POSTED 01/20/2018 16:43:48
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These words gave her horripilate, turning her skin to a goose bump city. Her legs went weak with fear; horrified at the image of people burning a human alive, wondering what Osundu did that led to such brutality. What could be so odious that would result to such punishment? The worst part of it was she could not even pin out the particular individual that her son was accusing. Even if she was able to identify the man, how can she ask someone that kind of question? On her way home that particular day, she made up her mind to pay a visit to the supposed past family, to confirm or refute Osundu’s story. She needed firsthand information on what really happened and what kind of person reincarnated as her son.
One of the benefits of being rich is that you can get almost anything done as soon as possible provided you can pay for it even with little or no information. Ego was able to locate the residence of the past parents of her son in just two days. The next day, she and some members of her guards set out to Nnewi leaving Ndubisi in charge of everything including making all business transactions.
On her way, she made few stops to visit other farmers like herself to inquire for latest information and advice, which was her way of staying ahead. She also did some philanthropic duties, giving aids to the poor and needy. All these made the journey longer making it three days before they got to the compound of Mazi Amuneke. They were given a warm welcome suitable for a king. The woman of the house quickly drew a warm bath for Ego and her son; they were fed and given a place to rest.
That evening when the sun had gone down, she and her company were invited into the family’s Obiri where the purpose of her visit was to be made known. Everyone was seated; palm wine and kola nut has been served. Mazi Amuneke stood up; addressing Ego he said “Nne, you are highly welcome”.
Ego smiled, stood and responded “Nnayi thank you. My elders I greet you all. I consider myself fortunate to be in your presence. May the gods continue to bless and guide you”.
Everyone present echoed “Ishe!”
Still addressing Ego, Mazi Amuneke continued “So to what do we own this peculiar visit?” The people began nodding in agreement while some discussed among themselves. They have been wondering what has brought a woman of such wealth and prestige to their home.
Ego stood up again and began “Nnayi, thank you once again. If you have a skin infection, you don’t wait till it is all over your body before you invite the dibia to take a look at it, you invite him immediately you start seeing the symptoms”. They all nodded, with some saying “Eziokwu!”
She continued this time addressing Mazi Amuneke “My son Osundu has been making statements indicating you were his father in his past life; that his name used to be Onwuhara. He made mention of a sister named Ndidi and a mother named Uka”. She stopped expecting some kind of reaction from the people but to her greatest surprise none was fed her. So she continued “I decided to make this trip here when he pointed at a man in the market place and said he was one of the people that burnt him alive”.
At the mention of been burnt alive Mazi Amuneke who has not uttered any word but instead buried his head thinking, raised it up and took a sharp look at her saying “So you have come to confirm whether it is true?”
“Yes” she replied him “And to know why he was burnt alive?” she added.
Beckoning on Osundu to come, Mazi Amuneke asked “Does he have a birthmark behind his neck?
“Yes” she responded with a nod, slightly pushing Osundu over to him.
He turned Osundu over as he and the three elders examined the birthmark; moments after they all nodded in agreement after whispering to each other. Convinced, he said “He is the one. He came back. Onwuhara my son came back” and pulled him closer into a long tight hug.
Then gradually he became emotional, his eyes wet with tears, he sobbed “he came back not as an Ogbanje; we succeeded. He came back not as my son like he said he would. He came back into a rich family like he said he would. I wish we could go back in time, so I can apologize for all the wrongs I did you. But I know it is now too late”. At this point the old man was basically wailing like a child; tears streaming down his cheeks uncontrollably. They all allowed him to pour out his grief.
Osundu without saying anything began tapping the old man on his back. He was still consoling him when he saw a young lady coming from the opposite direction. Swiftly he broke away from the hug and ran towards her screaming with excitement “Ndi-ka! Ndi-ka! Ndi-ka! This was the first time Osundu was setting his eyes in her. She was now married and as sure was in her husband’s house. She came this evening after been invited by her father. So far she is the only person he has been able to recognize.
He almost threw her down with the force at which he jumped on her. Ndidi carried him and he said “Ndi-ka, I really missed you” then threw his hands around her neck for a tighter hug. This immediately brought tears to her eyes. It was like she just met her baby brother all again. “I miss you more Hara” she whispered back into his ears. Their bond so strong that even death could not break it. Together they returned back to the Obiri.
Back at the Obiri, Mazi Amuneke has put himself together. Everyone was surprised to see that he could recognize Ndidi. Addressing Ego Mazi Amuneke said “That’s Ndidi, his elder sister. He called her Ndi-ka. They were very close”.
“I can see that. It further proves we are at the right place. So what really happened to Onwuhara?” she asked.
“Long time ago, my wife Ukamaka put to bed a beautiful baby girl; our first child but before we could name her, she passed away. We were anguished and hurt by the sudden death of our child. Uka cried for days, backing the crying with starvation.
I invited an Ogbanje dibia who after examining the lines on the dead baby’s palm told us that the baby was an Ogbanje. With charcoal he marked the corpse in the same area that your son has his birthmark. He departed that day after telling us to watch out for the next child whether he would come back with a birthmark in that area.
