Loud shrieks of kids playing and swirling around Madam Adepegba in her expansive compound filled the whole atmosphere. "Káyìi! E jé rora kí e má subú" ...the exuberant middle aged woman gesticulated to the over a dozen kids playing in her compound to be careful. The kids seem to be having a swell time as they ran from one part of the compound to another, eating and playing with different toys.
Adepegba was renowned all over the neighborhood for her fondness with kids. Her graceful and cheerful nature together with her famed generosity made her a very popular woman in her community.
On that particular day, she had been her cheerful self as she attended to the numerous wants of the kids. She was smiling, running and eating with them. But, behind the external façade of her geniality lies her worry and sadness. She wished she had a child of her own. She had been married for over a decade or thereabout and she was yet to be blessed with the fruit of the womb, even though Ajani her husband has been supportive and understanding. He has refused to pick a second wife despite his relatives’ entreaties. But the pressures from her husband’s relatives and hers were becoming unbearable. It was in the midst of the pressures and sneers that she had started to give her friend’s proposal a very serious thought. Labake, her friend had promised to take her to Baba Adifa. He was noted for his fame and dexterity in his chosen trade. He was a native doctor of repute. It was rumored that nobody ever got to him without having their problems solved. Madam Adepegba had refused to yield to Labake’s appeals. But gradually, she began to discover that the more she tried to push the thought out of her mind, the more it seemed to make sense.
* * *
Ko! Ko!! Ko!!! Labake knocked thrice with her left hand on the door of Baba Adifa’s mud hut
“Ta ani” ? a voice from within the hut asked "who is there".
“Ká ra ó le ò! baba”, Labake said greeting the native doctor in a manner meant to put him at ease.
Madam Adepegba followed closely as they made their way into the hut.
“E máa wolé o” Baba Adifa said welcoming them in a low shaky voice
“Ifá nki yín o!”, he continued with greetings from his ifá the silent speaking oracle. The women sat on the mat facing him.
Baba Adifa’s eyes were red and sunken. White beards covered his chin and he had a bald pate. Hanging on his neck was a curved short horn covered with a red piece of cloth. The whole hut had effigies of different shapes and sizes; a part of the wall was covered with a piece of red cloth with cowries lining it in a horizontal pattern. A strong incense burnt slowly from one corner of the hut. The pungent smell of the incense almost made Adepegba puke. “Kí le bá wá o?” Baba Adifa said enquiring the reason for their visit in a calm voice. Labake took time to explain to him with so many gesticulations and embellishments particularly as to what her friend was going through in the hands of her in-laws. Baba Adifa nodded and looked on calmly as Labake made her elaborate and long explanation.
“What is your name?” Baba Adifa asked forcefully as he looked straight at Madam Adepegba.
“Adepegba!” Labake interjected before her friend could speak. The native doctor brought out his Òpèlè from a pouch fastened to his waist. That was the legendary divination slate that had earned him popularity over the years. The divination slate had surely seen better days as it had began to crack by the side. He began to chant incantations with the stringed cowries he brought out from his pouch with Adepegba’s name being pronounced intermittently. After about ten minutes or so of rigorous incantations, he threw down the stringed cowries and repeated this cycle three times. He paused for a long while and stared at no one in particular. As he stared, he kept on shaking his head.
“Baba!” Labake exclaimed breaking the silence, “what is the matter”? She asked. The old man continued to nod his head still staring into empty space.
Hmmn… “àyànmó èdá kò ní tàsé”, he said stressing the inevitability of destiny. This he muttered to no one in particular.
After what seemed like eternity, he turned and looked at Madam Adepegba sharply
“What do you really want me to do for you”? He asked
“Baba I want a child of my own she said frightfully”
“Hmmn… you want a child”?
“Yes”! She said in a confident tone, she has now overcome her fright. Baba Adifa repeated the question three times and thrice she answered in the affirmative.
“Go and return in three days time. I shall prepare something for you to eat whenever you want to sleep with your husband, I assure you a banana tree is always fruitful you shall use your back to carry a child” With this they departed the native doctor’s hut. They walked home briskly as dusk was fast approaching.
* * * *
It has been eighteen years since the visit to Baba Adifa’s place. Romoke has grown into a beautiful and cheerful young woman. She looks exactly like her mother Adepegba. She has her mothers’ gracefulness and cheerfulness. However the relationship between Romoke and her mother began has begun to turn sour as her mother insisted on marrying her off and she was bent on pursuing her education. Her mother’s will eventually prevailed as she was eventually married off shortly after her eighteen year birthday and she subsequently became pregnant. Madam Adepegba was overjoyed at the news of her daughter’s pregnancy; she showered Romoke and her husband with lots of gifts and attention as she eagerly awaited the delivery date
* * * *
Gbam! Gbam! Gbam! Madam Adepegba and her husband were rudely awakened by the loud knock on the door by some emissaries who had come to inform her that Romoke had fallen into labor. Despite that it was well past dusk, she picked her headgear and wrapper and off she proceeded to her daughters’ house.
On getting close to her house, she saw some women from afar standing in front of the house with their hands up. Thinking they were dancing at the news of her daughter’s safe delivery, she started dancing from afar, too, holding her wrappers. She got nearer only to discover they were wailing and sobbing. She stopped dancing abruptly and asked for what was amiss.
“Ha! Ha! ómà se ò!” The women wailed expressing regrets.
“What is going on”? Madam Adepegba screamed.
“She lost the baby” someone amongst the women said. Madam Adepegba’s heart skipped!
“What of Romoke”?
“Ha! Mama Romoke omí dànù àgbá naa tún fó!” The women wailed louder making insinuations on how hopeless the situation was.
“What are you s-a-y-i-n-g”? Madam Adepegba held one of the women tightly by the neck almost suffocating her.
“Romoke ti kú o!”, the woman screamed to the obviously distressed Adepegba that her daughter was dead!
“Y-E-P-A! Mo se àgbákò” Madam Adepegba screamed that she was doomed and passed out!
She woke up to find Ajani her husband by her side
“Ah! Ah!! Why have I been this forsaken?” She whispered to no one in particular as her husband tried to console her.
Her mind cast back to over eighteen years ago during her visit to Baba Adifa with her friend Labake. She particularly remembered her second visit to the native doctor alone to collect the concoction he had promised her. It was during this visit that Baba Adifa had tried to dissuade her from going ahead to take the concoction. Because Ifa had revealed to him that she was not destined to have a child. Any child she brings into the world will not outlive her eventually. The child was destined to die before attaining the age of twenty one. She insisted on going ahead. Thinking she could outwit fate. She had planned for her daughter to be married before attaining the age of twenty one. Hoping that even if the inevitable happens, at least she was going to be left with a grand child. Now all that seems forlorn as she remembered Baba Adifa’s statement. She sobbed uncontrollably as she muttered “àyànmó èdá kò ní tàsé”, destiny cannot be changed.