POSTED 12/30/2017 08:39:48
Traditionally there are two classes of people in Igbo land - The Dialas and the Osus. Diala literally means "Son of the soil", while Osus are regarded as slaves or Outcast. Osus are treated as inferior human beings, kept in a state of permanent and irreversible disability; they are subjected to various forms of abuse and discrimination. They are offered as sacrifice to the gods, made to live separately from the free-born, mostly close to shrines and market places where they can quickly carry out their function of serving the gods. They are not allowed to dance, drink, hold hands, associate or have sexual relationships with diala. They were not even allowed to break kola nuts at meetings or pour libation or pray to the gods on behalf of a free-born at any community gathering. It is believed such prayers and association of any kind with an Osu will bring calamity and misfortune upon the families or individuals involved.
The Osu discrimination is very pronounced in the area of marriage. An Osu cannot marry a freeborn. The belief is that any freeborn that marries an Osu defiles the family. So Dialas are always up in arms against any of their members who want to marry an Osu.
It was a hot night, Ego was having dinner outside. Her son Osundu who was now four years of age was playing on the sand not far from her under the watchful eyes of Oluchukwu. He was a healthy baby full of life, had big beautiful eyes that when he takes a look at you, it feels like he is looking into your soul. His burnish complexion was the only thing he took from his mother. Oluchukwu had previously carried him from the ground wanting to back him but he refused violently crying that he should be left free to play. Ego who does not like seeing him cry for any reason quickly asked her to put him back down.
Some moments after, he stood up, slowly walked to his mother laughing. He stood beside her and called out “Nne?”
“Hmmm!” she responded not looking at him as she was busy devouring a big piece of goat meat.
“Nne?” he repeated this time softly shaking her right lap.
“Oh! Nna, what is it? Do you want to eat? She asked putting down the meat and took a cut of pounded yam buried it into the rich Ofe owerri soup and gave him. He rejected it waving his head from left to right.
“Do you want to suck breast?” she said almost pulling her right breast from her wrapper. But then again he rejected it saying “Mba”.
“You don’t want to eat, you don’t want to suck breast, what do you want Nna?”
“I am not from Umudibia” he said calmly. She burst into a loud laughter and asked “Who told you that?” playing with his cheeks.
“No one told me, I just know. I’m from Nnewi, that’s where my other father Amuneke lives” He said looking straight into her soul through her eyes.
She was frightened and quickly she rebuked him “Sha! Keep quiet!”. She had never been to Nnewi nor does she even know anyone from there. Then how come her son knows about it.
“Nna oh, come and tell me who told you that?” she asked pushing the food aside, picked up her son and began pampering him.
“I lived there first before I came here” he said looking down playing with his mother’s wrapper. “My name was Onwuhara” he added.
Ego screamed at him “Keep quiet and listen to me. I’m your mother, I gave birth to you, and your name is Osundu not Onwuhara”. He began sobbing and moments after tears were already streaming down his cheeks. She tired consoling him but it got worse. Oluchukwu who has been watching the whole drama without interfering came over and carried him threatening to beat Ego if she screamed at him again. After dancing around with him for few minutes, he fell asleep. She went in, placed him on his bed and came back out to join her.
“Oluchukwu!” Ego called out.
“Nda!” she replied.
“Did you hear what Osundu has been saying?” she asked wearing a disturbed face.
“Yes, I did. Is that why your face is like that?” She asked her. Both of them have become best of friends. Ego loves her like a younger sister while she in return saw her as an elder sister and would do anything for her.
“Shouldn’t I be disturbed? I don’t know who came back as my son. We don’t know what kind of life he lived previously. We don’t even know whether the gods are punishing him”.
“You don’t have to worry about all that. This life and how he lives it is what matters the most. Besides the gods can’t be punishing someone by sending them back as your heir; the wealthiest woman in the whole of Nekede with a heart of gold. I rather see it as the gods favoring someone”.
“What if he is an Ogbanje?” she asked deeply affright.
Ogbanje children are said to be a group of babies who in the discarnate realm have become leagued together in a kind of conspiracy to harass parents by dying young. Typically, an Ogbanje child lives only a few months or years and then dies. Some die suddenly without any premonitory illness, others are frail and sickly for months or years before dying. A single Ogbanje soul may be born, die and be reborn in the same family, only to die again. Indeed, the Igbo word “Ogbanje means “To make several trips to and fro a place”. It can also be said to be a “Repeater child” in English.
“I don’t think he is” she declared.
“How can you be so sure? What other reason would make a father name his son Onwuhara?” she wondered aloud.
“Nda, I think you are taking this issue way too serious. Even if he was in his previous life; it doesn’t amount to same in this life” she assured her.
“How do you know?”
“Usually Ogbanjes have pronounced birthmarks on their bodies where they were marked after death; so they can be recognized easily when they returned”.
“Osundu has a birth mark at the back of his neck oh!” Ego broke in.
“Yes I know, but most Ogbanjes also come back with distal phalanx of the left little finger or any other amputated part of his or her body; which is done to make the Ogbanje cult expel the individual from their league. They hate ugliness and deformities. Osundu doesn’t have any missing part, he is perfect and beautiful” she concluded smiling at her.
Raising her hands up and looking at the dark sky above she said “My fathers please don’t let my son be an Ogbanje oh! I don’t know what I will do if I lose him”.
“You are not losing him. By the way, most Ogbanjes are always sickly, punishing their parents. Osundu has not fallen ill more than twice since I can remember. So you have nothing to worry about” she reassured her.
“Yes, he has not” she said smiling. “Olii, thank you; you have succeeded in convincing me that he is not one of them”. She added after showing her appreciation by giving her a tight hug.
Oluchukwu beamed and said “Now that we have that off the way. Can I tell you what he said to me about two market days ago?”
“Please do! What did he tell you?” she asked as curiosity reappeared on her face.
“I was bathing him that particular evening and humming a lullaby to him at the same time when abruptly he said “Nda!”. I responded “Yes, Nwoke oma”. With those big eyes of his pinned on me he said “I remember that song”. After laughing to my fill, I jokily asked him from where. He then said “My elder sister Ndidi used to sing it to me whenever I was crying”. Those words sent chilling fear all over my body. “He then added that he misses her; but I didn’t allow him complete that sentence before rebuking him. He then began crying.
“It is doing the same thing to me right now as you are saying it” Ego said rubbing her palm all over her body.
“That was not even the first time; he made a statement about his past life to me”.
“So he has been talking to you; why am I hearing it for the first time?”
“I didn’t see it as anything worth mentioning to you but after observing your reaction to what he said today. I thought it was high time I told you”.
“Alright, what other thing did he say?” Ego asked.
“It was a cold night. I laid in darkness with him trying to put him to sleep. Then all of a sudden he called me 'Nda Oluchukwu' to which I responded 'Dim oma'. He then said 'Do you know I used to have another mother. Her name was Uka'. This was the first time he was saying something of that nature to me. I thought he was bluffing. So I asked him what happened to her. He pulled closer to me, and then whispered into my ears saying 'She slept beside me and never woke up'".