“IF WITCHES WERE HORSES” Episode 1-2 by Kolade Segun-Okeowo (KSO)

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EPISODE ONE

ONIGBA-IWOFA VILLAGE, SOUTH WEST NIGERIA….1985
A loud scream from the first of the children to receive the inoculation syringe was all it took to send the others into a deafening crescendo of wailing. One of the children, a six year old, broke violently from the mother’s hands and dashed into one of the houses in the village as another cursed in the names of the gods to the heavens.

A baby strapped to her mothers back suddenly woke from her deep sleep, apparently disturbed by the unexpected and uncoordinated music of wailings from her mates. As if prompted by a music conductor, she joined the ‘band of wailing musicians’ her voice tending to overshadow the other older ‘musicians’. The noise rent the whole village square where the inoculation exercise was taking place.

Two days earlier, when the news of the inoculation exercise by Health Officials from the city got to Onigba-Iwofa, the villagers could not hide their fears.

“Needles? In human bodies?” some wondered.
“Over my dead body!” Alade, a local drunkard boasted to his mates over a calabash of palm wine.

“Me? How can I allow one small girl who calls herself a nurse or whatever to prick my buttocks with needles in the name of inoculation! Inoculation my feet!”

The crier who went round to the village to announce the coming of the Health Officials had a hard time trying to explain to the villagers what the whole exercise is all about. It was true a strange epidemic had broken out in the village, but no one could understand why Folagbade the King would not listen to the counsel of the elders that the gods are angry. Why calling Health Inspectors to come and inject people with needles instead of making sacrifices.

“Sometimes I find it difficult to understand all these book people” said Agbaakin one of the leading elders in the village. “Folagbade will never understand until the whole village is destroyed by this epidemic….”

“The moment we decided to make a retired Court Clerk the King of this village I knew we were courting trouble!” Agaga, the village head-hunter shouted fuming with anger. “A position of valour is not for childish minds”

He had opposed strongly the choice of Folagbade as the King. He had always held the opinion that educated people are only good for the kind of life they live in the city not in the village.

“One seeks a person with a prominent back as suitor for one’s daughter, and the humpback presents himself; who spoke of a protruding back?” Agaga continued still on his feet fuming more than when he started his speech. “Folagbade had worked with the white men for twenty years before they left this country”

“For another seventeen years after the white men left, Folagbade worked with the government…so what do you expect from a man like that… ehn to come back and bow down and respect the same gods the white men had insulted in his presence for thirty and seven years?, I maintain, we have made a terrible mistake of choosing Folagbade as the King of this village, we had better start from there; when trees fall on one another, the topmost is better attended to first.”

“Are you suggesting we remove Folagbade from the throne of his fathers?” Retorted Agbeja, the head of the masquerade cult, his eyes bulging red with anger.

“Broken calabash can be mended but not a broken dish…years of rainfall cannot wash off the spots on the leopard’s skin” said Agaga.

“Agaga you have taken too much wine today!” Sagbua shouted shaking his fist at the village head-hunter…before long; more fists were already shaking throwing in accusations and counter accusations.

The village square, venue of the meeting soon became covered in a snow of dust rising from the angry heels of village elders trying to resolve the crisis at hand only to brew more.

By the time the Health Officials arrived two days later, half of the villagers have decided never to receive any ‘strange needle’ not approved by the gods! Agbaakin and Agaga removed their families from the village and took refuge in nearby Aponbiede.

“I refuse to be contaminated” Agaga had told his senior wife beating his chest over a meal of pounded yam. “If only the King would listen to us and consult the gods, the epidemic will disappear within three days.”

“…but why not allow the health officials to come and do whatever they wish to do then when they fail, we shall all see and the King will have no choice than to listen to your wise counsel” pleaded Agaga’s wife on her knees with her appealing eyes.

Agaga stopped eating; he stared at the woman menacingly. Too scared to look back, the woman quickly turned her stare to the ground. Then the words came rolling like an erupting volcano!

“So! They sent you to go and appeal to me?

Scared and confused, the woman quickly raised her eyes to start a defense, but another volcanic eruption stopped her.

