THE ECHOES OF SILENCE: An Ode to the victims of a lynch mob

It was a cold harmattan morning; on the last day of the year. I stood still in front of the Obi, watching the little kids set the firewood on the ground. In the distance not too far away, the sound of bangers and firecrackers were heard – a worthy salutation to the spirits that owned the ground beneath our feet – signaling the end of an Old Year and the birth of a New One. Beside my right foot, there was a lonely soldier ant running almost aimlessly in meandering pathways and I quickly thought about the Ode to the Bees.

The women and the young maidens were inside the hut cooking meals, the aroma of which smelled like honey mixed with lavender oaks, and once again, I thought about the Ode to the Bees.

I looked at the firewood on the ground, and promptly encouraged the kids to set them beside the dead animal. The goat had a wry smile on its lips; the last smile before Dee Chukwuma slit its throat from one end to the other – an ignoble murder of a harmless animal. Surprisingly, the goat’s tongue wasn’t stuck out of the mouth just like the other goats I’ve witnessed being slaughtered during this ‘ceremonial execution of goats’ that usually took place once in a year. Perhaps, it knew its fate and decided against struggling. Now can we all have a moment of silence and pay our last respects. All Hail The Wise Peaceful Non-Struggling Goat!

In front of the Ama – the entrance to the clan’s Obi, some masquerades stood idly, waiting patiently for the next lady to molest. Inglorious Fools! Lazy spirits, I muttered. It was obvious the masquerades have lost all sense of dignity as spirits; molesting individuals, taking pictures with the undead, and posing for selfies with the uninitiated folks.

In the evening, the traditional Ichu Afo ceremony to usher in a New Year while saying goodbye to the old one would commence. Before then, the adult male members of the clan would gather at the Obi, to settle scores and disputes once and for all. According to legend, it wasn’t right to go into the New Year with bad blood amongst the members of the clan.

A lamb – ebini – had already been tied to a stalk beside the Ngwo tree very close to the place Azunna was buried. Dee Amaduba had brought the lamb to settle the land dispute he had with Dee Oku, Obidiya’s husband. The lamb was silent save for the lips that pressed firmly on the green leaves as it munched on them. This would be its last meal.

All the while, the words on the letter scribbled across the paper I saw in the library raced across my mind like a drove of wasps seeking for the next victim to sting, and once again, I thought about the Ode to the Bees. On the paper, the grotesque detail of how the lynching took place was made known to me. I had requested for a typewritten copy of the details of the events from Adaora. Typewritten letters won’t appease the angry spirit of the innocent young man, she had argued endlessly. She insisted on sending a handwritten copy instead.

Ezike was a young industrious man who hailed from the next village after ours. I met him on the day the earth stood still. On that day, the town crier carried the news that the earth would become still for a few minutes. Darkness will take over the land, he lamented amidst the clanking sounds of his gong as he struck the stick against it. Mother said it was the end of the world. She encouraged us to confess our sins and be ready for the rapture. I confessed mine while sobbing silently. And then afterwards, I waited patiently for any sign of a white horse descending from the heavens with our Lord. We all waited inside the local church situated beside the great Ukpaka tree.

And then it happened. Just like the echoes of silence gradually trickle inside a haunted abode, darkness took over our land. The children wailed. Mothers held their offsprings tightly, taking care to carry them along as our Saviour and his angels descended. Fathers held tightly to their snuff boxes, worthy keepsake to show the angels when they reach heaven.

And after a few minutes, the darkness gave way to light. And as I turned piercingly seeking for my loved ones that were left behind with me, I saw this calm young boy seated on the floor, scribbling words on an imaginary piece of paper, his mien that of one that had not a single worry in the whole world. I thought he was a cherub that had forgotten his way back to heaven and was left behind. And then I approached him. And I spoke softly to him, carefully picking my words. I asked him why he was so calm in the midst of the whole ruckus. And he told me he didn’t have to be worried. The white man that worked at the clinic had already informed them of the darkness that would plague the village. Eclipse of the sun, he called it. And that was the day I met Ezike. The day the earth stood still.

Over the years, I realized he came from a poor background and his parents couldn’t send him to the University to seek further education after leaving secondary school. Eventually, he left village for the township to start apprenticeship at a Barber’s. And it was about the same time I went to the University to study Medicine in a bid to become Dibia Oyibo.

Fast forward to a few years after I graduated, at Nnenna’s Iku Aka ceremony, I met Ezike once again. On this day, the earth didn’t stand still. He was the same calm young man I knew, a few wrinkles on his face betraying his real age. Those wrinkles were the vestige of how the difficult township life had dealt decisively with him. I told him life was tough for everyone and it was only the tough that had the last laugh in any situation. He thanked me for the kind words. And at the end of the ceremony, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Then two weeks ago, I got word that Ezike had been murdered; dying slowly in the pool of his own blood, the crimson liquid wrapping its arms over his shoulders as he lay silently on the ground. He was unlucky; being caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had gone to collect some clippers he took for repairs. Some say it was a case of mistaken identity. Others swore by their mothers’ souls that he was the one that raped the little girl. Shouts and accusations rent the air. Screams of blood tore into the atmosphere. The blood thirsty monsters in human flesh were swift to provide tires and petrol. They were quick to lynch him after the young girl screamed and shouted that he was the one that raped her. I pictured him smiling calmly, as the tires were put over his neck, his mien not betraying the fears that lurked underneath.

After the incident, five people were arrested and are due for prosecution in four days. The lawyers were preparing their cases. I requested for the letter from Adaora to enable me keep up with the events.

They say there are three sides to every story; the account of one person, the account of the other person and then ultimately, the truth. But in Ezike’s case, he is no longer alive to complete the trinity of accounts. We cannot stress enough the importance of not jumping into conclusions without overtly being sure of the details of events. Folks should be presumed innocent until proven guilty (no matter how hard it is to do so). On October 4th, it would be four years since the four young men were lynched at Aluu – victims of a hasty conclusion and quick judgment. It could have been you. It could have been me. It could have been any of us.

Eventually, we finished the deliberations and conflict resolution in the Obi. It was already dark when we finished and I smelled of stench. The women brought in food and wine for us to feast on. Monica was the one that served me. She bent over to pick up the bottle of small stout I requested from the crate. And then I saw it; the edge of her panty. In my mind’s eye, I pictured Tekno singing ‘Monica labalaba, my sweety baby your love dey kill me’ as I made love to her.

I hope I won’t get lynched in my dreams before I wake up.

 

Now Playing: Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

Word to Mutha: This work is STRICTLY the opinion of the writer. No Love Lost; No Love Found…It is what it is!

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