Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 3



Obinna Chilekezi


Tales by moonlight

I am ibo or igbo, whichever way you prefer. I think the conventional usage is now igbo. I grew up grew up partly in igboland hence this story.

Growing up as a child in my rural community had its fun too. Then the moon had played a very significant role in our recreations. It was at the centre of plays in the nightlife of both children and adults. Little wonder then that the sighting of a new moon was a thing of joy, most especially if it were during the dry seasons. No wonder too that both adults and children will pointing to the moon address the infant moon this way

The moon
my right finger I point to you
my left finger I point to you
guide me please
just the way the last moon
had also guided me.

The moon was part of our lives, its birth a thing of joy and we celebrated it through our plays, dancing and rejoicing in it. We were glad indeed having the moon around with us.

For the adults, it gave them additional reasons to visit friends. And for those that had concubine an opportunity to visit their lovers with less fears of snake bite on the bush path. It is as a result of this that the Igbos have this saying that

Owa gbawa
Ije aguwa
Meaning that
As the moon shines
There became the hunger to move about

Then for the children who were not left behind. It was a time so full of fun. The moon was our electricity and television too. As close families gather around its shines!

In the moonlight, children would sit round an adult to listen to folk stories and children would laugh and laugh.

Daa Rose, a late uncle’s wife was a master in this genre. She would tell off her heart on these stories. It made her house the centre of attraction for children to gather. She would tell the stories of tortoise, birds, of spirits and the woman of isi-ajakaja, a woman whose head had different plants growing on it.

Each month, Daa Rose would tell us new stories or retold old ones. It was fun listening to such tales.

Another game we were involved in then was called Oro. This was a form of hide and seek game whereby a child would be blindfold by another child while others would go and hide, for the child to find and catch one of them. It would continue this way on and on and on.

At the child was been blindfold, it would shout to the hearing of other children, in hiding that: “Oro, anybody I catch, I am not the one that catch him but the spirit”.

This is the origin of the saying among my people that “It is the Oro person that calls himself a spirit and not others”.

The moonlight gave us a big time recreation. It was and became part of our lives and existence. Although there were children denied this form of recreation. Children of teachers and catechists’ children. Indeed they surely missed the funs from their parental prisons!

Maybe it was with such background that the master story teller Chinua Achebe had succinctly described this experience this way:

When we gather in the moonlight village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Therefore let us continue with the team spirit and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let’s smile not because we don’t have problems but because we are stronger than the problems.

Maybe it was with such background that the master story teller Chinua Achebe had succinctly described this experience this way:

When we gather in the moonlight village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Therefore let us continue with the team spirit and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let’s smile not because we don’t have problems but because we are stronger than the problems.

Achebe also gave a good example of such tale in Things Fall Apart, which was based on the events that happened in Igboland at the end of the Nineteenth century which centred on the life of Okonkwo and his kinsmen. The title of the novel reflected the effect of the coming of the whiteman to Igboland and how this coming destroyed the values and customs of the people. In one of the scenes in the novel, which is not part of the plot of the novel, the great story teller, Achebe used one of Okonkwo’s wives, Ekwefi to tell one of the popular tale by moonlight stories to her daughter Ezinma. The story of the tortoise and the birds on their visit to the people of the sky.

This story was equally popular to children of my age growing up in the 80s and 90s in Igboland.

The moonlight is not just an Igbo affairs, it is an African thing. I came to Lagos as a young boy one of the forms of recreation then in Lagos was the tale by moonlight. In conforming this Paimo (2011) in his introduction to the play Abiku A Play written by Moshood Oba wrote that “ Everybody loves stories. Children especially. Not just for its entertainment tendency but also its didactic value. That is why with the death of moonlight tales, children find it more difficult connecting to their ancestral and traditional roots”.

This is the actually spirit behind the moonlight gather for the adults. And the spirit of togetherness is need more now than ever. For the children, it was fun and fun. The same spirit was the spirit behind the tales by moonlight.



Reference

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart London: Heinemann Publishers, 1958.

Kamil ‘Paimo (2011) “Introduction” in Moshood Oba’s Abiku A Play. Lagos: The Oga World.




He is a writer, he is already married

Each time I remembered this event I would laugh, laugh and laugh. Incidentally it is my personal story, which normally I should not share with, but then there is no hidden place for a poet’s life. No place to hide! It is even batter you hear it from the horse’s mouth than from elsewhere.