“Quiet! …. I am yet to understand why you women are easily bought over by mere words! Hear me woman….! No one in this household of mine will take that strange needle. Tomorrow at dawn, we leave for Aponbiede”

When the Health officials arrived, Oba Folagbade the village King personally took them around in their mobilization van released by the Local Council Authority for the exercise.

With the mobile public address system, the villagers were ushered to the village square and the exercise started… and the wailings began… to continue for seven days!

For seven days, the inoculation continued. Hundreds of the villagers received the strange needle. On the seventh day, the health officials set to leave. The Chief Health Inspector in the Local Council came with the vehicle to pick his staff, the five health officials – three men and two ladies.

“So how did it go?” asked the Inspector with smiles. The Health Officials were already beaming with smiles as they saw him approaching to meet them. The smiles brought him relief. He had been troubled since he sent the health workers to Onigba-Iwofa seven days ago.

He had only prayed that this mission will be a success. The experience he had in a village in the Eastern part of the country had always haunted him. Two members of his staff were murdered in cold blood by the villagers who mistook their mission in the village.

The villagers had thought they were kidnappers, so they laid an ambush against them and hacked them into pieces. He managed to escape the cruel hands of death. It was an incident he never could forget. The next day, he sought to be transferred back home from the East.

“If I must die, let it be with my people” He was lucky, he got the transfer quickly; it was an unusual transfer approved within two weeks!

As soon as he stepped down from the Ministry of Health’s Land Rover, the health workers seated under the shade of the baobab tree in the village square quickly rose to meet him.

They could recognize him from a kilometer away. His bald head and ringed spectacle were enough trademarks! His eyes quickly went through the health officials coming to meet him he counted one, two, three, four…he saw four, and his heart missed a beat.

“What could have happened to the fifth official? A lady for that matter”

His mind quickly raced back to the cold blooded murder of his colleagues in the east. The unlucky ones were those who could not run fast enough away from danger!

So what must have happened to the fifth worker…..? He adjusted his glasses and saw that the health officials were beaming with smiles “Sure they won’t be smiling if one of them is missing” he said to assure himself

Then he looked again, five of them! He breathed a sign of relief.

The lady had only stooped to adjust her shoes which slipped off as she stood from where she sat; too excited that the vehicle to pick them had arrived.

So how did it go” he asked, confident that the worst is over.

“Wonderful Sir!” Said the first lady who appeared to be the leader of the officials.

Anyone seeing her in an hospital ward would think she’s a medical doctor. A pretty lady with a gap tooth amongst a carefully laid set of snow white teeth. The Chief Inspector is always pleased to receive reports from her. Reports from her are always positive. This time, he was not only pleased to hear a positive report but the attraction and beauty of her teeth was comforting to him.

“We really had a wonderful time Sir” She continued “The first day was a bit rough, the people wouldn’t come out for the exercise. We had to go round with the council bus to mobilize them for the inoculation.”

“And they came?” Asked the Chief Inspection Officer; too eager to hear the report.

“Oh they came!” She flashed another smile exposing the beautiful gap-tooth to the admiration of the Chief Inspector. “We divided ourselves into two groups to facilitate a speedy completion of the exercise”

“And it worked?” The Chief Inspector asked proudly, he was happy that he had put the right person to lead the health workers.

“What a good idea” He said to himself.

“Yes it worked Sir” She flashed another smile.

“So how many people were you able to immunize?”

“In my group, we immunized four hundred and seventy-two adults, two hundred and fifty-six children” She said consulting a small leaflet for the information.

“My group immunized ninety-four adults” One of the male health workers quickly came in. He was glad to have an opportunity to let the Chief Inspector know that he too had worked hard; at least, he led the second group.

“Sir, it’s a good thing we have immunized the people of this village” The gap-toothed lady continued as if she knew the Chief Inspector was only interested in listening to her.

“I’m so sure that in the next ten years, the epidemic will never re-occur in this village”

“Always positive” the Chief Inspector said to himself admiring the courage and positive thinking nature of the lady.

“I must confess” He started beaming with smiles; he removed his spectacles as if he wanted his staff to see the smiles clearly.

