A BEFRIENDED ENEMY

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THE CONTEMPTUOUS VISIT

CHAPTER 6

No one was pleased at the turn-out of the day's event. Different groups had one unpleasant thing or the other to say as they recalled the bits and pieces of what happened earlier.

Some chiefs took it upon themselves to pay Obi a consolation visit before they returned to their various homes. All six of them conversed on their way.

"what happened today, must surely not repeat itself. We all must see to that” Mazi Nduka submitted to others. He appeared to be the eldest among the lot.

Everyone agreed with him.

“You can say that again. How can we allow our own children to be taken as hostages on our soil....on our very own soil” Mazi Uloh reiterated in irritation. He seemed to be the most offended.

“More importantly, Obi does not deserve the inhumane treatment he got today. He is supposed to be celebrated not treated like a criminal.” Mazi Ozor added thoughtfully.

“I suspect foul play. Did you not notice how agitated those in the front row were, even at the slightest rowdiness in the hall?” Mazi Eze recalled, viewing the issue from a different angle.

“Come to think of it, by what yardstick did they choose the awardees this year, if I may ask? By what yardstick did they place Usifo Amadi, a palm-wine tapper over Obi Eze a teacher and a youth leader whose impact on the younger generation is felt by all?" Mazi Ibe enquired with scepticism and continued

“Or is it Nkem Ozor of Nkem Motors that is more deserving of the land award than Obi? Nkem, a mere transporter who only visits Ohia once in a year to show off his wealth.”

“Hmm-hmm.....” the fifth chief cleared his throat and continued

“Point of correction, Nkem buys us refreshments; freshly tapped palm-wine and bush-meat for the every festival even if he doesn’t attend"

“Mazi Okon....!” the other chiefs exclaimed in unision and out of disbelief at what an elder statesman blurted out.

Mazi Okon couldn’t care less about the piercing eyes of other chiefs. Though they stared at him with disgust, he wore a straight face and did not take back his words. He only spoke on:

“did you not notice the difference between the special guests of honour in the yesteryears and today? How do you think they all came about those exotic cars?”

Mazi Okon seemed to know what the rest did not. With his last statement, he succeeded in tickling two people's fancy; Mazi Ibe and Mazi Eze. They retrieved the weird look they threw at him earlier and resorted into a sheepish grin instead.

Both men took their places at Mazi Okon's sides immediately because they yearned for more information. They could not pretend.

The remaining three chiefs didn’t seem to care about knowing more. They stood their grounds and looked at newly formed group with contempt.

There was an obvious gap in the reasoning of all the men, despite being in the same age bracket, hence a split was inevitable as they continued their walk to Obi's place.

The first trio, headed by Mazi Nduka matched on at a steady pace while the second, headed by Mazi Okon deliberately lagged behind. This the latter did to ensure that whatever will be said among them, stays with them.

The women had been ready to receive visitors, nevertheless they were taken by aback when the chiefs showed up earlier than normal. However, the two caucuses were warmly received upon their arrival.
Their surprise was understandable since they were not abreast of what happened at the event.

The men took advantage of their ignorance to snap them out of the shock.

“The program was shortened this year but that didn’t stop the awards from being given. Every man that attended should be on his way home” The oldest spoke soothingly on behalf of all the men.

All other chiefs nodded or gestured in agreement. They could not afford to belong to different school of thoughts on this point hence, danger looms.

Afterwards, they made themselves comfortable, both factions taking their seats at a distance to one another.

That sent a wary message to the women once again. They had not fully recovered from the first startle. Not withstanding, that didn’t stop from them from being hospitable.

“Our husbands are probably jubilating at the event as proud land owners, that should be the reason for their delay then.” Adaora couldn’t contain her excitement as she spoke.

Then she addressed Nnenna:
“You go first and get dressed for the ceremony while I take care of our guests”

The chiefs knew better and did not make any attempt to change her opinion. They only acted as though her awaited hero had not fallen.

