In life, some were born with a golden spoon while others have to create their own as life goes on with them. The latter was the case of Tema. Tema lived with her parents in a small village. Her parents were peasant farmers. Her father loved her so much because she was his only child then. She beautiful like her mother. Other neighbouring villages surrounded the village of Tema. That of Tema was considered the least. Tema did not know, history only could give the full detail of the story how Tema’s village was the least and always oppressed by the other villages surrounding them.
The main occupations of the neighbouring villages surrounding that of Tema were more of livestock rearing. Farmers in Tema village had suffered a lot in the hands of their oppressors who used their crops sometimes to feed their livestock especially when the season is not favourable. Every year their crops are been destroyed by cattle and their drinking source of water been polluted by animal feet and faeces respectively. The people of Tema’s village had expressed their dissatisfaction so many times to the chiefs and head of the villages concerned but nothing fruitful came out of their efforts. It was all in vain. Since they are considered as the minority, they have no say than to bear their crosses patiently and wait on divine providence.
This continued for many for a long period until one day, the people of Tema’s village gathered to discuss on how to put a final stop to all the problem and gain their freedom. Many were of the opinion that they should go for war but few rejected the idea saying that war will be to their own detriment because they are few in numbers compared to other villages. After much deliberations and suggestions, they finally came up with the idea of going to discuss with the rulers of the villages concerned to ask for a lasting solution because they cannot bear the pain and sorrow anymore. They selected five men from to go deliver the message. Three days before their departure, a traitor from Tema’s village went and told the ruler of the other villages that his village is coming to wage war against them in a surprising way. The information was received with deep anger and bitterness. Therefore, the other villages decided to attack them unaware.
No one knew the plans of the neighbouring villages. All were at peace until one night while the people of Tema’s village were sleeping peacefully, her father heard a loud scream from afar. He woke up, put on the lantern and tried to peep through his window to see what the problem was. Behold to his eyes, he saw flames of fire in the air with a thick black smoke. He immediately woke his pregnant wife and his daughter. Confused on what to do, he asked his wife and daughter to hide in one corner of the house. “What is the problem?” the wife asked. The young man opened his door and went straight to his neighbour. As he was going, he saw people running helter-skelter shouting war! In their dialect. Immediately he knew that the other villages have come to attack. He rushed to his house, took his wife and children and set off. However, unfortunately for him, his wife cannot run as fast as he wanted since she was pregnant. He tried to carry her but it was heavy on him. The enemies were fast approaching and he had no choice than to save at least a life. It took him few minutes to make up his mind how to go about it. He finally decided and asked she to continue running following the others. First she hesitated, but a heavy shout from his father sent the courage and urge to move and starting running. She ran as fast as she could to join the others. Tema’s father stood their wife his wife because she was already bleeding. He could not know what to do again. Helpless in that condition, he decided to die with his wife rather than leaving her there alone. In a loud voice, he screamed and sat beside her. A few minutes later, some of the attackers came, immediately. They saw him, they passed him, did as if they were going forward. One of the attackers turned and came close to him and chopped up his head with his machete. This act sent made Tema’s mother to faint immediately. The attacker took the machete and pierced it into her abdomen. All the contents of her abdomen saw the darkness of the night. The killer wiped the blood on the machete on her body and they moved ahead.
The entire village of Tema was like a deserted area. Not even a single soul was there again. Everything that has breath was either killed or sent into exile. She finally found herself after daybreak in a forest with other persons most especially women and children. For good three days, they had neither taken food nor water. Some of the children below the age of two were already starving to death. The kept walking inside the forest until they came to a place where they could find water. With the joy of seeing a source of water, many lives were revived. For forty days in the wilderness and forest, wild fruits and animals have been their food as they journeyed to an unknown destination. Finally they came close to a village called Bekou and tried to enter but the inhabitants there refused them entrance. After much pleading and negotiations, they were allowed to come and in. the chief and elders of Bekou came to see them. After hearing what they have to say, the chief and his council members decided to give them assistance. A large piece of land was given to them to build their huts with mud, woods and palm leaves. They were approximately 50 that survived the journey.