“You have all done a good job. I’m also confident that this village can never be a victim of the strange epidemic again. I’m sure the authorities at the ministry of health will be willing to congratulate you for a job well done”

“Three hearty cheers to the Commissioner of Health who initiated this inoculation exercise….Hip! Hip! Hip!”

“Hurray”

The Health workers chorused. Confident and assured that they would never need to visit the village again, at least, not in the next ten years!

But they all were wrong!

The tears started flowing again almost immediately. Seven days after the inoculation exercise, twenty one children and eleven adults died mysteriously.

Bad words!

The news went round again; the epidemic had returned; this time more ferocious! The strange needles were useless. The villagers have been tortured for no just cause.

Those who supported the coming of the health officials could only hang their heads in shame. To make the matters worse, the families who took the immunization were worst hit.

Agbeja, the head of the masquerade cult who stood solidly behind Folagbade lost two children in four days, one of his three wives also died!

Agaga was the happiest man in the village; had he not warned them all?

“But they will not hear words! It served them right”

He stretched his leg on the arm chair and took another long sip from the calabash of palm wine in his hands. His family was not hit by the epidemic. None died in his household.

“These so-called elders should learn to listen when I talk….Who do they think I am? A non-entity? Nonsense! Now they will see sense in what I’ve always told them; Folagbade is a stump in the path of progress for this village… He has no respect for the gods, remove Folagbade from the throne and this village will compete with Lagos!”

He took another sip of the palm wine; he stopped and emptied the remaining palm wine in the keg. He was already getting tipsy, that was the fourth keg. Then he heard a loud noise…No wailing!

He said to himself, “I must be drunk. I had better lie peacefully on this armchair and allow this thing go down.”

The wailing grew louder and nearer. He stood, staggered and fell back on the armchair, he saw two figures running towards him; he could not see them properly. They must be another family who have lost a child or relative again.

“Good for them!” He thought.

As the noise got nearer, now he seemed to recognize his first wife! She screamed and threw herself down at his feet. Agaga could not believe he was seeing his wife.

“This palm wine is too strong… The termite is only striving; it can never eat a rock…No..Not me”

He looked closely again and saw clearly now; his wives, two of them and his eldest daughter. They came to break the news. His eldest son and two other children!

Agaga slumped and simply passed away!

The toll rose !!!

 

 


EPISODE TWO
As the noise got nearer, now he seemed to recognize his first wife! She screamed and threw herself down at his feet. Agaga could not believe he was seeing his wife.

This palm wine is too strong… The termite is only striving; it can never eat a rock No..Not me”

He looked closely again and saw clearly now; his wives, two of them and his eldest daughter. They came to break the news. His eldest son and two other children!

Agaga slumped and simply passed away!

The toll rose !!!

Oba Folagbade had grown lean within seven days. He had not seen the sun for three days now. The news of the renewed outbreak of the epidemic was too hard for him to take. He wept over the nights and called on the gods of his ancestors for the first time. He had initially refused to call on any god or goddess because he believed they dont exist. His training and life as a Court Clerk of thirty seven years during and after the colonial era had taught him never to believe in superstitions.

As far as Folagbade was concerned, the epidemic was a result of the non-challant attitude of the villagers to personal and environmental hygiene. The first three weeks after the outbreak of the epidemic were spent clearing the bushes around houses. He led the villagers to clear the pathway of the only village stream and wrote to the local council to extend pipe borne water to his village. The council had responded immediately. Within two months water was already flowing in Onigba-Iwofa.

Yet the epidemic persisted!

In the last three days, about nine bodies have been brought to his palace by bereaved villagers. His heart missed a beat that morning as he stepped into the palace room and sat on his throne chair; several thoughts raced through his mind.

What if the villagers reject me as their head?

He saw two of the village Chiefs enter the palace room charging at him. It was Alapinni and Agbaakin, two of his most bitter enemies.

The whole village is waiting outside for you charged Alapinni, his eyes bulging.

