How Utsu Became King… By Agba Jalingo

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Warning: Long read!

 

Once upon a time, an only child christened, Utsu, was born to young parents in a small countryside village that did not have too many residents. It was a viable, closely knitted, waterside community where everyone knew everyone.

Utsu, was born like every other happy child to happy parents that celebrated his arrival with the joyous community. Utsu went to the small community school. He accompanied his parents to the farm and the village market, like every other child in the community. He will also often accompany his mother to ‘Katée-gbêl’ market in the township to sell the surplus harvest from the farm.

Utsu finished his little education and arranged with two of his friends to move to the township in search of greener pastures. When he broke the news to his parents, they were heartbroken and wept, that their only child was leaving them behind in the village alone. Utsu assured them he was only going to look for greater opportunities so he could return and take good care of them and their little community. The parents were consoled.

As the date for their departure approached, the anxiety of the parents was still palpable within the cold and silent mud walls of their little thatched home. Utsu will eavesdrop at the whispers of his parents as they lament his looming absence in the darkness of their dingy home, and wallow in misty melancholy. Those few days were the longest for a small contented family that had never worried about what life could not afford them. Little did they know that a greater tragedy that will wreck their little happiness and extend their misery was lurking in the horizon.

An old hand woven rickety bag was used to pack the two clothes that Utsu was carrying along. The bag was actually a gift from his late grandmother to his own mother. A few food items and spices were also wrapped in banana leaves and packed in one corner of the bag. Everyone slept earlier after agreeing with his two friends to wake up early and begin the long journey on time. There is no motorable road to their far flung forest community, so the journey is going to be a long one by foot to exit the bushes and cross the streams.

The parents woke Utsu very early as agreed and asked him to get prepared before his friends arrived. They said a prayer for him and gave him rain water the mother had collected, to drink. They were waiting for his friends to arrive so the journey could commence. The friends were delaying and Utsu decided to look outside, out of anxiety. Dawn was approaching, his friends were nowhere to be found and that wasn’t their plan. He told his parents he wants to walk down the foot path under the tall pears and kola nut trees, to check on them and ensure their journey begins. The parents tried to calm his nerves, asking him to be more patient but Utsu wasn’t going to have any of that.

Once he moved, he decided to run to make it faster and as he approached the thick shadows of the village trees, he sent out a loud scream that quickly attracted his parents and other neighbors. What is the matter Utsu? Everyone asked. The anxious parents and neighbors kept asking what the matter was, but unfortunately for them, even Utsu himself was lost about what happened to him. He simply discovered that, he could not move one of his limbs and couldn’t stand again.

He was carried back to his parent’s hut and a perplexed community kept wondering what exactly had happened to Utsu. But it turned out that for the next 30 years, that became the fate to befall Utsu and the agony of his parents just began. Things changed so rapidly and their fate crashed so terribly that even the entire community abandoned them. They did not see it coming and were not prepared for it.

As the months passed and the years, Utsu lost his two limbs and one of his eyes due to inability to access medical care. His parents, who had become aged, had to now carry their only child, upon whom they once hung their hopes, on a cane couch, to help him do everything including defecation, and just waiting for the day he will die. There was no hope of recovery. Only hope of transition. The family became the example of misfortune that everyone in the community was quoting, after concluding that what happened to them was a curse from the gods.

Then another tragedy struck. Utsu lost his precious dad and the mother became a widow at a weak and old age with Utsu permanently tied to a cane couch, incapable of doing anything. The community had to reluctantly find a place to bury the father so he would not decay and stench the village. It was that bad. Five other gruelling years passed and even Utsu’s friends that traveled to the township after his unfortunate strange illness had not bothered to check how he was doing.

Then something happened one day. Menacing strangers from a far distance had arrived the quiet community. There was tension everywhere. The Chief of the community quickly invited the strangers who came in horses. After exchanging, not very friendly pleasantries, they asked to see the Chief privately because they had a very important message from the King of the neighboring Kingdom who had been bedridden for several years too. That message was what was going to transform the life of Utsu and his mother and the community to a fantastic story you have barely heard.

A flying seed from a tall Baobab tree standing on a farmland belonging to the late father of Utsu, had traveled from the little village through their streams to the River in the neighboring Kingdom. A “Dibia” who was treating the King for years had been looking for Baobab seeds to mix with the fat of a certain animal to produce a concoction that will heal the King of his affliction. Yet the entire Kingdom had no Baobab and didn’t know where to find it.

A fisherman, picked the seed from the River and ran to the Dibia’s hut shouting; “Yes, I found Baobab, long live our King. Our King shall not die!” The Baobab seed saved the life of the King and he wanted to know where the tree is. He sent secret emissaries who traced the seeds to a tree in Utsu’s little community. And it turned out the tree was standing on Utsu’s father’s farmland. When the message was taken back to the King, he demanded to see the owners of the land where the Baobab tree stood.

He came with all his majesty to the small village and saw the squalor in which the owner of the land that grew the Baobab that saved his life, is living in, he was greatly moved to tears. He took Utsu away for medical attention in the city. It was successful. He built his mother a new house and upon the construction of the house, a large deposit of precious metals were discovered in the land as well. The King brought miners to the village and changed the fortune of the entire community.

Utsu, after his successful treatment, returned from the city into unimaginable wealth. His mother had become the head of the community women and their new house became a beehive of women from across the neighboring villages. She now had a chieftaincy title. Utsu became a philantropist in the community that worked with the King and government to expand the interest of his community. He built schools and hospitals from the royalties paid to him. The Chief of the community passed on after 8 years and Utsu was unanimously crowned King of his now vastly expanded and developed town.

This is purely fiction and I hope the lesson is learnt. That a flying seed will remember you. That God will take your seed to a place where it is needed to save a life and your value will be located. Thank you for your time.

That is the story of how Utsu became Utsu, Indeed. Utsu means, “King” in Bette language.

 

Yours sincerely

Citizen Agba Jalingo.