Deba Ezodo (The Tale Of An African Princess)
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“In the beginning of the world, there was no land. Only water covered the earth. The Binis say there was a tree in the middle of the water and on top of it, Owonwon, the toucan, resided.
They also say the creator, Osanobua, had other plans for the earth. But first, he wanted it populated. To do so, he gave his three sons special gifts and sent them to the earth.
One son had wealth in abundance. The other had magic and the last took only a snail shell. With those gifts, they descended and sailed through the water. When they got to their destination, the third son emptied his snail shell into the water. Sand poured out from the shell and into the water, endlessly. The result was land.
They tested the firmness of the new land with a giant chameleon. It was firm. And they were happy.
Osanobua then descended and demarcated the earth. He shared responsibilities to his sons. The youngest son was appointed ruler of the earth. He owned the land and he created more of it. After creation, he built his headquarters at Igodomigodo.
The oldest son was appointed by Osanobua as god of the waters. He had the right to create and un-create all sorts of water creatures and water plants. The Binis later called him, Olokun.
The second son was given freedom to use his magic to ensure balance in nature. Unfortunately, the Binis called him Esu; meaning, the messenger of death. Esu owned all living things and decided when their time on the earth was over.
It is said that after sharing the earth amongst his sons, Osanobua returned to settle in the realm of the divine.
His first son, Olokun, represents life, good health, productivity, long life and happiness. However, he only demands ritual purity from man, as well as worship and sacrifices.
The second son, Esu, represents everything bad – diseases, death, ill fortune and much more. Only medicine priests and other witch doctors can communicate directly with him. All the same, he kills or causes problems for man, whenever it pleases him.
The third son represents innocence. Being without magic of any sort, he is vulnerable to his brothers’ powers.
The descendants of Osanobua’s third son are called Ogiso. Meaning, ruler of the sky. The first Ogiso king was called Ogiso Igodo and his kingdom Igodomigodo, was at Ugbekun. Ogiso Ere was his successor and since then, there have been other Ogisos.
Any way, the people of Utho Era have a different belief when it comes to our creation story. Not only was the earth dark and full of water, it was inhabitable. Uvoghene then created land, vegetations and animals before sending his sons and daughters to populate the earth. They named heir kingdom, Egomena
Unfortunately, these sons had supreme power over the earth and they did as they pleased. There was no one to put them in check. They stopped worshipping their father and they forced their subjects to stop too. They were gods on earth and demanded to be worshipped in place of Uvoghene. They made the people offer sacrifices to them, instead of their father.
Uvoghene got angry. He never expected such from his children. He regretted ever creating the earth and decided it was best to destroy it, along with the traitors he called sons. But then, something caught his attention. In a land not so far away, a few loyal worshippers remained. Their loyalty and consistency sweetened Uvoghene’s heart. He couldn’t bring himself to kill them. For if he did, he would have ruined his creation completely and would have to start all over.
Seeing reason with his new plan, he turned his eyes on Egomena, where his sons ruled as gods and kings. A tear dropped from his eyes as he raised his staff of blue and white light. The tear touched the sky and the result was a terrible rain storm that caused flooding at Egomena kingdom and the surrounding hills. While the flood destroyed everything in its path, Uvoghene brought down the razor end of his staff. The impact was worse than an earthquake, as loud as the worst of thunders, and lightening struck down both man, animals and trees. So serious was the destruction that the earth shifted; swallowing up the entire kingdom, as well as everyone in it. The rippling effect went on for miles, crossing the sea and hills to reach the other kingdom. Although most of them lived, a few died.
The landscape changed. Hills rose where there used to be none. The river formed from Uvoghene’s tear drop remained beside several hills and linked up with larger rivers and deep seas.
The people of that far away kingdom had to adjust to the change, of course, after burying their dead. The dreaded experience brought about several irregularities. But they were glad to rebuild.
Sacrifices were made to Uvoghene from sun up till sun down. This lasted one week. After which, the villagers went about building a new kingdom.
In as much as Egomena was destroyed, one of Uvoghene’s son lived. He went into hiding and from there, started to reproduce. Many, many, many years went by. The earth got populated again and the Bini kingdom was formed.” Ezodo finished his narration.
