Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Igbo Play: Oguamanam (1979)

An Igbo Play: Oguamanam
by Chike Osita Gbujie

Translated from the Igbo by Francis W. Pritchett



This play, first published in 1979, deals with what I am told is a common bone of contention in Igboland, namely, ownership of land. It can cause bitterness between members of the same family, as the author shows here. The play illustrates the traditional method of settling disputes, in this case validated by what appears to be supernatural intervention.

The author has aptly given the two cousins in this play names that reflect their characters. "Oguamalam" means "May I not be found guilty," and "Ikekwem" means "May strength be with me." Note that comments inserted in square brackets are my own and not the playwright's.

Because I worked on the translation intermittently for a number of years, I had the help of three native speakers in succession: Joel Nwamuo, Tina Durunna, and Jennifer Ekeanyanwu. I am very grateful to them.

So far, I have no biographical information about the author, but I will continue to search for it.

Frances W. Pritchett
Little Rock, Arkansas
September 2005


IKEKWEM OKPURUKA Brothers who are disputing about land

NWAIBARI Ikekwem's first wife

OBIAGELI Ikekwem's second wife

AMADI Children of Ikekwem

NJOKU OGWUGWU Chief Ofo title-holder of Ihenweorie

MAZI OGBUEHI Elders of Ofo title-holders of Ihenweorie

ULOAKU Njoku's first wife

NWANYIUGBO Njoku's second wife

CHIBUNNANWOLU Eldest son of Oguamalam

JAMIKE Friend of Chibunna

UGOMMA Eldest daughter of Mazi Nwokoro

AHUDIE Wife of Nwokoro

CHIDI Small boy

ANOGWI Townspeople

WAPAYI A mad person

UKAIBE Njoku's servant


(In the house of Njoku Ogwugwu, who is Chief Ofo title-holder holding the title of Amadioha. He is sleeping in his house early in the morning. He jumps up suddenly.)
NJOKU: Tufia! Tufia! If it is medicine, it won't work. May Ogwugwu not agree! Lord above, just look at this! (He gets up from the bed, stretches his whole body as though he had fallen from a palm tree, then opens his mouth in a wide yawn. He calls Ukaibe, his servant.) Ukaibe! Ukaibe!

UKAIBE: Master! I am here. (He runs in.) Good morning, master.

NJOKU: Good morning, my son. Quickly, fetch me some water so I can wash my face. (Ukaibe goes out, brings water in a calabash bowl, then goes out. Njoku washes his hands and face. He puts his hand in his pocket, brings out kola nut and pepper, and presents them to his god where he had planted a certain oha tree.) Father Oparaeke, look at the kola. Amadioha and Ogwugwu, who leads me in war, whose heavy footsteps break the ground, come and eat kola. Lord in heaven, God who does things for spirits and humans, come and receive kola from your child Njoku today.

(He then breaks it, throws out one of its lobes before his god, and eats his own. He also brings a pot of leftover wine which is under his bed, pours a little into a cup, and throws it out for his god before he drinks his own.)

Land of Akabo, drink wine. Father Oparaeke, drink wine. God who is in heaven, and whose wrapper drags over the earth, come and drink wine. (He drinks his own, then sits quietly in thought for a minute.) What is the meaning of this dream? (He asks himself.) Thunder struck my medicine bag from my hand! God forbid bad things! This is an abomination! Has anyone heard of a thing like this before? Hmm! Hm! This business of the "Main farmland!" This land wants to eat a person's head. Hm! All right. I will use my two eyes to see where this matter will end. I will stay here, and the one who is cutting my hair will go around me. (Someone knocks at the door.)

IWEJUA: (Knock! knock! knock!) Is anyone here?

NJOKU: Yes! Who is it?

IWEJUA: It is Iwejua. Son of Njoku, good morning.

NJOKU: Good morning, my brother. Please come into the house. Have you all slept well?

IWEJUA: We have slept well.

NJOKU: Please come into the house. Do you want me to bring you wine before you come in?

IWEJUA: Ha, ha, ha! Do you tell an adult to get out of the sun? I have already entered. Have you all slept well?

NJOKU: Welcome. We all have slept well. And your family? (They then shake hands.)

IWEJUA: They are fine. But I almost died during the night. I don't know what happened to me. All my joints were painful, and it made my mouth sour. Indeed, I did not know I was going to wake up today.

NJOKU: Ha-aa! When a sick person says that he almost died during the night, has he forgotten that another night will come? (They laugh.) Remind me before you leave to give you some medicine to drink. What is happening to you is malaria, which some people also call akom. How do you sleep?

IWEJUA: My brother, it is unbelievable. The rat is the only one I know who sleeps less than I do at night. The bad thing about it is that I dream ten dreams before dawn. But not one of them is good. If a snake is not chasing me, then the spirits are chasing me into the river.

NJOKU: Ehe! What did I tell you? It is malaria. These dreams show that it has gone deep into your body.

IWEJUA: Ehe! Please, my brother, if you know what to do for me, start to do it immediately. One does not poke his eye with the same thing he uses to pokes his ear. And death does not swear innocence before killing.

NJOKU: It is necessary, my brother. It's no trouble. Only remind me when you leave to give you medicine to rub on and and drink.

IWEJUA: May you not die young, my brother. Is there anything else I have in my hand that will make me forget it? If the chick muffles its cry, its mother leaves it in the forest.

NJOKU: Where is this child? Eem! . . . (Someone claps his hands in the compound.)

NWOKORO: (Clap! clap! clap!) Hello to you here.

NJOKU: Who is it? If you come in peace, come right in.(Nwokoro then enters the house.)

IWEJUA: O, Nwokoro! So you have arrived? Thank God that you woke up early this morning. An early morning call is not good for a person who has married a new wife.

NWOKORO: Son of Njoku, good morning.

NJOKU: Good morning, chief. I have not forgotten that your wife is not feeling well today.

NWOKORO: "Tongue-strikes-thorn" [nickname], which wife of mine are you talking about?

NJOKU: I'm talking about the new one. What's her name . . . e-e-em Nwaogazi.

NWOKORO: I know that you all want it straight from me. Her stomach has gotten big. Do you think I'm a ram who is given a sheep for one month but will not ejaculate anything? (They all laugh.)

NJOKU: Strong leopard! You are a person who acts and acknowledges. Shake my hand! (They shake hands in agreement.) (Uloaku then enters and greets the elders. She carries kola in her hands.)

ULOAKU: Mr. Nwokoro, good morning.

NWOKORO: May you not die early, my wife.

ULOAKU: Mr. Iwejua, good morning.

IWEJUA: Good morning, my wife. How are things?

ULOAKU: Fine. (She gives Njoku the kola on a platter.) I heard the voices of guests, and thought that I should bring kola.

NJOKU: You did well, my wife. That's why I speak so well of you. (Uloaku then goes out.) She is my sweetheart. Iwejua, here is the kola. (He gives it to Iwejua.)

IWEJUA: May you not die early, my brother. Nwokoro, kola is here. (He gives it to Nwokoro.)

NWOKORO: Thank you, chief. If water falls into a hole, it breaks its leg. Njoku, a chief's kola will be in a chief's hand. (He gives it back to Njoku. Njoku then blesses it.)

NJOKU: Lord in heaven, kola has come. Amadioha, come and eat kola. Okahia and Uruamurukwa, look at the kola. God finished creating the world, then made it very wide, clan by clan, so that the great and the small should live in it in peace. The life of the stream, the life of the fish: may the stream not dry up and the fish not die. Whoever says that only he should live, when the spirits call, let them call only him.

ALL: Haa! Amen!

NJOKU: The world we live in is like a visit: a person stays a while, then leaves. The only thing we ask from God is happiness, peace, and long life. When we return to the world, let us experience good things right from the womb.

ALL: Haa! You are right

NJOKU: Let our discussion this morning be a peace offering.

ALL: Haa! Amen.(They then strike their ofos on the ground.) (As Njoku tries to break the kola, it slips away from him and falls to the ground.)

NJOKU: Cheei! What spirit or human wants to chew this kola? Please, do it quickly. You know they don't save any chicken for the one who went to Onicha. (Immediately, there is clapping of hands outside.)

OGBUEHI: (Knock! knock! knock!)

NJOKU: Come right in.(Ogbuehi enters.) Ehe, you have come at a good time! Have a chair.

OGBUEHI: Elders, good morning. (He sits down.)

NJOKU: We are holding kola.

OGBUEHI: Ihenweorie, god who owns me! Do I speak ill of anyone? Go ahead, take care of it [the kola ceremony]. My hand is in it. (He touches a bit of kola, then leaves it to Njoku.)

NJOKU: When this kola started falling to the floor, I realized that if a sacrifice is made but no vulture is seen, one knows that something big has happened in the land of the spirits. (He passes the kola around to them and they eat. He also pours wine for them in their cups one by one. They throw a little out on the ground and then drink.)

NWOKORO: (Clears his throat.) Son of Njoku, thank you for the kola. May you not die early.

NJOKU: May you not die early, elders.

NWOKORO: We remembered among ourselves to come and wake you from sleep this morning. What brought us is the matter concerning the territory of the "Main farmland," over which the children of Okpuruka and Okemkpi want to spill the blood of their brothers in this town. We are the elders. We will not sit by while the tethered goat gives birth. I want to ask you if we should be silent about this. Son of Njoku, you are the chief of the land. If blood should be spilled in this town, our ancestors will question you about it. If you all do not know what is happening now, let me tell you that the household of Ikekwem Okpuruka and that of Oguamalam Okemkpi will commit an abomination in this town. Also, there is a snake in the palm-leaves. They are going to fight the spirits. That's all I have to say.

OGBUEHI: Son of Njoku, clearly you have heard what Nwokoro has said. We agreed among ourselves before we came here. What we mainly want now is to find out what can be done, so that this thing that is boiling in their hearts can cool down, so that this trouble can be settled before their dispute grows into something worse. If it is ignored like this, there will be unheard-of consequences. My brothers, is that not what we said?

NWOKORO and IWEJUA: That's it exactly. You have said it right.

NJOKU: My fellow ofo-holders, may you not die early. May things go well with you. I have used the eyes of maturity to see things and found out that what makes the toad run out in the afternoon is no small matter. I should not decide alone how it should be handled. If it is unanimously agreed to push a grandchild into a pit, the earth will not want to accept the white cock that is used to memorialize him. When we all urinate together, foam is produced. What do you think should be done? I have nothing in mind right now.

NWOKORO: To my mind, we all know very well who really owns this land. It is Oguamalam's farm. There is no dispute about it. It would be good if we sent someone to go and warn Ikekwem to withdraw from this farm immediately.

