Why! Why! Why now..? Many thoughts flooded through Adamu’s mind. Confusion was writ large on his face as he returned from the herbalist’s house that day. Then, like a sweet night dream halted at dawn, everything about him changed the following day.
Adamu never laughed. When the village chief, Peter Adikwu asked him one day why it cost him so much to laugh or smile. He simply said, “I find nothing to laugh or smile at”. That was Adamu for you, the husband of Adija, a man of unequalled wealth at Apa and yet a miser. In the villagers’ estimation, to describe Adamu as a miser was an understatement. However, he was soft-spoken and nice-looking in his early fifties who can easily win a woman’s heart. It was these same attributes that earned him his wife, Adija.
Adija the tall, fair-skinned woman with a pointed nose, which betrayed her Idoma tribe, looked more or less, like a beautiful Fulani woman. This night, she was alone in her room and engrossed in thoughts. “Why should I worry when my husband has changed for good” she consoled herself while waiting for sleep to lead her into the land of dreams on her bed.
Adamu was all smiles as the days expanded into weeks and into months and his generosity suddenly surpassed that of his wife who had received severe beating on account of her generosity by him in the past. There was ceaseless feasting in his house. Every day, a goat or lamb must know its death. Adamu who never allowed the first cockcrow to meet him on his bed before taking off for his farm suddenly neglected his farm. His house became a haven for beggars and praise singers. Adamu’s children were very happy at the sudden metamorphoses of their father who had been nicknamed Obabotoda, miser in the village.
However, Adija became worried at the way her husband squandered their hard-earned wealth on praise-singers. One evening, she reported the strange behaviour of her husband to his only living brother, Oko whom Adamu always referred to as a lazy bone. Oko came to their house early in the morning and tried to talk sense into Adamu’s head, but their discussion ended in a quarrel that woke their neighbours from sleep.
The number of praise-singers, however, began to dwindle as Adamu’s wealth faded. When his wealth was finally drained, his house of fame and feast became desolate, and poverty took its residence in his house.
Then like morning dew on grass, an idea sprang upon Adamu and he quickly sent for six inch nails. As soon as he got the nails, he nailed them into each tree in his Orchard when everybody in his house left for their various farm works. Few days later, when the tree started shedding their leaves under duress, Adamu’s wife, Mama Jude as the villagers fondly called her raised an alarm. But her husband said, “woman worry not, I want to do away with all those species to prove the villagers and that lazy bone who called himself Oko that I am still rich. I have ordered for better species from the neighbouring village,” he concluded laughing. But the wife could not totally believe her husband who has taken idleness as his second name.
One evening after dinner, Adamu informed his family members that he would soon embark on a journey to a far away village. He gave them instructions on what to do while he would be away. That evening, he put on his best clothes and visited all the known faces to him in the village. He reconciled with all his enemies and bade all of them, including his family members farewell.
Three days after, Adamu still stayed put at home. He bought a new cutlass and whetted it on a grindstone for days. His wife, Adija became happy, on the ground that her husband was preparing to return to his farm work.
After the first cockcrow, Adija was awakened to a high pitched wailing at the herbalist’s house. Few minutes later she heard a knock at her door. A voice called her name from outside, she quickly recognized the voice of Oloche, her younger brother. “We are in trouble,” Oloche said, panting as he entered into his sister’s room. Adija directed an impatient look at her younger brother and asked, “What is it?” “Papa Jude almost cut off the herbalist’s neck, he has been rushed to the General Hospital Ugbokpo and Papa Jude is now in the police station”. He said, dabbing sweat from his face. “Hey! Hey! Hey!” Adija exclaimed and beat her chest wildly. “Why should he do such a thing?” she asked rhetorically and burst into tears… “My sister, that is the secret of Adamu” Oloche said in a flat voice.
“Then what is this secret?” could it be that, the herbalist prophesied that Adamu would die and all turned out to be a lie after he had squandered all his wealth in order to deprive Oko, his brother of such wealth? Adija’s thoughts jumped like a grasshopper from one place to another.
Paul Ugah is the Vice Chairman Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA & Auditor, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Benue State Executive Council

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