A sunny day in 1953, a woman and her six-year-old son strolled towards their house, after a long day’s trade at the Ekwulobia market. A loud audacious voice made a few people stop and turn, including the Woman. It was Timothy, the village’s fore spokesperson, who had only just gotten a scholarship to study Political Science at the University of Ibadan. He was the only son of Efuru, the late famous Wine tapper, and had been a favorite since he was a baby. His father did his best to send him to the primary education in their town but died before Timothy could finish. When the village saw the great feats he accomplished at primary school, they contributed some money to send him to secondary school in Lagos.
He had become their pride and joy, destined for great things. The woman was a good friend to Timothy’s mother; she recalled how his mother labored at the farm, day and night, for meager yams and measly corn she would trade for Timothy’s primary school fees. She also knew the joy that his mother felt when Timothy had gotten the university scholarship. Ever since he was a child, he always had strong opinions and spoke big grammar that nobody understood which was why no one was surprised when he came back to town and started organizing political rallies.
He was having one of his usual demonstrations at the market square and had a larger crowd than usual on this particular day. He stood comfortably on the wooden platform shouting some words that the Woman couldn’t care less about, but still she stood, listening from a distance. A few people in the crowd held placards of convicting but poorly written messages that read: NO MORE KWEEN, WE WANT INDEPENDENCE, and WHITE PIPUL MUST GO etc.
Some of the red-capped chiefs stood behind Timothy, with their yellowed singlets and threadbare wrappers, smiling proudly at the son of the soil. The eldest man in the village, Mazi Amadi, was also present with his wife, Ekutus, which made the Woman wonder how important the rally was. This old man was almost eighty years and he walked with a stick because of his bent back. Everyone in the village called him Npa, which meant Father. He was a wise man that everyone went to when they needed advice and he would always say the old Igbo proverb first before anything else, “What an old man can see sitting down, the young men cannot see from the tallest mountain.” His first wife died during childbirth many years back leaving behind no child. He married a second wife soon after and she had seven children who were all mostly grown. Mazi Amadi had been a catechist in his young age and knew a little English. Children came to him when they wanted to hear stories of his travels and English adventures. He was also somewhat wise when it came to English politics. The Woman realized that Mazi Amadi was at the gathering because the elders wanted the villagers to take the rallies more seriously.
The Woman moved closer, pulling her son along with her. Timothy’s voice reverberated through the crowd, “We want to live in an independent nation; where our sons and daughters can lead us. We were here before they came and claimed our soil as theirs. They have helped, yes, but they have overstayed their welcome. Let them go back to their civilized country and rule themselves. We are tired! Are you not tired?!” He shouted, shaking his hands vigorously as if to impart some of his exasperation on the crowd. “Yes, we are tired!” The crowd shouted back. The air was buzzing with a strange energy and the Woman couldn’t help but shout “We are tired,” with them when Timothy asked again. Goosebumps appeared all over her skin as she imagined the greatness that awaited Timothy. She hoped to God that her three sons would have such courage to voice their opinions.
Sweat trickled down her back and her face; she released the edge of her wrapper and wiped her face with it. Timothy continued with his speech, “Aren’t you tired of being robbed of your resources so that they can fund their businesses and industries while we suffer here? Are you not tired of being just an annex for them to exert their power on when they feel like?” Most of the villagers didn’t understand what he said but they still murmured, “We are tired” during the speech. The Woman had a feeling that Timothy found it hard to speak coherently in his native tongue so he spoke in English, but the kind of energy he talked with made the crowd to become more and more pepped. Soon, people were pumping their fists in the air, shouting “Independence!” Timothy spoke up again, “This has gone on for far too long and we can’t just keep quiet anymore.” He paused to wipe his face with a small material.
Just then, an engine revved behind them and Police officers stormed into the square shouting “God save the queen! Everybody lie dan!” The officers rounded the people up and soon, everyone was flat on their faces, quivering. The overzealous and enthusiastic officers in rumpled khaki shirt and shorts with dirty brown sandals, that waved their guns all over the place, were Nigerian; even Igbo.
Their inspector was a blond white man with neat, ironed khaki trousers and shiny black boots. He walked around for a while and then shouted, “Who is the chief speaker here?” He spoke Igbo, probably to impress the villagers, even though his British accent was still clear and he didn’t get the pronunciations right. The Woman heard murmurs but no one spoke up for a while. The sun was burning her back and the hot red sand was searing her face.
She wished the police hadn’t come. Timothy was still so young and the future of his generation; also, the future of their village. He could be charged with treason and be killed. She had warned Timothy’s family about the dangers of this his political interest, but no one listened. The Woman was now sure that all the money, labor and sweat of the whole village for Timothy would go to waste.
Someone finally stood up. “Is me sah!” The croaky voice said in shaky English. The Woman peered from beneath her arm and saw that it was Mazi Amadi. The fib was not nearly plausible but no one said a word wither ward. It seemed the Igbo Policemen knew the gist of the matter and decided to keep shut too because they quickly bundled the old man into the vehicle.
The rest of the villagers got up slowly while Ekutus screamed “Mba Mba, No, No!” and ran after the speeding rover. Timothy looked dumbfounded as his mother led him away. As everyone else departed in their various directions, they heaved their shoulders up and down in disapproval, hissed and sighed deeply, clucked their tongues or shouted, “Hei!” at intervals.
The Woman dusted the sand off her son’s body, retied her wrapper and continued her stroll towards her small family home.
Hope you enjoyed my story, thanks for reading!
Oh and before i forget…. Food for thought:
Art by Okechukwu Ofili from Ofilispeaks.com
Have a buff day! :*