Tragedy raised its ugly tentacle when Ochoyiro’s wife gave birth to another stillborn baby. When the child was confirmed dead by the midwives, he climbed his bicycle and rode to a witchdoctor’s house at Efewaja village. After explaining to the witchdoctor, he blamed him for not calling him to administer medicine to his wife when she was pregnant. ‘You caused it yourself,’ he emphasized. Ochoyiro did not utter a word to defend himself.
‘Look at this,’ the witchdoctor said holding something wrapped in black leather. ‘Take it to her and tell her to be putting a pinch of it on her bathing water every day and when she finished bathing, she must not use towel to clean her body. The water must dry in her body before she wears her clothes,’ he said putting it in his palm.
‘Papa, I’m very grateful. Thank you for your care and kindness. I know with you on my side, it would not happen again,’ Ochoyiro said and put nine hundred naira on the ground in front of the witchdoctor.
‘You are my son, I’m your father. I and your father were good friends before he died. A father cannot do something for his son and ask for payment. Don’t worry, it would not happen again. I know what to do to keep the spirit of stillborn far from her forever.’
He put the medicine in a polythene bag and tied it on the saddle-bag of his bicycle. He left for his house, riding and sweating profusely until he got home.
His wife was administering the medicine as the witchdoctor instructed. Sometimes, she spent about an hour in the bathroom for her body to dry completely before wearing her clothes. She stood there breathing in the stench that pervades the bathroom arena until she was convinced that there was no iota of water even in her armpit.
She conceived again and the witchdoctor became a special guest of honour in their house. He visits oftentimes, bringing different medicines with him at each trip. ‘This one is for rubbing your belly before going to bed for the night. This one, you mixed it with water and spray it on your threshold before going to sleep. This one, you mixed it with palm wine and drink it every morning. This one, you mixed it with hot water and spray it on all the roads, both tiny and big ones leading to this compound. This one, Ochoyiro, you would tie it to the Ogbu tree because of evil birds. This one, you put it inside the well because of marine spirits,’ he said. He told Ochoyiro to alert him any time his wife go into labour for him to come and surround her with “fire” because of any stubborn spirit that would jump inside her and kill the child.
‘Come or send somebody to come and call me immediately,’ he stressed.
‘I would Papa ,’ Ochoyiro said.
‘Don’t leave her in the hands of the midwives,’ he said drawing his ear
‘I won’t Papa.’
I must be here immediately to surround her with fire.’
‘I would make sure you are here.’
‘Don’t be careless like before.’
‘I won’t Papa.’
Ochoyiro repaired the spoilt pedal of his bicycle and fixed a new chain. He serviced his entire bicycle, ready to fly to the witchdoctor’s house anytime his wife goes into childbirth. He rode his bicycle with all carefulness in order that it would not break down before the D-day.
On one fateful morning, his wife told him she was feeling dizzy and something was biting her in her lower abdomen. ‘I’m coming,’ he told her and went to the witchdoctor’s house. Hardly did he come down from his bicycle before calling him. ‘Papa, Papa,’ he shouted, breathing heavily and striding to his hut.
The witchdoctor was at the backyard of his hut looking for leaves to make medicine. He heard the voice and walked out to see who the person was. ‘Ochoyiro,’ he said moving towards him with leaves in his hands.
‘Good morning papa.’
‘Good morning Oyim.’
‘My wife is in labour now.’
‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ the witchdoctor said putting the leaves on a bow at the foot of an orange tree in his compound. He walked in haste to his hut and came out with a bottle containing a black liquid and a staff stained with blood. ‘Papa, carry my bicycle and rush. Let me be walking, it would not take me long time,’ Ochoyiro said.
He carried Ochoyiro’s bicycle and hurried to his house. As he entered Ugbaibo’s bedroom, she was lying down looking haggard. He asked how was she feeling and she explained to him. He gave her the black liquid to drink and made an imaginary circle around her with the blood stained staff. ‘Don’t entertain fear my daughter, everything is going to be alright,’ he assured. He went out and sat down on the threshold.
As he was sitting on Okpo in front of her house enchanting incantation, he sighted Ochoyiro coming from afar.
‘How is she now?’ Ochoyiro asked impatiently.
‘She is very okay.’
Ochoyiro went inside to check her. ‘My dear, how is it doing you now?’ He asked touching her forehead with the back of his palm.
‘I’m not feeling too bad. I want to sleep.’
‘Sleep, let me leave you so that you can sleep very well.’
He went to his living room with the witchdoctor.
Ugbaibo slept for about two hours and woke up, yawning loudly. The witchdoctor jumped out and Ochoyiro followed him with his heart in his mouth. As they ran into her room, she sat on bed scratching her head.
‘Sit down on the floor,’ Agbarakata said moving his staff round her head.
She sat on the floor quietly.
‘Sit well so that the child would have easy passage,’ he said.
‘I’m not in labour now,’ she replied.
Two weeks later, she went into labour and called Enyawu, a widow living in the neighbourhood.
‘Please go to our cassava farm, the one behind yours and tell my husband that I’m in labour,’ she told the widow panting.
‘Let me stay with you and you would deliver.’
‘No, no, go and call him.’
As she was going, she met him on the way.
‘Your wife is in labour.’
‘Has she delivered?’ He asked opening his eyes wide.
He went home and ran to the witchdoctor’s house. He told him his wife was in labour and handed him his bicycle to hurry to his house.
When the witchdoctor entered her room, three midwives were attending to her and he drove them out. He started chanting abracadabra calling different names and was going round her. She laboured from noon till dawn of the following day and could not give birth. The witchdoctor tried all he could but to no avail. She was carried on a commercial bus of “Echepepe line” to the city where the child was removed from her womb dead via surgery.
Ugwu Lawrence Enenche is a prolific writer and reputable researcher on African Literature and folklore. He is a celebrated public speaker with a distinguished, ineffable, modest and pro-active personality. He has written many published and unpublished articles, stories, poems and his recent novels are Just After Dawn, A Talking Dream and Gone With Love.