Tema was living with a young man called Mimra and his wife who seems to her to be people with good human characters. They were so kind and took her as their daughter. she was already twelve years old when she came to Bekou. For a reasonable period of time, she mourned her parents. She cannot tell whether they are alive or dead but she kept hoping that someday she would go back to her village to see her parents. All the persons she have asked about the whereabouts of her parents gave her a consoling reply. They kept on telling her that one day, they would all go back to their village and occupy it. However, deep in her, she was very sure that what happened that very night was disastrous because she saw how people were running helter-skelter and suddenly she was asked to join them by her father. That very night as she was running, the thought of seeing her parents again was vividly present in her.
One evening, Tema asked the man: “Where are your children?” The man looked at her and smiled. The man’s wife overheard Tema’s question from where she was busy cooking. She equally looked at Tema and smiled too. The smile reminded Tema of her mother. Few seconds later, Tema started sobbing, tears drooping from her eyes. Both never knew why Tema was crying. They consoled her and pet her very well. During meal that night, they all ate together and went to bed. That same night, Tema dreamt where she saw her father lying lifelessly on a floor. She pushed him, shook him, but there was neither movement nor word from her father. She screamed and woke up. The noise woke up Mimra and his wife. He came close to her where she was lying and asked her what the problem was. She said: “I saw my father, he is dead.” Mimra replied: “Your father is still alive. Do not worry; I promise you, I will take you to parents one day when peace must have come back to our village.” She laid down quietly and continued her sleep.
Gradually the bond of unity between Tema’s people and the people of Bekou began to take a different and positive dimension. Lands were given to them where they can cultivate and even rearing animals to sustain themselves. Mimra was a great farmer. This offers favoured him more. The land was shared among them and each has the right to do whatever he or she wants with it. Mimra together with his wife and Tema used to go to the farm almost every day. Although initially, Tema did not find it easy with the farming work but with time and consistent working made her to get used to it. Each year, they had enough food to sustain themselves after the harvest period and other extra farm products were being sold in a nearby market. Life continued like this for her until she finally adapted in her new environment.
As a girl in her puberty period. Tema was as beautiful as her mother was. So gorgeous in nature, with her small nose, tall in height, long black hair and a slimed body structure. She was admired by almost everyone not only because of her beauty but also for her hardworking nature. Even while Mimra is not fit or sound to go to farm, Tema would go and do the job perfectly well. All who passed by must give her a complimentary message. Many young men in Bekou love and dream to have her as their wife. They saw in her what their own females were lacking. She had every quality and character that would make a Bekou man successful in life. She became the talk of the town, more popular and famous. Though for many including some Bekous, it was a welcome idea but to some it was like a threat to them especially to the females in Bekou. The make matter worse, Tema do not associate herself much with people, she liked being on her own, doing her things in her own way. So this made other girls to find it difficult to penetrate her and maybe pick quarrel with her or something like that. To make those who are jealous of her more helpless and powerless before her, she tried as much as she could to be respectful to them, putting on a smiling face wherever she went and always willing to help aged ones in fetching water and doing other house chores. That was an extra ordinary character the people of Bekou had never seen in the life of their female ones. She was often used as a reference by other parents when they are reproaching their children especially the girls.
In all these, Mimra had tried to caution and advised Tema as much as he could because he was afraid that the issue might turn out be something else someday if proper and affective measures were not taken now. As a human being, no man is an island and we all need friends to make life meaningful. She finally found one. His name was Abija, the only son of his parents. People were very surprised how Abija got the attention of Tema which many had tried but to no avail, all their efforts were in vain. He was a boy almost the same with her. He is from Bekou and a very hard working and jovial person. Though he is known in his village as a comedian. He could make children and even adults laughed out their jaws with his jokes and funny stories. It was once said that he raised up a dead man with his jokes during a funeral ceremony and after the dead body finished laughing, it dead again. These were the characters that attracted Tema to him. At a point, they started going to farm together and when she was less busy, she would accompanied him to his father’s farm and both would worked together. Tema never for ones regretted that first day she met him. The jokes of Abija change her life entirely; brought back the life that was lost in her after the death of her parents, made her always happy and joyful.
These two fellows were on the lips of both small and great, young and old in Bekou. As usual, many admired them while others kept praying if possible for their death, downfall or separation. Mimra kept on doing his best, playing his parental role to Tema as much as he could. His wife equally was not left out. She used to talk to her and advise her like her own daughter. Many who never knew the history of Tema, were referring to Mimra’s wife always as the mother of Tema. Though Abija’s parents saw nothing wrong in all what was happening between their son and Tema. For them, it was a thing of joy and a pride for them, hoping that one day, both may married themselves. Abija’s mother really longed for that day to come, seeing and hearing all the beautiful stories about Tema. Sometimes his mother did come to pay visit to Mimra’s wife taking her to be Tema’s mother.