IWEJUA: I don't support what you say, Nwokoro. Do you think that Ikekwem will listen to any warning? You know him well, and you know that his ears are used for decoration. He is a person who does whatever he pleases. Why do you think that he will abandon it just like that?

OGBUEHI: Iwejua's words are true. There are no ears in Ikekwem's head. He will not pay any attention.

NWOKORO: No! No! I am not saying that he will agree with it easily like this. The chicken says that the reason it cries out is not that the thing that is holding its child will let it go, but so that people will hear its voice. That's why it is good for us to escape blame. After I am dead and gone, people will ask questions, saying: "What did you all do when these things were happening?"

IWEJUA: All right. It wouldn't be a bad thing to go to Ikekwem's place and warn him. But who will go? Let me tell you plainly that I will not set foot in Ikekwem's house: let me use my life to do something meaningful.

NJOKU: Wait. It would be good to warn him first before we start to think of other things we can do. It is not good to plainly see the chicken's mouth and still ask what it uses to eat with. The only thing that doesn't sound right is going to his house to warn him. Because nobody knows what is in the mind of a person who is being held to the ground.

IWEJUA: Yes! If he is to be warned, it should not take place in his house. I myself am thinking that the two of them, Ikekwem and Oguamalam, should be invited together and then warned before the ofo-holders here. We will order Ikekwem to withdraw from that land. If he refuses to withdraw, we will decide which one should swear an oath. If that person swears, he takes the land.

NWOKORO: Good. This is also our tradition. It fits exactly with what I said at first.

OGBUEHI: Yes, exactly what you said. Iwejua, you are a great man. It is as though God created you on the day he created judgment.

NJOKU: We have all agreed. When shall we invite them?

NWOKORO: It would be good to invite them together. It should not be left pending. You know that if you keep allowing your dog to follow at your feet, it becomes too sluggish. We will invite them the day after tomorrow in the morning, which is Orie-Ikpa market day.

OGBUEHI: Let it be that day. We will come early, at the second cock-crow. Son of Njoku, don't forget to put aside kola for us on that day. (They then get up and prepare to leave.)

ALL: Let's go. Son of Njoku, you have done well.

NJOKU: Good. Go well. May you not die early. (They go out. Iwejua then turns back.)

IWEJUA: Ehe, I forgot that medicine.

NJOKU: Yes, where is my medicine bag? (He brings it out, then takes out various roots and medicinal leaves that have been wound round like a head pad. He first gives him the leaf parts.) Look at this. You will cook it in one cup of water. Add three pieces of pepper, dried fish, and salt. Don't put any oil in it. Cook it twice, before its power fades away.(He gives him some roots.) Cut these roots into small pieces, put them into a small pot, and fill it up with gin. Drink a little of it three times a day. If you drink it for about three days, you won't have to be told that something strong has touched your body.

IWEJUA: May you not die early, my brother. Let me see if this illness will allow me to take some food. I am going.

NJOKU: Good. All right, go well. (Iwejua leaves.) (Njoku is closing his medicine bag when Ukaibe runs crying into the house.)

UKAIBE: Oh, oh, I am dying.

NJOKU: Ukaibe! Who is chasing you? Eh? What happened to you?

UKAIBE: It is Madame Uloaku, oh, oh!

NJOKU: Close your mouth! What did you do? Did she beat you?

UKAIBE: Oh, oh! Madame Nwanyiugbo told me to get her some oha [leafy vegetable] to use to cook soup now. I then climbed the oha tree which is near the yam barn and Madame Uloaku then chased me down and beat me.

NJOKU: Close your mouth right now. If I hear another peep from you I will cut off both your ears this morning. Do you people think that my house is a madhouse, where everyone does as he pleases? Leave here immediately. (He calls Uloaku and Nwanyiugbo.) Uloaku! Uloaku! (Uloaku enters. She has a stick in her hand.) Throw that stick away before I raise my eyes. Are you mad? (Uloaku throws it away immediately, then kneels down.) Where is Nwanyiugbo? Nwanyiugbo!

NWANYIUGBO: Master. (She enters.) Master, good morning.

NJOKU: (He ignores her for a moment.)

NWANYIUGBO: Master, good morning.

NJOKU: It is not a good morning, hellish women. Will you two let me start the day? Uloaku, bad woman, what did Ukaibe do to make you beat him severely this morning? Eh? Am I not asking you? What did he do?

ULOAKU: Ukaibe is really a goat. Nwanyiugbo and I share all the oha trees here. But every time she sends Ukaibe to get her some oha, the place she insists on his getting it is mine. Why does Nwanyiugbo leave hers alone and gather mine? Who has ever seen this type of cheating?

NWANYIUGBO: Master, please, I sent Ukaibe to get me some oha to use in cooking soup this morning. But I didn't know that he went and gathered Uloaku's.

ULOAKU: You knew very well. What you are jealous of is . . .

NJOKU: Hey! Shut your mouth. What a mouth she has! Now let me tell you, this is the last time I will get up in the morning like this and hear all this quarreling in this house. If I hear it another day, I will show you all that this house is mine. Ukaibe! Ukaibe! (He calls him.)

UKAIBE: Master! (He enters.)

NJOKU: I know that you are someone who has eyes but can't see. Okay, let's go, so you all can show Ukaibe how you both share these oha trees. (They get up and go out.)


In the house of Ikekwem Okpuruka. He takes out his climbing-rope and his knife, then checks the sharpness of the knife. He sharpens it a bit on a stone, then takes out his pipe and smokes. He calls his wives.)
IKEKWEM: Nwaibari! Nwaibari!

NWAIBARI: Master! (She holds a broom in her hand.)

IKEKWEM: Are you still doing the morning sweeping? What have you been doing all this time?

NWAIBARI: I first went to fetch water, so I didn't get back in time to sweep the house.

IKEKWEM: Do you remember that today is Eke? Whose duty is it to cook my breakfast on Eke day?

NWAIBARI: Master, it is mine. I have started to cook it on the fire.

IKEKWEM: Are you saying that I am to go hungry to cut palm trees this morning? Hey! Am I not asking you? Do you want me to fall out of the palm tree from hunger today, while you take the time to do as you please?

NWAIBARI: Please, my husband, don't be angry. I didn't know you were going to go early to cut palm trees today. I gave Amadi and his brother last night's leftover food and had planned to cook more for you early this morning. But I didn't know there was not a drop of water left in the pot.

IKEKWEM: That's enough I don't want any more of your explanations. It's this way every day that it's your turn to give me breakfast. If it isn't that you shot a bird and its mother flew out and perched on the iroko branch, it is that the rat carried off your fish, climbed on the wall, went across to your soup pot and then fell into it. A story like this every day.

NWAIBARI: Please, it's not a lie that I am telling, rather . . .

IKEKWEM: Come, come, come! I've told you that I want no more of your explanation, let me look a bit at what I have heard. Go and bring your rope so we can go and cut palm trees in the "Main farmland" bush.

NWAIBARI: Please, have patience, let me finish cooking this food. It will spoil on the fire if . . .

IKEKWEM: Have what? Have-have-have what? Leave it on the fire so it can burn there. Go and bring your rope immediately. (Nwaibari goes out frowning.) What about Obiageli? Obiageli! Obiageli!

OBIAGELI: Master! (She enters immediately.)

IKEKWEM: What do you have in your hand?

OBIAGELI: It is nothing.

IKEKWEM: Quickly, bring your rope so we can go and cut palm trees in the "Main farmland" bush.

OBIAGELI: Master, please, my stomach is killing me. My stomach cramped during the night so that it did not feel good at all.

IKEKWEM: All right, leave the rope. But you still must come along to the bush. You can pick up palm fruit. If the dog does not eat una [a root vegetable], it still warms itself around the fire.

OBIAGELI: All right. Let me go ahead and join you. Who will carry the palm fruit?

IKEKWEM: What is Nwaibari doing? Since she cannot cook breakfast for me, she should be able to carry palm fruit. Nwaibari! Nwaibari!

NWAIBARI: Master, please, I am coming. (She then enters, carrying a rope on her head.)

IKEKWEM: Hurry, let's go. (they leave.)

In the House of Oguamalam

(Oguamalam holds a raffia climbing-rope and a knife in his hand. He is whistling. He stops by his sharpening stone and starts to sharpen his knife. When he has finished sharpening his knife, he calls his son, Chibunnanwolu.)

OGUAMALAM: Chibunna! Chibunna! Chibunnanwolu!

CHIBUNNA: Yes, Father! (Chibunna enters.)

OGUAMALAM: Where did you go?

CHIBUNNA: I went to Jamike's.

OGUAMALAM: What did you go to do there so early this morning?

CHIBUNNA: I went to listen to the world news.

OGUAMALAM: Goat of world news! You won't let the day dawn before you go to listen to world news. Every morning world news, every evening world news. One day, if you keep on listening to world news, the world will listen to news about you. Fly of world news! If you finish listening, look for me in the "Main farmland" bush, so you can come and carry palm fruit. I am going to cut palm fruit there. Did you hear what I said?

CHIBUNNA: Yes, father.

OGUAMALAM: I am going. (He goes out. Chibunna then returns to Jamike's house. Jamike is braiding rope.) [This rope is udo, made from bush plant material, less strong than ete, a tree-climbing rope.]

CHIBUNNA: Jamike, quickly, turn on that news radio of yours.

JAMIKE: It's not time yet. There are still a few minutes left before the time comes.

CHIBUNNA: Turn it on. I'm hearing the world news music coming from Madame Mpa's radio.

JAMIKE: Hey! It's in that big bag. Okay, let me turn it on for you, you world news junkie. I don't blame your father for calling you "fly of world news."

CHIBUNNA: No! no! Jamike, that's enough. It has gone past joking. Be careful.

JAMIKE: (He turns it on, then tunes it to find the Owere station.) Please forgive, let me turn it on for you.

REDIO: The time now is exactly ten o'clock. This is Igbo time on Radio I.B.S. [Imo Broadcasting Service], Owere. Listen to the world news. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is Nnamdi Olebara speaking. These are the headlines today, Tuesday, Eke [Eke is a day in the four-day Igbo week]. The head of our country, General Olusegun Obasanjo, has told the American government in no uncertain terms that the time has passed when the Americans can use threats and scare tactics to hinder Africans in their struggle to redeem their fatherland from European slavery. The Military Governor of Imo State, Commander Ndubuisi Kanu, has called on the people of Umuahia to not allow greediness and land-border disputes to get in the way of the various progressive things that the government wants to bring to them. In Italy, the earth opened and swallowed more than 1,900 people. News we received from China tells us that their capital, Peking, has suffered an earthquake that killed two hundred people outright and seriously injured many others. Now, listen to all the news we have in further detail. The head of our country, General Olusegun Obasanjo, has told the American government plainly that the time has passed when America and her friends can use threats and scare tactics to hold Africans back from the war they are fighting in South Africa. General Obasanjo said this when he was welcoming delegates sent by the Angolan government. He also said . . . (A shout comes from afar.) O! O! O!

