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The ritual of restoring full kingship rights began for Babatunde. He had to ask someone to send his request for a temporary leave of absence to his office. He did not leave the palace that night. He was therefore unaware of the stunned shock and surprise that awaited his father and half-brother when they were summoned to the palace at the crack of dawn.
Babatunde, who had been shaven, stared at his father's blank face and the uncomprehending look of his half-brother. He imagined he looked as blank-faced as his father. It was like he was watching a film and what was happening had nothing to do with him. He kept expecting to wake up from the dream. He had a sense of déjà vu.
They all listened to Babamogba, the Chief Medicine Man, who explained to his father, "You have something in safe keeping with you. Ifa says that you will find some of the things at the extreme end of your farm on the left side that shares a boundary with our stream. Our ancestors thank you for the way you have looked after this special king. That was why he was not allowed to pick a bride. When I was told to give you that message, Olodumare did not bother to explain why that decision was made. Now in Olodumare's good time, it is revealed. I thank my ancestor that has permitted me to live to see this."
Babatunde saw tears well up in his father's eyes and Tope bowed his head. There was silence in the small room.
His father swallowed, then in a very quiet voice he thanked Babamogba, said he had received the impending dramatic changes through a friend who had a habit of visiting him once in a while. His father had done as instructed and the rest of the rites had proceeded like clockwork with Babatunde just accepting things like an automaton. When that word came to him he felt some relief.
Then of course, there was the coronation and the letter officially giving him recognition. He also got a letter from the Ministry of Local and Chieftaincy Affairs inviting him as a member of the state's council of Obas.
Letters of congratulations came pouring in. His leave of absence was not only approved but he retired voluntarily from the civil service. Yomi came over and said his gratuity was being processed. Everything became a whirl for him and Babatunde did the best he could to keep up. He was not born a prince and thus all the princely airs was strange to him but he had a natural grace that made him to listen to Babamogba.
Babamogba was a different person now; he seemed to Babatunde to have adopted him for he sat in on all meetings and would signal or whisper to him what he was supposed to do. They became quite close. Then there had been the issue of picking a name for his reign and Babatunde thought hard. Sasa came to him one misty morning and explained to him that he held the kingship in trust for the people and would only be successful if he learned how to serve. As they spoke, the name 'Adeolu' came to him and he said it aloud. Adeolu meaning the crown of the Lord. It became his name as a king but he always preferred that his close associates refer to him as Babatunde for he explained that his name reflected his journey.
* * *
Oba Adeolu looked around at the seated chiefs as they stared at him. He was crowned barely a month ago and he was formally meeting with his chiefs. The palace still had traces of the coronation, but it was time to start something he had always dreamed of the opportunity to do. However he needed to set his home up and an inner excitement at the prospect of Princess in the palace held him. He had waited it seemed to him forever for her to be always beside him. Babamogba, his chief adviser, understood his impatience and with a smile had said things had to follow a pattern.
"Good things come to those who wait, my Kabiyesi," Babamogba said with pride. "You do not have an ordinary queen but the Princess herself; we must go about it with deliberate honor and pomp. I have taken the liberty to inform the Kabiyesi of IjokoAyo to head the formal delegation. I hope you will agree with me." Babamogba said the last sentence looking round all the chiefs.
They all nodded with someone throwing a lewd joke about the impatience of the king. Oba Adeolu grinned and thanked the chiefs. He was learning to adjust to his new identity and name. He was excited about the responsibilities that had been placed on him with that startling and out of the world experience almost four months ago.
That night that was burned into him in ways he could never describe and the following months. He knew he had gone completely numb and seemed to hear all that was happening from a great distance.
What he could not forget was the roar that kept reverberating throughout his being. The sensation of height, lights and trembling as he felt water poured over him from a stream The endless nights when he was taught the history of his people, why they had the religion, the simple laws and the secrets of the strength of the people.
It took a few seconds before he was brought to the present by his chiefs. Babamogba gave him a keen look asking if there was something more. Oba Adeolu shook his head and quietly thanked them.
When he had been one of them as the young Lion, he had never really wondered about loyalty or trust or any of the emotions that plagued humans who gather people around them. He now understood the loneliness that would be his companion when he sat amongst them.
He stood and walked towards his private office just as his brother gave a knock and bowed formally before him. They stood standing facing each other. Adeolu waved his brother to a seat and sat back giving permission for the palace orderlies to leave them as this was a private family visit.