On that note, an irresistible refreshment was served; palm-wine and bush-meat. The trio; Mazi Okon, Mazi Ibe and Mazi Eze threw caution to the air. They devoured it like hungry lions and chosed to forget the reason why they came visiting.

Three chiefs remained aloof. But they did not fail motion to their kinsmen so they could come to their senses. To their dismay nonetheless, the gluttons ignored the gestures calling them to order.

The first lot were having a good time while the second group only looked at them with utmost disappointment.

Adaora noticed something off about the visitors. The group that refused to touch their refreshment made it even more obvious. In an attempt to confirm her observations, she approached them with even more.

This time, the fourth chief, Mazi Ozor could no longer resist the temptation. He was able to comport himself earlier but not any more. He quickly snatched the plate of bush-meat and gourd of palm-wine from Adaora before the adamant chiefs could say otherwise. He then took his seat and dived into the enjoyment he had deprived himself of.

That convinced the woman beyond doubt that something was wrong. She excused herself to go get dressed in readiness to receive her man and very many felicitators.

The two chiefs who were able to refrain themselves reprimanded Mazi Ozor. They maintained that no one was supposed eat on that type of visit, even if offered food. The transgressor however defended himself.

Despite his stand, the duo didn’t stop scolding him. Mazi Ozor felt odd still sitting with those who were against his actions. He decided to deploy to the other group, where things feel right. He took all the refreshments along with him to take his rightful place among the foodies. He was received with open arms especially because he brought more eatables with him.

Mazi Okon had so much information to dissipate. His followers giggled in turn as they received every bit of it with appreciation. They yearned for more and rubbed their leader’s ego with praises and utmost submission. The four chiefs chit- chatted for some time until they had nothing else to munch on.

Their team head was still talking when his stomach rumbled, reminding him of his all day hunger. The refreshments had only gone to wet his appetite.

“what else do you think can appease a rumbling belly? Mazi Okon threw a rhetorical question at his kinsmen.

Instead of a reply, they all let out a loud thunderous laughter.

“what you feel is what we all feel...isn’t that correct? Mazi Ibe enquired seeking to be on everyone's good record especially their leader’s.

Mazi Ibe didn’t wait to be asked, he beckoned at the women and asked that another meal be served immediately.

Nnenna handled the next serving as Adaora had gone to make herself presentable for the occasion. The elders were served a generous portion of Akpu & ofe-owerri soup; the richest and tastiest they've eaten in a long while.

The fourth chief thanked his stars severally to have deployed to the winning group before the meal was served.

Mazi Eze thought of what else to do to ensure that their group does not lack liveliness. He made for the entertainers and asked for a slow but melodious tune to be played. He also instructed them that the next sign he sends to them should usher in a dance-able tune.

Everyone of the four chiefs tried out-do the other just to get the most out of their leader.

Mazi Okon was elated at the leadership role he assumed. That he need not make a request per say before he gets anything, thrilled him. He knew that so long he maintained his position, these benefits would not cease. Thus, he didn’t stop dishing out facts about what he knew about the day’s event.

The merry-makers were glad that everything was going on fine. They enjoyed their food with good music in the background. As they ate, they let out hysterical laughters occasionally, just to spite those that didn’t join them.

Mazi Uloh, one of the two chiefs on the other side, watched the chiefs who could not exercise restraint, from a near distance. He was burning with fury at his kinsmen and charged at them more than once but Mazi Nduka cautioned him each time. The duo seemed like the only ones thinking straight.

After a long wait and Obi didn’t seem forth coming, Mazi Nduka decided to take his leave. He had health issues which he was managing and he was beginning to shiver. He knew the aim of their visit had been defeated since things had fallen apart between the chiefs. He excused himself and left.

He had barely walked a reasonable distance when he spotted a limping Obi. He was approaching his home. They met midway. The old man only stopped in front of him. He placed his shivery hands over Obi's shoulder for a while and said nothing. He couldn’t find words that would express his innermost feelings. Although those words were unspoken, the message was clear.