CHIBUNNA: Jamike, turn off the radio! Turn it off!

JAMIKE: What's the matter?

CHIBUNNA: Turn it off! (Jamike then turns it off immediately.)

JAMIKE: What is it?

CHIBUNNA: Shhhh! Listen!

ULOAKU: (Shouting) Akabo [name of a local community], don't you all be silent! Olololo! o-o-o! Okpuruka and his people have killed Oguamalam-o! Chei! Chei! Ihiem-ei!

JAMIKE: She called the name of your father. I heard Oguamalam.

CHIBUNNA: Jamike, come, let's go. (They then go running to the place where Ikekwem and his two wives are fighting Oguamalam. Oguamalam grasps his arm firmly. His wives then beat him all over his body.)

NWAIBARI: Take your hands off him, thief! Let him go, may Amadioha [god of thunder] strike and kill you!

OGUAMALAM: Rather than let him go, rather than let him go-- chei! I will die!

NWAIBARI: If you don't let him go, you'll die right now. Take your hands off him.

OGUAMALAM: Rather than leave this palm tree to you, let me die for it. I will not leave this palm tree while I live today.

IKEKWEM: Chei! Are you letting up on him? Strike him so that he dies.

OGUAMALAM: Ye-es! You and your wives will kill me today. If Oguamalam does not die today, Amadioha will strike you dead. Shame on you all.

NWAIBARI: Thief! You will die today. (She takes a stick and tries to strike Oguamalam with it, but strikes her co-wife, Obiageli, on the arm.)

OBIAGELI: My arm-o! My arm-o! Eee! Eee! Nwaibari has killed me-o! She has broken my arm-o! Chei! Chei! My arm-o! My arm-o! She has killed me-o!

NWAIBARI: Alas! Obiageli, I'm sorry! Please I'm sorry! I did not hit you on purpose. Please, I'm sorry! I'm sorry!

OBIAGELI: Take your hands off me! You struck me intentionally. No! No! Take your hands off me. (Uloaku then leaves Ikekwem and Oguamalam, and comes to see what is happening.)

ULOAKU: Obiageli, what is it? What is it?

OBIAGELI: E-ii, look at my arm. Nwaibari has broken my arm. I am dying. (Uloaku then shouts out.)

ULOAKU: People of Akabo, hey, you should not ignore this! An abomination has taken place here-oo! Oh, my goodness! (Obiageli falls to the ground, writhing in pain. Oguamalam and Ikekwem still remain where they are struggling over a head of palm fruit. Just then the palm branch and the rope fall and strike Ikekwem's leg. He cries out.)

IKEKWEM: Ow! Ow! Ow! My leg! My leg! My leg-o-o! My leg-o, chei! I am done for! Oguamalam has killed me-o! My God-o! My God-o! I am done for!

OGUAMALAM: Shut up, thief! It is not Oguamalam who killed you. What you have done has killed you. I hold the ofo and ogu [symbols of innocence]. If you do a deed, make sure your hands are clean. You are a thief.

IKEKWEM: (Gets up suddenly and draws his knife.) May death confront you, beast! May dogs lick your mouth! Is this your mother's land or is it your father's? Wait there, let a dog lick up your blood this morning. (He takes his knife and pursues him. They flail around with knife and stick. Immediately, Chibunna and Jamike run in and break out in tears, as Nwaibari is inciting her husband.)

NWAIBARI: Aha! Kill him! Ikekwem, kill him! Go on after him.

JAMIKE: Hey! Hey! Oh, my God! My God! He is killing him! Oh-o-o-o!

NWAIBARI: Ikekwem, kill him! Honestly, if you do not kill Oguamalam today, I will no longer consider you a man. (Jamike shouts. Uloaku also shoutsl Obiageli is crying, while Chibunna quietly follows behind Ikekwem.)

JAMIKE: Hey! Chibunna, keep it up! A-aa! Please, grab him, grab him! Hey! Chibunna quickly! E! E! E! E ha a a! (Quickly Chibunna comes from behind and grabs Ikekwem by the hand he is using to hold the knife. They struggle for the knife and it falls to the ground. Jamike then picks up the knife from the ground and seeks to run.)

IKEKWEM: Chei! Who did this to me? Don't let him get away. (He immediately follows Jamike. Jamike then throws the knife to Chibunna and dashes away. Chibunna gives his father the knife, quickly takes up the head of palm nuts and tries to leave. But Oguamalam does not allow it.)

OGUAMALAM: No! Bring me the palm fruit, and take the knife. (He returns the knife to him and takes the palm fruit.) Don't cut anyone with the knife.

IKEKWEM: Chei! I am dead! You women whose only strength is in eating! Did you allow Oguamalam to take the palm fruit and leave? Chei! Ikekwem! A goat has eaten a palm frond from my head! The leopard has broken his leg and the deer comes to collect his debt. Chase him. Don't allow him to leave. Really, if Oguamalam takes that palm fruit today, you all will run back to your fathers' houses today.

NWAIBARI: (She chases him and shouts.) Thief! Thief! Don't let him escape. Oguamalam, thief! It is someone else's palm fruit! Don't let him escape! (Chibunna steps in front of her.)

CHIBUNNA: Shiii! If you keep on shouting here, I will put this knife in your stomach and chop you like okra now.

NWAIBARI: Thief! I'm here! Okay, go ahead and cut my stomach! Ehee! Look at my stomach, cut it. Cut my stomach and let the death that kills young boys cut your own stomach now. Are you going to run? Can't you see any more to cut my stomach?

CHIBUNNA: Are you raining all these curses on me?


CHIBUNNA: Are you raining these curses on me?

NWAIBARI: Yes! I am raining them on you. What are you going to do?

CHIBUNNA: Very well. Stay there and let me lay my hands on you. (He swings his knife around and approaches her. Nwaibari then runs away.)

NWAIBARI: Run! He has come! Oh! Oh! He has a knife!

CHIBUNNA: (Laughs.) Ha! ha! ha! ha! Fear is life! I think you're not afraid of death. Why do you run for your life? (Obiageli then enters in.)

OBIAGELI: Come on, look at me, kill me. You won't take this palm fruit home today. It's because of this palm fruit that I have an injured arm. Rather than your carrying it away, let both of my arms be injured at once.

CHIBUNNA: Ehe! Do you want to test me, to see what I will do? Okay, come. If you think that Imo [name of river] has dried up, stick your foot in and see.

OBIAGELI: Look at me. I am here. Kill me so you can kill yourself and your father now.

CHIBUNNA: If you are someone who does not die, stand there and let me come. (He strikes his knife on the ground as though he were going to chase her. Obiageli backs up a little. Chibunna laughs.) He! he! he! he! I-am-looking-for-death has seen death and has run. The hawk and the ogankwo [chicken-hawk] looked for a fight and then ran away. The little bird, not yet having sprouted wings, said that he would go. What do you think that you will do?

OBIAGELI: Shut up, thief! The hawk's offspring will not fail to carry off chickens. Let thievery kill both you and your father. And the thievery that killed your mother will kill you too.

CHIBUNNA: Are you raining all these curses on my mother and my father? Eh? God forbid evil. (He raises his knife up high.) Stand there so that the death that kills women may kill you. May Amadioha [god of thunder] also strike you. Stand up so I can cut you to pieces--slice you like okra this morning. (He chases her vigorously.) The vultures will peck at your flesh today.

OBIAGELI: I am dead! I am dead! Chei! Cheee-o! He has killed me, oh! He has killed me, oh! Alas! Alas! Alas! (They then run out.)


In the house of Oguamalam Okemkpi. Oguamalam is grinding snuff on the grinding stone. He then talks to himself.)
OGUAMALAM: Chei! This world and jealousy! Never in my life have I heard of a person using his two hands to claim something not his own forcefully like this. What does Ikekwem think that I am? Does he think that out of fear for my life I will leave this "Main farmland" bush to him? (He bursts out laughing.) He! he! he! he! The lizard yearns to squat, but his long tail will not allow it. They say that if Ikekwem had a nose he would have taken snuff. He has seen with his two eyes that if you keep on beating a weak person, one day he learns how to be strong. (He starts to grind his snuff again, then starts to sing. He grinds a bit, then suddenly stops, as though he had forgotten something important.) Ehe! Where is this child? Chibunna! Chibunna!

CHIBUNNA: (He answers from outside.) O-o-o-o! (Chibunna then enters. He has the knife in his hand.)

OGUAMALAM: Where have you been all this time?

CHIBUNNA: Nwaibari, Uncle Ikekwem's wife, and Obiageli were cursing you and my mother. So I chased them.

OGUAMALAM: I hope you did not cut anyone?

CHIBUNNA: I did not cut anyone. I only chased them.

OGUAMALAM: Leave that bad woman Nwaibari alone. The day that death kills Ikekwem, Nwaibari will be the cause of it. On that day he will know that the way bitter kola sounds in the mouth is not the way it tastes. Now, go and take this palm fruit behind the house. Don't leave it for the chickens.

CHIBUNNA: Father, after I finish carrying this palm fruit, I am going to go to Jamike's place.

OGUAMALAM: You haven't yet carried away this palm fruit as I told you to do and you are already looking for a place to go.

CHIBUNNA: I said I would first tell you before I go.

OGUAMALAM: Oh! I heard you. Now start carrying the palm fruit I told you to take behind the house. (Chibunna then lifts up the palm fruit and carries it off.) Aha! Chibunna, don't forget to tell me when you go to Jamike's so I can give you a message for his father.

CHIBUNNA: All right. (He takes the palm fruit and leaves. Oguamalam starts to grind his snuff again. He is still doing this when Ikekwem enters.)

IKEKWEM: Oguamalam, I want you to give me that palm fruit now. (Oguamalam keeps on grinding his snuff vigorously, not saying a word to him.) Oguamalam, I am talking to you. Bring me that palm fruit immediately.

OGUAMALAM: Which palm fruit are you talking about, Ikekwem? Eh? I'm asking you. Which palm fruit are you telling me to bring to you?

IKEKWEM: You don't know which palm fruit it is? That time when you used your thieving hands to snatch it away in the "Main farmland" bush, didn't you know that it was not your palm fruit, eh?

OGUAMALAM: Ikekwem, please go away. I am not you, whom the world has blessed with riches. Please, give Oguamalam a chance, so I can concentrate on my own life.

IKEKWEM: Beast, do you think I came to play games in your house this afternoon? If you do not bring out this palm fruit now, my compound and yours will come to an end completely this afternoon.

OGUAMALAM: Only your compound will come to an end. God forbid! May Oguamalam's compound not come to an end.

