My father was a great man and so was my grandfather. I loved one and the other I didn’t know. However, they were both the same man.
It has been said that the paternity of a child can easily be proven by a DNA test. That sounds all well and good if you live in a period where you don’t need the services of a runner to deliver an urgent message such as the birth of a first child.
Or an era where the town crier’s bell has been hushed by a piercing ring from an object every family desires to be present on a table in their Obis, revered more than used.
The town crier announced my birth to the village around noon while my father was out hunting. Since he was a great man and I was to become the son of a great man, the gong was employed. A runner was sent into the Anuputara bush to summon him and together they raced towards the family compound.
Everyone knew my name or rather thought they knew what my name was going to be because I was born on the Nkwo market day.
It signified valiance, wisdom beyond years and trust, all conferred by a personal chi.
“O! Nwa m, bia osiso. Leave what you are doing and come here.”
I drop the guavas I had plucked from the tree in our compound, forgetting momentarily the pinkish ripened flesh I had dreamed about biting into. Stepping into the echo of his call, I race towards the main hut.
For as far back as I can remember, I was called ”O” by my father. If I had learned about abbreviations in school, I would have asked him what “O” stood for.
Remember though, I am from a different era.
My father’s arrival on the afternoon of my birth produced a different name that no one else but my mother knew.
It has been said that no matter how wayward a woman is morally, embedded in her womb and lips is the name of her unborn child’s father.
Thus, as my mother rested from her extended labor, she slipped in and out of a trance that held and released her in short intervals. In her waking moments she repeated a name, my father’s name.
It was during one of these episodes that the hunter walked in. He sat by his wife’s side and wore a strange look as he read his wife’s face and the words off her lips.
No one addressed him by that name. He hated having to share his father’s name and readily picked up Ike, a new name given by his peers as a symbol of his strength.
Before he was married, rumor had it that he had ripped apart with his bare hands a wild animal that frightened the children in the village. Some say it was lion, others describe the spotted garment of a leopard as they recount what happened.
He proudly bore the bloodied stains of whatever animal he had hunted down, but as a family man now, he killed more for food than adventure.
Thus, no one was surprised when he left to hunt immediately after visiting my mother and I in the hut. Many guests were expected and more than the usual amount of meat was going to be needed.
He returned empty-handed but heavy-hearted with news that his father had been killed; an arrow pierced into his heart.
“Onyemere?” was the question everybody asked. “Who did it?”