“Chief, Chief! Chief, congratulations o! I heard of your chieftaincy installation yesterday. You people said we should not come. And to make sure that some stubborn people like us did not find our way to the place, the venue was shifted. I have caught you today. Come and wash your chieftaincy title for me.” Onukwube said with hysteria, shaking the hand of Chief Uzokwe feverishly.
“No, Onukwube. We did not intend to exclude our guests from participating in the event. Due to the insecurity that has pervaded the community, attendance was restricted. A few days ago, our Eze’s palace was invaded. The venue for the event was changed to the village hall. So it was not our making.“ He explained.
“Oh, it is true. I heard of the invasion. So, when are you planning thanksgiving and reception?”
“Rece… what? In this security situation. I am not planning any reception anytime soon until security in this village improves. Today, I woke up to the frightening news that those criminals are gradually gaining entrance into our village from the neighboring community.”
“Ohhhhhh! Well, Chief. Let us start our own reception here now. They will not come today, at least.”
“Maddam Patie, please give us something to drink. Ask those men at that other table what drink they will like to take. Then bring one bottle of Heineken for me.”
“Madam, you know nah. You know say I be ACB. So anything cold there, just bring it.” Onukwube says, smiling and smacking his lips in anticipation of free drink, and scouring his mind at the same time for a story to sustain the sit-out .
“Did you bank with ACB?” Chief Uzokwe retorted, surprisingly as he peered at Onukwube.
Onukwube let out a naughty smile, and said, “No Chief. ACB means Any Cold Beer.” That moment, Madam Patie served a bottle of Heineken and Life Beer to Chief Uzokwe and Onukwube. Onukwube held his bottle of Life Beer in his palm for a while, feeled it and frowned, “Madam please replace this drink with any other cold Beer.”
“Am sorry, Onu. That is the way all of them are.” She smiled back and cast him an empathetic look.
With the trademark angst and misplaced sense of entitlement of a man drinking a paid Beer, Onu bellowed “What kind of talk is that? Don’t you have a Refrigerator? How can you not have a cold Beer here? It is high time you closed this shop.” In half-hearted frustration, he spanked at the glass cup, hooks his ring on his Ring Finger around the cork, and opened his drink with the masterful effortlessness of an old drinker.
“Onu,” continued Madam Patie, but this time plaintively, “why are you talking as if you are not in this town again? Have you seen a power supply in your house for 7 years?”
“Then you chill your drinks with Generator.”
“Which Generator. Do you know how much a liter of fuel costs now? I bought fuel for ₦165 three days ago. Today it has increased to ₦185. Then a bag of Ice blocks which I bought at ₦300 is now selling for ₦600.”
“Are you the only person that is not seeing the spike dollar is taking in this country? Three days ago, the rate of $1 was ₦610. But today it has risen to ₦730 per dollar. I would need at least 10litrs of fuel for my generator to chill these drinks for at least 4 hours. Then I will need about 7 bags of Ice block to chill my drinks. How do I then make my gain? So I could only afford two bags of Ice blocks and they could not chill my drinks well. Please I am sorry. That is the situation we find ourselves.”
“Madam. What has dollar got to do with Iceblock?
“As light no dey so, no be generator dem go use power the fridge. Na dem urine dem go put for the gen? Onu, please let me be.”
Chief Uzoka shakes his head in silent grief, “This country is finished. And the people in charge of our economy do not want to resign.”
“Riza, _gini?_ Chief na you dey talk this one. Do Public Office holders resign in this country? Take your Village Head, Nze Olanikpenkwu for instance. Why has he not resigned after the sacrilege they said he committed in this village? How then do you expect the President and CBN Governor to resign? I heard Nze Olanikpenkwu even had the temerity to attend your chieftaincy installation yesterday.”
“Yes o! Shamelessly, he was there. He is the Chairman of the Body of Nze na Ozo. They are the people who are spearheading the installation. So he must be there. He even presented a speech at the function.”
“Wonders shall never end. Spee gini? Some people do not have shame ohhh. Despite the public outcry from the whole community, and from some chiefs in the community.”
“You are talking of the community. The Eze and members of his cabinet petitioned the Nze na Ozo Disciplinary Committee (NODC) to look into the accusations against him. Being the Chairman of Body of Nze Na Ozo, the Eze also wrote him to recuse himself from the Committee, and to resign his position as the Chairman until the determination of the petition.”
“Do you mean HRH Eze Olunwanne Akpatasim?”
“Oh yes. Our traditional Ruler.”
“Yes, he did. The letter was also made public to all the Nze na Ozo, Council of Chiefs, Body of Village Heads, and members of the community.”
“What exactly was his offense? You know some of us who are not Chiefs hear a lot of rumors. We do not know which one is correct.”
