This is the legend of Ijemba – a tragic tale of a boy child, born into the most ancient-family of the Agu clan – this is a story through which tradition itself breathes and is shaped. A folklore of vanquished bravery, dauntless courage, and ultimate sacrifice.
Ijemba was born into the Agu clan, of the Obiike family, at a time even before the shores of Africa ever caressed the imaginations of the white man. The Agu people, were predominantly farmers, and less of hunters. They were considered weaklings by their stronger neighbours. And so it was, that every day, by dawn and dusk, their farms and settlements were pillaged and ravaged by their fierce neighbours. Their daughters who had gone to the streams never returned – boys were shackled before their homestead and driven into slavery in foreign lands – the women wept and wept, and were blinded by tears – the men in a frenzy of doubtful confidence rushed out in vengeance only to return without their heads. Those were dark times – dark with unutterable sorrows.
Thus was the time into which Ijemba Obiike was born. Thusly was the awful doom of his desolate birth. As folklore tells, Ijemba was born under a black starless and moonless night – the rivers all stood still, nothing moved, the waves were dead, and the winds were in their graves. Men crawled under their beds shivering like leaves under a strong harmattan wind – birds, terrified, fell to the ground and flapped their useless wings – and all was dark and silent. And in that dark silence, only the shrieks and squeals of childbirth, like a knife, tore through the eerie night.
Ten long years passed, and Ijemba had grown, unlike boys his age, in mental strength and physical agility. He had taken a liking for hunting, and when on one of his numerous expeditions, a neighbouring clan, Ahamefuna, visited death and destruction on his family. The Ahamefunas had rammed a spear into the chest of Ijemba’s father, and using knives had butchered him limb by limb, littering his body parts round his own compound. Ijemba’s Mother was not spared, she was smashed into the mud walls of her chambers, and her head shattered like mashed over-ripe guava. They plundered their house and made away with their livestock. There was no form of savage cruelty that the ferocious visitors refrained from.
Ijemba returned and met the devastation of his father’s house – he beheld the miserable death of his parents, and a blind rage, like a fire, swept over him – he fell to the dust, and with his deft right hand struck the ground, sending a wave of burgeoning tremor. Then, with a piercing voice like the cry of a dying giant, Ijemba besought ‘alusi Ikenga2’. Tradition tells that at that instant, Ijemba had given his soul in exchange for revenge and retaliation.
So, with a speed given only to the members of cheetahs, Ijembah flew to the village of Ahamefuna and encountered the rapacious herd of warriors giving themselves to the drunken sway of nkwocha1 – and Ijembah mad with thundering rage and a wrathful roar descended upon them like a crash of thunder – the warriors were decimated, and they fell to the ground like shattered pieces of glass.
As Ijembah looked with bloody gaze at the mangled lifeless body of the fallen warriors, a quenchless thirst for blood had seized him. He turned on the children and women of Ahamefuna – they begged and wept for their lives, but, a dead leaf had more chances of returning to the tree. The Ahamefuna clan was no more – Ijemba had swept them into the torments of the after-life.
After death had overrun the Ahamefunas, Ijembah howled and leapt into the forests. Some say Ijemba in penetrating remorse and anguish had torn himself to shreds and the wild birds had removed his remains from the land of men. Others say, with defiant certainty, that Ijemba still persists, roaming the forests with a deep dark abyss seething through his eyes. His family was his existence; he was because they were. And now he searches in vain.
Such, in brief, is the story of Ijemba, the Warrior-Child.