Hunted – The diary of the corper across the Benue River | Episode 6

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This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Hunted

When Bashir, a corper serving in Benue state, employed tricks to ensnare a female colleague, Khadija, he ended up being the one that was trapped. Hunted has lessons to be learnt and anecdotes to be connected with. The story shows Gwa Doohemba at his best: suspense

THE MARRIAGE

August, 16.

Afternoon is my favourite time of the day when I lay down to take my siesta, something that had succeeded in becoming part of me ever since I took residence across the Benue River. But my today’s sleep was disturbed. I awakened to the sound of a mellow drumbeat that seemed to come from afar. The sound was so inviting that I stepped my feet into my slippers and began forward steps. It fuelled my desire and found me walking almost unconsciously like one who left his soul behind.

The corper’s lodge that was across the Benue River was far behind me now. I made my way on the sandy shore that made noise when they come in contact with my slippers. I had to drop my weight gently lest my feet sink deeper into the loose sand covering my feet and in the process make my feet dirty. My ears picked the direction the drumming was coming from; it was a compound that in the recent week underwent a renovation. It was located ahead of the lodge, a place I had never walk pass.

There were about four rounded huts made with red earth. They were thatched-roofed and designed in an artistic way that could be mistaken for a resort, something that spoke loud clear that the house was a thatched roof not because the owner has no money to go for a bungalow but just for the beauty of it. There was something in the manner they stood. Apart from the four huts, three canopies were erected. One housed some men and women that were dressed in white attire. They were singing accompanied by drumbeat; a harmony that got the environment shrouded in serenity. They were also gesticulating while other few persons were engaged in the traditional dance they perform as though they have no bone making up their frame work. I was fascinated at the manner in which they were dancing and no matter how I brainstormed, I couldn’t come up with the thought that had probably been on the mind of the first dancers who invented the dance. I wasn’t even sure if any of them dancing could provide an answer or if they ever thought of it even.

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Another canopy was occupied by a set of impatient people that was clearly visible by their behaviour; some of them were tapping their hands on the tables before them while some of them were pacing restlessly under the canopy without taking their seats.

I walked into the third canopy that was calm were I could have a better view of the singers. It was there that I came to grasp the reason for the gathering; it was a traditional marriage.

I settled comfortably in a chair, pleased to witness the traditional marriage of a Tiv man. There is nothing like the Hausa marriage that I remember of; only Islamic marriage. I wonder how the Hausa man used to pick a wife for himself before the advent of Islam… that history is what I would love to revisit so I could have an idea of how my ancestors used to do things.

The sight of a lady adorn with the Tiv attire made me sat on the edge of my chair. The traditional attire was not the one I am familiar with –the zebra colour. This was as though a bowl of dye was splashed on a white cloth. It was patches of black in every which way –the sign that made me know it’s another of the Tiv man’s traditional attire.

Pink colour graced her luscious lips that made me wet my lips and rolled my tongue. She was walking with a feline poise that made her hips swirl from side to side. Her stomach lay flat under her blouse that was sewn sleeveless. It revealed skin that was like ripe mangoes. She held a staff in her hand that had fur glued to it. When she came in front of the canopy that housed her in-laws to be, she began the Tiv dance. She started upright and gradually she began to bend low until her knees were nearing to touch the ground. All these while, she didn’t move an inch. Her legs stood firmly together on heels the height that I wonder how she got to stand firm on it.

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The man I presumed to be in her husband walked before her with a bundle of mints in his hand and sprayed it lavishly over her. She was laughing in a controlled manner that didn’t make her lose control of herself or her balance. Her company of friends that had formed a crescent behind her came forward with their calabash and began to collect the pile of money until she was led away. When food was being served to the guests, some of the groom’s kinsmen moved into the hut that was in the centre of the gathering to meet with the bride’s kinsmen.

The atmosphere was filled with tension as the guests waited in anticipation. A truckload completely concealed with a tarpaulin drove into the compound and parked at the door of the centre hut. In an attempt to satisfy my curiosity, I moved position and sat where I could be able to see what was happening in the large central hut.

First, a mat was spread on the floor in the hut where they vacated the sofas for. Next, a table was placed there and an umbrella erected over it. Two plastics chairs were also provided. They were occupied by each representative of the bride and groom. They each held a piece of paper in their hands. They talked for some time before they came out and stood in front of the truck; and itwas uncovered. I deduce the piece of paper in their hands was a list of items that was to be brought as part of the bride price. Once an item from the list is called out, another who it was his duty would give directives for it to be offloaded from the truck.

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The guests gazed in amazement at the items that numbered a hundred tubers of yam, twenty gallons of twenty litres of palm oil and vegetable oil each, twelve bags of iodize salt, two bowls of bush meat and dried fish each, ten cartons of seasoning, fifteen crates of beer and ten crates of soft drinks. The last items that were presented were a virgin goat said to be a symbol of the bride’s virginity and a pig that was brought in a different truck. Once the people saw the size of the pig, they went in hysterical elation that broke the stillness that had clouded the atmosphere. The drum beaters geared to life amidst songs that was running at same pace.

The bride appeared with a cup of palm wine in her hand in search of her husband in the crowd. The search took a while but it was an exciting one. It was only when she was standing face to face with him that I noted that she had changed into another of the Tiv man’s regalia that was same with that of her husband. After he had gulped the drink down his throat, she held him and led him to her father who joined their hands and pronounced them man and wife to the hearing of all present after which they began a ceremonious dance.

A cup of fresh palm wine was offered to me. It tasted so delicious that I drained the cup and requested for another from a pretty lady. She smiled and spoke in Tiv language.

“I am a corper from Kano State serving here. I reside across the Benue River.”

She giggled and said, “I’ll be back,” in English.

I was almost growing impatient when she returned with a four litre keg and a cup of calabash and said I could take it home with me courtesy of the bride’s father.

I stared blankly at her.

“Come on, you are a corper from Kano who is residing across the Benue River.” She giggled coyly and walked away. I didn’t know what that means. The information of being a corper across the Benue River did nothing to calm me instead; it left me the more confused like a pen in the hands of an illiterate.

Series Navigation<< Hunted – The diary of the corper across the Benue River | Episode 5Hunted – The diary of the corper across the Benue River | Episode 7 >>

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Gwa Doohemba

Doohemba Gwa is a young writer. He writes mostly novels and short stories and once in a while dives into poetry. His work has been published in 'Telling our Stories', an anthology of new Nigerian short stories published by ANA Kano. He was also published in Daily Stream newspaper as poet of the week on Friday, November 20, 2015 issue.

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