The villagers have rejected you as their head; your reign has brought ill-luck to this village. In your seven years as King, we have not known peace except deaths and deaths! Agbaakin spoke his voice booming like the sound of an hi-fi record speaker.

We have the authority of the people to depose you from the throne of your fathers said Alapinni moving another step closer to Folagbade, his eyes, a mass of a scary object. Suddenly, Agbaakin snatched the crown from his head and pronounced the sacred words:

The gods reject you
The people reject you
The earth rejects you!

Folagbade woke from his daydreaming. He looked around the palace, he was alone, he breathed a sigh of relief.

‘But what if the villagers had started such plans’

He became alarmed again. He strolled round the palace room in deep thoughts, confused and disturbed.

‘But why must all these happen in my reign?’ he asked himself, with tears already swelled up in his eyes.

‘Why must it be me?…. the reign of my father was peaceful. It was peace all through Adeogun my grandfathers reign.. and so why? Why? Have the gods abandoned me to the desires of my enemies. Obatala, Sango, Elegbara, Ologunoso. You witches and wizards of the land, will you not keep me from .’

A loud scream from outside the palace broke his thoughts. He stopped and quickly rushed to the window to see the source of the scream. Two men bore the body of a young girl on their shoulders as they rushed towards the palace. A woman ran after them wailing as two other women followed, holding her.

Folagbade knew the meaning; he turned back into the palace, two drops of tears trickled down his eyes. He quickly wiped his eyes and composed himself. He would be breaking a taboo if people meet his tears. The crowd rushed into the palace hall, the men dropped the girl on the ground. Folagbade quickly approached from the palace room, he already knew what was going on.

According to traditions, he ought not to sight a dead body, but these are different times. He had broken that tradition severally in the last few months since the epidemic started. At first, he was reluctant to break the tradition, but when the number of corpses rose above fifty, the compassion in him broke the traditions.

Silently, he approached the corpse of the young girl and touched her body; he felt the coldness and announced, Shes dead.

As if waiting for that pronouncement, the mother burst into another session of wailing, screaming and throwing herself on the ground.

“Lead the woman inside and ask the Olori to take care of her Folagbade said, fighting back tears.

The two men who bore the corpse of the girl took the mother in as she screamed away with them. Folagbade looked at the men who brought in the corpse; his teary-eyes conveyed the message. They picked the corpse and went away with it. They knew what to do. The village had created a mass burial site for all those hit by the epidemic.
Your Highness, we can no longer understand this The father of the child started, sobbing and trying hard to keep mucus from running down his nostrils. This is my third child that will die under this same mysterious circumstance.

Folagbade knew he had to console the man; that was truly the third time he would bring the corpse of his child to the palace.

“Odesola, be a man. We cannot blame anyone for these calamities. Only God knows why. But how did this happen again? Folagbade felt the need to know the circumstances surrounding this particular case. Who knows, it might lead to a better understanding of the epidemic.

Your Highness, it happened the same way as that of Ibironke my first daughter and Lakunle my little son Odesola started, unable to fight back the tears now. My wife finished serving them food and went out only to come back moments later to meet this one shouting, ‘Orogojigo!’ ‘Orogojigo!’”

“Orogojigo! Folagbade could not hide his fear! The dreaded Orogojigo had struck again! No one could explain the meaning of the word and its relation with the epidemic, the only thing the villagers note is that the victims scream “Orogojigo! Orogojigo! as they die.

“Orogojigo? Folagbade repeated, completely confused. The ones before her shouted this same name before they died Odesola explained more. The two men who took Odesolas wife in returned, their eyes stained with tears Your Highness, we have taken her inside, your wives are already taking good care of her the first man said.

“Orogojigo? Folagbade had not recovered from the shock of the revelation. But what could be the meaning of this strange name? Folagbade asked nobody in particular.

The second man stood up and spoke; The whole village is equally confused about this strange name. We have all been thrown into mourning. When Iyalode the wife of Agbaakin died, she shouted this name. It was the same with Abebi the daughter of Molaja! In short, all those who died have shouted Orogojigo as they die.

