Mma Adjara stands in the middle of the compound wondering what is going to happen. Is she to support Wadudu or Watara in their bid for kingship? She was the first wife of the late king, their father, and loves them both. Fate had dealt her a nasty blow so much so that she gave birth to only “animals”. She painfully thinks about the horrible name society has given to her girls even before they were born. No matter how hard she tried, she gave her husband girls. The elders of the land put pressure on her husband to take another wife as custom demanded and she was left with no option but to agree. The first born of Fatahiya, the second wife, was twin boys who never made it to their second year because of measles. The witchcraft card was drawn and she fitted perfectly on its table. Her husband had been gracious to rebuff the allegations citing the words of the herbalist who took care of the boys. Tried as Fatahiya did, she could not conceive after three years so Naa- Soringahi had to take a third wife out of the many beautiful girls who were being offered to the king as gifts. Fatahiya begrudged her for what seemed like eternity thinking she was somehow connected with her inability to conceive. She tolerated her.
The third wife Salma bore a boy and a girl, she lost the girl but Alhassan, the boy survived. Two months later, Fatahiya also conceived a male child; Watara. No one knew of her pregnancy because she went to her mother’s home town Zuhiri when she realized she was pregnant. Everyone in Hasuni thought she left because she was jealous of the new wife, even her husband thought so. When members of her family called on the king to say Fatahiya had delivered, everyone was shocked. There were rumours that she might have stolen the baby or she might have committed adultery to deliver that baby but Mma Adjara had extinguished the fire in that rumour flame.
Five years after these children were born, a ten year old boy was brought to the palace and no one was told he was the son of Naa-Soringahi. Wadudu looked like a clone of his father, the king. His presence shook Mma Adjara and the very fabric of the Hasuni kingdom. As to how this came about, the old man who brought the boy said Zelia, his mother was dead. He said “Zelia” looking directly in the eyes of Mma Adjara as though she was supposed to know her. When she searched his face without a clue, he said:
“Zelia your former maid”
“Huh?” was all Mma Adjara could say. She remembered the girl. She was a respectful girl who was brought to the palace when she was around fifteen years old. She was a bright young girl who adored her children and took very good care of the princesses. When her first princess was four years old, the girl had gotten up one day to say she would like to leave the palace. Mma Adjara had depended so much on her and trusted her completely. She tried all she could to convince her but the girl was defiant, she wanted to go to her ailing father, she could not live in the palace any longer. At first, she thought the girl was hiding something, but after seeing her father, she allowed her, her father was old and limping on one leg. She could never had thought that her husband had had carnal knowledge of the young girl.
She took a look at the king in his throne for clues but his head was bowed. The elders decided to make Wadudu Mma Adjara’s third child and first son. As to the explanation, the throne had no explanation to give anyone. Those palace maids who were seen wagging their tongues disappeared without a trace. Within months, the Hasuni kingdom was quiet on this matter though it was more like an open secret.
Each day with Wadudu, Mma Adjara felt blessed. He was the most well nurtured boy she had ever met. He was a respectful, adorable, wise and hard-working young man to ever live. Fatahiya looked for ways to get him out of the palace but all her traps backfired. The last set-up that made her give up was when she said Wadudu proudly blurted out the forbidden saying of the Hasuni Kingdom which must never be mentioned, to her hearing. According to the traditions of Hasuni Kingdom, saying that “Lahiri will poison Kumzaazi” is like saying a prince will poison another prince in order to be king. This is a forbidden saying because it happened two centuries ago in the Hasuni kingdom.
The chief called the boy and asked him about it, he said;
“Naa, I know it is a curse to say this kind of thing. My grandfather told me this particular statement, when made, the body of the utterer was stripped of all clothes and thrown into the evil forest of Asisam. The evil forest of Asisam, my grandfather told me, holds all the witches that Baba Umotu sacks from the villages under Hasuni Kingdom. It is where many fierce animals hunt for human flesh and it is where Apiopiopio hunts for human blood for his deity. I am very sure I did not utter that statement. I hardly see Mma Fatahiya in the house and I was with Mma Adjara the whole day yesterday”
Mma Adjara confirmed that he was with her and Fatahiya nearly lost her head but for the timely intervention of her family who planned for someone to take the blame saying the victim’s voice sounded like Wadudu’s.
Naa loved Wadudu not because he was his photocopy, but because he felt sorry for forcing himself on his mother. He felt he had wronged the girl so much he started having a soft spot for Zelia, but it was too late. He could not bring the matter up because he felt getting married to her would be unfair to his wife. This made him bury his feelings deep within his heart before she left his kingdom. He did not know he had planted a seed in her very new farm.
