The Plot

By Ikenga Chronicles December 22, 2019

The Plot

–Iloh Friday Okechukwu

The village had been in turmoil for a very long time. The cause of this was more than one issue but all were related. In the very heart of the brouhaha was the kingship tussle that polarised the village into factions. As it was typical in African settlements before the White man came in like the uninvited early morning sun wandering into place distant and unknown, kingship and chieftaincy disputes were common. Unlike these days where resort is had to the court, back then the machinery of justice was different and highly effective.

The struggle as to who occupied the throne got intensed and so spilled over into groups and associations in the village. One group that was heavily hit and thus factionalised was the masquerade group. Many of its members queued up behind contenders to the throne.

In the melee, one man stood out, and that was Ojedokun, farmer and hunter. He came from a long descendants in a family that was deeply ingrained in the masquerade art. He was no contender but his loyalty and support was highly prized and coveted; his backing could turn things around for a contender. He supported nobody despite all soliciting.

A plot was weaved to drag him into the melee. One day while working on his farm, a lad, breathlessly ran to tell him that his masquerade costumes were outside of his house! Ehn! What did you just say? The lad repeated himself. Ha! Trouble was imminent in the air. He stood straight, gazed fiercely into the horizon, in the direction of the village. Calmly, he told the boy to go meet with his men, co-initiatees in the art, and that they should bring out their drums and beat same at the very place the costumes were laid. They should beat the drums as if they were having a real masquerade around, dancing.

To have one’s masquerade costumes outside is a great taboo; a defaulter would have to pay heavily for this in sacrifices and stuffs like that, and this involved a lot of money, huge amount. The plotter’s motive was to make him a defaulter and then comes around to bail him out on the understanding that he would support him in the quest for the throne.

The muscles on the arms of the drummers tightened as they pummelled their various drums. Droplets of sweat cascaded their brows. A thick crowd had formed around them, as it was unusual to hear that sort of drumming around that time of the year. The plotters were nestled in the crowd. As the drumming got to fever pitch, the inexplicable was beginning to take shape. The masquerade garb, very slowly, hardly noticeable, started to rise. The drummers, like one possessed by demons, intensified their drumming. Some people were already swinging their bodies.

Now, the costume assumed the posture of an old man seated on a low stool. What followed next, for those who had the courage to see it, was a phenomenon that nobody in the village or any where around, had ever beheld or heard. In a flash, the costume, from its squatting position, sprightly sprang on its feet! Half the crowd, particularly women and children, scampered away in fear. Behold a masquerade! The masquerade surged forward like a river about to overflow its bank, broke into a gyration of frenetic dance steps; the crowd, caught between fear and excitement, roared like a hungry flame. The drummers more possessed than ever, went crazy; the masquerade danced to and fro, and finally danced into Ojedokun’s house; very shortly after, with the crowd still around, he emerged from his house, smiling and waving to the crowd. The plotters dispersed, the plot had failed.

Image: Travel Africa

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