OMENUKO'S ADVANCEMENT TO PARAMOUNT CHIEF, AND THE OPPOSITION OF THE OTHER CHIEFS
Omenuko advanced in his prosperity and in his chieftaincy. After the white people saw that he was a very sensible man in the way he governed, they made him a paramount chief above all the other chiefs. The white people gave him authority to judge some cases in his own house, and he continued to do that from then on. When the white people saw that he was progressing, and that he was a good judge, they gave him more power than they had given him at first. They gave him a clerk and some court messengers. While these things were taking place, all the other chiefs were subordinate to Omenuko.
All the chiefs then said, "No, this will not happen in our land--a stranger being the head over all of us. If he is going to be the government, let him go to his own village--he will not stay in our village." (Remember that Omenuko lived in Ikpa Oyi; he had not yet returned to his native land.)
They then began to envy him, and went to the white people at Awka and told them that he should not be their paramount chief, that he, Omenuko, came from a different place. But the white people did not listen to them, because Omenuko was not the kind of person of whom one would say that he should not be a paramount chief. When the chiefs saw that what they were saying did not set well with the white people, they went and started to wait for a chance to do it by force. While they were waiting, Omenuko continued to prosper.
When all the people surrounding the town saw that in no way did Omenuko show concern that he had twenty-five chiefs envying him, many of them changed their minds and wanted Omenuko to be their friend. It was not done deceitfully, but out of sincerity. Omenuko then agreed that he and those people should be friends, and they were very pleased, because if Omenuko had refused, saying that he did not want to be their friend, it would have been very bad for them and they would have been in a dilemma. Because of this, everyone who wished Omenuko well went to him and helped him in every way. All those who went to Omenuko and who were farmers cleared his land for him; when planting time came they helped him plant his yams; when the time for weeding came, the women of those houses also came and weeded for him. When the time came to prepare covering for the walls, those farmers helped to cover them. When it was time to change the roof thatches on the houses, they went and changed them. After these things went on for seven or eight years, the chiefs found another way to vent their envy.
They went and asked the chief who owned the land of Ikpa Oyi, where Omenuko had cleared land and built his house, to tell Omenuko to leave that land. The chief of that land said, "No, not unless you all swear me an oath that you cannot go back on your word about Omenuko leaving our land when we begin to speak with him." They agreed and swore a solemn oath saying, if anyone should go back on his word about Omenuko's departing, let the spirits kill him. They then accompanied that chief to the white people and told him to tell the white people what he needed to tell them. The chief told the District Commissioner that that land where Omenuko had built his house was his land, that he had told him to leave his land, but he had refused. The chief then said to the District Commissioner, "I told him forcefully and I told him politely, but Omenuko did not listen; therefore, if he does not understand Igbo, please tell him in English--perhaps he will listen to that and leave my land."
The District Commissioner questioned the chief, saying, "How many years has it been since Omenuko moved his household there?" The chief answered, "This is the seventh year." The District Commissioner asked the chief, "During those seven years, how many times have you told him to leave your land?" The chief replied, "At no time did I tell him to leave my land; however, I told him to pay me the rent for that land but he did not listen." The District Commissioner then said to the chief, "I think you have said now that you told him forcefully and told him politely to leave, but he did not listen, but the last thing you said now is that you still have not told him to leave your land from the beginning, rather that what you told him was that he should pay you the rent for that land, but he did not listen. As between your two statements, which one is true?"
The chief then said, "The first one is true." The District Commissioner then said to him, "Then the second one is a lie?" He said, "Yes." The District Commissioner then said to the chief, "Isn't it you people who judge liars, telling them to go to jail because they have lied--isn't this so?" The chief then said, "Sir, forgive me for this one mistake; I will not make false statements again." The District Commissioner then said to him, "All right, I forgive you for this, but remember that you made two statements, afterwards backing down and saying that the last statement was untrue, but I will not be pleased if, when Omenuko comes here and you and he testify before me, I find out that all of your statements are false. That means that your statements now should be true because if afterwards I discover that they all are false, be assured that you will go to jail."
