Story One: Chideraa and the Slave Traders
Chideraa was a smart and inquisitive boy of twelve years old and lived in Umuagwo community. He loved to work on their farm and help his mother with the house chores. He was the youngest of four sons and they had no sister, so as soon as he was old enough, he began serving the purpose of both a male and a female child, while his elder brothers did only the things males did. As a result, while his fellow boys played in the outside, he helped his mother in the kitchen. His mother, Urenma, loved him so much because he was a dutiful child and was very obedient. He did all that he was told to do and did them well. She would seat beside him in the moonlight after dinner and tell him all sorts of stories. Chideraa loved the story of how tortoise shell became rough most, and his mother often retold the story to him whenever he requested. She was never tired of retelling it, neither was he ever tired of listening. His father, Obierika, was a hunter and travelled long distances to hunt games. Sometimes, he spent days and even weeks before he returned. Urenma was usually afraid at those times, but Chideraa kept her company and lessened her fear.
“Chideraa!” his mother called.
“Yes mama!” he answered immediately from the backyard where he was washing the calabash dishes they had used in eating. He wiped his hands on his loin cloth and came out. In his time most children walked the streets naked, because they had nothing to hide as small children, only adolescents covered their nakedness, but Urenma had cut out a small piece of wrapper and made a loin cloth for her son because she loved him so much. She wanted him to grow up into a man quickly and he was doing just that.
“The grasses are grown in the farmland. We would have to go there today. We cannot wait till Papa comes back.” His mother said.
Chideraa quickly got his small hoe and cutlass and followed her.
They had worked from morning till it was evening, then they gathered some firewood and headed for home. On their way home, they heard gunshots, about two or three blasts, it was usual anyway when you walked along the roads to the farm. Obviously some hunters were chasing a game in the bushes that surrounded the farms. But the wails that followed suit hadn’t been usual. Many clattering footsteps were heading in their direction. A captured slave had been shot and other captive slaves had taken to their heels. Possibly, the Slave traders were on the raid again.
“Chideraa, into the bush at once” She dragged him by his hands, pushing over the firewood on her head, she ran into the bush where she and Chideraa hid behind a tree. More gunshots rattled the atmosphere and more screams of pain accompanied them, yet Urenma held her son tightly and made no noise until the slave traders had come and gone. They quietly came out of the bush and headed for home.
It was sadness that filled their compound as they returned. Alika, the second son of Okoro’s third wife had been sold to the slave traders by Okoro, his father. Alika’s mother, Ujunwa, wept inconsolably. Her husband had given her son in exchange for gun powder.
“When you refuse to train your children well, they would end up like that” Okoro spoke blandly to his weeping wife.
After dinner, Chideraa approached his mother feeling a little worried. “Mama, would Papa trade me for gun powder some day?”
“No my son. Fathers sold only their naughty and stubborn children. They would never trade the good ones.” She answered softly.
“So all those people that were captured by those wicked people are naughty children?” He asked again.
“Is not so my son. Some of them were usually kidnapped. If we hadn’t hidden ourselves in the bush, they may have kidnapped us too. But thank our chi they hadn’t seen us” She replied, her face looking to the heavens.
“So Mama, do you know where they are taking them to?” He asked curiously.
“My son, some say they use to carry them on a ship to foreign countries and sell them to white people, and then those white people will eat them or some say they use to put them on their farms to work. People say a lot of things my son.”
His mother had tried, but she hadn’t answered all his questions. He didn’t want to bother her anymore, so he requested that she told him a story. The story had caused him to sleep off after a hectic day.
The next month, the slave traders came to their village again to buy slaves. They appeared peaceful this time. Actually, they did the kidnappings secretly. Chideraa saw them and rushed to one them who was a black man and looked like their interpreter. He asked him politely where they took the slaves to. He was amazed at the boy’s courage. Other children his age ran into their huts and locked themselves up when they were around. He answered the boy anyway. Chideraa then looked at him with a sore face and asked him why he was helping the white people catch his own brothers and put them in chains as slaves. He was dumbfounded and just looked at the boy in amazement. Of course the answer was money. Obierika had always told Chideraa since he began to hear and speak “Never trade your conscience for money. A good name is better than money.” Perhaps, the boy knew better than the mature man. Perhaps, wisdom did not lie solely in age and grey hair. If the man knew what little Chideraa knew, he wouldn’t trade his loyalty to his countrymen for money. He didn’t answer.
“Chideraa! Chideraa!!” His mother came running after him.
“Mama, the white people do not eat the slaves. They put them on their farms to work.” He sharply told her.
She stared at him amazed at the kind of boy he was. The interpreter rubbed his head and looked at his mother “You have a very intelligent and brave son. Do not give him out to the Slave traders for anything.”
She held his hand and dragged him back into the house. Though she was still afraid, she kept smiling. Chideraa would grow up into a brave man she thought. He grew up to become one of the elders of the land and they stopped slave trade in Umuagwo.
Picture credit: nigeriagists.wordpress.com