Nkasi stood up abruptly from the bed and rushed to the farther side of the room, with fear evident on her face. She clutched the bedclothes to her chest, like she could use it as a weapon.
Young man: “Hello, good morning. Why do you look scared?” he asked, looking puzzled. When Nkasi made no attempt to reply him, he put on a smile. It was the dazzling smile, which Obinna was known for. No girl could resist his smile.
Man: “I am Obinna, my father told me about your intellectual prowess, and I am impressed. Anyways I came home really late, but I wouldn’t mind taking you to school and helping you get settled” he said still flashing the smile. Nkasi relaxed a bit, she liked the way he smiled, but she was still wary of him because, of the dream she had just woken up from.
Obinna: “Alright, I will allow you shower and dress up, afterwards, come down for breakfast. I believe in a powerful breakfast, because it fuels your day”
Nkasi: “Thank you” she replied simply. Obinna shook his head in surrender and left the room. Nkasi shook off the fear and proceeded to the bathroom.
After breakfast that included foods that were delicious but foreign to her, Nkasi took her backpack which had all her credentials and went into the car where Obinna was waiting for her.
Obinna: “You look good, Nkasiobi” he said with that smile again.
Nkasi: “Nkasiobi is a mouthful, everyone calls me Nkasi” she quipped.
Obinna: “I think Nkasi is beautiful, just as you are” he said looking at her intensely. Nkasi shrunk under the full weight of his gaze, and shifted uncomfortably in her seat. The journey to the University was an interesting one for her; she looked at the beautiful sights in the new city that had become her home.
Nkasi: “Lagos is beautiful” she said with eyes glazed with wonder, as she peered out of the window.
Obinna: “Just you wait; you will fall in love with the city just like I have” he said with excitement. In his mind, he could see himself showing Nkasi the city. He already liked her, and he knew that he had met an amazing person, who would only make him like her the more.
Back in Umuidim, Nkasi’s mother went about her daily business, while she worried about her daughter. She couldn’t believe that the only child God had blessed her with, was far away with no means of communicating with her.
Nkasi’s mother: “What kind of stupid education is that one? What if she never got to Lagos, and something had happened to her, what will I do?” she soliloquized, unaware of the woman who usually sold beside her in the market. The woman then nudged her, with a displeased look on her face.
Nkasi’s mother: “Haba my neighbour, do you want to push you down?” she asked with a slight frown.
Market woman: “What kind of question is that? Oh because your daughter was placed on a scholarship to study in Lagos, you now think we are equal?”
Nkasi’s mother: “My neighbour, what is the meaning of this. Please it is too early for this kind of trouble”
Market woman: “So you are calling me a trouble maker, well, it is better to be a trouble maker, than to be an Osu. You think your daughter will be any different from Dede’s daughter, her plague will follow her everywhere”
Nkasi’s mother: “My Nkasi will be great, the prophet said so, she must not marry an Igbo man who believes that he is better than his brother” she flared up, angry about their situation.
She could bear the stigmatization of being an Osu, but she could not bear for her daughter to go through the same stigmatization. She thought back to when she was a young maiden and how she had met Nkasi’s father. She had loved him, and every word of her parents warning her against marrying an Osu fell on deaf ears. She went ahead to marry him and was cut off from her family. Her heart ached when she thought of the siblings and parents she had given up, for her love for Nkasi’s father. Nkasi’s mother only hoped that her daughter will not go through the same thing she went through, that the sins of her fathers would not be visited on her.
Market woman: “Keep on deceiving yourself; your dreams will come crashing at your feet. Nothing good can come out of an Osu” she said as a parting word. Nkasi’s mother packed up her wares and left the market for home. As she walked home, the tears fell from her eyes like rain, and in her despair, she walked right past her husband, when she reached home.
Nkasi’s father: “My wife, you did not see me standing here, or that thing that normally disturbs your head is back again” he said jokingly, but that was heating the embers of fire burning inside his wife because, she exploded.
Nkasi’s mother: “If I had not married an Osu, i will not be going through what I am going through today” she blurted out. Nkasi’s father was stunned by what his ears were hearing.
Nkasi’s father: “Obiageli, what did you just say?” he asked, calling her name, which he rarely did. Nkasi’s mother moved backwards slowly, waiting to run away if her husband came towards her, because she knew that she had just insulted him.
In igboland, predominantly where the Nri culture is practiced, there are two classes of people; the Osu and the Nwadiala. The Osu are those whose fore- fathers were sacrificed to gods, and made slaves. Therefore, generations after them carried the curse which was the mark of the gods. While the Nwadiala, were the free born and sons of the soil. The Osu are treated as inferior human beings in a state of permanent and irreversible disability. They are subjected to various forms of abuse and discrimination. They are made to live separately from the freeborn. In most cases they reside very close to shrines and marketplaces. They are not allowed to dance, drink, hold hands, associate or have sexual relations with Nwadiala. They are not allowed to break kola nuts at meetings. No Osu can pour libation or pray to God on behalf of a freeborn at any community gathering. It is believed that such prayers will bring calamity and misfortune.
This was the predicament of Nkasi and her family. Nkasi’s mother, Obiageli was from a large family that had a lot of children, so when she defiled her family, they just ostracized her. But in worst cases, the Osu who wanted to marry a freeborn stood the risk of death, as the family members of the freeborn could go to any length to remove the insult they felt.
Nkasi’s father picked up an axe that was lying around and ran after his wife, who ran away, screaming on the top of her voice. An Osu could kill for being called an Osu to the face, so at this moment, Nkasi’s father was not himself, all he could think about, was his own wife calling him an Osu to his face. The worst part of the situation is that the villagers, who were coming back from their day’s activities, saw the husband pursuing his wife with an axe and pretended not to see; they had no business with the Osu.
Nkasi’s father’s anger did not get spent, until he caught up with his wife and swung the axe. It connected with the back of her head and she fell facedown, with a big gash at the back of her head, spurting blood. The villagers who acted like they didn’t care about the couple, rushed to the scene. By this time, the ‘Ekwensu’ that climbed Nkasi’s father’s head had left, and the man was alone with his grief.
Nkasi’s father: “Obiageli do not play this play; stand up let us go home.” He said but his wife could not respond because she did not hear him. Her soul was gone. People gathered and began to rain curses on Nkasi’s father. The people who knew about their love and how Nkasi’s mother defied her family to marry an Osu, told the people who didn’t know. They called him ‘the cursed one’ for luring his wife into his curse.
Woman: “These Osu people will not marry their kind, they must want to marry the freeborn so that they will infect the whole of Igboland with their curse” a bystander said and spat at Nkasi’s father.
Being called an Osu had been the reason he went after his wife with an axe, but with his wife lying in the pool of her own blood, all the people said did not enter his ears, all he could think about was, taking the life of his wife, and how he would explain to his daughter that he killed her mother.
The people clamored that he be bundled and taken to the chief’s palace. They laid their hands on him, and began to push him towards the Chief’s palace. However, Nkasi’s mother was forgotten, all the villagers wanted, was an opportunity to deal with an Osu. It was Dede who brought a wrapper and covered the dead woman. He was an Osu too, and he could relate to this couple’s pain. Nevertheless, no one knew why Nkasi’s father had pursued his wife with an axe, killing her, and no one would ever know, save the dead wife, and her husband.
WATCH OUT FOR PART 4.