Now the king is dead. Before he died, he confided in his wife that he would rather have Wadudu become his successor but the elders would use the laws of the land to make it impossible. He pleaded with his intelligent queen to think of a way to make it possible. He told the elders before passing on that he will tell his first wife how his successor will be chosen, they grumbled, but agreed. The wishes of the dying must not be challenged, everyone knew this adage well. Alhassan and Watara, everyone knew were spoilt brats. They never did their father proud and their mothers fought for nothing.
One of the customary laws of Hasuni holds that “an issue between a royal and a servant cannot be king.” Though Wadudu had been portrayed as the son of the first wife, everyone knew of his background.
Now that Naa is dead and many heads want the throne in their families, Mma Adjara is supposed to choose the next king for approval and her rivals are all putting pressure on her to select their sons.
Under the laws of the land, Alhassan is the right person to be king because he is the first royal son of Naa but Salma had no strong backing from the elders. Most of the elders were relatives of Fatahiya. Mma Adjara has an opinion in this matter but if she chooses Wadudu, she would be turned down flatly. She asked them to give her three weeks to tell them what her husband had said and to help choose the next king.
Two weeks later, Fatahiya and her son called Alhassan to come and have some pito with them. Alhassan died that evening and Salma was beside herself with grief. Mma Adjara could not think straight. She confronted Fatahiya after a palace guard told her what happened. She denied and appealed to Mma Adjara not to be paranoid into making decisions by listening to fake gossip. She shed crocodile tears showing her grief for the loss of Alhassan. The next day, the guard who told Mma Adjara of the pito drink disappeared. Mma Adjara stands under the baobab tree thinking and soliloquizing on her next move.
She devices a good plan to get the best king for the kingdom. She calls for the elders of the land and tells them her husband had told her to first give all his sons one puzzle to solve. The families of his sons must stay out of solving the puzzle or Apiopiopio must strike them down. They are to solve the puzzle and meet her on the next moon with the result. The one who solves the puzzle has a greater chance of becoming the next king. She went further to say there are three phases of the test, finding the meaning of the puzzle is the first. So the puzzle was given to them on the skin of their family totem; a lion.
“Strength soar when brooms work, we drink many families of water at a go.”
Watara is the first to speak.
“Why must this half-baked prince be in the competition?”
His uncle tells him to keep quiet as that is the last wish of his dead father. But he tells his uncle that must have been because his father wanted Wadudu to be king. He angrily told his uncle that his father knew Wadudu was brilliant that is why he brought learning into the picture. He is rushed into the room by his mother. She tells him to think hard and solve the puzzle as the god of Apiopiopio will never spare anyone who intervenes. Watara asks his mother if Wadudu cannot go the same way Alhassan went. Fatahiya thinks for a while, and tells him to let her sleep on the matter.
Mma Adjara and the elders patiently wait for the next moon.
When Wadudu was exonerated from the web of lies by Fatahiya, Mma Adjara knew the boy’s life was in danger. She gave him a homing pigeon for a pet. She told him to keep that bird with him at all times. The bird became his best friend and confidant. She also gave him two wild dogs and two cats to keep as pets. Wadudu loved Mma Adjara so much that he kept her gifts so well. Seeing the puzzle on the lion skin, he chuckles and says in his head, my father was a very intelligent man. He went into his room and immediately solves it in his head waiting for the day of submission.
Fatahiya sends a guard to send a nicely shaped gourd of pito to Wadudu. Her instruction was to tell him that his grandfather sent it to him. Wadudu sees his mother and she tells him of the pito, but she tells him to pour some of his pito for one cock to drink. Wadudu does as instructed and the cock dies instantly. Mma Adjara instructs her guards to get the guard who brought the pito but he was nowhere to be found. She tells Wadudu to be extra careful. When he is going to the farm, he must make sure he goes with his pets and guards; she also has one last request for him.
The evening is bright with the moon smiling down on the earth and the stars playing in the sky. Fireflies on this night have lost their bright shine to the sky beings and many guards whose eyelids have been removed to keep them from sleeping stand at vantage points keeping watch over Wadudu’s hut. Tomorrow is the day of the submission of the test and the whole kingdom anticipates the selection of their king. Before any of the guards gets to know what is happening, about four of the guards are seen lying on the ground, murdered. The rest shout for help but no one hears this because they all drank from the big drum of water that sits in front of the huts. Fatahiya made sure to put the sleeping medicine in. The guards needed one thing done, to murder Wadudu.
