Story: Forest of Hope by Dare Alabi (Season 1, Episode 5)

Previously on Forest of Hope: Story: Forest of Hope by Dare Alabi (Season 1, Episode 4)

On the eight day of Gbeola’s baby on earth, very early in the morning, the couple knelt down beside their baby and prayed, giving thanks to God for the fruits of the womb and asking God to make their future and that of the baby to be prosperous.

The sky was milky; it seemed rain was going to fall. Trees were answering to the command of wind by bowing their branches continuously. Goats and other domestic animals sought for shelter at any unoccupied shed. Lightning and thunders came in tens and at last the sky was ripped open. It rained heavily for about thirty minutes and the sky became clearer. As soon as the rain seized, people started trooping to Gbeola’s house.

Adequate preparation had been made by Gbeola for the naming ceremony. Two big cows had been slaughtered, different food items in bags have been purchased and some tubers of yam were equally harvested from his farm to help make the celebration a glorious one.

As Christians, the Priests arrived and made a gentle walk in a row to Gbeola’s living room and the naming ceremony commenced without time wasting. It was a brief session, the child was to be called and addressed as Olubunmi Michael Gbeola.

The priests after the naming ceremony were treated to an early morning tea and bread breakfast. They took their exit and promised to call back later in the afternoon
Yemisi came outside to thank the well wishers who have come to help in one way or the other. She looked gorgeous in her well sewn ‘Ankara Abidjan’ with a high flying brown head-tie to match. Baba Bunmi as he was fondly called by friends was also amongst his people, trying to see that all things work accordingly.

The ceremony was well attended by people within and outside Iludun. Even the Esos were not left out. They ate and drank satisfactorily. There was a Juju musician who thrilled the mammoth crowd with a well composed song and was sprayed with new naira notes – a sign that his music was accepted by the people.

The next day, Gbeola decided to put on one of his very best dress. He wore a very big “Agbada” fashioned in a woolen fabric usually called “As-Oke”. He went on thanking all the important personalities who graced the naming ceremony of his son. He thanked them for the show of love to his family. He came back home as soon as he was through with the visitation. Bunmi looks exactly like his father –he was an exact carbon copy; very handsome, he smiled occasionally, thus reflecting the beauty of the dimples on his cheeks.
Iludun market which had seized to operate started flourishing again. The naming ceremony of Gbeola’s son seemed to have wiped away the tension in the community. People threw away the agony in them and resumed buying and selling as it used to be in the past.

The re-opening of the market was also a blessing to Balogun, though people from other communities didn’t show up at the market, rate taking had started and Balogun’s internally generated revenue increased. He was quick at inflating the market rate so as to cater for the absence of the non-natives at the market.

Bunmi was growing up as a lovely and charming young boy. He surpassed all his age mates in all areas and showed rare brilliancy in a child of his age. His birth was significant – it was such that brought life back to Iludun after some period of dark moments.

Bunmi displayed a good mastery of the soccer skills. He was creative and sensible. At age three he could decode the blink of an eye from his parents when the need for such came up.
One sunny afternoon, he ran inside from where he was playing with his mates and told his father that he overheard some older people discussing the death of a “big” man. Baba Bunmi did not take this information as a mere child’s talk; he took to the street to confirm the information. He got to Jide’s house and met the family in a very quiet mood. Yinka their youngest child was also in the house, he was some months younger than Bunmi. The family wore a mournful look except for the little Yinka who was playing around. As soon as Gbeola walked in, Jide felt a kind of relief and started pouring out his lamentations – “God, we know truly that you are very powerful but why did you allow this to happen. You can’t just abandon us at this moment. Is it a crime to be good, generous and loved by the people?”
Gbeola could infer from his lamentation that something terrible had happened but was not sure what and who was actually involved. Gbeola asked “Stop keeping me in the dark my friend, what happened.” Jide responded. “We have lost a rare gem; a man of inestimable value – Adieu Adebayo the pride of all sons and daughters of Iludun.” Gbeola’s heart almost jumped to his mouth, he was shocked to the bone marrow and was not finding it easy to pull himself together. He was crying already. He managed to wipe his face with his right palm, screamed like a baby and gradually got back to his senses. “ I surely sensed this coming. It is over three years now that we were both arrested and that spoke volume about his ordeal in the hands of Balogun. The world has changed greatly or is it the inhabitants that have changed? People derive great pleasure in taking fellow human’s life- what a world! God! God, please grant me the enablement; strength, money and wisdom to equip my son with western education, so that hopefully, one day, he could team up with people of like minds to wage war against this autocratic and inordinate rule.” He wiped his tears again but this time with his left palm and walked slowly home.

The news of Adebayo’s death filtered into all the towns and villages around. Eminent personalities from outside the communities flooded Balogun’s palace to confirm that death of Adebayo. Balogun ignored them, beefed up his security and gave a standing order to the Esos to deal ruthlessly with anyone who tried to be stubborn.
The Esos were busy fabricating incoherent lies about Adebayo’s death – different versions, just to show that the palace tried to safe Adebayo’s life but his time was up. Iludun mourned one her very illustrious sons. There were different commemoration services at different churches for the departed soul. The traditionalists also performed some sacrifices to appease the gods.

