When the Northern Kingdom was yet young, they labored hard to cope with the invasion of their dog-eating neighbors living just two knots above them. According to a whim as capricious as the turn of a mischievous wind, they would intermittently come upon their peaceable neighbors with dangerous weapons they fashioned aplenty. This was to last eternities on end till one lukewarm morning after the month of harvest.
Most farms had been harvested and the town waited for the announcement of the next rainy season to get busy again. It was the time for moonlight displays and the outing of new dances. Masquerades of the night and daytime had field days entertaining the people day in, day out. Dates given out upon creation for each quarter to host the entire town in turns were already counting down. It was unquestionably the best of times for the wizened man of means and his household.
It was not time for the villages in Southern Kingdom to take their turn in the calendar yet. A village from Central Kingdom had just hosted, using the opportunity to out an ancestral spirit that oozes smoke from its head. The entire town had looked forward to it with trepidation as its passage was rumored to never come and go without one disaster or the other. However, to everybody's relief nothing happened as revelers trailed the masquerade from its coming out to its going in.
And so the entire villages in Northern Kingdom returned home knowing they had a hill to climb to surpass what they had been spectators to. Even in the suffusing euphoria, however, those of them whose turns it was to observe the borders were soon at their posts. From hindsight they knew it was at such piping times of peace, when security was supposed to be at its lowest ebb that their aforementioned neighbors always chose to strike.
True to their wildest thoughts as they retired very late to bed, it was not long before the first stentorian peals of the border tom-tom that had often announced many an invasion rent the night air asunder. All the men corralled the women and children into the upper chambers of the huts and reached for their long forgotten weapons of war.
It was while they trouped to the border that news from their destination slowed their feet some. It was not an invasion after all, the abrupt news read. Massed at the border post were no soldiers but refugees; opposed to war they were seeking asylum having been banished from their original fatherland. It took time for the news to float home from the frontier. They were apparently members of an entire extended family one finger of which had touched oil and soiled the rest.
While the refugees stayed at the border with the guards, they men rallied to the village square.
“Greetings in the name of our forefathers!” Obiakor the man whose job it would have been to ginger them to war moments earlier declaimed from a raised podium in this ginger for the opposite.
“Yaaa! They mass thundered in reply. There was much mirth in it, a reverse of the sub current that would have been served up in the same reply had the deferred war still been in focus.
“A repeat greeting to you in the name of our gods!”
“Yaaaaa!” This time it lingered with a zeal appended by what would have been bad turning good instead.
“To save a beat across the bush, we all know why we are here instead of where we had set out for. To save ourselves time, what do you think we should do to those vagabonds about our borders?”
They let his voice die down. Then, in due turn, they let their own murmurs quieten to pin drop silence. Then hands were raised indicating their owner’s desire to make contributions.
Obiakor surveyed the raised hands with a sweep of his eyes over the assembly. He at once could tell who raised a hand just for raising’s sake and those whose contributions would worth the effort expended in letting them speak.
“I have seen the raised hands,” he intoned as he motioned with his own hand that the hands be lowered. “Everybody whomsoever has something to say on this matter will have his turn. This is no run-of -the-mill matter. Let me however implore that each one make his point as brief as possible and to, when an earlier speaker has made your point, please stand down. Am I clear?”
“Yaaaaa!” the house thundered again; this time part in pert acceptance of the speaker’s suitability for the job he does so well.
He motioned Okuaya, standing in the front row to come and make himself heard by all. Consonant to his name, he first quietens the crowd by engaging in the traditional artistry his name was coined from. It involved doing some intricate prancing to an unheard herald before raising your either leg high up and dropping them to wild applause as otherwise greeted a verbal hail of a crowd.
“My brothers, I greet all of you,” he greeted at the end of the ritual in an effeminate voice that always belied his ebullient build. He was easily the healthiest-looking man in all of Hometown and was not averse to making it count on occasion like would have unfolded had the push at the border come to a shove.
“I would have begged that we let those penitents at our northern borders in on humanitarian grounds at least, but considering the enormity of their offence, I recommend that we give them a through passage to wherever else they could find asylum.
“I offer this as suggestion this briefly so as to let others proffer theirs. My people I greet you.”
A murmur of appraisal rumbled through the crowd before a next speaker is appointed. He progressed to council against granting them safe passage as there were women in the group. In his words it would be dangerous to let them wade through their territory given their well-advertised propensities. He wanted them turned back outright.
“Good talk, Ozuome,” Obiakor addressed the last speaker as he retreated. Ozuome was a well-inclined speaker. He was the leader of their family meeting and often melted quarreling hearts with his peculiar gift of garb.
“We now have too positions, namely to grant them free passage and, or to turn them back whence they came from."
Obiakor surveyed the crowd once more in characteristic equipoise before casting a lot that Ugonwanne address the gathering.
Ugonwanne was a spritely octogenarian who otherwise was in no way supposed to be at the venue. On account of his mounted age, he was supposed to have retired from active life. But at the last outing of age ceremony in which he had been one of the candidates for the prestigious honor, he had asked to be still allowed to continue on account of still being of strength. He was only keeping to his promise like the gentleman he was.
“May all be saluted according to their titles,” he greeted, his voice reaching the farthermost corners of the expansive square. “I shall be brief; as brief as is possible to touch all the salient points of this discuss. I shall not because of brevity fail to stress all that needs to be buttressed.”
He paused – as if to mark out the introductory from the main, perhaps.
“My brothers and kinsmen, if I tell you that I know what we are supposed to do in this situation I am telling a toothed lie. In all the time I have massed on this planet for which I should stand out in this gathering I have not seen a like happenstance. But that is why we are human beings imbued with intellect. It is situations like this that differentiate us from baser animals.”
This time he clears his throat with undiluted emphasis.
“My people whatever decision we shall arrive here should be governed by a sense of our history. That particular border area has often given us a headache if my recall is as total yours. We are often invaded from their by the very people who have sent an entire kindred of theirs away for an offence committed by one man. My people without wasting much of your time, I am of the opinion that we let these people settle in that buffer region the incessant attacks of those who drove them have created to serve as an actual human buffer.”
Subsequently, the crowd – one and all – could not even a muttered murmur utter as if transfixed by an unseen participant in the parley.