This story is no new story.
I guess you must have heard it told in folklore, at the feet of your village story teller in the silvery moonlit night, snuggled beside other children your age under the shade of the mango tree. You must have heard it when your mother nagged at your father and called him ‘Eze onye agwala m’, but in case you haven’t heard this story, I will tell it to you, just the way a talkative old man told me a few years back one afternoon in a village many miles away from mine.
The talkative old fellow told me that there was once a very powerful kingdom, so powerful was the kingdom that it was famous for its riches in the crafts, trade, farmlands and military prowess. A king ruled over this kingdom, his name was Onyeagwalam, -literarily, ‘let no one suggest to me’- and so he was addressed as Eze Onyeagwalam. He was a very powerful king, feared by his subjects, but he had one flaw; pride, and he listened to no advice. Such was his pride that he had executed with his own hands some of his subjects that dared advise him against his will, and so for the love of life, nobody dared point out any of his mistakes to him.
I guess now, you have known why your mother called your father Eze Onyeagwalam. Sorry to digress, I still have to complete the story;
One day, Eze Onyeagwalam was invited to be a guest of honour on a wedding feast. It was the wedding of a princess of a nearby clan and her father the king had deemed none other more befitting of the honour than Eze Onyeagwalam.
On that set day, the proud Eze Onyeagwalam took on a complete entourage of his chieftains and guards all dressed gorgeously for the occasion. He was fully dressed in his purple royal outfit adorned with rare peacock feathers and his pages bore elephant tusks ahead of him. The musicians beat their drums and the flutist played, singing Eze Onyeagwalam’s praises while the proud king swayed to the music.
It was in those days when there were no cars nor lorries nor bicycles, those days when men walked long distances or rode on beasts. The procession had chosen the footpath that cut through the farmlands as it was a shorter cut to their host’s village, and so along the foot path, the procession walked. The drummers beat with trained fingers against the taut skins of their wooden drums, the flutist blew his flute with such fervor that the veins stood against the skin of his forehead and neck and the proud king swayed swelled with praise until he stopped on his tracks, announcing to the procession to halt for he was pressed and needed to empty his bowels.
Into the cover of the bushes he hastened to defecate and the procession waited patiently for him on the bush path. It was the middle of the rainy season when wild cocoyam stalks grew tall and the leaves broad and green in the bushes undisturbed by men and sheep. On one of those cocoyam leaves, a mound of fresh excreta was precariously balanced, but then Eze Onyeagwalam did not see it. In his haste, he had squatted right beside it to defecate and as he did, the cocoyam leave toppled over by a strong rush of wind, depositing its burden on the king’s back, but yet he didn’t notice.
Relieved, Eze Onyeagwalam rejoined the procession and they resumed their journey with the drummers playing alongside the praises from the flute. Eze Onyeagwalam danced, enjoying the praises and occasionally pressing a cowry shell on the forehead of the flutist for his art in praise singing.
They saw the mound of feces on the back of their king, but they didn’t call his attention to it; they were scared for their lives lest he executed them and so they pinched their nostrils against the stench of the feces when their proud king wasn’t watching. They followed him as he danced to the palace of their host.
Their host had gone to met him at the entrance to his court, the venue for the wedding feast and was astonished at the sight that met him; a king bearing a mound of stinking feces on his back,
“Welcome my friend” the host said courteously “the table is set, the bride and groom with all of my kinsmen are waiting to pay you their respects to pay your honour, although the luggage saddled upon your back would have unexpected results to the jolly mood of all gathered”.
He was at a loss at what his host was saying, but then he followed the fingers of the villagers pointing and his back, that was when he saw it.
Ashamed, in his palace that evening, he assembled all those who had accompanied him on the wedding feast before him.
“Why did you let such a humiliation to befall your king today?” he inquired soberly
“We were afraid you would kill us for pointing it out to you. We know what has befallen all those who had tried to advice you in the past” they answered.
That evening, Eze Onyeagwalam swore to become a changed king and to learn to listen to the advice of others.
That was how I got to hear it from a talkative old man on an afternoon a long way from my village. I hope you learnt a thing or two from it when you were told the story? I hope you now understand what your mother meant in calling your father “Eze Onyeagwalam”?
If this isn’t how it was told you, maybe you should tell me yours.
This story is no new story.