The Native God, By Esther Chizaram Ngele

Posted by News Express | 16 June 2019 | 1,224 times

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•Esther Chizaram Ngele

Okonkwo! Okonkwo! You need to see this. O’ gini Ononiwu? Why must you shout every time you come here? Okonkwo retorted. “I cannot understand what I'm seeing, Okonkwo!”

“Of course, his presence needs to be heard before seen and felt,” Nkemjika mumbled as she turned on the mat where she laid with her sister, Chisom, who was already peeping through the wooden window, as she had already sat up on hearing Mazi Ononiwu call out their father. She was always drawn to the deep thoughts of Mazi Ononiwu. To her, such were words of wisdom set loose by alcohol. They were words with deep meanings.

Her sister Nkemjika, being more of a realist, always thought that was the content of the beer bottle speaking. Mazi Ononiwu might be a drunk, but he always philosophised once the spirit of alcohol sets his lips loose.

“This is not just the faces in the moon my brother, Okonkwo. This is a mirror of the other side.”

“Which other side?” Okonkwo asked.

“The other world that Ejikeme crossed to!” They watch us through that mirror Ononiwu was saying, pointing to the full moon; before he turned to answer Chisom’s greeting. She had come outside to see what Ononiwu was pointing at.

“What are you doing out here, young lady?” her father asked?

“I want to go ease myself.”

“Ngwaa, do fast before mosquitoes feast on you!” her father said. “Yes sir!”

She ran to the backyard. The truth is that she wasn’t pressed as such but just needed an excuse to watch the full moon: Nnanyi Ononiwu's “big mirror”.

What if he was right? This could be a mystical glass tunnel to the other side; which turns to a plain ash-heap of rocks in an open space to the white men, who thinks they can fly into it with their spacecraft.

The gods do have their ways of concealing the doors. Watching with thrills at the foolishness of men called science.

The other night, she saw a face in the moon: A fair beautiful lady who stared back at her as if she was reading the letters of her soul. She must be a goddess, as her dewy features exuded. Her eyes dark and steady with her long dark hair loosely covered with a silky sari, which matched her skin in her loose apparel. Chisomaga wished she could speak or make a gesture or anything that would amount to communication to her. Bu, instead, she just stared at her.

She has always been a believer; a believer in the powers unknown. Not the gods that have been brandished black, wooden, deaf/dumb, and with nothing but dark powers to inflict pain, wickedness and demand sacrifices at will by the white man.

She believed that there is a universal power in control, regardless of the part of the Equator man dwells.

African sculpted gods were physical manifestations of divine beings, which made themselves impressionable in the minds of the chosen few, called dibia. They led them in the sculpting of their images in other to be more visible to us. We Africans have always had our god before the white men introduced theirs, with a manual called the Holy Bible. They called ours black and theirs white. As white is subtle to behold and appears holy, while black is too strong and, as such, must be harsh and wicked. This is the asunder we face with our gods, as the white men lead us in prayers to burn their temples called shrines. Hurray! It’s deliverance, they call it.

Ewo chim o! Ewo chim o! This was the repeated screams Chisom heard on her way back from the stream. She immediately recognised the voice as that of her mother. She hastened her steps, with water splashing from the pail on her head. Supporting her bucket with a hand, she held up her long skirt with the other hand to enable her walk faster. She would be late for school if she doesn't hurry. And why on earth was her mother shouting like that?

From a distance to their compound, Ononiwu stood in his usual ragged clothes, with both hands lifted up shouting: “Chim ewelukwa! Chim ewelukwa! Chim eww....”

“Bia nwokem, behave like a man!” Idika retorted at him.

Her sister Nkemjika, on sighting her, ran to her with the unbearable: “Papa is dead.”

That was all she heard as the next thing she realised was her water was spilled on the ground, and her pail broken. She wasn’t screaming, she couldn’t cry; not even a word. She held her sister who was sobbing uncontrollably, as they walked towards their mother who was in the mist of mourners and consolers.

It's been seven days since after her father’s burial.

Chisom was amazed at Nnanyi Ononiwu’s diligence in checking up on them and his caring disposition. Nkemjika thinks papa’s death must have knocked some hard sense into him. Of course, he has always been nice; let’s just say “more responsible” is the addition to his nature. She was grateful for Nnanyi Ononiwu. Deep inside, this drunk was a good man with sound insights to life. She could still remember her father’s response to her sister, when she asked him why he considered “this drunk” as his best friend. “He is a wise man you know, Ononiwu is a man who could not deal with mid-life crisis and resorted to alcohol for sustenance and succor. Well, the tragic loss of his wife, the very love of his life during child birth at the local clinic, left him shattered not to mention the death of his only child to malaria. Ononiwu is truly a survivor!”

It was a full moon, Chisomaga sat on a stool watching the big mirror. Maybe, this is the night. The next face she would see could be her father’s. She earnestly hoped he could see her and reassure her everything would be alright.

Praying to the moon had become her custom every night. She prays for their safety and welfare. For NnanyiOnoniwu, she prayed he finds the reason to live and be happy again. Since the death of her father, between her and his best friend, she can’t tell who is more devastated. Maybe, true love would do the magic. Aha! That is it! Everyone needs love, especially Ononiwu. Besides, he is a man and can never be too old to bear children. Besides, he was just in his late forties.

Maybe, her prayers were being answered as Nnanyi Ononiwu was soberer lately. He has been pouring libation before the Oraukwu shrine lately. And no one goes to Oraukwu for small business. Nkemjika had taken to the cathedral as a second home. It was obvious they all need their gods closer these days in whichever way possible: Be it praying to the moon, pouring libation at the shrine or hailing Mary, the gods must hear us.

It’s been one year since her father’s death. Chisom was grateful for Nkemjika’s wedding ceremony over the weekend. Nnanyi Ononiwu had taken a new wife who just bore him a son. Her mother’s joy knew no bounds. They all survived! Their gods all answered.

And here was Agbaeze offering bush meat to Chisom, whom he fondly called his Bianca: After subjecting her to his long chorus of “forever my love.” The radiation of her beauty would be reserved as a headline for the newspapers.

Hmm! The mystery of life! The gods are all the same no matter the name they inspire us to call them. Don’t call one bright and the other dark. They all are our soul’s guide and universal harmony. Where do the dead go? Their bodies perish, but their souls never go into extinction. “Uwa di omimi nime omimi,” Chisom philosophised.

Life is a mystery; you cannot tell for sure the turn it would take. But that’s the beauty of it; we must always stay ready. Somehow, she is sure of one thing, Chim som aga.

“I will continually talk to my God and things would turn out wonderfully well for me.” They always do, because, Chi zaram.

•Esther Chizaram Ngele, a Law Student, writes from Enugu and can be reached via

Source: News Express

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