“He attempted to entice Ajumobi’s wife and take her from him.
Aru! Sacrilege! How can a titled Nze do anything of such; to attempt to sleep with another man’s wife? What an insult! But let me ask you, chief. Is Ajumobi weak in bed?
“Shut up! How can you ask that question? By no means. Ajumobi is not weak in bed. Assuming he was, do you take a man’s wife because of the size of his instrument? That is not even the point here. He wrote a Love Letter to Ajumobi’s wife, telling her how good he is in bed, that he is a bed warrior, and how he can influence members of the Town Union to give her the choicest location in that Shopping Complex which the Community is building, and how he can help her evade payment of rent and rates in that Shop due to his good relationship with the Town Union President and members of his Exco.”
“Are you serious? So it is possible to influence the Town Union leadership? I thought they are incorruptible.”
“My brother, let us not go into that. I am not in the leadership of the Town Union. But I must tell you one thing; “When you see a bird dancing in the middle of a pathway, his drummer is in the nearby bush.”
“I now see why his wife and relations have shops scattered in the choicest locations in this community.”
“My brother, _ike gwuru.”_
“So what was his defense.”
“Which defense? What can be the defense of such a man? Well, you will always expect a drowning man to grasp at straw. He said the Love Letter was not his writing. But it was clear that the Love Letter was delivered by one of his young servants.”
“But let me ask another question. Did anybody catch him on top of Ajumobi’s wife?”
“Is it only when you catch a man on top of a woman that he has committed adultery? What does the bible say about looking at a woman and lusting for her. That apart, the law in this community frowns seriously at enticing another man’s wife. And as an Nze which is the highest title a man can hold in this community, he should be seen to be above board. Not only because he is an Nze and custodian of values, but also because he is the Chairman of Body of Nze na Oze; a body in charge of the installation. training, and regulating the Council of Chiefs in this Community. What lesson does he want to pass to the younger Chiefs. I feel so ashamed that I am a Chief in the same community as him. He has brought both Body od Nze na Ozo, Body of Village Chiefs, Council of Chiefs, Chieftaincy, and Nzeship to public ridicule. The whole community now looks at every Chief and Nze with disdain and scorn. We have lost respect in this community. This is a big shame.”
“So what are other members of the Body of Nze na Ozo saying about this?
“I am ashamed to tell you this. The most shocking thing is that they had a Meeting at the Village Town Hall a day before our installation and this agendum was not raised by any of them.”
“Are you serious? Was HRH Eze Olunwanne Akpatasim not in the Meeting?”
“He only attended the meeting virtually.”
“So in his absence no member of the Body of Nze na Ozo raised this very important topic?”
“None! None Absolutely. The most shameful twist in the whole thing is that some Nzes from other villages are now supporting him.”
“Tell me this is not true.” He responded, wild-eyed and mouth agape.
“I am telling you. Read the Newspapers. People like Nze Okutepa, Nze Anachebe, Nze Okoli, some members of Body of Nze na Ozo, Body of Village Heads, and some of his kinsmen from Umuekiti Village. In fact, most ridiculous is a statement from one of them that Nze Olanikpenkwu is a superior Nze.”
_“Tufiakwa!_ Is that why he has to commit a superior sin? Maybe he meant to say he was a superior _Nza,_ not Nze.”
Chief burst into peals of laughter and said, “Perhaps.”
“You see why the Traditional Institution will continually lose its respect. This is not untraceable to the reason people now deride, insult, and beat up Chiefs, especially policemen. Do you know I was considering picking up the Expression of Interest Form next year to pass through the rudiment and become a Chief? I didn’t know it has been debased in this manner.”
“Do not try it. Some of us who were newly installed yesterday are looking for the opportunity of returning our Chieftaincy Certificates. If not that I had already picked the Form, passed the screening exercise, and other tedious rudiments of being one, I would not have presented myself for installation yesterday. If this happened before I picked up that form, I would not have wasted my time and money.”
“This is really shameful, Chief.”
“My brother, it really is, and I am so pained.”
“But what do you think is the solution to this impasse.”
“Neighboring communities are watching us. They want to see how this pans out, and how we handle it. The whole traditional Institution – the Body of Nze na Ozo, the Body of Village Chiefs, the Council of Chiefs are under test. The eyes of the world are bearing on us vigilantly. And long as the decayed tooth is not extracted, the mouth must continually eat with caution; silk-hood will sink, and the rickety body of this bending Bench upon which the Benchers sit shall wither away and break”.
“Chief and grammar. Which one is Silk and Bench in this matter.”
“Nevermind, you are neither an Nze nor a Chief.”
“With the rot that has pervaded the traditional institution, I shall not contemplate being a Chief anytime soon.”
Chinedu Agu is a lawyer.