or rest for me, since you forgot that I am one who saved land that was being lost--that is, this our land, as you know very well. But now you have forgotten these things and treat me as if I were your enemy. I shall call you my masters even if you have forgotten me; I myself shall not forget you, so that the land will not kill me because you are my brothers. But since you plotted secretly behind my back, you have counted me out from among you and set me apart as a stranger. Because of this it will be better for me if I remain indeed a stranger."
Omenuko then told them, "Starting from today, I will be thinking about what I will do about that Warrant that you spoke to me about, whether we should go to the D.C. or not." They agreed, and said, "Master, think of good things and don't think of bad." He replied, "Those good things you tell me to think of, are there other things you want besides returning the Warrant to Obiefula? Count that among the things that have been done; now leave." They then went home. Omenuko then went to D.C. and said to him, "Now the people of my land have refused to join me in moving to the place I told you about, because that place is 'bad bush.'" They have also told me that if I insist on moving to that place they will have another chief in addition to me, so that one would live with those living in the 'bad bush' and one would live with those living in their village."
The discussion went on until finally it was promised that Obiefula would be given a Warrant, whether that of his father or that of someone else, I myself do not know. Omenuko assured D.C. that he himself would not fail to move to that forest when he had packed all of his things. D.C. then said to him, "When you are ready, let me know." All the time, Omenuko and his brothers were busy with tasks concerning the building of his house. After he had obtained what he needed to start the house-building, he informed D.C. that he was going to build one house in that place. He asked D.C. to give him time away from his other duties in order to face the task of working on his house until it was finished.
D.C. then asked him, "This house of yours, when do you think it will be finished--in one month or two?" Omenuko told him, "Two months would be good, but if you give me three it would be better." D.C. then said that was all right, and that as soon as the work became lighter he should let him know, and if something urgent occurred, he should send a message to instruct Obiefula to tell D.C. and at that time Omenuko could tell Obiefula what he should do. Omenuko then thanked him and left.