We cannot fold our arms and watch these continue Odesola protested, Something must be done to reveal the secrets of these strange deaths

The tears had given way to anger now. Folagbade, trying to cool Odesolas frayed nerves said “Odesola, you are right

He rose from his throne to meet Odesola and placed a hand on his shoulder; This name appears to be evil, we shall find out and make necessary sacrificial appeasements. Im now convinced we need to consult our forefathers…You He pointed to the second man. As soon as you leave this place, get to high priest; Ajamolaya-Bi-Erus house; take my words to him, tell him I wish to set my eyes on him

The man stood and dashed towards the door, Folagbade stopped him. Waittell him that Folagbade wishes to speak with the gods The man dashed out.

You, assist Odesola; he needs a lot of comfort and encouragement now.

The remaining men led Odesola out of the palace. Silence reigned everywhere. Folagbade remained in the palace, being alone, he cried!

The meeting of the Special Marine Agents of Darkness (SMAD) operating under the waters of Katangua Sea holds fortnightly. The meeting affords the honorable Queen of the Coast, Satans special envoy in charge of all marine agents to receive a firsthand report of the activities of the human agents under her jurisdiction. The meeting takes place right under the water and commences at twelve midnight.

So much discipline is maintained concerning attendance and punctuality. Any of the human agents who fail to turn up at exactly twelve midnight is subjected to a painful session of rape and torture by the male agents who work as body guards for the Queen of the Coast. The outcome of such sessions are always unpalatable, the erring female agent always ends up with scratches and wounds all over her body even when she returns to normal life above the sea.

That night, the Queen had been extremely happy. The report she received at the last fortnight progress meeting was still a source of joy to her. The marine region of Katangua has always been a source of pride to her each time she makes her monthly report to the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer!

At exactly a minute to midnight, all the agents have taken positions in their regalia of flowing gown slit in the front and tapered with gold lining. A golden cape dotted with silver and gems adorn the back of the gowns. They wore a crown of emerald and diamond carefully placed on each of the agents head as if God created them with the crowns; a beautiful sight to behold.

The Queen takes time to choose her agents; not just anyone could be accepted to serve in the kingdom. A prospective agent must not just be beautiful but smashingly beautiful. If not, they are re-modeled to suit the beauty of the kingdom. Men must not be able to resist the beauty of her daughters.

The long arm of the clock behind the Queens throne ticks toward twelve midnight. The eerie silence caused the sound of the clock made of a human skull and bones to be louder than usual. The clock have been specially made to work in such a way that it starts working when it is five minutes to midnight and stops when it is five minutes after three in the morning when the meeting is rounded off.

This allows for the daughters of the Queen to gather and disperse at the beginning and end of the meeting. None of the agents is expected to be found in the palace when the skull clock is not working except on special summon by the Queen.

Gradually, the hand of the clock moved closer to twelvefive seconds to goFour, three, twoOne Its twelve midnight!

A loud chorus of Long live your majesty Yeye Orogojigo” came from all the daughters numbering about sixty. The chorus is repeated thrice, and then things began to happen. The ground shook violently causing an angry storm on the surface of river Katangua; two fishing trawlers capsized immediately as the fishermen struggled to swim across to safety, one of the fishermen cursed his luck while the others screamed calling on their gods to rescue them, completely ignorant of the events under the river.

The seabed shook, causing the fishes within the vicinity to swim away. A baby shark in confusion swam across the palace. As if held by a strange force, the shark stopped suddenly unable to swim forward or backwards. She struggled violently trying to break free from the hold, then she stopped, went limp and dropped silently on the seabed! She was too young to understand that fishes dont mess around the palace of the Queen when she meets her daughters.

A huge smoke billowed from the throne chair of the Queen and there she was, seated in all her majestic splendor. Her regalia was completely made with gold linings and diamond pearls scattered carelessly around the cape of her regalia. Her long hair had grown to touch the heels flowing after her as she walked. The hair was weaved into several locks and lined with golden ornaments. Shining objects that appeared like confetti were sprayed on her by two female attendants who appeared with her. All the Daughters of the River bowed in worship, rising up only when she spoke.

