Published on: May 12, 2005
Type: Short Stories

Iberuju village was the biggest among the neighbouring villages. It was endowed with a large expanse of land. Farming was the preoccupation of the inhabitants of this village. However, there was dearth in the land, because the village had witnessed poor harvests for three consecutive seasons.

Ifeloju woke up late in the morning, as the rays of the sun pierced through the door of her hut. “Oh, the day has gone!”, she exclaimed. She got up to start her daily chores. She knew that her father would have been in his farm by that hour of the day. She was very attached to her father, because she was his only child. Her mother died twenty years ago when she was only four months old. She washed her face and put on her smart attire that revealed her beauty more; she knew she would see Eniafe on his farm. Eniafe was a young farmer, who had wooed her a few weeks earlier. They met during the village festival and had declared their love for each other. She took the calabash and went on her way to the stream to fetch some water.

On her way back from the steam she came across Prince Olajuwon, the only son of the fearfully and highly respected King Adelagba. Prince Olajuwon was known to be a rude and unmannered man by all the villagers. He lived up to the meaning of his name, “wealth is great”. Ifeloju greeted him and immediately moved away to her destination. However, the prince who could not resist her beauty had cast his eyes on her. He went straight to the palace and informed the king about the young beautiful lady.

Having made an inquiry about the girl’s family, the king sent for her father, Iwaloju. He told him about the prince’s desire for his daughter. The girl’s father was not given a chance to dispute or contend with the prince’s desire. To that effect, the king immediately paid the bride price in the form of gold, land and title. Ifeloju’s father was enriched with all those treasures, but he lost his power to “right and say”.

Ifeloju was just finishing preparing the meal for dinner when her father arrived. She noticed the unusual countenance in her father’s face. “Is anything wrong father?”, she asked. The father breathed deeply and loudly. “Something serious, my daughter”, he responded. He told his daughter about the king’s decision. He also told her about the performance of the marriage rights by the king. “No father! It cannot be!”, she cried. “How can I be the wife of that proud and unmannered prince?”, she lamented. The father tried to persuade her, but she would not listen. She reminded her father of her love commitment with the young farmer. Then the father became furious. For he knew that the king was a man of influence and power, whose decision can not be challenged or altered. He compelled his daughter to accept the king’s decision. He said “I love you, but the world is what it is and nothing can be done by us, the mortals, to change it”.

She went to Eniafe’s farm early in the morning. She told him about the decision of the king. Eniafe was first gripped with fear, but he later put on courage like a garment of shield. Though they perceived the doom that was hanging in the air, yet they resolved not to break the oath of their promises. Eniafe said, “Love is not love which alters when its alteration appears. True love does not stumble at every trying stone. But it is unshakable even in the midst of the wildest storm.” He held her hand and began to sing:

Let nothing put us asunder,
Be it heathen or forces on earth…

The next morning, when the sky was still covered by darkness, she sneaked out of the compound with few of her belongings. She went to meet Eniafe and they left. They left the village and moved to a far distance village according to their plan.

The news of the elopement could no longer be hidden. It spread across the whole village like smoke. The father became furious and enraged for the stain his daughter had brought. All the efforts to find out his daughter proved abortive. For two days, he searched every nook and cranny of the village but neither Ifeloju nor Eniafe could be found. “What will happen to the money, the land and above all, to my life?”, he asked himself.

Having become aware of the elopement, the king summoned the young girl’s father. He reminded him of the binding agreement between them: “I hope that you know that the marriage between my son and your daughter is traditionally completed.” He then commanded that the girl must be produced before or on the day marked for the marriage ceremony, or else the father would face the wrath of the king. The money, the gold and the land must be fully paid back to the king. Ifeloju’s father would also be ordered to contend with the old deadly serpent in the land of no return.

Three days before the deadline given by the king, Ifeloju’s father got some information about her daughter’s hideout. He rose early and moved with five able men to Olugba village, where the two young lovers had taken refuge. Having crossed five villages, they came to the sixth one, known as Otito. There, they became very weary. They met an old woman in front of a hut and they decided to have some rest. The old woman gave them all the affability they needed. Having regained their strength, they got up to proceed with their journey.

The old woman then made an inquiry about the purpose of their journey. Ifeloju’s father narrated the whole story to her. He also told her of his intention to compel his daughter to marry the prince. The old woman shook her head in disapproval. She advised and dissuaded him from continuing with his intention: “A woman must not be denied of the man she loves, for the substance of marriage is love and not just money or influence”, she said. The man said that he agreed but he had no power to change the decision of the king. “The drum of nature has been beaten and we must dance to its rhythm”, he said. “You’re wrong my son!”, the old woman retorted. “The world is what it is for the bondage of fears and minds; the real world is what you make it”, she added.

On getting to Olugba village, Ifeloju’s father saw his daughter once again alive. With tears of love, they embraced each other. He narrated his initial intention and how it was intercepted by an old woman. Thereby, he blessed the two young lovers and joined them together in marriage. He also told them about the condition and order given by the king. “I shall go and fight for our destiny. I shall fight the old serpent. Even if I die, I know that you shall live and my dream shall live”, he said. Again, tears streamed out of their eyes as the father and his men departed.

After the killing of the fearful old serpent, Ifeloju’s father too died from the grave injury he sustained. However, he left a landmark in the history of the Iberuju village. He did not only change the decision of the king, but he also destroyed the poisonous serpent, that had long held the land captive. Therefore, he bought their freedom through his mind and life.

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