Obi barely looked up, nevertheless he nodded in appreciation. Both men departed. Each continued on his way to his destination.

At Obi's place, only one man was left who did not join others but he had been very angry at them. The only reason why he didn’t vent his anger on them had just left. Since there was no body to tame him any longer, a furious Mazi Uloh approached the other chiefs to vent his annoyance.

He looked scornfully at the men but that soon melted away after sighting the enticing dishes before them. Mazi Uloh stayed transfixed at a spot, eyes glued at the mouth-watering servings....everything so irresistible!

It was the cheifs’ spiteful laughter that jerked him back to reality. Mazi Uloh dashed back to his seat. He appeared to be calmer and in deep thought after then.

Adaora stepped out in her gorgeous attire to the admiration of all. The lonely chief approached her and whispered only to her:

“kindly help me pack my food. There’s no better place to eat my own share of these delicacies than my home.” The woman smiled in agreement and quickly left to get that done.

The other chiefs peered at him and imagined what he told Adaora. But they didn’t need to wait for long before she showed up with packs of food in a transparent bag as she took the delivery to him. An outrageous laughter erupted from the other wing.

Mazi Ibe thought there was no better time to request for a new music than now. The band got the signal and a dance-able tune was ushered in. He invited Mazi Okon with an enchanting dance steps, others followed suit.

Mazi Uloh felt mocked at how they swayed in the music groove. He wished he could reverse the food request he made. He actually expected Adaora to be as discreet as possible with the food package and delivery. He however collected it with reluctance. He wished for the umpteenth time that he had left honourably like Mazi Nduka, but it was too late.

Others didn’t stop dancing. Even the blind could see that Mazi Uloh was their object of ridicule. Nonetheless, he ignored them and held his package to his chest. He turned deaf ears at the infuriating laughter from the other chiefs. Though he felt humiliated, he made to leave.

The women were interested in getting to the root of the mystery that had played out at that place, now more than ever. Adaora didn’t stop looking out for her husband. She was confident that the puzzle behind the statesmen’s behaviours would be unravelled once he showed up.

Her eyes trailed Mazi Uloh who just made his way past her, towards the compound’s entrance. They both spotted Obi at the same time. He stood supporting his weight on the wall, so as not to tire his bad leg the more.

An air of Melancholy sorrounded the supposed hero of the day. He not only looked dirty and sad, he was badly wounded.

Obi had arrived at his compound and stood rooted there at the entrance. His eyes had been fixed on the chiefs since his arrival. He saw a reasonable part of the melodrama that played out since Mazi Nduka left. No one knew for sure how long he had been standing but it was obvious it had been for long.

“Chi mo....!(my God!)" Adaora cried out in her high pitched voice but ended in a squeak.

Her heart sank as she took a second look at Obi. She need not ask if things turned sour at the event, it was evident. Her hands were raised above her head as sad tears ran down her cheeks in torrents. She wailed louder yet again.

This time, the cheifs’ attention were drawn to Obi. In confusion, their group suddenly lost its lively ambience. They all wished could take refuge in the ground, if only it could open up. Some sat down while others remained standing. For the first time since the formation of their group, something felt wrong.

Their greatest regret was the music that was still playing. In the midst of these, no one had the courage to signal or stop the band like they did at the beginning of their merry-making. The music played on but no one dared dance to it. One woman eventually took it upon herself to stop the performance.

Ignoring the infuriating scenes that had been playing before his very eyes and more importantly, cries from his wife, the limping man got a hold of himself and walked into his home. His wife trailed him with a sympathetic howling .

The couple was a pitiful sight to behold. The women itched to know about Obi's predicament but the chiefs were not in any position to tell that story. Not after they've overstayed their welcome. One by one, they made to leave hurriedly.

The women exchanged inquisitive glances at one another but no answer was forth coming. Worse still, they threw pitiful at Nnenna insinuating that her own husband must have suffered the same fate as his friend.

The woman knew the only way out of this mystery was to find her husband. Nnenna ran as far as her legs could take her, to find her chidi.
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