A brief silence followed, as Ezodo continued peeling the large tuber of cassava in his hand. Before him, on a big stone, sat his two children, Ere and Deba. Ere, at 13 years old, was the first child and only boy. Deba, at 10, was the last child and only girl. They took mightily to their father’s Gabon ebony skin. While Ere had started to grow muscles, due to his rigorous training as a yound warrior, his sister, Deba, was slim, tall and beautiful like her mother. At such young age, she was womanly in her ways and commanded a certain level of grace.
Ezodo, unlike all the men in his village, had decided it was better to have only two children. Spread out around him and the children were his servants and personal guards. They too were busy peeling cassava tubers.
Being the twin brother to Oba Ezomo, it was prohibited that he walked around the kingdom, talk less the farm, without an escort. He wasn’t even supposed to be in a farm. But Ezodo was a stubborn man when it came to doing what he felt like doing, especially hard work. He had insisted on his brother giving him a farm land and he had insisted on cultivating the land with the help of his servants, his children, as well as personal efforts on his part.
The planting season was over and Ezodo, as well as his wife, were sincerely happy about their decision to farm. Their harvest was good, and they were still harvesting. It felt really nice eating food that he cultivated himself. Although the couple were happy, one couldn’t say same for their children. Ere and Deba always had one complain after the other about farm work.
On that particular day, the work was tedious. The entire party had been up and in the farm since the wee hours of the morning. They had rested a bit, eaten breakfast, and returned to work.
The sun was overhead when they finally sat down to the lunch packed for Ezodo and his children by Pawo, his wife. While they ate, Ezodo decided to tell them the story of their history. It was a way to relax and ease tension. However, his accounts of history seemed to have left everyone, including his very inquisitive children, speechless.
“You are not saying anything.” Ezodo finally broke the silence, nudging his son’s shoulders and eyeing his daughter, as he works skillfully with his knife against the back of the cassava. The rippling muscles beneath his taut skin revealed years of combat training and experience in many battle fields.
“Your account of our history has some missing facts, papa.” Ere spoke first, frowning. Having listened to his father’s tale of their history, he was truly weary.
“I have given you the complete story of the origin of the world. What else is missing?”
“But papa,” little Deba said, dropping an already peeled cassava tuba into a nearby sack and picking another for peeling. “I’ve heard the servants say the Bini version is the correct one.”
“Are you going to believe the servants? Or are you going to believe your papa?” Ezodo asked his daughter, brows shooting up.
“We believe you, papa.” Ere spoke up, peeling his own cassava. “Its just that, since they say we are originally from the Bini kingdom, we still believe their own version of the origin story.”
Ezodo sighed. His children were too curious and too knowledgeable. It had never been so easy trying to deceive them. He had to thank Uzar, the palace historian. It was his job to teach the children history and get them well informed about matters concerning the kingdom. Although his children proved to be smart, he was still going to stand by his story.
“Who do the people say I am?” He asked.
“They call you the descendant of Uvoghene.” That was Ere.
“Ogiso Igodo is our ancestor, so are the other Ogisos after him. My brother is named after the second Ogiso. We can’t deny that.” Deba spoke up. “You are from the lineage of the Bini god-kings, papa. So yes, the people are right to respect you. But your ancestors are the Ogisos, not Uvoghene’s sons.”
“You’re making this harder.” Ezodo sighed, seeing his daughter’s determination to prove him wrong.
“No papa. I’m only weighing both stories and picking what makes sense. You thought me that.”
“The Bini kingdom emerged many years after the incident with Uvoghene’s unruly children.”
“Ok then.” Deba sat straight, her eyes never leaving her father. “Let’s say we really didn’t break away from the Binis.”
“We broke away. I’m not denying that.”
“Good!” Her hands went up in triumph. “So we are saying the same thing. A lot of us still answer Bini names. We still worship Osanobua and make sacrifices to Olokun and Ogun. We still fear Esu and do everything to appease him. What about Aganju, Oya, Shango…”
“Hold it, princess” her father stopped her with a wave of his knife. “Those gods belong to the Oyos. We only still pay respect to Olokun and the others because we must. But Uvoghene is our supreme god and we must worship only him. Who told you to worship the others?”
