THE TOUGHEST OF THEM ALL by Cletus Anah
The last war between two brother towns; Ihiagwa and Nekede
Nobody in Ihiagwa needs to be told that we have a neighbour known as Nekede. Just as I am sure that she is our immediate neighbour on the north so also am I sure that sometime in history, this town (Nekede) and our Ihiagwa were at logger-heads. The bone of contention is what I cannot really put a finger on. But it came to pass that this stalemate culminated into wars that ran in concatenation. This story is about one of these wars. I have chosen this particular war for no other reason than the fact that it was the toughest of them all. The war that ended all wars and took place the olden days.
On this occasion the native doctor bustled. All the warriors were gathered in group each with his gun and ammunition to match. The native doctor went about his preparations as if the warriors did not exist. New concoctions were mixed; Herbs, root and tree barks exchanged hands as the doctor recited several incarnations apparently oblivious of the serene atmosphere around him. To the seasoned warriors, this was just one of the preparations before a war. They had seen many of its kind and hoped to see more. To the younger warriors with nothing to boast about but their bravery which earned them a place in the army of soldiers this was a novel experience. The old men of the town watched nostalgically as every movement by the warriors shot rays of light reflected by their glittering matchets in all directions.
The scene was reminiscent of a military parade. The occasion called for more than a military parade for Ihiagwa was preparing to select her soldiers for war against Nekede. As the native doctor finished his preparations, he got started on the task of the day – The selection. The process of selection was seemingly a simple one. The native doctor kept a rope or stick on the ground over which each and everyone of the warriors must jump before he could be deemed eligible to feature or participate in the war. The warriors who due to inadequate preparations for the war or other reasons couldn’t jump over the rope/stick were not allowed to take part in the war.
In this way, the selection exercise went on. The soldiers in high spirits with amulets and tied to their hands and waist began to cross the rope. Some who could not jump over the rope were laid off while those that jumped over got fully prepared for the war. This was the situation of things when it got to the war leader’s turn to jump the rope.
The war leader (call him general or whatever you like), a warrior from Umuokoma clan, was a giant of a man whose body was a sea of bulging muscles. He had never missed any war and was reputed to have brought home many prisoners. As he strolled towards the rope every spectator and even the native doctor at that was sure that he would cross the rope. But fate had a surprise package in store for the people of Ihiagwa. When the brave warrior got to the rope, he was inauspiciously rejected. This new development did not in any bit help the spirit of the soldiers. Nobody at that time knew why the “General” was laid off but the native doctor advised him not to participate in that particular war. So the other warriors went to war without the ´General`.
The “General” retired to his house to wait for news about the war. After waiting for sometime, he paced up and down his sitting room, went into the inner room where he got dressed for war, collected his gun and matchet and taking the short route behind his house, left for the war front – against the native doctors advice and violating the law guiding the selection of warriors. he was received at the war front with mixed feelings. They were surprised at seeing him in their midst after his rejection by the selection charm but were also happy that he was with them. Their happiness was short-lived, for the “General” was shot down not long after his arrival. His death changed the course of the war. A new tempo was reached as each side fought to take the giant’s dead body home. Corpse littered around the area where his body lay and the war raged on till eventually the Ihiagwa warriors gallantly brought the corpse home.
The death of the brave giant was a big blow not only to Ihiagwa but also to Nekede for his bravery was enviable. The two towns had seen many warriors but he was acknowledged the toughest of them all. The people of our town Ihiagwa did not want to take the “General’s” death at its face value so the elders and the native doctors got together to find out why the “General” went to war after he had been rejected by the selection charm. Their findings revealed that the “General” wife had given rein to her natural avarice, bad manners and disgusting selfishness by refusing to give her husband food.
After this a truce was called and the belligerent towns settled their differences – Shall say, for good.