IKEKWEM: You do not want to bring me the palm fruit that I cut down with my own hands?

OGUAMALAM: Ikekwem, I told you to go away. Stop disrupting my life all the time. Go and rest yourself. The grasshopper that was killed by the hornbill was done in because of deafness.

IKEKWEM: All right. Since you think that I'm a goat for coming here, bring me that palm fruit immediately. (He raises the stick he is holding.)

OGUAMALAM: Hey! Are you determined to carry off this palm fruit? Since you came to my house to fight, I will take you up on it. I am not going to bring it out. Do as you wish.

IKEKWEM: Oguamalam, do you know that you are a thief?

OGUAMALAM: Yes, let me be. Have I ever stolen anything of yours?

IKEKWEM: You are a thief! One-who-carries-off-someone-else's-palm-fruit! Today's theft will be your undoing. You must bring me that palm fruit now.

OGUAMALAM: Hm! hm! hm! Ikekwem, go home! Go home!

IKEKWEM: I will not go.

OGUAMALAM: Go home. The fly that has no one to advise it doesn't realize that it is following the corpse to the land of the spirits. Ikekwem, I have told you to go home. If the ear is warned but does not listen, when the head is cut off the ears are cut off as well. You will use your head to bring on death this afternoon. Go home.

IKEKWEM: Shut your rotten mouth, thief! (Nwaibari then enters.)

NWAIBARI: You are swelling up like bread rising, what are you going to do? (Ikekwem then grabs the end of Oguamalam's cloth.)

IKEKWEM: Say another word and I will show you what the fire did to the rat' s ear.

NWAIBARI: Hit him in the head. Squeeze that mouth of his that he uses to speak against his God.

OGUAMALAM: The vicious woman sprouts teeth while still in the womb! Don't you have hands yourself? Come and squeeze my mouth.

NWAIBARI: I'm able to do it. What are you going to do?

IKEKWEM: I told you, say another word and I'll do to you what the kitchen knife did to the roasted yam. Let me show you what Nara [a personal name] does to mad people.

OGUAMALAM: So much talk is not good in the secret bush. You're holding my hand and you have your stick. Get started with what you have in mind.

NWAIBARI: Ikekwem, I told you to hit him in the mouth. What are you waiting for? Do you do nothing while these rotten words are spewing from his mouth? Hit him in the mouth.

OGUAMALAM: Didn't you hear the voice of your warrior? What's holding you back? I think that Oguamalam should have been dead by now. Nwaibari told you to hit me in the mouth. What are you waiting for? Here is my mouth, break it. Yes, hit my body so you can see that the fluid that covers the snail's eyes is not really tears.

IKEKWEM: Shut up, beast! shut up!

NWAIBARI: Ikekwem, you are the one who ignored him. You ignored him while these bad things are coming out of his mouth.

OGUAMALAM: Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! People who are desperate for the mighty palm tree, come and carry off the palm fruit and eat. Kill yourselves with eating palm fruit. Now take this thieving hand of yours off my cloth. (He strikes Ikekwem's hand off. Ikekwem then pokes his finger at his mouth.)

IKEKWEM: May Amadioha [god of thunder] strike and break your neck.

OGUAMALAM: May he strike you down and rub your mouth on the ground.

IKEKWEM: And may death kill you.

OGUAMALAM: May he kill you and your wife Nwaibari. Both of you are jealous.

NWAIBARI: Shut up! (She gives Oguamalam a blow with the whip and then runs. Oguamalam picks up the whip, chases her and whips her repeatedly. Immediately Obiageli, Ukadike and Amadi come in. Obiageli and Amadi console Nwaibari and prevent her from starting to fight again with Oguamalam. Nwaibari then breaks out sobbing, raining various curses on Oguamalam.) Oguamalam, you palm fruit thief! You beat me like this, may the spirits also beat you to death. Let me go so I can flog him back.

OBIAGELI: Stop it. You are not going anywhere.

NWAIBARI: Obiageli, let go of me. Indeed I will not leave Oguamalam today.

AMADI: Mother, please stop. Uncle will beat you to death. Please, don't go at him again. (He too starts to cry. Ukadike stands nearby, but says nothing. Oguamalam keeps going forward as if to go back to his house.)

IKEKWEM: Chei! Should I stay in the water and let soap enter my eyes? God forbid. Oguamalam, what did you do to my wife? Indeed, on the day that I do to you what I am going to do to you, if you are given water to wash your hands, you will drink it. Chei! My God! What do I hold in my hand right now? (He runs toward Oguamalam and hits him in the head with a stick.)

OGUAMALAM: Chei! chei! chei! chei! Did you hit me with this stick? Eh? Did you hit me with this stick? (He goes after him vigorously.)

IKEKWEM: Yes! Put in your hands so I can break them! Put in your head! (Oguamalam then reaches him and lifts him up. Obiageli and Nwaibari then start to grab Oguamalam by the legs, beating him, while Ukadike keeps trying to separate them. Amadi then pickes up the whip and flogs Oguamalam. But U kadike hits him immediately and chases him off. Oguamalam is still holding Ikekwem to the ground.)

OGUAMALAM: Death will meet you today!

NWAIBARI: Oguamalam, leave my husband for me! Oh, leave my husband for me! He has killed my husband!

IKEKWEM: (He shouts.) O! O! O! O! I am dead! Akabo! Akabo! Chei! Alas! Alas! Alas! O! O! I am dead!

OGUAMALAM: You will die today! You will die today because of someone else' s property! Chei! Look at how your children are attacking me! You all will kill Oguamalam today. Hey, Chibunna! Chibunna! (Chibunna runs in.)

CHIBUNNA: Do you all want to kill my father? (He grabs Nwaibari by the leg and pulls her away.) Amadi, if you interfere here again, you will see your death. (Ogbuehi and Nwokoro then dash out and start to separate them. Ukaibe follows behind them.)

OGBUEHI: Take your hands off! Take your hands off immediately! May God not permit evil! Why do two grown men like you call each other names? Akabo, it's war!

NWOKORO: Oguamalam, let him go! Let him go! You all have defiled the lnd. (They drag the two of them apart. Nwokoro holds Oguamalam, while Ogbuehi holds Ikekwem by the waist.)

IKEKWEM: Give me a chance! Give me a chance to kill him! (He touches his mouth and feels a bit of blood.) Oh, my mouth! I will not leave him! No! No! No! Take your hands off me! Ogbuehi, take your hands off me so I can take my revenge! Chei!

OGBUEHI: Be quiet! Aren't you ashamed? Do you all want the whole of Akabo to come and watch you this afternoon?

IKEKWEM: Yes, let them watch us.

OGBUEHI: Close your mouth, wild animal! Are you not a man?

IKEKWEM: No! No! Don't tell me anything. Take your hands off me so I can take revenge on him. Ogbuehi! Ogbuehi! Leave me so I can take revenge on him. Look at my mouth! See how Oguamalam has smashed my mouth. (He shows him the blood on his hand.) Really, I won't leave Oguamalam today.

OGBUEHI: Nor will I let go of you. Let me see what you want to do.

OGUAMALAM: Let him loose! He sees someone else's property and agrees to face death. The eye sees but the heart does not want to yield! Ogbuehi, release him. Let me show him what the spirits did to the goat's ear.

NWOKORO: Close your mouth, strong man! Are you not ashamed that a grown man like you, living in his own house, came out to fight the way children do? "Leave him, so I can show him die-die-die." (He imitates him.) Now see Ikekwem and beat him to death. (Oguamalam then calms down and bites his fingers.)

OGUAMALAM: All right. (He points his finger at Ikekwem.) Thank your god today. Really, when you get home today, cook up something and eat. One day the crab that has swum the entire Imo River will not be able to swim out of the old woman's soup pot. Try me another day, so you can see my handiwork. (He calls Chibunna.) Chibunna!


OGUAMALAM: Quickly, come into the house.

CHIBUNNA: His wife wanted to hit me with a stick.

OGUAMALAM: If she even touches your body, take that gun and shoot her in the eye. Whatever the result, let it happen. Shall I keep on avoiding them and swallow a razor blade? May the land of Akabo not allow it! (Chibunna enters their house, imitating Ikekwem and the people of his household.)

IKEKWEM: Ogbuehi and Nwokoro, have you seen what you all did to me today? Have you seen what you did to me?

NWOKORO: What did we do to you? Aren't you a human being?

OGBUEHI: Never mind the beast. Not even a half cent of shame is in his eyes. See how a young man like you who has a household has disgraced himself this afternoon. What are you going to tell children, if they behave like this in front of you? God forbid! Ogbuehi, do not become this type of fool!

NWOKORO: Look, Ikekwem. Let me tell you the truth. You are doing something the spirits will hold against you. How can you and all your household come to the house of your fellow man to fight? Thank your god that Oguamalam is not a person who is hotheaded and remorseless, like you. If it were I, I would take a knife and cut your head and chop off these ears that are used for decoration. You will be guilty before both spirits and humans. Indeed, if I were you, I would turn and go back to my house before people start to gather here. The villagers will fine you for your bad behavior this afternoon.

OGBUEHI: Leave him, Nwokoro. One who does not agree will agree when tied to the stake. If the sheep bleats so much that the leopard comes, let the sheep run away. Nwokolo, I am leaving. Ikekwem, look at Oguamalam and kill him. You saw a sheep that has no owner. But remember that one who chases after a chicken has to fall, while the chicken's lot is only to waddle. I am leaving. Look at the road, look at the forest, choose the one you like. If one's ears are warned but he refuses to listen, on the day his head is cut off, the head and ears are cut off together. (He leaves.)

NWOKORO: Ikekwem, I am leaving. If a wise man is warned, he knows something, but if a fool is warned, he breaks his neck to head for the bush. Use your tongue to count your teeth.

IKEKWEM: It is you, Oguamalam, I am going to lay my hands on in this village. Before this year ends, the dry season rain must fall. (He calls his wives.) You women who use your mouths to cut irokos! Come on and let us leave. (He leaves.)

NWAIBARI: Oguamalam, death will kill you and that vicious son of yours, Chibunna, one day.


In Ikekwem's house. It is Orie morning. Ikekwem and his two wives and two sons are inside the house.)
IKEKWEM: You all have seen with your own eyes the way the moon stays in the sky as though a person had placed it there. This matter concerning the "Main farmland" bush does not let me sleep a wink. It will be an abomination that the Okemkpi household, being only one person, defeated the children of Okpuruka who are three hefty young men and three women. Shame has left you all, but it is on me. Look at what happened yesterday! Chei! (He chews his fingers.) Not having people has undone me! What I have is only good-for-nothing, come-eat-the-food-is-cooked people, and talk-heads. If chicken feathers fill the basket it is still not heavy. What I want to tell you all this Orie-ikpa morning [Orie is a day of the Igbo week, ikpa a name of a market] is that the children of Okpuruka must take hold of this "Main farmland" bush. Rather than this not being done, I will kill you and myself as well. Beginning from this Orie day, anyone who sees Oguamalam should kill him. If it pleases heaven, let it fall on my head. That is all I want to tell you this morning.