At one point in time, there was a rumour that Mimra and wife were not Tema’s parents. No one had the courage to ask either Mimra, his wife or Tema whether the rumour was true or false. As it stood then, many were already convinced that Mimra and his wife were the parents of Team. Therefore, the rumour made no meaning to them. Abija never had the courage to ask his friend about it with the fear that he might hurt her. He avoided anything that could make her angry or unhappy. Their friendship continued until to a certain point both started paying themselves visit at any time at any moment. Sometimes She would forget her house chores and goes to the Abija’s house just to see him, only for her to come back and discovered that he had not tidy the house. She had received many reproaches from her guardian parents. They too tried to understand her condition at that age and did everything possible to guide and direct her.
Abija wished that one day, Tema would accept to be his wife and that would be his greatest happiness on earth. It was a taboo in the land of Bekou for a woman to be pregnant outside wedlock. In addition, the punishment for this act is death. However, one thing strange about these two friends was that, ever since they were friends, thy had never for once engage in any sexual. Nevertheless, the contrary was the conception of many. They were just waiting for the day Tema would be pregnant for Abija, then the truth would be known. Many had started refereeing to both of them as husband and wife jovially. Abija saw nothing wrong in it and sometimes turned it into a joke just to make people laugh. In many occasions, he cracked jokes with his friendship with Tema just to make people laugh and removed the negative conception in them that there is nothing hiding going on between them.
At times the thought of her parents do reoccur in her but she tried consoling herself with the words and jokes of Abija. occasionally, she kept on imaging how her parents would be fairing in their home back in the village, how they must have been looking for her and asking neighbours about her whereabouts and so on. One fateful night after meal, she went to Mimra who was chatting with his wife and asked them: “When are we going back to our village? I really want to see my parents. They must have been searching or looking for me. At least let me see them to be sure that they are still alive.” Both were speechless in front of her. They told her that when the time comes, they would informed her.
Not satisfied with their reply she asked again: “How are you sure our people are still alive? If they are at least they would have come looking for us or sent messages across to other villages to know if we are still alive.” Giving a deep breath, she stood up and excused herself. Mimra thought over all what she said for few days and took the courage to trace back his homeland. Nevertheless, the only problem he had now was that he could not vividly remember those narrow paths they took while on exile especially the ones in forest. Seeing all the ordeals and dangers they passed through especially in the forest, he decided to give up but his mind kept telling him to take the risk and go. He discussed it with his wife but she was not in support. “It is true that we are already stabilised here, we have everything, life has come back to normal but I felt for our child Tema,” he said. “I really need to know and be sure about her parents whereabouts, at least even though I would not tell her, let me know the truth myself. I know that, that very night of the attack, it was a fierce one and many lost their lives and properties and how am I sure that Tema’s parents were not killed, a man running with a woman who was eight months pregnant” he told his wife with an emotional voice filled with pity and sorrow.
Meanwhile Tema’s people who migrated to Bekou had be asking similar questions about their village in order to know if some persons survived the attack and remained stayed behind or went to the nearby villages. The memory of the event has left a lasting trauma in them. They do not like recalling the incident. Another tragedy was the number of children that died out of hunger and thirst in the forest.
One fateful day, Mimra prepared himself and set off for his journey. He never took the narrow paths but going from one neighbouring village to the other, asking them about his hometown called Sullah. Though all the responses so far he has been getting were not satisfactory to him because they were been given without certitude not until he got to a village where he found the answer to question. He came to a small village with sparsely house settlements and met an old man there. The man welcomed him well and sat him down. “Where are you from? The old man asked him. “I am Mimra from the village of Sullah.” The old man looked at him with a surprising facial expression. “Did I hear you said from Sullah? He asked. “Yes, I am from Sullah, though ran during the attack to another place far from here” Mimra retorted. “And all these while you have been on exile I think” the old man said. The old man bent his head, shook it with his eyes looking the floor and said: “Your land has been occupied by your conquerors, your attackers since then and I do not think a single soul from Sullah is still living there now. Is a pity young man, accept my sympathy.”
Mimra was speechless for few seconds. He had the feelings that none of his people survived the attack but wanted to be sure and be convinced so that even while he tries to console Tema, he knows the truth of the matter. After showing a sign of appreciation to the old man, he started his journey back to Bekou.