Anunti - Regurgitation

Anunti paused to take a breath and simultaneously scanned the crowd; he had lost himself so much in his narrative that he had forgotten he was talking to people, most of who were strangers to the kind of experience he was relating.  He was now afraid they might have become bored, but as he scanned the audience, he saw not only rapt attention, but also relating emotions; a lady on his extreme right was delicately dabbing her swelling eyes with her handkerchief, Anunti pitied her because if she was broken by the introduction, she was bound to be devastated by the rest of the story. He had struggled so much with telling this story today. He had been so unsure of himself that he called the organizers at least a hundred times to ask different questions; was it formal dressing, was he to come up alone or with his family, was he allowed to thank his mother and relatives or was he to just exit after the award, if he could thank his mother, could he say a little bit about his background? How much time did he have? Until the unnaturally patient British man on the other end of the line said “Mr Chukwuma, it is your day, not like the Grammys where we have a million people to hand over awards to, Sir, the day is about you and you alone. Should you decide to take an hour to talk about your favourite pet goat, we would be obliged to sit quietly and listen”. So he decided to tell his story, because all this is predicated on his story; his past, his background, his pedigree that is what makes today meaningful. Without it today would be like a good pot of soup without salt; tasteless.

 “I am derailing again” he thought to himself and continued. Now the silence that was in the room was tangible enough to touch…

The preparation for his father’s burial was all but a blur to Anunti, all he could think about was the palpable tension surrounding the whole atmosphere. Everywhere he turned people were talking in whispers and pointing at either his direction or his mother’s.  His mother’s eyes were never dry, she loved his father a lot and was definitely missing him, but there was something strange about how she cried and the fearful look in her eyes whenever she heard someone at the door.
She remained in her room, not going anywhere at all. They said it was the custom in her kind of case, he wondered which kind of case that was.  

Everything soon took a more verbal and at times violent turn when they returned to the village for the burial proper. It was a colourful event, and the people from his father’s work place were really helpful. Even the white engineer Mr Hollywolly who Papa worked under came and made what would have been a heart stirring speech, if only anyone could understand what he was saying. His Queen’s English was so thick the queen herself would have strained to hear him.

In all, his father’s burial was befitting and successful apart from Obinwanne’s frequent drunken displays. Anunti had just found out that the bearded man was his father’s step brother. His drunken behaviour got so bad in the evening that an elder had to chide him.

“Control yourself Obinwanne, it looks like you are celebrating and not mourning your brother’s death” The elder said

Obinwanne slurred, punctuated by hiccups and some slobbering, “the… the… the witch killed him, but she has it coming.” He swayed in a drunken dance “Obinwanne has spoken.” He finished beating his chest.

Anunti would regret later on that no one took Obinwanne serious.

At the end of the burial rites, and all the accompanying ceremonies, uncle Obinwanne promptly called for a family meeting constituting of himself, his sister Ekwitos; who bore a resemblance to the scarecrow Anunti had seen in the neighbour’s farm a few days ago, a handful of scruffy looking village men who he claimed were their Umunna (kinsmen), a few village elders and Anunti’s dear mother.  After sharing kolanut (reception) and some distracted and half-hearted pleasantries, the head among the elders Chimezie cleared his throat and said,

 “Obinwanne we thank you for the kola, but we have already finished the ceremonies, please tell us why you have gathered us here today?” 

With unexpected agility, Obinwanne jumps to his feet, causing his ample belly to roll a whole three hundred and sixty degrees on its axis, and with a dramatic flair that the old roman public speakers would have envied, lunched into a speech about how he loved his brother, and how they both looked out for each other and how they were so close that even though they were not twins, they had telepathic conversations and his brother always told him if something was wrong.

After about thirty minutes of Obinwanne’s ranting, Chimezie had to cut in “Obinwanne land this plane please”

As if waiting for the cue, Obinwanne turns to Anunti’s mother and with gesticulation like a choir conductor reaching the crescendo of a music masterpiece, points to her and shouts,

“Ladies and gentlemen please help me and ask this witch what she did to my brother? Please ask her why she killed Okenwa?”  

As his voice died down, there was confused silence, broken only by Ekwitos’ hand clapping. Interjections of ‘hmms’ could be heard in the background.

Chimezie cleared his throat and spoke, “Obinwanne what you claim is grave, are you sure you are willing to swear to what you are calming?”

It was obvious Chimezie was not happy about the whole affair, but was either too weak to stop it or didn’t want to get involved.

Obinwanne had gotten very excited, jumping up and down and shouting “let her go and swear by Ikenga if she is innocent”.

Anunti knew that was like a death sentence, because his mother was a practicing Christian and would have nothing to do with the village Idols. She sat there; eyes red as the floating part of palm oil, and face as swollen as an over-ripe grape fruit, but she was as strong and as unmoved as an iroko tree. Anunti knew they could try, but they would not be able to break her.

Just before sunrise a few days after the unnerving meeting, Anunti was woken by his mother with a sharp jerk.

 “Anunti wake up and get dressed quickly” her voice was calm, but very sharp and laced with masked panic.

Anunti rubbed the sleep from his eyes and asked “Mama ogini? What is it?”

Just as he asked, he heard the distant chant and the chills made the blood freeze in his veins.  They have come for them. That was the dreaded song of Ikenga. The distant hum turned to a nearby roar as they banged on their door and threatened to set the house on fire with them inside. Anunti’s heart was beating like the drum of a mad man, as he turned to look at his mother who was silently praying; she was reciting the twenty third psalms. How can she be doing that when they were about to die? Anunti wondered. After her prayer she approached the door and muttered,

“Father protect us” she was so different from the scared woman she had been at the burial ceremony just days ago; she was strong and even bold.

She stepped out into the dawn to face an angry mob of young men hungry for blood. Anunti held unto her skirt, peeping from behind her.

“What do you want?” her voice rang over the chanting but the reaction was like water had been poured into a pot of boiling oil,

“Witch”, “leave us ooooo”, “you killed our brother” The crowd yelled interjectorily

Obinwanne led them, urging them to take action.  The Oracle, as he was referred, the custodian of Ikenga, silenced everyone and gave Ikenga’s judgement 

“Exile for the witch and her son without the hope of returning” he said nailing his staff into the ground with one swift dramatic movement.

Amidst a lot of shoving and shouting, they guided Anunti and his mother to the village boundary and pushed them forward. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, Anunti and his mother faced an uncertain life.

Anunti had to break at that point, the elegant lady in the front row was now sobbing rather loudly, and the tension in the room was almost choking. He looked at his mother and marvelled again as he had been doing for over twenty years at the amount of strength that resided in her. You could call him a mama’s boy, he worshiped that woman...

To be continued...

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

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