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“Ifechidere” Released by The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium Ltd

Ifechidere

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The mourners wept even harder, when they looked at Obande’s children. Afoma, who was 15, had been the apple of her father’s eye. She was responsible, industrious and humane. Even during the times her mother maltreated Ifechi, Afoma got into trouble because she would always console Ifechi. Shortly after Ifechidere’s disappearance, Afoma had decided that she would become a lawyer in future, so that she would be able to fight more effectively for the less privileged. She also promised herself that she would look for Sister Ifechi and live with her.

Onukwube was now nearly 13; he was a different story. He was wild, rebellious and flagrantly irresponsible. Egged on by his mother’s pampering, he saw no reason to be any other way. Ogolo never allowed him to do chores in or around the house. She called him Onochie, insisting that males, especially those who were Onochie, were not supposed to any work. The house chores were therefore passed on to Afoma, as Ifechidere wasn’t there to do them. If Afoma was not around to do the work, their mother would do them.

Yet, Onukwube seemed to have a soft spot was his sister. It was either that, or he just loved any excuse to get into a fight. One day, their mother tried to punish Afoma because she dared to ask him to wash some plates. But he stood between his mother and sister, absolutely refusing to move and daring Ogolo to touch Afoma. On another day, Afoma returned from school, with her clothes in tatters. Onukwube was the only one at home. In tears, she said that a boy in her class, named Okenna, had fought with her. Onukwube went and sought out Okenna. Though Onukwube didn’t win the ensuing fight, he gave his opponent an unforgettable mark. He hit Okenna on the head with a stick, even after Okenna felled him to the ground. This was before passers-by separated them. They reprimanded Okenna, asking him why he chose to fight with the mad boy that everyone knew as Onukwube.

There was one incident that stood out in many people’s memories. It happened one morning, when Afoma had gone to fetch firewood and her mother had gone to fetch water. Obande woke up and called Onukwube to sweep the compound, when he noticed that Afoma and Ogolo were not at home. Onukwube refused to do the sweeping and Obande beat him. When Ogolo returned and met her son crying, she picked a fight with her husband. They created such a ruckus that villagers assembled to pacify husband and wife. Ogolo was insistent that her husband was trying to kill her only son. She claimed that Onukwube was the reincarnation of her late father; instead of respecting him, Obande wanted to send him into a second exile. Thee villagers sighed because they knew even before she said anything, what Ogolo would say. Onukwube usually had his mother as a shield. He was her favourite. Whenever she was not in school teaching, Ogolo could be seen fighting one teacher or the other, for disciplining her son. There was no limit to the lengths she would go, to protect her son. Even his school-mates were not spared; Ogolo had physically engaged with children who quarrelled or fought with Onukwube. It was no wonder he had no friends.

Onukwube was known as one of the villains of Nimbo community. Petty stealing was not beyond or beneath him. Whenever Onukwube entered any compound, something was bound to go missing. His infamy even extended to neighbouring villages of Uzo-Uwani; everyone called him a bad son and parents warned their children to avoid him. On one occasion when yet another case involving Onukwube had to be heard by the Igwe and his cabinet, Obande and Ogolo were summoned. But Ogolo was more defiant than usual, that day. She told the Igwe, in the hearing of all present, that he and his cabinet were envious of Onukwube; that was the only reason they often accused her precious son of stealing and other social vices. She then said that the Igwe was ‘an enemy of progress’ and that was why he didn’t have a son. It was because of the hardness of his heart and the atrocities he had committed, that the gods had punished him by withholding a son who would carry on his name, from him. That was why no matter how hard he tried, he had ended up fathering eight daughters.

A horrified Obande tried to stop her, but his efforts amounted to a waste of time and energy. He was suspended again from the Igwe’s cabinet that day and ordered to pay a hefty fine. He had managed to pay the fine, but had not served out the suspension before he died. Being suspended as a member of the Igwe’s cabinet was no small matter. It was a shameful thing, which had far-reaching consequences that affected even the family. On several occasions, Afoma was refused entry into the village dancing troupe, because of her father’s suspension. She was a good dancer, so this really hurt her. Yet it was Afoma who consoled Obande. Ogolo couldn’t care less. It was Afoma who went to the palace, to seek an audience with the Igwe and apologise on her father’s behalf. She had been turned away at the palace gates on many occasions, but she persisted till she saw the Igwe. True, Ogolo and Onukwube had been the ones who committed offences, but Obande had been punished to set an example; there had to be consequences for a man who had such little control over his house, that his family members could afford to be openly disrespectful. The Igwe admired the girl’s resilience, but could not reverse his decision; if he did, it would encourage others to tow the same path. They would reason that one could act recklessly and there would be no consequences, if someone came to beg on their behalf.

The villagers felt sorry for Obande’s children, but for different reasons. Afoma was a young girl, whose father’s death would continue to hurt her for a long time. As for Onukwube, it was difficult not to feel pity; they could see where he was headed, even if he did not. The villagers knew it was only a matter of time before Onukwube did something from which even Ogolo would not be able to rescue him.

IFECHIDERE by Chinedu Enechi was released on Kindle in ALL Amazon markets by The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium Ltd, on 30 November 2016. It is also available on Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Okadabooks, and major online stores in EPUB and iBook formats. You can ask for a copy at your library via Overdrive.com. Alternatively, you could order by scrolling down and clicking on the ‘Buy’ button (if you’re on a mobile device) or scrolling up and clicking on the ‘Buy’ button in the side bar.

Chinedu Enechi could be coming to a radio show or blog near you.

For more information, email info@chiomannani.com

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