In some African cultures, it is widely upheld that the dead have some strong links with the living, up to the point that the dead play critical parts in the affairs of the living.
Some works by African authors have expatiated this, such as Kofi Awoonor's" Songs of Sorrow." Okey Nwachuku's " Talon of the Python " is another work that expresses the calamity that the living is bound to experience if the dead is not respectfully treated.
In the Igbo society decades ago, the spirit of the dead, especially the wealthy and the highly honored in the society, is believed to be floating and stranded if a special traditional rite, known as "Okwukwu" is not performed.
Lives were consumed as a result of delayed okwukwu for Ezeala, the village head of Umelu. On a market day, when activities of the market were in full swing, a mighty iroko at the center of the market fell, and scores of the locals were consumed in the calamity that was tagged " the most gruesome in the history of the village and the environs.
When divinations were conducted, it was revealed that the calamity was as a result of delayed okwukwu for Ezeala. As the novel unfolds, intrigues, manoeuvres, and manipulations took their fullest expression.
Ahunma's emergence as the prospective sacrifice for Ezeala was laced with misfortune. The first shot was recorded when Nduka, one of the emissaries to Ndiubani market died under controversial circumstances.
It is highly abominable for a sacrifice destined for okwukwu to disappear shortly before the execution of the deed. But this is what exactly happened. Ahunma was nowhere to be found when the platform for the sacrifice was set, and the expectations were high. Who is responsible for the abomination? The question deserves some appreciations. How can the gods be placated for this? The oracle had to be consulted again to proffer solutions to this calamity, and it has to be immediate.
For Ibeji, Oparadike has to pay dearly for this. The suspicions were apt as Oparadike was the only person that had access to Ahunma.
Unfortunately, Ibeji's plot backfired, not only that he was consumed in the ensuing murders, but his wife, Ahuzi, was also consumed. Neither were the two rascals spared. It is dangerous to dare the fiery Oparadike as the fear of him is the beginning of wisdom in Umelu and environs.
The story could not be better told by anyone else than Okey Nwachuku. Despite his stay in the United States, his rich knowledge of telling stories, beautiful ones indeed, could not be eroded.
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
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