UKADIKE: Father, may you not die early. All of us here now have heard everything you said. The sons of Okpuruka who did not hear it, Dede and Amajuoyi, are those who in the city. I am your eldest son. If you start to do anything that I do not support, won't you abandon it? I want to tell you that I have investigted and questioned everything concerning this "Main farmland" bush. I have questioned the elders in our compound about this land and have discovered that the "Main farmland" bush does not belong to the children of Okpuruka. (Ikekwem then slaps his face.)

IKEKWEM: Shut your mouth, beast! Foolish son! Who told you to speak this abomination? Indeed, if I hear these foolish words from your mouth again, I will no longer acknowledge you as my eldest son.

OBIAGELI: Master, it would be good to listen to what Ukadike is saying.

IKEKWEM: Close your mouth! See how you look like a spirit-slave. What is he saying? I don't want to hear any woman's voice here. You all were made to be seen, not heard. (They all then murmur among themselves.)

UKADIKE: Father, wait, let me finish what I have to say. Don't stop me. I won't do anything that the spirits will find me guilty of. Let me say it now. I have no desire to struggle for this "Main farmland" bush. It is the land of the children of Okemkpi. Since Oguamalam is the only one left in that family, that land belongs to him. I will not support anyone who would cheat him because he is the only one. God forbids it. Amadio ha forbids it too. The land of Akabo will not allow it. Women and Amadi, if you want to follow Father, go ahead and follow him. I want no part of it. That is all I have to say. The person who swats the wasp is the one it will sting.

AMADI: I support what Ukadike has said.

IKEKWEM: Close your rotten mouths, you sheep. If you all say another word, I will take a knife and cut off yur heads now. (He draws his knife and waves it in front of them. Just then there is a knock on the door.)

OGBUEHI: Knock! Knock! Knock!

IKEKWEM: Who is it? Come in. (Ogbuehi enters.)

OGBUEHI: Greetings to all.

IKEKWEM: Ogbuehi, good morning. (They all then greet Ogbuehi.)

THE OTHERS: Good morning, father.

OGBUEHI: Good morning, my children.

IKEKWEM: Nwaibari, bring me kola so I can eat with Ogbuehi.

OGBUEHI: Never mind the kola, my brother. The ofo-title-holders of Ihenweorie want to see you and Oguamalam and your households before Amadioha tomorrow morning, which is Afo Amadioha. You all should arrive before the market drum sounds. That's the message I came to bring.

IKEKWEM: May you not die early. We will come. Are you saying that you will not wait for morning kola?

OGBUEHI: All right. One does not refuse morning kola.

IKEKWEM: Nwaibari, what about that kola?

NWAIBARI: I am coming. (She enters and brings Ikekwem kola in a clay bowl.)

OGBUEHI: (Ikekwem gives him kola.) May you not die early. This kola is white kola. (He breaks it open and chews it noisily.) I must go. Remember tomorrow morning.

IKEKWEM: All right. Go well. Ukadike, go to Nwokoro's house and ask for some wine for me to carry to the ofo-title-holders tomorrow morning. Tell him to save me two gallons or four half gallons.

UKADIKE: All right. Amadi, come, let's go.

AMADI: Good, let's go. (They go out.)

IKEKWEM: Nwaibari, and Obiageli! Is someone going to eat your food today?

NWAIBARI: Let me go and see what I have on the fire. (She goes out.)

OBIAGELI: Husband, I would like to go to Nwosudo's house, so he can rub medicine on my arm. It is hurting me badly.

IKEKWEM: Why haven't you gone before now? (Obiageli goes out. Ikekwem sits down, peering at the ceiling. He gets up and wanders around inside the house, talking.)

IKEKWEM: Drat! God forbid! What am I going to tell people to explain my weakness? Is it because I heard the voice of a child not yet weaned that I should have a shameful fight? Chei! Ikekwem, I have suffered greatly. Who is Ukadike? Isn't he the child I bore with the sweat of my body? Is he the one to decide what I should do? Am I going to be a coward? My father Okpuruka was a strong man in his lifetime. The fox does not bear a cowardly child. I will not bring shame on myself because of a small child who interferes in a matter that adults are supposed to handle. It would have been possible for me to abandon the matter if Oguamalam had not humiliated me before women and other people. See how he tossed me around before the public! If I leave the matter this way, everyone will laugh at me. They will call me a woman. Never again can I come out to speak in the village square and have my words taken seriously. Does one refuse to fight a war out of fear of being killed? No! My heart is strong. Whether good or bad, whether this land belongs to my father or not, what I know is that I will contest for it to the very end. I am a strong man. Whatever a strong man can do, I will do. Rather than a strong man suffer shame, let him die prematurely. (He stoops down, takes out a snuff-grinding stone, puts his hand into his medicine bag and takes out snuff and some powdered snuff or potash, places them on top of the grinding-stone, then starts to look for the top or hand stone.) Where have those children of vipers put my hand stone for my snuff? Ukadike! Amadi! Amadi! Really, they have thrown away my hand stone. (He reaches under the bamboo chair and brings out the hand stone.) Now see where those bad spoiled children and their mother Nwaibari have put this hand stone, and I have been groping around all the time. (He then takes it and starts to grind the snuff. While he is grinding it, the curtain falls.)


(Near the house of Oguamalam. Ukadike and Amadi are going together to fetch a pot of wine at Mr. Nwokoro's house.)
UKADIKE: Amadi, come on, let's hurry. Father will scold us if we don't return soon. AMADI: Go on ahead, I'll call Chibunna to go with us.

UKADIKE: Come on, let's go. His father won't allow him to go with us.

AMADI: I'll call him from the road. His father won't know. (Ukadike then goes out. Amadi goes a little way, then starts to call Chibunna in a low voice. He calls him twice before he answers.)

AMADI: Hey! Hey! Hey!


AMADI: E-o! E-o! (Chibunna comes running. He holds a home-made bicycle made of oil palm fronds.)

CHIBUNNA: O! Amadi! How are you?

AMADI: Fine! Are you doing something for your father in the house?

CHIBUNNA: No, but father said that he and I were going to go together to the O-ji-ofo today.

AMADI: I'm going to go with my father. He sent me and Ukadike to go and fetch wine for him from Uncle Nwokoro's place. Come along with us.

CHIBUNNA: Okay, let's go. My father has tapped the wine we will take with us.

AMADI: You're lucky. My father doesn't know how to tap either nkwu [wine from the oil palm, strong alcohol content] or ngwo [wine from the raffia palm with sweeter taste]. Hurry, let's run to catch up with Ukadike. (They start to run. They then see another child, Chidi, coming along in front of them with a home-made bicycle. Amadi blocks his way.)

AMADI: Come, give me your bicycle so I can ride it a bit!

CHIDI: No, I'm using it to do an errand for my mother.

AMADI: You must give it to me now. Is it a law that you have to use it to do this errand?

CHIBUNNA: Amadi, let him alone, let's take mine.

AMADI: He must give it to me. He is as stubborn as a palm-tree rat. (Amadi then grabs the bicycle.)

CHIDI: Mm! Mm! Leave my bicycle for me. You're asking for trouble from me. Now what have I done to you? Chibunna, tell Amadi to leave my bicycle for me.

CHIBUNNA: Amadi, leave his bicycle for him. Is that bicycle yours? (Amadi then pokes Chidi's cheek and calls him a beast.)

CHIDI: (Pokes Amadi's cheek too.) You are a beast yourself. (Amadi then tramples on his bicycle and breaks it. Chidi breaks out in tears and starts to fight with Amadi.)

AMADI: Ride yourself to death on the bicycle. I will trample on that ugly bicycle of yours and break it.

CHIDI: You will pay me for my bicycle. Pay me for my bicycle now. (Chidi then strikes him and they start to fight. Chibunna then comes to separate them. He runs between them and places a hand on each one's face.)

CHIBUNNA: Don't fight. Come on and wrestle. No one should strike the other on the body. Now, start. (They then start to wrestle and keep on struggling. Amadi lifts Chidi by the leg, but Chidi holds him firmly by the neck, then throws him to the ground.)

CHIDI: I've caught him. (Chibunna separates them, then grasps Amadi's hand so he does not strike Chidi.)

CHIBUNNA: E! E! Chidi, let him alone! Now take your bicycle and run away. (Chidi takes his bicycle and runs away. Amadi then tries to escape from Chibunna's hands. Immediately, Ukadike comes in carrying wine.)

UKADIKE: Chibunna, what is it? Take your hands off him right away. What did he do to you? (Amadi is crying.)

CHIBUNNA: I'm not the one he was fighting. It was he and Chidi, the son of Uncle Elegalam.

UKADIKE: Who started it?

CHIBUNNA: Amadi kept badgering him to give him his bicycle. Chidi refused. Amadi then trampled on his bicycle and broke it. They started to fight and I intervened and told them to wrestle. Chidi then threw him.

AMADI: Wasn't it because you held me that he threw me?

CHIBUNNA: I didn't hold him at all. Chidi threw him to the ground. I then decided to go between them. Amadi, is that how you are? You're lying.

UKADIKE: Okay. Amadi, let's go home. I'll tell father that you do nothing on the road except fight, fight. See how sandy you are.

AMADI: I will not go home. Go home yourself.

UKADIKE: All right. I'm leaving to go and tell this to father. (He goes out. Immediately, Oguamalam starts calling to Chibunna.)

OGUAMALAM: Chibunna-e! Chibunna-e!

CHIBUNNA: O! (He runs out. Amadi then slowly follows Ukadike. The curtain closes, then quickly opens again.)

In Oguamalam's house

OGUAMALAM: Where have you been since morning?

CHIBUNNA: I went to answer a call from the road.

OGUAMALAM: Who was calling you?

CHIBUNNA: It was Amadi, Uncle Ikekwem's son.

OGUAMALAM: I've been telling you for a long time to stop associating with Ikekwem's children. But you don't listen. Not listening to what they are told is what kills children. The day Ikekwem will hit you on the head on account of his children is the day you will find out that the fly that has no one to advise him follows the corpse to the land of the spirits. Just keep it up. (Chibunna starts to frown and mutter.)

OGUAMALAM: Have you swept the house this morning?


OGUAMALAM: What you are good at is playing. I would have loved it if your mother had been alive now. (Chibunna then takes the broom that is leaning against the house, and begins to sweep it. He sings a song while he sweeps. Oguamalam then goes out.)