You have all done well my children She started; stretching the golden scepter in her left hand towards them. She adjusted herself on the throne drawing her lower part which was completely fish on to the throne. She was half human half fish!

I am impressed each time you sound my praises like this She continued, May the Lord Lucifer bless you All the daughters bowed in worship to receive her blessings.

Im happy you are all here. She said, after a quick glance around; surveying the whole lot of them and making sure the skull clock was working perfectly. If anyone of the agents was absent, the clock will blow its alarm as soon as the Queen arrives displaying the name of the culprit; this not being the case, she continued.

I must know what progress you have made concerning your assignments that I may give reports to the Lord Lucifer when next he calls the meeting of the Grand Council of Darkness. ah!

She stopped quickly as she remembers something, her eyes roving around the agents lovingly. Her eyeballs rolled around in their socket like a lifebuoy tossed to and fro in the midst of angry waves.

The Lord Lucifer was well impressed about your performance during our last briefing with him. He told me personally that he is coming to visit us here in River Katangua very soon.

A wild jubilation of screams, hooting and whistling greeted the Queens announcement. Not only that continued the Queen after ensuring absolute silence. The Lord Lucifer has promoted one of you to the highest level of spiritual wickedness in the high places.

A pin-drop silence reigned everywhere in the palace as all the daughters strained their ears eager to know who the lucky one is. The implication is that the person will now attend meetings with the Lord Lucifer and eat at his table

The silence increased. The Queen looked around, her eyes searching for the lucky one. She saw her. Princess Hagatha

Another round of wild jubilation welcomed the Queens pronouncement as the Queen pointed her scepter towards Hagatha who strode proudly towards the Queen and took a bow right at the feet of the throne.

Princess Hagatha! The Queen addressed her, The Most Honorable Lord Lucifer sends his greetings and message of congratulations. You have now been promoted to the highest level of spiritual wickedness in the Marine Kingdom

She placed the scepter on her head. From now onwards, every iota of mercy in you becomes dead, permanently dead.

The daughters broke into another session of wild jubilations.

You cannot pity any man again! Never! The Queen continued as she leaned forward to remove the crown on Hagathas head replacing it with another one, much more beautiful than the first.

The jubilation now reached its crescendo with loud clapping and hooting. Hagatha rose gradually, beaming smiles as the jubilation decreased gradually into absolute silence, then she spoke.

Your Highness, Lord Queen of the Coast of the Katangua Region, Yeye Orogojigo. She started after paying another round of obeisance to the Queen. Her voice sounded like the clashing of cymbals.

I thank you most sincerely on behalf of the Most High, Lord Lucifer for this honour bestowed upon me by the Grand Council of Spiritual Wickedness in High places. I want to assure you, I shall not disappoint you and the Lord Lucifer. I will intensify my efforts to improve my records. During the last one year, I was able to kill only three thousand, six hundred and twenty five souls and causing only six thousand, nine hundred and sixty seven believers to backslide in campuses all over the country

She paused and looked around as if to see if what she said so far had gone down well with her mates. Assured that she was speaking well, she proceeded.

That record is too poor; very poor! With the new powers invested on me as a Daughter of the Lord Lucifer operating on the highest level of Spiritual Wickedness in the Marine Kingdom, I shall double my effort and make sure that I cause fifteen thousand Christians to backslide and go to hell with us and snuff life out of ten thousand souls in the new year

As she rounded off her speech, all the other agents hailed her, clapping and encouraging her to do more. A few of them embraced her as she returned to her place.

I hope the rest of you are challenged by the records of Princess Hagatha said the Queen. I expect you all to have the same determination to excel in our mission. Our target remains the same; depopulate the kingdom of God to populate hell! She let out a wild laughter, chorused immediately by all her agents.

As I was saying earlier She resumed her speech. I wish to know what progress youve made in your various assignments particularly in the Onigba-Iwofa village. Let me repeat again that the Lord Lucifer has marked out the village for the supply of souls needed for the next meeting of the Grand Council of Spiritual Wickedness in High Places Let the leader of the Onigba-Iwofa mission give a comprehensive report.

*_To be continued tomorrow Friday April 17, 2020 in Episode 3.*

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