In the heart of Ebonyi, a young and beautiful Mgborie was betrothed to Onwuatuegwu, the great warrior whose personality earned him his name. Daring, and like a cat with nine lives, always escaping the Grim Reaper at battles, he was the dream husband of every girl in Afikpo town. But for some odd reason, however, Mgborie never seemed to like him. So full of himself and never afraid of death (wasn’t that the meaning of his name anyway) , Onwuatuegwu was just lucky to have been liked by Mgborie’s father, Udo, hence the betrothal. From their awkward union came an only Son.
Uzodimma Chukwuemeka Onwuatuegwu!
Never doubt the power of Death to snatch anyone away so easily. Is that not why our elders say that when a child tries to playfully lift his father up, the father’s wrapper would end up covering the child’s eyes. Such was the fate of Onwuatuegwu with the Dark Angel. The child had become so used to his father that one day, the father took his bedsheet and covered the son’s entire body.
Six feet down the ground was the only real memory Uzodimma had of his father, except for the background story Mgborie would later tell him of his father’s premature and avoidable demise.
“A warrior should know his limits“, Mgborie would say with hiccups in her throat and angry tears forming at the angle of her eyes as she recounted the events daily to her five-year old, super -intelligent son. “That was your father’s problem. Onwuatuegwu, Onwuatuegwuuuuuu” “hụ otú ọnwụ were ya., ehn, See how death took him away, like a chicken! ”
Had he known when to stop on his search for the cure to ịba that swept across Ibo land killing young and old, maybe Onwuatuegwu would have seen some gray days. Malaria was the name the white man called it, but Dibia had said that it was a plague from the gods; that they had cursed the water from the stream, ensuring that everyone who drank of it had their urine filled with blood.
Children, especially, slipped away with ease from their mothers hands, burning with the fever only comparable to the temperature of a hot charcoal stove, with some of them wriggling in tonic-clonic manners that symbolised that the inevitable was near. Piles of bodies filed the Afikpo dumpsite as Dibia had directed that they be left there. “Bury them in the ground and you’d curse the ground too, making ịba more contagious than ever“, Dibia threatened with bloodshot eyes.
But when it came knocking on Onwuatuegwu’s doors with his brother, Ijeagha, burning up like the midday sun, that was when he took up the challenge to fight ịba even if it meant with his own life. Dibia had said that the cure was in the heart of Uburu, in the very “mmahi”! Uburu had a four lakes that served the local people as a source of cooking salt. How on earth would anyone find an earthworm in such a place! Dibia’s solution sounded impossible but when your blood brother is on fire, you’d do the impossible to save him.
Days went by, months even as Onwuatuegwu burrowed through the saline waterbeds of Uburu, like a squirrel in search of an earthworm! And yes, he found the worm indeed as Dibia said, but alas, Onwuatuegwu’s skin had dried up with the search. He was a walking corpse by the time he returned to Afikpo. To his greatest shock, Dibia himself had caught the fever only a week back and had joined his fathers on the eve of Onwuatuegwu’s return. Truly, the gods were angry with everyone. The solution that laid in his hands didn’t last long either. The earthworm seemed to answer Dibia’s call from beyond as it stepped on Afikpo soil. And with Ijeagha long gone, Onwuatuegwu had nothing to live for, or so he said to himself. Fear gripped the one who knew no fear, as his bones went from rock-solid to paper-brittle. Onwuatuegwu was found dead in his room the following morning!
How did Mgborie manage to train Uzodimma up all alone?
Could the absence of a father figure in his growing up years have contributed to Uzo’s current mental state?
All these unanswered questions abound as we look through the Trials of Uzodimma together…
Stay Connected. Catchya tomorrow