Our king was very displeased after hearing the news on the battlefield. He immediately scheduled an emergency meeting at the village court at his arrival. He could not believe that a chief would kill another simply because of a woman…a mere woman like he called it. News had been flying around town that I killed Oguntade because of Abike. Oguntade’s only son, Kuye had sworn to revenge the death of his father and he had been boasting all over town. As a chief, I knew the punishment due anyone found guilty of murder. Such person would be dragged to the market place from his house and then to the king’s palace naked before he is finally taken to the gallows to be killed.
The day finally came and all were seated. Oguntade’s widow, Sewa was sobbing helplessly. She didn’t believe that her late husband had anything to do with my wife. She claimed that I killed him because I was jealous of his promotion to the post of the king’s second-in-command. You murderer! You killed my husband out of jealousy. You are a wicked man, a snake who pretends to be a friend. You must follow him in death, after then shall the gods be satisfied because Oguntade would never touch another woman. The whole village looked at me with that look I had expected – the kind that befits a jealous, wicked and pretentious murderer. The versions of the stories that the people believed were many – Sewa’s version, the redefined Kuye’s and other calamitous versions.
The king finally stepped out and went straight to the point. He prevented the people from greeting him on that occasion. He beckoned to the Ifa priest to speak according to plan. Ajani, you have only a simple task here. Answer YES or NO to the accusation of the murder of Oguntade. Let the people know if you killed him or not. If you answer YES, I will order your punishment as you know. If you answer NO,one of two outcomes are to be expected. One: You would be struck with leprosy immediately and your flesh will begin to rotten in front of our eyes. You would be thrown to the outskirts of the village where you will dwell alone for seven days before you die slowly. This will happen to you if you killed him. But if you did not kill him, nothing will happen to you and you will walk free among us. Drink this water from Ifa’s calabash in agreement to the verdict. I took the calabash from the Ifa priest and I placed it on my lower lip. From that moment everyone at the village court saw me as a dead man. Even my own Abike started weeping profusely. She had been begging me to avoid the court but I was too annoyed with her to even look into her face.
I gazed into the concoction and raised the calabash. One, two and three gulps emptied the content into my stomach. I responded the question with an emphatic “No, I did not kill Oguntade” I stood still with the whole villagers already visualizing my grave. After about five minutes had gone and nothing was observed, Baba Ifa (Ifa Priest) declared “He is innocent!”
Baba Ifa, with so much experience and wisdom dismissed the rest of the villagers and asked only the chiefs and the royalty to enter into the king’s inner chambers to reach the root of the matter.
Our king, with a long term respect for Baba Ifa and an unshakable reverence for the Ofi I drank faced me straight and asked So what happened on the day Oguntade died?
I summoned courage and I spoke up. I could not have killed my friend. We were true friends. It is true that anger took over me when Abike told me about her infidelity and I went to his house with dangerous weapons. All I intended to do was scare him. And to scare him I did. I entered his house and straight to the room I headed. The lesson I learnt was that whenever our men went to war, Oguntade would be at home rubbing their wife’s back. I saw a woman lying on Oguntade’s bed. As I turned back to take my leave out of shock, the woman drew a sword from Ogontade’s armoury and swung it at me but it failed and hit Oguntade instead. While I ran in a hurry in search of the herbalist to sustain Oguntade, the woman fled.
Suddenly our Olori (king’s wife) stood up. I am the woman Ajani! You know I am the woman! Our wicked king would never touch me. He was either fighting wars or meeting with the chiefs and all night long he’d sleep on our bed like a dead lion. For many months now he hasn’t touched me. So once in a while whenever he is not in town Oguntade was his replacement. Shame on you King Ajibade! Shame on you! Oguntade was a better man than you!
There was an awkward silence in the king’s inner chambers for minutes. Then Baba Ifa carried his staff and started towards the door, Balogun followed and so did everyone else. We all knew that at such times no word of what happened in the inner chambers must escape anyone’s mouth else he’d rot in our village’s ugly jail.