CHIBUNNA: Hawk! Hawk! Leave my chicken for me. Hawk! Hawk! Leave my chicken for me. What did my chicken do? Its mother brought it along to scratch for food, leave my chicken for me. Your relatives, don't they eat food? Leave my chicken for me. My trap, catch and kill a hawk for me, leave my chicken for me. Hunter, shoot the hawk for me, hawk leave my chicken for me. Let the bones of my chicken kill you, leave my chicken for me. Hawk, hawk, hawk, you are a thief-o-o-o.

OGUAMALAM: Chibunna! Chibunnanwolu! (He calls him from outside.)


OGUAMALAM: Have you finished sweeping the house?


OGUAMALAM: Come and carry the wine and let's go to the court in O-ji-ofo Orie-ikpa.

CHIBUNNA: Am I to go without eating first?

OGUAMALAM: All right, go and get your food and eat it quickly. If you like, you can pick at it slowly like the partridges, until it's afternoon. (Chibu nna then takes the food that is on a plate and molds it with both hands.)

CHIBUNNA: Father, I have finished eating. Thank you.

OGUAMALAM: You're welcome, son. Come, let me lift the wine to your head. (He lifts the wine pot to his head.) Is that all right?

CHIBUNNA: Yes, it is settled.

OGUAMALAM: Now, let's go. (They then go out.)

(In the house of Ikekwem Okpuruka, the drum sounds loudly.)

IKEKWEM: Nwaibari! Nwaibari e-e! Obiageli!

NWAIBARI and OBIAGELI: Our husband!

IKEKWEM: Isn't it dawn yet in your eyes? Didn't you hear the drum sounding?

NWAIBARI: We heard it. Obiageli, Amadi, quickly come out, let's go. (They come out, dressed alike as the women of their house do.)

IKEKWEM: What about Ukadike? Nwaibari, I am asking you, where is that foolish son of yours?

NWAIBARI: (She calls Ukadike.) Ukadike! Ukadike!

UKADIKE: Mother!

NWAIBARI: Your father is calling you. (Ukadike comes in.)

IKEKWEM: One-who-says-something-and-that's-it, father of Okpuruka! What are you doing? Do you not want to go with your age-mates to the court in O-ji-ofo of Orie-ikpa?

UKADIKE: Father, I am not going. Tomorrow we start school. I want to wash all my clothes today, and then iron them. I will return to our school early tomorrow morning.

IKEKWEM: I knew you wouldn't go. Beast! If I win this land, is it I, Ikekwem, who has trodden the road of spirits and humans, who would reap the benefits of it? Look at your book and read, let the book read you. A person will not remind one whose mother has died that he should start crying. Amadi, carry the wine. Now let's go. It's getting late. (They go out.)


Before the Amadioha shrine; things are arranged there to show that it is a shrine to the great god, Amadioha, while two other small gods stand at either side of him. Njoku Ogwugwu, Chief of the Ofo-holders, is sweeping the shrine, while Ogbuehi and Iwejua beat a drum. They stop. Njoku then begins to perform a sacrifice at the shrine. )
NJOKU: That's enough o! (He waves his hand for them to stop beating the drum. He takes out four small kola nuts, gives Ogbuehi one, gives Iwejua one, and keeps two.) Chei! Chee! Chee! Amadioha, good morning! Okahia Ogwugwu and Uramurukwa [the lesser gods], greetings. It is Njoku Ogwugwu, Chief of the Ofo-holders, greeting you. Amadioha, look at the kola nut. (He throws out one to him.)

OGBUEHI: Uramurukwa! Great river with a beginning but no end, look at the kola nut. (He throws out one kola nut to him.)

IWEJUA: Okahia Ogwugwu, bush that consumes snakes, who bought ochasi [leafy green vegetable] that prevented the monkey from climbing, look at the kola nut today! (He throws out to him the one he holds in his hand.)

NJOKU: Ogbuehi and Iwejua, heads of Ofo-holders, kola has come. (They then strike their staffs on the ground.)

BOTH: Yaa!

NJOKU: Amadioha! One-who-kills-and-licks-blood! One who judges the case that is too much for spirits and humans! One who chases away flies for the cow that has no tail! Look at blood and lick it up! (He cuts off a chicken's head, then scatters its blood on a nearby palm branch.) Okahia Ogwugwu, powerful one whose back does not touch the ground, look at blood and lick it up. (He scatters blood on it. He sneezes three times.) Ahchoo! My-life! Ahchoo! Ahchoo! My-life-o. Strength of the town! I do not answer the call of the spirits! God forbid! (He spits.) Staff of innocence, do not hold me guilty! It's the name God gave me. Rather than die, I prefer to be lost. Even if I lack everything, I will not lack someone to look for me. One who holds the drum also holds the staff of innocence.

ALL: E haa! You are innocent.

NJOKU: As to the dispute over the holding of the ofo, guilt will be decided by the spirits. If the one whose long life I make sacrifices for then wishes me dead, when I give him a vicious dog, may he see it as a lapdog!

ALL: E-haa! Innocence of the spirits. (They strike their staffs on the ground.)

NJOKU: He who comes to kill me kills himself as well. The one I showed the way to life, if he chooses that of death, when he reincarnates, may he go to sleep before the chickens [refers to dying early].

ALL: E-haa! Innocence of the spirits! (They strike their staffs on the ground.)

NJOKU: God created heaven and earth, then created human beings to all live in peace and joy. the one who says that only he should live and his fellow men should not live, may he lack family in the world and in the spirit land.

ALL: E haa! Innocence of the spirits! (They strike their staffs on the ground.)

NJOKU: Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch, the one that tells the other not to perch, not only will its wing break but its leg will break too: may it also fly out from its place so another one may perch there. He who consumes deathly things will wait for death. He who commits an abomination against the earth, may he be found guilty by the spirits.

ALL: E-haa! E-haa! Amen! (They strike their staffs on the ground three times.) Lord, you have heard.

NJOKU: Ogbuehi, bring me that wine that is in the small [clay] pot. Don' t bring the one in the white man's pot [glass bottle].

OGBUEHI: Who mixed that?

NJOKU: It was Nwadibia. I bought it in the name of Osuji Anajem. He wanted to use it to sue Nwigbe because of his yams that she uprooted and left out on the ground.

IWEJUA: Njoku, my friend! Have you noticed that something bad has entered this town? Why would a full-grown woman uproot yams planted on a farm, without fear of spirits or humans? God forbid bad things!

NJOKU: Let's leave this topic now. I have used mature eyes to look for something in the bag and have seen that Uhia-Njoku [farm deity] has reached the time when it makes rain fall during dry season.

IWEJUA: Ogbuehi, pour the wine for us quickly. It is getting late. (Ogbuehi then pours for each one in the cup he brings out, but he does not fill their cups up to the brim. Njoku then throws out some wine on the ground.)

NJOKU: God who lives in heaven, whose loincloth drags on the earth, whose heavy footsteps trample the earth, whose wide eyes see all the movements of spirits and humans, hear my voice-o! Amadioha hear my voice. Okahia Ogwugwu and Uramurukwa, I come with the staff of innocence. We came this morning for the welfare of the land. Let what belongs to the poor person come to him, and what belongs to the wealthy person come to him. We came so that there might be peace to great and small in this town. If anyone ill-treats his fellow man, may you not allow him to use his two eyes to see anything good in life.

ALL: (Everyone then throws out wine before their gods.) Haa!

NJOKU: If anyone sees the wealth of a widow and snatches it away from her because she has no one to speak for her, please, let him be reborn feet first. In any world to which he returns, let his wife also become a widow.

ALL: Haa! (They throw out wine.)

NJOKU: We came for a peaceful talk, and if anyone says that he does not like peace, let him come from the earth and drink his own wine.

ALL: Haa! (They throw out wine.)

NJOKU: Amadioha drink wine! (He throws wine before Amadioha.) Okahia-Ogwugwu drink wine! (Iwejua then throws wine before his own deity.) Uramurukwa drink wine too! (Ogbuehi then throws wine before his own deity.) May today's matter go smoothly.

ALL: Haa! Amen!

OGBUEHI: Bring out your cups so I can pour them for you one each. There will not be enough for two each. (They present their cups one by one.)

NJOKU: Beat the big drum, so people will come. The time has arrived. Iwejua, prepare the place where the Ekpe musicians will sit and play their music. Please, do it quickly! (People then gather before the Amadioha shrine. The Ekpe drummers then arrange their instruments. Ekpe music then starts. The Chief Ofo title-holder, Njoku, dances around, holding kola in one hand and a fan in the other. While he dances, he runs back and forth until he reaches the front of the Ekpe dancers, then thrusts his kola into the earth. The music stops abruptly.)

NJOKU: Che, che, chei, Akabo kwenu! [greetings].


NJOKU: Che, che, chei, Ogwuama kwenu!


NJOKU: Che, che, chei, villagers kwenu!


NJOKU: Igbo kwenu!


NJOKU: Kwenu!


NJOKU: Kwezuenu! [more emphatic]

CROWD: Yaaa! (Njoku then clears his throat.)

NJOKU: Chiefs and villagers, may you not die early. The main matter at hand this morning concerns a quarrel between the households of Ikekwem Okpuruka and Oguamalam Okemkpi. Before we say anything else, it would be good for the chicken that is being wished a good life to come out before the native doctor [chicken" here refers to a human being].

NWOKORO: Ikekwem Okpuruka!

IKEKWEM: (He answers.) I am here.

NWOKORO: You and your people come and take seats here. (He points them to seast on his left, facing the people of the town.) Oguamalam Okemkpi!

OGUAMALAM: He is here.

NWOKORO: You and your son come and take seats here. (He points them to seats on his right, then he too sits down. Njoku then rises.)

NJOKU: Chiefs and villagers, kwenu!


NJOKU: See here the two people who brought us here this morning. Ikekwem and Oguamalam, greetings!

BOTH: Greetings!

NJOKU: The citizenry have told me to issue a call to you two this morning, so you can tell them what is causing a quarrel between the dog and the feces. [Village dogs were always hungry, even to the point of eating feces.] So, you will explain to all the townspeople what made you bring us a bad thing in this town. The chiefs and the people will sit here and decide this matter so that peace will be restored between you. Ihenweorie-ikpa greetings!

THE CROWD: Yaa! That's what we said. (Iwejua then rises.)

IWEJUA: Ihenweorie kwenu! [a form of salutation].


IWEJUA: One does not see a child's teeth empty-handed. [Refers to the custom of giving a gift if one is the first to notice that a baby's teeth have started to emerge.] Bring your wine of judgment, and kola nut for the people here. (They bring them out.)

NJOKU: We have seen your wine. Ihenweorie-ikpa kwenu!


