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A family’s suicide mission

By Yetunde Arebi

Hi,

It is not all the time that my aproko pays off. But on this particular occasion, it did. It was a small gathering held in the honour of a friend to celebrate her birthday.

Their table was next to ours and we all soon fell into a conversation discuss the economy, politics and soon general relationship issues. Then the topic hit on extra marital affairs.

As expected, opinions differed but one of the guys blurted out something which caught my attention. He said his friend was against extra marital affairs because the guy’s father and uncle died as a result of magun (thunder bolt).

Those who were already in the know busrted into laughter. The guy, without appearing angry announced that it was not magun but a curse.  Not knowing which was worse, we all bursted into laughter. I was already very interested in the story and urged him to tell us what happened.

He was a bit reluctant until someone introduced me as a writer. Set in a rural waterside community, the events dates back to the 70s but has left devastating impact in the annals of a family’s history. The story captures some of man’s frailties, especially our lack of self discipline and greed. This is Tobun’s (Not real name) story:

“I was 16 years old at the time, the eldest child of my parents. We were not rich, just okay for the environment we lived in and our family was one of the notable few then. I can’t remember precisely when the affair began, but we had been hearing several versions of the story before the woman’s husband visited our compound.

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We lived in a big family compound. The land had been bought by the eldest of the family of four children, all the four brothers had built a house each on the land, thus making it a family compound. My father was the second child, so the man came to see my big uncle who served as the head of the family.

He narrated how he’ had been reliably informed by some people that  my father was dating his wife secretly. He said on confrontation, his wife had confessed to the affair also. This man went further to stress that he thereafter approached my father on the issue and warned him to stay away from his wife but that my father had refused to listen.

The man had been very bitter and hurt about the whole thing. It was obvious that he truly loved his wife and wanted to her despite the problem. To our surprise, my father owned up to all the allegations proffered against him but announced that he could not decide the direction of the relationship. Only the woman in the middle of the controversy could.

My father, confident that he’d won over the woman’s heart, told the man to go and talk to his wife rather than make a nuisance of himself in our house. The man left after my uncle had promised to look into the matter, assuring him that no one could take his wife if indeed she did not want to.  Naturally, the matter caused a rift between my parents.

My mother fearing for the life of her husband or children, related the matter to us, asking that we talk to our father. She was worried that something terrible was lurking in the corner.

You see, the young woman was a friend of another uncle’s wife. These women were the reigning queens in our town in those days. Oyoyo, they called them. They were the flamboyant, party going type you refer to as society girls or big girls today.

We were sure this woman had met my father through my uncle’s wife. For a long time, we did not hear anything about the affair except that she had packed out of her matrimonial home, leaving her two children behind.

A couple of months later, my father announced that he was getting married to the woman. There was nothing anyone could do about it as the family was predominantly polygamous. In fact, up until then we used to wonder at my father’s seeming lack of interest in taking a second wife. But no one expected he would be interested in such a woman, and to the extent of marrying her. He was not even literate or as exposed as she was.

Both my parents were not educated. They were just lucky that they succeeded in their chosen business which they did jointly. Anyways, this woman was brought in and not long after, everything changed in my family.

My father openly lavished his wealth and attention on her. They attended all the local parties in town, buying aso ebi to fit into her world. Local musicians sang his praises. In short, he was love struck and there was nothing my mother and least of all, we, her children could do about it. Her complaints fell on deaf ears as my uncles and aunts were convinced she was just jealous of the younger, prettier and sociable woman.

Unfortunately, my father died not quite seven months after his marriage to his Oyoyo.  He’d arrived home from the shop that day complaining of a headache and fever.  My mother had hurriedly prepared agbo, the local herbal medicine which he took. But things only got worse and he was dead early the next morning.

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This was in March 1977. He was buried according to Islamic rites amidst unprecedented wailing and mourning. His death was so sudden, no one saw it coming, more because it was at a period everyone knew he had just began enjoying his life with a beautiful, and well sought after woman.

After all the official ceremonies had been completed and the mourning period observed, a family meeting was summoned to determine what becomes of my father’s estate.  These included the wives and property.

The woman initially declined to be remarried into the family. Her excuse was that since she did not have a child for my father, she could still find a husband of her choice elsewhere.

My mother on the other hand agreed to the family proposal and she was transferred to an interested cousin of my father.

However, a few days after the meeting, this woman declared a change of heart. She announced that she was ready to be transferred in marriage to another male member of the family. We later found out that her friend, the one married to my uncle had put her up to it. Her reason being that, my father’s estate would be managed by those who took over responsibility of his wives and children. If she could not have a child for my father, she could have for another member of the family and through that have access to his wealth.

My father’s cousin who had earlier chosen my mother on hearing the development, promptly changed his mind too, expressing desire to take on the woman.

Two other members of the family were also interested and so it became a keenly contested battle. At the end, it was decided that my father’s cousin being the eldest of the three should have the woman, while either of the other two could have my mother. At this point, my mother refused and accepted to remain in the house to take care of her children.

Thus, fate played its part in the lives of these three men.  Barely three months after, my father’s cousin passed away mysteriously. He had gone to his farm where a tree fell on him. He was not rescued until the following day when the damage had been done. He’d lost much blood and only God knows what else had happened to him out there in the bush all alone in the dead of the night.

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He died a few days after, unable to tell anyone about his ordeal. He left behind six children and two wives, the younger being Oyoyo who still did not have a child for him. My uncle’s burial rites too were quickly performed and the waiting period observed.

On the day of the family meeting, where the fates of the two women and their children would be decided, Oyoyo this time around opted to submit herself to the will of the family. She agreed to marry any willing member the family decided for her. She told the gathering that she was devastated by the losses and was therefore ready to surrender to the decision of the family. She did not own up to the fact that having lost two husbands in quick succession, she might be rejected and stigmatised by the society.

Of course, the greedy lustful men contested again and she was promptly taken over by another cousin. The new husband this time was a young man, close to her age and never been married. It was the hope of many that the two would make a happy couple and bear children together.  Unfortunately, this was not to be the case again as the young man went to sea a few months after and never returned. Their boat reported capsized and he alone drowned, despite being a good swimmer.

The loss of the young man was too great to bear for the family and so it was decided that it should be investigated. The oracles were consulted and it was revealed that  the woman’s husband was responsible for the men’s deaths. He had been very bitter about the way my father had snatched his wife even after pleading with him to leave her alone. In his rage, he employed the efficacy of juju to avenge the wrong done to him.

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After my father’s death, he had assumed that his problem was solved, his wife would retrace her footsteps and return home to him and the children. But to his shock, another member of our family took over his wife again. In anger, he placed a curse on her.

Any member of our family who marries her must die. He was not angry with his wayward wife but with our family for accommodating her. Oyoyo was finally allowed to leave after causing the death of three able bodied men. Such is the irony of life, the reward for greed and lack of contentment. The woman eventually married another man and had children for him. She never went back to her husband. But then, he also died mysteriously a few years after. Oyoyo died recently at over 70 years”.

Do have a wonderful weekend!!


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.