By Ugochukwu smart
In Igbundu, a village located in the East side of the Niger, a king ruled with wisdom and diligence. The people of Igbundu prospered, their major occupation was fishing. People from far and wide came to Igbundu to buy fish in commercial quantities, and they brought with them their way of life, dressing and all sorts. Nevertheless, the people of Igbundu not change in their beliefs and culture. No matter how great a female child was, she was still a female child and was less important. So, it was not rare to see the men of Igbundu marrying numerous wives, so their quiver could be filled with numerous sons. The number of male children a man had, determined his standing in the society.
It was into this kind of society that Adaku, the only child of King Emelu was born. She was a comely child, with fair skin that was peculiar to the people of that region, and black curly hair that her mother always made into patterns. Adaku was the pride of her mother, but her father wanted a male child, his kingship was at stake. If he did not produce a male child, the staff of office would leave his family, forever. But Adaku’s mother, Udoka had a very traumatic pregnancy and birth, and it was not possible for her to give birth again.
One day, Emelu the king was sitting in his throne room thinking, when his daughter, Adaku walked in. She was only ten years old then.
Adaku: “Father, why do you look so sour, are you alright father?” she asked as she sat by her father’s feet.
Emelu: “No my child, I am not alright. I would be if you had come as a male child” he said
Adaku: “Father, if you want me to be a boy, I can be. I will wear boy clothes, shave off my hair and be anything you want me to be” she replied sadly.
Emelu: “No matter what clothes you wear, my child, you are still a girl”
Adaku: “And what is wrong with being a girl, I am the best in my class, I am strong and brave. I wrestled Mazi Ogbuche’s son to the ground the other day” she said passionately.
Emelu: “Child, leave me alone! And wake up, no matter how great you become, you are still a woman!” he said angrily. Adaku ran out of his presence crying. Her mother was coming to the throne room, when she saw her daughter running out, crying.
Udoka: “Adaku, Adaku my child” she rushed to hold her daughter.
Adaku: “Father doesn’t like me because I am a girl” she sobbed. Udoka left her daughter and marched to the throne room.
Udoka: “Emelu, what is this I hear? How can you make your own daughter feel that way”
Emelu: “And who are you to question me, you are my wife but all you have given me is a girl. Who will inherit my throne? For your information, I am about getting married to a new wife, and she will give me the sons I need, as your womb cannot bring forth any more children” he said and turned his face away.
Udoka did not visit her husband’s room that night, she stayed in her room with her daughter and cried all night.
Udoka: “My chi why wouldn’t you give me more children, I will soon lose my place in my husband’s place, just one son” she cried. She made sacrifices to her chi every new month, gave her the biggest yam from her husband’s barn every harvest season, but still her chi had refused to grant her request. She almost regretted having Adaku, but when she looked at her child, lying so peaceful, with her black hair falling over her face, she knew she couldn’t regret giving birth to such a beauty as her. She used her fingers to push back the hair from her child’s face, and Adaku smiled in her sleep.
Few days later, the king was escorted by his kinsmen to get a new wife. The wife was brought to the palace where a feast was waiting for her. Udoka looked at her, and her heart rend in two, the woman was more beautiful and younger.
She could not help but notice that her husband’s eyes did not leave the new wife’s face.
Udoka: “My chi, you have brought shame to me, you do not deserve my worship” she said coldly. Her heart quickened its beating as the new wife approached. She made a sway with her waist when she walked, they called her Ego Oyibo, because her father had hoped she would bring him dollars from oil money, with her beauty.
Udoka: “I am sure my husband Emelu will shower her family with oil money, especially if she gives him the son he desires” she said within as she plastered a smile on her face, to welcome the new wife.
Ego Oyibo: “senior wife, thank you for accepting me into your family” she said and knelt down for Udoka to touch her head as a sign of blessing. Udoka stretched her hand, even though her heart broke, to touch the new wife’s head. Emelu smiled from where he sat as he saw this, he was glad his senior wife accepted the new wife; he could not wait for the cry of a baby boy in his house.
Udoka: “Welcome new wife” she said as she touched her head.
That night, Udoka didn’t sleep; she listened to the creak of the bed as her husband collected his conjugal rights. The moans of Ego Oyibo tore into her like daggers, she used the pillow to block her ears, but her mind visualized everything that was going on in the other room, because it would be no different from her own first night with her husband.
Ten years ago, she had been young and beautiful, and unbroken. She had been brought to the palace amidst fanfare; the whole village had escorted her to the King’s house with gifts and farewells. That night her husband had met with her all through the night, poring his seed into her. A year later she had given birth to a baby girl, the village was happy, that their new queen was fertile, but hope for a heir died when years passed and the queen did not get pregnant again.
The next morning after the new queen was brought to the house, Emelu had breakfast with his new wife in the garden. She had become the apple of his eyes, and he hoped that she would give him the son he wanted. He was not oblivious of the rebellion his brother, Azagba was brewing in the village. He knew the village had factions; some supported him, while some others supported Azagba. If he did not get a male child, not only would he die heirless, but the kingship would leave his family forever.
Ego Oyibo: “My husband, you were great last night, I am sure that soon enough I would get pregnant and give you a heir” she said as the king poured juice into a glass for her.
Emelu: “I trust you, my new wife” he said and beckoned to one of the guards, who went inside and came out with a box. “My gift for you, wife” he opened the box just as Udoka came in. She saw the box was filled with expensive fabrics from lace to velvet materials, even gold jewelries.
Udoka: “When was the last time he bought me anything” she thought sadly, she made to turn back and leave, but Ego Oyibo saw her first.
Ego Oyibo: “Senior wife, come on, join us” she said with a dimpled smile. Udoka walked up to them and sat down beside her husband, who didn’t even acknowledge her presence.
Ego Oyibo: “Our husband is a real man, I had no moment of rest last night. I feel sore all over” she said smiling, but Udoka could see her eyes, she was taunting her.
Udoka: “Didn’t your mother teach you, not to discuss your bedroom matters in public?”
Emelu: “Udoka, leave the girl be, I do not want you to stress her so that she can be relaxed enough to conceive”
Udoka: “I hope you did not use up all your energy on her, because tonight is my turn” she said eyeing her husband.
Emelu: “Udoka, can you act like a senior wife. You are in charge of my household; you should stop all this pettiness. Ego Oyibo needs me more than you do; you have had me to yourself all these years, it is her turn now, until she gets pregnant” he said.
Udoka borne her pain and heart ache as she watched her husband relegate her to the background, he only saw Ego Oyibo, she cooked his meals, slept in his bed, and walked with him through the village, it was like Udoka didn’t exist anymore. Udoka prayed every morning in her heart, that Ego Oyibo would not get pregnant, but even that prayer was not answered, because, few weeks after Ego Oyibo came to the house, she became pregnant. Udoka was in her room sleeping, it was the early hours of the morning, when the town crier woke her up with the sound of his gong.
Town crier: “Gom, gom, gom. The king wants all the villagers to know that his new wife, Ego Oyibo is pregnant with his child” he said as he walked the length and breadth of the village. Udoka broke into a painful cry, there was no way she could gain back the love and affection of her husband. Eyo Oyibo’s child would be the heir and Prince of the village, while her Adaku would be nothing, but a girl child who was not wanted.
Question: What will be the gender of the child Ego Oyibo would have, and what is the fate of Adaku?