Uka took in and gave birth to another beautiful girl child. We keenly and closely observed her but she didn’t come with any birthmark. We named her Ndidi; she brought the lost joy and gladness back to my household. We thought we had overcome. We thought we had broken the cycle of Ogbanje.
Uka gave birth to another baby girl but this one came with the birthmark. I quickly invited the dibia, who came and examined the lines on her palms. To prolong the baby’s life he cut a line across her palm and rubbed a certain herbal ingredient into the wound. Assuring us that this would keep the illness at bay until the baby was old enough to speak and reveal the place where the object of her oath to the Ogbanje cult was hidden or buried. This worked as the baby stayed till she was named but not till she was old enough to expose the hidden object. Seven market days after her naming ceremony; Onwubiko kicked the bucket leaving us once again in grief and pain. The dibia advised me to cut off her left little finger to make the Ogbanje league expel our child because they dislike ugliness and deformities of any kind. I gave in and acted as instructed.
Two years later, a baby boy came. Our joy knew no bound as we wanted a male child but this joy was short lived when we discovered he had the birthmark and a missing left little finger. We ran back to the same dibia who did the same thing he did for Onwubiko. He survived to be named and I gave him Onwuhara. We provided him with everything he needed, poured all manner of love on him. Ndidi was always with him, playing and caring for him even more than his mother.
He got to be old enough to perform the ritual and we did it. It was very elaborate; he was made to dance to a frenzied music while a native pot burning with medical herbs was balanced on his head. The ritual was successful, he indicated the place where he hid a pebble; his object of oath. It was excavated, destroyed and our son delivered from the oath.
That day was filled with celebration. Ukamaka was so glad, her face filled with smiles and joy. We had broken the cycle of Ogbanje from our family forever. But it seam death was not yet done with us. That night, my wife out of pity for all our son has been through decided to lay in bed with him, singing him to sleep. I guess she fell asleep beside…” he could not complete the sentence. The old man was holding the tears back. “Oh Uka! Uka mo… Uka…” was what he could say as manly moans followed. Ego with tears in her own eyes completed it “She slept beside him and never woke up”.
“Yes… that’s what happened” he said wiping some tears that has escaped and was running down his rough cheek. Everyone was surprise with raised eye brow as to how Ego knew what happened. The elder beside Mazi Amuneke wasted no time in asking “How did you come to know?”
“My son told me” she replied him. She was surprise to see a man display some much emotion. Igbo men are known for their pride and ego. They believe that crying is for children and women. Men are not supposed to cry, no matter the pain they are experiencing. Seeing him forsake these rules and weep in front of people only shows how much he loved this amazing woman. He was given sometime to grief, when he got hold of himself once again. He continued “The death of Uka left me devastated and broken. I began living in a fool’s paradise. Turned to drinks for consolation, but as you know, hiding from problems don’t make them go away. It felt good to drink but once I become sober, all the pain, anger and grief comes hitting much harder and intense.
I blamed my son for her death; I thought he exchanged his life for hers. It was saving one to lose another. This made me resent my son. Till his death, nothing he did pleased me. My family members pleaded with me not to hold that against him; I told them, I had forgiven him. But deep down my heart I never did. Every little offence he committed got me so pissed that I will descend on him without holding back; calling him the Ogbanje that took my wife. I wanted him to pay for what he did to my wife. One day while beating him, I said I wish he would join my wife. He replied me saying that everyone dies and when he does, there is no way he is returning to this forsaken family.
Before he was sixteen, he became wayward, fending for himself and his sister as I was always in the bottle. He became the father of the family, doing all sorts of things for wage and food. One day, he and his gang went to a neighboring village to steal; he was caught while the friends escaped. In that particular village the punishment for theft was being burnt alive. His friends came back to inform me that he was caught, but I didn’t care. If I had simply gone to pay for what he stole and offered sacrifices to the gods to appease them, he would still be alive. They waited three days and burnt him alive.
His death removed the scale off my eyes. The anger, grief, sadness all melted away. I began blaming myself for his death. I knew I should have done something to save his life; but because of the hate I didn’t. I realized I have been foolish and wicked for hating my son, my only son at that time; but it was now too late to apologize or make up for my wrongs”.
He paused, turned to Osundu and continued “I have prayed for a day like this; where I will have to apologize for all my wrong doings. I really failed you as a father in your previous life. I beg for your forgiveness; find a place in your little kind heart and pardon me”. The little one was staring at the old man wondering what he was talking about; so he didn’t respond. Mazi Amuneke on the other hand ignored him and continued “You were reborn to live a new life as a new person. Be the person your past self didn’t get to be. Thanks to the gods, they have provided you with a mother who is capable and able to help you accomplish all that. So be you, don’t look back, be who the gods have destined you to be and set the world on fire. Do make the rest of your life the best of your life” he said. The elder beside him told Ego that since he had apologized to the boy that he would no longer remember anything from his past life again. There was no need to worry about it further.
Osundu spent the rest of the day with Ndidi catching up. She took him to their mother’s grave and he was able to locate his own grave. Ego on the other hand passed the evening getting to know more about the family. The next morning, she provided the family especially Ndidi with financial help and said goodbye to Nnewi.
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