Tope sat and gave his brother a friendly grin. "You know I should have delayed my wedding if I had an inkling I was going to be brother to the Kabiyesi. I would just sit beside you on the next maiden dance and have my pick."
"Thought you have stopped all that nonsense since you married."
"I am a full-blooded male."
There was a short silence as two young ladies came in and served him palm wine. He eyed the ladies and exchanged small banter with them. They smiled, curtsied and exited.
Tope looked up from the rim of his calabash of palm wine and said he was bringing greetings from their father and mothers. He put the calabash down, dipped his hand into the folds of his big agbada and brought out a brown package which he handed over to Adeolu.
Oba Adeolu opened the package and stared in wonder. It was a beautifully made local shoe with tiny beads sewn in. He looked at it for a long time.
Tope chuckled and asked him if he liked it and Adeolu simply nodded.
It was a gift from his father and he held his emotion in check as he tried to picture what his father would be thinking as he dusted and handed over the family heirloom.
His father said a woman had given him the shoes for safe keeping but nobody ever wore it as Ifa told them the owner would send for it one day. It had been passed from one generation to the next but nobody asked for the shoe until now.
Babatunde sat in his private office next to the official reception room. He was going through some drawings with an architect. It was the palace and he had asked the young architect to visit him there. The office was functional and had wide windows, no air conditioning, but you did not feel hot.
Babatunde had decided to make some renovations to the place. So he explained to the architect Wale what he wanted. Princess was making her renovations and they had agreed to convert an old building at the end of the wide palace courtyard as their own private living quarters. It gave a sense of privacy but still was within palace grounds. Princess had also insisted on having a small garden and lawns. She had not started living with him until the formal wedding but she was always there supervising the renovations.
"I am not some curio that is brought out once in a while to be viewed by gawping strangers. I want us to look at some parts of the palace that could hold offices, meeting rooms, receptions and a grand hall for social gatherings. I want the premises landscaped and flowers planted. In short I want the palace brought into the present century," Kabiyesi told Wale.
Wale bowed as his eyes glowed with the enthusiasm of such a job. He had met with Ife who encouraged him to picture each room and give it a personality.
Babatunde laughed and put out his hand before Wale could speak. "Hold on, just a second, I am not putting such a great responsibility on your young shoulder without guidance from others. I am looking forward to Prince Adejare heading your team and he will get in touch with you. I will be at your first meeting to formally inaugurate it. Is that okay with you? I know you have been in close contact with Olori so I guess you are in safe hands."
Wale nodded with enthusiasm. "Yes Your Majesty, she explained a lot to me."
"Correction, I do not want to be addressed as Your Majesty; you may not be aware, but I took on the name Adeolu, the second Lion, after the manner of the first King so please address me as Second Lion or Oba Adeolu." Babatunde smiled and added in a conspiratorial voice, "Might be rough calling me by my real name of Babatunde."
Wale stared and nodded, too awed to say anything further. He backed out of the presence of Babatunde.
Babatunde sighed just as the door leading to his inner room opened and Sasa walked in.
Babatunde was happy to see him and chuckled. "Fancy Pants, that is the door to my private bedroom."
"You don't say," Sasa quipped, and sat on the chair that Wale just vacated.
Sasa studied Babatunde's face for a few seconds and asked him what would he do if he received a very large donation towards his palace project? Babatunde suddenly tensed and asked what type of donation.
Sasa smiled. "Some people believe in the power of money and the doors it can open for them. Since you refused to claim your first skull when you were offered, you will need to close that circle someway and someone is about to offer you that opportunity soon."
"Money doesn't solve all problems," Babatunde said slowly, knowing who Sasa was referring to and not feeling any anger, just compassion.
"So how are you going to teach him that? He is under a heavy cloud of shame and you are his king. He needs your shelter to save face."
Babatunde was quiet for a few seconds, then pressed his bell. A palace attendant came in, and hunched down his hands quietly between his thighs as he waited for instruction. Babatunde handed him a small staff of beaded cowries and asked him to give Prince Adewunmi his regards and request his presence. The attendant nodded and left, but Sasa was no longer around.
Babatunde quietly asked for help to know how best he might help Adewunmi overcome his shame and continue. He asked for help for himself too for he knew he was in a place that he had no prior knowledge and would need a patient, understanding heart.CHAPTER 2
Tinu was visiting Ife at the grove and she tip-toed around. Yeye welcomed her with a smile and indicated where she was to sit. A large baobab tree had benches arranged around it and there was also a large pot of water with the regular scrubbed calabash on the cover. It was not really a gate but it was regarded as such as everyone tended to take a seat first at the foot of the big baobab tree that predated the village. The place had an ambience that tended to make people speak in soft tones to each other. In times past villagers tended to think that there were eyes watching them from the branches of the big tree.