The chief then said to the District Commissioner, "Omenuko is an expert speaker; perhaps when he comes here he will deny it all and you will also say that I am a falsifier and that I have made an untrue statement." The chief then quoted a certain proverb, saying, "Rather than fill my stomach and fall down in the road, let me go hungry." This meant that instead of his taking Omenuko to court and then going to jail, both the first and the second statements would be withdrawn. The District Commissioner then asked him, "What do these words of yours mean?" The chief said, "I think that both of those statements should be withdrawn, because I do not want to go to jail. Omenuko will deny me when he comes."
The District Commissioner then told them to leave, go and think things over, then return and tell him the truth. They agreed and went away. The District Commissioner was expecting that they would come back to tell him what they thought, but they did not come for many days. Finally the District Commissioner sent a message to Omenuko that he wanted to see him, and he sent a message to that chief to come on the same day. When Omenuko and the chief came before the District Commissioner, he asked them both if there was any quarrel between them. Omenuko said, "There is no quarrel between me and Chief Ike except for the jealousy of the chiefs here." The District Commissioner then asked the chief, "What do you have to say about the questions I asked you all?" He answered, "There is no quarrel between me and Chief Omenuko."
The District Commissioner then asked the chief, "Has Omenuko left your land now? Has Omenuko paid you the rent?" The chief said, "Sir, forget about it, that matter has ended." The District Commissioner then asked Omenuko if there was any time when he and Ike had discussed that land where he had built his house. Omenuko said, "There was not, sir." The District Commissioner then said to them, "Leave then," and they went. But Omenuko kept on thinking about these questions that the District Commissioner had asked him and Ike. Since they were only questions, there was no way he could get an explanation, so Omenuko went to the District Commissioner and told him that regarding those questions he had asked him and Ike without giving an explanation, when he went home and thought about those questions he was uneasy because he did not know what they meant. Omenuko said that was why he had come to ask him to explain to him the meaning of that matter. The District Commissioner told Omenuko it was not important for him to explain the meaning because the person he interrogated knew what caused him to ask such questions.
The District Commissioner then said, "But if you are worried about it, I will tell you, because I know your behavior. Since it is a case of falsehood, I trust that you will not make a big thing of it or take any action. The reason I asked you both those questions is that our friend, Ike, and the other chiefs came to me here and told me falsehoods, saying that that place where you built your house was Ike's land. Because of that Ike told me that he told you to leave his land but you did not listen. Ike also said that perhaps you did not understand Igbo, so I should tell you in English that you should leave his land, because he told you to pay him rent for the land and you refused. Afterward, I then discovered that all of his words were untrue, and I gave him time, telling him to go and think things over and come back and tell me the truth, but he did not come back to tell me anything more about it. Therefore, I sent for the two of you, so that you could come together before me and I could then ask you those questions.You heard how he replied--he told me to leave off, that the matter was finished. That is why, according to what he said that the matter should be abandoned and that it was over, I agreed that the matter should be closed."
Omenuko then said to the District Commissioner, "You are between me and them just as a door is between the back and front of a house; you receive our cases, and you also know our misdeeds. That is why I tell you that you yourself are like a back door which sees what is happening at the back and also sees what happens at the front of the house. I agree, if you tell me to forget about it, I will." Omenuko then thanked the District Commissioner and left.
When Omenuko reached home, he called in all of his people and told them what Ike and the other chiefs had gone and told the District Commissioner, but the District Commissioner had not listened to them. "Therefore there is nothing to it except the jealousy of the people of this land toward me." This was what Omenuko told them. He also said, "There is no one to whom I owe any debt either here or in our land. The debt that I know I owe to people is a debt of good will and a debt of love because God has made me a very great man, but I did not steal to become great. If a person would say that I committed a sin because of selling those people in our land, this would be true. But there is no one among the chiefs here whose child I sold. We shall return to our town if there is any way the white people will tell me to return to our town, because as I see it there is nothing they [the chiefs] can do to me. But if I should die [if I am sought and not found], I think it would be bad." All the people of Omenuko's house said, "We will be glad to return to our town, rather than having quarrels all the time." Omenuko then said, "Then let us keep it in our minds that we shall surely return." Omenuko continued to prosper, and his reign was very pleasing to the government officials, because in their view he governed very well.