For over seventeen years of practicing sorcery and clairvoyance, he had never seen anything like what he witnessed last night. Ikedi was still recovering from the shock of what he witnessed. That young man – Etim, sure had guts.
Etim graduated with a second class honours upper division from Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan. He read math and computer science. He was a whizz kid throughout his stay at the uni. He could literally fix anything ranging from mobile phones to clippers that stopped working. He was so good with his hands. He was well known and the good thing about him was that he charged a flat rate for whatever services he offered, no matter how complicated the case seemed. He loved helping people out. He was always reading manuals and catalogues on how to fix stuff. He was a self-made man. He came from a humble background. Nobody was at hand to train him. His good friend Etetim, had encouraged him to write the entrance exam to the university. He did not want to because he knew that he did not have any sponsor. Etetim encouraged him to do so. He did not have money to enroll for the entrance exams. Etetim, helped him out and both of them passed the exams and went to their universities of first choice. While Etim studied math and computer science, Etetim studied law.
During their first year of study, they maintained their steady friendship. As the days progressed their paths did not cross that much. They managed to catch up during weekends. Etetim would most of the times share his money with Etim, to encourage him to brace on for the tough life that awaited him. This was how Etim got into fixing and repairing electronic gadgets and made a sizeable amount of income there. That was how he was able to fend for himself throughout the uni days.
He did his National Service called NYSC at Bayelsa state, in a rural community where he spent all his time trying to convince the young people to take their education seriously. He offered free tuition services to the local community. He really wanted to make an impact. The young folks were used to awoof* money. The oil companies in partnership with the local chiefs were supposed to provide some useful and gainful employment for members of the community. How could they be employed if they were not educated, so the key laid in education. The community leaders collected monies from these oil companies under the pretext of communal settlement and development and these monies ended up in their pockets and those of their allies. The community suffered. Majority of the people were farmers, and fisherman. Whenever there was an oil spillage, their farmlands and waters got destroyed. What a pitiable sight! Their means of livelihood were destroyed and because of the endemic corruption in the system, nothing got resolved. The oil spillages never got mopped up. Their farmlands were never reclaimed. So the next enviable thing to do was to join the bandwagon. As the saying goes it is easier to join the bandwagon than to be the odd one out.
Oil pipes were vandalized and tapped illegally for petroleum products and when a disaster struck like a fire incident, the people died in droves. High rate of immorality was prevalent; unemployment was at its peak in these communities. The state was in such dire need of industries. Everybody wanted quick money and that was via oil. This was the sad tale of Kalaba community. Scholarship schemes were set up for natives and those who capitalized on these scholarship ventures went abroad to study and never came back – brain drain, another sad tale.
Etim sacrificed his life and sweat to help out the young people. He believed that education would help them and with that zeal, he carried on even when no one payed attention to him.
Five years after his national service, did he still hold such views that, education was the way out?
He had applied to a multitude of workplaces until he received an award of ‘applicant of the year’. He had thought that bagging a second class honours upper division would pave the way for him. He did not have any godfather. His life had been a struggle all the way through. Was this how life was supposed to be? What did he do wrong? He had been to different churches. He had prayed and fasted. He had done everything humanly possible to secure a good job. None came. He lived from hand to mouth. He didn’t own a place of his own. He contemplated doing business but did not have a start off capital. The banks wouldn’t give him a loan. He thought of farming. He did not have any land. He did all sorts of menial jobs just to stay afloat. He didn’t need any university education to do a menial job. So what was the point of going to uni, then? His friends were now working class people because that was how he survived from day to day. He lived with them and worked with them.
One last thing he resorted to, a visit to the Dibia. The Dibia was a local diviner. Let me see what the future had in store for me. He had been saving his wages for the past two months to buy the needed items to visit the Dibia. One of the items was a large she-goat. A thought flashed through his mind, perhaps this goat would end up in the Dibia’s pot of stew, while he who labored under the heat of the day, was not having the goat as a meal.
He sat and watched as the cowries were thrown at the floor. The Dibia spoke in some unknown language, tightened his face, cleared his throat and shot his face in the air, turned his head around to listen to some sayings from the gods. The gods spoke, Etim, did not hear it, the Dibia heard it. The Dibia grunted and took a sip of illicit gin from the bottle nearby and spat it on the floor. He picked up the cowries and juggled them in cupped palms and threw them at the floor again, they scattered. The pattern was not definitive. He seemed unable to read it. Does it mean that Etim’s future was not defined or could not be defined?
He opened a little door next to the shrine and brought out Ntukpa the tortoise, used for divination. Rumours had it that, Ntukpa was used in the hardest of cases.
“Listen son” the Dibia said.
“You see this ‘T’ on the floor” Dibia went on. Etim looked closely at the floor and there was a drawing that looked like a ‘T’. I will put this tortoise at the tail of the T southwards and Ntukpa will begin its journey to your future. At the T juncture, if he goes right, which is east, then your future is bright and if he goes left, which is west, then your future is not bright. Understood”.
“Yes Dibia” Etim muscled the courage to say.
His heart was thumping so fast that it nearly ripped itself out of the cage. Tension soaked the atmosphere. You could cut the tension with a knife. Etim was perspiring and he was forbidden to wipe off the perspiration from his face. That was one of the rules in the shrine. Ntukpa took its time to crawl. All the while, Dibia was making incantations in an unknown language. Finally Ntukpa arrived at the T junction, paused for what seemed like eternity. If you stayed close to Etim, you could heart his heart thump. His shirt could be seen vascillating. All eyes were on Ntukpa.
The local Dibia took another shot of gin and spat on the ground. He spoke in a strange tongue and listened to the wind. The winds spoke and Ntukpa started making its way to the right and then made a u turn and started heading to the left. Etim leaped from his crouched position, stretched forth his hand and grabbed Ntukpa and put it right back on the track to east.
The Dibia was so shocked to utter a word. In his seventeen years of being a Dibia, he has never seen such feat. He looked at Etim speechless and all eyes were focused on the tortoise again. Would it stay on course to the right?
awoof* – money/resource you did not labour for.