It was always kept clean by devotees who would sweep the place clean. Big clay pots stood at strategic corners of the place with calabash cups placed on mats. It was really a reception room out in the open. Tinu was wondering what she was going to do next when Ife appeared and gave her a smile. Tinu sensed that there was something different about her friend.
It was a relaxed grace and something she really couldn't place; she returned the smile and instinctively curtsied. That curtsy shocked both of them and there was momentary silence as they acknowledged that something had changed in their friendship, their relationship.
Two weeks after Oba Adeolu ascended the throne, Tinu had received summons from Ife to meet her at the grove. As part of the tradition, Numen had to be formally welcomed to the palace. In addition to that tradition, in this incarnation, the Lion and the Princess were going to get married, so what was going to be more than the average nuptial was coming up. Tinu just could not contain her excitement particularly when she learned that the formal giving of the ASHE to the king by Numen would be the climax of the festivities.
"Looks like some things are changing right?" Ife whimsically said.
"I think so, Princess," Tinu replied, her eyes full of pride and friendliness.
"I want to thank you for so many things. I don't know how to start but I will get round to it one way or the other. But I need you now because I have a wedding to prepare for and I definitely can't handle so many things. The lion wants to know what date he might send emissaries to my home and a thousand other things. I don't relate very well with most members of my family as you know and ..."
Tinu smiled. "I hope you don't expect me to understand what you are talking about either." Her old irreverence surfaced and they collapsed in a fit of giggles, relieved that they could be just friends.
Ife sighed. "Honestly I was getting ready to give you a shove if you continued in that officious nonsense. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, what the heck am I going to be doing with twenty-one maidens!" "What"?
"Don't act deaf, I understand from Yeye that I will need twenty-one virgins. Now listen, the stress is on virgins and Babamogba has been clucking like a monk that I will need to ensure that all of them are virgins. In this village can you raise that number?"
"If they are all under seven, Princess," Yeye offered timidly from the back of the bench that the girls were seated on, making them jump.
"What do you want with that number anyway and why virgins?" Ife asked Yeye, as she turned round.
"They would precede you as you enter the palace and bear your things in white calabashes."
"Wow," Tinu said with wide eyes.
Yeye explained that while the formal traditional wedding was at an advanced stage before the coronation, this particular wedding was a once in a lifetime experience for the whole village and as such, it was now grander.
Ife sighed as she wondered how she was going to juggle that with her job at the city.
Tinu was surprised to learn that Ife was still going to work. "I thought you resigned just like Kabiyesi."
"So I can sit here and ogle him?" Ife snapped. "Besides, I didn't hear of a salary for the Olori."
"Your temper has not been sweetened by your new office lady," Tinu said with a smile.
Ife smiled back, "That is something I seriously need to learn how to handle. Babamogba almost passed out yesterday when I went to the palace and met that young queen sitting next to Lion."
"What? Who do you mean?"
"That old queen who messed around with the chief when the former king was still on the throne."
Tinu was alarmed and quickly looked around. She asked that Ife could ask Babatunde to banish the former queen.
Ife smiled and said even though she might welcome such a move, it was not a possible thing for her to ask, and Babatunde would have been surprised if she did. Tinu puzzled over that for a while and finally shook her head seeming to have come to a decision about it. Ife watched her for a few minutes and shrugged that particular subject from her mind. Not an easy thing to do, more so when the lady had been just as startled as she was when she walked in that evening. Babatunde seemed to have been the only person who was oblivious to what was happening. Ife wondered if he was just cloaking his thoughts for the benefit of the queen.
Ife had not known what to make of it. One surprised look and she had quickly dropped a veil over her thoughts, and smiled serenely at the agitated queen. Traditionally all the former wives of the past kings were required to remain in the palace and live their days out in the palace. Unlike with other widows, there was no such thing as divorce from the king. A wife may be retired but she is never divorced even after the death of the king.
Ife recognized that, so she knew she was expected to be civil and even respectful to the older queen and it would be natural for the queen to seek the audience of the new king. However Ife was uncomfortable with the notion of seeing the woman around and suddenly she became aware that she did not like thinking of it, and mentally noted that fact.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Numen!"
Copyright © 2017 Biola Olatunde.
Excerpted by permission of IFWG Publishing International.
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