NJOKU: The next thing we will look into is Osuji Anajem's suit against Nwigbe. Is Osuji here?

OSUJI: Yes! I am here.

NWOKORO: Come out here. (He comes out.)

NJOKU: We have seen your wine. What is your matter about?

OSUJI: I use this wine to sue Nwigbe, Oparaeke's wife. Last Eke day, Nwigbe entered my farm that is near their house and uprooted fifteen splits of yams I had just newly planted. Up to now, I haven't seen those yam splits. What she used them for, the son of Anajem does not know. What I want is for Nwigbe to pay me 27 ikpoghe [monetary unit, such as cowrie shell] for these yams she dug up.

NJOKU: All right. Countrymen, have you heard Osuji's side?


NJOKU: We will look into this matter after we finish judging the first one. Ihenweorie kwenu!


NJOKU: What brought us here this morning is to have a peace talk. There is nothing sweeter than brothers living in unity, because in unity there is strength. Therefore, we don't want anyone to cause disturbances in this matter this morning. Villagers, greetings!

THE CROWD: Greetings!

NJOKU: Oguamalam, explain to us the gist of your quarrel. (He sits down.)

OGUAMALAM: Ihenweorie-ikpa kwenu!




OGUAMALAM: The chameleon says that the reason he treads gently on the earth is so that he won't break it, because the earth was not very hard when he was born. I, Oguamalam, am an only child. My mother bore only me. Therefore, there is no one at all I would want to quarrel with. And the ukpabi says that rather than putting his head into the fire [looking for trouble], let the wind blow him away. Rather than the yam be undercooked in the pot, it would be good for Oguamalam if the firewood in the forest were completely used up. Nothing else divides me and Ikekwem and his people, except that I am defending my father's land, which is the "Main farmland" bush. Is there anyone in Akabo who doesn't know that my father, Okemkpi, and his brother, Okpuruka, shared their paternal land? When Okemkpi and Okpuruka buried their father, Chima, they shared all the funeral expenses equally. My father then marked off his share. Okpuruka then also took his share. At no time did a quarrel break out between them. When they began again the sharing of their father's wealth they also shared it equally, with no quarrel at all between them. When these lands were distributed, it was my father Okemkpi who received this "Main farmland" bush. All the Akabo people are my witnesses in this matter. How can Ikekwem and his brothers take their full share in the land of their father Okpuruka, and then come and make a claim on Okemkpi's land? Does this look right to you all?

THE CROWD: No! It is an abomination! Chei! (Much noise breaks out.)

OGUAMALAM: Ihenweorie-ikpa kwenu!

THE CROWD: Yaa! (The noise dies down.)

OGUAMALAM: God forbid! If one bears a child and calls it Nkemdirim [let my own stay with me], is he saying that his compatriots should let their own run away from them? Let me not reject my own. My brothers, it is because of my father's land, the "Main farmland," that Ikekwem and his household are trying to kill me. I will not avoid people and go and live in the bush for the sake of remaining alive. Rather, let what will happen tomorrow happen today, so I can see it with my own eyes. My name is Oguamalam ["let the staff of innocence not be against me"]. What I know is that I will not do something for which the staff of innocence will indict me. May you all not die early. (Commotion breaks out. He sits down.)

NJOKU: Ihenweorie kwenu!


NJOKU: Kwezuenu!


NJOKU: One should not use only one person's story on which to pass judgment. We ought to listen to Ikekwem's side. (He sits down.) (Ikekwem then rises.)

IKEKWEM: Countrymen, may you not die early. I will cut my speech short. I haven't the strength for a lot of talk. When my father Okpuruka and his brother, Okemkpi, shared their father's land, they decided that they would redivide these lands when their children had reached adulthood. Our father Okpuruka had three sons. I am his oldest son. My two other brothers have grown to manhood. They all have wives, as you well know. Oguamalam himself is the only child Okemkpi had. He also has grown to manhood. A long time ago I suggested to him that we should redivide these lands as our fathers had decided. But Oguamalam refused to listen to the idea that these lands should be redivided. (Oguamalam then interrupts forcefully.)

OGUAMALAM: Shut your mouth! Greed will kill you. What-the-eye-sees-the-heart-will-not-let-go! Where did Okemkpi and Okpuruka decide this? Is this something your advisers and your leaders told you to say? Look --

NJOKU: (Cuts him off.) Sit down, Oguamalam! Who told you to speak without permission? If you say another word, we will fine you. (A person then rises from among them.)

ANOGWI: Ihenweorie kwenu!


ANOGWI: Kwenu!


ANOGWI: We came to make peace. We ought to listen fully to the cases of these two people. The people will be questioning them. Oguamalam, we don't want to hear from you again until we ask you a question. Ikekwem, get to the point. People and chiefs, kwenu!


IKEKWEM: What I was saying before Oguamalam interrupted me was that he did not want us to redivide these lands as our fathers had decided. So, I just took over one piece of land so we could start to make use of everything we could by any means. The land I took, "Main farmland," is not among the ones our fathers shared. That is what caused us to fight. May you all not die early. Who would say that if it were he, he would not do the same? May you all not die early. (He sits down. There is commotion for a brief time.)

NJOKU: Countrymen, you have heard their cases. Is there anyone who has any questions for them?

IWEJUA: Yes! the first question I want to ask Ikekwem is this. Who is your witness, that Okemkpi and Okpuruka decided that they must redivide the land for their children?

IKEKWEM: The ofo-holders who came to the sharing ceremonies of that land are here.

OGBUEHI: I was there when these lands were divided. I joined in going to set their boundaries. But at no time did the two people, your fathers, say in the presence of the ofo-holders that they were going to redivide the land for their children. Nwokoro, eh? (He looks at Nwokoro.)

NWOKORO: You are exactly right. That is how it happened.

IKEKWEM: (He jumps up forcefully.) Elder who knows but does not speak! You all are supporting Oguamalam so that he alone should hold everything we own together. No! This will not happen in my presence. I am leaving! (Noise then breaks out. He starts up, as though to leave. Njoku then rises.)

NJOKU: Chei, chei, chei! Countrymen kwenu!


NJOKU: Ikekwem! Don't take a step from here! You gathered firewood infested with ants, why are you running away from the lizard? Don't take a step from here. This matter will end today. Ihenweorie kwenu!

THE CROWD: Yaa! (Ikekwem sits down.)

NJOKU: We have heard your first question. Does anyone have another question?

OGBUEHI: Yes! My brother Ikekwem, please, don't feel hurt when the truth is spoken to you. The truth is very bitter to the ears of the person it goes against. I will not, just because of the cat's cries when it is hungry, take my chicken outside for it to eat. Another question I think I should ask you is this: can you kneel before Amadioha and swear that this land that you and Oguamalam are quarreling about is your father's land? And that your father Okpuruka and Okemkpi decided in the presence of the ofo-holders to divide their land and that they would redivide the land for their children when they grew up? And it is not with the idea of cheating that you want to take your brother Oguamalam's land away from him? Will you plead innocence in this way when you swear this oath?

IKEKWEM: Yes! I will swear it! I and my household. Ikekwem, if I swear it, I will not die. (Noisy commotion then breaks out.)

NJOKU: People and chiefs, kwenu!


NJOKU: You have heard that this matter has ended today. Ikekwem has agreed that he and his household will swear and oath and take that land. Therefore, the matter as ended. The day oaths are taken in this village is Eke day. Ikekwem and his household will swear on next Eke day, which is four days from today. Nwokoro, a task has come to you. You will send out the Ayaka-owu masquerade, to go and gather all the bad medicine in that bush early Eke morning. Ihenweorie, kwenu! [Supposedly the medicine will keep Ikekwem out of the land if he is guilty.]


NJOKU: It is very late. We will set another date for the case of Osuji and Nwigbe: let it be on the next Afo-Amadioha. Ihenweorie, kwenu!

THE CROWD: Yaa! (Drumming then starts. Njoku and the priests begin to dance to it. Ubu-Ekpe [probably a masquerade] then comes out and starts to dance.


(Early morning of Eke day. Ikekwem sits on his bamboo chair, smoking. Ukadike comes in.)
UKADIKE: Father, good morning.

IKEKWEM: Good morning, my son.

UKADIKE: I thought I should remind you that I will go back to our school today. If I do not return in time, the headmaster of our school will send me back.

IKEKWEM: What you want to say, is it that you will not be there today, the big day when I swear the oath of the land for you all? All right. It is for your sake that I am fighting for this land. But while I am dancing a different thing, what I tie on the waist is something different. Just go on.

UKADIKE: What about the money I will need to go back with?

IKEKWEM: Beast, come and get the money where you put it. I have no money. On the day I finish fighting for the land for you, I will collect money for you to go to Europe. Read yourself to death in school. Get out of my presence, idiot, quickly, before I beat the hell out of you. (He picks up a switch that is near the door. Ukadike dodges back. He then breaks the switch over the chair.)

UKADIKE: Father, do you really want to hit me with this switch? E-ei! I have something else I want to tell you before you kill me. I had a dream last night. Listen so I can tell it to you. I was in the dream, you and I, Amadi, my mother, and Obiageli then went to clear the "Main farmland" bush. As soon as we started to clear it, a python with a flaming mouth jumped out of the bush. It then stretched its tongue to spit the fire on you. I saw it and shouted an alarm. Before I shouted, it already had used all of its length to wrap around you and my mother and Obiageli. The fire from its tongue was burning you. Obiageli was crying. Amadi and I then ran away. As soon as we ran into our house here, I woke up. My heart was pounding fast. Fear prevented me from sleeping again. Not long after . . . .

IKEKWEM: No! No! That's enough. I don't want any more of your long story.

UKADIKE: I only want to beg you not to swear this oath. It is clear to me that God does not want you to swear this oath. What good will this land do you if you die because of it?

IKEKWEM: Leave my presence immediately. Who told you to come and ruin my prospects this morning? Dream yourself to death in dreams!! Have you ever seen God? Great educated person! Leave my presence immediately. (He fetches a knife. Ukadike then runs away.)

(In front of the "Main farmland" bush. The Ayaka-owu masquerade is dancing. His leader is following him. Dancers with gongs and flutes follow him. They hold two chickens. He dances around briefly, then runs into the bush. When he comes out again, he holds some medicine that is fastened up and giving off smoke. He strikes it on the ground. His leader then strikes one chicken on his chest and all over his body, calling him various great praise names. He starts to dance again, then runs into the bush again. On his return, he carries another small pot giving off smoke. He dances with it for a little while, then a drum sounds loudly. He breaks it on the ground. His leader then takes the other chicken and strikes it on his chest and body, as he did the first time. He then starts a dance, in addition to the one he did before. They all then go out dncing. During these dances, a commotion is heard coming from the village. His leader keeps on calling him various praise names.)