Nkeemasi is the guard of the forest, he witnesses what is going on until he sees the angry faces of the murderers when they realize what they have killed to kill is a straw decoy. They try picking up one dead guard for questioning but it is no use. They start cleaning the house and conveying the dead guards to God knows where. He watches from where he hides. These people are to be feared. Because they did not get him, they are wiping all evidence of an attack on Prince Wadudu. Mma Adjara was right when she requested that we hide Wadudu. The gods must do something, he thinks. He hides and watches until all of them leave and dawn gives way to the morning rays.
Nkeemasi tells Mma Adjara everything that happened in the night. The guards search for Wadudu in the whole land and other villages. Traps were made for him on the many paths to the market square where the test is to take place. Time now for the test and Watara is the only prince who shows up. Some of the elders are impatient, others are pleasantly happy. The happy elders put pressure on Mma Adjara to start the presentation and disqualify Wadudu for disrespecting the elders of the land and herself. Mma Adjara heeds to their demand but before they can rejoice, a beautiful maiden seated in the audience comes forward and sits with Watara. All the elders shout, abomination!
Wadudu takes off the female apparel and takes his fugu from one of his sisters, the last born of Fatahiya and wears it with his royal shoes. The whole kingdom has never seen anything like this. Some shout in adoration, others shout in disappointment. Watara is called to give his presentation and he comes to say:
“Strength soar when brooms work, we drink many families of water at a go. This means that we must use our strength to fly as we hold brooms to sweep the sky. The water we drink, we must give to our families. Thank you”
Many of the elders place their hands on their heads, never have they seen a foolish prince as this one, all their tutelage have gone into one ear and gotten out of the other. Wadudu stands in front of the elders and audience:
“Strength soar when brooms work, we drink many families of water at a go. (He produces two calabashes, one with water, and brooms tied together. (He lifts the broom, removes just one and easily breaks it and takes the whole tied broom and says) “Strength soar when brooms work mean with one broom there is no strength, with many together, it becomes difficult to break. This simply means when we are together, we can never be defeated, just one of us is no hurdle for even a sole enemy.”
He now puts the empty calabash down and lifts the one with water and pours it one drop after the other in the calabash on the ground and says;) When rain falls, it falls one drop after the other with many dropping at the same time. Those which fall at the same time are in one family, with every second rain fall, we have new families of water. Most of these families go into our rivers to form the water that quenches our thirst. Without the strength of their families, we will not have enough to drink to keep us alive. This goes to buttress the fact that unity is strength.”
The applause is simply thunderous. All hands clap, even ones from the enemies. Mma Adjara calls on the head elder to say something.
“What can I say now? All I will say is what Wadudu here has said. It couldn’t have been delivered any better. So Watara has failed miserably and Wadudu has passed. Baba Fuseina says.
The clap and happiness from the audience is simply unimaginable. Watara gets up to leave and Mma Adjara speaks for him to sit.
“It is not over yet Watara. The second test is this;” she hands over another skin to both of them
Watara reads his “The body must be free, the soul must be holy to hold souls under a kingdom, convince your audience in the next moon”
What is the meaning of this? Some of the elders tell him it is for him to find out and for them to listen. He leaves the market ground angry with his mother trailing him.
Fatahiya calls her young daughter:
“Hasana, why were you helping that half-baked prince when you have a full prince for a brother?”
“Wↄi Mma, aren’t they all my brothers? Please I didn’t do anything bad oh, don’t make me a bad girl.” Hasana retorts.
“Don’t be silly Hasana, now tell me how you were able to conceal him or I will call Apiopiopio to deal with you.”
“Mma, I just met him on the way and he asked me to give him my wrapper, I had another for my friend Koona and gave it to him to dress that is all.”
“From today, you better tell me whenever he asks you for something, and be sure to bring Koona for me to see her. How can you keep a friend that I don’t know? Her being from another kingdom is the more reason I must know her, do you hear me?”
“Yes Mma, I will ask her to come and stay with me for a while so you will see her soon.” is all Hasana has to say and she says it laughing within her so badly.
There is a frantic search for Wadudu. First, one of his cats die and his dogs bark so loudly, it is as if the world is falling on their heads. He climbs into his straw ceiling and watches as the guards comb the whole room looking for him this hot afternoon. He knows by now all his guards have been killed. Soomia, his homing pigeon flies to Mma Adjara and restlessly flaps its wings, Mma sends guards to Wadudu’s house and four men are caught. Mma Adjara hides them under her underground quarters which no one knows of, no one, not even Wadudu.