Adebayo’s wife hailed from Okene and that had been the town where his wife and children took refuge since the terrible truck accident that made Balogun to declare Adebayo a wanted person. Okene also mourned a successful son in law too. People were seen in groups with pale faces discussing the death of Adebayo. Janet, his wife and children also mourned the strange demise of the head of their family. Their condition was pitiable. His business had been seriously affected as result of his incarceration at Balogun’s palace. There was actually no one on ground to help coordinate his business which cut across several villages and towns.
Janet brazed herself up and worked tirelessly to sustain the upkeep of his children, particularly their education. She vowed never to return to Iludun until an end is put to Balogun reign of terror.

Yinka, Jide’s last child was so attached to Bunmi. They eat, play and sleep together. He had chosen Gbeola’s home as his second home – he also helped Bunmi to do his domestic home work.

The good people of Iludun were busy preparing for the celebration of the yearly harvest of their farm products, particularly the new yam. Men and women injected the very best of their attention into their various plantations. Thus, the preparation is also a pointer to the commencement of another planting season.

Bunmi and Yinka were both fond of accompanying Gbeola to the farm. The kids would work according to their strength while Gbeola would do the real work. The kids usually get busy by climbing trees and running ups and downs in the farm. It provided a very a good atmosphere for their police and thief game. One person would act as a thief and the other as a police officer. Bunmi hated being a thief, so he would always prefer to be the police officer while Yinka would be a thief. Yemisi rarely follow them to the farm these days. She would stay at home to prepare food for the farmers.

The harvest finally came. Programs were outlined for the celebration; harvesting proper, wrestling competition, age group meetings and the new yam festival which is the grand finale. The activities were to run for four consecutive days. On a day fixed for harvesting, the town was deserted; people were seen in their farms, reaping the fruits of their hard labour. Many families hired the services of laborers to quicken their works. Loads of farm products filled into basket of various sizes, particularly food crops were seen been carried home by both old and young people. Everyone in the community could boast of having enough food to eat at home and sell according to the excesses available. Fishermen also stormed the river and made big catches. Some farmers were lucky to have some bush meat from their traps.

The evening market was a festival on its own. The crowd was much but sales were contradictorily poor; nearly everyone had one thing or the other to sell, except very few people from the towns around. The local oil lamps illuminated the market arena; an aerial view would definitely present an aesthetic picture of the real African ways of living.

Balogun and his Esos were not part of the festival. The age groups nominated their members and formed a committee for its coordination. Three men registered for the annual wrestling challenge and with the defending champion, it amounted to four men that would participate in the contest. The biggest sphere in the evening market would play host to the wrestling contest. The winner shall go home with huge amount to be decided by the committee in charge and would be awarded the title of the Supreme Wrestler of Iludun. This title would be defended the following year.

The time for the wrestling contest was put at 4:00pm and the stage was set for actions. The judges were also seated and the program coordinator was also ready. The spectators formed a cyclic bout. The announcer welcomed everyone to the wrestling contest. He prayed for peace, progress and tranquility in the town.

The announcer introduced the defending champion as Akilapa and the man jumped out for recognition. He somersaulted three times to the admiration of the spectators. Other contestants were introduced as Dada, Adeolu and Ajibade. The four wrestlers were paired and the winner of each group shall contest for the prestigious title.

Akilapa was an experienced wrestler, he demonstrated his wrestling skills beautifully and it did not take him much time before he defeated his opponent. The spectators didn’t expect much from his opponents, he had been the defending champions for three good years now, so there weren’t much jubilation for his victory.

The other two men ran to the stage; Adeolu and Ajibade made a good account of themselves. They were separated several times, asked to rest for some times too but had to return to the wrestling bout according to the directive of the judge. And at last, Ajibade emerged as the winner and was to face Akilapa in the final contest.

The two contestants fought to the admiration of the audience. Their bodies were wet, slippery and sandy. It was the toughest so far in the history of the annual wrestling contest. At last, the miracle of the year was recorded, the two wrestlers threw themselves up and landed with Akilapa’s back on the floor and Ajibade was on top. Drummers jumped into action and thrilled the audiences with their drumming. The children and women danced themselves away from the venue, while men stood discussing with one another.

Ajibade was eventually decorated with the title of the Wrestling King of the year and a huge amount was given to him from the age groups’ contributions. Men later trooped to his house to celebrate with him. He offered them palm wine as a mark of appreciation.

The following day witnessed the age group meetings. Various groups; men and women converged at the market square to discuss and celebrate with drinks and varieties of food. Children were seen eating from different spots. They carry a filled belly around. Women too ate in an organized manner; pounded yam was the choice of most people. The men also sat in groups. They ate and washed it down with palm wine.
Bunmi and Yinka refused to sit with their mates. They sat with their fathers’ age group and teased them with different stories. The celebration ended in peace though the kids didn’t want it to end. The market could not hold as people had to rest and relax at home with their families.

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