“It doesn’t matter. Osanobua isn’t different from Uvoghene. The only difference is the name.”
Ezodo cursed under his breath before saying out loud. “I wonder what Pawo is teaching you.”
“Its not mama.” Ere spoke up. “Uncle Ezomo…”
“Oba” Ezodo corrected. “You only call him Uncle in the palace. Its a sign of respect.”
“But since he is your twin brother. Aren’t you two supposed to rule the kingdom together?” Deba changed the topic.
“Yes. And we are.” Ezodo replied. “I rule from outside the palace. He rules in the palace. In order words, he gives the orders, I ensure they are carried out.”
“That sounds terrible.” Ere spoke up.
Ezodo stopped what he was doing. Cassava in one hand, knife in the other. He eyed his children closely and shook his head, chuckling lightly. “I hope you both won’t grow up to be rebels. This already sounds like a rebellion.”
“You started one too. You and Uncle Ezomo. Its the reason you broke away from Bini and were able to get a lot of people to follow you. Isn’t it?”
“We left because we were denied our rights. That aside, we are directly from the loins of Ogiso Ibioye. That makes us god-kings with celestial mystique attached to us. We can do anything.”
“Yes. And I do want to be like you when I grow up.” Ere said, peeling the last cassava in his sack
“And you will.” Ezodo smiled
“Me too.” Deba grinned
“No way, princess. I prefer you grow up like your mother. She is beautiful, intelligent, skillful and very resourceful. You can see I married no other wife.”
“You’re the only man in the whole of Utho Era who didn’t marry another wife. And I like that you didn’t.” Deba praised him.
“Ouchhh. I don’t like it.” Ere voiced his dissatisfaction. “When I grow up, I won’t take that part from you, papa. I will marry so many beautiful women.”
“Of course you will.” Deba rolled her eyes. “And inherit so many beautiful problems.”
“Watch your tongue.” Ere slapped her head.
“Stop it.” His father reprimanded him.
Just then, the sound of rumbling thunder intruded into their father and children moment. Dark clouds gathering overhead and flashes of lightening ran across the sky.
“It seems like Uvoghene is getting ready to hit at us again.” Deba smiled sheepishly at her father.
“If not that your beauty reminds me so much of your mother, I’d have smacked that smile away from your face.” Without another word, he turned to the guards and servants “Pack up. We should head home now.”
The servants got to their feet and began putting all the peeled cassava tubers in sacks, which they placed on their heads. Their packing was rushed and within few minutes, the journey back to Ede, the main city of Utho Era, started.
They crossed the valleys in the hills and passed smaller villages. They had just reached the white washed walls of the main city and were heading for the open gates when Ezodo felt his waist line for the scabbard in which his Ada rested. It was missing.
“No.” He sighed in frustration. “This is not right. I have to go back.”
“Back?” Deba questioned
“Why papa?” Ere looked up at him, worried.
Looking up at the sky, one could tell a heavy downpour would break loose at any moment. The rumbling sounds of thunder in the now very dark clouds had increased. Heavy wind broke loose, causing other returning farmers and traders, carpenters and fishermen etc, to run towards the open gates of Ede.
“Papa, we won’t make it nearly to the next village before the sky opens on us.” Ere raised his voice above the sound of the heavy wind.
“You are to keep going” Ezodo raised his voice too, ignoring his son’s words, even though he knew it was the truth. “Go with the servants. I’ll be back soon.”
“Papa, can’t we go for the sword tomorrow?” Deba tried to persuade him.
“No, my princess. My Ada is a sword of honour given to me by your grandfather years ago, just before we left the Bini kingdom. I can’t afford to lose it.”
“Then let me come with you.” Enoma, his personal guard offered. “You know those parts are dangerous during the rains.” He explained, taking on an expression that said he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Ezodo nodded, then looked at the other guards and servants.”Please take my children home safely. And tell my wife I’ll be back soon”
They nooded. Although they didn’t seem happy with his decision, who were they to tell him so?
Ere and Deba voiced their desire to wait at the walls of Ede for their father. But the servants insisted they move on, especially as it had started to drizzle.
To be continued…