The seemingly calm demeanour of Kulala Bodega was simply a facade, one that made it look like he was immune to the spreading allegations against him and the protesting people outside of his office.
He had left his house after the consolation and encouragement from his wife, Awiti, into the bewildered face of his personal assistant and the debilitating drive to his office. The fact that his re-election posters had been smeared and tampered with showed him how the people now saw him.
He did not have the time to wallow in regret because he had more pressing issues to deal with. He had agreed with the minister of petroleum to go see an oil well that was drying up.
The stench from the oil well would go on to show how neglected the place was. It had become a refuse dump and a clear reminder of the sorry state of affairs the state was in.
He had mustered all the courage he could muster but the realisation that the main source of income within the state was drying up and there was no way to reverse it.
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At this point, he remembered that Awiti had talked about calling for spiritual help and he had vehemently turned her down. Now however, it seemed like he had little to no choice but to bow to the ideas of his wife.
Kulala Bodega arrived home that night and to the utter shock of his wife, he requested that she contact her own mother to put the ritual processes into use.
The healer soon arrived and set out her tools and began incantations and prayers. The prayers ended, yet it looked like nothing was working. His wife would once again come to his emotional aid, they spent the time stargazing and being happy. It was the first time he was happy in a long time.
On the outside, Kulala Bodega might be acting as if everything was alright and that whatever was going on around him had zero effect on him, but on the inside, he felt as if a rusted knife was being twisted in his gut. Many times, in the past couple of hours, a tiny voice in his head told him to surrender to Chief Timbabu, for his people, for his family but then that voice was shut down by logic and the will to do what was right. The whole feeding the hyena king scenario would keep going until someone had the courage to stand up against him. The toxic cycle had to be broken, and Kulala Bodega knew he had to be that person who saved them all, he did not care if he lost his life or his position during his struggle.
The chief was not born yesterday, he had been where he was for years, and he had fought tooth and nail to reach that place. There was no way in hell he was giving up easy, Bodega knew it exactly. He was about to start a war which most likely he would lose, but he was willing to take his chances. His fears were not bigger than the hopes he had for his country, his state, and his people.
He had visited his office right after breakfast, and it was as bad as he had thought. People had thrown pamphlets against his new election campaign, and somebody had even written curses under his name with spray paint on the front wall of the office. It was not an easy pill to swallow, as he had developed a habit to receive love and praises from the people only. What had changed just in a few days? Kulala Bodega knew the answer to it pretty well. He knew on whose orders was the media feeding all the lies and half-truths to the nation. These people were merely the puppets dancing in the hands of their master. The force behind it all was the chief, who wanted to show Kulala Bodega his true power now. He better be ready for the chief’s next blow, this was the struggle for the survival which could get as ugly as it could.
On the Petroleum Minister Ekon Akanda’s constant nagging, Kulala Bodega was to visit the location of an oil field which was one of the biggest hubs of production in the past, but now suddenly it had been withered completely; dry as a bone. The news was first kept under the wraps, but as the impoverished local villagers started using the location as a trash dump, throwing their waste down the deep and empty well, it was featured on the local news. Kulala Bodega never believed in fairy tales, but about this situation, he just wished there was some fairy godmother who would shake her wand, and the well starts filling with oil again as they showed in the children’s animated movies.
“Boda, my lief,” Awiti had said a few nights back, “Why don’t we do our ancestors prayers for the drying out wells and oil resources? My mom said she knows a healer from Kenya who could perform the rituals.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Awi!” Kulala Bodega had softly scolded her. “I thought you were the sensible one.”
“Of course, I do know you do not believe in it but remember for how many years our ancestors have been calling the gods for the rain? Their prayers are always heard and answered. Aren’t they?” Awi had insisted.
Kulala Bodega didn’t want to give a harsh answer to her innocent plea, so he just looked at her with an entertained smile.
“Please?” Awi looked at him but her big gorgeous eyes that always dazzled Bodega.
“Alright, Alright!” We’ll see. Let me go check it out first?” He was in no mood to follow her advice, but he did not want to break her heart also, so he made a false promise that he would think about it which had brought an instant smile on Awiti’s face, replacing the frown that looked like a tiny crescent on her clear forehead.
A sudden squall of bad odor had brought him back into the present moment. It smelled like rotten flesh, and he saw a corpse of what looked like a very skinny goat, laying just outside the fenced well. The fence was once put to keep the well and the surroundings safe from invaders; now it was all gone only a few pieces were left of it. Kulala Bodega walked towards it and looked down the well but had to cover his nose instantly as the rotten garbage smelled as bad as a decomposing human body.