Fatahiya becomes very restless, she has waited the whole night for the head elder to tell him something but he had failed to turn up. She covers herself like an old woman and goes to his house only to be told the man doesn’t want to see her. She goes back to her quarters worried. She thinks she saw a doppelganger of Wadudu warning her to be careful or risk dying together with her whole family. She is so afraid that she goes into the hut of Hasana to sleep. Here, she sees Koona sleeping besides her. Mma, Koona came today so I was thinking of bringing her to see you tomorrow. “To what do I owe this visit?”
“I feel very bad, I think I am getting sick so I thought of sleeping here with you today, but with your friend asleep, I don’t think it will be possible”
Hasana laughed and told her to share a bed with her in her bedroom as Koona loved sleeping by herself. Fatahiya was glad. The dawn of the next morning, she meets Koona and sees her under the fickle rays of the lantern and expresses her happiness at meeting her. Koona thanks her and leaves for the bathroom. The search for Wadudu continues until the day of the second test without any knowledge of the guards of his whereabouts.
Mma Adjara sits in the female throne and asks those vying for the throne to present their work. She warns that none must lie in the presence of the elders or Apiopiopio will strike the person down. Wadudu is called first:
““The body must be free, the soul must be holy to hold souls under a kingdom, convince your audience in the next moon. This means one must be without the guilt of taking another’s soul unfairly to be able to rule a kingdom. Naa wanted us to swear in front of the elders of the kingdom and Apiopiopio the great that we have taken no life unfairly and I Wadudu Soringahi swears that never have I even taken a life let alone take a life of another unfairly. If someone has died because of me, then it definitely means I could do nothing to save the person or I had no idea the person will end up that way. I ask for the forgiveness of all such people and promise to live right by them.” There was a thunderous applause as usual as he sits down.
Watara cannot get up, he looks in the face of his mother who passes a charm to him to wear on his wrist and go. He swears that he has never killed anyone unfairly but before his next sentence, he is hit by thunder and he dies instantly.
What could be happening? Fatahiya starts taking off her nice female fugu and white top she strips herself naked as people start running away from her. Hasana Pleads with her to stop and the elders hold Hasana from getting any closer. Apiopiopio has gotten her brain; there is no way she can be saved. Let’s leave her to go. She will die by the Apiopiopio shrine and her blood will be used for whatever Apiopiopio needs.
Hasana cries aloud and Wadudu can do nothing but sympathise with her.
“I think helping you is my mistake, I took you into my house and made you pose as a lady and now my brother and mother are dead. I know they were up to no good but they were my family”
“And I am also your family”
Wadudu says sadly.
“I know, but why does it hurt so much brother?”
The first son of the King of Homoni Kingdom who is sitting in the audience gets up and takes her into his arms.
“I will like to be your family if you’ll have me. I am the heir apparent to the throne of Homoni Kingdom and I’ll make you the crown princess and the queen someday. Your golden heart deserves to rule. My father was given the task of taking care of Wadudu by his grandfather who died some years back. That is why he was forbidden from going back to his mother’s hometown, Thank you for your help.
It is a very cold evening but Mma Adjara sends for the head elder, Baba Fuseini. He comes and frowns after hearing that Wadudu must be made king. He tells Mma Adjara that the kingship must go to the family of the late king’s brother. Mma Adjara tells him:
“I have evidence of the people you sent to kill Wadudu. It is either you agree and convince your people or face the consequences.”
The elder’s face turns so pale and he starts panicking. Mma Adjara asks him to leave and think about it or face the consequences.
Baba Fuseini cannot sleep this night. He sends for the elders and tells them to consider Wadudu as the next king. The elders disagree until he tells them what the queen had told him. They ask whether they can look for the hidden guards. Baba Fuseini impatiently says he would have finished them already if he could find them. They all agree to support Wadudu and make him King. Baba Ntanu asks if Wadudu can be killed because for a half-baked royal to be king is something he cannot comprehend. Baba Fuseini tells him that boy is being protected by Apiopiopio. He gets angry with the fact that some of them do not use their brains to think. If this boy can be killed, he would have been killed already. Let’s just be happy that Hasana will be the queen of a great kingdom some day and let go of this one to save our heads.
Wadudu was made king of the Hasuni Kingdom after he married the most intelligent girl in the kingdom. He ruled Hasuni for eighty years with peace and unity as his hallmark. When he died, the name of the kingdom was changed from Hasuni to Naa Wadudu Kingdom because of the love the people had for him. His first son who was equally peaceful succeeded him. THE END.
By Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © 2014.