My grandfather was a great story teller. Yes my grandfather’s name was Cotton Acheru Amadi and he told me lots of stories though he unfortunately passed on in the 80s when I was just thirteen years old.
However, I enjoyed his stories and wisecracks and one of such tales has been playing back in my mind for about two years now.
He once told me how men from the west, two of them wise men, deceived the same nation twice, yes the Ogbakiri nation that was then known as Eli-Wezina.
This story, he told me happened in the 15th century and it was told to him by his own great grandfather, Akakpor.
Now, Eli Wezina had three major families, the Wuwewes in the west, the Nuwewes in the north and the Luwewe family in the East.
Then there were some smaller families that didn’t seem significant because they were so small in numbers they could not influence anything.
Now, Kingship in EliWezina was by voting as they never adopted the hereditary system of Benin where they migrated from and since these three families were the biggest, the kingship always went to them even though there were issues.
And these were the issues. The Wuwuwe family in the west were the custodians of knowledge. They studied the history of the community and others and they saw themselves as kingmakers but had hardly ever been kings.
The Nunuwe family in the north had been king most of the time and most times they used the Wuwewe to get the votes they needed. The Nunuwe were also about the biggest family in EliWezina, based on population.
The Luluwe in the east were the richest in the nation but had hardly ever tasted power.
They were good business people and dominated in farming, fishing and hunting but the other families just did not trust them and it was always difficult to convince the others to vote for them.
They always longed to get the kingship of EliWezina but were never able to acquire enough votes.
Funny enough there was the Duduwe family who were very much a minority but they provided the wealth of Eli-Wezina.
Because of their location in the Village they provided the river where the fishing trade stemmed from; then most of the farming and hunting was done from the land that the Duduwe family owned, but because of their numbers, my grandfather said, they never had a chance to to claim the kingship of Eli-Wezina.
Wezina country, as my grandfather told me continued to live on but the different families had complete distrust for one another and the anger within the ranks of the Duduwe family grew.
At some time, the young boys from Duduwe stopped the Luluwe people from entering their farmlands to farm or hunt but the Wuwewes who were very wise people settled the disputes immediately.
Sometimes when the angry Duduwe youth decided to take the laws into their hands and the Wuwuwe could not sort it out, the Nunuwe would send their sons down to forcefully settle the disputes. Remember they had numbers, my grandfather would tell me.
While a Wuwuwe man served time as Nye-nwe-eli Wezina (The King of Wezina) he began to think of the troubles in the village.
Many people did not like him but he was a very cerebral man and had compassion on the Duduwe people.
However, he knew there was no way he could convince the Nunuwe who lived as if they should always have the kingship and the Luluwe, the richest that the poorly Duduwe could be king.
So he lobbied the people to change the laws of kingship that if any king failed to complete his tenure, the Prime Minister would ascend the throne in the interim. The people agreed, not knowing what plans he had up his sleeves.
Then he looked for a man from the Nunuwe family who was loved by all but was very ill and convinced the large families to vote that one as king. They agreed and that was how kingship returned to the Nunuwe family in the north.
They appointed a very quiet man from the Duduwe as Prime Minister but nobody really cared about him because the Nunuwe family had the kingship anyway and no Prime Minister had ever been king before.
But a few months into the reign of the new king, he took ill and there was panic in the Nunuwe family.
They had already signed that in the event of death, the Prime Minister will be king and it seemed like that would happen.
The king eventually died and after a long drawn out battle, kingship was bestowed on the Duduwe family for the first time ever.
But the people plotted against the weak King from the Duduwe family.
They said he was a weak king. They said marauders were entering their territory at will from other villages and he was doing nothing about it while their people died.
They said all the produce of the village was being stolen and he knew the thieves but did not act so they wanted him out.
But this time the Wuwuwe family wanted to be king again even though they knew it would be difficult.
The Wuwuwe wanted to taste Kingship again.
Already nobody trusted the Luluwe so there issue of kingship was not even discussed but how could the Wuwewe fight the Nunuwe who were favoured and had the numbers.
My grandfather stopped and asked me what I thought the Wuwuwe did.
I told him I had an idea but I did not want to spoil the story so I would just wait for him to finish.
He reminded me that the Wuwuwe family were very intelligent and always had tricks up their sleeves.
Already the Luluwe had sided with the Duduwe so the Wuwuwe held meetings with the Nunuwe and agreed to vote for them if they would make one of their own the Prime Minister and a deal was agreed.
The king maker among the Wuwuwe, a very wise man, just like the other one picked a very popular man in the Nunuwe family who was very ill but hid it from the rest of the village.
I looked up at my grandfather at this point.
“You mean the Wuwuwe played the same trick and it worked? How come the people did not realise?”
My grandfather said he asked his great grandfather the same question and it seemed that the people were blinded so much by hate and they stopped reasoning rationally.
They got the required votes and the kingship of Eli-wezina went to the Nunuwe again.
The new king had not been king for long and just like it happened before, he suddenly became very ill, but they hid it from the rest of
the village while the king stayed away from the public.
The people demanded to see their king but the Wuwuwe people claimed he had made a journey to a distant land to solve some community issue and would soon be back.
The Wuwuwe would not be bold enough to admit to the rest of the village that they had played a trick on them like they did the last time so they sold that story through the village town crier that the king went to solve a crisis in a distant village.
Any time the Duduwe or Luluwe people asked to see their king, someone was arrested who had stolen farm produce belonging to the village and disgraced openly so the people had something to talk about that would distract them for a long time.
The Wuwuwe people smiled and began to prepare their man who was Prime Minister to be king because they knew the king would not come back.
The Prime Minister began to dress better, speak better and move around the village with a new swag, but the king had not returned yet.
The people continued to wait and wait and wait and wait…
And they waited and waited and waited and waited…