Kulala Bodega’s heart dropped in the pits of his stomach. It was worse than he could have ever imagined. Much worse. This field was once the golden goose for their state and the condition it was in today was heartbreaking. Akanda had been right all along; it was a nightmare. There was nothing that could possibly save it or the sinking ship of their state. The state that was once the largest money-making resource for the entire country was under its own debris, thanks to the exacerbating situation and hyenas like chief Timbabu feasting on the remains of it.
He drove back to his home, not answering to his constantly ringing phone. There was a storm going on in his mind, and it was not just the matter of the resources or funds, it was about the hopes of his people and about the promises he had made to his people. There was no way he was letting those thugs snatch away the dreams of his people.
As he reached home, he found Awiti helping the girls with their homework. She looked at him, and her eyebrows raise for a second. He wasn’t supposed to come home early. He gave her a wry smile and dragged himself to his room. Awiti followed. She found him sitting on the wooden chair on the terrace, that faced their luscious orchard, which was their favorite place to sit on the days off. With his head in his hands, Kulala Bodega looked a lot older and weak.
“Hey, hey, hey! Is everything alright, Boda?” Awiti looked at him worriedly. “You didn’t go to the annual fundraiser?”
“No, I was just tired.” He tried to smile. “Urmm Awi,” Bodega cleared his throat, which was a lousy attempt to steady his shaky voice. “I was thinking to do that ancestral prayer.” He felt as if his eyes were starting to water even at an attempt to recall what he had seen this afternoon.
“Yeah, sure sweetheart,” Awi’s tone was very unsure. Why had Bodega suddenly changed his mind? “When do you want to do it?”
“Tonight. Ask your mother if that healer could fly over or do it over skype.” Bodega massaged his temples. His voice was of an exhausted man.
“Tonight?” Awiti said in a shocked voice. “I am not sure. Let me give my mother a call.”
It all happened so quickly. Within the next three hours, everything was ready, the healer had flown to their state and was prepared to perform the rituals.
“He who brings rain brings life” Began the healer, who was dressed like the natives used to dress while performing the rain summoning rituals in their country.
In most parts of Africa, rain rituals were directed towards the royal ancestors because they were believed to have control over rain and other natural phenomena and this ritual was performed for centuries to call the ancestors for help. Especially after the late 70’s when Africa started to get affected by climate change.
The rainmaking usually involved sacrificing an animal, preferably black as it represented the color of the rainclouds. Kulala Bodega had asked the healer to perform the sacrifice later, somewhere away from his house so that his daughters would not see it.
The Healer created a sacred space by burning various leaves and herbs in their house first, and then he began the chant.
Iba se omi tutu.
I pay homage to the spirit of the ancestors. Emi (Kulala Bodega) Omo
I am (Kulala Bodega) child of (Africa)
This opening portion of the prayer is followed by a blessing of the water as follows:
Iba se omi tutu.
I pay homage to the Spirit of cool water, Ire alafia,
The good fortune of peace, Ire’lera, the good fortune of a stable home, Ire ori’re.
the good fortune of wisdom, Ire ori tutu the good fortune of calmness.
Mo dupe gbogbo ire, omi tutu, ase.
Thank you for the many blessings of water, May it be so.
Kulala Bodega looked at Awiti awkwardly. He had never been a religious man all his life, and he had never been to such a prayer or ritual in his entire life. Not knowing what to do, he kept looking at Awiti and imitated her. She had her hands folded in the gesture of praying and so did Bodega. She closed her eyes in the middle of the ceremony, and her fragile body shook ever so lightly as if she was crying.
Mo dupe Ori Egun, ase.
I give thanks for the wisdom of the ancestors,
May it be so.
The healer finished and blessed the house once again. He was then lead to the location of the withered well, by Akachi to perform the remaining rituals and
sacrifice. After a long time, Bodega felt at peace even though he wasn’t a believer in all that but deep down somewhere he knew help was coming. He did not know how and when, but he knew it is on the way. After dinner, he came to his solace again, the terrace and Awiti followed a while later. He was so engrossed in
watching the stars twinkling in the clear sky that he didn’t notice her coming.
“I see someone is still fascinated by the stars.” Awiti giggled like a teenager and for a fraction of second brought Bodega back to their old days when there were no worries, no burdens of serving anyone. It was just him and the love of his life.
“Who isn’t? They are not just the balls of gas burning in the space. The mean more to people like me.” He smiled and then sighed. The air smelled of sweet-scented flowers.
“Is that the reason you proposed to me under the stars?”
“Maybe.” He smiled again, his eyes twinkling brighter than the stars.
“Boda, do you think the situation will get any better?” Awiti whispered in a worried voice.
Bodega looked at her for a moment, smiled satisfactorily then stood up and took her hand. She smiled back and looked at him. She stood up, feeling as if she was 17 again. He held her passionately with Awiti resting her head on his shoulder. At that point, nothing else in the world mattered to Bodega.