Abo’baku: Destined To Die With Kings
Oba Alade was dead! The ground shook and fear took over the entire village, where were they heading to?
The Oba’s only son was studying outside the country in Ottawa. The Oba was old, wrinkled, stressed out and obsolete; that was all I knew, but why did he have to die now? Living some extra years wouldn’t have had an effect on his outdated skin. In fact, the Oba wasn’t meant to be the one in question but my forefathers.
My father never told me how this happened or why we were the ones it happened to, or why it was our lineage. Too bad he was already gone and that would be the same way I would be gone by tomorrow.
My mother sat on the mortar which was placed upsidedown, and began sobbing quietly.
I walked into the hut whistling and smirking with a dead bush meat hanging over my shoulders. Her sobs were so quiet that I didn’t notice she was crying.
I began to sing song of praises to the gods for the good catch, danced around my mother, with my head raised up to the ceiling and the bush meat dangling around her head from the rope it was threaded to. I knelt in front of her raising the bush meat. I opened my mouth, presumably to speak, then I saw tears rolling down both her cheeks. I immediately wiped them off with my thumbs.
I asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t utter a single word. She just looked at me, withdrew her gaze and continued sobbing. I begged her countlessly to tell me what was going on before she finally agreed to speak:
“You are going to die!” she began to wail.
“Maami, don’t say things like that, ẹ sọrọ da” I told her
“I said you are going to die and it’s what is meant to be” she said forcing out her words while inhaling back catarrh.
“I lost your father and now I’ll lose you”.
“Why would you say something like that?” I asked a bit disturbed and uncomfortable that I began to change positions oblivious to the fact that I was still squatting.
“Do you remember how your father was killed?” her sobbing stopped, she lowered her voice and began to shiver.
“I never saw him die.” I said as tears began to rush down my cheeks; perhaps she had transferred it to me.
I never did see my father die, but I could remember that day vividly like it was moving in a clouds.
The night before, I had misplaced a single bead from my ceremonial lace which always drooped from its fishing line around my tiny neck. I had cried before he came up to me and said something meaningful:
“Why cry over spilled milk?” he said.
I couldn’t fathom the adage, so I asked him but he never did give me a direct answer.
Instead he said, “Men never cry unnecessarily”.
The next day, as the cock crowed and the death of Kabiesi was announced, I heard the sound of some warriors’ horses galloping toward our hut and when I rushed out of the room to see what was going on, some men had entered the house.
Those men barged into my parent’s room which was demarcated from mine with palm fronds sown with thread. My mother quickly wrapped her naked self with the wrapper she covers herself with to sleep at night and my father readjusted his ṣokoto before he had his hands tied behind him.
The men began to kick him out because my stubborn father refused to adhere to their instruction of “Get out!”.
I just stood there watching in awe, sucking my thumb (which my mother had roped a bitter leaf around to prevent me from sucking).
My father stared at me as he was beaten with blood splashing from his lips. When we made eye contact, it was like we had communicated. In his eyes, I saw fear and shame; the fear of being killed, and the shame of being beaten in front of me. I saw a single tear drop from his eye before my mother took me inside. It all happened in a flash, and that was the last time I saw him.
“What was I thinking when I married him?” she slapped herself while shaking her head vigorously as a means of showing disappointment and regrets.
“How dare you say that? If you hadn’t, would I have been procreated?” I asked, blinking my eyes which had now become bloodshot.
“Why wouldn’t I? I married the village Abo’baku” she said.
I could not believe my ears; Abo’baku! A person who was to be buried with the king! God forbid!
Our lineage was cursed to be the Abo’baku until our generation ended.
“Does that make me one?” I asked.
My mother didn’t answer my question. She was silent for a while, as if lost in some deep thoughts, then she spoke again.
“You need to leave the village, now!” she said scurrying to where my clothes were and folding into what looked like a knapsack attached to a long stick.
“What about you? What if I get caught? Which path will I leave through?” Questions began to race out of my mouth all of a sudden, with my heart beating like the insides of a talking drum.
She handed over the knapsack look-alike to me and said:
“I’ll be alright; you can’t get caught because you’ll leave through Ojasalẹ and if you do get caught, run”.
She gave me her blessings and I began to run. While I ran, I thought about terrible it would be if I didn’t tell Jumokẹ that I was leaving forever.
Jumokẹ was my girlfriend and I loved her so much. She had it all. I made way to the tree where we always met to touch every evening.
“Jumokẹ, I’m leaving forever” I said, scraping the bark of the tree with my fingernails.
“Why?” She asked.
“I would be killed by tomorrow morning. I am the Abo’baku” I said.
She was surprised and speechless for a while before she spoke.
“So you were the Abo’baku all this while and you never her told me. How could you? You are s…” I kissed her to shut her up.
This was our last moment together and I wasn’t going to spend it with her bickering.
“I didn’t know. My mother just told me, so I have to leave now”.
“I love you” she said, and I told her the exact same words.
We kissed deeply, not wanting to let go or take a break to gasp for air; oxygen was useless to us at that time.
For the first time in three years, we did it. We did what only married people were supposed to do. When we were done, I saw some warriors heading towards our direction.
I knew they were in search of me and I was prepared. Jumokẹ went into hiding and I began running the race for dear life. I ran with all the strength I had left in me. I couldn’t pass through Ojasalẹ as my mother had instructed, so I ran straight through some bush paths leading into the forest.
The same forest that only the chief priest went in to carry out sacrifices, the same forest that farmers would not go in deeper than ten kilometers; that was where I passed. I was heading towards the place where only spirits dwelled and the men were still following me.
Once I had gone through the border between the forest and the spirit world, I checked to see if the men were still following me and they had stopped. I turned to find a place to hide, but before I could, a Cobra bit me and that was my end.
Even though I died, I died knowing that my unborn child in Jumokẹ’s womb would be born a free man.