LEADER: Catch, catch on fire! The fire is burning the desert! It holds a strong man to the ground, as a woman is held! [This refers to the helplessness of women.] Dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth! Strength-that-does-not-experience-death! [These are praise-names for the masquerade.] Dance of spirits and humans! Che! che! chee i! Strong as a leopard! Iya! Valley of the bad bush! Do not fear! Keep on going! Forcefully, forcefully! Powerful-as-a-ram! Go! Go! Ayaka-owu! Ayaka! Ayaka-owu! Get out of the way. Ayaka is coming. (They then go out.)

(In Ikekwem's house. He is sitting on his bamboo chair. Food is placed in front of him. He gropes around in his bag and brings out meat. He takes a knife and cuts it into small pieces and throws it into his soup, then takes his finger and stirs it around in the soup. As soon as he fishes out the first lump and swallows it, a coucal [large bird of the cuckoo family] cries out three times.)

OBU: Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! (Ikekwem is silent. He holds a lump of food in his hand and listens. The coucal then cries a third time.) Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu!

IKEKWEM: God forbid bad things! What caused this coucal to cry out to me at my left this morning? What is the meaning of this? (He gets up and starts to listen by the door to find out where the bird's cry is coming from. But it does not cry again at all.) This bird cry is a bad thing. I have not heard that a coucal crying in the morning like this would turn out well. Especially this one that cries out to me at my left. This oath I want to swear this morning is causing me some doubts. This dream that Ukadike told me about this morning does not allow my heart to take a breath. Now see the cry of this coucal. (He gets up and walks around in his house, saying these things. He still holds the lump of food in his hand.) What I am thinking now is whether I should give up this oath or should I swear it and face death? A strong man does not do a shameful thing. I have reached a place where going back would be something very shameful. It is obvious to me that Ikekwem will become a laughing-stock before goats and chickens in this land. If I withdraw and fail to swear this oath, will I be able to go outside again? God forbid! I will swear it. Isn't this how Ikekwem is? I will swear this oath, whether for good or bad. Rather than a strong man take insults, let him die an untimely death. I will swear it. What will happen tomorrow, let it happen today. (He calls Nwaibari and Obiageli.) Nwaibari! Nwaibari! Obiageli!

NWAIBARI: Our husband! (Nwaibari enters.) Our husband, are you calling me?

IKEKWEM: Do I have water in my mouth when I call you?

NWAIBARI: Please, forgive. I guess I didn't hear correctly.

IKEKWEM: What about Obiageli?

OBIAGELI: (Enters.) Our husband, I am here.

IKEKWEM: Do I understand that you are completely prepared to swear this oath?

BOTH: Yes!

IKEKWEM: It is time for us to go. Everyone of you must go, including your children. We all will join in swearing this oath today.

OBIAGELI: Our husband, Ukadike insists that he will not join in swearing it. He has convinced Amadi, so he will not join us.

IKEKWEM: Leave me and leave Ukadike. I will show him that the tallest tree sees the road better. When we finish running, we count the miles. Quickly, let's start immediately.

NWAIBARI: Obiageli, quickly, let's go. (They go out. Ikekwem throws out the lump of food he holds, then washes his hands.)

IKEKWEM: This food, wait until I return from this trip. If you don't have the patience to wait, go sour when I have returned. It is important that I follow them immediately. (He goes out.)


(The drum sounds in the village. A commotion breaks out noisily, then calms down. The curtain then opens and reveals a place inside at the back where people have gathered near the bush. Nwokoro enters, carrying the god Amadioha on his shoulder. Njoku, Ogbuehi and Iwejua carry their chairs one by one, and holding their ofo staffs in their hands. They then arrange the god to face the people, where there will be some space between it and the people. They take their seats behind the god. There is a little noise, but when Njoku gets up, it subsides. The Ekpe dancers start to beat their drums. Njoku, Nwokoro and Ogbuehi are enjoying their dancing. This continues for about three minutes before Njoku waves to them and they stop.)
NJOKU: Ihenweorie, Ama-ato, kwenu!


NJOKU: Kwezuenu!


NJOKU: (He clears his throat.) Greetings! May you not die early. This is the appointed day. When a matter has been [previously] decided, it takes only a nod of the head to agree to it. The reason we gather this Eke morning is that Ikekwem and his household may swear an oath for Oguamalam concerning the "Main farmland" bush that they are contesting for. The village has decided that the one who should swear this oath is Oguamalam and his household. But Oguamalam has agreed that if Ikekwem would swear an oath for him, he [Ikekwem] should take the land. Ikekwem, are you here?

IKEKWEM: Yes! I am here.

NJOKU: You and your household move to the front of Amadioha here. (They go and stand before the god.) Oguamalam, are you here?

OGUAMALAM: I am here.

NJOKU: Come out here. (Oguamalam and his son Chibunna come out.) The people of Amaala, Umuezue have gathered. Before Ikekwem starts to swear, it is important that he be asked again if he is determined to swear this oath. We will not force him to swear it.

THE CROWD: Yes! (In agreement.)

NJOKU: Ihenweorie, Ama-ato, kwenu!


NJOKU: Ikekwem, the Amaala people have told me to ask you if you are still determined to take this oath, or are you taking it because you are being forced?

IKEKWEM: I take it with all my heart. No one is forcing me to take it. If a person pleads innocence, the oath will not kill the swearer. (A bit of commotion then ensues. The Ekpe people start their dance. Njoku dances a bit, then waves his hand. The dance stops promptly.)

NJOKU: People of Amaala, our dance has reached its peak. Ikekwem and his two wives will swear an oath to Oguamalam. Before he swears it, he will plead innocence, saying that the "Main farmland" that has caused the quarrel is the land of the children of Okpuruka and Okemkpi: that Okemkpi and Okpuruka divided their land, then decided before Amaala that they would redivide these lands when their children grew up, that the "Main farmland" is not among those that Okemkpi the father of Oguamalam, and Okpuruka his [Ikekwem's] father, shared before the ofo-holders of Ihenweorie, when they divided their lands. He will also say that if there is cheating in his heart in contesting for this land, let Agbara kill him.

THE CROWD: Right on!

NJOKU: Ikekwem, you and your wives come on. The time has come. (As soon as they kneel down, a mad person runs in front of them and pulls on Ikekwe's shirt.)

MAD PERSON (Wapayi): Beast, are you going to swear this oath and die? You took a good look at your brother and you are cheating him, because he is an only child. Administer this oath, let him swear it, swear himself to death, because someone else's property will kill him. You want to kill him because he has no people. Women, rise up! Ikekwem has misled you.

NJOKU: Chase Wapayi away. Would you be silent and allow him to spoil what we have already agreed on? (Ogbuehi and Iwejua then go and seize Wapayi and push him out. Wapayi begins to struggle.)

MAD PERSON (Wapayi): All right deaf people, swear this oath today and let death confront you. Take your hands off me! (He tries to bite them. They push him out. Noise breaks out, then subsides.)

NJOKU: Ihenweorie, kwenu! (Tries to quiet the noise.)


NJOKU: Kwezuenu!


NJOKU: See how the moon stays in the sky, as though a human being had put it there. Hey, there is a snake in the grass. I'd better ask Ikekwem again if he is still determined to swear this oath? Ikekwem, did you hear what the mad man said? I would like you to reconsider the mad man's words. Mad men are spirits, spirits are mad men. Do you really want to swear this oath?

SOME VOICES: Leave him to swear it, let death face him!

A PERSON: He is stubborn. No one will cry for him if he dies. The chicken that refuses to listen hears things in the soup pot.

IKEKWEM: My heart is strong. I did not say it weakly. I will swear this oath today, not tomorrow. No one should cry for me if I die. The head that disturbs the wasp is the one it will sting.

NJOKU: All right. There is nothing else preventing the dog's death. Now, invoke your innocence, swear it. (Obiageli breaks out in tears. It is quiet everywhere. Not the slightest sound is heard, except Obiageli's sobbing and the voice of Ikekwem pleading innocence.)

IKEKWEM: Amadioha, oh listen to my plea of innocence! Lord in heaven, hear my voice. When our grandfather Chima died his two sons, Okemkpi and Okpuruka, divided their father's lands and his other belongings between the two of them. But at no time did they include the "Main farmland" in these lands. The two of them in the presence of the ofo-holders of Ihenweorie decided that these lands would be redivided when their children had grown up and had children of their own. But no one ever redivided these lands. If the "Main farmland" land was included in those divided at first and was given to Okemkpi and I am saying that I am taking it from Oguamalam out of jealousy, because he is an only child; if Okemkpi and Okpuruka did not decide that they would redivide these lands, as I said before, in the presence of the ofo-holders, may Agbara kill me and the people of my household. May it not let us live out this year. (The crowd then breaks out into a great commotion. Immediately, there is a great flash of lightning, bam, bam, bam. There are three claps of thunder. Everyone falls to the ground, Soon, it is quiet everywhere. Obiageli's voice is heard crying out.)

OBIAGELI: Oh! Oh! Oh, I am dead! Oh, my leg! E-ei! E-ei!

OGBUEHI: What happened? Go home! Go home! Ikekwem has--has died! Chei! (Some of the others run in, while several others dash out and return to their homes. Njoku then takes his ofo in his left hand and looks at Ikekwem and his wife Nwaibari where they are stretched out stiff like logs. Obiageli continues to cry out.)

NJOKU: Chei! I knew it was going to happen. Ogbuehi, bring Agbara and let's go. The grasshopper that the plantain-eater killed was stubborn. If one cheats a poor person, let his hand get stuck in spirit-land. Njoku will not touch someone who has been killed by the spirits. Nwokoro, bring Agbara and let's go. One who consumes deathly things should die. (Njoku then sees that his Agbara is lying face down on the ground and goes to pick it up.) Who pushed down my Agbara? Chei! Chei! Who pushed down my Agbara, that Agbara should strike and kill him? (He touches it and sees tht it is completely broken. He shouts.) Oh, my Agbara! My Agbara is in pieces! Satan, is that how you brought me bad luck today? Chei! God forbid an abomination! Darkness has fallen in the afternoon! Nwokoro, pick up the pieces of the Agbara and let's go.

OGBUEHI: Oh, let me not be guilty!

NWOKORO: I plead innocence, and hold the ofo. Oh, let not spirits or humans hold me guilty. (They then go out.)

NJOKU: Ikekwem look at the land, let the land also look at you. He who chases the chicken is bound to fall. All the chicken can do is just waddle away. Nwokoro, what is keeping you? I am leaving. (He starts to go.) He who starts to do something should make sure he is innocent. I am innocent. (Nwokoro then carries the Agbara, and Ogbuehi carries their chairs.)


No comments: