The Man Who Lost Himself

Chukwu Sunday Abel

© Copyright 2023 by Chukwu Sunday Abel


Photo courtesy of Favpng.
Photo courtesy of Favpng..

Like every mortal--life begins in the womb and ends in the tomb. Death is an assault on humanity against which we have no defence; an end we can’t escape and indeed, a part of human situation into which every being enters. For death, everyone of us lives in an unfortified city. The You-in-you shall die.

You want me to tell you what you shall become ? You want me to tell you your destiny ? A man who knows his destiny, lives in an unending illusion till his death. You insist I tell you your destiny? Your destiny on earth is that the you-in-you shall die. You shall lose yourself. I don’t mean that you will die but the you-in-you shall die. So, the you-in-you will die and the manner in which the you will die and what you will die for, are also what you want to know. I commend you for your bold-step, because to resign to fate, is to be crippled fast. A man who has not discovered what he will die for, is not worth living.

Now listen, prepare your heart to know your destiny, prepare your ears to hear how the you-in-you shall die. To know your end, do you remember your beginning? Do you remember who you are? Do you know the son of whom you are? Do you know the land you live in? Do you know how many years your ancestors occupied this land? Now, you stare at me dazedly, you breath so fast as if your lungs are demanding so much air than usual. You refuse to answer the questions as if an invisible string tethered on mount kilimanjaro, holds your tongue. Your glaring eyes seem to be glowering abstractedly at your tomorrow which holds your end. Did you just ask me if your end, the end of you will come tomorrow? Yes!

In this land where your ancestors lived-in, this land where you live-in and your descendants shall live. This land you have tilled with your hands, grew crops on, the rivers you have fished in, the mountains you have hunted on. This your land, a woman, a queen will come-into from a faraway land. But before she comes into this land where you live, her emissaries shall forerun her. These forerunners will come into your land, this land your ancestors lived-in, this land you live-in. These forerunners will come with books on their right-hands, swords on their left-hands, crystal crucifixes on their chests, and in their hearts, is your end, the end of you. You grimace at the impossibility of this revelation, because you think you have fought many battles and won in all, you think you have hunted so many wild animals and conquered them all. You say you have wrestled so many aliens to the ground in defence of your land, this land that is free of cold, that defines you. You say you have fought so many enemies who later became your slaves. I know that in your land as well as other surrounding towns, you are not just known as a king but also as the strongest man of war. Your name instills fear in your enemies when ever it is said that you will physically take part in or lead a war. Your exploits in previous wars gave you the pseudonym, 'Agaba' which means 'let’s go' when translated. But this involves people that you who are feared by your enemies, will be afraid to fight. Your war song: Nzogdu-Nzogbu,enyimba-enyi that symbolizes your unrivaled military might, the strength of your youthful soldiers and the fearlessness they carry, your soldiers will be so afraid to sing at the sight of the sword of the queen. You say you are invincible. Ti ye mma gi n’ obo, sheath your sword. Prepare yourself for the end. Prepare your land for your end.

You ask me how your end shall come?

These forerunners, you shall take for gods, for you have never seen their type before. What they will come with, you have never seen before. What they will say to you, you have never heard of before. Their glowing sun-colour-like skin, untainted by sun which shines fervently but gratuitously in your land, you shall baffle at. Their green-pigmented spic-and-span eyes which contrast your shaded eyes, you shall be afraid to look into. Their teeth, glistering white, unlike yours blighted by age and nuts, you shall stare ceaselessly at. Their soft Caucasian palms by which your end shall come, will embrace your black, scaly, hard and jagged palm in a specious hospitality.

They will influx your land like hymenopterous insects whose habitat has been shattered by a trespassing hunter. They will come into your land through your land borders. They will tell the world that they discovered the rivers you fished in, that they discovered you, as if you had strayed out of the earth, as if they unearthed your rivers from the bowel of the earth. You shall resent them, go into spiritual battles with them, to dislodge them out of your land which they will occupy. You shall consult the gods but the gods will be silent. You shall compel your chief-priests to strike them with thunder and brimstone, but Amadioha will be latent, Ogun will be slumbering, Sango will be on recess, all in a tacit betrayal. Out of desperation, your blacksmiths will live in their furnaces as to furnish more weapons for the armoury of your land. Thereafter, you shall mobilize your foot soldiers against these invaders but they will fear mosquitoes more than your soldiers. Your Ikoro, gong of war, will reverberate rotundly in the nights, throughout the three clans that comprise the seven villages that make up your land. From strategic locations in each clan, sharing same message of the imminent war and the preparations thereof. Your nights will become extremely uncommunicative, noiseless, aside the imaginative stamping approaching feet of the emissaries of the queen in your heads. Even owls which usually relish the blissful night breeze, will observe silence. As your deities betrayed you, the moon will also betray your nights. It will withdraw into its shell stealthily making darkness incomprehensibly thicker. Every where will seem to be bearing hovering evil spirits. Shrubs will appear like humans when sighted from distance, leaving your people terrific with heads as if swollen. The hearts of your people will be pounding from the fear infixed in them by the message of war and imaginary images of clanging machete, flaring arrows and gushing blood of subdued warriors of war, appearing hauntingly. But this is not a war of swords, bow, spears and sticks. The emissaries of the queen will come with what is more than that- rare puissant weapons.

I see your hands twitching as if your anxiety wants to escape through them. I told you to sheath your sword. Sheath your sword because your end is not by their swords, even if not so, your swords stand no chance against the queen. Strength they say, wanes; gut, diminishes; health, fails; providence, disappoints. The mouth is to be blamed for not saying what the eyes saw but not for the ears that heard but refused to follow through. A wise learns from the mistakes of others, a fool lives to experience the mistakes of others. Learn from the fate of Jubo Jubogha (Amanyababo). Learn from him. Is your sword mightier than that of Jubo? Didn’t your father seek his military assistance when your land was invaded? Didn’t your people worship him like a god? Was it not the queen that humiliated him before the very eyes of his people, tore his kingdom into shreds, raised his people against him? Was it not the powerful, invincible hand of the queen that forced him out of his kingdom? Did you not hear the story ? The story of how his heroical sword by which he founded the Opobo kingdom, built an unassailable fortress, was so anaemic in preventing the emissaries of the queen from invading his land, the emissaries of the queen who are born for war, whose names instill fear in the hearts of their enemies. Tell me, is your land more fortified than that of Opobo? Are your army mightier than the defeated Opobo army? You stand no chance against the queen. Also, did you not hear how king Badu Bonsu II of Ahanta went? The mighty king of great feats, who died though not by the hands of the queen but by that of Prince of Orange. Learn from the fate of Badu who was hanged to death in his land before the eyes of his sleeping ancestors, his royal head severed from his body, confiscated and taken hostage by the Prince of Orange in a foreign land, the land of the Prince of Orange. Learn from the fate of Oba Ovoranwen Nogaisi whose love for his kingdom was questioned by the emissaries of the queen. Did you not hear that he raised his sword against the emissaries of the queen and was ignominiously humiliated before his people, removed from his throne and forced to take refuge in another land, across the river. Learn from them and quieten your twitching hands, vitiate your rage and wait for your end, the end of you. Ukpana opkoko gburu, bu nti chiri ye.

Now listen. Your soldiers will be subdued effortlessly before your very eyes with powerful exceptional weapons you have never seen or heard of. After your army have been trounced, then will you sue for peace.

Consequently, early morning cock crow in your land will put fear in the lives of your people that they will always wish it were forever nightfall. Sorrowful songs will be sung in all corners of your land. You will plead for the belligerent hands of the emissaries of the queen to allow you live in your land, this land your ancestors lived-in. You shall beg the queen not to give you Judo’s treatment. Not to force you out of your land as was with Judo. The queen will listen to you. The queen will allow you live in your land but will give you a new name- just like she did to Judo whose name her emissaries could not pronounce correctly because they spoke through their noses. The proceeds of your farms will be taxed heavily by the queen. Your women will walk massively in one heart, starkly naked, singing in clamour and resentment against the queen, against her heavy taxes.

You remember they will come with sword. The sword has served its purpose, its end- to defeat you and your people in your land and to subjugate you and subject you and your people to the queen in a faraway land.

You remember I also told you that your end is not by the sword.

Now, the second weapon they will come with, the books on their right-hands, will be deployed against you and your people after you have been subjugated. These books are of two kinds- the first will be used to teach your people the language of the queen in a faraway land. This book will imbibe in your people new tongue other than your longstanding language, the one through which your people commune with your gods, which defines you and them, which tells the you-in-you, which your ancestors told you never to discard. This book will make your people speak through their noses, in the manner the queen and her emissaries who will overrun your land in readiness for her arrival, do.

Do not ask me if your end is by this book, for the book antecedes your end, the end of you.

Now listen to what the second book will do to you and your people- the second book will be tethered on your necks to dictate and guide your daily indulgence. It will be used to divide your people against you, to depose your chiefs and install illegitimate chiefs in place. The chiefs will slough their beings and wear the unfitting identity of the queen in a faraway land. Do not forget, the queen’s skin is sun-colour-like unlike yours sooted by invisible smoke of the sun. These queen-installed chiefs shall execute the orders of the queen through her emissaries.

By these books, your people will lose their true selves. They will become strangers to their original selves as the presence of their original being in them wanes.

Your mien tells your rage, and your heaving heart shows your desperation, but remain calm for the enemy is an insurmountable one.

The third of the weapons they will come with, the crystal crucifixes, will be deployed against you and your people . These crucifixes will wrestle the grotesque and before-feared-and-reverenced Amadioha to the ground and take its position in the hearts of your people. Do not ask me if Amadioha will still be in latency when the contest will happen. This same crucifix will displace the slumbering highly-spirited Ogun from the hearts of your people. The historic feats of Sango will be wiped out of the hearts of your people by this crucifix. Your worship places shall be desecrated. Your people will worship another God, the God the crucifix represents, the God of the queen in a faraway land, instead of your gods which truly define you, the you-in-you.

Now listen attentively for all of these I have mentioned are the preamble to your end, the end of you. You shall run out of this land, this land your ancestor lived in. You shall run to a faraway land, the land of the queen whose emissaries will overrun your land. Your end is near but not in the land of the queen. Your end lies sedately in this land which you shall return-to after some years in the land of the queen. In the faraway land, you shall learn to speak proficiently through your nose like the queen whose land you live in. You shall speak her language, learn her ways and understand her books- the one tethered on the necks of your people and the one which teaches them the language and ways of the queen. You shall eat the food of the queen, wear the clothes of the queen, while you live in her land.

When you return to your land, this land you live-in, your people will celebrate your return. They will admire your new self, self laced by the ways of the queen. They will admire the strangeness of your looks, the strangeness associated with your newly acquired language, the language of the queen; the strangeness of your new self. You shall flout your new acquisitions, speak through your nose like the emissaries of the queen, to fascinate them. They will envy you but celebrate you. You will become their hope, their mouthpiece, and their future.

At your return, this land you live-in will be reborn. Some of your ancestral monuments will be razed down. A new name will be giving to this your land. So many places will be renamed by the tongues of the emissaries of the queen. Some of these places will be named after the emissaries of the queen. Your rivers and mountains will have new names. But you will not be bothered about this, nor bothered about the looting of your land. Your return will bring hope to your people. You shall try to demystify the emissaries of the queen to your people. You will tell them that they are not gods. You will tell them that they are mortal, that they have blood in their veins. You shall rant verbosely and gingerly at the gathering of your people, in your market places, at your festival of new yam, festival of age-grade, demanding the queen removes her hand from your reborn land. Your voice will thunder so loud into the mulish ears of the queen as you demand she ease the tendon of the book tethered on your necks.

Now, your end is nearer than ever. As you clamour for the end of the queen’s presence in your land, the queen will visit your land, your reborn land. She will shake your hand softened by years away from your land, with her gloved palms. You shall always smile even though in your belly, you have no genuine instinct to. The queen will wave her gloved hands in the air, at your sun pelted people. Like the queen, you shall wave tirelessly at them.

The queen will agree to your request- she will withdraw her powerful domineering hand from your land. It is a win for you, you shall think, and a loss for the queen. I won't say. It is left for you to conclude.

You shall now rule over yourselves by your own hands and not by the queen’s hand. It will be celebrated across your land by all and sundry. The old book will be unfastened from your necks but another one, written conspicuously by the hand of the queen, will be handed to you.

After you have ousted the domineering hand of the queen, shall you meet with your end. As you celebrate the departure of the queen, you ignorantly celebrate the end of you, the end of the you-in-you.Your ancestors will stand-up against you. Their tongues will lather you. Their tongues will ridicule your new names, your new monuments of the queen. Your ancestors will scorn you, for you have lost the real you, the you which you will call primitive, which you will call barbaric. Your ancestors will pounce on you, an unworthy son who abandoned his tongue for that of a woman in a faraway land, who desecrated the sacred deities of his land to please the queen in a faraway land, who tarnished his melanin to align with the queen in a faraway land.

The angry stinger of your ancestors will inject into your laced body, the fangs of perennial ruefulness. You shall try to restore the lost you- you shall try to restore the dignity of your deities, the pride in the supposed-primitive ways of your ancestors, to rename your mountains, rivers and monuments, but you shall not be able. Now, you have lost the you-in-you - your end, your destiny.


 Chukwu Sunday Abel is an Igbo-born journalist and writer whose literary works have earned a few notable awards including the Creators of Justice Literary Awards by the International Human Rights Movement, New York.  He emerged a finalist in the 2020 #EndSARS National Poetry Competition against police brutality in Nigeria. He is the 2023 winner of Africa Human Rights Literary  Competition. He also emerged a runner-up in the Native Voices 2023 literary Competition.  Sunday's short stories have been published in anthologies or magazines such as Flame Tree Publishers, Strange Religion, The Brick House, Kinsman Quarterly, Rice University's Texlandia Magazine, etc. 

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