By Seun Akioye
( Long tale for the elderly)
Long ago in a village not far from my mothers’ lived a woman called Olurombi. Despite being an orphan from childhood who had survived at the charity of the more fortunate people, her existence would have been forgotten save one particular incident.
For Olurombi possessed neither wealth nor wit. Having been deprived of beauty-for she had a rather large head, where deep inside the sockets sat two tiny eyes. A boy referred to her ears as equivalent to an elephant and her breasts, that of a mermaid- and talent she was often referenced as the supreme example of a most unfortunate being.
Try as you may, Olurombi could never master the exotic steps of the maiden dance, a feat accomplished by even the most redundant girl in the village.
At the clock of 25 moons, Olurombi finally got married to Adigun, the most unfortunate farmer in the village.
Adigun it was, who fancied himself as a terrifying hunter, took his friend’s gun and while wandering around in the forest, saw an antelope nestled in an okra farm, aimed his gun and killed it.
To his surprise, the antelope, raised it’s two hands to heaven and in a human voice screamed, Orooooo on the way to hell.
However, as Adigun hastened to see this appalling situation, the antelope transformed and turned into Abebi, Kabiyesi’s newest and most favored wife.
The wedding of Olurombi and Adigun was without fanfare as the couple had no relatives to contend with.
A child was late in coming and it was not until the 10th year when Olurombi was in her 35th moon and Adigun in his 50th that a baby came through.
It was a difficult birth which warranted the summon of Agbomola, the ageless midwife, reputed as a witch who possesed terrifying magic.
The baby girl so born looked nothing like the parents for she was fair in colour and fair to look upon. People say, Aponbiepo ( as red as palm oil) was a reincarnation of Abebi, the King’s wife slaughtered by Adigun.
It was the Ajilete market day when Olurombi strapped Aponbiepo, now six months, to her back and made for the market.
Since fire razed Adigun’s farm three months ago, life has been impossible for them.
So Olurombi packed everything she could lay hands on, shriveled yam, torn clothes and salubata, with the hope that someone more unfortunate than her would buy them off her.
In the village square was the orisa Aje, who resided inside the hollow chambers of the iroko tree.
Inside this tree was the palace of Orisa Aje, filled with magnificent road network and huge buildings.
Araparegangan the child witch who was caught by the Alatinga people confirmed that indeed, a city existed inside the Iroko tree.
It was to this tree that every trader, on their way to the market made a solemn prayer , backed by a vow to the Orisa for success.
Olurombi knew she had a bad case, so in order to impress the Orisa said:
“ Orisa Aje, I know I have bad products to sell, but if you will help me sell them and I make big money, when coming back, this child at my back, I will sacrifice her.”
Immediately, there was a violent storm, which although it is said that Iroko tree does not bow to the wind, made the leaves and branches of the iroko to shake.
At the market, it was like everyone came for Olurombi.
“ How much is this broom,” one asked.
“Pay five shiles,” she replied.
That was how she sold all her products, as bad as they were, 20 times more than their worth.
On her way home, Olurombi remembered her vow and the Iroko tree. Regrets instantly built a castle in her heart but she resolved to fulfil her vow by buying a big fat goat for the Iroko.
Olurombi knelt before the Iroko and offer her gratitude for its help.
“Iroko,” she cried, “I have come to repay my vow with this spotless white goat,” she said and made to tie the goat to the Iroko.
But try as she may, the iroko rejected the goat, insisting on the sacrifice of her daughter, Aponbiepo.
“ Ah, Iroko pls don’t do that. Don’t you know this is my only child,” Olurombi yelled and began to run, towards her house.
But as she ran, a branch of the iroko, stretched and collected Aponbiepo from her back and as she turned back, she saw her crying daughter, disappearing into the ground at the feet of a triumphant Iroko tree.
The women who had witnessed this extraordinary spectacle recounted it in a song:
Olukaluku njeje ewure
Chorus: Ewure, ewure
Olukaluku njeje aguntan,
Olurombi jeje Omo re, Omo re Aponbiepo.
Olurombi o, Jain Jain, Iroko Jain Jain.
Everyone pledged a goat
A goat, a goat
Everyone pledged a lamb
A big fat lamb
But Olurombi pledged her only daughter
Her daughter Aponbiepo
Olurombi has entered one chance, Iroko has entered one chance.
That night, unable to bear the loss of her daughter, Olurombi slumped.
It was at 1:am, when the spirit of death was said to be roaming around, dressed in a long black rope, a huge fork on his right and a long chain on his left which he used to tie the souls he had harvested, that Olurombi died .
That was the story of Olurombi, at least, that was what my mother told me.