I married later but don’t know the cause as I remained single to my mid thirties. This became an issue first with my parents, who at any opportunity would remind me that age was no longer in my favour. Later on my boss in the office, Mr A. (let us leave his name as this) joined the choir. The difference between him and my parents was that I was seen him on daily basis while in the office.

That early morning, Mr. A called me to his office. My boss then did not drew a line between your personal life and your official life. He was just a big brother breather over your shoulder. And a bother that cared. I remembered my 30th birthday which he lavishly hosted. Indeed on that day, he made it a surprise, like everyone I saw caterers brought foods to the office, later wine, later a big cake and thirty minutes to the close of business he requested that the office conference hall be rearrange. It was then I was told that it was for my birthday.

That was our boss.

Incidentally, in the administration department where he was heading, there were three of us ripen for marriage as they would say but still unmarried, using the African parameter. This became of concern to our boss.

This is was the situation that early Monday morning when Mr. A summoned me to his office for a personal discussion.

“Obi, what is the problem?” he queried.

Confused! Blank!

“Sir, I don’t understand?” I replied.

“I mean your marriage. Hmmmm why are you still not married.” He politely added.

I laughed. “Nothing sir” I replied.

“Are you sure?” he continued.

“Yes, of course” I replied laughingly.

Going straight to the point, he looked at me eyeball to eyeball “why not marry Faith (not real name). I know you will not want to do anything with the other lady the way two of you fight in the office.” He said, as if to the air or the inanimate objects in his office.

I was silent.

He stood up, left his chair and walked towards me placing his arm on my shoulder.

“Just think about it”. He said, adding “I have also mentioned this to Faith too, yesterday. You can now go, I will talk to the two of you next week”.

I stood up and left for my desk.

On the D-day, as he had promised Mr. A called Faith and I to his office.

He cleared his throat and talked and talked, beating from bush to bush and finally arriving at the point where he was destined to go!

“Don’t tell me that you’re not from same tribe. He in this office we are one. For Obi I know you are Igbo but having been here for the rest of your life. So you can marry anybody that you love”, he said.

That is the boss.

Two of us were just laughing. For me I did not know what to even say. For instance I had never given marriage a second but the pressure from everywhere on me, “go and marry”. I became serious and silent.

The boss still in control, then said “Faith you will try and visit him this weekend and we will take it from there.”

He added me to give her my address which I did in his presence and we left and I walked straight to my desk still confused and silent.

On that eventful Saturday I was just finishing my morning chores when Tony, a former classmate and journalist living closeby came in. We had breakfast together and decided to visit another friend Maxwell living just a stone throw from my house.

It was while we were jesting and listening to music and that I recalled the date. I had to excuse myself from my weekend paddies and went back home.

It was rather too late, for Faith was already in my seating room.

We exchanged pleasantries. I enquired from her how she located the address, which she told me.

She then asked I learnt you go out without locking your doors in this Lagos.

“Don’t mind me”, I answered. “I just went to see a friend off and was held up there”.

She added “as I came in and knocked there was no answer but your neighbour came out and told me that I can open the door and wait for you that you don’t lock your doors.”

I just laughed but noticed that she was worried.

“Am sorry Faith. But you know me right from the office that are too carefree”, I said.

She did not say anything.

“What do I offer you” I asked her.

“Nothing” she replied

I can’t take no for answer I said walking out to get a malt drink for her.

I took some persuasion before she accepted the drink.

Just after taking the drink she stood up to go.

I pleaded and pleaded that she should stay longer which fell on a deaf eye. And she left. I managed to see her to the bus stop for her to take a ride home.

Monday morning I dreaded. But Monday morning was there waiting. To compound the problem I came to work late because which would landed me into another problem. This time around my boss was more interested in my personal life than my official life! Or how else can we explain the development.

Faith was in the boss office when I came in and may be briefed him of her visit. I had not settled down fully when the boss sent for me.

“You can sit down.” He said with a faint smile on his lip.

“How did it go”, he asked.

“Well ok”, I replied not allowing him to finish.

“What of you Faith”, he asked.

“He is married” she answered.

I was lost.

“Married?” I asked.

“Yes, you’re a writer and married to your books, sir while he was away I entered his bedroom lo and behold on his books, on the floor, everywhere books. I can’t marry him. I don’t want to be a second wife to him.”

This was how the case was closed.



Obinna Chilekezi: "I am a Nigerian poet with background in library science and insurance. My collection of poems titled Songs of a Stranger at the Smiling Coast was recently released by Kraft Books Limited. My poems have appeared in journals and anthologies.”




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